Tuesday 10th April
Despite our tiny room and bunk beds we actually slept pretty well. We woke up and had breakfast before packing up the bikes and hitting the road at 7:15am – long before anyone else staying at the hostel had arisen.
As is often the case the day started with a steep hill. The 13% gradient and lack of a warm up quickly caused me to feel very unwell. We had to pull over for a rest before continuing up the 8 mile long hill in front of us. This is the first time on my trip I have felt like this and it acted as a reminder to me that I have to be mindful of my gastroparesis, and that even though cycling and exercise have reduced my stomach symptoms, the condition definitely still exists.
After climbing slowly we reached the summit of the Balantyre pass. There was a monument to Neil Munro – author of the famous ‘Para Handy’ – at the highest point, but going to it would have meant ditching the bikes and taking to foot, so we admired it from afar instead.
The descent to Loch Awe wasn’t as long as the ascent and unfortunately it was into a headwind. We traversed around the western tip of the loch before turning east on our way to Oban. Somewhere along this road we picked up a hitchhiker in the form of another long distance cycle tourer. Sören, from Germany, proved to be a great companion for the day, and as he was heading to Oban too he stayed with us. After cycling solo for a couple of weeks he was happy for the company (and for the wind relief offered by sitting on Danny’s wheel!)
We reached a decision point on our route where we could stick to the main road and make quicker progress to Oban, or do the marked cycle route up and over the hills which would be tougher but more rewarding. Collectively we decided to take the road less travelled and pointed ourselves up another steep hill. We split on the climb but regrouped at the top to take in the awesome views.
The route wasn’t well used given it’s proximity to the main road and for the most part we only shared it with the locals (cows and sheep!). It was quite gravelly and occasionally my back wheel would slip out, but nothing that I’m not used to/couldn’t handle after spending so much time on my trike.
We arrived in Oban and said our goodbyes to Sören who was intending on staying here for a couple of days and exploring the area. We exchanged numbers as he is travelling a similar route to me and it would be nice to meet up with him later in the trip when it’s more remote and lonely.
After looking around the local shops we headed down to the ferry terminal to book on the next crossing over to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Before we boarded the ferry I got a message from Sören saying he didn’t like the other people staying in the youth hostel and he was coming over to Mull too!
By this point it was raining so it was lucky that the bunkhouse we were staying in was only 500 yards down the road from the ferry terminal. We rested and recharged at the bunkhouse (and local pub) and prepared to tackle another day!
Tomorrow we will cross the Isle of Mull and get the ferry back to Kilchoan on the main land.