Whilst a select few ploughed on venturing further North, a gaggle of us gathered around the Velocity Café and later the Black Isle Brewery bar in Inverness at the end of our ride. Beer was drunk, pizza eaten, stories swapped and friendships cemented.
On tarmac, gravel, pine needles and mud, roads and tracks carried us through varied landscapes and between small communities. We all faced challenges at times, getting enough food, keeping warm, and keeping our tired legs turning. Sometimes we had to rely on ourselves and that self-sufficient bike-packing spirit; other times turning to others, making connections and finding acceptance of each other’s foibles and eccentricities. It was the bonds we forged between us, which breathed life into this route.
We all took different paths. Some seeking the rough stuff, some the smooth ride. Long stretches of solitude or constant companionship. A comfortable bed or a wild camping spot. We each found our own way to meet the physical and psychological challenges of navigating a journey by bike up the spine of Scotland. We may each prefer a different blend, but we all need enough of the good stuff: safety, food, sleep, exercise, connection with others, care and acceptance, and the freedom to be the author of our own destiny. Oh aye, and the odd nip of single malt of course.
Bike-packing in a group of like-minded folk is a fine way to meet these basic human needs. Come and join us next year or gather a group yourself to ride the route when it suits you. Ride, roam and replenish.