Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Cape Wrath by classic mountain bike - Scotland Tour 2013 - Living in a Hiace Camper Van

Journeys end? Or just the beginning of a new adventure? If you've been reading the blog for a while, and following my journey around Scotland, you'll know that this was the furthest point on the map I was planning to reach, a goal of sorts, though I don't really believe in goals.

Nonetheless, it's come from an intention set in my mind, written down even, shared and seen by others, so that gives it some sense of meaning as a place to be reached. So, in spite of all my wanderings, changes of plan, and misadventure - this morning I set off, motivated by whatever has carried me here..

I boarded the small motorboat with my backpack, my camera, and my classic mountain bike (old Raleigh, no suspension)..




The outboard motor fired into life and soon we were bouncing across the waters surface in the cool morning air. Soon that too was fading into memory, as I found myself standing on the pier on what had become, 'this shore', watching the boat heading back..



I had basically all day to explore the Cape as the boat didn't return until late afternoon. I began pushing my bike up the steep hill away from the harbour, then as the gradient eased off I began cycling along the coastal road, it's surface broken with pot holes and patched countless times after northern winters.

The view was amazing from here as I was high up above the loch, the sun was now shining, and I could see many beaches and coves all along the shores. The main loch was bridged by a sandbank further out causing waves to break out there, the spray dancing in the rays of light. I noticed a group of seals basking on a sandbar, honking as if in conversation with one another..



Some three or four miles ahead, I came to the first sign that this promontory is used and controlled by the military as a training ground. A currently unmanned checkpoint stood by the roadside, flanked by two ominous signs..



This cycle was getting interesting, and there are eleven bone shaking miles to the lighthouse on the cape itself. After dropping down into a valley with a beautiful croft cottage by another stunning beach, I crossed a very 'royal engineers' looking bridge, and began the ascent of one of the longest hills I've cycled up.

The countryside was getting more bare and exposed as well, and I was glad I'd come on what was forecast to be a relatively mild day. Over the next hour or so I crossed endless moorland, broken by a few small lochs and abandoned military vehicles, one painted bright pink; target practice?



In the distance I caught sight of this view of two sea stacks, monstrous waves smashing into their trunks, sending spray into transient rainbows seen only through cormorants eyes.

On the roadside stood a lone man, waiting. He waved and smiled as I approached, and told me he'd been staying in the bothy cottage down by the shore for some time. He had a peaceful look in his eyes, as he said he was on his way, 'back to civilisation for a proper shower'.

I pedalled onwards, sometimes rattling as fast as I dare let the bike go, the track strewn with broken stones, tears streaming from my eyes, timing the avoidance of cracks and holes as best I could.

Out of nowhere, three wild deer galloped across my path, mere feet away, too sudden to react, close and at speed, they disappeared again although there was no tree cover on this hill.

Milestones told me there were only two miles to go, and I noticed to the south, the crescent beach and sea stack at Sandalwood Bay. I stopped for a while by the side of the track to gaze in its direction. I had missed the walk there a few days ago due to weather, but I was able to see it now..



Soon I was rounding the final bends to Cape Wrath. A gentle descent was welcome now, after what had seemed to be mainly on endless sequence of uphill drags. I spoke briefly to a lone backpacker, but there isn't much to say in a place like this, as the silence asks not to be broken, time hushes us to rest in an endless present, other times, places, concepts don't live here.

I'm not going to share any photos of Cape Wrath itself, what can a snapshot of some rocks and water convey? A place like this is many things, including the journey itself, your intention in coming here, mystery, fear, a stretching of limits, freedom, the end of the earth. It was guarded by this..



On the cliff top, above the 'turning point' (wrath derived from the Norse), keeping ships off the rocks, and in a place beyond time, looking out i saw this..



Look closer..



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If you're looking for a good map of Western Scotland and the Western Isles, the one I recommend is the 'Road 2' - this map used to be produced by OS, but they stopped doing it. You can buy it here for £4.99:

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