We have now cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats.
This last day has been one of the most difficult days of them all, but also fantastic and obviously the most rewarding stage. The first 30 miles were absolutely brilliant, a very gentle downhill gradient coupled with great scenery over Loch Kilbreck and under it's big brother Ben. The surface was excellent and the prevailing wind pushing us along, so we kept up an excellent pace of over 15 miles an hour. As we got to the north coast in the small village of Bettyhill, we started to bear East and start climbing a bit more - all coastal areas tend to be a bit up and down, and we were warned of a Devon/Cornwall difficulty level for the next 15 miles until the smaller (than Bettyhill) village of Reay, where we stopped to buy lunch, then cycled down to a 'contaminated' beach (nuclear power plant in Dounreay) to eat it. I was scared of getting bitten by a radioactive midge and turning into midge-man, but Dad pointed out that I was already small and irritating. Hrmmph.
Now, while those last 'difficult' miles had been mostly downwind (meaning the hills weren't too bad), the last 30 went occasionally into the wind, meaning we had to work really hard while not going any faster (or up a deserving hill). The difference was startling - a lot of the last miles into John O'Groats were like this, but we suddenly turned for the last 1/ mile and were blown along!
We were greeted at John O'Groats by some friendly applause from some strangers who'd just done it themselves, meeting up with Grandad and Otti to take some photos by the sign, lifting our bikes up (Tour de France style). We then had some lovely ice-cream and got in the car for the mammoth journey back - (although almost as long, a little less tiring!). But if that journey will be mammoth, the journey up to John O'Groats was the giant turtle from the discworld novels (sorry if you don't know what this is all about - it was the biggest animal I could think of). We've had an absolute blast, achieved something incredible, had brilliant weather, seen some of the best scenery in Great Britain, met some lovely people and raised a fantastic amount of money for yet another fantastic adventure - all around, one of the best experiences of my life! My legs are bloody tired though.
There are lots of people to thank for making this possible, as well as an amazing experience on top of that. First, our incredible support crews - Mum, Sophie and Harriet on the first week and Otti and Grandad this week: you've been great lugging all our stuff around, patient with us and most importantly - fantastic company - we'd go crazy (-er) if we were all alone!
As well as our main support crews, I'd like to thank many times over the people who have put us up (or put up with us) over the two weeks: Michael and Judy, providing us with many vegetables at dinner at delicious pasties over the two days they let us stay; the Browns, keeping us updated with excellent weather news and praying for us as we headed along on our first (prospectively) rainy day; Rosie and Colin, with their lovely dogs, lovelier gardens and loveliest(?) company greeting us after our first two day stretch on our own and finally Satish and Janet, managing to stay upright under the onslaught of an Osborne birthday!
The next group of people to thank are the few people who have joined us throughout the rides - John Harding, riding with us on one of the most difficult days, helping us use a flatter path; his wife Debbie and their daughters Ellie and Charlotte, joining us for a lovely picnic in Dartmoor; Malcolm Woodrow, Martin and Rachel Millener and Alan and Jack Teece, for keeping us sane through a particularly not-scenic part of country, and joining us for a lovely lunch. And also to Richard Holmes who walked over 100m from his home to join us for a drink near our YHA stopover in Cheddar.
Of course, this was all about raising money for Ecudor - an absolutely massive thank you to the very many, very kind and very generous people who have sponsored us over the months leading up to this fantastic experience! We've already surpassed our target and it's still growing!!! Thanks so so so much for all your donations!
I should thank all the lovely staff at the numerous YHAs, SYHAs, B&Bs and Hotels we've stayed in - they've been very kind and provided us with delicious dinners, scrumptious breakfasts and lovely conversation!
Finally, I'd like to thank some less... Intelligent things for their contributions to this experience - the weather, scenery and the roads.
Oh. And dad.
I'll be writing a final statistical summary of the week tomorrow (long car journey!!), so this isn't the last you'll be hearing of me.
Until then, goodbye!
(Very tired) Alex