MullJuly 25th, 2015 | Posted by in UK
Oban to Tobermory
This morning I was awoken first by the rain, secondly by my bladder, and thirdly by my Dad rattling the tent flap as he searched through my panniers for the tea bags.
“Is it cold?” I asked, listening to the rain softly pattering on my tent.
“No, it’s not cold. But there are midges.”
The joy of putting on freshly laundered cycling clothes was slightly dampened, as it were, by the pervading wetness in and outside the tent. My lovely Christmas present socks were theoretically clean but still smelt like they’d spent a week in the garbage bin outside a cheese factory. I wrapped up in waterproofs, armed myself with Avon Skin So Soft and went to do battle with the midges outside. Instead of raining from the sky it appeared that the cloud had simply lowered itself onto the land, creating a misty, thin drizzle all round that invited the biting midges.
The ground was a sponge. Each footstep around my tent squelched softly as the water oozed around my shoe. The freshly-cut grass had turned into damp clumps that clung onto anything and everything. The water has seeped inside, leaving my thermarest wet to the touch. My tent, once so new and dry, was now limp with water and covered in bits of grass. With no wind to flap anything dry, I reluctantly rolled up the soggy, grassy mess and hoped for better weather on Mull.
I realised, while on the ferry nibbling another corner of my Dad’s chocolatey flapjack, that a lot of my blog so far has been dedicated to recounting the dreary weather, the wetness of my tent and how I succeeded in my daily task, not of cycling another 50 miles, but rather in getting stuff dry. Yet, despite the wet, I was cheerily singing tunes to myself as we packed up and cycled back to Oban to catch the ferry to Mull. I had expected England to be easy and was disappointed when the days where long and wet. But in Scotland I expected it to be hard. Although my knee hurts a bit from all the climbing and my body and all my kit oscillates daily, if not hourly, between very wet and mostly dry, my general mood while cycling in Scotland is a bit like the scenery: calm, peaceful and inspiringly joyful.
By the time the ferry had arrived in Mull and decanted several bus loads of tourists followed by two waterproofed cyclist, the sun had come out sufficiently so as to demand sunglasses rather than jackets. We followed the coastal road north along the island, searching as we went for a picnic spot with, you guessed it, space for us to dry our tents. We found a suitable spot with a picnic bench for our cheese and oatcakes, and a tree for our washing line. Our spot overlooked the Sound of Mull, with Morvern in the background. The clean, white sails of a handful of boats graced the water. The shadows of the clouds moved quickly over the scene, transforming the appearance of the rolling contours of the land and making the green grasses look like crumpled velvet. A sign warned us to look out for otters but, bar for my Dad inspecting some unusual and unknown scat on the shoreline, we didn’t catch sight of one.
After lunch, we pushed into a headwind up a steep hill. The single track road meant we had to keep giving way to cars and slowed our progress but today, with only 25 miles for the whole day, but it didn’t matter. We pedalled slowly, admiring the views of the sound, the surround hills, the wildflowers and fresh, sea air.
At the top of the hill we were caught by a man in a Mull Cycling Club jersey who called out “it’s downhill all the way to Tobermory now” as he sped by on his road bike. The long descent to Tobermory provided beautiful views of the colourful houses on the waterfront miles before we caught the smell of the angel’s share of the distillery’s whisky on the edge of town.
For some reason I do not quite understand, it is on the easy cycling days that my appetite becomes most ferocious. Today I was ravenous. We pulled up at a cosy bakery cafe with handwritten menus in chalk and photos illustrating the history of Mull on the wall. The counter was a sight to behold: bricks of custard slice, an uncut bananoffee pie the size of a truck’s wheel, oaty flapjack, crispy cornflake flapjack, millionaires shortcake oozing with caramel, chunks of tiffin, fist-sized French fancies with pelican pink icing, gingerbread biscuits sandwiches together with icing, donuts, croissants… The display was everything you could name and more. I ordered a coffee and slice of cranberry flapjack, enjoyed both, but then spotted the peanut butter chocolate cup. I couldn’t resist. I felt slightly sick but deliriously happy from eating my daily calorie intake in peanuts and sugar in four mouthfuls. After three easy days of cycling, the profile for tomorrow’s ride looks very, very hilly. It’s nearly 60 miles and is forecast to rain heavily all afternoon and evening. So, forgive me if I order another peanut butter cup…