Before boarding the train from Wick to Inverness, I load my bike into the van which will take it. Because of the driver's rather worrying questions about whether there was anything valuable or fragile in my bags yesterday, I decide to take all of my luggage with me on the train to keep it safe.
It seems completely stupid to me that I will be travelling in a train and that my bike and trailer will be driven on their own in a van to Inverness - there are no other bikes in the van. And on the whole journey, the two bike spaces on the train remain completely empty.
The first trains to run from Inverness began to operate in 1862 when the route was opened as far as Dingwall. The main line to Wick and Thurso was built by the Highland Railway Company with new sections opening one by one as work progressed further northwards. Wick and Thurso were finally reached in July 1874. As the crow flies, Wick is 80 miles from Inverness. By rail it is 161.5 and has been since the route was first opened.
At Invergordon I take photos of some of the oil rigs moored in the firth for repair, and I also see a huge stock of whiskey barrels soon after.
At Inverness I find the platform for the overnight sleeper to London, and locate the area for the bikes. Of the six bike spaces designed into the train, only three are available as the other three are obstructed by a huge pile of shellfish boxes. Looks like the train company has sold out to some deal with a London wholesaler somewhere along the line - fuck the cyclists.
I meet one of the cyclists that I met in Wick as he has one of the other cycle places on the train, and the third is taken by a woman returning from a visit to the Findhorn community. I run along the platform to bring her back to the end of the train where the bikes get stored - the train staff have not been evident or helpful on this train as they are made out to be if you read the sleeper brochures.
I dont get much sleep overnight, but the two further train changes work out okay, and I cycle the last stretch from Berkhampstead station to Chesham in the following morning.