LEJOG63: Brora to Badbea

The new campsite was great-a big field surrouded by hills and a suitable distance from road and rail. It did lack a few amenities, but then it’s better to be basic and in a good location than vice versa.

I left early to start road walking. The A9 at this point is still quite a main road with tons of cars and articulated lorries flying past. My tactic was to walk along the tarmac (because it’s faster than the verge) towards the oncoming traffic (because its meant to be safer) and hop up onto the verge when a car came past. I’d hoped that maye I could switch off and listen to some music but actually I had to be constantly focused on the oncoming traffic.

Pretty soon I was overtaken by what I think is potentially the most challenging LEJOG attempt I’ve witnessed-a couple and their child cycling up, with the child riding tandem on the same bike as dad. Just to make it a little harder they were camping – I knew because we’d seen them at our campsite. Not only was this impressive but it also gave me ideas about how I might be able to continue the light- travelling spirit for a long time to come.

After another half hour I bumped into another on-foot LEJOGer, again somebody we’d seen at our campsite the night before. His name is Ed and he’s the only LEJOGer I’ve met so far who’s younger than me (early twenties), but his journey has been a bit different. For one thing he decided to do the walk less than two weeks before he set off, which is impressive but meant he couldn’t research or pre-book any accomodation. Hearing his tales of having to walk two days worth of route in one go when accomodation couldn’t be found reassured me that my two months of mayhem had been worthwhile. Also he had been far more alone on his trip than me, only meeting up with his dad twice and then just to hand over the next bunch of maps. Apparently when it got really tough he’d rung up his brother, got him to describe what he was doing that day, and then imagined/hallucinated that he was actually doing the same thing. As a result he was really looking forward to getting to John o ‘Groats and then getting home, far more so than me. It made me feel a more confidet that the effort and money that I and oter people had put into the trip has had a beneficial effect.

The weather got sunnier and the views continued to be beautiful-green hills to our right and a strip of gently undulating fields to our left that ended on small cliffs before giving way to a twinkling sea. We got to Helmsdale a lovely little harbour town at mid day which was Ed’s destination, but I then went on for another couple of hours to take a chunk out of tomorrow. The road from here was new, cutting out the previously squiggly (and difficult) uphill route with a gentler and more graceful long curving gradiant that looked like something out of a car advert. I was now much higher above the sea and my route headed slightly inland so that I became surrounded by planatations until I came to my stop for the day, a car park adjoining the site of a pre-clearances village. Here I waited for my ride.

We stopped off in Helmsdale and found a bar with a big tv to watch the Wimbledon semi with Murray vs Roddick. It was very much a man’s bar- apparently there wasn’t even a ladies toilet, Jenna had to use the staff toilet. However when the locals did arrive for the match they were quite different to those in Tain, very friendly and very vocal in their assessment of Murray’s performance (“Sort ya serve out ya nugget!” being one of the more repeat-able comments). One guy even started to get a bit obsessed with the idea that my mum was coming up to meet me and was pestering for an introduction. I said I’d put in a good word for him. We left after seeing Murray demonstrating why he didn’t deserve to be in the final, got some fish and chips (apparently recommended by clarissa dickson) and headed back to our campsite where the sun was gently setting over the hills, and turning the clouds into pink strips running across the sky. Sent from my iPhone

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