Operation Point Clunk North - Part 1

A flurry of packing and jobs that had to be done, lest the World stop spinning.

Packing, unpacking, repacking and packing again.
I had 2 x 35 litre panniers and a 35 litre Airlok XTra (which would fare a lot better than the panniers!)
Gearwise, I packed the bare bones I would need for 9 days camping/riding:
One man tent, 2 season sleeping bag, Numo mat (awesomely comfortable!), petrol stove, 2 pans, Gamma headtorch, Trinity lamp, a sack of Wayfayrer Meals/noodles/porridge/coffee, a pair of Walsh fell shoes, an awesome book in the form of “A Short Ride in the Jungle” (a superb story about a lone female riding the Ho Chi Minh trail, on a C90! Check it out), wet weather biking gear (so glad I did too) and that’s about it.
Aiming to be on the road by 8am and well into Scotland on day I, turned into leaving at 4:30pm and camping near Alston, in an idyllic wild location, on the moors. The trip had begun.

An 'off the road' campsite

Day II dawned dark and dismally. I was running on fumes from the off, (a four litre tank does about 150 miles, ridden gingerly), the first of many petrol/coffee stops. My trip coincided with Appleby Horse Fair, and these rustic little horse-drawn carriages were the only vehicles I overtook in 9 days, I wasn’t in a rush…

The weather worsened, as did my map reading, and a mission to get as far north as possible, took me past a soggy Hadrian’s Wall, to cloudy Carlisle, back to a limp Longtown, as far up as Galashiels, then, as the rain bounced down and back upwards, I missed a turning and went from Moffat to Peebles.
It was getting late, and despite looking for a place to wild camp, nothing was turning up.
A forest track looked promising, but I got stuck in a quagmire of a puddle, that went up to and over my exhaust/shins, whilst getting stuck under the barrier. Once in to the forest, there wasn’t a patch of clear ground to pitch and dense clouds of midges meant a tarp would have been dismal, they chased me back out, I got stuck again and eventually ended up arriving at a campsite in Ayr.
Boots and gloves dripping wet (and they would remain so for some time...)
A Wayfayrer meal never tasted better!

The joys of traveling on a bike

The big task for day III was to avoid Glasgow, but as most roads are designed to take one into a city, as I tried to skirt around it, I was dragged in via East Kilbride.

From what appeared as a tiny dot on my 1962 map, Condorrat was to be my nemesis, it had grown into a megalopolis of shopping centres and a motorway through the heart of it.
All was going well until I found myself on the M8!!!
One terrifying stretch before the next exit, at rush hour, in a monsoon.
Sweet relief to be off it and finally on the road northwards.
The sun started shining briefly from Stirling onwards and then back into the deluge at Crianlarich.

The highlands await

One place I simply cannot rush through is Glencoe. As one pulls on to the top of the moor and then suddenly (it always comes as a shock, no matter how many times I see it), the lone giant of the Buchaille Etive Mor appears. For years I always thought that digital cameras were the devil’s work and I stuck to film, then I sold out and now as a digital convert, it’s always a case of safety in numbers.
I always, always go through the thousands of pics after a trip, print out my favourite 100 and put them in an album, Old School! Otherwise they would just languish on a hard drive, forever.
I met a chap taking photos using a Twin Lens Reflex camera; he even took a shot of me!

Glencoe is always a delight

A quick brew at Fort William and on towards the Road to the Isles. A road I had never travelled before and an absolute joy to be tootling along, on a sunny June evening, sniffing out a wild camp.
My plan was to get the first ferry from Mallaig, over to Skye and I found a sweet pitch overlooking a white sandy bay, shared with a collection of other happy campers; a mother and daughter from Ambleside en-route to the rough bounds of Knoydart, a young German couple backpacking round the UK, a Scottish trio in a Hymermobile, (who invited me in to their luxurious camper for a drink, despite my stinking boots, which hadn’t dried out yet), and later on a big group of University students, having a party on the beach. The midges were present in their tens-of-thousands and the headnet I had packed turned out to be the best fiver I had ever spent in my life! The Superclunk continuesonwards...

Man rides bull

By Johnny Parsons