Day 2 – Melvich to Durness
Day 2 – Melvich to DurnessApril
Another awful night of calf cramps last night, I was hoping I was tired enough to just pass out but I wasn’t. I drank several liters of water during the night and was constantly getting up to pee but none of it seemed to help the cramps. I even went back to the shower and stuck my legs under hot water to try and give them some relief but it wasn’t working.
I eventually broke out my phone and starting googling. I needed something, anything to give me some relief. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry on if I couldn’t get this problem sorted. I eventually stumbled across the idea of having my feet pressed up again something solid so that my calves were kept tight. I stuffed a pannier with everything I had available and wedged it at the end of tent. It worked! It wasn’t particularly comfortable and I couldn’t move much but it finally gave me some relief and I was able to get some sleep.
The alarm woke me at 6:30, it was time to get going again. I wasn’t feeling very refreshed after another bad night but I was a little more energized than the previous morning. Despite setting the alarm for 6:30 I wasn’t on the road until 9:30. It had rained during the night and there was very little breeze so the tent was soaked both inside and out.
Leaving the camp site the road immediately began to climb, not to steep but still not the nicest way to start the day. I quickly noticed that the wind has picked up considerably since yesterday. Rounding the 2nd bend I came across 2 cyclist traveling the opposite way to me. The first waved as he zipped past and the second slows down to tell me “I feel sorry for you heading into that headwind”. There was a noticeable wind around at the time but nothing major so I laughed it off and continued on my way. A mile or so later I found myself at the top of the hill on a much more exposed piece of road and the wind really picked up. Peddling was becoming increasingly difficult by the minute, I expected to be averaging around 11 MPH I was struggling to reach 7.
After several hours of battling against the wind I reached the bridge at Tongue House. I find myself checking my distance covered on the trip computer every couple of minutes hoping that I’d suddenly started to cover some good ground but I never had. I crossed the bridge and was immediately greeted by a massive hill. I struggled my way to top at about 2.5 MPH. It would have been quicker to walk and few meters at the top I decided that’s what I was going to do. I dismounted and started pushing. I was actually moving faster by pushing but pushing such a heavy bike on slippery roads in cleats was quite unconformable.
This was now officially my toughest day on a bike. My whole body was in pain, I was mentally and physically exhausted and my morale was at a real low. I decide that I was going to start looking for somewhere to camp. I had only covered just over 30 miles, way below the 72 target but I was really starting struggling and needed to stop. The only problem with that was that there was nowhere to camp. I was surronded by wet and boggy ground in every direction. It had been raining on and off all day and for several days prior by the look of it, everything was completely saturated. Even if there was dry ground it wouldn’t have mattered because there was no shelter and there was no way I can get the tent up in that wind.
I pushed on and keep the dream alive that the perfect camping spot was just up ahead. I eventually reached the end of the exposed high ground and could see that the road began to drop down. I was looking forward to letting the bike roll down the hill and finally pick up some speed. I reached the hill only to find that the wind was now so strong the bike wouldn’t roll. I had to peddle all the way down, I had gravity on my side but It still took considerable effort to keep the bike moving.
I eventually turned the corner at Heilam and started heading south along the sea. The next section would end up making the rest of the day look favorable. What followed here turned into the most difficult and testing couple of hours of my life. The headwind that had already made this a miserable day just stepped up several notches. I’d never experienced wind like this on a bike before and hope never to again.
I was being pummeled from the front and my right side. The wind was throwing me all over the road and it’s a real battle to keep the bike on the tarmac. I had to get off the bike and push several times because it was too difficult or too dangerous to be up on the bike. It’s started raining again and I was soaked through and freezing within minutes. About half way down the the inlet I started to become very concerned about my situation. I was soaked through, freezing cold, exhausted and there was absolutely no way I can put up a tent in that wind. Checking the map revealed that the next town, Durness was not too far away but at my current speed of sub 2 MPH it would take several hours to reach.
I had 2 options. Go back or continue. I knew that If I went back there wasn’t anything for many miles, there was nothing at Tongue House and I had no idea what if anything was available at Tongue. It also means climbing all the way back up the hill and getting back onto the exposed ground. If I continued then I was stuck battling what was now an extremely dangerous headwind in freezing conditions. I decided to continue, once I reached the other side of the inlet the head wind must surely turn into a roaring tail wind. As I continued the rain has started turning into snow.
I eventually had no choice but to push the bike as it was impossible to sit on it. The gusts became so strong that I could barely stay on my feet, I was constantly stumbling to the ground along with the bike having to pull it back into the upright position. This was defiantly a situation where you find yourself asking “How has my life led me to this point?”. It’s fair to say my mood was pretty foul at this point and many expletives were exchanged with the wind.
I finally reached Polla at the end of the inlet and mercifully the wind was finally on my back. It was still snowing and still seriously cold but the wind was now propelling me crazy. I was blitzing along at 25+ MPH with almost no effort. It was glorious to finally pick up some speed, but the speed combined with very little physical effort was resulting in me getting colder and colder. My hands and feet had been numb for several hours but I could now feel my core starting to get very cold. I was desperate to reach Durness, I knew it was a decent sized village so I was holding out hope for finding a hotel or B&B.
Just outside Laid a few cars and camper vans appeared behind me, these first vehicles I’d seen in hours. I pulled over to let them past, the last camper stopped beside me and the window rolled down. A friendly German voice asks “Would you like a lift?” I immediately respond with a Yes! No one else had stopped to offer any kind assistance so this was probably my only chance. The guy jumped out and helped me load the bike into the back of the camper. I climbed on board to discover that he was touring Scotland with his wife and 2 young kids. The kids had a look of “Who’s this strange man that’s just got into the camper?”. I don’t think they spoke English so I can only go by their faces. They asked where I was heading to and I told them that I was hoping to find a Hotel or B&B in Durness. They explained that they were keen cyclists back in German and so perhaps had some understanding of what it was like out their in those coniditons.
It took at least 15 minutes to reach Durness in the camper, which only made me more grateful to them. It would easily taken twice as long on the bike and the road also began to climb considerable on the approach to Durness.
We arrived in Durness and they kindly offered to drive me around until I found somewhere to stay, fortunately the first place we tried had a vacancy. They dropped me off outside the Moven B&B and we parted ways. The kindness of this family really blew me away, they were traveling in a foreign country with their young kids and stopped to help me out. An anonymous guy on a bike in the middle of nowhere. I’m embarrassed to say that if our roles were reversed I don’t think I would have done the same. I’ll be forever grateful that they did stop and help. I also felt bad when departing as my bike and had left a river of dirty oily mud down the corridor of their camper van.
I pushed my bike over to the entrance of the B&B and was greeted by Morag. I had hoped to spend the majority of this journey camping but after what I’d been through today I was extremely grateful to had a bed in a warm house. I stored my bike in their dog shed, it was guarded by about 8 or 9 border collies so no need to worry about locking it up tonight. I headed up to my room and covered every possible inch of the radiators with my wet clothing. I took a quick shower and jumped into bed.
I checked the weather report before going to sleep, the current conditions in Durness were displaying as 50 MPH winds, gusting 70 MPH. I wasn’t even mad any more, I was quiet happy in fact. Happy that I’d pushed through and made it to Durness (even if it did include a little help from the German family).