I woke abruptly at 2am still shaking. This was my wake-up call. Get moving or get in trouble. I chose to get moving. A lesson learned from my good friend Gian Liesch, if you’re too cold to sleep get up.
I put on the rest of my damp clothes. It’s hard to do at the best of times but whilst shaking uncontrollably it became very frustrating. I managed to get on the move by about 2.30am after compressing all my wet kit into dry bags, the cold water oozing out of my sleeping kit onto my exposed hands causing them to go numb. Back on the bike I went into race mode, trying to ride hard and fast just to get my body temperature up. It worked. I ate the sandwiches I had picked up from Oykel Bridge for very early breakfast to keep my body ticking over. That was one hell of a night. I later found out the temperature had dropped to -7°C in the night.
Through the hard times comes appreciation of the good, riding up to, then pushing through Glen Golly was one of those moments. The rising dawn appearing through the cloud and the clearing of the weather bringing a close to the previous 7 hours. I was very relieved. There was still the river crossing to contend with but I felt in a much better place. I arrived at the river around 6am, the weather relatively kind and the river flowing strong, but not ferociously. I made easy picking of the crossing and started the steep plod up and over the vertical ATV track with no one else in sight. A beautiful place to be alone.
After cresting the climb my focus was very much on the next food stop. Kylesku could be the next place to stop but my eyes (and belly) were sternly focused on Drumbeg stores knowing I’d get some decent food quickly before the next hike-a-bike. 3 and ½ hours later I arrived at Drumbeg stores, I was going slowly but I was going. Steve from Drumbeg stores came out as I arrived and quickly pointed out that I wasn’t Javi. He was right, Javi is a quick rider and he would be hours ahead (or possibly even a day). I went in the store and proceeded to buy the contents. When hunger strikes I never struggle to spend money. I got some food and a cuppa tea and sat in the sunshine, oh how the last 24 hours had changed. At that moment Javi Simon turned up. He was behind me, if I thought I was struggling he must have had it so much worse.
Javi started to explain how bad it had been. He’d got to Merckland, and like me was in need of somewhere to sleep and knew it was going to be cold so he went looking for a shed or log store to sleep for the night. During his late night search he got ‘caught’ by the owner. The owner invited him in for the night. Provided a bed and ran him a bubble bath. And there he was complaining about how hard it had been. That got my goat up. I’d slept in a summer quilt, in my damp clothes whilst uncontrollably shivering, then getting up at 2am because my life depended on it. And he was having the tough time. I quickly finished off my food and waved good bye whilst explaining to him that I was going to prepare the Old School House bothy for him with silk sheets and I’d puff up the pillows whilst ensuring everything was just so. I was doing it in a joking fashion but it did annoy me a little (well a lot – I cursed Javi for 2 days). Javi caught me on the way into Loch Inver whilst I was changing my brake pads, serves me right really. P.s Don’t send hate mail, I love Javi and his fury beard like the rest of you, promise.
After Loch Inver I settled into what was going to be a boggy hike-a-bike. My attention again was focused on my next food stop, Oykel Bridge. I needed to get there before 10pm, before they stopped serving food for us riders. I would get food then move on to the Old School House bothy or further up the glen towards Ullapool. My mind clearly getting ahead of it’s self again. Traversing from Loch Inver to Ledmore Junction I quickly deposited of both Loch na Gainimh and Lochan Fada, I was nearly at the road and had made great progress. D’oh, John wasn’t around this time but I slipped up again forgetting about the crossing to Cam Loch. One hour later than I anticipated but I was still within plenty of time for food at Oykel Bridge. I flew down the road excited and arrived at 8pm. I shot straight into the bar to avoid the midges and put my order in. “Sorry we stopped serving ay 7.30pm” the bar tender said, “what, really, I though you were doing food for highland trail riders”. He repeated that they’d stopped serving food. I decided if I couldn’t have hot food, I’d have a warm bed for the night and begrudgingly they found me a room. In the bar was a fellow Highland Trail rider, Andy Jefferies. He was staying the night before starting the northern section. I got a pint and a buffet of crisps, nuts and chocolate and chatted with him before hobbling off to my room for the night. I fell quickly asleep still cursing Javi but gleefully hoping he was stopping at the Old School House bothy, complete with an unmade bed.