• AndyAsh

Be Careful What You Wish For

Itchy Feet

It’s hard to know where one journey ends and another begins. We had a commitment to visiting our daughter for lunch on Christmas day, but other than that, sitting in Fort William, it seemed hard to know what to do.

We’ve become used to packing up, fixing up bikes, and planning for tomorrow’s leg of the journey. For the first time in so long, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had no better idea than just to keep going. The only question was; where to?

Sitting typing this (after the events), I can't help but think of the Seven Deadly Sins. I had never had any problem with the likes of sloth; but greed on the other hand…

Yes, I'm greedy. The line between “a good thing”…”enough of a good thing”…and “too much of a good thing”, has always been a bit blurry for me. I had such a good time during the last few months that I simply didn't want it to end.

We decided to head north and east, and to fiddle our way through some places we had never really seen. We decided to spend Hogmanay in Perth, and then make a beeline for Hawick where we would be staying for the next couple of months. Out with Google maps, the hostel guide, and the chain lube. It was time to go again.

A rare spell of tropical weather

Heading Out Again

We planned to revisit some old places, and discover some new ones. Our first day, we decided to head to Nevis Range, and the Witches Trails for some mountain bike tracks that would take us at least to Spean Bridge.

We set out in the sort of light drizzle that isn’t really classed as rain in the highlands, but by the time we got to the cycle track at the end of Fort William, it was pelting with rain, proper rain. It wasn't as easy as we thought it would be on the mountain bike trails on loaded tourers, and I guess our memories aren’t as good as they were for route finding either.

Before too long, we were hopelessly lost, ankle deep in slutch and bog, and shamefacedly retreating back to the start to get on to the road, defeated; already soaked to the skin. We had also munched through most of the daylight, and we found ourselves wet through, desperately time trialling up the road to our hostel, with our lights blinking.

The Hostel was freezing, as there was only us and one other slightly deranged soul staying. We cooked, ate, and went to bed to keep warm.

The following day, I started to realise that during our wee holiday in civilisation, I’d picked up a hitchhiker, a bug fae Glesca. I started to feel ill soon after we started to ride, and despite it being a beautiful day, was happy to lock up the bikes for the night as darkness fell.

The next few days are a bit of a blur. The weather didn't seem to be too bad, and we took a really stunning cycle path to Pitlochry, and an even nicer one to Perth. During this time, I think Annette thought I was being a bit of a drama queen, and just had a wee dose of the “man-flu”. By the time we hit the Central belt though, she was fully infected, and understanding why I was moaning and bitching so much.

It was here that we came into contact with Boris’s Britain for the first time. I was (with my history) keen to get checked out for serious illness, as my lungs are no longer quite all they were. We didn't know what else to do but go to the hospital.

When we got there, I was examined and told that I was in no immediate danger of catastrophe; therefore I couldn't be treated or given any medicine. I just wasn't sick enough yet. They sent me away with a phone number that I could ring to get treatment and medicine. Nobody answered the phone.

Free healthcare is only a good deal if it involves actual healthcare. Free lack of healthcare, is of course very easy and cheap to provide. They did a wonderful job of cheerily providing just that. I offer the insincerest of thanks to you Boris, and all of your tribe.

I have been used to moaning about medical treatment in Malawi (which of course is not great). But I've never failed (if I have some money in my pocket) to be examined and treated. One day the NHS may be up to the standards of care of, say the ABC Clinic in Lilongwe…we can but hope.

We holed up for a couple of days in a Premier Inn, to sweat and cough, and eventually made it to Hawick, where Annette sleeps, and I type.

It was a beautiful ride, and I fully expect to go back and retrace it when not feverish, and I can remember it more fully. But for now, I think we may have had too much of a good thing.


This is in no way meant to be critical of the actual staff in the hospital. They were polite, caring, and friendly, and seemed to really care about what they were doing. Of course at the time, I would have preferred rude unfriendly staff, who gave me some drugs…but you can't have everything!

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