Thursday 26th April
Mike escorted me to the ferry terminal in Thurso to get the ferry to Mainland Orkney. NorthLink Ferries had kindly given me a complimentary ticket and breakfast on my journey. I was very excited about going over as a couple of days ago it looked like my challenge might be in jeopardy. This was the first ferry I had been on that the car-deck was undercover and I cycled on behind some very large lorries, to a special bike park area where my trike was secured by a rope.
I went upstairs and ordered and started eating my breakfast. A little while into my trip I started feeling a little unwell, I can cope with rough seas on a yacht better than anyone but for some reason I don’t cope well on ferries. I was then pretty unwell for the rest of the trip and was very pleased to be back sitting on my trike on dry land. With that all forgotten about, the ferry press release lady took a couple of photos and I met up with Joseph who had come from nearby island Rousay to cycle with me for the day.
Having been unwell on the ferry I hadn’t organised my waterproofs and put them on, so I opened my bag and got everything out, the minute I did this there was a torrential downpour and I got soaked along with all of my belongings. We dried off and organised ourselves in a normal cafe. Joseph asked me what my plan was for the day to which my reply was, ‘I don’t have one, I need to get the ferry back tomorrow evening and I plan to spend two days being a tourist.’
Dressed in full waterproofs, of course the sun came out, we went to view the two Neolithic stone circles, the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. We then cycled to Skara Brae, a stone built settlement where we had a cup of tea. There was absolutely no rush and it was fantastic.
I was struck by the greenness and the habitability of the land, it was a stark contrast to that which I had experienced on the west coast and become used to. You would think that on an island this far north you would feel quite remote but in fact it’s the complete opposite.
We later had lunch in Birsay where I by chance met another zebra who owned the local shop. I stocked up on some supplies for the evening.
Just as I was telling Mike that I never get lost I took us some way down a dead end road, but we quickly corrected this. We headed round the north of the island towards where Mike had to get the ferry back. We hit quite a special moment on the road – the most northerly piece of tarmac I will cycle on! It was great to share this moment with Mike, another ICE trike owner, and his company for my relaxed tourist day had been fantastic! I had still clocked up 30 miles and Mike nearer 50! The sheep had come along to celebrate too and we had to wait for them to be herded along the road!
Mike helped find me somewhere to camp next to the beach and public toilets in Evie and then headed to get the ferry back home to Rousay – thanks for a fantastic day Mike.
I set up my tent and cooked some flavoured rice and vegetables and enjoyed probably my best camping view so far.
Whilst cooking a couple with their parents came to walk on the beach, they asked which route I had been taking as they had passed me a couple of times in the last few weeks.
“Are you in the black VW Golf?” I asked.
Yes they were! Danny and I had noticed them passing us pretty much every day, heavily loaded and jam packed with bikes, a surf board and a roof box!
It was cold and windy outside but very cosy in my tent, I fell asleep quite early to the sound of the sea. I slept fantastically and woke to a beautiful view.
Friday 27th April
The view when I unzipped my tent.
Just as I was packing away the heavens opened and I ended up packing away a very wet tent. Today’s aim was to cycle towards St Margaret’s Hope to get the ferry back to the mainland.
I stopped at a burger van in Finstown and carried on through Kirkwall, the most populated town on the island. I followed the signs to St Margaret’s Hope and came to the first of the Churchill Barriers. These were built by Italian prisoners of war to act as a barrier against invasions after the sinking of the HMS Royal Oak whilst it was anchored at Scapa Flow by an German U boat and resulted in loss of 800 lives.
After cycling across the first barrier I came to the Italian Chapel built in a Nissan hut by the prisoners inside the camp – and wow what a spectacle. A real indication of what you can build and decorate with very little resources.
I carried on towards the ferry, had lunch and met up with Sören whom Danny and I had cycled with a few of weeks before on Mull. Sören is going to cross back over with me and cycle with me to Inverness.
This ferry crossing was much better and I enjoyed the views. We met up with Mike and Anne from Thurso who were waiting for us on their tandem.
We all cycled together towards John O Groats. When we got to the signpost I felt a massive sense of achievement – I am no longer heading north, this is the turning point! I have probably done the most difficult and longest Lands End to John O Groats route possible. Sharing this moment with some now close friends who have been so supportive was very special and something I will cherish forever.
Sören and I checked in at the bunkhouse and we reconvened at Stacks Bistro for dinner. We celebrated Sören’s birthday and my massive milestone with a fantastic meal and great conversation which Anne and Mike very kindly treated us to. I am so honoured to be meeting such great people throughout my journey and it is becoming as much about meeting others as the cycling itself.
We might have a little lie in tomorrow as it’s quite late but we will be headed towards Inverness.