We’ve had two and a half lovely lazy weeks on Ko Lanta. Okay, they weren’t lazy, we were working. We just weren’t running all over the island ticking off the tourist bucket list.
We were running and walking the beach every day, sometimes a quick dip in the sea, avoiding sea lice as much as we could. Definitely spending longer than necessary reading books in a hammock.
By our second weekend, I was ready to explore a bit more. I was also ready to spend a day in water that didn’t try to sting me. At one of our regular restaurants, the staff convinced us that a snorkel trip would be worth it so we booked a day out to Ko Rok and Ko Ha. I’m not sure why they print prices in the brochures. Every booking agent will give you a better price.
Family and work events have taken Barry and I directly between Australia and the UK in recent years, without exploring any of the many places in between. This year we were lucky to have a bit more time on our hands. I finished my contract at the University of Edinburgh in September. With the deadline for Australia set at Christmas 2019, it meant we had a few weeks between leaving Edinburgh at the end of November (after some work and Barry’s family things).
We were last in Thailand in 2014 so it made sense as our ‘on the way to Australia’ destination. As you know, I love a tropical island. As you know, Barry stresses about the quality of the internet, especially on tropical islands. Luckily, Kohub on Ko Lanta takes all those worries away. It didn’t take us long to agree on our 3 week tropical working destination.
With Barry running his own company, HappyPorch, it means I sometimes get to go to lots of interesting places when there’s a team meetup. Places like Madeira, Bulgaria, Porto, the French Alps, Morocco. And, in 2019, Liverpool. Doesn’t sounds all that exciting in comparison but I’d never been and Liverpool was named European City of Culture in 2008. And of course, The Beatles.
As I’d finished my contract with the University of Edinburgh and was now a footloose and fancy free tourist (also known as a lady who lunches a lot with friends in Edinburgh), I was free to join the team for whatever Liverpool might bring.
More cycling! I wanted to go as far north in the UK I could possibly get for my birthday on 21 June. And without flying. So, Barry and I took our bikes on the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and rolled onto the overnight ferry to Shetland.
Shetland feels like a cross between Scotland and Iceland. There are no trees, and lots of rolling hills. Shetland ponies look a bit like Icelandic ponies, only smaller. Apparently there were (are?) also Shetland sheep and cows and pigs, also small in stature so they’d need less nutrients to stay alive during a harsh winter (which is every winter, right?). Clever.
The Caledonian Way, Route 78 is lovely. Sustrans do an excellent job of finding fab quiet roads, and constructing off road paths. Caveat – my enjoyment was probably helped enormously by the uncharacteristically excellent weather over Easter, April 2019. Five days of sunshine, no wind, 4 drops of rain and temperatures that had me in shorts and t-shirt for five days straight.
The first section of Route 78 is normally cycled from Oban to Campbeltown. As we wanted to do the Oban to Inverness leg as well, we decided to start from Campbeltown. The best way to reach Cambeltown from Edinburgh is a train to, then ferry from, Ardrossan Harbour. Unfortunately, that ferry doesn’t run until 2 May. We didn’t want the hassle of boxing up our bikes to take on a four hour bus ride (that was the point of sticking to a UK cycling holiday and the number one factor for not cycling to Italy), so we planned our own first leg.
First, a train from Edinburgh to Gourock on Good Friday. We managed to get our bikes on the train with no problems and no reservations. Once in Gourock it was a short cycle to McInroy’s Point, timing our arrival perfectly with the roll on ferry to Hunters Quay in Argyle and Bute. From there, only 44km across Argyle to Portavadie and a short ferry to Tarbert where we’d pick up the Route 78.