Sept 20, to Kenmare
Heading out onto the Beara Peninsula it was raining again. It cannot possibly go two days without rain. It was now heavier than I have had it before. And then as I was coming down a hill about an hour out that squishy rear wheel feeling. I walked down a bit farther to a coffee/art house. I needed some cover to fix my tire. Pushing my bike around behind the building I found a partially covered wood-shed and moving some garbage bins I got in out of the rain. Another pin-prick hole with no apparent perpetrator. I put my remaining good tube in and tried to fix the punctured tube. The patch would not stay in the damp air.
At my road junction I had a hot coffee and bought rubber cleaning gloves to cover my riding gloves. The ride up to Healy Pass was quite enjoyable. The grade was a very steady 5-6%, rising above the trees into alpine type environment. At the junction I had left almost all traffic behind. I was only passed by two or three cars so it was all quite peaceful. There were many switch-backs to get me to the pass. I snapped a shot or two at the top and then began the long plunge back down to sea level
Near the bottom I stopped again for photos and was passed by about six antique cars, all but one driving with no top in this silly weather for such activity. Don’t they know that it is too cold and miserable to be out in the open on days like this.
There was another significant climb yet to do before I sailed into Kenmare and found room in the local hostel. I bought an extra spare tube, almost lost my helmet. I had ridden away from the visitor centre with it sitting loosely on my panniers. It fell off soon after taking off and I finally found it a few hours lately where some kind soul had I assume picked it up from street and placed it on a bench. I also bought some light walking shoes as my waterproof shoes were soaked from the all-day rain and would take some drying out. I obviously had not expected things quite this bad when planning for the trip.
Dinner that night was in a pub where two young people were playing Trad; that is traditional Irish music. She on a violin and he on a flute or a little hand accordion. Great stuff.
Sept 21, to Cahersiveen
No rain but a cold west wind as I was heading out to ride the Ring of Kerry. It would take me two days, and the headwind would be from the West as I was going out and then it turned to be from the East as I was coming back the next day. The only difference was the second day brought rain. Such is Ireland I guess. My first day was quite long and tough, but I seemed to be riding well and so it felt good. As usual I stopped mid-morning for coffee and a snack by a nice river-side restaurant.
The end of the Kerry Peninsula is where Daniel O’Connell was from. In the early 1800s he began to bring the Irish Catholics into the political arena. I think many think of him as the father of Ireland, even though it still took over a hundred years for them to gain control.
After I turned the corner at the end of the peninsula coffee and hot rhubarb crisp at Waterville. In Cahersiveen I got into the hostel not long after an old Englishman, living in Dublin, arrived. I had spent the night with him in Kenmare and he had taken the bus. He was going to spend four nights at this hostel and would take a rented bike into places where there are still native plants growing. He paints them in situ and is as stressed by the rain as I am because it is too humid for his paints to work.
Sept 22, to Killarney
I was going to skip Killarney turning at the bottom of the bay onto the Dingle Peninsula but with the rain and the forecast for two more days I backtracked a bit to Killarney. I was tired of riding the wind and rain with my head down, rain hood up not seeing much of anything. Dingle would have to wait for another time.
Sept 23, in Killarney
Another rest day, after only three days of riding. But as I was not particularly in need of a mental rest it felt a bit of a waste. I saw what I wanted of the town in about two hours. I did cycle into the national park and walked up to Torc Falls and had a look out over the Killarney Lakes but I would rather be riding. I did buy some nice merino wool long undies which I now do not know how I did without.
Sept 24, to Kilrush
I now felt the need to head north in a big way. It seemed that I had been stuck down in the SW corner far too long. I picked a route heading straight north and went hard. It was to be a mostly sunny very cold day, compounded by the wind which was naturally out of the north. I stopped only once mid-morning for coffee and to get warm. I had a ferry crossing the bay the river Shannon flows into which I made just as it was pulling out. As a result I had my afternoon soup in Kilrush after finishing riding for the day.
At the hostel I visited with an old Frenchman doing a slow drive around Ireland. He was in the hostel with me in Killarney. Once you see someone for a second time you are old friends and you can sit for a good visit. He provided the wine and cheese; I provided the Irish Whisky. We shared our fare with a young girl from New Zealand who is on a seven day cycle from Galway to Dingle. I hope she makes it but she is very slow and can’t ride the busier roads which are not really that busy and are much shorter than the route she favours.
Sept 25, to Lisdoonvarna
Grey and blustery day, but no-where near as cold because the wind is finally from the south. After two weeks I finally have a wind-assisted day. I did not have very far to ride as I planned on hitting the Cliffs of Moher, one of the must-visit places for me. It is also one of the most visited sites in Ireland and so I would walk along the cliffs getting my pictures carefully excluding the thousands of others doing the same thing. In a way the grey windy day fit in well with the foreboding black cliffs dropping into the rough North Atlantic.
The downside of this day for me was another flat tire just before I reached the cliffs and another just after as I somehow buggered fixing the first one. I am now worried about my tire situation and wonder if I have some fault in my rear wheel as I can find no reason for all the flats I am having. I went past little Doolin hoping for a bike shop in larger Lisdoonvarna. Neither place has 1000 residents. I checked into a big hostel and was told that Doolin has the bike shop.
I was approached by a strange woman in the hostel about coming to the Trad in one of the local pubs. I told her I would likely see her there, but when I went for dinner I must have chosen the wrong pub, she and her friends were not there. The next day I was told to stay away from Lisdoon, as locals call it, at this time because a yearly “match-making” event is on which brings out the crazies.
Sept 26, to Galway
I headed out in thick fog onto some very small roads leading into an area called the Burren. It is a windswept limestone region with very few people. Drawing me into the Burren in addition to the tiny roads is the “Poulnabrone Dolmen”. It is one of the countless pre-historic sites in this part of Ireland. This particular structure, dating from about 3000BC, seemed to act as a burial site for a small number of people. I was drawn to this site by the object itself and by the remote location. It was here that I was warned to stay away from match making.
From the Dolmen I had a big drop down across this strange limestone environment to the coast where I had one final flat on my way into Galway. I now realized that the culprit is a spoke that pokes through, likely when I hit a bump at just the right, or should I say wrong time. I noticed that the hole was in the same place on each of a number of my tube patches.
Around the corner from my hostel in Galway I found a bike shop who did some fine work on my bike, including giving me a whole new set of replacement tubes, adding an extra rim tape to the wheel, a little derailleur tuning. We will see how it all works out.
Sept 27, to Clifden
I’m heading to Connemara. It took about 45 minutes to clear Galway. The sun was out and my old friend the headwind was back. Heading west into Connemara it is not unusual to expect a west wind I guess. After my coffee stop, about an hour and a bit it, some mist began to form, but not enough to motivate me to put my rain stuff on. As the day went on there was never any real rain, but the mist was thick enough to cause drips from my helmet and I gradually became soaked. Lesson learned.
Part way into the day I watched for and found “the quiet man bridge”. The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara was filmed in the Connemara and it has become one of the attractions for tourists. The bridge is just off of the road I was taking into the Connemara. I had considered taking a road that goes through the town of Cong, the site of much more of the movie, but I just settled for the bridge. I thought it was pretty nice.
Nearing Clifden I did stop for a few more pictures. I went past many lovely settings on this day, but the damp mist was too uncomfortable for me to be stopping much.
In this segment I have been staying almost exclusively in hostels but have continued eating mostly in pubs. I have been happy with both. The riding has been tough with wind and rain almost constant. My bike troubles have been problematic but still I am enjoying it. Hopefully a main problem has been fixed. I am riding a mix of busy main roads and quiet secondary roads. I need to get on the main roads when I want to put some distance behind me, but the drivers have been very good and I do not feel overly stressed when on busy roads. All is good.