Day 64 John O’ Groats to Helmsdale

Saturday 28th April

Sören and I were fast asleep and at 3am there was an extremely loud noise. I remember looking but I was so tired that I just fell asleep again. When I woke up at 6am I was shocked!  The TV had fallen from it’s position at the top of the wall to a few centimetres from my bed, it had narrowly missed my Garmin screen and cycle helmet. There was plaster dust everywhere. I’m not surprised this happened as this small but very heavy TV was only held up by a couple of screws. Thank goodness no one was underneath it at the time as this would be a very different story. When I complained in the morning, I suggested that our room fee was donated to charity, this resulted in a £10 donation!

It was the perfect opportunity to wash and dry my hair which has been difficult on the road so I took some time to do that and we went over to breakfast quite late. We had met an American at the bar the previous night who was stranded near the car garage as he had put the wrong fuel into his hire car. We sat with him at breakfast and had a good feed and good chat. By the time we left it was nearly ten o’clock so we needed to make good progress.

Last night my mum told me that I was going to be cycling through Sinclair lands, ancestral lands of my late grandfather’s side of the family. I am sure had I stopped in any of the villages there would have been plenty with the surname Sinclair as has been the same with all historic clan areas I’ve cycled through.

This part of the coastline couldn’t be more different to the West and North Coast. It is green, agricultural, the land felt more useful, wealthier. It doesn’t feel too dissimilar to the Hoo peninsular in Kent where my grandma still lives.

We also noted the amount of castle ruins we could see dotted along the coastline, for a while I let my imagination wonder as to what it would have been like.

We reached Wick, a large town and got stuck in traffic! It was a bit of a culture shock as I hadn’t been used to there being so many cars on the roads. This is partly why Sören and I were cycling together down this stretch and two cyclists are more visible together.

We stopped at Lidl and stocked up on supplies, had a quick snack and kept going. We were to cycle on the same A9 for the rest of the day. If we had just been on the west coast the views would be beautiful, but the ride felt pretty mundane and was just a case of making the distance; this was easy until we hit the hills!

I manually changed my front chainring to my little cog for the steep 15 percent gradient and changed it back afterwards. Six miles later we had a longer climb out of Berridale for which I had to do the same again. Thank goodness for my piece of cloth! I will need a new one tomorrow though.

(Sören was waiting for me at the top)

We reached Helmsdale where we had seen there was a hostel but it’s closed for refurbishment. We had an option to cycle another 10 miles or find something here. We found some rooms above a pub which have turned out to be fantastic.

We went for a walk before going to the local fish and chip shop, during which we found the best camping spot, however we were both pleased to have a warm room to go back to.

It has been great having Sören’s company today and tomorrow we will cycle together to get as close to Inverness as possible as I need to take my bike in for repair on Monday morning.

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