Sunday 22nd April
Firstly, thank you for all of your kind messages on yesterday’s blog post. They really do make a difference.
This morning was pretty tough, I’m not normally very emotional but saying goodbye to Danny was really hard. The last two weeks with Danny have been the best, having his constant companionship, the beautiful scenery and finally good weather have been unforgettable. Before he joined me I had adjusted to doing everything for myself, even when at my most tired and at my lowest, but having him with me has reminded me what a great team we make. I would not be here doing this without the support he has given since we have known each other and, although it’s very much an individual challenge, he is always behind the scenes doing everything he can to help. It’s hard to know if you are making the right decisions when you are by yourself, especially when tired, and in this part of the country I can’t just send a text or make a phone call for advice when I need help as you can go for days without reception.
We hugged and took a photo and departed ways, we both had a small hill to climb to start the day and as I started climbing my focus shifted to the task ahead rather than missing Danny. You may have noticed that since Danny arrived we have had fantastic weather, probably the best you could expect in Scotland at this time of year. Ten minutes after we said our goodbyes it poured with rain, it was a few hours earlier than forecast and was set to stay for the whole day!
I crossed over the Kylesku Bridge, a curved concrete bridge over Loch Cairnbawn, it sympathetically fits with the landscape whilst being a design feature at the same time. I pulled into the viewing area for a proper look and put my full waterproofs on. Danny brought me some new waterproof trousers when he came up and this was definitely the time to test them out.
The landscape was similar to that which I had become used to, rugged, hilly, bleak moorland which looks beautiful in the sunshine but feels very lonely and never ending in this weather! Stags have now become familiar sight and they stood staring at me from the roadside. I have more weight today as Danny was carrying my heavier items of luggage but my legs were feeling strong and the hills weren’t a problem. Ten miles into my route there was a shop which I knew was the only point to stop and gather any supplies for the day, so I had a hot chocolate and bought a couple of snacks, I sheltered from the rain to eat them and then continued on. In trying to distract myself from missing Danny I found myself formulating a list in my head of the things I have learnt from my journey so far and will try and get these on paper at some point. Every so often there were large areas of gorse and the bright yellow flowers can make even the most barren area look beautiful, yellow being my favourite colour it always brings a smile.
Another twelve miles later and I came to a very small village with a hotel, a police station and a public toilet. I took the opportunity to stop and dry off undercover. The hand dryer in the toilets was the most powerful and hottest I have ever come across and I dried out my gloves and waterproof jacket. To my surprise I had 4G and phone signal, you really do find it in the strangest places.
(I had to take a photo of the best hand dryer I’ve ever come across!)
My original plan was to camp this evening but with the increasingly heavy rain this was not an appealing option, especially on top of an emotionally difficult day. With some help from my parents at home, we found a low cost hotel 4 miles away, it was a detour from my route but since today was supposed to be a rest day it didn’t matter where I ended up. The local policeman, of whom I am assuming the police station consisted of, came to check I was ok/ probably wanted to check I wasn’t camping out in the warm toilets for the night, he offered me a cup of tea but I assured him that I had found somewhere to stay and would be on my way shortly!
I’m finding it very difficult to decipher the size of a settlement from Google Maps; some villages only have a few houses whereas others have a shop and pub. The place the hotel is located in Kinlochbervie is an example of this. It is traditionally a crafting community and down a dead end road, the kind of place where you wouldn’t expect any facilities. However it is now a fishing port with a significant fish handling depot. From here catches are loaded onto large refrigerated trucks and transported throughout Europe. This hive of activity means there is a local shop and cafe and that the hotel has evening food and acts as the local pub. The perfect place to have given up on cycling any further in the rain. The locals are just as friendly as every place I have visited, and I have just been given the winnings from a local darts match to put towards EDS-UK.
I am ahead of schedule and the rain looks set to stay for the rest of the week so I am going to be doing reasonably short distances and will hopefully find somewhere to stay each night. I need to reinstate some confidence in myself that I can do this! I am strong and have already done so much and have been through so much I know I can do it, but still have doubts.
(For everyone at home in shorts and t-shirts! I was in thermals and waterproofs today!)
I am due to go over to the Orkney islands in two days for a couple of days but of course this will be weather dependent.