Right first things first-I can’t find my notes, but maybe that’s a good thing. Some bits I may have to hide so as a kind of directors cut when you see the symbol click on it and I’ll send you’ll see a hidden bit telling you what you missed.
Way back in 2000 I, by chance caught a travel programme on Irish Television that was showing a cycling holiday. It was Irish Cycling Safaris, every time they were talking to a participant they seemed to be in a pub. Hmmm I thought –cycling and pubs-sounds good. The year is now 2015 and I am still with Irish Cycling Safaris-although now, to be pedantic it is called Cycling Safaris-but the old hands like me still call it Irish Cycling Safaris.
This year I decided to do The Ring of Kerry/Dingle Safari. I had done this one twice before so I kind of knew what to expect. But because there is a big bunch of regulars like me ICS changes/ads to the routes on all the safaris to make things a little different-which is good.
Travelling from Derry to Killarney by bus is a long tiring trip, so this year I decided to do it over two days . So on Friday I took the bus to Galway –well I was actually a passenger, I couldn’t fit it in my bag. Managed to get an early bus and it was quiet until we got to Sligo-then it filled up. An elderly couple got on the bus and for a few reasons they were in separate seats. The woman was down at the back and the husband was up near the front –sitting beside me. That’s another thing, get onto a bus- pick a seat near the front and you’ll find you’ll have it to yourself longer than if you pick a seat near the back. As people like a seat to themselves, so they walk past you hoping there is a seat empty further down the bus-usually not, but they never turn back. Now they were going to the holy shrine at Knock (I know that because he told me). She started shouting at him but he could not hear her-so he was asking me what she said. They continued to shout back and forward-with me telling him what she said. I KNOW I could have tried a seat swap for them-but this was more fun.
Galway was good-always is! There is a real feel good atmosphere when you leave the bus station in Ayers Square. Some great and different types of buskers in Shop Street. Came across a great singer from Kerry –who is actually a cyclist too. And got her CD. And NO Jorg I did not flirt with her! Found a great wee pub away from the touristy ones in Shop Street that did a top class pint of Smithwhicks-and I told them that. Had a kind of early night.
Kilarney bound. Must admit the free wi-fi on the bus is great as I was able to keep in touch with Joerg , who I met on 2 previous ICS trips, to arrange a meet up and have a pint, before meeting the group. We decided to explore Kilarney too. There was one guy standing in front of a box –written on it was a mental maths problem-it went something like this “ 1000 +40+1000+30+1000+20+1000+10=?” apparently 95% say 5000 but the answer is really 4100 I may have got this slightly wrong, but you get the drift. He made me say say it out loud.He asked me where I was from =”Northern Ireland.” Says I “Me too.” Says he “What part?” and I said “All of me.” As I was doing the sum I was wondering “where is this going?” “What’s his sale/trick” I noticed the man beside him had a Bible in his hand. As he was starting his “talk” with Jorg I was looking around for an escape route. I noticed an old fashioned sweetie shop behind him and my favourites-Jelly babies in the window. I just shouted “Jelly Babies!!” and was away in a shot leaving Jorg on his own. The Jelly Babies were great and weighed in the old fashioned way .
We made it back to the hotel and as we sat in the bar we played spot the cycling safari person as they come in. We seem to get it right 8/10 .
There was ten people in the group. This number is just about perfect. Mind you I am STILL hoping that someday I am the only man in a group along with the Cuban Woman’s Beach Volleyball team . The guide was one I had before Aidan Ryan (no relation ) so I knew we were going to have a very good time.
The first day was a leisurely cycle to a little village called Sneem-good long steady climb to the lunch spot at Molls Gap-very scenic-then it is practically downhill to Sneem. Very good hotel here-to be honest it is too good an act to follow. The double bed in the room was so big I would have needed a map to get out of it. Jorg and I decided to explore the village before dinner and check out a pub or two.This was my first time actually exploring the village and was bigger than I thought.
We asked the group if anybody wanted to come with us, the French woman in the said that she would join us. So we knew we were off to a good start-well anybody who is up for a pint (or two) after the day’s cycle before dinner is most definitely a good person in the Kitty Club’s books . I got a very good strawberry mulkshake there too (thought that would amuse you Isabelle).
Next day, we were Glenbeigh bound-a lovely little seaside village-the route was about 50 km (that’s 31.5 miles in the old money). There was a pretty steep climb up over the Gap of Ballaghbeama-as far as I remember everybody managed it. Then it was a lovely winding descent to the lunch break spot. Some of us went down to the beach that evening before dinner-but when wading in I saw a couple of really big jelly fish and was out pretty quickly.
The next day we had a coach ride to Dingle, where we stayed for 2 nights. There was a very good/interesting cycle that day. We went by a few Stone age forts and we stopped at a beehive hut settlement. The man in the entrance hut gave little info leaflets that were in English, French and German-I said to him that it was odd with us being in a Gaeltaght area there was nothing in Irish. He laughed and told that he had just recently retired, and said that he was looking forward to spending his days in the pub, but his brother talked him into doing this job. We stopped at the Blasket Visitors’ Centre for lunch. I was there before so I straight into the centre first had a quick look around and took a picture of the Blasket Islands through a window. After lunch I told the others they HAD to see the centre. As we were about to enter a girl shouted at us and told us there was an admission charge-I must have avoided her twice-we decided to get on the bikes and head to Dingle. When Jorg and I got to the B&B we were somewhat “surprised” to see a double bed in our “little room”- he said that it was 2 beds together and he would separate them. Now the room really was quite small and I thought he had a task here all right-but he in fact managed pretty well. Despite the compact size of the place the hospitality was gigantic.
Wednesday was “rest day” do you own thing and all that-Jorg and I decided to do a boat trip round the harbour-saw the dolphin, 45 years old it is. I think it is a computerised model or a hologram by now. I wanted to get out to the Blasket Islands but those ferries where cancelled due to inclement weather forecasts.
Thursday was Dingle to Kilorgin 69 km (43 miles) the guide pamphlet said “for the morning “challenging climb at beginning of the day followed by a relaxing cycle). Now this route is a “pretty hilly one.” But the second half of this day was the toughest. In fact it beat me-bit more push, if I had gritted my teeth and thought of somebody I did not like I would have done it-but no, it was just too much. Only one person in the group, the Spaniard- José made it. Fair play to him. Up here we had great views of the Macgillicudy Reeks.
That night we were in a great B&B in Killorgin. There is not an awful lot to Killorgin, but we did find a great wee group in a pub there.
So it’s Friday-the final day. Killogrin back to Killarney- 64 km (40 miles). Today’s trip took us over the Gap of Dunloe. A very scenic part of this trip, a lovely climb up to the main road-near the top of the climb someone had written the name “Jerry” across the road-OK it’s not Gerdy or even Gerry-but close enough for me. On the way back we stopped at the Torc Waterfall-pretty impressive it was too. Dinner that night was in the Bricin Reastaurant back in Kilarney-where most of had the delicious Boxty.
So that was it we said our goodbyes-some of us I KNOW will meet up again on other trips.
After that I was back in Galway for 2 nights. On my first night, by accident I heard a super band Beggars Velvet. An acoustic 3 piece-guitar, tea chest and bass. Did great covers of songs that I am not suppose to like, plus an outstanding cover of a song I love “Baba O’Reilly.” I asked the bass player to write down where they where the next night. But I could not make out his writing. I was in a café the next day and asked a waitress-she could not make it out either, but said she would try a colleague –“oh that’s the Skeffington” he said. I said “You must have been a chemist in a previous life” he said “Actually I am training to be a doctor” “that says it all, I said”
So I got to see them a second time and it was great. Next time I am in Galway I will definitely be looking out for them.
So that’s another Cycling Safari done, and another one most enjoyed. Come December I will probably be discussing with Kitty Club members old and new the plans for 2016 DV and that. And what’s done is done let’s just forget about it and move on.