Ferry : Port-Apin to Port Ramsay, Achnacroish to Oban
Route: A82, A828, ? (unnumbered on the map), B8045
The weather is still feeling wet this morning, although there is no rain. During the breakfast, we admire the courageous who begin the long climb. We won't know where they go, since they soon disappear in the cloud which covers the Ben. Packing is done quickly: today is the last of the loop, and it may be a very long ride.
Today's route is a big bet. The Michelin map says there is a pedestrian ferry between Port-Apin and the Island of Lismore, but the Ordnance Survey map doesn't show anything. Which map to believe? Of course, as a proud Frenchman, I can only trust the French map, and not the one from the "perfide Albion" :-) If we win the bet, we should have a reasonable ride, if we loose, we will be a good 20 miles over our daily average.
We begin the day by a little walk in the "downtown" area of Fort-William. Time to find an ATM to replenish the wallet and to shop for a tire. I have notices that my rear tire is beginning to show the soft rubber and it will be soon time to change it. No luck, I can't find the 700x35 that I'm looking after. It should last the day, but I make a note to check it regularly during the ride.
The A82 follows the shore of Loch Linnhe. It is a smooth ride, quite scenic even if the traffic requires that we keep a good attention to the road. After 13 miles, we reach Ballachulish were we have our first surprise of the day. While crossing the bridge over Loch Leven, we pass a high-wheeler. Very courteously, the man riding it salutes us. I'm so surprised, Nicolas is so stunned that we didn't exactly realize what we have seen before this out-of-age rider is out of sight! I would never have though that people still rode those antiques on roads. But well, we are in Great-Britain, aren't we?
As far as traffic is concerned, the A828 is slightly better. We are still following the shore and the road is mostly flat. At Apin, we must take the big decision. The weather is now pretty good and there is no risk of rain (well, at least in the very near future.) Beside, the detour through Port Apin will be a good think in any case. It will allow us to have a good look on the castle which stands on a rock in the middle of the bay; it will also be a little rest to ride a side road.
In Port Apin, I scan anxiously the road sign. Hurrah, it is there: "Ferry to Lismore"! When we arrive at the wharf, we see Lismore and a very little boat leaving the island. Yes, this is the ferry: a "tout' p'tite ferry" said Nicolas, overjoyed at the idea of crossing on the little boat. I'm not so sure that the bikes can fit in. They can, lifted by the strong arms of the ferry man and stacked at the front. Ten minutes later, we land on Lismore. Nicolas takes of few pictures of the ferry which goes back to Apin. Apparently, there is quite a regular traffic there.
The ride on Lismore is delight. No cars, in the middle of the sheep, and the idea that we are only a ferry trip from the end of the loop. We reach Arhnacroish, the ferry terminal, one hour before the next crossing. There is a little museum: two rooms covered with pictures of the beginning of the century, pages of newspapers, and little souvenirs of passed days. The woman there is also serving tea and happily chatting about he island. This is one of our nice little souvenirs.
This time, it is a regular ferry, of the barge type. There is a lot of animation for the disembarkment of the two cows that came from Oban. Everybody participates. I'm not sure we will be right on schedule for the departure, but the show is pleasing (I'm not a specialist, but I get the impression that Scottish cows are not much more cooperative than their French cousins...)
Just as we leave the shore, we are escorted by dolphins. I knew they were some in Scotland, but I didn't expect to see them during our tour. This is the second exceptional sight of the day, and it was not finished. As we were looking over the waves, trying to see the dolphins again, the head of a seal (or was it an otter?) appeared near the boat. It looked at us, probably found that we were a noisy lot, and dived. Of course, no time for a picture, but what a wonderful day!
In Oban, we are in known terrain, with a warm feeling of accomplishment. We climb happily toward the campground where we have left the car. There, Martine goes to get a pitch and ask if she could get the keys of the car back. "Oh, it's you! What a relief! The owner had to go suddenly to the hospital. He asked me to keep the camp and gave me the keys of your car. I was a bit anxious: I didn't know whose car it was..."
We are happy, the keeper is relieved; we will have ample time to think about the return later.