The day started early at 5:30am in order to catch the train from Wolverhampton to Wick in north Scotland. That night I had an unpleasant dream in which everything in my panniers was stolen while on the train. Defiantly not the nicest way to start begin your day when you have a 13 hour train Journey ahead of you. I was out of the house by 6:00 and on the way to catch the 06:37 train from Wolverhampton to Edinburgh. The first train arrived on time and had a designated area on the platform to wait if you have a bike. The staff helped me get the bike on board, I found my seat and I was off. I was a bit anxious leaving the bike out of sight at at the front of the train but I was reassured that the door would be locked and the only person able to reach the bike room was the driver.
I arrived at Edinburgh station around 10:30 to discover that the crew had abandoned the train even quicker than the passengers, leaving me to unload the bike myself. When booking the trains a couple of months ago I had the option of having a 10 minutes transfer window or a 3 hours one. I opted for the 3 hours window as I didn’t want to risk missing the transfer and having to buy another ticket. Unfortunately this actually turned into 4 hours wait as my next train kept being delayed. While moving to the platform to board the train i suddenly realized the station had an indoor seating are which was annoying because I had been sat outside on a hard wooden bench shivering for the last 4 hours.
I finally made it onto the next train to Inverness at around 14:30. The train was packed this time, people were spilling out of the doors and there was no designated bike carriage this time. The bike storage area was just a bar stuck to the wall next to the doors. I had a seat reserved but given how packed the train was I decided to stay with the bike. The bike rack was positioned right next to the toilet which meant lots of people and lots of bad smells throughout the journey. I met another cycled while boarding, He was heading up to Inverness to take part in a race around Loch Ness. It was nice to have someone to talk to for a short while. He had done some quite extensive bicycle adventuring including taking part in an off road race from Canada down to the USA/Mexico border and was intrigued by what I was doing.
At Perth lot’s of new people boarded the already packed train. Some of the new passengers decided that my bike was a nice place to hang their luggage. One drunk guy seemed to return to the toilet every 10 minutes or so. Each time he returned he felt the need to lean on or touch my bike. Another woman set directly in front of my bike and proceeded to cough all over it for the remainder of the journey. The train arrived at Inverness just after 17:00 and left me with another 90 minute wait in the cold for the next train. I sat around for 15 minutes or so before getting up for a walk around to try and get some heat in hands and feet. I discovered a heated indoor waiting area and sat out the rest of the wait in there.
The final train to Wick arrived on time at 18:30. I loaded the bike onto the train and settled in for another long journey. Despite leaving home over 13 hours ago I still had at least another 6 and a half hours until I’d reach the final stop. I had to leave the bike on its own in the corridor this time. This train was much emptier and the passenger count was slowly declining as we passed more and more stations but I still had to check it every couple of minutes just to put my mind at rest.
After 3 hours on the train I suddenly realize that it was now pitch black outside and it had started to rain. I really needed to go to the toilet as well but the track was really rough and the train was being tossed all over the place. My ticket said I should arrive at Wick by 22:30 but the ticket inspector said it will be more like 23:00. I thought this would be an easy day when I was back at homing planning but it proved to be surprisingly tiring and at times quite stressful.
As I departed the train a Scottish guy appeared from the doorway of another carriage and spotted my bike. He came over to ask why I was here with the bike. I explained to him that I was heading up to John O’ Groats and riding to lands end for charity. To my surprise the concept of such a ride seemed alien to him, although he was intoxicated so perhaps didn’t have any idea what was going on. He pulled out his wallet and poured a bunch of change into my hand, It wasn’t much but it was a welcome first donation.