Attack of the midges
I slept late so didn't leave the campsite until 10am. It started raining as I climbed up the hill from Scourie. It wasn't heavy rain but enough to need waterproofs.
At one point along the way, I was joined by a serious cyclist on a road bike who road next to me asking about my trip. The conversation came to an end when his two support cars came by and told him to get a move on. Perhaps he was trying to set a record for the North Coast 500. If he was, I hope our conversation didn't affect it.
Down a hill took me to Unapool and the Rock Stop. I stopped and had tea and cake. I was joined by a cyclist from Coventry who had left his phone there yesterday and had had to backtrack for it. In chatting, and looking at the exhibition about the Geopark, I lost a couple of hours. I got on my way again and took the coast road. This was part of the North Coast 500 too so had lots of tourists on it. It was a single track road and was extremely hilly with some 25% gradients. My speed was cut dramatically by headwind, hills, and needing to stop constantly to let cars ahead and behind pass me. Half the vehicles were from the Netherlands. I got more and more frustrated with the tourist vehicles as time went on.
I stopped in the rain to make fried egg and brie sandwiches in the hope that would make me less annoyed. It didn't. Perhaps tourists should be given a special test before they are allowed to drive the Highlands. It is very hard to get going again when you are made to stop on a laden bike on a hill.
I visited a secret garden tearoom for tea to recover from the hills. I didn't recover. As the road and hills went on I got more exhausted. I had hardly covered much distance today but was shattered. So much for my dad telling me it wouldn't be as bad as Norway. It might be worse.
I took a detour to ? along twisty single track roads still full of annoying drivers. As I reached the campsite the rain set in again. It looked grim. I asked at the Youth Hostel but that was too much. The lady at the Youth Hostel said it would get flatter after Lochinver. I pressed on despite feeling close to collapse.
At Lochinver everything was shut because it was getting on for 7pm. I carried on. Up I went. Where was this flat. I passed a bookshop my dad had insisted I visit. It was closed and I wasn't hanging around for the morning as midges descended in the 30 seconds I stopped to read the sign. Up I went some more. Every time I found a spot for wild camping the midges descended within 30 seconds. The air was thick with them. My head net was at the bottom of a pannier and I knew I'd be horribly bitten by the time I got it out. On I rode.
As I reached a fork in the road I realised I was running out of water and wasn't going to reach a campsite tonight. There was a house so I asked there and they filled it for me. Going left along the south side of Stac Pollidah I saw a flat spot with short grass. Perhaps I'd be lucky. Nope. I putting my tent up I was mobbed by tens of thousands of midges. Somehow they seemed to get inside my head net too and I nearly started choking on them. I had to keep running away from my tent to try to get away from them for a breather. It was horrible. I was being bitten. Eventually, with the inner attached I threw everything inside and dove in after it all. I was joined by a good few thousand midges before I could zip the door closed. I spent the next half hour systematically killing every last midge - hopefully - that was inside with me. Outside was swarming. I could see parts of my tent were black with them. There were so many I could even hear them. It sounded like rain landing on my tent. I cooked dinner inside my tent. I can't leave now. I am now trapped here in my bubble of midge free tent inner. How will I leave? I don't know. That is a problem for tomorrow. I hope it will either be raining or windy or both.