Day thirteen: Disappointment, discovery and ultimate delight.
One of the (not wholly unexpected – but extremely disappointing all the same) lessons that had made its mark so far in my journey was that the best-laid plans often prove impossible to complete. Yes, there was always a backup route, and I still managed to include all four my chosen disciplines pretty much every day: but each new ‘failure to complete’ still irked me.
Today it was another kayak crossing where I would have been fighting an immovable headwind. It wasn’t so much the danger element of this one (although dodging tankers in a busy shipping lane against the wind isn’t exactly a safe pastime), but more the time it would have taken to complete. I estimated that it would have used up around five hours to cross the 9km ferry route, from Mallaig to Armadale in Skye. That would have been over half the day’s travel time dedicated to less than 5% of the distance. Sometimes you just have to make sensible sacrifices for the greater good, glean any lesson from the situation that you can, and then move on.
Moving upwards: to the Skye and beyond…
My first ever visit to the Isle of Skye, albeit arriving by ferry, was a lovely experience and being able to cycle across the magnificent Skye bridge back to the mainland was special. That memorable cycle, through those mystical, story-filled lands brought me to Stromeferry where the I came face to face with yet another an idyllic image. This part of the challenge was often too beautiful for words to describe.
It would be so easy for me to say, ‘you had to be there’ to avoid the impossible task of describing one of the most delightful places on my whole adventure. And just like making hard decisions about leaving out a leg of the journey sometimes the easy option is the right one. You had to be there!
Back on track and more ancient Scottish magic.
Leaving that place behind, I pedalled on through more isolated countryside: often feeling like I was the only man on earth, and enjoying the thought. The road eventually brought me a little way past Shieldag to a harbour where I decided to take an unscheduled swim. It was one thing to forgo my kayak that day, and not be able to replace it, but there was no way that the swim I’d also missed earlier was going to suffer. The water was freezing, but it was just great to be back on track, even if it was an adlib leg of the journey. As I emerged from the icy depths, I was faced with a steep climb, through thick undergrowth in an ancient wooded area: still ringing with the echoes of a bygone age. It seemed that every time I went ‘of piste’ and indulged in spontaneity the magic of the Highlands descended and came alive. I was in my element again.
Catching up with Tony and the support vehicle at the top, I got back on the bike and set off to meet Mike. It was only as I pushed through those lonely last few lonely miles that it really dawned on me how much I had missed the company: And it was so good for me to see him!
Old friends, new friends and redemption
Catching up with my good friend Mike Farrie (all-round sportsman and watersports fanatic) in Gairloch was a game changer for me. Maybe I had got a bit carried away with the depths of my own thoughts and imaginations while battling each challenge alone the past few days. Perhaps the prehistoric scenery and its ancient calling had distracted me from the task at hand. But as soon as Mike arrived the focus came back!
Instead of lingering on the morning’s disappointment, as I might have done by my own devices, we immediately opted for a 5km kayak – just because the water was there. Afterwards, we were treated to a delightful meal with Mike’s cousins, Doug and Leila, to set us up for the second half of the adventure. Lovely place and lovely people!