Doolin's music and a miserable day of rain

Trip Start Apr 26, 2006
Trip End May 07, 2006

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Flag of Ireland  ,
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Yesterday, Doolin did not reveal all her charms till later in the evening. After returning to the hostel from a hearty beef stew dinner at the local pub, I was greeted by a fire in the hearth. The other hostel guests were sitting around reading, talking, and playing board games crammed into the front room. In the midst of this peaceful oasis was an old iron stove embers being stirred by Emily, the hostel worker. The vision was delightful after my brisk evening walk back from dinner and I sat down for a chat. Several of us decided to head to the local pub for some traditional Irish music as Doolin is the hot bed of music folk culture in Ireland. With a population of 200 people it is quite the title.

We headed down to Roadford, the other end of town, to settle into the evening. We arrived with music already spilling out onto the street. As we entered the place was filled with people enjoying the music produced by the four musicians at the front of the pub. I had been itching to get a pint of Guiness and this seemed the most opportune time. My one drink for the year tasted sweet and mellow on my tongue. The smoothness ran down my throat and I settled into the festivities and merriment. The lights were dim and the musicians played on and on. Occasionally accompanied by angelic voices telling of melancholy, lonesome tales of legends long retold. With the end of my pint the exhaustion of the long day overwhelmed me and I let the comfort of the pub envelope me. I bid my friends goodnight and headed back to the hostel with a blanket of Irish tradition wrapped tightly around me.

Towards the early pre-dusk hours of the morning I heard it begin. The gentle patter of drops on the windows and roof. I tried to go back to sleep and convince myself that it would be at least somewhat dry in the morning, but this effort proved fruitless when I awoke again. The skylight in the room told of the reality outside. The rain was coming down from heavy, dark clouds. I pulled myself out of bed and began my routine of morning cycling preparations.

Downstairs several of the guests were already reading the paper and starting on breakfast trying to ignore the rain coming down outside. Several chats later and a long hope for at least a slowing of the wet from above, I prepared myself for the ride to Galway. As I got on my bike the rain began coming down harder, and I tried to settle into the inevitable dampness. The ride out of town was wet, but it only got tougher as I entered the Burren.

The Burren is the area of Ireland south of Galway that is a gray expanse of wind and rain polished limestone rocks. Deep wounds from receding glaciers criss cross the landscape. The central plateau of exposed rock sits like a mountain stripped of its grandeur. It is scarred from years of battle with the elements and can only manage its idol slumber against the beating waves of the Atlantic. The expanse is lonely and mesmerizing as the road traverses rolling hills of rock cut deep into its surface. Through my ride the pounding waves were fixed to my left and the somber plateau to my right. The drenched road below me and the merciless rain coming down from above. By the time I reached the first town my hands ached from cold and wet. By the time I reached Ballyvaughan my hands couldn't manage to shift gears from numbness and my legs were cold and covered with wet gravel. Exposed to the elements there was little I could do but will myself forward up and down the hills. Thoughts of hot soup and steamy milk tea propelled me forward through the curtains of rain. My hands felt like that had been held in ice water for hours, and the Cafe in Ballyvaughan was a welcome sight.

I came into the cafe dripped wet. Where I put down my backpack a puddle formed. I went into the bathroom to wring out my soaked socks and try to use paper towels to sop up the wetness in my sneakers. I ate my soap hot and scalding and devoured my goat cheese sandwich while slurping from my tea cup. I then readied myself for the rest of the ride to Kinvara.

The ride out of town was another readjustment to the soaking conditions. The rain had let up a little but not enough to make a difference. The wind had receded as this area was more sheltered from the gales than the Burren. My feet peddled on and I counted down the kilometers to Kinvara as I explored ideas in my head. Riding like this is almost a meditation on the road not ahead and not behind but directly under your wheels. A certain peace settles over me after my body adjusts to the weather and accepts it as inevitable. Then calmness set in that is quiet and consuming. My thoughts meander like the road and undulate with the progress of the hills. I am calm.

Upon reaching Kinvara the skies turned a milky color and the rain stopped. I had a tea and tried to dry off at the local cafe. I then hopped back on my bike and rode the final 30 kilometer stretch to Galway. At Oranmore bright blue pools of sky opened up and traversed the landscape like search lights. The wind picked up its spring quality and warmth registered in the air. I reached Galway effortlessly and in a pleasant drier mood. I explored the city and a bit and met some fresh post college Canadians. It is true what they say about Canadians, they are nice people. Tonight I shall wish for bright skies or at least cloudy rainless ones for tomorrow.
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