Where no motorized vehicle had ever made it… on a Monkey Bike
It’s often said that large areas of the world resemble Scotland, and having ridden motorbikes in South America, Asia, and Africa I can emphasize with this statement.
It’s not any of those trips which I want to discuss though, in this article I want to discuss my most recent trip, a trip to rediscover one’s soul on the open road while escaping nearly two years of lockdown.
This is Scotland in September 2021.
My family are all from Scotland, and although I’ve never lived there, I still find myself drawn to the epic landscape, twisting B-Roads, and island communities of the Hebrides.
When a friend of mine Tom gave me the opportunity to get back on a bike and be a Pioneer for the latest Adventurist Monkey Run in Scotland, it was a no brainer – I had said yes and paid the entry fee before I even knew where the start or finish line was for the event.
I was not disappointed.
We began on Orkney, which we eventually reached 36 hours later than planned, due to an aborted landing during a storm while flying in on a tiny aircraft.
At this point, any worries that the trip might be tame in comparison to our previous jaunts in Peru and Cambodia were very much put to rest.
The mighty steeds we were going to be riding for this trip awaited us at the start – SkyTeam Bongos, or the cheaper newer version of the Honda Monkey Bike for those of you trying to work it out from the pictures.
These bikes are poorly made, prone to rattling themselves apart, breaking down without warning, and wheelie-ing any time you try to change gear.
We had to find some way to make it more interesting right?
It turned out these little bikes were perfect for the north coast of the NC500 route, great acceleration when needed, the ability to skip in and out of traffic, and always bringing a smile to anyone whom we passed.
The selected route took us down the West Coast of Scotland, island hopping across the Inner Hebrides, with the plan being to end on Jura.
The topmost corner of Jura to be precise, where we had been assured no motorized vehicle had ever made it to that particular spot before.
The trip was going well, with only minor falls and mechanical curiosities keeping us busy until we reached Oban, two days before the finish line, to find out that the CalMac ferry we needed was broken, and there was no other way onto the Jura.
Not deterred in our desire to complete the trip, we promptly went to the pub – The Famous Tartan Tavern – and set about formulating a plan.
The landlord happened to be creating a new shot-based cocktail menu that night, and in exchange for local knowledge on people with boats, we agreed to be guinea pigs for the new shots.
The rest of the night is fairly blurry, however, if you are ever in that area of the world, I would recommend popping in and asking for a Fraser T’n’T – Rose Tequila with Gold Tequila on top, as we invented it.
Bright and early next morning we set about finding a boat.
This involved two avenues of enquiry. One practical, which involved wandering around the docks speaking with people on boats and seeing if anyone was going in that direction, and one which was phone based using the contacts we gained from the night before.
It seemed team phone were having more luck, given those of us on the docks had discovered Jura was actually quite far from Oban, and that if you wander aboard a Royal Navy Frigate, you are going to be very quickly removed… that was until one of the old Captains came up with the idea of jumping on board a landing craft.
He gave us the number of the CEO at Scottish Salmon Farms, and we promptly reached out.
Alas, they were on holiday, but did put us in touch with Marine West, who in turn put us in touch with another Captain, and another, and another… until finally we spoke with Nicole, who runs the passenger ferry out to Jura.
Fifteen tiny motorbikes and a collection of hungover idiots to Jura? Not a problem, and in a mere 24 hours we were on our way.
The final few miles up to the north most corner of Jura wasn’t just off-road, it was through a peat bog and thick grass often taller than the bikes.
I adopted an ancient approach known as ignoring the path less travelled, and taking no path at all simply following the farmer’s dog!
Upon reaching the finish line first, I can honestly say a cold beer has never tasted better.
The weather was perfect, the scenery was outstanding, and even though our bike trip last year wasn’t particularly exotic, it was exactly what we all needed after the pandemic.
Scotland provided, and I would highly recommend the west coast route to anyone wanting an amazing trip without leaving the UK.
To be continued with the Photogallery Story…Stay tuned!