Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Top gear ... bottom gear

This morning was very much 'top gear'. After a stiff climb out of Dingwall, it was east with the wind behind me, all the way to Portmahomack, where I had lunch at the Castle Hotel. I watched the BBC News at One whilst eating a lasagne, and a reporter was standing at Lands End, talking about the Olympic torch relay. The sign showed 'John O'Groats 874 miles'. I've already done that; in fact the whole ride will be about seven times that distance! Just shows how convoluted our coastline is (is that the right word?). At nearly 1200 miles already, I would be well on my way back by now!

After lunch it was a different matter. The eleven miles back to Tain and the Dornoch Bridge were 'bottom gear' stuff. But the weather stayed dry and it was actually quite enjoyable, ploughing along in my own little world. It's strange what comes into your mind when you're cycling alone.

I managed to visit both sides of the Meikle Ferry. There's no ferry now, of course, because of the Dornoch Bridge, opened in 1991 by the Queen. But back in 1809, the ferry left the north side, loaded with people and stock heading for the market at Tain. The vessel was overloaded, and a large wave overturned it. Only 15 people survived and 99 were drowned. There's a plaque at the northern end to commemorate this disaster.

This is my tent; very low and streamlined. So low, in fact, that I can't sit up in it. I have to find various ways of typing on the computer. Any way I try it is uncomfortable, so I have to change positions every ten minutes or so! It's far too cold outside to sit on the grass.

I'm now at Embo, just north of Dornoch. I'm hoping to make it all the way to Wick tomorrow, where I'm being met and taken to a (new) friend's house - thanks to John and Claudia, who have arranged this. The wind is currently just south of west, i.e. WSW. I'm hoping it will back a little to SW, which will help to blow me up the coast tomorrow.

That will put me exactly one day behind schedule, so I've decided, with some reluctance, to miss out the day on Orkney. Perhaps it's not such a bad idea, though, because with these high winds there's every chance that sailings will be cancelled. Getting stuck on Orkney for a few days would be a problem.

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