and so it continues! (pt 3 here)
Day 8 Ullapool to Lochinver
I had deliberately left myself with very little riding today, and most of that on-road, as I wanted to climb Stac Pollaidh en-route.
Leaving Ullapool late after a night of listening to fat naked motorcyclists snoring in the hostel I headed north east for a little off road diversion to the reservoirs above town. As I climbed it got mistier, which added to the surreal effect of the drained reservoirs.
The shoreline is somewhere up on the left...
I missed the bridge I was aiming for and ended up, abruptly, at the foot of the damn, which was easily crossed. The descent down was a treat, all tarmac but steep.
From here it was all tarmac, heading for Wainright's "Wee mad road" of Sutherland, and ultimately Stac Pollaidh. Unfortunately the mist stayed with me, casting a gloomy light on the wee mad road, and obscuring Stac Pollaidh completely. I sat around eating cake and waiting for it to clear but gave up. Stac Pollaidh shall have to wait!
On the way to Lochinver the mist finally cleared and I got to enjoy the last of the wee mad road.
I found Lochinver a little un-inspiring, I think i was hoping for people and campsites/hostels, but none were to be found. The shopkeeper pointed me in the direction of "White Shore", a little bay near some community woodland. I spotted some nice trails on the way...
White Bay was nice but the wind picked up and led for a blustery night, so I was glad to pack up the next morning, grab a bacon roll in town, and head for one of the highlights of the trip, Suilven!
Day 9: Suilven
Thar she blows!
I followed the very good quad bike track all the way to the bothy near Suilven, where I sat and played the eating and waiting game for an hour or so until the clouds lifted, at which point I donned my fell running shoes and set off for the summit
I actually saw Stac Pollaidh this time...
I think I fell in love a little, what an amazing hill!
Day 10: The comedown.
Leaving the bothy the next day (having outsmarted the mice, crumbled oatcakes in the next room kept them busy!) I continued on the high quality quad track for a while, until reaching the end of Loch na Gainimh, at which point the trail took a turn for the worse. As usual, had I been unladen and fresh, the following climb would have been pretty entertaining, some very good singletrack with a slight surplus of loose wet rocks. Reaching Lochan Fada it went truly rubbly and steep, so I continued tramping.
In fact, I kept tramping pretty much all the way to Cam Loch. There were some pretty cool little sections on the way, including the marbley white slabs covered in loose rocks which nonetheless had a sort of line through them. Not worth the hiking alone, but certainly a unique wee bit of trail I'm glad I rode.
The views of Suilven kept me company around the Cam Loch
As did the fighter jets pulling some tight turns above the hills, that was pretty cool.
However, the final trudge to the Elphin road really broke me, and I was getting surly. Meeting the road and heading for Inchnadamph should have helped, but I felt like I was pedalling through treacle, and against the wind.
I felt if I could reach the Inchnadamph hostel, I could stop there, stock up at the shop, and start afresh the next day.
As it happens, the hostel had a school group in, and since I wasn't carrying my I'm-not-a-paedophile certificate, I wasn't allowed in. The owner was brilliant though, feeding me, chatting to me, giving me tea, letting me use the staff shower, and pointing out a good place to pitch the tent. I must have looked a state when I came in to ellicit such sympathy!
The spot she recommended was just up the glen, and full of tics, and I mean really full, I had at LEAST 15 crawling up each arm by the time I finished putting the tent up. I did however have a walk up to the Traligill caves in the evening sunshine to make up for the earlier drudgery.
The caves were cool, lots of subterrainean water works and yawning openings into the darkness.
Another check for tics, a sneaky smoke (and consequently a 500g bar of Cadbury's) and I was done for the night.
Day 11: Inchnadamph to Kylesku.
The less said about this day the better. I was supposed to head to the Eas a'cuil Aluin falls, but my legs, the weather, and warnings from the hostel owner, put me off the path I had intended to follow, so I stuck to the Kylesku road.
This was a long climb, and the wind wasn't helping, nor was the hail. Lots of swearing and yelling into the wind probably wasn't correct "Lonesome Voyager" etiquette either but made me feel better. I completely caved and bypassed my intended backup route to the falls (from Loch na Gainmhich) and just kept on going, aiming for the Kylesku bar.
i sat in the bar for ages, drinking coffee, eating bacon rolls, more coffee, rollies, more coffee, cake etc etc. I also got chatting to the (all female) staff, which helped pass the time and lift my spirits. In the meantime the clouds lifted, and I was spurred on to cycle out to the Glendhu bothy 5km away, get changed, cycle back to the pub for drinks and chat, then return to the bothy.
Instead, I got to the bothy, lit a fire and stayed there, I wasn't going anywhere...