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Calamity Shane on the NC500 - Part 10 - Bealach Na Ba - Many poo's in the pants, curly toes and T...

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Calamity Shane on the NC500 - Part 10

Bealach Na Ba

Many poo's in the pants, curly toes and Tesco

The engine was still warm, fluids checked, brakes tested and bladder emptied. We set off with slight trepidation but the thought "Can't be any worse than the Wee Mad Road" consoled me somewhat. I have many years of experience on the roads, 14 of which as a HGV class 2, 8 wheeler tipper driver. I have literally been there done that with in excess of 1.5 million miles of experience under my belt. So this should be a piece of piss! "To infinity, and beyond!" I squeaked and eased the van out of the layby onwards up the pass.

I hadn't even gone half a mile before I had to reverse back a few hundred yards to let a car past. I was almost back at the same spot when I had to reverse once again. and a third time... I looked at Kerry and said a few swear words and went for it once more. All I had to do was make it to the bend then the oncoming traffic would have to reverse. This time I made it and made my way along the narrow single track. The inner child in me transported my imagination to another planet for that is what the scenery was like. We were quickly in the clouds and the scattered boulders as far as the eye could see made it feel like we were on an alien world, exploring for life. The clouds made it easier to drive as there were no view distractions, so no point in looking at anything other than the road! Kerry however had her x-ray vision on I think as I could hear little squeals and curses coming from that side of the cab. I decided to have a bit of fun with her and waited for her to look out the side window. "AAAARRRRGGGHHH" I screamed and wobbled the steering wheel. Not my cleverest of moves as the following conversation found: "You flipping (she didn't use that exact word) idiot (nor that one) what if we'd have careered down that slope into the valley below? Who'd have ever bloody (or that one) seen us down there? Stop pratting (nope, not that one either) around and look at the road! We rounded bend after bend, crested climb after climb, reversed many times, chuckled at others attempts at reversing and reversed some more so they didn't have to try anymore and marvelled at the clouds below us. On one particular climb, there was a brave guy on a cyclocross bike, a kind of off road capable road bike. He was in the gutter, bobbing up and down, wobbling, the saddle smashing his rusty dusty to bits. I sat back patiently waiting but he kept throwing his arm out for us to pass. It was a scary moment each time he did this as the death wobble consumed him and I feared he was going to die, so I squeezed past and he stuck his hand up with a wave. I tooted and we carried on. I have no idea if he made it to the top or simply fell off the side of the mountain into the abyss but the old romantic in me wants him to have received a medal at the top too! As the drive went on we found ourselves mesmerised by the scenes around us, not so much below, because of the low cloud. I was a little deflated I have to admit because for many months of (not) planning this trip I'd seen so many wonderful photos of the Bealach Na Ba and seen so many videos and all we got was clouds. OK, we were in and above the clouds, which is a surreal experience in itself, but we couldn't really see much at all. That is the nature of the Bealach Na Ba Pass. As we crested the highest point we came across a view point with proper parking so I looked over at a particularly pasty and terrified Kerry and thought I'd better pull over for a minute. She immediately opened the glove box and pulled out the whisky hip flask she'd stashed in there and took a few huge gulps! She left the van in silence and stood there admiring the view whilst I admired her admiring the view. It wasn't much of a view because the clouds below us were doing their best job at obscuring the world like a pair of those comedy glasses that make everything look like you're drunk! We left the parking space and immediately had to wait for another cyclist to climb up the hill towards us. He made a grand effort too, and was worth the wait to his celebratory smiley face and hear the whoops of achievement! We crested the final small summit and started the descent. Immediately I needed a poo and felt my stomach turn inside out. I daren't look at Kerry but her silence and sound of her nails digging into the seat told me all I needed to know. I put on my brave face and thought against the idea of screaming violently to scare the bejesus out of her even more, clenched my bum cheeks together and said a silent prayer. I took a quick glance away from the road in front of me to scan for oncoming vehicles on the road below us and saw a convoy of cars, campers, motorhomes all stuck behind a screaming smoking Vespa scooter! I had to speed up a bit to get to the wide 180 degree bend to give them room to pass. This gave me a chance to check out the horror that lay before me: The most gnarly twisting steep bit of road I'd ever driven! In some ways, it wasn't any worse than The Wee Mad Road but in others it just made my bum tingle. The queue passed and off we went again. Stuck tight to the rather rusty and feeble looking barrier on my left as I wanted to see if Kerry would scream or punch me but she didn't. I looked over and she was more relaxed now than I thought, filming with her phone and smiling away! I concentrated on the road again, and a few more super tight mind bending twists and turns and more squeals from the hot brakes than I cared for and we were at the bottom. My hands were more clammy than I realised and my t-shirt was feeling rather sticky and I really needed a coffee and as luck would have it, there was the most beautiful spot away from the road next to a gentle tumbling burn. I reversed in and breathed the best deep breathe I think I have ever done! We sat in silent contemplation for a few moments and stared out the window, just a Tesco delivery van came trundling by, the driver looking as placid as one can get. We just looked at each other and burst out laughing! I puffed up my chest and said weakly "Well he probably does it every day!" We sat by the cool water and watched it course its way over the smooth rocks for ages whilst sipping our coffee. We were both in a moment of complete bliss. We decided to end the day on the Isle of Skye as it was still early and we had plenty of time to get there and find a campsite. I really needed a shower after that... Engine started and with now cool brakes we left the Bealach Na Ba behind us, but the memory of driving will stay with me forever!

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1 Comment

Matthew Phillips
Matthew Phillips
Aug 05, 2022

This looks amazing, and sounds terrifying! I've driven Lutons for a living in the past (for about a year), so would call myself an experienced amateur. I'm hiring a camper for the first time next year, doing a rough version of the NC500. The van will be a coachbuilt type, rather than a panel van conversion. I love the look of this road - but seriously, as someone who's driven it, would you recommend a novice do it? Any advice gratefully received. Thanks!🙂

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