Why were all the other cyclists going the opposite way to us? They were going south to north. We were going north to south. Paul and I were the only ones travelling the Western Isles in this direction. It didn’t take us long to find out why- we were riding into the wind and suffering. We actually had to peddle to go down hills! But the other cyclists were having a ball with the wind pushing them along at great speeds. How on earth did we manage to get this wrong and everybody else got it right?
It was just the way things were for us. Our cycling trips always seemed to have something go wrong. It was the mishaps that made our trips so memorable and fun. This was only our second ever cycling trip and our planning left a lot to be desired- we missed the bit that said it is better to cycle south to north.
As soon as we arrived on the Isle of Harris things went from bad to worse. The rain was heavy and our clothes quickly soaked through. In those days we still wore jeans on cycling trips- bad idea! We reached our bed and breakfast, dreaming of a shower and warmth. The owner opened the door and looked serious. Something was wrong. “I am very sorry. I have double booked you. I am so sorry. But don’t worry I have got you a room at my sister’s place. She lives just around the corner.”
It turned out that “just around the corner” was another five miles away! We were sodden and cursed non-cyclists who freely used the term “just around the corner” when they knew fine well that they were thinking of cars when they said it. It was getting dark and we were getting wetter and colder. It was difficult to find anything enjoyable about this.
At the time we did not know that we had to cycle another five miles, so after 15 minutes we began to wonder if we had gone too far. We spotted a man outside a cottage just standing there, seemingly unperturbed by the rain. Paul asked him directions and the man stood there staring straight ahead, smoking. He suddenly snapped out of his trance and started speaking. It was all mumbles and gibbering, so Paul gave up. We moved off, looking back to see that the man was still standing there, sheets of rain all around him.
My head was down and I was focused on getting there, but the odd time that I did glance up I noticed that our surroundings were breathtaking, even in this foul weather. “It’s really beautiful around here,” I said to Paul. It was rocky, hilly and green, somewhat lunar. It was dotted with tiny lochs. It got me excited about being here and it made the rain not matter.
We finally arrived at our bed and breakfast. Paul was fuming and determined to make this known to the sister. A frail old lady emerged onto the driveway to welcome us, “Oh deary me, you are all wet. Come inside boys.” She was very slow moving and had a very, very quiet voice. Paul could not bring himself to unleash his anger. It would be like shouting at your granny.
She had made us sandwiches, scones and tea. It was just what we needed and within minutes there was not a single crumb left on the plates.
It was Paul’s birthday and this should have been a special day for him. There would be no night out because there was nowhere to go for a night out. However, I had a bottle of champagne! I had hidden it inside my panniers and cycled with it for the past two days as we travelled across the Isle of Skye on our way here. Each time we went up a hill I felt the weight of that champagne, but now it was worth it as we toasted Paul’s birthday and our adventure.
We settled down to watch a film- Groundhog Day- as we drank and relaxed. Two minutes before the end of the film all the lights and television went out. We burst out laughing- it was typical of the mishaps of our cycling trips. We suspected that it was not a real power cut, but that the sweet old lady wanted to go to sleep and she found our television a bit too loud so she simply pulled the fuse out!
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.