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Home Travel StoriesUllapool 2012 - By Ren Withnell

Ullapool 2012 - Prologue

It has been 4 years since I first entered the small town of Ullapool.  I liked the place from the very first sight.  Nestled into the natural protection of the sea loch, Loch Broom, sits a collection of white painted houses and a handful of shops and services.  With a population of around 1300 and the main ferry terminal for the Outer Hebrides, Ullapool is a veritable city compared to the surrounding hamlets.  Considering it's tiny size it boasts many features.  A high school, a swimming pool, a Tesco, a petrol station, a ferry terminal, several guest houses, pubs and restaurants and a good campsite to name but a few.  Even with all these mod-cons the place remains friendly and feels truly remote.  Ever since that first visit in 2008 I've wanted to go back.  I want to see if my memories are true, to spend some time there and explore both the town and the surrounding area. 

loch broom showing 2 small fishing boats on flat water with mountains in the background
Loch Broom.  Why would anyone NOT want to go back?

Now is that time.  I've been abroad this year alone, this time I'm taking the gf with me.  Her kids are now just old enough to look after themselves and school is over so we can go out of season which is great!  I placed an open invitation to my friends too, the more the merrier as far as I was concerned on this trip.  Of course going out of season means most people can't make it but one friend, IW, said he'd come along.  So the plan was laid and a date set, the first week in July.  All I needed to do is get myself organised.

The tent was the first issue.  My faithful old Vango Gamma 350 has been getting the worse for wear this last few years  On a one night trip in stormy weather to Wales a few weeks back it showed it's age, though it resolutely remained upright if a little bent and misshapen. I looked and I looked but I could not find a stand up height tent with room for tables, chairs, beds and cooking equipment that weighed less than 5 kilos.  Of course everything under 5 kilos is basically a cover for a bed and nothing more.  After much deliberation and searching I finally purchased a Vango Equinox 350.  It has a bed space large enough for a double airbed and a porch to store all the bike gear in, it weighs in at 5.5kg, just a tad over what I'd hoped for.  At £180 it's a serious tent too, alloy poles, tri-band wind protection thingy, fancy pegs and all that jazz.  I just hope it lasts a long time at that price.

my old blue vango gamma 350 and the new equinox 350 tents
My old blue tent, and the new green tent.  

Then there's the "Wee Beasties"  I've been to Scotland often enough now to know the midges are evil, nasty, cruel, relentless, viscous, mean and altogether downright bloody annoying.  If we are camping there may be no relief, no means of escape and they can make life a nightmare.  How can such a small insect cause so much anguish?  Because of their numbers, that's how.  One bite is a minor irritation, but tens, hundreds even thousands of bites is just living hell.  I know, I got eaten to death in Fort William on the 2008 trip.  It really took the shine of an otherwise splendid trip.  This time I want to be as prepared as I can be.  This time I've purchased a head net, this time I'm taking long sleeve t-shirts.  This time they ain't going to eat me.  What's that?...skin-so-soft...jungle juice...insect repellants?  Tried them all mate, none of them worked for me.  The barrier method is the only method I trust now.

myself with a net over my head to keep the scottish wee beasties off
I may look stupid, but I'm not going to be eaten alive...

The next thing was the rear tyre on the bike.  There was some tread left on the Bridgestone but I felt there may not have been enough for the trip, so I decided to replace it with the Maxxis I've already purchased and had sat here for some time.  What a ball-ache.  I not only removed the wheel from the bike, but changed the tyre on the rim myself.  Levers, cursing, blood and tears, that's just breaking the beads.  What I thought would be an afternoon's work turned into 2 days.  What with cleaning, greasing and swearing the whole process was a nightmare.  I also checked the rear brake.  PAH!  I ended up doing a full strip and rebuild, including splitting the 2 halves of the caliper.  Still, at least it was all done and done...properly.

motorcycle tyre and wheel with long bar and block of wood to break tyre bead
Breaking the bead on the tyre.  The steel bar is solid and about 6 feet long...still not enough leverage really...

2 days before we travel IW contacts me in something of a flap.  First off he's lost his credit card at the much anticipated Stone Roses concert so he's sans finances.  He's fixed that problem by cancelling his card and ordering a new one, in the meantime he's borrowed a sum of cash from his daughter.  I guess kids can be useful sometimes.  Like myself he's decided his rear tyre is worn and had it replaced at a local motorcycle tyre shop, most wise after my experience.  He is however struggling to finish off replacing his rear brake pads.  I fly up there with my G-clamp and make short work of the cleaning and replacement.  I also help him with the oil and filter change and replacing the rear wheel.  Smiles and cups of tea all round, job well done.

The final issue was that of loading the bike.  Why is it that even though I've done several camping trips with the gf and myself each time I cannot figure out where to put everything?  I spent many evenings loading, packing, compressing and squeezing everything into various bags and boxes, only to realise that it still won't all fit on safely.  It's like an oversize game of tetris.  Both myself and the gf want to take everything, to have all potential bases covered and to take some home comforts with us too.  The game finally came to a head on the morning of departure.

Ullapool 2012 - Prologue
Ullapool 2012 - Bolton to Inverarnan
Ullapool 2012 - Inverarnan to Ullapool
Ullapool 2012 - The Lochinver and Drumbeg Loop
Ullapool 2012 - A Ride To Gairloch
Ullapool 2012 - UIlapool To Callander
Ullapool 2012 - Callander To Bolton The motorcycle ride from callander to bolton and what happened on the journey
Ullapool 2012 - Epilogue and More Pictures The end of my travel story to ullapool and some more pictures of the area
Ullapool 2012 - Even More Pictures Pictures from my motorcycle trip to Ullapool. Scotland is a beautiful place and we even had great weather.
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