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.
Would you believe it – our two favourite things in one place. Soon after we arrived in Flic en Flac we discovered the little village of Tamarind, about a 15 minute drive away. They had a lovely café/bakery that was open most of the new year week. And three doors down – a Coworking office.
We spent many happy hours in the bakery café. It was one of the few businesses open during the lengthy New Year period. I fell in love with vanilla infused black tea (the tea was grown locally so that made me feel good). A napolitaine is the treat of choice in Mauritius according to my guidebook and sometimes we’d share the cakey shortbread jam sandwich covered in pink icing (I think it was mostly sugar). Sometimes we had one each. We became quite addicted to them. There are no photos. We ate them.
When the Coworking office eventually opened we sampled that too and started wondering if Mauritius was feasible for the next work meetup. Very clever electric cords hanging from the ceiling which meant that we didn’t have to fight over space on a power board where our extra chunky adaptors occupy one slot but cover another two.
After taking a road trip to the capital, Barry and I were pretty happy that weren’t staying there. Initially, Barry was attracted by the existence of Coworking offices but Port Louis is a busy, relatively unattractive port city. It was kind of fun to explore the port area and read a little about the history but after an hour or so, we were done.
Mauritians take the new year seriously. They take fireworks seriously. There is not official organised fireworks night like London or Sydney (I think) but fireworks are legal so everyone organised their own fireworks. In the days leading up to 31 December, the streets were filled with people stocking up on firecrackers, rockets and all the other things that make a New Year celebration.
The fireworks started around 9pm, with a smattering of fireworks.
Barry and I tried to stay active while we were in Mauritius. It was hard pulling ourselves away from the relax mode we very quickly slipped into but needs must. I was hitting the end of the Marcothon (daily 5km/25 minute running challenge for December) and needed to keep on running, for a few more days at least.
It was a bizarre experience running while it was actually snowing (and pitch black) in Northern Ireland one morning, to slugging through the sand as the tropical sun set into the ocean, 24 hours later.
The sand was pretty hard work for running (even if you can jump in for a swim immediately after) so I was pretty keen to head to the Black River Gorge National Park to try out some of their trails.