Penultimate day, riding up to the village of Keiss, just north of Wick

Posted: February 26, 2013 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Over the bay after HelmsdaleSo near! At the beginning of the day, we had just slightly more than 100km to ride to reach John O’Groats. We decided, however, that we would just ride to a place called Keiss, about seven miles away from our ending destination, so we would not be in any hurry to get to John O’Groats and take pictures. Keiss would be a good location to set out from in the morning so we would be able to take our time and enjoy the moment, so Keiss it would be for the night.

In Brora, we stayed at the Sutherland Inn – not the best place in the world, quite expensive and with a water system that sounded like we had some sort of monster in the bathroom whenever we went to the toilet, washed our hands, or took a shower; quite alarming really! Unfortunately (maybe because it was winter) there were not too many choices around, and this was the best place/price… It was not with heavy hearts that we left, however, in spite of the weather being overcast and quite cold in the morning.

Map Brora-KeissWe knew that we would be in for a hard day as we would be going through Helmsdale and hills surrounding this small village. My sister had warned us that the area would be quite hilly and she certainly wasn’t joking; the route planning software showed us the steep hills that we would be facing, going both up and down, and we would have to do our fair share of climbing over the course of the day. The big climbs started after around 15km of riding, though the main event was after Helmsdale at a small village called Berriedale, about 25km away from Brora. After climbing up, we had about a steady 13% descent for about two and a half kilometres, and just as soon as that was complete, we had a 13% climb back up over the next two and a half kilometres, with a respite of about 20 metres flat at the bottom. Unfortunately, with the descent, it was difficult to go too fast because of the curves and damp roads which made it slightly hazardous. There were tight curves in the road in the climb up, where drivers of large trucks really had to concentrate to get round. We were told that accidents along that road are pretty common, so we were glad that nothing went skidding out of control when we were on it…

After these climbs, and a few further climbs gradually getting less and less severe, it became straightforward, with flats towards Wick that we were able to cycle along at a pretty brisk pace. The main problem was that there weren’t really many places around where we could grab a warm drink or bite to eat. We ended up passing via a place called Lybster – a place that was one of the most desolate that Natalia and I had seen. All of the very few cafés and restaurants were closed, very little life was around to be seen, and we were grateful to find a Costcutter where we could grab a coffee and shelter a bit from the bitter wind.

It was about 4pm by the time we finally got to Keiss; possible to get to John O’Groats by dark, even. However, as I said, we wanted to take our time. So it was a nice end to the day; we knew we were pretty much in walking distance … just 15 kilometres or so to go. The hardest parts had all been done  and we were just about to reach our final objective, in accordance with our schedule. The only thing that could make things hard for us was the weather, which was not meant to be so good over the next day… and just like my sister wasn’t kidding about those Helmsdale hills, the forecast was not kidding at all about what we would face when we woke up…

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