DRONEWe met Julie, a wonderful Canadian PhD student, on our trip whilst crossing the Forth Bridge, and she stayed with us for a few days whilst we explored the east coast of Scotland and beyond. We wild camped next to the Sow of Atholl, an immense hill rising out of the mist near the Pass of Drumochter, which is the highest point of the railway network in the UK. Camping in tall grass, we cooked salmon and rice, and drank beers as the sun set behind the ominous hills.
Bleary eyed in the morning, Dave realised whilst packing up that his drone was missing. Uh-oh. This photo is of Dave calling the cafe we stopped at the day before. We talked about the last place we had seen it, which was 30 miles back in Perth. Ruth and Oli had stayed back in Perth to recover from an injury, and immediately sprang into action, calling B&Bs and cafes we had visited, and Ruth even got a lift from her B&B owner to go to the last known location on a layby deep in the forest back along our route, but to no avail.
Enter Peter, a railway worker, who happened to be working that day on The Pass of Drumochter. He noticed a small grey bag by the railway, near the flattened grass left by some wild campers the night before. He saw a drone inside, and posted on his local Facebook group about finding the owner. Someone on the group used to live in Perth, and noticed Oli’s post looking for a drone, and you can guess the rest.
We had just finished our second day of cycling after losing it, 65 miles north in Inverness, when Oli called Dave to tell him the good news. We were put in touch with Peter, and asked him where he lived so we could arrange a pickup/postage. He lived in…Inverness, a mile away from where we were sitting in our B&B! We went to go and see Dave’s new favourite person that evening, handing Peter a box of chocolates and a case of beer, and were dumbstruck for the rest of the evening, holding an item we had resigned ourselves to losing forever! It goes to show the power of social media in connecting people, and just how kind strangers really are.
WARM SHOWERSWe were lucky enough to be the guests of several Warm Showers hosts, which is a network of cyclists around the world that want to pay back the incredible hospitality they have received on biking trips in the past. COVID meant that we were only able to camp in their gardens and eat separately, however the warmth and generosity we were shown throughout the trip was amazing.
One couple who hosted us on the border of Scotland had cycled “Wall to Wall” – Hadrian’s Wall to The Great Wall of China – several years ago, and then returned on a container ship, sailing back across the whole world with their bikes in the cargo hold. They were in their fifties when they embarked on this amazing journey over the course of a year, and the lasting impression of everywhere they went was the depth of hospitality and generosity they received on their trip. Their way of paying it forward was to host us, cooking a huge carb-heavy meal to refill our fuel tanks, doing some bike maintenance with us, and telling amazing stories in the garden before bed of their travels.
Staying with people like this was the perfect way to re-energise and keep our spirits up, and we will pay it forward too, when things are a bit more normal!
WILD SWIMMINGWe went wild swimming several times during this trip, usually a bracing early morning swim to wake us up before setting off for the day. Whilst the average time for doing LEJOG hovers around two weeks, we wanted this to be an adventure off the bikes as well as on them, so we decided to spread it out over a month, to allow us to take in the sights and stop as we pleased. We are so happy that we chose this way of exploring the country, as it gave us plenty of time to choose the more scenic (and usually more hilly!) routes across places like Dartmoor, the Lake District and the Shropshire hills; as well as more time to park up and explore beautiful hidden gems on foot.
WILD CAMPINGWe did a combination of camping, B&Bs and friends/family hosting us throughout this trip, and the wild camping produced the most exciting and the most stressful moments. Dave is not a natural camper, so he took a little persuasion when deciding to spend the night on the shores of lochs or by the sea in Scotland.
Wild camping gives you an incredible sense of freedom and self-sufficiency, and the views that you get when you unzip your tent in a truly wild spot make all of the hassle worth it! This photo is from our camping spot on Skerray Bay, at the very top of the country, where we had to hoist our laden bikes across a pebble beach, then up a sandy ridge, and down to our very own private beach. We thought we were alone, save for the single fishing boat chugging along that evening, until the other residents of that beach descended – the dreaded midges. Both of us had a full head net and tons of repellent, but the little buggers shrugged all that off and we got covered in bites – Dave had several biting his eyelids!
That was a tough evening, and as we stripped off in the tent and watched an army of slugs climb up the inner membrane of our flysheet, Dave vowed never to wild camp in Scotland again.
HILLSNo imagery can accurately convey the steep and relentless relief of Cornwall and Devon. Widely regarded as the hardest part of the trip (not least because your fitness hasn’t caught up with your optimism), it was both a physical and a mental challenge for us. Just as we thought we had reached the top of a hill there would be a turn, and another brutal climb awaited us – and, as most of the routes we took had tall hedgerows, we weren’t even treated to a view for our efforts.
We each had very different cadences for these hills – Dave was slow and steady, consistently pedalling at the lowest gears, whilst Kate was a sprinter, pushing herself hard for a minute and then stopping to catch her breath. Amazingly, we were always moving at the same pace, getting to the tops of these hills at the same time.
People always ask us how hard it must have been, and perhaps we have a rose-tinted view of what that week was like (we certainly got our arguing out of the way before Ruth & Oli joined us in Bristol!), but we say that LEJOG was an amazing experience that was not overshadowed by intense physical exertion – the pace we chose was leisurely, but we would recommend this trip to anyone who can comfortably ride a bike for an afternoon. Written by Kate and Dave (@kavetrip)