A thousand and one miles, a thousand and one smiles and just under four weeks into the journey seems like an appropriate point to reflect on our life on the road.
The most amazing thing that I find is that our nomadic lifestyle already seems completely natural. I mentioned on day one that contemplating what lay ahead of us was a bit daunting. Overwhelming even. Well within less than a week all trace of those feelings had gone and now there is no sense of awe at all. This may sound odd but our day to day existence has become quite ordinary. Not for one moment in a negative way but in the sense that it is simply what we do. How we live. It isn’t extraordinary any more so it must be ordinary.
We’ve been travelling for twenty seven days and I’m sitting in the tent eating chocolate and drinking tea just like most nights. It’s cold outside with a blustery north wind but we are warm and snug and the sharp showers that rattle the tent don’t bother us in the least. We are content. Tomorrow we will follow exactly the same routine as every other morning, the only slight differences are brought about by the weather. If it stays dry but windy the tent won’t suffer from condensation and won’t need wiping down but other than that the morning packing procedure will see us on the road a couple of hours after first waking. Legs will complain at the first incline but as soon as we turn the first corner we will be ooing and ahhing at something. It might be a white tailed eagle or it might be a flower in the hedgerow or just a sky with patches of blue amongst the grey.
We haven’t had much in the way of warm weather but that has been more than compensated for this last week by the the increasingly spectacular scenery. The mountains seem to get bigger and bigger as we move north and their shapes get more dramatic as they rise from relatively flatter surroundings.
Sometimes you feel like you can’t do enough looking because there is so much to take in. We are never far from water, whether sea, loch or river and all too frequently rain and the endless variety of colours it produces. From the most vibrant turquoise of some of the white sand fringed bays to the black and tan of raging rivers in spate.
We are constantly on the lookout for sea otters but so far we have only been teased by rocks and clumps of seaweed which can do a convincing impersonation of an otter believe me. Wildlife is however abundant and seeing our first white tailed sea eagle was a very special moment.
The people we come across are also a constant source of entertainment. Every day we meet people who think that what we are doing is awesome, or amazing. Or as a French gentleman said yesterday, “you are risk takers”. I quite like that one. But I also like the odd balls. The Ferry Boat Inn in Ullapool was trying hard to be a bit cool. They referred to themselves as the Sky Blue Restaurant but they just served bar meals which were good but nothing special. They had big blackboards detailing their fancy wines and high tables with matching sky scraper chairs. Unfortunately all this was rather undermined by the khaki clad and mildly inebriated local who wanted to talk about midges and fly fishing very loudly to anybody who would listen. He stood, not so much at the bar as about four feet from it, swaying gently as if his boots were nailed to the floor and laughing heartily at his own witty remarks. I’m sure the new owners desperately want to ban him but are terrified of treading on local toes. He is obviously very much a part of the local scenery as we found him in a very similar position but in a different bar some time later in the day. He was swaying a bit further from the vertical by now and was even more amused by his own musings than before judging by the volume of his laughter.
We have become mildly obsessive about certain things over the weeks. The weather is an obvious one but less expected are showers (bathroom type ones, not rainy ones) and for me, notices. The showers at the various campsites are invariably hot. It’s the space and facilities that we fuss about.
Arriving in the shower in wet dirty cycling clothes and carrying a bag of clean dry clothes, not to mention a wash bag and a towel only to find one hook behind the door and no shower curtain leads to some interesting juggling of possessions. We often speculate on whether or not the owners of these places have ever actually taken a shower in their own facilities. I think not myself.
I intend to do a post specifically around odd signs we have seen but just for example: is it really necessary to put up an A4 printed notice behind every toilet in the block ordering “customers” to “Please flush the toilet after EVERY use”. I don’t want to think about what prompted the site owner to think such a notice was required.
On the whole the experience so far has been exhilerating, challenging and deeply satisfying. There have been times when we have been pretty down in the dumps but they don’t last forever. It’s usually when we are wet and cold and grinding up yet another hill but those moments pass and there is always another spectacular view, another warm cafe and ultimately a dry and cosy sleeping bag. With tea and chocolate of course.
A thousand miles has a certain ring to it. I’m really looking forward to the next four or five and whatever delights and wonders they will reveal. Right now I think it’s time to put the kettle on again.
Edit: this post is a few days old now. More to come later I hope.