In my last blog I failed to mention what spurned this insane double-dip holiday idea. Well... our friend Dylan (also from our Undergraduate days... alas, another bleedin' Engineer) arrived the day after our return from Budapest, bike in tow.
So you may be wondering... how was the cycle tour? And our general response would be ...good...
Perhaps it is best summarized by a detail itinerary?
Day 1: We trained to Cork, then cycled out to Blarney right away. Blarney was nice, but ultimately overrated. You pay €10 to climb a really dangerous looking staircase (yes, I wimped out) to kiss a stone at the top of the castle. You do not get a tour, or any historical information about the castle. Though I admit, that perhaps I would have felt more positive about Blarney if it hadn't been pouring rain. At least Leinster won the Heiniken Cup! Up Leinster!
Day 2: We cycled to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Nikolai was unimpressed with the lack of playground. We were unimpressed with the lack of vegetarian food (only 1 pub in town!)
Day 3: I nearly died. Figuratively. Literally, we took a sheep trail over a few mountain ranges with a "gale-force" headwind the whole way. It took us 5 hours to go 30km. We were cycling 10 km/hr down hill!! It was about lunch time when I decided that we would have to cancel the trip because I was not going to be able to make it all the way. Dylan and Brad (please note, they both are on more speed-worthy bikes, so it's not just my lack of fitness) set out on a campaign to convince me that all was not lost. But it wasn't their newly found skills of elocution (from that rather unsanitary Blarney kiss) that convinced me; it was when we joined onto the paved National Route that I once again found the courage to continue. (Smooth road, lower gradients, and signs of civilization).
Day 4: We made our way down the Beara peninsula to a beautiful seaside town of Allihies. The sun shone, the sand was soft, and while the only pub in town did not cater to Veggies, at least the grocery store was open. (Although I admit the can of hummus purchased there was probably the worst Mediterranean food experience of my life, but at least I could eat it!)
Day 5: After 2 days of gale force head winds, we were finally going back up the peninsula! In my whole cycling career I have never honestly been pushed up hill by the wind before. I've had speedy tail-winds, but this was a full force pedal-less push. The other excitement came when we encountered the An Post Rás (Ireland's most important cycle race). We kept expecting it... and seeing all the support vehicles, etc. I think we pulled over at least 10 times before the race finally caught up to us. (Mental note: the Gardi/police clear the road for a race, not just energy drink trucks) After hours of anticipation the riders raced past us and were gone in less than 3 minutes.
Day 6 to Day 8: We cycled around the Ring of Kerry. Lots of lovely views, lots of beautiful beaches, and a period of reverting back to a more primeval self. Again, don't ask about the weather. My days were spent with burning muscles (lord knows why my triceps were screaming), scavenging for food, ensuring that my offspring was happy and desperately trying to stay warm. Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic, but it was more like a trade off between burning muscles (going up hill) and frozen extremities (cycling down hill).
Perhaps I could boil the trip down to some good and bad aspects:
Good: Nikolai was a perfect cycling companion. He didn't complain once about getting on to the bike. He slept well through the night. He charmed everyone he met with his politeness. Phew.
Bad: "unseasonably bad weather"
Good: There was very little traffic on the major roads around both peninsulas. Perhaps in the main tourist season this would be busier? But after our dirt road experience we stuck to the main routes and encountered very few cars.
Bad: "unusually windy conditions"
Good: Both peninsula's were beautiful. The both had lovely white sand beaches. I would highly recommend the trip to anyone!
In the end, the best part of the whole trip was the chance to "get away from it all" and "recenter" ourselves. There is something magical in the silence of exertion and the disconnection from society and ultimately ourselves. It is a chance for introspection, something we so dramatically need in today's society of constant media saturation.