Friday, 20 August 2010

Omfg... Hebrides!

well, it all started so well....
Got up about 8ish packed up the tent dry again, and set about coffee and porridge before making the North Uist ferry for 9:30. Very few people on the boat today, a few truckers, couple of foreign tourists, few locals and one other cyclist.
The boats cafe furnished us all with tea and toast where I met up again with the other cyclist, 'melissa' a Canadian girl studying in England but holidaying around the west coast with her bike, we discussed our plans about cycling right around the coast of North Uist and onto south Uist by the end of the day.
The ferry docked in typically hebridian weather, cloudy, windy and raining... said good byes and good luck to my fellow cyclist and we parted company.
North Uist is everything id expected it to be, wild, barren, exposed but breathtakingly beautiful. You can't escape the remoteness of its location out here, little white houses dotted around in the massive landscapes.
Around the coast started fairly easily with a good 30 mph tailwind but as I rounded the coast and started south the strong tailwind inevitably became a headwind! :o(
Progress really slowed as I battled against the wind stopping to shelter out the wind in a church doorway, I made use of my stash of emergency de-hydrated food, now usually these things are barely edible but under the current circumstances the "chicken korma and rice" was probably the best thing I've ever eaten!
Battling onwards with the wind changing directions and much stronger than before blowing a constant 40-45 mph ish with gusts so strong it literally took your breath away, I was physically blown off the bike half a dozen or so times. With me and my trusty tredder both ending up the wrong way up in a petty ditch.
Now the motorists so far have all been very good in the western isles, courteous, the give you a wide hearth and wave in a friendly manner, but not today.
Oncoming cars not giving way at all on the single tracked road, so yet again it was 'ditch time' for me and steed yet again on a few occasions. And at least 5 times cars from behind drew too close too quickly papping their horns angrily to move me out the way instead of hanging back and waiting for the 'passing places' which are every few hundred yards along the way, not particularly nice.
With the headwind now so strong, it was literally taking every ounce of leg strength to keep moving forward and every ounce of upperbody strength to keep it going in a straight line, although now in quite a serious situation I did laugh to myself as I crossed the extremely exposed causeway onto Grimsay the wind was so strong it took everything just to get off and push the bike along as the wind blew large waves over the causeway, jetwashing salty sea water in my face, how much worse can it get? I laughed..
More exposure and into South Uist, my thoughts were concerned with the girl id met on the boat who was probably now a long way behind and offering the same bashing..
The gusts now were so strong, not even the lowest of my mighty selection of 27 gears, and as much force as my legs could put into it could do any good and I resigned my self to push (which as anyone who has ever ridden with me will testify, is not something I ever do)
So pushing along still inwardly in good spirits, but outwardly resigned to the fact the next gust was gonna pick me up and blow me out to sea only to be washed up a few weeks later on the east coast of America.
About then yet another motorist came piling up from behind papping his horn, as I turned to give him the 'customary response' in s situation like this I saw the driver of this bright yellow beast of a van was smiling and gesturing for me to come over, and sat next to him.... none other than Melissa the other cyclist! "get in" he said "i'll give you a lift too lad" springing from the van he opened the back and threw my bike in.. I jumped in the front next to my cycling friend who was smiling broadly, it seemed he found her a few miles back and picked her up. We were soon skimming along the narrow roads to the sound of Hank Williams as of on some mad random road trip! Both of us so pleased this true gentleman had indeed 'saved our lives'
He dropped us both down by the ferry terminal, and the hotel where Melissa was booked in, some 15 miles from where he picked me up.
I left Mel there for the night, knowing we're on the same ferry tomorrow, I left in search of my stop over for tonight..
With winds now at 'super gale force' where all ferries and shipping cancelled, flights grounded, and the entire western isles on an 'extreme weather warning alert' I abandoned the idea of ever being able to pitch a tent, I pulled (or was blown) into the first and only B&B in this tiny remote village.
So safe and dry, out the window I'm watching gale force winds rip trees and plants to shreds and throw them around the hillside, with a noise that is so loud it sounds like it could have only been made on a Hollywood sound effects department.
With the western isles on high alert I don't yet know in the ferries will be running or not, who knows.
Just glad to be out the weather for now.



  1. Ooooh that sounds scary, glad you're out of it, stay safe!
    I've had a look at the forecast & it's still windy tomorrow but not so strong (hopefully).


  2. Take care of yourself lad, no rush. Marvelous blog by the way, keep it coming.

  3. Well sunshine it sounds really wild out there you just be careful some of those car drivers can be real arses and when your right out in the middle of nowhere any fall could become a real problem. Glad to here you have a cycling buddy even if you only bump into her now and then it just helps to know that your not the only one out there riding in all that bad weather, my puter has been down for the last couple of days so enjoying reading the blog again now keep it up