Lochs 'n' Trossachs Tour - Pitlochry to Fearnan, Day 4, 13 May 2008
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13 May 2008 - Welcome to the Camp, I guess you all know why we're here.

Well, today's route is funny. We go a really long way to make it, hmm, maybe like 5 miles. All the way around a large loch to make it to a town that is just a few miles away. But we do that a lot on the tour, there are roads which are straight, which don't go over huge hills, and take us right to the next destination, but what fun is that?

German hikers' boots

Early morning up top of Pitlochry

So, I'm up pretty early. Top bunk of a crowded room, it was good to be outside and wandering around. Things are peaceful at 7 am, the town is pretty off in the distance up this high. I see Gary and Martin sitting in the front window having tea, so I go and join then. After a bit, it should be able time to start breakfast. I generally try to help out making the porridge since dinners get a bit crowded in the kitchen and it is a pretty easy meal to make. Except it gets all complicated, there has to be one with soy milk as well as one with milk. I'm not actually a big fan of it made with either, it really should be water and then you pour milk on later, but that would then be a fourth pot of something, so it isn't a big deal. And then there is the fruit and nut one. Nuts are nice but apricots are a bit icky, well, all dried fruit tastes a bit weird to me. But the different pots come out and gets mostly eaten. Just make everybody have another round of the fruit and nuts one to get rid of it.

Done with the mudguard, it is off.

Tire check again, like every morning. Surprisingly mine have held. Wow, that's great. However the mud guards were driving me nuts yesterday and Che won't ride next to me if they are going to be noisy again. I can't get them adjusted so Dave A takes the back one off and I strap it on the back of my bike. Later in the day, I give it to Linda to leave in the car and it stays there for a few days. But now, the bike is running perfectly, nothing to complain about. I still worry all day, just waiting, feeling the tires at every stop to see if they are still inflated. The last thing is to run into town to the bike shop to get myself a new odometer to replace the one I lost yesterday. I guess I should have gotten a nicer one, but mostly I want it to tell me how far I've gone and what speed I'm going now. Some of them are just ridiculous, about 800 features, telling you your biorhythm and everything else. Damn, but this one won't let me set the odometer, so I think I was at about 5600 miles on this bike, I'll just have to add that in my head each time I look at the odometer. But I guess not that it is important, it is only meaningful to me, nobody else really cares about statistics like that.

Everybody has checked out of the hostel and we were supposed to all meet at the bike shop and head out from there. But I'm at the bike shop and I can't see anybody else. I know they were also going to the Co-op to get food for dinner and some things for lunch. The place tonight isn't all that close to a grocery store, so we have to shop for food in the morning. It also means that there isn't room in the car for extra panniers, so it is a fully loaded day today. But it is a bike tour after all, I guess that's the way it should be. It feels a little like cheating to not carry your weight.

But I can't find them. I ride back and forth in town a little bit trying to figure out where the Co-op is. The guy in the bike shop said it was just up there and on the right side, but I don't see anything. I have to stop and ask again in the post office and I see why I couldn't see it from the main road, it is off on a side street up a hill a little bit. By the time I get there, everybody is mostly finished with shopping and just about ready to go. All of this has taken quite a while and it is like 10 am before we finally make it out of town.

Duck crossing at the edge of town, going past Loch Faskally.

Past the loch, through the duck crossing zone, and up a short steep dirt road before coming to a nice bridge over the loch. No cycling allowed on the bridge, so we walk across. We spend much of the morning then riding along the south side of Loch Tummel. It has a few ups and downs, overlooks a lot of the loch, nice views of it, and is lightly wooded. There isn't a whole lot of traffic and it is a nice ride. Ahh, but what is that up ahead. I've been towards the back of the group, leisurely making my way, enjoying the view. The rest of the group is all at the side of the road gathered around Brenda. Oh no, not another fall, I hope. But her cleats, new pedals and all, had been adjusted quite tightly and she couldn't get her foot out. She had to topple over on the side of the road and take her shoes off to get them out. (Which reminds me, I really need to loosen my right one, that one always is so difficult to take out, occasionally I topple over when I come to a stop just because I lose my balance and can't get it out.)

Brenda caught in her cleats.

Heading along the south side of Loch Tummel.

At the end of the loch, we turn and head up to Tummel Bridge. Scottish names do seem to follow a pretty good naming convention. You have a loch name, Loch X for example. Then where a bridge crosses it, the town is X Bridge. Or Boat of X is where there is/was a ferry across. InverX would be the river mouth of X. Aber is the town at the source of X. Glen X is a valley of X mountain. And so on. But at Tummel Bridge, we pass the hydro electric plant, a handsome looking building. Our destination is the caravan park. Yeah, I know. But they have a cafe. Well, a cafe of sorts, and we do need a place for some tea and a rest. It is a really pretty setting, along the side of a river, lots of trees and nice looking stuff. It is a shame about the horrible tackiness of the caravan park and the video games and the rest of the tacky holiday park stuff. They don't really have food to speak of, basically anything that can't be nuked in a microwave. So, tea has to do as well as whatever we have in our bags.

Hydro power station at Tummel Bridge.

Tea stop at the caravan park at Tummel Bridge.

It is nice sitting out of the deck relaxing for a while. More sun screen though, my face is completely bright white all week, I put so much on. But the weather was really insane this week, how did Scotland get to be so hot? Onward then, there should be a cafe for food in Kinloch, which is only a few miles on. We are quickly there and there seems to be a bit of confusion. This is the point where we were going to split into two groups, one who would just head back now and another who would keep going around Loch Rannoch and possibly all the way to Rannoch Station. I was saving myself up for tomorrow, there is a long ride tomorrow with a promised really nice long pass, so I'm all for the short one, a leisurely lunch and time to hang out at the possibly hippy dippy bunk house tonight.

We stop in front of the cafe, but there are some who have already gone past. Maybe they didn't realize we were stopping or something. But can't help them now, they are in for the long ride like it or not. Apparently, we find out that some of them meant to and some of them didn't know and once they were too far, it was too late. But nobody seems too upset that night so no worries then. I enjoy a nice lunch, ginger beer, and a lemonade, and a nice sandwich. I'm quite ready then to tackle the next big hill after that.

Coming up to Schiehallion.

The next part takes us up past Schiehallion. There are a few steep preliminary parts before it flattens out. Crispin tells us that Schiehallion was used as some science experiment, to find the weight of the earth or the gravity of the earth or something like that. It is very spherical and that helped or something. I can't really find any independent confirmation of this experiment, so I'll just have to take his word for it. It was nice riding over it though, even if I didn't come up with any scientific truths out of it. It was a long pass up, not horribly difficult but still quite a climb. And then the downhill at the other side was really excellent. I had some pretty good speed going down, although nothing to break any sort of speed records. It was a bit windy at parts and that intimidated me a little bit too.

Coming down the other side.

On the other side, we headed off to Fortingall see something really old. No, not Gary. We went to see the yew tree. It is said that it is the oldest living organism in Europe, possibly the world. It is also said that Pontiff Pilot sat under it as a youth. And lots of other things, but it does seem that it is 3000-8000 years old, which is pretty old. It is in a churchyard now, as it seems many yew trees are. Valued for their wood to make long bows. This one is enclosed in a little building, probably because a gigantic part of it has been cut off by souvenir hunters over the years, so there is a move to preserve what might be the oldest living thing on the planet. It is funny, it does look old but it doesn't look that old. It certainly ages well.

The yew tree at Fortingall, the oldest thing in Europe.

Markers of the extent of the tree before tourists started chopping pieces off as souveniers.

There is also a hotel with a pub right next door to the tree. Our group sits outside enjoying the sunshine and ordering Yew Ale. We might have drunk them out since they didn't have any the next night when we went there for dinner. That seemed to happen a few times, pubs that would run out of their nice ale due to us finishing them off.

In the Yew Tree Hotel.

Having a pint of Yew Tree ale.

Culdees Bunkhouse at Fearnan.

After refreshing ourselves this way, we head off to Fearnan to the bunk house. Gary gave us all sorts of warnings, be nice to them, it might be a little strange there, blah blah blah. We didn't know if we were heading for a hippie commune or what it was. It turned out to be a little bit funky but a pretty nice place. It is run by a reiki master who is married to a GP and they have tried hard to create a little green community there. They have very ambitious plans but haven't gotten to a lot of them yet. But things like that take a lot of time, they seem to have done well for themselves so far. They have a very complicated recycling system. All the containers would probably take up most of my flat. But does that go in the food compost, or can it be fed to the chickens or is that a soft plastic or hard plastic or does it just have to be rubbish. It was endlessly confusing.

Loch Tay. We will ride along the other bank tomorrow.

There are hundreds of signs everywhere and each bed has a notebook by it, with all their plans, mission statements, and the rest of that. They have categories for sustain ability, education, child care, growing food, medical things, and a lot more. Things they have finished got two suns, things they have started got one sun and things they hadn't gotten around to yet had a moon. There were quite a few more moons in the book than suns.

The loch is just down the hill and I haven't been swimming yet in Scotland on this trip. Che takes a little bit of convincing but I know she will love it once we get there. There is sort of a big hill down to the loch but no bag on the bikes, it shouldn't be so bad. Down at the loch, not quite sure where to go, a lot of the edge of it is taken up by houses and other buildings. But there is a bit of a beach over there and that looks like a decent place to change. It is pretty cold, but not the coldest ever. It is nice too to cool down still warm muscles, hopefully I feel a little less sore because of it.

A swim in the loch.

Dinner is just in progress when we get back. A very nice roasted vegetables and couscous as well as a few sausage and crumble for dessert. Unfortunately there wasn't rhubarb available, so apple had to do instead. Today, I think was 43 miles, I accidentally reset my odometer so I'm pretty sure but not completely. Tomorrow we are at the same place, so it should be nice to leave everything and have the same place to come back to tomorrow night.

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