Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winton Massif 2014 - Closer to the Edge tour.

Here we go again, stage 2 of the Massif's summer trips. Following on from our trip earlier in the year. 
The edge is closer this time. The edge of what is still to be determined.

Just like last time, we met at The Janet's for breakfast before heading off. This time around the table was Smillie, Aidan, Chris and myself. Over breakfast we sorted out our route north. Smillie had forgotten his Filthy Hooligans and I wanted to nip into Decathalon at Hermiston Gate, so we arranged to meet up at a petrol station up the road a bit.
I had with me my new camera, a Nikon D7000, to replace the D80 that I fucked on the last trip. This has the ability to shoot video, so I've got folk to give video updates here and there.

Aidan and Smillie tell us what's happening.

Petrol Station meet up.

We try to avoid the A9 these days. The average speed vultures and revenue vans have dumbed once alert and capable motorists into lemming like zombies, ready to pull out on or swerve into a progress making motorcyclist, turning the main artery through Scotland into a 45mph game of Russian Roulette. 
We chose the A82, this can often be the lesser of two evils. Still clogged with caravans and halfwits but without as many Speed Nazis restricting safe, 65-75 mph overtaking.
The run up was, as always, mind blowing. I can never get used to the run through Glencoe. It really is incredible. I always think "Imagine you were from London or somewhere." Our nearly-Saturday-busy Friday afternoon traffic would seem like a deserted road and the scenery....Ooya bastard, I'd have to stop and take photos every two miles or so, which I did.
We pulled into the road to Glen Etive for a smoke and a joke then headed on up through Glencoe, Aidan, Chris and Smillie leapfrogging me as I stopped to get photos of the bike and videos of them with my new toy.
Chris just before Glen Etive

buchaille etive pani
After dipping our toes into Glen Etive.

Bikes and Buachaille Etive Mor. Smillie on the GS and the two Triumphs and a guy on an RT.

glencoe pano 2
glencoe pano 1
Glencoe. It's a pretty place.

Ride by from Valter and the Trumpets.

Crossing the bridge at Ballachulish.


Our next stop was waiting for the Corran ferry, a five minute journey over Loch Linnhe. By the time we were there the sun was splitting the trees. Between photos and me dispensing my infinite wisdom out to every one, we shot the shit with a bunch of guys heading to Mull for some building work.

Updates from this side of the Corran Ferry.



It's behind you Smillie!

Smillie describes the road from the Corran Ferry to Strontian as 14 miles of tarmac heaven. It really is nice. 
Heaven visited, we rolled into Sunart Campsite where we were greeted by Tim, the site owner, who knew us from our last stay. We got the crack on and off with Tim as he maintained his site and we stocked up from the shop and waited for the rest of the Massif to arrive. And stole shots of Tim's ride on mower. 
The plan was for most of us to stay in out tents, but Tim offered us one of his cabins that slept three. So Aidan and Smillie opted for the cabin, with me bagsying the last space for Faithir.
Ferg arrived. He'd bought a tarp shelter thingy from Lidl, similar to the one I'd bought from Decathalon, which we put up once his tent was up. Ben and Kirsten arrived in their car. They had hired the fancy cabin that everyone stayed in last time. They got their cabin set up before joining us under the tarp and plying folk with gin. Not long after Faithir arrived and our numbers were complete.
Some of us dined on the campsite, Chris, Ferg and I got a chippy, and the rest of us ate in the pub before the the night was passed in the bar.

Smillie on Tim's mower.

Ferg arrives.

You probably don't need to be told this, but Aidan here is on a health kick.


strontian pano 1
strontian pano 2
Views from the Strontian Hotel.

We awoke to a few mild showers. Between these, tents were taken down and shit was packed up. Ben and Kirstin were heading to Cannich while the rest of us were heading for Achiltibuie, following the A82 up the side of Loch Ness through Fort Augustus and Drumnadochit. On a Wednesday mid day this could be enjoyable, but on a Saturday there in a non stop impediment. Caravan follows tour bus follows motorhome. In between all thing cars drone on in complete zombified submission. Right at the front is the leader, some halfwit who can't find their arse with both hands, but will try slowing down to 20 to see if that helps. Fucking idiots.
Anyway. once I turned onto the Ullapool road (I was supposed to turn off for Beauly at the Cannich junction, but never mind that) I was flying along. Fucking cold but flying along. The earlier showers had become rain and although my "Streets Ahead" t shirt was keeping my body warm, my paws were cold as a hoors heart. This was the first time I've ever carries spare gloves. Thicker gloves on and a big long piss taken and I set off, rolling into Ullapool, warm as fuck. Look! There's a palm tree, am I in the Caribbean? Aye, nearly.
Despite my Inverness detour I was the first to arrive at Ullapool. I got some voice mails and text messages from the guys saying they had stopped in Beauly for a coffee and food. Luckily I managed to get through to them and got a bunch of supplies for those who wanted them. Tonight Ferg and I were having Fajitas for dinner. I fucking love Fajitas.
Another thing I fucking love is the road from Ullapool to Achiltibuie. I have never managed to ride it fully without a wee error here or there, or without stopping completely for a photo. It's good shit, innit.

Moby Dick and Stac Pollaidh on the way to Achiltibuie.

In dribs and drabs everyone arrived at the campsite. I always say I'm going to Achiltibuie, but the camp site is around the corner at Altandhu ( Ferg, Faither and I did ride over to the Summer Isle Hotel in Achiltibuie for a nice pint of An Teallach Ale.
As the tents were put up the weather closed in. Everyone cooked their food in the shelter of the amenities block, well, everyone except Faithir, who had got a Chinese takeaway in Ullapool. 
Ferg and I had our Fajitas and they were good, although I think the Chilli we made of a previous trip was more successful as a group meal. We sat around the block till late, had a few drinks and a few Filthy Hooligans were smoked as the rain fell outside. Great night.

altandhu pano

Ferg tells us what's going on.

Good night.

Rainy night.

It pished it doon most of the night. Unusually I was pretty happy with this. My trusty old tent had started to leak and Bob had told me about stuff called seam sealer. It doesn't look too pretty, but it did the job. My tent remained waterproof the whole time. When we awoke the sun had come out and dried out tents. Today's destination was Brora, over on the east coast. We were all going different routes to get there though. Smillie and Chris were heading round the north coast road where as Aidan, Ferg, Faither and I were heading the more direct route through Lairg, with a wee detour to Lochinver at the start. These plans changed within the first few miles however, when Aidan went straight on at the turn off for Lochinver. Ferg tried to get his attention but Aidan just carried on. 

Much nicer today.

On the road to Lochinver.



Faithir at Lochinver



The three of us wise men stopped for ice cream at Lochinver. It was roasting and for some reason Fer had two pairs of trousers on. He tried to hide between the bike to de keg himself but I made quite a scene drawing everyone around's attention to his semi naked body. We carried on along the fast swooping A837 through Rosehall and onto the A839 to Lairg. It was great fun swooping along the road, but there's also great scenery and semi wild goats. The A839 joins the A9 just outside Golspie. From there it's a quick blast north to Brora.

Roadside furniture near Rosehall.


In Brora we met up with Aidan and stocked up on food and beer at the Co-op. The tents were put up at the campsite and we chilled out for the rest of the afternoon getting a heat in the sun. We were joined by Tom in his M3 who came down to get the crack for a bit. A wee while later Ben and Kirsten met up with us again. A few hours later Chris arrived. The plan for the evening was to head to Captain Crabbs, one of the Massif's favourite pubs, where Gus the owner let us get a curry delivered. We waited for Smillie as we checked out the menu. And waited.

And waited.

Finally we heard Smillie coming along. He and Chris had got separated and Smillie had stopped in a cafe somewhere. Together once more we headed along to the pub. We were all starving after waiting so long and the curry was devoured with a few hiccups. 
We had a good few beers in Crabbs with Gus and a few Brora locals. We raised a glass in memory of our mate GHC. Brora was one of his favourite places.
It was a great night.

At the campsite at Brora.


Tom's M3.


Brora views.

Brora views.

Faithir at Captain Crabbs.

Smillie opted to eat on his own.


Ho ho ho

Gid time Ben?

Everyone was heading home the next day. Aidan and still had a couple of days left. We had planned to go to Applecross and get a meal in the pub, but finances were growing tight. Instead we decided to head to Kinloch Hourn. We said our goodbyes to everyone else and headed for Golspie to get food, water, drink and toilet roll. We stopped again at Invergarry to get some peat for a fire, then headed along the super scenic, super twisty, super narrow road to Kinloch Hourn. 
Kinloch Hourn is an amazing place. It really is remote compared with most of Scotland. 
We cooked a nice sausage and pasta dish between us while trying to avoid the midges. They were only out for a couple of hours, but the Hourn can be pretty mean for midges. My last Filthy Hooligan and the fire helped keep them at bay for a bit till they fucked off. Aidan and I had collected plenty firewood which kept us going all night. The only other people there were two French walkers and two Germans who had all walked in from Knoydart. 
The night was spent around the fire. I even tried some night photos again.
The next day we headed down the A82 back through Glencoe, stopping for a wee break at The Green Wellie. 

hourn pano
Kinloch Hourn was busy!

There's no electricity at Kinloch Hourn. This is the exhaust from the generator at the Farmhouse. The guy also runs a wee cafe out his house and keeps a toilet open in an outbuilding for people to use.

These two horses wander about wherever they want. They visited us in the campsite a few times.


Night time at Kinloch Hourn.



A great night to end a great trip.