Tomintoul to Newtonmore Scotland June 17, 2013
On paper at least, today was billed by Wilderness Scotland as the signature day of this trip, and it did not disappoint. We left Tomintoul and the fabulous Argyle B&B run by the too-nice Diane and her husband Steve, both of whom hailed from South Africa originally. Each morning here we are treated to what they call a "full highland breakfast". Do you know what "full highland breakfast" means in Canada-English? It means a boatload of food, that's what it means.
Your first course for a full highland breakfast is cold cereal, porridge, or yoghurt and fruit. Then the second course is like a full breakfast of eggs, sausage, blood pudding (say what??), toast, croissants, butter, jam, fruit, cheese, coffee, tea, juice, and more. It is awesome. Unfortunately for me, my titanium mountain bike frame crumbled under the load of all that food this morning. Seriously. Actually, it didn't, but it is a lot of food nevertheless.
Well, we sure needed that breakfast today, I will tell you. What a day of touring, mostly on the north side of the Cairngorm Massif, which is the defining topographical characteristic of Scotland. They are Rockies-like in scope and size.Today we started up a mountain bike track and followed a river until we crossed another in an endless series of sheep pastures/bogs/grass. That just sucks I must say. Thereafter we climbed (or shall I say we walked) a 20%+ grade to the top of a small mountain and then had a cool descent to a coffee break/SAG at the Wilderness Scotland van.
Guess what...after coffe (the Scots love their coffee) more sheep pasture/bog stuff (which again sucked) and then a stiff climb to a mountain top vista that was spectacular. What followed though was unforgettable. It had started to rain (what the Scots call "a wee bit of liquid sunshine") and yet, despite the rain, the next part of the descent was beyond description. We rode between two mountains down a glen and then into a carpeted forest canopy that had the most lustrous verdant shades/hues of green that I have ever seen. Lunch was next (great picnic by the river) and even the rain stopped at that point. After lunch we had thrilling descents through lush forests. Twists, turns, river crossings (I rode across a 20 foot wide river today – a first for me), jumps, rock gardens, and more. It was tons of fun. It was also a ton of work. Lots and lots of climbing. And the climbing is steep. And the steepness is covered in wet, loose, rocks/stones/boulders. Mountain biking requires a different toughness than road cycling. 67kms today was about five hours of riding and I would equate this to a 125-130km day because the climbing (about 3,000 feet) is compressed into 40 or so miles.
Anyway, Scotland is beautiful, the people are beyond friendly, and this is quite the experience. Each day I am getting more comfortable with the technical stuff. Today I went over a slippery rock field in the rain and rode over a fast-moving river without thinking twice, which is something I would not have event thought about doing two days ago. But I am tired and I do have few boo-boos from the riding.
We have a big day tomorrow and I am going to sleep now. Maybe I will wait for Adam though before I go to our room. Right now he is outside this lovely B&B, drinking local scotch, and listening to the guides play bird calls on their iPhones. We are having the best time together.