Okay, so I’m still alive. Apologise for the huge gap between posts, but it’s been a battle, and not just the weather.
I bought a sim card from O2 Eire, and they gave me the wrong one. The next chance for an exchange is tomorrow in Castlebar, somewhere I never planned to be. I’m here by default, after a music festival in Westport meant no camping, and I was too late to join in, bugger.
I’ve travelled the South West and all the way up round Connemara. I’ve been blitzed by bad weather, but it never seems to last all day long, meaning motivation and enjoyment are still high.
West Cork and Kerry gave several peninsulas that defy description. The weather also defied description, so let’s settle on windy and wet, and leave it at that. The Mizen head is the Irish equivalent of Lands End, so I guess I have to Now visit Malin Head in the far north.
The ring of Beara was wild and remote, especially the north side, but lord of the rings is still Kerry. The scenery is astounding, bearing in mind that the near hurricane that blew all but had me off the road three times, as it gusted and blasted its way around the hills. When the sun shines, it’s breathtaking in its majesty. It hasn’t been about prevailing winds. I’ve been blasted from all directions. On balance, I’ve had a fair share of tailwinds too, so that’s just fine.
I spent a fab week around Dingle with Michele, who flew over from Devon for a week. I got to meet some friends and we both managed a fair amount of Guiness for two people who don’t really drink, lol. We stayed twice with some old friends of hers, a lovely couple who have lived on the peninsula for 20 years now. We were plied with excellent food, wine, and we shared stories of motorcycle adventures and life.
Staying with them meant we rode the Conor Pass twice, once in each direction to get to and from Dingle itself.
The day we had put aside to ride yet another ring, the wind blew so hard that I got all but blown off. We took to walking, and looking at the considerable antiquities close to the campsite. After that, and another night with Michele’s friends, we tootled back to Tralee, using Michele’s last day to take a day ride up the coast.
Yet again the sky was full of thunder storms, but we got lucky, dodging almost all of them. We could see Tralee in the distance, and it was basically pissing it down, lol. Sometimes you just get lucky.
The following day, Mlchele flew home and I rode 56 mile northwards and westwards. starting in torrential rain, and ending in shirt sleeves. Since then, I’ve continued in that way, all the way to Co Mayo.
My shortest day so far was 33 miles, two days ago, when I fought and battled my way westwards into Connemara. It felt like a test. You want to come in? Then work for it. I ended up pitching my tent by the lochside after the non-materialisation of a campsite.
The gale that blew tore at the little shelter like it would tear apart, but it didn’t. My pitch was on a grassy knoll, a few feet above the water. To add to the excitement, storms raced across the sky adding monsoon like rain to the proceedings.
As I woke the next day, the tent shook violently, rain like stair rods tore at the outside, but it couldn’t get in, and I turned over thinking “bugger that.” ten minutes later it stopped, the storm abated and I packed up in ever improving conditions. Before I could get too excited, a thunderstorm raced over the horizon so fast that I hardly had time to get the full battle dress on. Don’t like over trousers? Nor me, but come here and you’d be stupid not to wear them. The air temperatures have been very low, and at times my O.T’s have possibly saved me from hypothermia. Needless to say, an hour later I was in shirt sleeves, whacking on the sun cream, having boiled in the bag.
That’s how it is here. Weather is never constant, and because it’s wet now doesn’t mean it will be later. I’ve only had a few days where it’s rained all day, and then it’s rained all night as well. I don’t expect it to settle for any length of time. It kind of adds to the experience. Ireland has a magical feel in places, an ethereal quality, partly born by the moodiness of the climate.
The day I rode up to Doolin in Clare, it was like summer. I visited the majestic Cliffs of Moher, and stared at the 1200 foot drop whilst listening to a Celtic harpist play. Pure magic, even if it is contrived.
Clare is different in every way to Kerry. Kerry is a redhead, all mood changes and surprises. Kerry is soft and gentle, full of cows eating lush meadow grass, just like in the butter adverts. I like them both, and to see them side by side underlines the variety of scenery that is here.
Galway is different. Gateway to the biggest bog and piece of tundra this side of Rannoch Moor in Scotland. It’s wild and remote, with a shoreline that’s broken into a thousand islands but the extreme weather. At its centre lies the Twelve Pins, the mountains of Connemara. I rode right around and through these, getting blown to pieces, soaking wet, warmed right through, and totally beguiled in the process.
That has led me to Mayo where I’ll take a rest day tomorrow. Today was blissful. A half century in sunshine, with enough cloud to keep it pleasant. I crossed the 1000 mile mark yesterday, and that felt good. The ride here passed right through the mountains of Connemara and several other ranges. It was a sublime days riding, where even the detour to Castlebar was a complete joy.
Highlight of the week, scenery aside, was rounding a corner to meet an otter walking down the road. It beats the two eagles
I watched from Galway bay, and the peregrine falcon that flew over my head today.
Did I mention that I was getting Trevor back? They say you never know how good something is until it’s gone. Well for me, Trevor beats panniers hands down. The howling cross winds I’ve had this week would have been much worse with the panniers. Trevor just shrugs his shoulders and gets on with it. I also think he’s slightly easier to pull than a bike that’s panniered up. Interesting as I’ve never used them back to back before. He’s certainly easier to live out of, and happily dry in all weathers, he lives outside.
On the fundraising front, I got bugger all whilst using panniers. This week alone I’ve been given over €100. That’s why I paid so much to freight him over. I still have to sort the sticky axles out with Nick at Carry Freedom, but have to thank Mark, for getting the wheels off, and Michele for organising the freight.
So that’s me. Now I’ve escaped county Kerry, the driving has improved. The high speeds, and closeness of some passing, was really affecting me. Most drivers slow right down. The roads widen and narrow of their own accord, and the sound of a high speed car approaching, whilst I crawled up a steep and twisty hill, was nerve wracking.
I’ve only had one day where I’ve felt rough emotionally, and the reason for that is a complete mystery. Acknowledging it seemed to do the trick. A few tears were shed, and the memories that brought them out just bounced around until they melted away. After that I felt strong again.
This week I’ll be getting up close and personal with Donegal. Prior to that, I’m using part of a 42.5km traffic free cycle route to get to Achil Island on Tuesday. The weather is promised unsettled and stormy from Tuesday, so no change there. Fly and I will battle on, and Trevor will follow along valiantly, as he always does.
Before that, I have a rest, as I said earlier. I may take another long hot soak in the bath on site. I’ll certainly go food hunting and try and sort the sim card out for the iPad. I’ll definitely lie in tomorrow, all these half centuries are wearing on the legs, and I’ve plenty more to do yet.
I hope the weathers being kind to you back home? Summer must be somewhere, lol.
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