Two loch challenge (part 1)

LL - 08.30 Sun morning!! Tarbet

8.30am on a Sunday morning! Ready for the off on the Two Loch Challenge!

Mega excitement on Sunday morning. The “old git” had set the alarm for the unearthly time of 6am – a time on a Sunday which the “old gal” said she had only ever seen from the other end! But she reluctantly dragged herself out of bed as a two-day training weekend for the grand Tour de Burgundy de tandem had been meticulously arranged.

The plan was to do a Two Loch Challenge – basically going round Loch Lomond and the nearby Loch Katrine over two days – using waterbuses, a steam ship and of course lots of pedal power to cycle 37 miles! Oh and it involved an overnight stay in a Bunkhouse – so the panniers were packed to the brim (although the “old gal” did draw the line at the “old git’s” demands that they only take necessities so she had to do without her hair straighteners!)

I had been packed into the car on Saturday night to help allow an early departure and so at 7am we pulled away from Auchterarder on the trip to Tarbet on Loch Lomond. That was where the car was being left and also the departure point for the challenge – with the first boat leaving at 8.45am to cross the loch to Rowardennan.

The first of many transfers to boats – which saw me dangling precariously over the water, not the best position for the “old lady” that I am – was successfully achieved and we were off. You can follow the route we took clicking on this link to the Loch Lomond Waterbus timetable.

I was so excited as I really like boats now – as everyone gives me admiring glances while quietly thinking what a pair of old farts the “old git” and the “old gal” must be. But I must say they had packed me well and I was looking quite the part with all my matching luggage and water bottles!

Amazingly there were actually another two passengers on the first boat – despite the ungodly hour! Fortunately the sun shone and the “old gal’s” spirits were lifted when the “old git” managed to procure some much-needed black coffee and her favourite Chrystal’s brand of shortbread – which is actually made on Loch Lomondside.

45 minutes later I was being offloaded at the jetty at the youth hostel at Rowardennan – a favourite spot on the West Highland Way walk. Within minutes we were off, whizzing along the quiet tracks and roads on the quiet east side of the loch on a 7 mile run to Balmaha.

And a very sociable ride it was as there were lots of walkers starting their day’s schedule – and everyone gave us a cheery wave and a “hello” and my antique horn got quite a few hoots, I can tell you.

The steep 15% descent  into Balmaha was a bit of a test for the “old gal’s” nerves – and I did hear her shout “brake” quite a few times. But, the “old git” is a bit deaf – or at least selectively deaf – and he decided on a high-speed run into the  beautiful and picturesque village.

The first stage took less than an hour so we parked up for coffee at the appropriately named St Mocha coffee shop in Balmaha for a mid morning cuppa. The “old gal” need a double shot Americano to sooth her nerves after the drop into the village – while the “old git” decided a latte was in order!

LL - St Mocha coffee Balmaha

Parked up outside the St Mocha coffee stop at Balmaha.

Fortunately there was a shop next door and the “old git” brought a smile to the “old gal’s” face when he disappeared and returned with two small bottles of chilled prosecco for the picnic lunch a wee bit later.

Meanwhile I was enjoying the sun, parked up against a wall – which ensured I got noticed – which did my ego no harm at all.

The next waterbus was a transfer back across the loch to Luss – the quaint village where the STV soap Take the High Road was filmed. The duo were a bit early for the noon departure, so we all enjoyed more sunshine at a perfect photo stop right beside the jetty.

A very nice man offered to take a photo of all three of us (well actually he said he would take a photo of my owners – but where they go……) And here is the result:

LL - us at Balmaha jetty

The “old gal” and the “old git” waiting for the next waterbus at Balmaha. 

It was very hot now and the “old gal” decided a bit of sunbathing was the order of the day – while awaiting the arrival of the water bus, so lay down on the jetty wall to soak up some rays. Little did she suspect that the “old git” was on hand with the camera – and again I even managed to sneak into the picture! Don’t know if the “old git’s” ears have recovered yet for the earache he got about taking a photo which the “old gal” said didn’t show off her legs in best light!

LL - Di waiting on boat Balmaha

The “old gal” looking glamorous as the waterbus arrived at Balmaha.

Off we sailed to Luss, with me parked on the bow and my owners enjoying the warm sun on the top deck – which made them feel as if they were abroad on holiday. And as the “old git” said – “who needs abroad when you have weather like this is Scotland?”

We got off at Luss – with quite a crowd having gathered to see me lifted gently on to the old pier. A quick stop for a look at the gift shop – it seems they bought a saltire flag for me to show off when we are all in France – and we were off on the 8 mile run to Tarbet. This was part of the National Cycle Network Route 7 and was a lovely quiet ride off the main road – using pathways and for long stretches using the old Loch Lomond road. And the good thing was that it was busy with other cyclists too – except I was the only tandem to be seen.. which added to the interest!

The “old gal” was charged with finding a nice secluded beach spot for the picnic and she came up trumps about half way along this stage. A perfect setting, right by the tranquil clear waters with the sun beating down. It couldn’t have been more perfect, and naturally the “old git” celebrated with a toast to the “old gal” with their mini bottles of prosecco!

LL - prosecco with picnic lunch

Cheers! Drinking each other’s prosecco on the edge of Loch Lomond.

Picnic was croissants filled with smoked salmon and chilli cream cheese – yum! – and some tapas cheese. Another culinary delight organised by the “old gal. It really was a picture-postcard spot looking out across the loch. In fact the “old git” was even heard to mutter the word “halcyon” so it must have been good!

LL - Di at remote beach for lunch Sun

The “halcyon” remote picnic spot – what a view!

Refuelled, and buoyed by the prosecco – which was a requirement due to the heat, of course – it was onwards to Tarbet and the last waterbus of the day across the loch again to Inversnaid.

It was a lovely calm crossing – again in bright sunshine – with the boat packed with foreign tourists enjoying a break in Scotland. A perfect advert for VisitScotland.

My owners had decided against staying at the “bus tour” Inversnaid Hotel (average age of guests 86!) and opted for the trendier Inversnaid Bunkhouse. They had been warned that it was three-quarters of a mile up hill – but this was a Mount Everest-style climb – with the road zig-zagging as it does in the Alps.

Needless to say there was little cycling and a lot of pushing. As the “old gal” said to a fit cyclist who cycled past – “We are taking our tandem for a walk!”

The road levelled out about 150 yards from the entrance to the Bunkhouse and the “old git” decided to get them both on board so they could cycle into the car park where they could triumphantly look as if they had done the hill climb! I have to say most of the people who were there knew otherwise – but it would have been rude to spoil his moment of glory!

I was wrapped up in a nice tarpaulin as rain was forecast overnight – and to keep the dreaded midges off me.

Meanwhile my owners enjoyed the delights of the Bunkhouse, which is essentially a converted church. The “old gal” had issued an edict “camping – never!” so the “old git” had sensibly booked the log cabin option. And what a decision it was. A very comfortable room – with the Bunkhouse offering guests a hot tub which looked out onto the wilderness of the Trossachs. A dip was essential and the duo enjoyed an hour soaking their aching muscles with the water jets offering a welcome massage! The ice-cold cider and lager probably helped a bit too!

Spirits were further raised with a welcome meal in the Top Bunk Bistro – with hearty fare for the outdoor enthusiasts with a wide selection of beers and wines.

The “old git” and the “old gal” both enjoyed bruschetta and a cheeseburger with home-made potato wedges – washed down with a most enjoyable bottle of red wine – before the “old git” insisted on finishing the meal with a portion of banoffee pie and cream! Mind you, the “old gal” did find room for apple pie and ice cream.

The Bunkhouse was very friendly and the guests were soon all socialising and exchanging tales of where they had been and where they planned to go next. My owners met up with a Belgian couple – Dirk and Nellie – who were touring Scotland by car and bike.

After a fab evening – and knowing another tough day of the Two Loch Challenge boot camp beckoned, it was time for bed. And as I slept happily under my tarpaulin under the stars – I could swear I heard loud snores coming from the direction of the log cabin!

Day 2 beckons!

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