Well it has been a busy week or two. Since I last posted I have covered about 2000km of south eastern Australia, visited some amazing friends (at least 12 different catch ups I think) and seen some of the most iconic places of the area. As I have been so busy and tired photos haven’t been a priority but here are a few anyway.
Well it is ten days since I put up my post explaining how all plans had fallen to pieces and my bike was not far from doing so either.
In that time things have happened. Lots of things. Amazing things. Amazing things facilitated by amazingly
friendly people who really had no reason to help me so much. Most of what has happened hasn’t even involved me in the planning process which has certainly been an experience in itself.
Firstly there is that minor point that I somehow ended up in Greenland. Not quite sure how that happened but I will be honest and say a confident and pretty smile was possibly involved, as was an not insignificant amount of money and one and a galf business hours between descision and a flight. As part of this I ended up landing in Greenland with my stuff packed into a borrowed hiking pack and the name of a town written on a piece of paper and instructions to negotiate with the locals at the wharf.
What transpired was one of the most beautiful hikes of my life.
After all this excitement I some how ended up in central iceland (again coordinated by lovely strangers) for another spectacular hiking adventure.
Well well well. What have we here? A pub courtyard full of frumpy english tourists. Frowning while looking out at the vertiginous ridge lines of the Lakes District. Guess I am not in Scotland anymore.
After 5 weeks of cycling and 2 weeks of faffing around my touring in Scotland is pretty much complete. Yesterday I caught the train into Glasgow from Oban, put my bike in for service, drank excellent coffee, ate vegan chocolate banana cake (while maple icing) and piss-bolted out of the city which was clearly larger and busier than I was mentally prepared for. Having teed up with John from Lake District Stand Up paddle boards to head out for an overnight camp to see what SUP-touring would be like I made Keswick my destination, but more on that later (perhaps).
I figure after my not so grand tour of Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebridies and Skye I should give you some form of collection of thoughts on what my impression of Scotland has been.
● Shite coffee. Seriously bring your own coffee making implements. I thought remote parts of Australia were bad on the coffee front, but I genuinely had a guy ask me if he’d made my coffee well after serving a mug of instand coffee.
● Instant coffee has some benefits. It often comes with a price tag in the islands of scotland, and that gives you a right to sit in a warm dry place after cycling into wet head winds for 2hrs.
● Scotland is an excellent place to visit if you are a a lactard like myself. A surprisingly large range of cakes and biscuits are dairy free, including a few fancy shortbreads.
● The people are amazingly welcoming, helpful and friendly. They are always ready for a chat and often have the best info on where to go and what to see. They are mostly infuriatingly considerate drivers too.
● Otters are a myth. You will not see one, so don’t get your hopes up.
Happy adventures everyone!
The cycling in Scotland is undeniably excellent, with an amazing array of resources available for cycling including:
● Comprehensive cycling notes
● Cycling accessible public transport
● Free showers on most ferries.
● Legal right to go anywhere and camp anywhere within the extent of the right to roam.
● Towns so close together you could ride with out carry foods, camping gear and probably even water.
In summary. Go ride people!
So I arrived in Shetland last Friday morning with the aim of being as far north as possible for the summer solstice, and I can pretty well say that I have achieved that goal.
Shetland is basically an archipelago of long skinny islands stretching about 100 miles north to south. Arriving in Lerwick I made a beeline north following bits of cycle route 1 and the lesser A roads to get to the northern Island of Unst in a reasonable amount if time.
As it happens there are a lot of hills in the Shetland group as the twisted and convoluted geology is the result of oceanic continental collision. While nothing is particularly tall there have certainly been a few hills that made me question whether hills and headwinds are a bad combination (they are) and whether perhaps luggage and light weight touring has merits (untried but unlikely). As such I rode about 80km north from Lerwick to camp in a lovely valley not far short of Mid Yell on the island of Yell and managed to find the one flatish piece of not soggy ground I had seen all afternoon. Anyone free camping here. Bring a ground sheet!
Anyway from there it was up to Unst where I found a campsite at the lovely hostel right at the bottom of the island and set about having some “rest days”. As usual rest days just mean you aren’t carry all your panniers so I rode the 20 odd kilometres up to Hermaness Nature Reserve on the day of the solstice which officially gave me my “as far north as possible” claim, although pesky skuas stopped me heading any further north. Check out the “Where am I” tab at the top of the page to see exactly how far north I got.
I am now headed back southwards towards Mousa Broch in the south of the Shetland Mainland. For anyone visiting the islands be prepared to find amazing history everywhere you go. In one day I came across three viking long houses, a bronze age broch, a norse farmstead, innumerable old bods. On top of that I have seen seals, puffins, skuas, shetland ponies en masse and I am pretty certain I saw an otter from a great distance. It is a pretty awesome place to visit!
So I am in Aberdeen where the sun only serves to make the world look a little more dreary ( sorry Aberdonians) after three and a half days on the road. According to the odometer on my bike I have ridden about 560km over the 7 days of riding I have done so far and despite a few grimaces it appears I am still alive and pedalling, though I clearly not in full swing as my food consumption is still working its way upwards.
The ride so far has been quite lovely, and it appears that the weather gods have been smiling on me as I have had predominantly tail winds. Every day the local Scots have been laughing at me for my ability to become sunburnt here, though as I bought sunscreen yesterday I fear it could never be needed. Still, it is a talking point right?
In other news I broke a tent pole the other night. Nothing catastrophic but I still need to work out a proper mend for it as replacement sections aren’t easy to come by. I am sure my McGyver skills will get me through. Apparently setting a tent up in a castle while in a stupid rush while tired is not the best idea i have had recently. Oh yeah i camped in a castle!
This guest post, possibly the first in a series, comes from Glyn the bike packer. Now most bike packers seem to be a little on the crazy, but Glyn’s adventure seems to be positively enjoyable, and I can’t wait to try out his route myself when time permits.
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On Saturday a rather large collection of rather motley friends assembled at Mt Wilson fire station for a moderately adventurous adventure. Despite my best intentions of planning and being organised we arrived well caffeinated about 45minutes after we had intended, and hence set out for the canyon proper a tad later than 9am. In our crew of 11 were friends from scouts, friends from Alice, friends of friends and well friends. The rather splendid weather meant for an enjoyable and meander-ful trip down the Wollangambe at a not particularly rushed pace, though I must concede there were surprisingly few food stops for one of my trips!
Anyway enjoy the photos. A massive thank you to Tallia, Ez and Alison for playing photographers!
On Sunday I re-entered the most fascinating world of canyoning. Chris, Nicole and I headed off bright and early in the morning towards the Blue Mountains and the Mt Wilson Cathedral of Ferns.
After several stops for second breakfast and coffee we arrived respectable time, loaded our packs and wandered up and down hills to get to where we thought the canyon should be. Ferocious bush fires last year, along with big storms over the past month meant that almost all sign of the once clearly defined track has disappeared and the bush was full of the sound of groups wandering aimlessly towards the creek line hoping to find the traditional abseil entry point. Having reached a creek, and working on the principle that all creeks lead down hill, we walked straight down into the water and bypassed what should have been the biggest abseil of our trip.
Once wandering down the side creek into Whungee Wheengee it dawned on Nicole that so far the trip was no different to hiking. After some discussion it was decided that really it is called a canyon when you got wet intentionally. Eventually though the water started getting deeper, and colder and we decided it was time to don wet suits and starting treating the canyon like we meant it. Scrambling through lots of fallen logs and branches would become a theme for the trip as traditionally easy walks around some pools were choked with debris, but all in all the canyon was still pretty clear and easy to navigate with the right gear etc.
The highlight of the trip was of course the glow worms. Glow worms are cool! There isn’t anything else to be said about it, and in several sections of this canyon the displays were absolutely beautiful as we swam through dark tunnels. I am told canyoning at night can be spectacular for this reason, and I have to say this canyon made me want to find out!
Thanks to Chris for leading our little party through the canyon, and thanks for Tom from OzUltimate for making his notes available on the canyons. It is a nice comfort for the slightly out of practice to have a reliable source of info!
Inspired by Dayna and her cool blog I’ve made a map of the photos I have stored on my computer. I would suggest it could be broken down a lot further, but it makes me realise there are a lot more places to go!