Shot for the Day (18 September 2017)

This was the road to nowhere I found whilst walking around the hills of Harris. It was close to a tiny enclave called Meavaig, on the way back from Hushinish. This was the last of the sun for a few days, which was a shame as the island looked incredible under blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

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Day 29: Kautokeino to Alta

The weather picked up a bit on Tueday and Julien cycled on to Alta the biggest city in the area but home to only 7,000 inhabitants

He followed the E6 road to Alta which was mountanious with some pretty tough hills along the way.

The hills were low lying with sharp gradients which is a bit of a nightmare for cycling!

Julien stopped in at Maze for a quick break. It is incredibly expensive in the Finnmark area with a 500ml bottle of coke costing about £3.50!

After leaving Maze Julien hit his favourite bit of tarmac on the whole journey!

He followed a road that hugged a cliff and followed a huge river. Julien said the views were similar to a loch in Scotland and simply stunning.

As the river widened, Julien was surrounded by giant fir trees and it was like being in Alaska.

He says riding along this road was a real highlight of the journey and an absolute joy.

Julien noticed that his back tyre was bearing too much weight and stopped to check it to discover that the tyre had completely worn away  in places.

It would be a major job to stop and change it so Julien cycled on to Alta hoping the wheel would hold out for a few more miles.

On the way Julein passed a frozen waterfull and when he arrived in Alta he could see snowcapped mountains in the distance.

The camspite was on the far side of town another 10km away, but Julien’s tyre held out. On the way Julien saw the first signpost for Nordkapp!

It is too cold to camp now so Julien has been staying in heated cabins with the comfort of a real bed and his own shower!

Unfortunately he has to cycle back to the other side of Alta to reach the nearest cash point which will add 20km to his journey tomorrow.

But after that he will be ready to cycle on to Nordkapp, he should hopefully make it there by Friday!

Here is today’s Google Map. You can sponsor Julien on his Just Giving page. Please also vist the Child’s i Foundation and see if you can help out. Thanks!

Day 28: Enontekio to Kautokeino

Julien had a fairly starightforward day on Monday. He left Enontekio early and cycled towards Kautokeino, the first major town in Norway.

It was a bit of a struggle to get to Kautokeino. It was very cold all day at around 4 or degress with constant wind and rain.

Thankfully when Julien arrived in Kautokeino the weather brightend up.

Julien had an appointment with the Norwegian tourist board and decided to take the rest of the day off to prepare for the final push to Nordkapp.

In Kautokeino he vited Julhs the first silversmith in all of Finnmark.

Finnmark is the home of the Sami people who are like the inuits of the area.

The Jewlers Julien met were Norwegian but learning the Sami culture and they gave him a guided tour of the area.

Julien was hoping to spend some time with the Sami but unfortunately this is the time of year that they begin to migrate.

However, Julien was able to get some great pictures of the area and these will be uploaded to his Flickr page as soon as he can get a good signal on his mobile phone.

Here is today’s Google Map. Please support the Child’s i Foundation by sponsoring Julien on his Just Giving page.

Day 27: Kolari to Enontekio

Julien had an early start on Sunday, he left Kolari at 9.30 and thankfully the wind was much more manageable than over the previous couple of days.

Julien saw a large male reindeer about 2 meters from him en route to Muonio.

It took him four and a half hours to cover 75km due to more hills and a constant headwind. It rained a bit and the temperature dropped to below 10 degrees.

He had lunch with Sylvia and Urs in Muonio and then headed on alone to Enontekio, another 75km to the northeast.

Julien is expecting a shorter day on Monday. He is aiming to cover 80km to Kautokeino in Norway where he has some photos to take for the Norwegian Tourist Board.

Hopefully it will get warmer and less windy as the going was pretty tough on Sunday.

Julien should be at Nordkapp within a week if all goes well.

Click to see a Google Map of Julien’s route on Sunday.

Please support the Child’s i Foundation by sponsoring Julien on his Just Giving page. Thank you!

Day 26: Pello to Kolari

As Julien predicted yesterday he didn’t end up getting much sleep last night as his fellow campers were up drinking and partying!

It took him a while to get going this morning; he set off from Pello at about 10.45

Today was a really tough day of cycling as Julien faced a constant headwind and a number of hills along the way.

It took him around 5 hours to cycle 75km to Kolari.

Julien stopped in at a good restaurant and spoke to some locals who say that the wind is not usually as bad as it has been over the last couple of days.

The weather forecast also indicates that the wind speed should drop form 15mph to 10mph tomorrow, which is good news.

Julien decided he did not have the energy to cycle on in such tough conditions and took a shorter day than usual after cycling 47 miles.

He met a really nice Swiss couple called Sylvia and Urs who are also travelling to Nordkapp and expecting to arrive there about the same time as Julien.

Sylvia and Urs were also looking for a campsite in Kolari. But it turned out that there was not one in the town

Instead the three of them found a hut to stay in for night. It is his first night with his own room and a real bed so he should sleep better tonight!

Here is the Google Map for day twenty-six. You can support the Child’s i Foundation by sponsoring Julien on his Just Giving page.

Day 12: Vejle to Grenna

Today has been Julien’s most tiring yet, he covered 90 miles most of which were over very large hills.

He set out from Vejle this morning and had a chilled ride to Horsens where he tried to find somewhere for lunch but kept ending up on an industrial estate!

So he delayed lunch for a while and continued on to Aarhus, one of the largest cities in Denmark.

Julien says that Aarhus was a really nice place to visit and he saw an interesting sculpture exhibit there.

He also found nice a café to eat in and met some lovely Danish people who were very interested in his trip (and who are hopefully reading this entry tonight!)

After lunch Julien took the coastal route and enjoyed the beautiful views along the Danish seaside. Unfortunately though the large hills kept coming especially around Kolindsund.

With all the ups and downs Julien was extremely worn out by the time he reached Grenna where he found a great campsite to stay in for his last night in Denmark.

After a good rest Julien will catch the ferry to Sweden tomorrow and continue on his way to Nordkapp.

Here is the Google Map for today and also a Google Map of the Journey so far.

Please also take the time to visit the Child’s i Foundation and Julien’s Just Giving page. Thanks!

Getting back to civilisation

Cycle ride from John O’Groats to Wick
Total mileage: 18
Terrain: Very fast cycle ride over quite flat terrain

Our last day saw us cover a small distance from John O’Groats to Wick, where I had booked a B&B for us. Pete had tried in vain to book a return rail trip from Wick to London, so we were forced to either catch a bus or cycle it! Fortunately for us, our landlady had been kind enough to accept three bike bags we had ordered via the Blackberry on the way up, once we knew we were not going to get a space on the train.

We arrived quite early in Wick as the terrain had been flat and easy to negotiate, which meant that we cycled the 18 miles at a very healthy space. We hung around in a café for a couple of hours until the tenants leaving our B&B checked out. Mrs McDonald, our landlady, still had to tidy the place up but we were able to leave our bikes and change clothes.

Wick is a pretty nasty town when all is said and done, with very little to do. We wondered around the very small town centre for a few hours until we were able to head back to the B&B. We all chilled for the rest of the day and watched crap TV programmes.

The following day, we had to check out early and wait until 4pm when our bus turned up. Carrying the packed down bicycles to the bus stop, about 1km away was absolutely exhausting. Far easier to cycle the damn things!

Our mammoth return journey included the following legs:

  • Wick to Inverness
    This was very pleasant, as there were few people on the bus and the weather was pretty awful making us happy that we were on a bus rather than cycling. The landscape was stunning as we tore passed it at a pace were had become unaccustomed to.
  • Inverness to Sterling
    The journey was very pleasant with more beautiful scenery and not too many people on the bus.
  • Sterling to Glasgow
    The bus stop in Sterling was like a large public lavatory. Fortunately, we did not have to wait too long for our hour-long connecting bus to Glasgow. By now it was getting dark and the rain continued to fall.
  • Glasgow to London
    Although we had stated to the bus company prior to purchasing the tickets that we all had bikes, National Express had overbooked the bus and had to call in another company to help with the final leg of our return journey. These cowboys tried to charge us an extra £15 per bike. Considering the entire ticket had cost us £35 each, this did seem more than a little exorbitant. We fobbed the driver and conductor off saying that we needed to withdraw money from cash point and them promptly fain sleep to prevent them from extorting the cash from us. By the time we reached London the following morning, there were so many people buzzing around the bus, we were able to scarper without being forced to pay. We went to the National Express helpdesk at Victoria Bus station to ask them if this was normal practice for them, to which they said no. As a consequence, we complained and told them that she needed to be more prudent choosing extra bus suppliers in the future.

I was extremely happy to see Bryony at the bus stop. She took us all out for breakfast before poor Pete and Mary had to press on with their journey and catch a bus from London down to Weymouth and re-assemble their bikes there, before boarding the ferry back to Guernsey. From subsequent conversations, I can assure you that we were all very happy to be back home with all of its conveniences and comforts.

I cannot recommend this journey enough to anyone interested in cycling or seeing the country. Physically, it does have its challenges but that is not to say that it is not equally blessed with rich and rewarding experiences all along the way. Although I am and have been for quite some time, an ardent cyclist, I have been indoctrinated into the world of long distance cycling. I am determined to find a new challenge in for 2009. Perhaps Pete and Mary will join me, who knows?

In additional to all the images here and on Flickr, I have also uploaded many to my gallery on Alamy.com
Stock photography by Julien Buckley at Alamy

Day 19: Bettyhill to John O’Groats

Total mileage: 50
Terrain: Long shallow climbs and downhills with a very pleasant warm, sunny afternoon

We bloody well did it!

After a pretty awful night at the Bettyhill camping ground, with all the local drunks and their kids making one hell of a noise, none of us were that sprightly the following morning.  We only had a short distance to cycle today but the terrain was quite arduous and not too exciting.

The morning was cold and so we wrapped up as heavy clouds circled above us.  None of us we particularly talkative even though we were were at the zenith of our ride.  First stop of the day was in some tiny town for a comfort stop.  The cold wind was chilling our moral and we all donned another layer.  I had hoped that our final day on the bikes would be more pleasant.

The land began to flatted out as we passed Bighouse.  There was an inlet that took us a mile or so inland but overall, nothing particularly taxing.  The spledour of the previous days Highland ride was all but gone.  The land had fewer features but was very so slightly more urdan, although this is perhaps not the correct way to describe such wilderness.

As we pushed on throgh Raey, the golf course was a welcome expanse of green with the backdrop of the Scottish north coast.  The only other point of interest was the bizzare power station we passed.  The focal point was a hugh white sphere that looked as though it had been plucked straight from a Star Trek episode.

We stopped briefly in Thurso for some provisions and a couple of bottles of Cava.  Rather than push on to Wick, we decided to camp at John O’Groats as this seemed the most fitting end point to our cross country endeavour.

Upon leaving Thurso, the road was occasionally adorned with a sign post denoting the distance to John O’Gorats, as in the photo above.  The last twenty miles flew by.  All three of us were utterly transfixed on completing the task.  We were fortunate enough to have a marked change in the weather, which had us stripped down as the heat rose.  Before long, we were hammering along at a healthy 18mph, only moments away from he end.

We eventually rocked up at John O’Groats as it clung to the last remnants of sunshine.  All behind us was shrouded in cloud.  However, the sun shone on us for the rest of the day whilst we had our photograph taken under the sign post and set up camp in the field next door.  We all got pretty hammered on the Cava immediately after calling all our friends and families to inform them that we had made it to the end point successfully.  Loads of people congratulated us including a rather large contingent of motorcyclists.

We had a hearty meal in the evening and watched the beautiful sunset over the North Sea.  So, what’s our next challenge then guys?

Day 18: Durness to Bettyhill

Total mileage: 43
Terrain: Coldest day with lots of hill climbing with sustained periods of rain

A short day and a bit of an anti-climax after the previous day’s cycle.  Breakfast was a simple affair in the hostel.  The room stank of 4 large, pissed French blokes.  Neither Pete nor I made any attempt to be quiet as they had been crashing around the previous night, completed steaming, when they returned to the dorm.  Not sure where they went but there were a few bottles of Jack Daniels littered on teh floor of the room.

The temperature had dropped a few degrees and the wind was progressively more severe as the day pressed on.  Today marked a change in direction for us.  We stopped heading north and started heading east.  The road ahead hugged the coastline closely as we navigated around Loch Eriboll, a 16km long sea loch.  Apparently, it had been used for centuries as a deep water anchorage as it is safe from the often stormy seas of Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth.  On our round route, we passed some bronze age remains including a wheelhouse in great condition.

On our way back up towards the north coast and Hellam, the hills started to raise more sharply around the water’s edge.  As we reached the apex, the relentless winds of the previous day returned to pummel our easterly journey.

This was very much the make up for the rest of the day; stunning scenery, step hills and unceasingly resistant winds.  The temperatures continued to dropped as we all wrapped up.  By the time we reached Tongue, our spirits were at a low ebb.  Perfect timing as it turned out for some lunch.  We stopped in the town’s only hotel, which happened to sport a decent restaurant.  Three courses of hot food and accompanying beverages later and once again, the cockels of our hearts were warned.

We estimated that to reach John O’Groats would have been a long stretch and that to cut the last day’s cycle down to a mere 10 miles from Thurso to JOG would have been a real anti-climax.  Therefore, the best alternative was for us to stop in a town called Bettyhill.  The town itself was non-descript.  In our ferver to find a decent spot for the evening, we managed to choose the lesser of the two camping sights.  As you can tell from the image above, this was not the most solubrious of campsites.  Indeed, I think on reflection, it was perhaps the most grim campsite we stayed at, a most fitting last night!

Not everything about Bettyhill was a disaster.  Once we were able to navigate our way successfully to the local beach, a trial in itself, we were treated to a glorious sunset.  The skies were peppered with a few clouds but we all remained optimistic that our final day would be one blessed with sunshine.  I think Pete and Mary were really lucky to have one another on this trip.  Sharing an adventre like this, no matter how trying or run of the mill, is something that shared will be a momeory for life.  I was definitely happy that Pete and Mary were on teh trip.  It really reminded me of the great times we had experienced together when we met on the Inca Trail, en route to Machu Picchu or diving in the Caribbean off the north coast of Colombia.