Cyclists reach half way on the great tour

The tourists have pedalled for hundreds of miles and are now beyond the half-way mark of their mammoth journey.

Stage 34 Lochgilphead – Campbeltown

Firstly, I must say a big thank you to Val Marshall who donated a huge donation to The Prostate Cancer Charity whilst we were at Lochgilphead. Val can be seen in one of the pictures in the middle of two of our support team members, Sharon and Rowdy. “Thank you Val”.

The terrain has changed and fields are now full of Friesians and acres of barley, the coastline is dramatic with surf crashing on to the shore and seals sunning themselves on the rocks. We had lunch at Tarbert, a pretty fishing port with some swans preening carefully nearby (see pic).

We covered our highest mileage yet with a total of 141km and about 1500m of ascent. An excursion to the Isle of Gigha added a bit of extra, but was really worth while with a great ferry journey (see pic) and a look around the gardens and house of Achamore.

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By tomorrow evening, we will have completed five weeks cycling without a day off and I have to say that today I did feel a tad tired at the end, so it’s early to bed for me tonight!

Stage 33 – Tobermory to Lochgilphead

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Tobermory was a lovely place to stay and last night it looked a real picture with the lights of the town houses along the harbour reflecting in a sea that was as calm as a millpond except for the occasional moment, when a seal surfaced to send a ripple of tiny waves across to the water’s edge. We were led out on our ride today by the local ferryman Dave, who guided us along the seafront and straight into our first hill, before we had given time for our porridge to go down. The threatening forecast didn’t fully materialise and we trotted on with rain jackets on and off. After a very welcome coffee we caught the ferry for Oban and enjoyed the 40-minute crossing and all of the magnificent views it offered in all directions.

We sadly didn’t have time to sample the delights of the local distillery in Oban and pedalled on to our lunch stop and, before we knew it, we were bathed in sunshine in Lochgilphead. The distance added up to about 114km and 1090m of ascent.

Stage 32 Mallaig to Tobermory – Half Way!

At Loch Mudle, Ardnamurchan, we celebrated half way by distance and now at the end of the day we have reached half way by days. I’m sat in the kitchen/dining room of the SYHA in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. We’ve enjoyed another good day of cycling and felt delighted (or is it relieved) to have reached the halfway stage after 32 days.

Over the last week or so we have seen so many fish farms and today, as we passed alongside another loch, we spotted a fish farm in full flow and so a couple of us stopped to watch the fish being caught and despatched. My thanks go to David Corrigan, of Marine Harvest, who was so helpful in explaining the process. David has just been in an accident and so we wish him well and a full recovery.

I’m going to keep this short tonight and hopefully get to bed early, after our 100km day with a height gain of 2,000m, it’s time to prepare for the second half of this epic adventure

Stage 31 Applecross to Mallaig

Applecross is a wonderful place and our start couldn’t have been better. I cycled slowly down the road from the campsite to be greeted by Alistair’s son, Rudy, who was playing his pipes at the bottom of the road to greet us. The morning was as calm as could be and the Inner Sound was like a mirror (see pic) without a whisper of wind to disturb the view across to the Isle of Raasay and Skye beyond. Rudy and his enchanted pipes played as we set off for the steady climb up Applecross hill, from sea level to ........ We took a series of photographs to celebrate the highest point of The Great Tour at 630m and then a long and at times fast descent sped us down to Loch Kishorn below.

After lunch, Skye awaited us and a bit of a race to catch the ferry! We arrived just as the ferry was boarding and after a short crossing we arrived at Mallaig to be greeted by a resplendent Alan Henderson, the Provost of Lochaber in all his finest official regalia. We completed about 2200 m of ascent and just over 100 km.

Stage 30 Gairloch to Applecross Another grey start to the day, but who cares as the scenery is just stunning again. I had a great night’s sleep (much needed) and felt really refreshed. I’m glad to say that after another bit of special attention from Dr Graeme, the Qoroz was now in fine form too. It turns out that some dirt had managed to get into the freewheel and so after stripping it down, cleaning it and repacking with grease it was all quite and running smooth again – thanks Dr Graeme.

Our wet start demanded a large intake of caffeine and so we stopped off at The Whistle Stop Cafe in Kinlochewe – thanks to all at the cafe for making us feel so welcome. Back on the road and more undulating roads gave us some wonderful views either side, over moorland to mountains or out to sea and across to islands. Lunch arrived and the afternoon provided dry roads and views across to Sky, our destination tomorrow.

After passing the croft that Monty Halls used for his TV series, we arrived at Applecross to be greeted by a piper and his father Alistair Macleod. Alistair farms langoustine and is also chairman of the local community committee and altogether a lovely man. They have just opened up a community petrol station, the first in the UK (see pic). I’ve not got the space to write about it here so do Google it.

Our accommodation tonight is quite different (see pic).

I’m typing this in the hallway of The Applecross Inn, which is just brimming with customers, who are tucking into their food. This is a great community pub run by Judith Fish and our thanks go to her and her staff for letting us turn her hall into an IT centre.

Stage 29 Ullapool to Gairloch

It was changeover day today and amazingly the start of week 5! Suddenly, it all seems to be going very quickly. Clive ‘Quiff’ Heard joined us again, together with Joanna ‘Bar Bunny’ Becket (see pic), both from Axe Valley Pedallers in Seaton, so together with James Cope on support, myself and Neil ‘Hovis’ Tubbs, we have five members of AVP on The Great Tour at one time! We said goodbye to Stuart, Brian and Mark and welcomed the new core riders Jason and Mark. We stated with overcast weather, that was always threatening rain. A steady climb past Loch Broom and up a small pass took us to our traditional Saturday morning coffee stop, which due to the cold turned into hot chocolate all round at Dundonnell. After that, lunch followed fast and we pressed on to Gairloch for our finish where a number of local dignitaries greeted us in fine style.

My knee seemed fine today, but the Qoroz is not happy and our attention to the cassette last night was not the problem with the mysterious noise. Once we got to the hostel it was time to strip down the rear wheel again, as we suspected trouble with the freewheel. After a bit of time Graeme had taken it apart and revealed a lack of grease and quite a bit of grime and dirt, not surprising considering all the off road that it had been through. After a very thorough clean and a bit of grease, it was reassembled and off for a test ride and all seems fine. Tomorrow will confirm it.

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