Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Back on Track


There seems to be something in the air up here. It seems I've only just put all my overnight gear away and it's suddenly the end of the month with my planned monthly bivvy/camp not yet ticked off. With that in mind, and the desire to get in a decent cycle, I opted to explore a mostly off-road route from Aviemore down to the sea. I'd tried the Speyside way before but I knew I simply couldn't face all those gates and, in any case, it's always good to explore. So, I opted for the Dava Way this time. Like much of the Speyside Way, this follows the track of an old railway bed. That means gentle gradients and often little architectural delights.

It's a good spin. Pretty easy miles and through some gentle, rolling scenery usually away from the roads but with occasional loops towards them in the event a change of plan is required. Aware of it being a long night in November, I left after lunchtime, planning to ride the last few miles in the dark. This is all part of my "training" for the Highland Trail 550 in May and it's good to be able to assess lighting and comfort when there's nothing much at stake and I'm in no hurry. From home to Grantown on Spey, I stuck to the Speyside Way. This has a few gates at the Grantown end but nothing to slow me down too much. Through Grantown and it's straight onto the 24 mile Dava Way. There are a couple of minor detours of the railway bed but mostly it's just a case of spinning along. 




Reaching Dava itself means it's basically all downhill to the coast and I reached the  forests on the outskirts of Forres just as it started to get dark. I got a bit of a shock when I reached the High Street as it's been closed to traffic and the Christmas Market is just finishing. 



Thoughts of grabbing something in a cafe or from a chippy were put to one side as everywhere is completely packed and I then decided to head straight to Findhorn and take my chances there. On the way, I passed Sueno's Stone and took a couple of photos. It looks fantastic lit up in the dark night. In fact I think the relief-work is enhanced that way. 



Leaving Forres along Findhorn Bay I was exposed to the strong Westerly wind. I'd been mostly sheltered from it before and I was  suddenly aware that I'd be a wee bit exposed in my tent tonight. In Findhorn, I found the Kimberley Inn. It looked lovely and welcoming so I was in like a shot for some food and a beer (or two). Again, I was in no hurry to leave as it would be a long enough night in any case. 

Finding a pitch on the beach turns out to be fairly tricky. I was trying to find a sheltered enough spot with a view of the sea and with some sort of soil able to take a tent peg. After much searching around, I eventually found somewhere and tried to get settled in for the night. However, it wasn't long before one wall of the tent came crashing in and I was out again, trying to sort things out. Eventually, I moved the bike upwind of the tent and lay it down on the sandy soil. The three guy-lines were then attached to the bike and - lo and behold - the tent was finally stabilised. A wee dram or two completed my night and I was soon asleep despite the roaring of the wind.

A mid-night pee break had me scurrying out of the tent for a few minutes into a complete, flat calm and with the wind having died right down I was also feeling the heat a bit so left the zips open for some extra air when I got back in. 

Early morning and the wind had returned. Still, I made the most of breakfast before packing everything quickly away and heading back the way I'd come the night before. I was expecting the return trip to be quite a bit slower and harder work as I was now fighting the headwind all the way but despite this, and the fact that I was  generally trending uphill all day, I actually made good progress and had enough time to stop in Macleans Bakery in Grantown on Spey for a bit of lunch. 

In total, I covered over 140km and took around 13 hours over the two days. Thinking about this, I reflect that I'll need to do that sort of distance every day, for 8 days in a row and over much rougher terrain if I'm to complete the Highland Trail Race in May!!

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