Day 14 31/07/2013

Ballymoney – Rasharkin – Portglenone – Magherafelt – Cookstown – Armagh

Dist: 96 km
Time: 5.39
Avg speed: 17 km/h
Max speed: 39.7 km/h
Tot time: 73.07
Tot dist: 1313 km

Getting closer to the end of this trip. It has been another wet day. Although morning looked pretty good. Start at 9 after full English.

Sky was blue, Nice sun was warming my back.

I have chosen to ride on the west side of Lough Neagh. The other side looks so busy with roads and motorways coming and going from and to Belfast and Dublin.

First part on very countryside roads. Loads of farms. Then the road widened a bit and the sun has gone.

I was feeling rather sceptical about getting onto major roads but the one I chose wasn’t too bad. Most of the time there was a hardshoulder. Sometimes barely cycleable, sometimes really good. The moments it wasn’t there … well …

Rain came down at 12. it hasn’t stoppef till now. (6.00) It was a bit cold for the first time here. Had to put on extra layer.

Got to Armagh and decided to stop for the day. I was SOAKING WET. Cold came with wet cloths.

I left massive pool of water at the hotel whilst checking in. Thanks to good spirits of the woman from the reception we had a bit of laugh and soon after I was in shower getting rid off chill in my bones.

Now supper and a chill out time. Depending on weather I might get back to Blessington tomorrow.

Not much of landscape or otherwise photos. Just too wet tlc handle anything.

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Day 13 30/07/2013

Letterkenny – Derry – Londonderry – Limavady – Coleraine – Bushmills – Ballytoy – Ballymoney

Dist: 139 km
Time: 7.40
Avg speed: 18.1km/h
Max speed: 48.8 km/h
Tot time: 67.28
Tot dist: 1217 km

Another longer say. What a contrast. Suddenly all nice roads have gone. Massive hard shoulder was nowhere to be found. Cyclists disappeared. It was like being back in UK.

Landscapes were great but very little or few moments to enjoy as there were no break areas.

It got very difficult to get going. Only at some point before Coleraine there was a decent cycling path.

The hill between Limavady an Coleraine – great challenge. And on the way down there was a driving lane out of action due to roadworks – but there were no roadworks. So I took the empty lane and went down like a king

After Coleraine I hit the road to Bushmills and the Giant’s Causway. Unfortunately it all turned out to be Mickey Mouse. I wasn’t the only disappointed cyclist there.

I went to see places and views that were free and queue free.

Cycled along Yves coast to Ballytoy and there decided to finish my run on Yves North coast. There was a countryside route to Ballymoney so I took a gamble and cycled extra few km.Being here is like Northern Part of UK.

What a contrast.

Day 12 29/07/2013

Sligo – Ballyshannon – Donegal – Ballybofey – Letterkenny

Dist: 111 km
Time: 5.57
Avg speed: 18.5 km/h
Max speed: 58.1 km/h
Tot time: 59.48
Tot dist: 1078 km

Every day during a trip is different. And it was no surprise that today I came back to a symbiotic relationship with the road.

Couple more things that could have made yesterday so tough. It was Sunday and probably people were rushing back home or to get to holiday destination. But there was this violent feeling coming from drivers.

Today – Monday- much less traffic and the urgency has gone as well.

After good night’s rest I was first for breakfast. Slowly packed all my dry tent and other belongings and was on the road by 9.

After yesterday’s fireworks today the atmospheric pressure was much nicer. There was uncertainty about the weather conditions as very heavy skies were looking at me.

As yesterday I felt a bit of discomfort in my left knee I decided to ride a bit slower and limit the distance.

First 30 km of the route were flattish and took me through some nice panoramas. Hills – green lush on the right and bay on the left. And without noticing UT I passes Bundoran and was heading towards Bellyshannon.

After Bellyshannon uphill started. I was cycling up for good 30 min. But…. Afterwards and this is the difference with yesterday I had a downhill. A beauty of a downhill. I went down for a while then there was a bit of flat road, then a bit more of downhill, another flat and one more down. By the time I got down I was recovered and ready for another uphill.

This was the problem with the road yesterday. I was working hard cycling up but the reward of going down has diluted somehow.

Before I knew it I was in Donegal or better said I was leaving Donegal on my left and heading towards these mountains.

By this stage I went through couple if generous downpours. I was looking at these mounts and thinking which way will the road go. Well, definitely I wasn’t prepared to see and ride through this part.

Barnesmore Gap – what a spectacle. Two massive hills on each side of the road and the ‘minute’ me peddling in lashing rain. Awesome. These mountains look completely locked and as I was approaching the bottom there was a turn right that took me inbetween these masses of rock and then gently uphill. Once I was out of the passage the rain got slightly milder so I did take a few photos with the camera.

Then there was the climb to the top of the hill and then…. I saw one of the most rewarding views. A long, nice gradient, not too wet, excellent pavement of the downhill.

I let the bike go. It was great feel. massive enjoyment. Unfortunately somebody thought tbat painting loads of yellow lines and writing ‘slow very’ across the road would make a driver slow down. It might wake them up but none slowed down. I had to – just couldn’t face wet paint on the road going 60km/h. Do there was a bit of anticlimax but still. Going do fast and feeling relatively safe was a very nice adrenaline release.

This took me to Bellybofey. First impression great village, beautifully placed. Then I went through all possible potholes you can for on the road.

From there it was an uphill and a nice downhill to Letterkenny.

Hotel, shower and now supper and planning for tomorrow.

The Zen of the road

Day 11 28/07/2013

Westport – Castlebar – Charlestown – Sligo

Dist: 108 km
Time: 5.53
Avg speed: 18.4 km/h
Max speed: 45.2 km/h
Tot time: 53.50
Tot dist: 967 km

What a day! It was probably the hardest I had so far during this trip.

Can think of 3 reasons. In order of importance – I think.

Weather – it was just crazy today. Sunny and cloudy, warm and cold, dry and wet and rain. All together and the pressure must have been crazy as well. Very hard

Road – it was relentless uphills and very little down. Hard work all 100 km. No rest moments. Well couple. One nice downhill just after Castlebar and the second Charlestown – well – one more just at the entrance to Sligo. I just didn’t feel the road today.

Rest last night – I set up in tent just about 11. Had some pizza as this was the only thing served in the camp café. It was a very good pizza. So, after going to sleep I woke up at 3 because of some drunken party of the rescue crew. They were following the bar drinks. I didn’t fell asleep till 5. Then was awake at 6.30 by the very nice sun.

I think it would be the combination of all.

Anyhow, the morning was great. Some rain last night so top of the tent was rather wet. Managed to pick up the tent fairly quickly. Had a shower and was off. 3km uphill to get out of Westport. Stopped at petrol station and had my breakfast. Then there were another 4km of uphill.

It followed like this all day. Very little rest in pedalling. Had a stop for a little lunch. After 70 km. About 1 pm.

At 80km mark the sky has finally opened and we had a downpour. About 20 km long. And it was in the worst part of the route. The road was very narrow and traffic rather heavy.

The road got narrow after Curry and it was difficult till Ballynacarrow. I think rain started just after Tobercurry.

All of the camping gear is getting dry in the room. I’m sipping coffee waiting for the supper.

The views were really nice at places. Loads of little creeks flowing through the countryside.

Sligo – very aura he little town. I just couldn’t find my way around it.Big time linked to Yeats – the poet.. Seams Luke a pilgrimage place for people from states.

Day 10 27/07/2013

Gort – Galway – Oughterard – Maam Cross – Leenane – Westport

Dist: 138 km
Time: 6.50
Avg speed: 20 km/h
Max speed: 48.8 km/h
Tot time: 47.56
Tot dist: 859 km

Start to the day rather slow. Woke up at 7.30 and then prepared things for the road. After breakfast I was off at 9.00. The route today was relatively flat – totally unexpected. I was getting into some high hills but the road went in between these picks. Really great. The only problem was the surface of the road. Really bad for moments.

All the way fantastic views – breathtaking. Few uphills but nothing really major.

There was a great moment though. Suddenly – out of nowhere the road was smooth and some really nicely profiled curves. About 1.5 km of sensational cycling. It was just before An Mam Maum.

I got to Leenane – had 100 km done. It was 3pm and I wanted a bit more of cycling. The only option I saw was going to Westport.

Additional 30 km or so.

As I was cycling there were loads and loads of cars overtaking me. Caravans – as well. I felt like cycling in the south if France.

Well it turned out that all of these cars, caravans, buses, vans etc. were coming to Westport.

Tomorrow is the biggest annual event. Climbing of the Croagh Patrick.

No rooms in the whole of the town. In one of the hotels the guy told me that if I would get the room I would probably pay 150 – 200 euros. It is the most expensive night to come to Westport.

I was thinking on the road today that I’m carrying 2.5 kg of camping stuff that I am probably not going to use.

Well, I am sitting in café on the campsite. Had to pitch the tent with a bit of shower but … never go for a cycling trip without a tent.

I set up the rent in between all ambulance services. The guys told me that there will be at least 30.000 people going up the mountain. Maybe even 100.000. Some people going barefoot.

So well invested money in the tent.

Day 9 26/07/2013

Tralee – Listowel – Tarbert – Kilimar – Labasheeda – Kiladysart – Ennis – Gort

Dist: 130 km
Time: 6.32
Avg speed: 19.8 km/h
Max speed: 48.4 km/h
Tot time: 41.08
Tot dist: 721 km

What a great night sleep. Previous night the room looked ok but I woke up worn quite a few bites. And I thought I was alone in bed.

Last night the B&B was nhst great. Everything really fresh smell. Comfy bed and I was away. As the breakfast wouldn’t start till 8 I had a bit of snooze time. Traditional Full Irish and I was off at 9.20.

Slow uphill start. About 7 km but not very steep. From the top of the hill I had a nice ride to Listowel and then a quick section to Tarbert. I had by this point done 50 km. 20 min or so on ferry plus few minutes waiting gave me a bit of recovery.

On the ferry I had a look at the map and chosen to cycle on the side of river Shannon. It turned out to be a route with some fantastic views. I had a panoramicpicture for 20 km. Ride was tough at times with short and steep uphills. The surface of the road going from bearable to scary at times.

Then after a nice bend on the map just before Ballynacally – the downhill started. Till that point I thought I will set the camp in Ennis. It was around 100 km mark.

But, suddenly I was going on relatively flat and rather nice road. I picked up the speed and was in Ennis by 15.30 or so. I looked around the place, didn’t like it too much and decided to take a gamble on the road and follow through to Gort. Extra 30 km.

It was such a nice road, not very busy as the motorway goes nearby.

First 100km to Ennis very sunny, hardly any cloud.

The route to Gort came with rain, but even the rain couldn’t disturb the beauty of the ride. I felt that it will be a great relationship and went for it. Oh, the joy of speed. I had enjoyed the mountains but I was hungry for a bit of stretch and speed. I did the last 30 km in hour and 10 or so minutes. It wasn’t flat but the uphills were just long enough to go through with a bit of momentum. Great road for bikes. Met a few cyclists going for a ride and with reason.

In Gort came to Hotel O’Sullivan. The owner very likeable person introduced me to couple of locals and I have been stopped on the street for a chat.

Irish do like chatting. I found people here so friendly. Everybody talks to everybody which goes so against my introverted personality. 😉 And it is genuine and healthy interest in developing interpersonal relationships.

Gort – massive Brazilian community. There was a meat factory and the owner brought workforce from Brasil. Few years later factory closed and apparently hundreds of people lost their jobs.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/08/europe_brazilians_in_ireland/html/1.stm

Day 8 25/07/2013

Glengarriff – Relagh Bridge – Kenmare – Moll’s Gap – Killarney – Farmer’s Bridge – Tralee

Dist: 93 km
Time: 6.03
Avg speed: 16.6 km/h
Max speed: 46.9 km/h
Tot time: 34.33
Tot dist: 591 km

Relatively early start to cycling. Had breakfast in my room and was off at 8.20.

Little downhill and then the climbing started. Met one cyclist on the first part. Told me I was in for a tough ride but it will be beautiful. He cycled with me for a while. We had a chat about my trip and his and then I let him go. Couldn’t keep up with him with my panniers. So we said good trip and I was left behind.

The first ascent about 12 km. Not sure what the pass is called. It could be Relagh Bridge. After going through a tunnel I stopped for a picture and I could swear Sandra Bullock was there taking pictures. If it wasn’t – I spoke to her double.

I stopped few times on the way up to take photos. Some parts were quite steep.

The descent was pretty relaxed, without very steep gradients. I got to Kenmare – a nice place. Didn’t spent much time there. And started going up again.

The slope was rather nice and only a few times the gradient became a bit steeper. On the whole much mellower than the first one.

On Moll’s Gap – met a few buses and cars that I would meet all the way down as I was stopping to admire views and take a more pics.

From the top of the hill the view was beautiful but nothing like when I got to Killarney National Park. Some astonishing places and views. I couldn’t believe – all changes through the day. The second ascent was about 10 km long as well.

The way down was – as some commentators of Tour de France would say – technical. Loads of sharp curves. Thanks God the gradient wasn’t very steep.

After the descent to Killarney I had a choice of 3 routes to Tralee. I chose the one that looked straight and right in the middle. I kind of suspected that it might not be the easiest. These straight routes hardly ever are easy. But I took a gamble. Gosh. First few km weren’t too bad and I was really pleasantly surprised, when I saw the wall in front of me. Maybe 7 km of really hard uphill. The first 2 were definitely a preparation for this one.

Somehow I managed to get up this one as well but decided I had enough. And stopped in Tralee.

Weather – great first 60 km then it went totally mad. It was like the icon on mobile when they don’t know what is going to happen. There were clouds, but the sun was shining through and it was pouring down with rain. Now I know it is possible to have all at once.

Staying at nice B&B. Everything washed and hopefully will dry by tomorrow. Honesty – what a great day.

In the second ascent there was a group of bikers coming from the front. They started clapping when passing by me.