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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Day Two: Friday 22nd July 69km

After a good night's sleep we woke, ate a hearty breakfast of oats, had a cup of tea, fed the midges and packed up ready for another day in the saddle. My broken spoke was still playing on my mind as I knew that there was a good deal of off-road to cover today. Would it hold out?

After a short, fast road section down to Arnisdale with only a few undulating hills it became apparent that the spoke was the least of our worries. We were quickly faced with an incredibly steep and loose, rocky ascent. Even Sven couldn't pedal the trailer up. In fact, I was ready to push my bike up at the first sighting of this mega-hill.

Eventually we reached the top of the first section having both pushed the bike and trailer up. Sven had to put his weight under the saddle whilst I pushed from behind the trailer. It turned out that there were about 3 more sections like this, if not steeper, before we reached the top. This was not a good omen. We quickly realised that this trip was not going to be possible with such a heavy trailer. We had no idea whether the other ascents today would be as hard as this, let alone the following days. To be honest, I had a fleeting moment where I though "this is it, the trips over" as I contemplated getting stuck in the mountains with a trailer neither of us could shift.

Over the day there were a few steep hills but none so steep as the first. A few more pushes but Sven's legs managed to get the trailer up most of the hills. The challenge of getting the trailer up the hills made our first river crossing almost insignificant as we pushed the bikes across hopping dry-footed along after them.

Without the trailer the trails would have been great fun. Lots of loose rocks and small splashes across burns. Before one such splash Sven suddenly braked. Thinking he'd found some amazing example of highland wildlife I quietly crept up next to him. Sven had 'caught' our first wild lunch. Chanterelle mushrooms were gently loaded into the mesh of his rucksack and we set off again, Sven thinking about his lunch and me wondering how experienced was this friend who I'd only met 3 days previous. Dialysis machines are not included in any aspect of my bucket list!

Finally, a lovely steep descent. Except it would be if not for the you-know-what! I slowly stayed behind Sven as he negotiated the bike and trailer down an extremely steep, loose and hairpin bend-filled section of track. The route guide for today warned about this.  Often letting the brakes off and riding it out proves to be the safer option as the bike becomes more stable and more capable of riding over obstacles. With 60lbs on the back this was not the case. We took it easy and made it to the bottom in one piece.

From then it was a lovely little descent through the trees and down into an estate. Unfortunately that came to an end when we were faced with a digger that had dug an enormous hole in the track which we could only cross by carrying our kit across.

 Having made it down the mountain, across the hole and past the estate, we decided to stop for lunch. More Norwegian flatbread and goat's cheese but more exciting was the wild mushrooms which Sven fried up. They had little in energy or nutritional value but they tasted lovely and were a real treat. It also gave me time to pick several tics out of my leg. God knows how they got there but they were not welcome to stay. I'd never had a tic before. At the time of writing this a week later, I've had around about 9 tics now. A seasoned veteran of burrowing, disease-spreading insects!

The following miles and miles were tarmac roads with a few steep climbs. My legs were aching by the time we arrived in Invergarry. It was here that we had to decide whether or not to continue to Fort Augustus in preparation for the Corrieyairack Pass (Britain's highest mountain pass. No longer accessible by even the hardiest off-road vehicles) or to camp in preparation for a longer low-altitude route.

With the trailer it would be impossible to take the pass so we found a picturesque picnic area and pitched our tent. We were not supposed to but it was only for one night. It seemed we weren't the only ones to have that idea. However, we were the minority who chose not to foul the immediate surroundings with human feces! What a way to ruin a beautiful country.

We made contact with home and decided that we would take the low level route tomorrow and ditch the trailer after that. We just had to convince someone to come and collect it once we'd convinced someone to look after it for us! A long rest was needed before that point though.


(appologies for the soundtracks. I've used youtube video editor to quickly put these together and the music available is, well, limited! However, at least the videos won't be taken off for breach of copyright!)

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