Welcome back to the NC500 challenge
Now…. where were we?
Ah yes – trying to get a good nights sleep (max 4 hours available) amidst the rutting stags and owls.
I was awoken from what has probably been a 30 minute snooze by the unnatural tweets from my phone alarm – 5am.
The anticipation and excitement of the cycle ahead had kept me awake – tossing and turning with keen impatience to get going I think … and the impatience of my mind not switching off to sleep! Combined I think I managed almost 2 hours sleep.
“Morning!” Kirstie and I both said with slightly hoarse voices. “How’d you sleep?” ……. We both muttered some nonsensical words – both describing the lack of sleep no doubt.
Even with this lack of sleep – we were raring to go!
Time to get going.
A great wee tip from Kirstie was to sleep with our cycle gear (bib, thermal etc) inside the sleeping bag. This was a game changer. Pulling on pre-warmed clothes was a treat – in comparison to the temperatures outwith the snugness of the sleeping bag and tent.
Never underestimate how long it is going to take you to pack all your kit away. We were set to leave for 6am – so we had an hour to eat and pack. Sounds like ample time? Think again.
The echo of my own voice came to me “We need to leave at 6am sharp”
06.10am came – and I was the one still loading the last of my stuff onto the bike whilst wolfing down some breakfast bar. I was also eating my 6am sharp words! Thankfully Kirstie was kind enough to wait…
Day 1 here we go!
It was SO still. No wind. The sky was pitch black and the air was cold. But that good fresh cold – not the attacking your face kind.
Off we went into the dark – this time we had the sunrise chasing us – due to surface soon! Which was a good feeling 🙂 The roads were quiet – with the odd car whizzing past in a hurry. Commuters?
At this very early point – my cheeky left hamstring started to give me a bit of jip. So we pulled over for a roadside stretch – which turned out to be a massive help.
Stretch time – high vis style
During this quick break we looked at the road behind us – and the first light of the day was coming up. Beautiful and encouraging.
My tummy was already starting to rumble… classic.
As the sun rose we pedaled along – passing PLENTY of horses and highland coo’s! One horse even began to gallop alongside us in a field. Did I imagine this? No. What a morning already for this horse crazy lady (me).
A swift stop in Muir of Ord at the Scotmid – where our water bottles were kindly refilled by their friendly staff. This was our first conversational encounter with the public – explaining our challenge. They exclaimed their disbelief, how mad they thought we were as well as their good luck wishes!
Now – I don’t know if you – reader – are familiar with Instagram stories? It can basically be a video/photo update for your followers – and in this case our supporters and the charity. Our aim was to document our trip with frequent video updates and such. We attempted to make a video – at what was probably 7.30am ish. How many takes do you think that took? We still don’t know. Atriculating ourselves in a way that others can actually understand was tough aha – believe me we would just ramble on and on… haha. So – hats off to those out there who can do it. We finally sent off a video – and sent ourselves off on our bikes.
Next up – it was time for a bit more food – hot food. We stopped at Contin, where it turns out is the home of the very sweet FIVE ACRE WOOD… Sadly no animals to be seen.
Five Acre Wood (just opposite Contine Village Stores)
Now, Contin Village Stores was a DREAM. A hot sausage roll for me was just perfect. But the perfection/amazement does not stop there … no no no. Coffee was needed by both Kirstie and I. There was a coffee machine – it looked pretty standard – ya know, one of the instant ones that you need to place the cup (perfectly positioned – I have missed this many a time with other machines …) underneath the SEARINGLY HOT STREAM OF LIQUID. Kirstie got her black coffee … great. I then pressed for a latte. I was met with a wonderful sound of classical music, and a very joyous type of classical music that continued as the coffee was made. You can imagine what happened next. A moment of dancing. It turns out – if you buy one of the *fancy* drinks – latte, cappuncino – you are met with classical music while you wait. This gave us a good laugh with the staff.
Why is this so great? Because it is the little things (for me) that make these memories!
We carried our coffees out to the bench where Kirstie got her stove out to make her porridge while I munched my sausage roll.
There is a love / hate relationship with porridge in the morning Kirstie and I have agreed and experienced. It can really work – but sometimes that consitency is something that just does NOT agree with us. You know you need to eat it for energy …. but still the body is resisting it. Don’t get us started on banana’s… For these chunky cycles – food it as the top of the list to fuel my body. Stuffing your face sounds great right? But what is weird – and i’d never experienced this until I did start these bigger cycles, is that sometimes the body goes – I DONT WANT TO EAT – which is weird right? Even though you need it. It’s easy to just go go go and cycle for longer than I should without munching. I am still learning how to do this properly – so if anyone reading this has any tips, please do get in touch. I recently heard that if you are packing sandwiches, white bread is best and easier for your body to break down on the move. I am trying to stay away from those sports gels where possible!
ONWARDS! For a bathroom stop – we were guided by the smiley lady at the store (I wish i’d got her name!) to the very, very picturesque Torrachilty Forest public loos. We cycled past some friendly – I think forestry commision – staff, who waved us on and pointed our where the Ospreys were nesting! Wow! What a beautiful cabin – never understimate a public loo, as we will all learn later ….
A older lady did try and force the door open on this loo while I was in – which she was successful. I had to scream I AM IN HERE shove the door back shut! What a laugh.
What a view from the woods!
SNACK STOP 1
Onward – passing Loch Garve and Loch a’ Chuilinn we swung left to follow the road in the direction of Achnasheen, where we would then left again later on to head out to Applecross. What a view!
SNACK STOP 2
Loch a’ Chuilinn
What a lovely sunshine drenched opportunity to end this post…. for now.
What was to come next? How did the rest of DAY 1 of our cycle challenge go?
Stay tuned for part 3!
Thank you for reading! As always I would love to hear from you – so please comment below.
Til next time,