“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” – Martin Buber
When your token bearded, survivalist friend, Darren, says that there’s a bothy perfect for solitude on the North side of a remote island that he wants to check out, why wouldn’t you say, “we’ll come! What kit do we need?”? You buy a couple of frame bags and a tiny roll mat and you don’t think anything else of it. How hard could it be? After all, the island is less than 25km from top to tail.
We had a whole week to spend in the Highlands between Fort William World Cup and Tweedlove festival and we wanted to do something new: bike packing. We had a rough idea of the plan and blind faith in Darren’s experience adventuring, as well as all of the meticulous planning he had done in preparation. All we had to do was show up in Scounser on the Isle of Skye on the Tuesday evening, ready for a ferry to the Isle of Raasay the following morning.
There were five of us in total – seven if you include the hounds – with varying degrees of wilderness experience between us: the city-dwellers, myself and Ben – venturing out to the Peaks for a day but very happy to get back to the pub and the fire. The country mice, Nikki and Mike – most at home on epic hike-a-bike rides in the Lakes, the camper van waiting at the end, and the survivalist, Darren – as already mentioned, who always has a tarp and a Jetboil handy if you land in a pickle.
After filling our bellies at the pub we parked up to pack our bags. Ben and I hadn’t done a practice run so this was the test! With sudden visions of bags not fitting on bikes and trying to cram everything into my usual hydration pack maybe we should have tried this out beforehand… All worked out, however, and after a good night’s sleep, at 9.25am, five people, five bikes and two dogs set sail for the Isle of Raasay. Our first challenge came in the form of a mechanical before we’d hit dry land. Of course, one of the handlebar bags had creased the brake hose and oil was now leaking all over the place. A quick fix later though, and we were on our way.