Up and off at the crack of dawn and over to Armadale on the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry. The chap who lashed down my bike was one of the many folk I met who had once had a C50 and a C90 in his youth.
Deserted roads in Skye led me to Sligachan and on to Portree, where I met a cool bunch of elderly Spaniards on a Eurotrip. I told them that they had fallen lucky with the weather, as they shivered in their jumpers and coats. It was the hottest day yet!
Deserted Skye roads
Over the Skye Bridge and into a chance meeting with a local cyclist, I was looking at my old map and working out a route, when we struck up a fascinating conversation, about all manner of things.
If I had rocked up in a 4x4, I would have probably just stopped, wound down the window, taken a photo and drove on. We chatted for an hour and I started to learn more about the Highland folk
A road that was tailor made for the power/speed of a C90 took me round the coastline and deep into the Applecross Peninsula. My smile got wider and wider, as I chugged up the Bealach na Bà. I became aware of a noise, like a fire-breathing-dragon, chasing me up the pass. I was down to first gear and felt if getting closer, breathing down my neck. I wasn’t caught, but it was ever so close.
As I breached the summit of the pass, I pulled in and met an awesome Dutch couple, Guido and Nancy, in a monster truck of some kind. (Their exhaust had snapped as they were leaving Holland and they had substituted it with a piece of scaffold pipe!) It turned out that they had plans to go to Mongolia, so I spent 10 minutes trying to convince them to sell the truck and buy a Micra!
Almost at the top!
The last time I had been this way, I was coming in the opposite direction in the Micra (our test-out for Mongolia), at night, in winter, in the clag. So it was a contrast to be clunking along on a summer night, with views out to Skye and beyond.
As with my entire trip, I was in no rush, so the twisty-turning road around the coast was savoured deliciously. Through Torridon and arriving in Kinlochewe (30yrs after my first proper ever winter mountaineering trip there in 1984), I was the only camper in the free campsite, bar the squadrons of Midges who were adamant on sharing my pitch, despite all the space.
Anticipation, excitement and the midges got me up early the next morning, before I left, I had a long chat with a chap from London called Tom, who had grown tired of the rat race down the Old Smoke and had upped sticks to Wester Ross. A brave move, but one that had paid off. It is always fascinating to hear how people adapt to a completely different life(style).
I stopped for a brew in a sleepy little village and dosed for a while by the shores of Gruinard Bay.
Held catalogue shoot.
Temporary roadworks and what was to be one of my last traffic lights for some time had me gazing up at the mass of An Teallach. A ridge traverse that had beaten me twice in winter. On a clear and sunny morning, a mass of tourists had just disembarked for a 5 minute stop-off on a tour coach and were happily snapping away at anything and everything. As I chugged along the Destitution Road (or Desolation Road), I reflected on the building of this remote carriageway, constructed to give employment to hungry crofters in the years following the Great Potato Famine of 1846.
It felt a good place to be, right now, on my bike, but a lonely place to be stranded I imagined. Ullapool came as a shock!
Heading towards Torridon
It felt like I was entering a big city, but it was a good place to stock up, afore the Wilds of Sutherland: A region I had only been through once before, but a place I was very excited about riding through. A land of freaky geology and incredible mountains, with very different sounding names; Quinag, Canisp and Suilven to name a few.
The Clunk was lapping up the miles and the “Wee Mad Road” was pure joy, with breath-taking views of Stac Pollaidh and neighbours. I passed a group of German bikers all riding the huge BMW GS, scratching their heads over where their GPS was taking them.No GPS for me. In this neck-of-the-woods, my map was bang up-to-date!
The Wee Mad Road
The road gets more and more spectacular as one wanders northwards, an area which feels and looks as remote as a lunar landscape. A coffee to be savoured at Durness and then eastwards along the convoluted coastline. Headwind-tailwind-headwind-tailwind-45mph-15mph-top gear-bottom gear…
The wind had really picked up dramatically, whereas just 30 minutes earlier, the sea had been a flat calm on a hot sunny evening, I was keen to get camped up, fed and watered.
A deserted packhorse bridge near Melvich did the trick, out of sight of any (albeit infrequent) passers-by.
Out of the gale, Wayfayrer’s delights were enjoyed and thoughts of where tomorrow may take me… try and keep up with the Superclunk as it moves on.