(written by Nancy)
So, I think yesterday was just a fakeout by Scotland – the sun doesn’t really shine here and the rain really does come down. More on that later. We were snug as bugs in our camp pod last night, nice and toasty with the heater on low to take off the chill. The only problem was that the air mattresses on the cots were pretty uncomfortable. Perhaps we have just gotten used to sleeping on the ground, but I think it was more that these mattresses were a bit too big for the cots and they weren’t quite full. The result was that we were both sinking into the mattresses while at the same time constantly in fear of falling off the cots.
We should have just moved them and slept on the cots but after all that “big mattress” envy watching all those people at the campgrounds pump up these massive mattresses while we rolled out our ½ inch thick Thermarest pads we weren’t going to let the opportunity to sleep on the big ones pass. In addition to being mighty uncomfortable the big ones are also loud! Every time you move they squeak and groan. We both woke up with sore backs, wishing we had slept on just the cots. So, no more “big mattress” from me.
It was very cold but dry this morning when the alarm went off at 6am (arrgh). Dave jumped up to go take a picture of the sunrise – lots of red in the sky (actually, I think he jumped up to run to the bathroom, which was a long way from the pod and then ran back to get the camera to take a picture). By the time we left about 7:30 it was 6C – we had our coats on and I even wore my wool gloves. Dave didn’t get his out before we got on the bikes and then was stubborn enough not to stop to get them out despite the cold.
We got on to a great bike path not long after leaving Duror, built along an old railway line that ran just along Loch Linnhe. The sky was cloudy but the water was still so there were some great views across the loch. We had a great view out to Castle Stalker, out on a small island in the middle of the loch. There has apparently been a castle on that island since 1320 and the current form has been there since around 1450. It was quite an impressive sight, especially with the grey clouds around it – just what you would expect for a castle in Scotland.
We continued along the bike route, which took us on some old farm roads. We stopped to watch some sheep in a field and an old farmer out walking his dog came by and stopped for a chat (as the Scotsmen usually do…). I asked him if the sheep with the black faces were some special kind of breed. “Yes,” he said, “they’re called Black Face.” These Scots, so original you know. He did say they were “almost indigenous” to western Scotland. Reminded us of the tasty cheese story, when Dave’s sister Becki was in Australia and tried to get a server at a café to tell her what type of cheese was in the sandwich. Tasty cheese of course, and despite Becki saying she was sure it was tasty she just wanted to know what kind of cheese it was… (for those non-Australians, cheddar cheese is called tasty cheese in Australia).
Not long after the Black Face incident we started to feel the first raindrops coming down (consistent with the farmer’s advice that the rain was “not far off”). We continued on, searching for a café to get a warm drink. By the time we came upon a small café at Benderloch we were getting pretty wet so it was a welcome sight. And we were even more excited to see egg and bacon rolls as one of the specials on the board by the door. So in we went, dripping water everywhere. We had a nice break there and, while not up to Aussie standards, the egg and bacon rolls were not too shabby. No bbq sauce though, and HP sauce doesn’t quite cut it.
The rain continued to come down and we didn’t see any change coming so we finally dragged ourselves out of the café and suited up in our rain pants, booties and heavy gloves before hitting the road again. From then on it rained and rained and rained the rest of the day. It wasn’t too bad at first, as we were warm inside all of our gear. But after several hours of non-stop rain we were soaked through and pretty cold. We were both wringing water out of our gloves at regular intervals just to reduce the weight a bit!
We didn’t have much choice when it came to the route so had to take the A85 for much of the way. This is one of the major east-west roads so traffic can be heavy. Like most of the roads in Scotland it does not really have a shoulder so it wasn’t entirely pleasant to ride on, though the traffic wasn’t really too bad and cars were generally polite and waited for a safe spot to pass. We couldn’t see much with the rain and the traffic though so it was a “heads down” kind of ride.
After working our way around the north end of Lock Awe we headed south on A819 and the traffic slowed down. I am sure this would have been a nice ride on a sunny day as we crossed a land mass between two lochs but we couldn’t see much of it today. We crossed a few hills which at least gave us a chance to warm up, though the downhills that followed were very uncomfortable. We finally rode into Inveraray about 2:30, both of us pretty miserable by that point. We had booked a room at the YHA so we knew we had a place to stay but the website indicated the reception didn’t open until 5pm. We decided to see if we could get them to take pity on us and let us in but when we got there the place was shut up with no one around. Dang, dang and more dang (or some similar words) were shouted. Just as we were leaving though, a car drove up and the kind YHA worker allowed us in despite their “no entry” policy. We obviously looked like we needed a helping hand today!
After a long hot shower we both felt a bit better, though you could tell the day had been rough by the state of our room. Wet clothes hanging everywhere, though everywhere is not such a big area given the size of the room. But, it has a heater and it is dry so that is fine by us. After warming up we headed into town to get something to eat and settled on fish and chips – our first in the UK and it was pretty tasty. A stop at the grocery store for a few more supplies and we were back at the hostel before 8. And yes, it has continued to rain since we arrived and is still raining now. Fakeout complete, yesterday’s sunshine was just one big fakeout to get us out on the road today so that Scotland could throw everything it had at us.
We are undecided about tomorrow. The weather forecast doesn’t look great – more rain here in Inveraray, which is supposed to spread to other parts of this area as the day progresses. Sunday, on the other hand, is currently showing no rain in the forecast, both here and at Dunoon, our next stop further south. Right now another ride in the rain is a bit hard to contemplate so we will wait and see how things look in the morning. We can stay here another day – there are actually lots of things to see here in this area. The only downside is that we have to be out of the hostel between 10am and 5pm- so no napping in the afternoon… Anyway, we’ll wait and see how it looks before making a decision. Hopefully our clothes will be dry by morning…