22 June 2007
Boy can I sleep after all this cycling and staying out late! I finally got up and had some breakfast. When I went to wash my teeth there was a set of dentures in a mug in the bathroom. Horrified, I hastily checked the whereabouts of mine and found, to my relief, that there were in my mouth. Phew!
A few minutes later a man who had left the hostel to get the ferry had realised that he had left his teeth and negotiated with the boat to let him come back to get them – he was suitably embarrassed.
I packed my things and stocked up with food for the day (this exercise makes me ravenous!) and headed east for Kirkwall. On the way I joined a ranger’s talk about the Ring of Brodgar, which was fascinating. She talked for an hour and a half as she walked us through the surrounding landscape. Historic Scotland and the RSPB are planting the surrounding area so as to encourage and protect a wide range of wild flowers and birds. Great information and I got a real sense of the place of the Ring in Orkney life and culture.
Speaking of culture, I pedalled on towards Kirkwall to pick up my festival tickets. This festival is a huge success and the long queues and “sold out” notices sit a bit uneasily in this faraway place. Not that it feels faraway as there are so many visitors and I met Val and Diane from Edinburgh. There is a feel of the Edinburgh Festival about it in the way that people dash from event to event. I don’t dash anywhere – largely because so many of the tickets were sold out when I got around to booking, and also because I am too relaxed to dash.
20th June 2007
I set off on the 06:40 train from Edinburgh and all was as well as it could be at that hour until we changed in Perth. The Glasgow train, which we would join, was delayed and we were then delayed a bit more on the way to Inverness. At Perth, a number of us got chatting (to distract oursleves from the cold and the leaking roof) and realised that we were all wanting to connect at Inverness for Thurso.
Much consultation with the train conductor; he contacted Inverness and then announced that the Thurso train would not wait, but that alternative transport would be laid on for us.
OK. We arrived in Inverness to be told that there was a bus for us. I asked about my bike. AH. Forgot to mention that. Various responses emereged: “the bike will go on the bus”; ” the bike cannot go on the bus”; “we will send the bike later”; “but we can’t put it on the ferry so you would be in Orkney and the bike would be on the Scottish mainland”; “will will get a trailer”.
To cut a hilarious story short, a trailer arrived and my bike felt very important – this was no ordinary trailer, but a covered one specially for bikes. By now our small group are good friends but the girl with the chello will be sick on the bus etc etc. It was all very companionable and people were amazingly unstressed about all this delay just for my bike.
We left Inverness station one hour after the train but we caught up wth the train at Brora, about 90 minutes later – this gives a whole new perspective on the term “catching the train”. Brora station hasn’t see that many people get on one train for years!
In Thurso we have 4 hours till the ferry and I went off to drink coffee with the other bike person (but hers is a fold-up one, so no drama). She turns out to the piano turner to the midsummer arts festival in Orkney. A happy few hours spent in the dry café and then on the ferry.