Published: April 7th 2006April 7th 2006
At the end of the last week I had several experiences that demonstrate the reason I came to stay in one place for an extended period of time. The weather improved and I found myself out on the streets of Cappoquin with my camera more often. Counter to my fears, people did not go running for their doorways. Many
folks were happy to have their picture taken and a few people who I had passed on the street came up to me. One guy reveled that he had a collection of over 200 pictures from old Cappoquin. He had grown up in the hard life that was the orphanage that now is my guest house residence.
On Friday morning I rode out to the Lismore Castle to photograph the large magnolia tree that had reached its peak of full bloom in the field in front of the Castle. A small herd of cows scattered across the field finished the deal. Shooting from the road I was able to get several color and B&W shots. Then I got greedy. I really wanted a close up of the flowers with the Castle in the distance, the kind of shot you have to
So here I find myself out in the middle of the cow pasture with a herd of curious cows slinking up behind me. I am no country boy. With my eye stuck to the lens I am getting increasingly nervous about what happens once you are surrounded by several tons of not-so-bright, skidish bovine. Take meter reading -- “shoo cow” -- frame --- “Go Now, Go Now” -- focus -- “No, don't lick my jacket” -- take picture.
On Friday night the light was good for some possible sunset pictures over the town. I hopped on my bike and set out to chase the light. I headed up the hill towards the large Georgian home of the Kean family to see if I could get above the town. All I found was a cow that was willing to run after me. What is it with the Cows?
Down to the river I went toward the old stone bridge. A man was helping a young woman into a rowing skull. I asked if I could take some pictures. In exchange I got invited into the motorboat to be part of the nightly ritual of coach and
young athlete working out on the Blackwater River; Something that has taken place here for over a 100 years. It was great to be out on the Blackwater as the sun cut red ribbons across the sky. Young rowers where silhouetted against the suns reflection in the water and the Knockmealdown mountains rose above the town capped by clouds.
As I suspected the adventure ended with a conversation about what time we would be the meeting in the pub for a pint. This is what it is all about.
Cappoquin to Youghal - 18 miles
On Saturday I took off on my bike for the open road. The weather was clear and calm with puffy clouds scattering the sun about. An auspicious start. Six miles in - hail. As I hunkered down behind a wall I wondered if some butterfly flapped it's wings in Siberia and I get hailed on. With my luck it was a cow fart in Holland.
Ireland comes from an ancient word that means the world's most beautiful woman. And she is. When it comes to weather she is also the most temperamental. She began to cry a wet and bitter cold
rain as I moved uphill. But then the clouds parted and she shone her beautiful face down upon me. I took off the soaked top layers to dry in the sun and rested in the warmth of her bosom.
At the risk of taking this analogy too far (oh hell, it's my blog), once I reached the top of the hill she began to scream at me. A stiff headwind greeted me as the landscape opened up to a scenic yet unimpressive rolling pasture land. By this time I was down to my last granny gear and working hard.
Eighteen miles later I was in the town of Youghal. A town I first pronounced as U-Gal, but is properly pronounced as a flat southern form of you (Y'All).
Youghal to Cork - 30 miles
The next morning I headed out for the 30 miles to Cork. Ireland, She screamed at me the whole way - the bitch. And she shown her face upon me - I am so confused. Women. Good thing I have learned new ways to cuss from the Irish. The last 10 miles where the hardest. I used to subscribe to Adventure Magazine
and read the titillating tales of personal adventure. It used to set my mind on the run. Granted this is no solo trip to Antarctica on skates or swimming the backstroke through the Amazon. I am sleeping in a bed every night and eating out at restaurants. Thank god for the shower. But I am going from Cappoquin to Galway on my bike powered my nothing else but my legs and inner determination.
It has been both the best and worst that I imagined so far. Strange how those moments when it is cold and wet and your tired and you still have so far to go are the moments that it is all about.
It is times like these that I learn the important lessons of this trip. At 18 miles it is not about being at 20 miles. It certainly is not about being finished at 30 miles. It is about being on this piece of pavement. Understand, touch base, with how deep the reserve and resolve. The question first comes up as “What the f**k am I doing here?” Cycling on the Southwest coast of an Island that sticks it's nose out into the Atlantic
to meet the coming storms? Wind, Rain, and cold are a sure thing.
From this vantage is an opportunity to learn the content of my character. It's size, shape, depth, viscosity, and elasticity. It is also about being present: to the chance encounter on the side of the road, the play of light on rock and field, and the magic of the ever changing weather. She is a beautiful woman. Some of the most important lessons I have learned are due to my relationship to women.
I took a rest the next day to run some errands in Cork, rest my legs and re-concur the city that rained on my on St. Pat’s. Mission accomplished. Lady Ireland and I came to an understanding, I talked some sense into her (or the weather improved and I so far lucky) and she shown bright sun for the remainder of the week.
Cork to Kinsale - 17 miles
Down Hill most of the way, and uneventful. In Kinsale I choose to stay in a Youth Hostel. A square building with a square courtyard it was arranged in pods that rose four stories up. Each stable started with a door
that opened to a small hall, that lead to three doors that get you into the sleeping units. Each of the white institutional doors had a small blue sign with the inscription “please keep door closed, fire door”, Leading to the air of design driven by efficiency and insurance premiums. Each pod was small clean and bare. I felt like a bee entering it’s appointed place in the hive, or an Astronaut checking into a galactic man of war. “Lieutenant Flint#101576 you are assigned to pod IE2CSW”.
Youth Hostels are a tricky subject. Aesthetically they go right along with the whole cycling theme. Five years ago on the last visit to Ireland Debbie and I had a Dublin Youth Hostel experience that lead us to the conclusion “we are too old for this shit.” My decision to give the Hostel route a try is a result of the war between having a warm bed and my natural reluctance to spend money on things you can’t take home.
But you be the judge:
Kinsale Youth Hostel:
Window the size of a small box
No towel to shower with
Breakfast found out the next morning
Big window view of the sunset over the bay
Towel and the hot shower to go with it
Funky place (see below)
Bathtub for tired legs
Fruit plate to start breakfast
Robe to get you to the bath
If I report staying in a Hostel again you all have permission to beat me about the head and shoulders when I return.
Kinsale to Clonakilty - 29 Miles
Scripted right out of the travel brochures, I headed out to the beautiful Old Head Kinsale under bright sunny skies. Real rural coastal Ireland. The air was cool, the grass was stark green waving in the wind and the sky was light blue. The rolling hills bisected by stone fences and hedges right to the point that the land drops down into the sea.
As I parked my bike at the end peninsula and unloaded my camera and lunch I had to fight the instinct to keep moving. For some reason I have set early afternoon as my arrival time into the next town. There is enough light to go till 8 pm. I have yet to stay
in any place that was any ware close to half full. The best part of the days have been out on the bike. The very best of those have been when I have stopped to take pictures of something that has caught my eye.
Cycling is a great combination to photography. You are moving slowly enough that it is an easy matter to stop and take a picture and be off in no time. But you are mobile enough that headed a few km out of your way is not a real chore (unless it is at the bottom of a big hill). I passed up a dramatic stone circle because of it’s position at the bottom of a large hill.
Clonakilty to Skibbereen - 26 Miles
HILLS! HILLS! HILLS! In order to stay off the main highway the N71 and see more scenery akin to the previous day I took side trips. As it turns out the main characteristic of these routes was to test my will power with hills. Ireland shown her face, yet spit on me on occasion, usually when I was on the upside of a hill.
For the most part I
was unimpressed with what I saw on the coast. There where the odd moments. These came in the close up: an old gate, a trail through the hills, buoys floating in a jade blue bay. a man and a dog walking down the road. At one point I stopped to take a picture of a castle set against a hill just as the clouds sent small shadows across the landscape. In my tired state I realized how renewing to my soul time spent taking a good picture is. When in Cork I bought a new tripod because mine was deteriorating quickly. The new one, smaller yet stronger and more versatile is a joy to use.
Just though a little town called Union Hall I met my match. On the last big hill of the day I got off and walked when the Union Hall dog was walking faster then I could pedal. When I started cussing at the dog I decided to stop. I propped the bike on a gate snuck into the field and took a nap in the sun under a large tree. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
The place I stayed in Skibbereen was wild. I never quite got used tot the tall mannequin in the hall way with the top hat. Crazy stuff everywhere and a bathtub that was a true find for sore legs. A very nice Thai restaurant right next door was a nice change from the usual fare. Skibbereen is nothing to write home about but the restaurant/B&B combination is definitely a place to bring an Irish lass. The dreariest part of each day is eating out. I am usually famished by five pm and most people don’t even think of going out till seven pm for food and half past nine for drinks.
Skibbereen to Glengariff - 30 miles (20 so far)
Today is the fourth straight day of cycling and the sixth out of seven days. I am just beating my body into endurance conditioning at this point. I climbed a small mountain pass to descended at 30 miles per hour into Bantry. After being alone on the mountain road I found myself in the middle of a street fair at the end of Bantry Bay. Two very precocious kids began almost immediately to pepper me with their curiosity. When they asked me if I had any change I became even more convinced that they are Travellers (Ireland’s much maligned gypsy population).
Assuming I make it to Glengariff I will stay there a day to rest and get ready to do a two day ride of the Bearra Peninsula. It is the less populated and smaller cousin of the Right of Kerry, a tourist haven (remember my opinion of tour busses).
The first week of cycling has done little to dissuade me that it is a great way to travel. My legs may not agree if they could talk, but they can’t so we will just have to give them a rest and then start the second week.