(written by Dave)
We very much enjoyed the hostel overnight. Cooking was great, on a real stove. Sleeping was great, in a real bed. And best of all, the tent was dry this morning making for an easy start. The weather, on the other hand was not so kind. The forecast was for rain but we departed at 8AM to just clouds. By 8:30 it was raining. By 9:00 we were huddled under a bus stop shelter in the small hamlet of Dores. We waited for 30 minutes before finally giving up, putting on all of our rain gear and heading out. For the next hour or so it rained on and off never really stopping completely.
The rain was unfortunate because it made us wet but also because the ride today was stunning and we didn’t get to see much of it. We were “forced” by some construction to take the lower road which hugged the edge of Loch Ness for at about 20ks. The views that we saw were great. It was mostly a one lane road, with pullovers for passing. The construction put the traffic from both upper and lower roads onto the lower road but you’d hardly know it. There were a few cars and delivery vehicles but really, almost no traffic at all.
Throughout the lakeside stretch of road, we had a keen eye out for Nessie. The rain and fog made us unsure if we’d seen her or not. I managed to get a couple photos but with my glasses fogging and the camera lens getting rained on, I was not sure about image quality. You’ll notice however, from the photos in the blog today, we had some great results and actually managed to capture a few genuine Nessie shots. We’ve heard from several syndicated UK news papers already, looking to purchase reproduction rights – wow, how lucky for us.
Leaving the lake involved a steep climb at 14% up to Foyers Falls. By now it had stopped raining and we had stripped off most of the waterproofs. There was a nice café at the top of the falls where we stopped for morning tea. I was keen not to linger as I wanted to take advantage of the break in the rain. Nancy would have spent a couple hours there and taken the next passing bus had I let her (editor’s note – I just wanted a hot cup of coffee. I think there should be some reward for riding in the rain and cold and there we were, in the middle of nowhere and a little cafe is open serving espresso and scones. Only a fool would not stop. Sometimes Dave just needs a voice of reason (ie, me) to pull him out of his bike spiral) . The rain and cold of Scotland has us both wondering about this part of the trip – we’re trying to like Scotland but it is hard between the cold, the wind, the rain and the midges! Bring on that promised “warmer than average” September – we can hardly wait.
From Foyers Falls we had some more climbing up to Whitebridge where we joined up with the upper road. Another couple k’s later we reached the summit of the biggest climb of the day, some 1,500 meters higher than where we started at the lake’s edge. It wasn’t raining and the views were great. We can only imagine how nice they would be on the two days a year when it is sunny here (did I mention that we are tired of the Scotland weather yet?). We had a nice downhill off the summit, almost all the way to Fort Augustus. We had this town picked as our potential shorter option (it’s only 8 miles short of Invergarry, or planned stop) should we get the rain that was forecasted. One of fellow bike travelers that we met in (warm & sunny) Thailand (thanks David!) had recommended a hostel here called Stravaigers Lodge. When it started to rain again on the edge of town, just as we passed Stravaigers, it took about a minute to agree to invoke the “wet foot” rule. That is, wet feet and you don’t have to camp (editor’s note – while I like (love!) this rule Dave has not been observing much on this trip, so that should tell you how cold and wet we are!).
There was a sign at reception saying that they would return at 3PM so we went into town and bought supplies. When we came back, the manager had still not returned but as it was still raining so we didn’t hesitate to duck into the hostel kitchen and eat our lunch out of the rain. The manager was not too impressed by our puddles when she arrived but she had a room and we were happy. It’s a funny hostel. They have lots of “bunk” rooms that only sleep two people. They are small, very small and they have bunk beds. Our bags barely fit inside. In fact I think it might be smaller than the room we had on the last ferry. Never mind, it is dry, we are drying out and we’ve lived to fight another day in a place with a kitchen and chairs. Besides, with all the money we have coming in now from our Nessie shots, we should have no trouble getting rooms whenever wet feet merit it throughout the rest of the trip (editor’s note – I will remember that).
Tomorrow the forecast is for nice weather. We are planning on riding a little longer and getting back onto the schedule we setup a few days ago. We are learning quickly that if it really is nice in Scotland you have to make time. You never know what the next day’s weather might bring.