31 October 2010

John O'Groats to Brora

Our caravan site was some 8 miles to the west of JO'G and Terry delivered me back to the famous landmark to resume the next stage to Brora. The picture shows the outfit in front of the impressive but closed and sadly, almost derelict, John O'Groats hotel that overlooks the harbour. Another crystal clear morning and we had hoped that the signpost man would be back to get an "official" picture. We arrived to find a young LEJO'G motorcyclist with the same idea but learned from him that the signpost was elsewhere and not likely to reappear in the near future so the painted subsitute was used again. This young man had just arrived after his four day trip from Land's End in support of the Birmingham Children's hospital. We made a mutual fuss of our respective achievements to mark the the sense of occasion, shook hands and he was off!
The westerlies that had carried me so swiftly to JO'G yesterday had swung to the southwest and thus commenced an ordeal of a day. The A99 is the main road to the south from JO'G. It runs close to the sea to the east, and open scrubby moorland to the west. There is little by way of shelter against the strength-sapping winds that take their toll throughout the day. The ride is in excess of 60 miles and at less than 12mph progress is painfully slow. It is so fortunate to be able to simply pick a rendezvous with Terry based on a time/est distance at a convenient layby and then be elated when the familiar creme coloured square comes into view. Without the caravan, there would have been many days where there would have been no coffee or lunch stops simply because there just aren't any cafes!
The slow approach and passing of the prominent lighthouse at Noss Head, close to Wick is as memorable an event that I can recall for the entire ride on this quite depressing day.
We were in trouble as to where to stay at Brora. Terry has excellent research backup with his bride, Andrea, ever-willing to find sites for us to stay. On this occasion however, and even after talking to tourist boards and assorted local authorities and insiders, the best she can offer is a public car park where "no questions are asked." We therefore asked Salvina (my Uber-minder at AOS HQ) if the PP at Brora might have a space within the church grounds and were delighted when Fr Benedict Seed readily agreed to let us stay in the car park. In addition he let us hook up the umbilical to the electric mains which means we had all mod cons. It is quite humbling to hear Fr Seed, who spent 50 years of his life in the monestary at Fort Augustus until it closed, tell of a life that seems to be so frugal but completely commited to providing for Sutherland Catholics.

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