Biking 2016 - Shetland - Day 1

- by Fred Schlomka

Day 1 - 8th August
Tel Aviv - Frankfurt - Aberdeen - North Sea
11km. Total biked

Long day. Not much biking. Sunita drove me to the airport. Forgot the water bottles so we backtracked and picked them up at the apartment. Actually I carry one water bottle and one small Stanley thermos on the bike. The thermos works really well, fits in the water bottle rack, and comes in handy either for keeping my morning coffee warm for a few hours of sipping, or keeping water cool. There’s nothing like chilled water when the temperature is soaring as it did during my recent Kingdom of Jordan bike tour.

Lufthansa didn’t seem to mind the bike packed in plastic sheeting. I keep my fingers crossed and hope that the baggage handlers are kind. They are. More or less. After an uneventful flight with a change at Frankfurt, I arrive in Aberdeen.

I come out of customs and enquire of a security person if anyone would mind if I assembled the bike inside the terminal.
 - “Och no mon” said the uniformed security guard. “No-one’ll mind atoh. Jis go ower thir” and he pointed to a quiet corner.  Thus was my welcome to Aberdeen.

I spend over an hour re-aligning the handlebars, attaching the front rack and light, fixing the broken air horn, and repackaging the bags.

The plastic is a bit shredded so I toss it out. I’ll buy more in Lerwick for the return journey. Otherwise everything is more or less intact. I take a test spin around the interior concourse then exit the terminal and head off to Central Aberdeen. Some good bike trails parallel the road, so about half the trip was without vehicles. Downhill most of the way so an easy ride

First stop at Union Square, a modern shopping mall near the port. I visit the o2 mobile phone shop and secure a sim card with 20GB of data. It’s surprisingly cheap as prices keep coming down in Europe. With 20Gigs I have enough for GPS, mobile hot spot for work, and maybe enough leftover to download a movie or two.

I enquire about the best fish and chips in town and am directed to Hass’s Fish & Chips on Holburn Street. With my new sim card the GPS whisks me there in 8 minutes. Yummy food. Although I am 98% vegan I do have a bit of fish a few times a year. Since it’s the quintessential food of Scotland and the UK, it has become a bit of a ritual on each visit here. It’s getting late so I strap on the fish supper to the bike and pedal briskly to the port

I arrive at the ferry terminal in the nick of time and munch on my supper while the cars are loaded first. A few other cyclists show up. Once on board there’s an announcement warning the passengers about the stormy seas and gale force winds that await us out in the North Sea.

The ship’s wifi is lousy so I activate the hot spot on my phone and get some work done while downloading an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’. I watch the tv show later while munching on Sunita’s amazing granola/fruit bars that she packed for me, washed down with a bottle of Scapa Special Flagship Pale Ale - brewed in the Orkney Islands.

The waves increase in size as we move deeper into the abyss. Once past the land shelf, the ship starts to move up and down with the waves and swells that are higher than the bow, maybe 10 metres (30+ feet). The spray reaches the upper deck window where I am sitting. Every so often the ship will slam into a particularly high wave, slicing through while wobbling from side to side. Walking becomes all but impossible for anyone without experienced sea legs.

This is the worst storm I have been in, but I find it enjoyable, like a kid at an amusement park. However many people around me are availing themselves of the conveniently provided barf bags. The colour of people’s faces alternates between white an an odd shade of green.

It’s time to sleep

Travelling with camping gear enables a very comfy bed, consisting of laying out my inflatable mattress on the floor topped off with a sleeping bag. So I lay it out and doze off in the middle of this boisterous storm. I enjoy a good night’s sleep, waking only a couple of times when the bow of the ship sweeps up the side of a particularly large wave and crashes down the other side with a resounding kabooom. I wake up at the ‘kabooom’, then roll over and go back to sleep.


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Fred Schlomka is the CEO of the Green Olive Collective. He spends months adventuring on the road with his bicycle each year, while managing the organisation via phone and laptop. If you are interested in joining Fred on one of his adventures, please contact him through this link.

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