Picture of Ken and Linda with their tandem

Title: End to End by Tandem. Ken & Linda Hardy

 Day 16: September 25 th , Strathy to John o' Groats

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The wind seemed to have dropped somewhat by the morning. We only had 40 or so miles to reach John o' Groats so we were expecting a fairly easy day. How wrong we were to be proved!

The scenery continued to be desolate for some time but started to improve as we got nearer to Thurso. Our hostess at Strathy had advised us to leave the main road part way along and take the minor roads to Thurso since they are less hilly. Whether this was good advice we don't know but the wind made it such hard work all the way that any route would have been difficult. Progress was painfully slow as the wind increased in strength again, though not quite as strong as the day before. It was on this section that we realised that the middle chainring was just about worn out - the chain kept jumping if we applied too much pressure. The roads were more or less flat all the way to John o' Groats so that helped a little.

Thurso is a surprising place. After travelling through such remote, desolate country and knowing that you are so far north, you don't expect to ride into such a "normal looking" country town with all the usual amenities and shops. It was good to stop for a while though - we were tired, cold, and ready for a cup of hot chocolate and a chance to warm up in a coffee shop. It was difficult to drag ourselves back out to continue the struggle.

The above makes it sound as if the experience was terrible. In truth, while it was a struggle, it felt worse at the time because we were at the end of a very long ride with the added obstacle of the wind. We were both getting to the end of our energy reserves. However, it was no more difficult than the struggle along side Loch Naver the day before, which we'd laughed our way along.

Having left Thurso, we knew it was only about 20 miles to journey's end and this kept us going. A break at a picnic site outside Castletown on the shore of Dunnet Bay refreshed us for the last section although it was very cold sitting at the picnic table in the wind. As we continued on, the Castle of Mey was seen over the fields but the Queen Mother didn't pop out to cheer us on. We learnt later that she wasn't coming up until the following week so that probably explained it.

Soon we were seeing the Orkney Islands in the distance and soon after that we could see what we thought might be the John o' Groats Inn. Our spirits rose a little and it wasn't long before the signs were welcoming us to our destination. A short downhill took us to the harbour and we got off the bike. That was it. No cheers, no jubilation, just relief that we'd done it at last. That wind has a lot to answer for! We went into the Inn to get our record sheet stamped and from then on we were officially "End to Enders". We'd done it! A few photos to prove it, then we went to book into a B&B for the next two nights so that we could have a day off cycling to recover.

We were so tired that we could only think of trying to find another way to get back to Inverness without having to cycle. We resolved to try and arrange something the following day. The evening was spent wandering around the harbour area and then cronking in front of the TV after our evening meal.

Day 16 - Mileage: Day 43; Cumulative 980