Newtonmore to Spean Bridge Scotland June 18, 2013
Each day gets more and more incredible here but each day gets harder and harder. Even though our mountain biking technical skills are improving each day, this is seriously challenging terrain. At various points today, we felt like we were in Western Canada. I had no idea that Scotland was so mountainous. Snow capped peaks are staring us in the face from every direction.
Oh a couple of things about Scotland before I get into what we did today. Here's a list of things you won't find in Scotland:
-a car with automatic transmission
-a box of kleenex/tissues
-strong internet connections
-tipping (waiters/waitresses/cab drivers)
-air conditioning/room ventilation (you simply open the window here)
-a glass near a sink for when you brush your teeth
-an unpleasant person
This country is truly special. I can understand why ex-pats long for a wee bit of the homeland. And...their accent and manner of speaking is just lyrical. It is lovely to listen to.
Well, on to today. For me, today was Epic 2.0. On my cross-country trip in 2010 (or should I say my "other" cross-country trip!) we had a day where we visited Mt. Rushmore that I remembered as being epic. Today was another version of epic.
It started with a benign enough 30 kms through Glen MacDonald, a vast valley bordered by rolling hills and mountains that used to be the domain of the clan MacDonald. On the way we went into Laggan Wolftrax, one of Scotland's best mountain biking trail systems. After a huge climb into Laggan Wolftrax, we had a super-fun run down a single-track trail nestled in a forest. It was like being on a toboggan run. Really fast and twisty.
Mountain biking at it's best.
From there we rode along a road through MacDonald Glen, not really doing much when a herd of red deer appeared to our right and then crossed the road in front of us. Then a few miles up the road on our right we saw another herd. Just magnificent. There are an incredible number of "hunting estates" in Scotland for deer hunting (hey Joe Schroeder, here is your chance at revenge!) and even more deer shelters/camps in weird out of the way places. It is big business here. They call it "stalking". We had a great picnic lunch.
Then we set off across the moors where we basically schlepped our bikes across wet bog/peat/crud for two hours. The bad news was that we only covered 8 kms in two hours.
Mountain biking at it's worst.
The good news was that the moors led us into Glen Roy, a positively awe-inspiring mountain valley that we actually rode up and over, which as I sit here writing, I can't believe we really did. Glen Roy spilled out to a narrow road that clung to the side of the mountain and ran up and down California-coast style for 15kms into a 40km headwind, which on heavy mountain bikes is no fun. Utterly exhausting. However, there were thousands of sheep along the way and a steer even began to take a run at me as I rode along the road. We half-crawled into the tiny town of Spean Bridge, went to dinner, and are half comatose on our beds in another charming B&B. More work tomorrow as we face climbing, riding, hiking, a ferry crossing, and more.
The Wilderness Scotland guides (Dave and Graham) are really nice, knowledgeable, and are very proud of their history/natural surroundings. Plus they are just nice guys to ride/hang with. They definitely are a lot less strict than the America By Bicycle people. There are no forms, no rules, no rap sheets, etc. But they do watch us carefully as we ride, give us pointers, and are very encouraging.
I just wish that could ride my bike for me. Starting tomorrow. I am tired. I am sore. I am sleepy. Good night all.