15 January 2013

Western Scotland and Isles day 6: Salen - Mallaig - Ashaig (Isle of Skye)

I spent a few minutes the night before killing all the midges that had got into my inner tent. Despite the heavy rain and wind overnight, I managed to get a good night's sleep and woke up at 7 am.

My handlebar tape was now playing up - it had got extremely wet overnight and did not have any grip on to the handlebars anymore. Rob had found the solution: a big bike bag to cover the bike whilst wet outside! It did not take me long to re-tape the bars, but I can see it being a problem in future trips to potentially rainy environments. Perhaps I need to find a tape that has glue on it or even try carrying a large piece of plastic to cover the bike overnight?

In any case, by 10 am I made a move, having re-stocked on some meths for the Trangia.  While in the shop, I chatter to an old guy and his wife, who were kayaking their way round the Lochs, carrying all their food and gear for up to a week at a time, rough camping all the way. They were awaiting for a window of good weather for the next leg...I should try this one day were my immediate thoughts! Rob was taking it easy today as he was still feeling knackered from the day before and his plans for the day were to reach Mallaig only. I set off in the rain and wind.

The wind was so bad at times that it nearly blew me off the road on a couple of occasions. Being tired, grumpy, and hungry, I stopped at Achrade, where I had some coffee and a bacon bap at the Comunity Centre-café. The woman noticed I was in much need of more caffeine and warmth so offered me free refills which of course I kindly accepted.

From there on I went almost non-stop to Mallaig. The A861 was a beautiful road, despite the weather conditions. When I joined the A830 I feared it would be busier, but again, I was wrong. It even had a cycle lane for some of the way. I made good progress and eventually got to Mallaig at 3 pm. The next ferry was due at 3:15 pm, so all was good.

Ferry to Skye
After a quickly re-stocking at the local Co-Op, I went to the terminal to be told the ferry crossing had been cancelled due to bad weather. I was so soaked that I thought at least I would have some time to dry my kit in the waiting room...

Four young cyclists were also there waiting for the ferry crossing. They had come from Oxford, where they were studying, and had plans to cycle up Skye and on to the Outer Hebrides. One of them had a broken spoke and they could not get the wheel straight. I offered help, but they sort of refused saying a new wheel was waiting for them in Broadford (Skye).

As it turns out, they had tried to fix the broken spoke with a multi-tool, and had knackered the nipples to a point that they were totally rounded. The guy with the broken bike would take a bus to meet his mates at Broadford.

Also in the waiting room were two guys on touring motorbikes. They happened to be doing something similar to an audax, but on motorbikes. In fact, they were on a "rally" and they had been averaging >1000 km a day and more than 12 hours daily riding round Scotland! It was nice to chat to them about interesting places to go visit, including, the Outer Hebrides.

Eventuall I managed to get on to the ferry, where I kept shivering throughout the crossing - it had been the first time I felt proper cold on this trip. Once on Skye, I tried to cycle with the Oxford guys, but they were on light road cycles and I soon got dropped. At some point I thought I would just rough camp anywhere along the A851, but as I was still feeling cold, I pressed on.

Skye, in the mist
I got to the A87 intersection in about 1 hour. The road had been quiet and easy going, with very open landscape, somehow different to the previous days. At the A87 I turned down the idea of going to Broadford, and went right. I was not sure about timings and miles for the remainder of my trip, and despite my initial plans of going round the northern bit of Skye, that would have to wait for another time.

More mist along the A87
In Ashaig I found the local campsite. It was just an open field with a ton of midges, and a very friendly guy that was looking after it. Apparently the location of it is very prone for midges, but it did have amazing facilities, including a towel drier, an small fridge and a good power shower. All for £5. 

The buggers were out!
By 10:30 pm I was tucked in my tent, writing the last bits of the journal and planning my last three days of touring.

The stats were as below:

- Odometer: 91 km
- Average speed: 17.5 km/h
- Max speed: 59 km/h
- Moving time: 5 h 14 min

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