We had a comfortable night in Mrs McPhee’s house and really good breakfast to start the day. That was the first time for many years I had stayed in a B&B and it’s a strange experience. I found it odd being in someone else’s houses with their things around me, and their tastes of décor and soft furnishing. Normally when you go to a hotel everything in non descriptive or neutral, but I felt really strange at first to be in someone’s house surrounded by their taste in flowery wallpaper. The black pudding at breakfast made up for everything though and set me up nicely for the day.
It was dry again this morning. Not too cold with a bit of a south west breeze. If it stayed like this all day I thought, it would be a fairly easy day. I needed a bit of boost however. For the first time I was beginning to question why I was doing this in the first place. It was not a particularly nice morning and I was about to get on the bike and cycle 40 miles, for what purpose I asked myself ? Then across the car-park I caught sight of a couple of people who we met on the ferry the previous day. It was lovely to see them again and we exchanged a few words and, among other things, they gave me lots of encouragement. I don’t think they realised how much benefit they had been to me and it really helped. Just a bit of a chat was enough to help me get underway and, a mile up the road I felt fine again.
This reminded me of the mental health issues I have experienced in my life and how having support from understanding people to talk to and give a bit of encouragement can change everything. I can’t believe I am actually mentioning my mental health struggles on my blog for the planet to see. It has taken me a long time to get to this stage where I can feel comfortable about doing that. Who knows, I might write more about this in the future, because believe me, I have no end of material in that department!
The weather was deteriorating, it was clouding over and beginning to rain more persistently. Although the wind was getting up, I remember feeling it but it hadn’t yet become a problem. It seemed to be blowing across me and occasionally I got a push from it. I rode on through the rolling hills of South Uist toward Benbecula which, despite the wind, was a pleasant enough cycle. I was really struck by the contrast in the landscape between east and west, the gentle rolling scenery where I was and the mountains towards the east. I passed lots of lochans where I sometimes got a glimpse of a bird of prey, mainly buzzards unfortunately. I’m always hopeful of seeing the majestic Golden Eagle. I generally go by the rule that, if in doubt, it’s a buzzard. I had this method confirmed to me whilst on Islay last year when I did see an eagle sitting on a telegraph pole when there was no mistaking, it was huge!
When I crossed from South Uist on to Benbecula I crossed another of the thoughtfully constructed causeways that link many on the smaller islands. With their giant boulders that line the route and the shoreline that drops away from them, I find them really quite beautiful. I had a memory of seeing them featured on the television last year when they became flooded and cars got stuck half way across them in a storm. It wasn’t difficult to imagine, it felt very exposed.
At the start of every causeway, there is a triangular road sign that says “CAUTION, Otters Crossing.” I got really excited because I would have loved to have seen an otter and I thought my chance had come again. It was the perfect scenario because I am on my bike, they’ll never hear me coming, so I could sneak up and get a good look at one. In the distance I saw something move. It was perched on a rock on my right hand side as I looked at the causeway just up ahead. I slowed the bike down and tried to peddle as smoothly and quietly as possible. I saw it move, and could see the shape of its rounded head and muzzle. I was so excited and, as I got near, it turned to look at me and it was then I noticed it was a grey seal. I’ve never been so disappointed to see a seal before but I was.
I pushed on for the next few miles in the rain over, what felt like, causeway after causeway. I didn’t appreciate until I was there just how many tiny islands and how much water there is on the islands. If the light caught the water in my eyeline the reflections were stunningly beautiful and I felt really lucky to be there. There felt like miles of coastline where the sand just fell away from the sides of the road into an enormous expanse of beautiful beach and space.
I had arranged to meet my friend Eileen, who was driving the car with all our kit in it for the week, somewhere on Benbecula but I suddenly had a feeling that I had been cycling for a couple of hours now and I hadn’t caught sight of her. Normally Eileen would drive a few miles ahead in the car and, when I caught up, we would touch base, and she’d go on ahead again. I realised I hadn’t caught sight of her for a couple of hours, it was raining heavily, and I getting cold. I stopped by a modern stone looking building at the side of the road and took myself and the bike into the porch out of the rain. I took out my moby to phone, only to find that there was no phone signal. Suddenly, it felt like a real adventure, I was cold, wet and lost.
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