14 July 2008

Inner and Outer Hebrides

In the north west of mainland Scotland are the Inner and Outer Hebrides, groups of islands with very changing landscape, ancient history and breathtaking white beaches.

But in order to get there I first have to cycle along the coast to Ullapool from where the ferry departs. The strip of road is a killer! Not only it seriously challenges your physical condition - it also eats up whatever is leaft of your soul after having been thoroughly soaked for several days. The road winds up and down with accents as steep as 25%. (With a car you would have to shift to first gear for this). As soon as you arrive on top, sweaty, steaming and with heavy breathing, you immediately embark on a neckbreaking downhill. The road is extremely narrow here, just wide enough for a minibus. My bicycle is equipped with pretty good brakes. But with the rain and the steep decends they don't work at all. I either have to push my bike or just hope that there will be no traffic coming from the front.

After an entire day of up and down (with the same amount of energy that made me advance 10 kilometers on the coast I could surely have crossed the Swiss Alps!) I am psychologically exhausted and close to a moral breakdown. What saves me in the end is my adrenaline from a new personal speed record during this trip: 73km/h fully loaded on a single track road :)
(I refuse to be a victim - no pushing a bike downhill!)

Finally I arrive in Ullapool, exhausted but at least just in time to see the German soccer team loose against Spain in the European finals (hihi). In a cozy pub I get drunk with two Germans and a Spaniard... definitely not a good preparation for an early rise in order to catch the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis and Harris Island the next morning!

Lewis and Harris Island (Outer Hebrides) welcome me with plenty of wind and rain. Again I soak to the bone. I nevertheless manage to have a look at ancient standing stone formations, sleep next to a romatic lighthouse and on day 3 dry off in the sun on a white beach.
In the end, the crazy weather also has a positive aspect: the mushrooms are just as confused as everyone else up here. So they start pushing up as if it was autumn. I collect them on the roadside for breakfast ommelettes and evening beef stew. Yummy!

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