Monday, October 19, 2015

Winton Massif Roots Part 2 - Colonsay by Motorcycle.

Following on from Part 1.


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We made it to Oban right enough will no issues from Ferg's limping bike. The A828 from Ballachulish to Connel is nice. It wasn't too busy either so we could give the swoopy bends a look at and rolled into Oban with plenty time to meet our 3 o'clock deadline for the ferry. Oban is busy, Really busy. This made finding Stoddart's bike shop a bit tricky, but a few directions from some locals saw us at their door. 
We set about Ferg's GS getting the battery out. Stoddart's allowed us into their workshop and started to look around for a suitable battery while we hooked up a huge car battery to Ferg's bike to see if it would start. Stoddarts didn't have a battery but the bike started when we used the big car battery. Ferg bought a charger and we rushed off to Tescos to stock up on food, beer and bog roll for that evening's wild camping on Colonsay. Ferg was gutted that his bike was still playing up though. 

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He's no happy.

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Nice guzzi waits beside us for the ferry to Islay.


We once more bump started Ferg's GS, which he calls Dinosaur. I dunno if the nickname reflects the 1150's age, its weight or its size but the rest of us were sweating like pregnant nuns after shoving the GS around all over the place in the increasingly warm afternoon. Ferg cheered up a bit once we were on the ferry and we all started getting excited about arriving on Colonsay. We got a got great views of Oban and the surrounding area as we sailed off. 
Here's a video update from Ferg telling us the crack.




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Oban

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Shoving a GS about is tiring work.

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First views of Colonsay.

Roots 2015
First views of Colonsay.

We rode off the ferry then ran back along to help Ferg shove Dinosaur along the peir. A few of the islanders had come down to see who was coming on to the island or say goodbyes to friends sailing out. We got speaking to Walter, a guy who had lived on Colonsay for the past 56 years, we'd be seeing a bit of Walter over the next few days.
I had done a wee bit planning for our stay on Colonsay. This first night we were wild camping followed by two nights in the Hostel. I had looked at the maps for Camping spots and had found two potential sites. Camping is allowed pretty much anywhere in Scotland as long as you don't damage anything or leave a mess. I still thought it was best to play it safe as not to piss of the locals so I had phoned the Colonsay Estate who had told me that they try to discourage people parking and camping by the roadside. When I told them it was motorbikes we were on they sounded pretty welcoming, saying bikes would be fine and that we should be ok. 
I found our first site easily. It was beside some hard standing foundation that looked like they'd been left behind from WW2 buildings. There was a bin right beside us too. After some dithering we decided that this was the best spot for us. It was at the top of a hill too, ideal for starting Ferg's bike.
I had also booked us a table at The Colonsay Pantry. It being a Wednesday means Seafood Night at the Pantry. Once the tents were up we headed down for our meal. Faithir and I shared a great seafood platter which was washed down with a pint of the local beer and all at a great price too. All fed, it was back to the tents for a few more beers and some night photography.


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Roots 2015

Roots 2015

Roots 2015

Photo by Wull Taylor
Photo by Faithir.

Roots 2015

Roots 2015


I was met with nice weather when I opened my tent the following morning. I watched a plane take off from the wee airport as the rest of the guys dragged themselves out their sleeping bags. We had some breakfast while being entertained by Ferg's hilarious physiotherapy routine, a hangover from a bad car crash he'd been involved in. We mucked about with Ferg's shinty sticks then packed up and went to find the hostel.

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Ferg worships my bike.

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Roots 2015
Insert your own caption here....

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Aidan demonstrates his fishing style.


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Morning on Colonsay.


Colonsay is only around eight miles by two, so it didn't take us too long to find the hostel. We dumped our stuff in various rooms. Ferg got his charger hooked up and got his bike on charge, got a lift on whoever's bike was closest and off we went to explore the island and check the tide times for fishing off the pier. We were having a wee fishing competition and Aidan was keen to show his immense skills off. We stocked up on supplies in the shop, got a coffee and a cake in the Pantry and poked about various bits of the island. I was riding about the north part of the island when a guy came out his house and waved me down. It was Walter who we had met when we arrived off the ferry. I chatted with him for a bit over a cup of tea and a biscuit then it was back to the Hostel to grab my fishing kit then down the pier to meet up with everyone else. Fish were caught and we kept a couple of the bigger mackerel to go with the Colonsay Beef burgers we'd bought from Colonsay Stores. The night was spent having a laugh in the bothy at the hostel. I had my gopro with me so here's a look at the Colonsay ring road too.







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Scalasaig from the Pier.

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Colonsay pantry.

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Roots 2015
Walter's place.

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In the bothy.


It was a wet day on Colonsay when we got out our scratchers the following day. With a full charge Ferg's bike had started on the button and we had a wet spin around the island visiting Colonsay Brewery and checking out how easy it would be to get over to Oronsay (next time perhaps). A stop in at the Pantry and another to the shop and it was back to the Hostel to dry out. Shit was shot when Walter dropped by to visit us for a wee while. We cooked a Colonsay Beef chilli and chilled out for a bit. Suddenly the weather cleared up and the sun was out. We jumped on the bikes for an awesome ride around the island, taking in the sunset before calling in to the Colonsay Hotel's bar for a pint and to take in their Live Music Night. It was good crack in the pub, Aidan had already spoken to some of the locals he knew and we got to meet some of them them at the pub. Once we were done it was back to the hotel for a wild rock and roll game of chess and a few beers.

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Still on charge.

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Roots 2015

Roots 2015

Roots 2015

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A video posted by mike (@yodagoat) on
Me and Faithir rave out.

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Hostel at night.

The next day we got up and packed our shit up. Today we were saying goodbye to Colonsay. It had been an absolutely amazing visit to the island but on we must go. HB, Bob and Nicki were meeting us on the ferry. They get on at Oban, the ferry comes to Colonsay where we jump aboard then it's on to Islay. We spent our time in the Pantry and fishing. It was while we were hanging around the Pantry that we first heard there was a problem with the ferry. Apparently there had been some sort of mechanical issue, but ferries to Colonsay being cancelled wasn't uncommon. I phoned back to HB on the mainland and they had been told there were delays, while we had been told that there was a good chance that the ferry would be cancelled.

Hmmmmm....


What to do?


Find out in part 3.


Part 3 here.




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Winton Massif - Roots 2015 Part 1.

Ten years ago I organised a bike tour of Scotland. I had two weeks off and a long list of people who had said they were up for coming along. The list dwindled a bit but I headed off on This Trip, joined along the way by Hammy, Faithir , Aidan and Ben. Ten years on, we're still heading away on the bikes. After some discussion a rough route was planned and Ferg came up with the name "Roots" for the trip. Either we were a bunch of roots or we were getting back to our roots, Ferg even designed what I thought was a good T shirt commemorating our ten years, but some of the guys thought it belonged more in a garden centre than on a bike trip. The route was for everyone to meet in Oban to sail over to the wee Isle of Colonsay, spend three nights there before heading to Islay and Jura then on to the mainland to visit some of our favorite haunts like Strontian and Applecross. Aidan, Ferg, Faithir and I all had a bit more time off near the start of the trip so we planned an extra couple of nights, Aidan and I staying at Lairg and meeting Ferg and Faithir at Kinlochleven.
The forecast was for rain, but it stayed mostly dry and Aidan and I headed north, avoiding the Average Speed Camera Zombie Assassins A9 and Police and tourist clogged A82 in favour of the Glenshee/Lecht road. 
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Stopping at Blairgowrie.

We stopped in Blairgowrie to sort out a plan for that evening. Our accommodation was a couple of miles outside Lairg at a new campsite called Pondside Campsite. We had planned to camp but they have a static caravan that's really cheap to hire, so we had booked that. The idea of buying steak to cook in the van was traded in for shopping local in Lairg. We carried on north, stopping at the Lecht cafe for some lunch, much to the dismay of Aidan's rumbling guts which needed stuffed with the usual tea and cake by Glenshee, miles back down the road.
My regular reader will have heard all about the A93 on here before, but it never gets boring riding it. It gets really fun after Blairgowrie where you go through Glenshee, popping easy wheelies over all the crests in the road and chucking the bike about the place then turning on to the A939 and the steep climbs and drops up to the Lecht. We arrived at the Lecht cafe to "Am fuckin starving!!" from Aidan and were greeted by a big black Dog who seemed to be the only staff member in the reception. Luckily humans were found up in Cafe. Soup and cake inhaled and we were off again.

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How can I help you?

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Looking south, back down the Lecht.

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At Ardgay where the Dornoch Firth becomes the Kyle of Sutherland (well that's at Bonar Bridge but I needed a caption)
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It's the same twisty fun down the other side of the Lecht and all the way to Carrbridge where you had to site on the shite side of the A9 for half an hour or so. Fueled up in Inverness it was A9 again till we turned off at Alness onto the Bonar Bridge road. This is a fucking cracker, like a wee version of a French gorge road in some bits. An enthusiastic throttle will find you at the end of the Dornoch Firth in no time, and from there its just a few short miles to Lairg. It was only these last few miles that it started to get a bit damp, the pace was reigned in and we chilled our way through Lairg noting the chippy and the shop and found our way to Pondside Campsite where we were staying that night.
It took some finding but after a few passes we figured out where we should be and rode in. 
What a place. It was a pretty new site and they were still building a lot of stuff like a proper dedicated shower block, but we were impressed. As I've said we had planned to camp but seeing the price of the static caravan we chose that instead. Price in mind I expected some mouse eaten shitehole, not the luxury establishment we found, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We dumped our shite in the caravan and headed back into Lairg for a braw chippy and to pick up some beers and snacks from the shop.

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No a bad view to eat your dinner to.
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There were 3 midgies in the area so Aidan's hood was up.

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We were joined by the campsite cat. Cool as fuck.

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After we were fed we farted about the site for a while, chatting to the owners who were really friendly and loved the idea of having a bunch of bikes up for a party then it was on to serious rock and roll, wild shit, as you can see in this video update.


The next day Ferg met us at Pondside and we got breakfast at the Pier Cafe in Lairg, quite a fancy and very nice wee place. We ate our food while the helpful folk from Pondside phoned down and arranged to drop off some of our stuff we had left behind in the caravan. I say we, I had left the gopro charger in the socket. What a fud.

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Bonar Bridge

We headed south. Today's destination was Kinlochleven, camping at a site between Kinlochleven and Glencoe. We headed back through Bonar Bridge to Inverness than down the "other" side of Loch Ness towards Dores then down the side of the Loch through Foyers. It had got wet but it was still an enjoyable run. My old bike kit still seems to perform well in the rain and I didn't envy the bunch of about 30 odd pushbikes we passed all wearing their boil in a bag, plastic bin liner capes. They'd have been sweating like pregnant nuns! My new lid was great as well. I've bought myself a Scheuberth C3 and it's the first lid I've owned with pinlock. What a difference. Riding in the wet was like russain roulette compared to the clarity I have now. I'm never getting another lid without something like pinlock again. 
Anyways, the road down the other side of Loch Ness is fucking good. If you've never done it but like me, you're up there all the time then add a wee bit time on to your journey and head along for a look.

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As it so often does, it got wetter and wetter the closer we got to Fort William. By the time we got to Kinlochleven it was pishing doon a storm. We got to our planned campsite which had turned into a proper swamp. Fuck camping in this. 
"We'll go back up to the top of the site, there's a tree to hide under. We can figure out a plan there. There's the Red Squirrel at Glencoe or Tim's place over at Stontian."
"Right. OK"
Aidan had other plans though, at the top of the campsite he turned up the road. We followed him to Glencoe village where we stopped at the wee shop. We agreed that the site at Kinlochleven was out, the Red Squirrel was OK and we could shelter under trees but Tim's place, Sunart Camping at Strontian, had a wee room we could use. It has a wood burning stove and everything in it. Right. Sunart it is. How do we let Faithir know? By a stroke of luck Faithir was stopped at the Green Welly having some soup when I phoned him. He agreed that Tim's place was the best bet too. Sorted.
All our gear was soaked by the time we rolled up at Sunart Campsite. We got out tents up and the insides were dry in no time. The stove in Tim's bothy was lit and soon out bike gear was steaming away. We stocked up in the shop and I made quite a shite Carbonara (it'll be better next time, I promise) and it was a quiet night in the pub.

The Bothy at Sunart Campsite, Strontian.
Tim's bothy at Sunart Campsite.

The sun was out and drying the previous night's drizzle off the tents. We packed up, got a bite to eat then set off. I went to pay for our camping on the way out as did Ferg. I fired my bike back up and Ferg tried the same.

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"Eh?"

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ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
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Ferg's bike wasn't starting.

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Shit. This isn't the time to break down. We need to get to Oban for the ferry at 3 o'clock.

"We'll bump it."

A few sweat inducing shoves later Ferg's bike was away. We met Faithir and Aidan at the fuel station and let them know what happened. Then it was on to the Corran Ferry. We decided to see if Ferg's bike would start before we got on the ferry. It would be much easier to leave it running on the tiny crossing than shove it off at the other side.

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That'll be that then.

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Ferg's GS after a bump start.

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Corran Ferry

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Staying positive.

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We reckoned it was the battery that was fucked. Faithir was sure there was a bike shop in Oban. The plan was to get to Oban, find the bike shop, sort Ferg's bike, stock up on stuff for wild camping on Colonsay then get to the ferry. I'll let you know if we make it in Part 2.