We continued to retrace our route down Loch Arkaig towards Loch Lochy where we would turn left onto the Great Glen Way. This was the part of the ride I was most anxious about. I do not embrace routes described as rough, gnarly, technical or even unpathed on a laden road bike. We had done quite a bit of this off road stuff a couple of years ago in Norway. I am not at ease with it and had walked down steep bits for fear of vibrating my bike to its beautifully crafted constituent parts, blue thread lock or not.
As it turned out the ride through the forest of Clunes and then South Laggan was fine other than the repairs which constitute dumping several loads of big rocks on the path and then running away. We shared the route with charity riders, many of whom were riding what appeared to be their brothers or sisters bikes or ones borrowed from neighbours. I fought the urge to shout at them to put their saddles up.
Progress was slow, the sun had come out and in the shelter of trees I was down to my Rapha Country Jersey and Gore Sportswool base. Merino socks made it a hat trick of Sportswool, and no I would not have a shower that night as this was a scientific test.
Laggan was the place where in the early 50’s research was carried out on seaweed in a process that lead to the development of what we now know as “Baby Bio”.This is the sort of thing I would like to post on Wikipedia and see how far it gets. We joined a very muddy, and yes gnarly path that ran along the side of the Caledonian Canal towards Laggan Bridge. The Yates bikes were handling well and our confidence in off piste riding was growing. But my goodness were we slow.
The A82 road to Invergarry frightened us to death. We had been eyeing it with suspicion all along Loch Lochy as it was our return bail out route. It was horribly busy and I remember a 200km Audax route from Newtonmore had been changed because of the danger of the road. We turned left onto a forestry road and managed to find the hardest and longest possible way into Invergarry.
We were not going to get where I wanted to be for the night that was clear and started to look for a campsite alternative to the planned wild camp. Faichemard Farm Campsite “exclusively for adults” read the rather intriguing sign and it was a gem. In what was now heavy rain we sat and lay in our tent working out if it was possible to blog on our little HP mini notebook. It was possible and we will, which as Mac centric people is harder than a change from Campag to Shimano groupset which is something we have also done on these bikes. It is a strange world but one where Shimano bits are easier to come by. For a second night the owls put in a good performance.
We woke up early having had gone to bed at 7:30pm. It had rained all night which was a good test for the Big Agnes tent but too much of a test for our new fondness for off-road. The tarmac of the A82 and an early start without breakfast would be the way back and Glen Garry would have to wait for another day.
We did the 20 or so miles to Spean Bridge in just over an hour and a quarter with a greater than one in three chance of being hit by a Jaguar XJS as we coincided with an Owners club rally. Impressive stats all round for a Sunday morning. Tarmac is fantastic, is it not? Back at the Bongo we were happy . Everything had worked and nothing fell off. What had we learned? Well, touring off-road is hard; short steep nasty hills are hard and no brakes will ever work well in the wet. I think we knew most of that already but it was good to have had a shake down.