Monday 23rd April
A lot of you may know that I had a catastrophic mechanical yesterday afternoon, which is why today’s blog is late. I have ordered a new front derailleur and it’s just a waiting game for it to arrive. So I would like to tell you about the fantastic day’s cycling I had before this happened!
I woke up in a great mood and had a filling breakfast at the hotel. It was windier and colder outside than I had expected so I packed my bag quickly and was off. I had made a 5 mile detour from my route to stay in the hotel so I had to retrace that, including the 15 percent gradient to get out of the village! A couple of miles later I got to the top and realised that I had left my flag on the ground at the hotel so back I went. Luckily I was in a good mood and having to climb the hill twice didn’t bother me at all. I chatted to the local policeman as he passed, reached the main road and started making headway towards Durness. The minute I got to the top of the first big climb of the day it started pouring so I wasted no time in putting all of my waterproofs on. It was so windy I wore my lightweight rain jacket under my heavier one and was still not too hot! I wasn’t getting cold and wet again today!
The moorland landscape felt very bland today, interspersed with streams and lochs. Despite the rain I was cycling with a smile on my face, I felt strong, comfortable and happy. The rain cleared as I got nearer to Durness, the tide was out and the yellow sand glistened in the sun poking through the clouds. The brown landscape changed to green in places which was a very welcoming sight.
I had toyed with the idea of getting the small passenger ferry over to Cape Wrath and cycling the 10 miles on unpaved road to the most North Westerly point of mainland GB. However in the strong winds and with the tide out this wasn’t an option, plus I didn’t fancy such adding such a rough 20 mile cycle to my day. It was never in the original plan and I’m doing enough all ready.
I didn’t stop in Durness as I wasn’t ready for a rest but carried on past the beautiful sandy beaches. I turned the corner into the headwind to cycle around the loch and the cycling experience couldn’t have changed more drastically, I couldn’t hear anything but the wind, my flag and pole were really flapping about and I kept looking in my mirror to check it was still there. The pole whacked the back of my helmet a couple of times. A few miles down the road a car with two men dressed in army uniform stopped to give me the streamer from the back of my flag back, the wind was so strong it had broken the attachment clip!
(Believe it or not these two photographs were taken 10 minutes apart!)
After a few miles of the headwind I was ready to stop in the only cafe that was on the remainder of my route. I stopped for nearly an hour and a half, had a proper rest, a jacket potato and a good chat to another passing touring cyclist.
Not long after passing the cafe I was passed by my favourite friendly local policeman who I’ve been told covers one of the largest patches in GB, no wonder he keeps popping up! He was leading a large group of super cars through his patch to restrict their speeds on the single track roads. I’m so glad he was there and warned me because I couldn’t even hear them coming over the sound of the wind.
They passed considerately and whizzed off when the policeman pulled in. I continued round the loch, cycled over a couple of smaller hills before ascending the final long climb before descending into Tongue. I was still feeling strong and enjoying every minute of being on my trike in the bleak but beautiful scenery. The weather kept changing but this wasn’t bothering me.
I kept taking an interest in the old ruins of houses and those that looked derelict, I spent my afternoon imagining what once was and what the lives of the occupants might have been like. For many in this part of the country it is a tough existence, the small crofts are normally a hobby rather than a viable source of income and most either work in local services, the fishing or tourist industry (which has a very short and unreliable season). I have learnt from and listened to quite a lot of locals in the village pubs which are very few and far between and provide one of the only sources of entertainment, besides outdoor activities. It really has made me look at my own life, but even more so it has shown me how important it is to keep my positive spirit and make the most out of any situation.
As I reached the downhill into Tongue another group of fast cars passed again very considerately. They had stopped on the Kyle of Tongue Bridge and I stopped to say hi. We all took some photos and I was asked lots of questions one of which was “have you had many mechanicals?”, I answered “not many, I haven’t even had a puncture in the last two weeks”. Well that jinxed it and as I pulled off and cycled along the flat bridge my front derailleur had suddenly snapped off.
Unfortunately it looks as it is the derailleur is broken itself and not the cheaper hanger part. I have ordered a new one into a local bike shop in Thurso which will arrive in the next couple of days. Meanwhile I am going to rest and be patient, I am currently in a really nice Youth Hostel in Tongue but have local help in the form of a lovely couple Mike and Anne who are based in Thurso. I am not frustrated or annoyed as that won’t help, but again amazed by the kindness I am being shown and hopefully I’ll be sorted out soon! I just need to see it as part of the challenge, the adventure, the experience.
I haven’t mentioned it in my blog as I am somewhat embarrassed by the state of some of my teeth caused by my conditions, but I have been suffering with a toothache which last night became unbearable for a few hours. I’ve made an appointment in Thurso Wednesday afternoon, so if I can manage to split my chain and take off the mech which is proving very difficult, the reason I have di2 (electronic gears) in the first place is because of how weak my fingers are, I will cycle with a limited number of gears to Thurso Wednesday morning. If not Mike will come and help!