Day 8 & 9: Portree to Broadford, to Kyle of Lochalsh
If we were on our last legs by Day 8, so too was our tour. All that remained was to ride from Portree to Broadford, and the next day just one hour to the ferry in Kyle of Lochalsh.
The first half-day’s riding was exquisite, with long ascents to commanding mountain tops and descents through steep valleys. I’d give you more superlatives describing the scenery, but the truth is, I don’t have any. Spending a week in the Outer Hebrides, it’s not just your legs that get exhausted, but your list of synonyms for ‘great’.
Even by Day 2 we’d used and re-used words including “beautiful”, “amazing”, and “wonderful”. English is one of the world’s most expansive vocabularies, but cynics as we are, so infrequently do we use it to describe beautiful things that we soon lose the ability to do so.
As for ‘Great’, since this is most commonly used in reference to the ‘Great Wars’, namely WWI or II, it seemed inappropriate to use it in a country that had given up so many of its young men to the cause. (Although, ‘Wonderful War’ would sound even worse, perhaps due to its alliteration.)
But inevitably we finally made it down to flat road, and the last stretches of the day were mainly a slog, avoiding trucks on the busy single-carriageway road.
Finally upon entering Broadford we made it to a set of stoplights, the first we’d seen in days. There was also a café with a promising coffee menu and sun-bathed terrace.
We stopped. We were latte-sipping elites a long way from home; how could we resist the appeal of a perfect cappuccino after 8 days of Instant?
I stationed the bikes in the parking bays out front, behind a 4WD that was parallel-parked, and had started to write some postcards when I heard a voice above me.
“Excuse me, are you the owner of the bikes?”
I looked up to see a middle-aged woman with an angry face. Mum and I were the only two people in the café wearing full lycra, so I hoped she wasn’t annoyed for having to ask around.
I swivelled my eyes in a way that indicated I was obviously wearing lycra for a reason.
“You can’t drive out forwards?” I replied, sarcastically, as she’d badly parked in front of a post office in a way that mean she couldn’t.
Sensing the situation escalation, mum interrupted:
“Do you need us to move them?”
“Well you’ll have to, because I can’t get out.”
Only days earlier, we’d been in South Uist, a place so friendly that even the firemen, who rushed past us on the highway with sirens blaring for an emergency, gave us a friendly wave as they whooshed passed.
Now we were back in civilisation and the locals were shitty because she couldn’t drive her car out front ways.
Almost everyone else we had met on the journey had been friendly and welcoming. Such is the friendly spirit of the Hebrides, that even an older couple from Sydney who were driving a Mercedes through the islands, stopped to talk politely with us rather than hurl abuse as is the usual communication between drivers and riders in Australia.
We slept well that night, having feasted at a local gastro pub, and leisurely rode the final miles to Kyle of Lochalsh in the morning. Just before heading over the bridge off of Skye, we passed a temporary weather sign.
“Yellow Warning! Heavy Rain Forecast.” We’d had nine days of pure sunshine and little wind. Our trip was ending just in time.