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Day 19 - Wednesday 29th August – Inverness to Lairg

Daily Distance = 72 miles (expected = 56)

Total Distance = 1,060 miles (expected = 969.5)

Weather: Wet and cold all day, little or no wind.

Contour: Only slight up and down to start, then very hilly on the Eathie route. Slight up-down to Tain, flat for a few miles, up-up-up the Shin falls, and then down to Lairg.

 

John did not have a good morning, of which I felt partly responsible. Despite me checking the inner tube last night, this morning John’s front tyre was flat. John replaced it, and found a very large whole in the inner tube. This is very strange, since I checked it through water last night, and might have missed a small hole, but not a large one. The puncture and the weather seemed to get John down. By 7.30am he had already moaned about his wet clothes, the weather and his puncture. I think we’ll both be glad to get out of Inverness and back into the countryside.

The whole of today was very hard going. We started by leaving Inverness over the Kessock bridge. There is a cycle track along the side of the bridge, but the handrail is too low to be of any use if you fell off your bike. This didn’t bother me, but it was fun watching John cycle with his head below his handlebars.

After the bridge we followed the NCN route into the country. We wanted to use the winter route but this was not sign-posted and we ended up on the summer route. The route takes you the long way up the Black Isle to Cromarty. We went wrong part of the way up and met some GM feed protestors. At Fortrose we asked for directions, which John heard called the ‘easy route’. This road was very, very steep and long, and very hard work. Eventually we came to a village called Eathie, and we made sense of the route name. Finally at Cromarty we realised the only way to continue on the route was to get the passenger ferry over Cromarty Firth to Nigg. We did this (costing 2 each) and continued on our way. Again the NCN route takes you the long way to Tain, and we seemed to skirt all the way round it. Finally we used our own initiative, left the route and headed for Tain on the main road.

We got to Tain at 2.45pm, having cycled 45 miles without a break. We were both tired and wet, and realised we had another 30 miles to go. This was probably the lowest point of the whole trip. John was very depressed, and cycling slower and slower. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it today. We made the mistake of following the NCN route rather than our map, and then got lost quite a few times. We won’t be doing that again.

Lunch consisted of jacket potato, cheese and coleslaw. After lunch I decided to let John lead, he seems to get more depressed when he is behind. The afternoon was much better. The road is straight, and relatively flat. John got up a terrific pace, which I struggled to keep up with. We climbed up the Shin Falls, and then rejoined the main road by cycling down a grass bank, carrying our bikes down 3 flights of metal stairs and cycling over a very narrow, metal, footbridge. This scared the life out of me.

We arrived at the Nip Inn, in Lairg just before 5pm, quite miraculous considering our situation at lunchtime. We were soaked through, and tried desperately the dry our clothes using the hand-drier in the gent’s toilet. We had another good meal, of chicken curry and rice, followed by profiteroles. My clothes will be dry in the morning, I’m not sure John’s will be. Accommodation is a twin room with en-suite. The bikes had to be left out in the rain, round the back of the pub. We covered them with John’s cape. Television with tea and coffee facilities in the room. 27 per person.

After dinner we continued our pool challenge, and after John had downed 3 pints I managed to beat him 4-0 on the night, to take a 5-4 lead overall.

1 puncture (John first thing this morning), no other breakdowns apart from our sanity.

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