Day 22 – Saturday 1st September – John O’Groats to Wick
Daily Distance = 17 miles (expected = 20)
Total Distance = 1,176 miles (expected = 1,093.5)
Weather: Dry and bright, but a strong SW wind in our faces all the way to Wick.
Getting going on Saturday morning was very difficult. I paid the bill, past the 4 drunken louts in the B&B bar, having their nth beer at 8am in the morning.
The wind was in our faces all the way to Wick. I led, and John tucked in behind. I’m so glad we didn’t start at the top and go down if this is what the wind would have been like. It didn’t help having leaden legs in the morning after the jubilation of last night.
We arrived at Wick by 10.30am, and hoped to get things packed away and on an earlier train to Inverness. However our plans fell flat when we got to Wick Post Office. It is amazing how difficult people can be when they really try. The clerk told us Parcel Force won’t take bikes any more. We have no choice, we cannot get them on the train this late (there is only space for 2). Asking at Tourist Information we are told the only option is a taxi to Inverness costing £80. Eventually the Post Office tell us the whole story; Parcel Force will take the bikes if they are less than 1.5 metres long, and less than 3 metres in girth. The only way we can do this is to remove the front wheels and mudguards. We also have to remove the handlebars and strap them to the frames, remove the handlebar stem, the pedals and drop the seat down. Unbelievable. It takes us 2 hours to dismantle our bikes on the High Street in Wick, tape together banana boxes from the local supermarket, and tape the bikes in the boxes. We have to send the front wheels and mudguards separately. Total cost of all 3 packages is over £30. Not £9.80 as quoted by the Post Office when I phoned them for all the details little more than a month ago.
Wick is a dump. There are no gift shops to get presents for the children and family. There appears to be nowhere to eat either, until we are directed to a French restaurant. This is a wonderful place. I had frogs legs for the first time ever, followed by duck in raspberry sauce and finally sorbet. The meal makes us both feel much better, and we make our way to the railway station.
I purchased a radio to listen to Germany v England World Cup qualifier on the way home, despite John telling me I was wasting my money ‘cos England will get stuffed anyway. We also got cheese and tomato sandwiches in Wick for the train journey. At the station we met the bike bus driver. He is put on to take bikes to Inverness, due to the restrictions on the train. If only we’d known beforehand. He directs me to where I may get porcelain dolls for Abi and Lucy and I run off in the pouring rain, returning with 2 dolls half an hour later.
The train is on time, and we settle down in our seats. The journey from Wick to Inverness is 4 hours long, despite only being around 100 miles. We now know why, it zigzags across the Highlands. Changing at Inverness to catch the train to Perth was fine, despite only having 6 minutes for the changeover.
England hammer Germany 5-1, an amazing score and worth the £10 it cost for the radio.
We arrived in Perth at 10.27pm, on time. Although we are not sure where the hotel is, we find it without too many problems. Woodlea Hotel, the owner has stayed up to let us in. Single rooms with private bathroom, tea and coffee and television. I stay up to watch the highlights from the football. £27.50 per person.