Saturday, 7 June 2014

Leg 5, Day 8: Kirkwall - Invergordon


So- the big day had arrived. Following a relatively easy day yesterday of c. 60km between the three RNLI stations on the Orkneys, today we had a 35km ride to the Southern most tip of the Orkneys, a short ferry to John O Groats, followed by a 160km ride south down the East Coast of Scotland to Invergordon via Wick. In our book this was a mammoth day!

This also marked the turning point for us as we begin our journey back Southwards towards London and home... All downhill from here!

The day started overcast with a strong South- Easterly (cross) breeze blowing, but at least it was dry and forecast to remain so for the day- a huge relief after the weather we have had this week.

Following a quick first breakfast at Kirkwall RNLI station, we got on the road and churned out the 35km of roads across the rolling Orkney countryside. The sun came out for us briefly making the initial journey to the Berwick ferry terminal very enjoyable. 


Sitting in the ferry waiting room we had our second breakfast before boarding the passenger boat for the short crossing to the mainland. A big thank you to John O' Groats ferries who gave us free passage.

We landed at John O Groats at 10.45am, and this is when the ride really began. Despite the relatively easy day yesterday, our legs were still feeling tired from the gruelling north coast, but we set off in good spirits and the sun came out for us- amazing.

It would appear that with cycling there are a number of factors which greatly affect speed and therefore enjoyment. The first is weight, and we have certainly done all we can to keep our kit to an absolute minimum, including Rad's now standard cut in half toothbrush! The second is terrain- hilly or flat, gentle or steep gradients make a huge difference. The third road surface which varies enormously in this country and can render a ride very enjoyable or extremely uncomfortable and slow. The fourth is weather- wet and cold or sunny and hot- makes an vast difference: both psychologically and also physically, with the body expending a lot of energy just trying to stay warm when wet. The fifth and final one is wind speed and direction- even a slight headwind is similar to putting the brakes on constantly while a tail wind feels like someone pushing you along. 

Today we were blessed with sun, reasonable road surfaces and generally gently undulating countryside- all of which were enormously appreciated by us both, and for once on this trip, it was a very enjoyable experience cycling across Scotland. What we were less lucky with was the wind. While we were heading in a southerly direction along the East Coast, a strong Southerly / South-Easterly was blowing giving us an almost direct headwind for the first half of the day. Thankfully this then changed to an Easterly which made it a cross / cross-tail wind and life became a whole load easier for us both! 

Along the way we stopped at a bakery and Rad kindly offered to help an old man change his flat tyre.... However Rad, it seemed, had no intention of actually helping, so pretended that he couldn't work the Jack. Guess who ended up doing it then...

A short while later we pulled in to the Wick RNLI Station for a quick photo and water bottle refill before heading on.

We ploughed on Southwards in glorious sunshine, stoping every 15-20km to stretch and ease the pain of our very numb bums (from the sheer number of hours in the saddle...)

After 9 hours and 45minutes of pedalling we arrived at Invergordon RNLI station. Kevin and a few of the crew kindly came down to welcome us, and very generously insisted on paying for our supper at the Marine Hotel in town. A huge thank you to you all from us both. 

Rad couldn't help himself with the old Smirnoff Ice at supper...

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