Posted by: ralphmexico | September 6, 2012


A dedicated listener I just invented wrote to me last week asking have I been on any good cycling trips in recent months.  Well, fictional dedicated listener, there has been some partaking of pedal action.  Three jaunts in particular spring to mind:
Its May 19th, and the eyes of Europe are on Munich as Chelsea end their long quest for Champions League glory.  There is much prattle after the game about “The Journey” Chelsea had taken to reach their promised land.  I’d a journey to get to where I was that same Saturday night.  The Chelsea lads ended up Champions of Europe, swigging champagne, and frolicking with scantily-clad super-models.  I ended up in a flimsy tent in a wet, bumpy field in Allihies.  Neither the footballers nor I got much sleep.  So it goes.
The cycle from Bonane (outside Kenmare) to Allihies was an education for this North Cork geographical dunce.  KC was on direction-duty.  He serves The Man in the Beara Peninsula, so he knew the roads like the palm of his hand.
Mars Bars were devoured at Laragh crossroads.  Tea and cake were demolished at the restaurant in Ardgroom (where attempts to chat to a few southern hemisphere tourists was met with the kind of Australian resistance that Ned Kelly specialised in).  Huge “catch of the day” dinners were dealt with in Allihies.  Between food stops, some cycling took place.  The plan to get the cable car across to Dursey Island was shelved once the first pints were ordered.  That was at 4pm.  Which was nice.
The tents were pitched in the humpy field with the permission of the local shop (and field) owner.  The trio of Allihies pubs were visited.  The match was watched.  The living was easy.  Wish I could have said the same for the sleeping.
Sunday morning, Castletownbere got lucky and had the pleasure of being our breakfast provider.  In rare and wondrous sunshine we made good time to Glengarriff, stopping briefly en route to soak up the life-enhancing solitude of a desolate pier outside Adrigole.
Ice-cream to revive our drooping spirits in Glengarriff, and back to Bonane over the beautiful, but tough, Caha Pass.  Who needs the Baha Peninsula when you’ve got the Beara Peninsula, indeed?
Its the end of May and the eyes of Europe are on Ireland as we vote on whether to allow Europe take another little piece of our heart.  The day before voting on Ireland’s future, another cycle trip is undertaken.  From Bonane, again across the Caha Pass to Glengarriff, along the N71 to Bantry.  At 8pm KC and I sit on a wall in the town near the cinema.  We have our bikes beside us.  We are eating bananas.  Two girls walk past.  We politely enquire if they would like to join us in the cinema to watch “The Dictator”.  The girls burst out laughing and stride past us at speed.  Tough audience.
We turn off the main road and head down into the Sheepshead Peninsula.  As darkness falls we finish up in Kilcrohane, near Dunmanus Bay.  Toasted sandwiches and creamy pints while talking to a local about the price of sheep.  If this ain’t living it’ll do ’til the real thing comes along.
Enquiries are made about where to camp.  There’s a class of a hostel down the road.  We’re told the owner might let us pitch there for a few euro.  We stop in the other pub in the village before making any rash decisions.  Again we’re told about the hostel.  We like to camp.  We don’t like to pay.  Hmmm.
We leave the pub.  Go around the corner.  See a lovely lush meadow in the moonlight.  Open the gate.  Pitch the tents.  Hide the bikes against the ditch.  Back into the pub.  We’re asked did we get sorted?  We reply, “We put them up alright”.  No lie there.
The following morning we spot the largest “No Camping Allowed” sign in Ireland on the entrance to the field.  It was an honest mistake.  It was a great nights sleep.  Sometimes, as Dylan sang “To live outside the law, You must be honest”.
Next up, a marvellous woman from Co. Down, who runs the shop in the village, gives us steaming cups of tea and a plethora of Penguin bars, then refuses payment.  She’s a tonic.  “How could anyone say “Yes” to more austerity?” she eloquently enquires.  Such a pity that more people in Ireland weren’t singing from a similar hymn sheet.
After heavy overnight rain we unzip numerous puddles cycling down to the Sheepshead Lighthouse.  Fog that you couldn’t cut with a machete envelopes us.  The last two kms on foot are treacherous.  It’s all great gas.  It feels like we are at the lighthouse at the end of the world.  Dense, clammy fog coming in from across the water smothers the whole countryside.  A metaphor for that day’s referendum, perhaps?
From Kilcrohane we pass through Ahakista and Durrus on the road to Bantry.  We snare some bargains in a treasure trove of a book shop and KC fronts up by packing the weighty tomes into his panniers.  I sell it to him as “character-building”, before racing up the road out of ear-shot and out of book-shot.
Ice-cream to revive our drooping spirits in Glengarriff, and back to Bonane over the beautiful, but tough, Caha Pass.  Who needs the Shetland Islands when you’ve got the Sheepshead Peninsula, indeed?
Its mid-August and the eyes of Europe are closing with boredom as another cycle trip is described.  Sensing that even my fictional listener is losing interest, this one will be like a pelican – brief.
Bonane to Kenmare to Parknasilla on the Ring of Kerry.  Lunch in the swank Parknasilla hotel that was a favourite of George Bernard Shaw’s is a trial as a boorish mother monopolises the whole room while loudly dictating to her gormless kids, and her hen-pecked cuckold looks on forlorn.  “My Fair Lady” she is not.
In smatterings of sunshine we pass through Sneem, Caherdaniel, and stop at the Chaplin and Micko statues in Waterville.  We take a left for Valentia off the Ring route.  Throw up the tents in a field in Portmagee close to the public toilets proudly declaring themselves to be “Second Best Overall in Ireland in 2002”.  Check out the two bars in the village ’til the wee small hours of the morning.  All quiet on the South-Western Kerry front.
Driving rain on Sunday.  Take shelter in the prize-winning public conveniences.  Then take the pain (and the rain) as we cycle in gales onto Valentia Island.  Get the ferry to Cahersiveen from Knightstown.  Swallow unpalatable breakfast rolls in the town.  Turn off for Glencar as the ferocious wind and rain buffet us around the road.  Labour over the Ballaghisheen and Ballaghbeama Passes.  Meet an abandoned ickle pussy cat in the wilderness.  I carry her in my coat, and then my pannier, until she springs for freedom.  Her loss.
Back to Bonane, cat-less and cold.  No stop for ice-cream.  No escaping the fact that this was an appalling effort at being brief.  Hopefully my dedicated, fictional editor will save the day. 
Who needs Valencia when you’ve got Valentia?  Who needs Portugal when you’ve got Portmagee?  Who needs a break (or even a brake) from cycling blogs?
Read William Boyd, Get Your T-shirts Tie-dyed!!
Ralph Mexico

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