Goodbye Ireland

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Friday, July 17, 2009

Had such a grand day of cycling it couldn’t have been any better if I’d ordered it off a menu!  What a great way to finish out a tour of a county. 

Awoke to a damp, grey and windy morning - I didn’t even want to get out of bed.  But upon hitting the road, the wind went to our backs and the sky started to clear. 

After an initial climb (what a wonderful way to wake-up - thankfully the climb had been completed yesterday) we rose to glorious views of valleys, cliffs, and the sea beyond.  Met a very weary cyclist all on her own going in the opposite direction.  From what I could see (besides the excitement of the downward coast) was that she had had quite a grueling climb.  But it wasn’t until taking off that I truly understood…Proceeded to descend at break-neck speeds down a road winding through forests and over bridges, swerving back onto itself for at least 8 km before arriving at the town of Cusheddall (most likely where she started from and had been climbing all morning). 

From here on out was a gorgeous stretch of coastline.  Cycling through the 9 Glens of Atrium (sound’s so magnificent), it was a nearly level grade with a gentle breeze at our backs.  Every point we cycled around opened up to a new little glen.  As the wind picked up Brian was even cruising at 40km/hr (I only managed around 33/34).  At speeds like this, who needs a motor?

Met a set of 4 cyclists together and made no mention of the hills to come for them - simply grinned and waved goodbye and tried to keep up the pace. 

Great rocks started growing out of the earth at the side of the road to dizzying heights.  This was the landscape that is rumored to have inspired C.S. Lewis for the Narnia series of books.  Saw a sheep-herder getting his flock from high up on one of these mountains.  Little white specks running in neatly organized rows as the dog did his job.  Neatly organized until we began to cycle again and the dog took off - must have thought we were a few stray sheep trying to get away.  No matter how loud the farmer yelled the dog would just not listen!  Skirting around the sharp side of a mountain we were able to get on our way and let them back to their work. 

Saw another set of cyclists (have seen more in this one day than the entirety of the trip so far!), but this group had a love of pain.  They were cycling with full backpacks on (and not light - camping and sleeping gear included)  This was a dilemma Brian and I went through when trying to plan for this trip.  Backpacks are neat and easy to carry (and we already have some great ones), but there was NO WAY I was cycling with one on!  Bad enough when I’m hiking…and I thought cycle-touring was difficult on it’s own.  Much better to let the bike carry the weight than I.

So after managing 75km in less than 3 hours, we arrived in Larne in lots of time to catch the afternoon ferry.  Originally we were going to camp here and take the early morning ferry, but there seems no sense now.  This is the great thing about having no set plans!  Funny statement from the queen or organization, I know (but this IS supposed to be a learning experience for me)!

I have noticed over the last little while that my concept of time and urgency has been changing.  The normal indicators are all gone (alarms, work day, dinner, TV shows, week days, etc.).  I must diligently keep track of the days of the week in this journal otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue!  We do have a daily routine, but it varies depending on where we’re going and how it goes.  Many times we’re doing things that were never thought of or planned (part of the fun).  Time has also slowed.  At first, cycling time was hard to adjust to.  Looking at maps of the UK everything seemed so small and close together - well it’s not!  Maybe in a car it only takes an hour of drive time, but that same distance will take us a good day of cycling!  At first we were very destination driven and we just had to get there.  I’m trying to slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry about ‘getting there’ so much.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been on the road nearly a month now, and almost 3 weeks of it was in Ireland alone!  Arriving at the ferry terminal today 3 hrs early was no big deal - easy time to kill!  In my former life, even 10 minutes of perceived ‘wasted time’ would drive me crazy!  It was always go Go GO!, but now I can take it more in stride now. 

Leaving Ireland on the boat I’ve tried to reflect a bit on our first ‘finished’ country.  Of course, there’s so much we did not see, and I’ll be back again if I can.  Looking over a map, it’s a fantastic feeling to see all these places we’ve been and trace out our journey - all under our own pedal power!  Traveling slowly over land is a great experience as you can see intimate details in the landscape changing and flowing into itself and the changes in people as you go along as well.  I must say I’ve learned a new appreciation for rain and started to gain a tolerance for camping in it (although it’s still defiantly NOT my first choice!).  Fell in love with the lilt of the Irish language and it will take awhile to recede off my tongue. Learned to savor the great taste and feel of Guinness, and will never look at a stone in a field the same again!
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