We had a day in Dublin to see the city and prepare for our flight... we washed clothes, aired the tent and sleeping bags, repacked the bags... And in the afternoon we headed into the city.
The air was cool as we walked through the beautiful streets and parks of Dublin. It was quite a trendy city, with lots of cafes and shopping... we were told by our hosts, Gabby and Neill, that Dubliners love to shop, and they were out en mass even late in the afternoon.
We treated ourselves to dinner - Tappas for two - in one of the sophisticated restaurants. For 31 euro we got six dishes and bread... meatballs in sauce, chicken burritoes, baked potatoes, salmon, salad, fried goat cheese... It was all so delicious and we felt so full! It was one of the best meals we've had on the trip.
Back at Neill and Gabby's that night it was time to take the bikes apart and pack them in the boxes they'd picked up for us (thanks so much again guys!). In the foyer of their apartment building we cleaned and dismantled the bikes... and finally managed to fit them in the boxes. It is such a hassle taking them apart to fly... But we're getting a lot quicker at it!
It was an early start the next day when we said goodbye to our terrific hosts and Neill dropped us and our gear at the bus stop for the airport coach.
Sam had an interesting experience at McDonalds buying some breakfast... while waiting outside for it to open he was chatting to a guy about our trip. This man then told another man standing nearby, who Sam had already noticed, looking a little dirty and unkempt and carefully counting every cent in his hand. This second man, upon hearing about our trip, immediately said, 'I shoul' give ya some money' and examined what little change he had. We were touched by his immediate offer of generosity (and declined, instead giving him a couple of euros) and reflected that it was the first time we'd been offered any money for the trip (apart from Stevie's constant offers of money and help whenever we hear from him - Love ya Steve!).
At the airport, after some confusion at the Aer Lingus check-in (you're meant to use the do-it-yourself machines, but they were trying to charge me for the bikes, even though I'd already paid for them!) we were ushered through the line and checked-in fine. Before boarding the plane in Dublin we went through a US security check - our fingerprints were taken, we were questioned about our plans, and then finally we received the passport stamp to permit our entry into the US. We were now in the USA, although technically still in Dublin airport.
The flight itself was another story... I won't go into detail here, but it was not one of our best flying experiences. We were very glad to be on US soil and away from the airline. Looking at our watches we waited half an our for our bikes, and collected them just in time to walk outside and meet our Boston host...
We awoke in our wet sleeping bags to a strong wind, grey skies and waves pounding into what was last night an almost completely motionless beach, vowing we would be getting a new tent from Black Diamond or else!
And then we set off, down one of the worlds best and quietest roads, for Dublin. Mind you there was the occasional pot hole so it wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close.
A couple of hours later and we stopped for some water and a snack. I bought a Drifter chocolate bar and a Yorkie chocolate bar, you can't get either of these in Australia! And I haven't seen them anywhere else either, so despite the fact that I'm not really a huge chocolate fan, I thought I'd just have to give them a shot.
One thing the Yorkie had going for it in my books was that it had big writing on it that says 'NOT FOR GIRLS!, and then it had a picture of a girl with a cross through it just to emphasize the fact that this chocolate bar 'really' wasn't for girls.
So anyway, seeing that I had two chocolate bars Shanna was desperate to try them. I let her try some of the Drifter, and I thought that was fair, but then she wanted to try some of the Yorkie.
Now me being one of those people who always tries to do the right thing I couldn't possibly let her have any of the Yorkie, because, like it says on the packet, it's 'NOT FOR GIRLS!'
Shanna wasn't too happy with this and I tried to explain that it wasn't my fault, I was only following the rules, but she just didn't seem to understand.
So, determined to follow the rules I ate it, every last bit!
And, it was delicious!
And I would have liked to have finished this blog right there but I'd be lying. Because the truth was that I gave in and broke the Yorkie rules and gave her half, and I'd like to say that it was out of the goodness of my heart, but it was because, actually, it wasn't even that good.
And then we rode to Dublin, through a gale force wind, up and over a hill that the Irish call a mountain were we paused for a moment to catch our breath. And looking out upon the ocean, knowing that this was the last time I might ever see the Irish Sea (and because I am really tired, then and now) I began to imagine that I could see leprechauns, dressed in green, riding the waves off into the distance. And the more I imagined it the more I thought I could really see them in their cute little costumes, riding off over the waves, never to be seen again.
Until they pop up when you least expect it... smacking you on the head with a Yorkie bar, because, you see, Shanna made me break the Yorkie rules!
Yesterday it was sunny.
We rode a long way.
There was a lot of hills.
We had some lunch.
It was good, half a chicken with mashed, roasted, boiled and wedged potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.
But Shanna ate most of that, hungry little animal. And Shanna had something else too, but I don’t remember what it was because I don’t care.
Then we rode to a beach.
It was near Courtown, where a ship that left Liverpool with 328 Irishmen bound for great new lives in America sunk. Not one of them lived.
And so then, being dense, and being Australian, we decided to swim in the Irish sea, Saint Georges Channel, the bit of water that separates Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, from the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales, (and Northern Ireland).
Yep, confused myself there too.
And after I’d swum in the Irish sea my nipples were stinging, because it was really, really cold.
So then we set up the tent near the beach.
And then we went to sleep.
But then I woke up because my sleeping bag was wet, and it wasn’t from incontinence, I stopped doing that three years ago.
So then our tent was flooded again because it is no longer waterproof.
So, at 2am I got out the tarp and covered the tent, and mopped up the water.
But then it got really, really windy.
So then I thought we were going to get blown into the Irish sea.
But then I was so tired that I didn’t care if we got blown into the Irish sea or not and so then, I just fell asleep.
But then I woke up again because I had to take a whiz.
And then I was scratching a lot and going crazy, and that was because I had fleas.
Probably still do.
We slept well, the best sleep we'd had for ages. Our legs felt like they might have actually recovered a little.
One our way up the big hill out of Tramore we stopped in a snack shop. While the lady made us a smoothie she asked questions about the trip, and commented that it was like talking to celebrities... 'Wow, I can't believe it,' she said 'I'm talking to celebrities, wow, your like superstars or somethen.'
'More like or somethen,' I replied.
But now Sam thinks he's some kind of superstar... It was hard to drag him away from such a beautiful little town, where we had a good nights sleep, and people think he is a celebrity.
It was another day filled with amazing scenery and constant hills. I wonder (constantly out loud) if Ireland actually has any flat roads, it seems we're always going either up or down.
While we ate our rolls with ham outside a supermarket in the middle of nowhere, rain started to fall and the temperature plummeted. We put on our jackets and set off again, only to peel off the layers a couple of kilometres down the road in the hot sun. It's like that constantly. The weather changes in a moment from hot and sunny to cold and rainy. It certainly keeps things interesting.
One of our favourite moments of the day was stopping at a beautiful graveyard by the sea, and seeing the ruins of Tintern abbey across the boggy river. We stopped to sit on a bench in the sun. Wait, now the bench is in the shade...
Late in the day we found the perfect camp site in an open field by the road. We camped under a huge old tree and slept peacefully, despite our fears it would rain.
Special mention: to Sam for taking such awesome photos every day - usually from the seat of his bike while he's riding!
Dungarvan to Tramore
Ever woken up to a puddle of water in your tent and wondered if somehow you’d floated into the ocean?
Being in one of the most expensive two man four season tents in the world didn’t seem to help much last night. The wind and rain was so strong that when we woke up in the morning I was surprised to see the tent still standing were we’d erected it last night. But by the look of how much water we were swimming in, we might has well have floated into the Irish Sea.
Through the night I wondered if the tent was leaking, I was getting wetter and wetter but couldn’t understand why. But I knew there was nothing I could do, so I just had to try and sleep with the side of the tent constantly blowing into my back. When I got out of the tent at 7am the wind was still screaming and the ocean had become wilder, the waves slamming into the side of the concrete pavilion next to us.
We grabbed everything out and wrung them whilst strategically hanging out clothes, sleeping bags and sleeping mats all over the beach. Over the next four hours we waited for everything to dry (photo), occasionally running after things when they blew away while sitting on the beach watching more daring (read crazy) Irish swim and bodyboard in the freezing water. Thinking I might be a dare devil and give it a go myself I stripped down to my shorts and began walking in.
Damn, it's even colder than it looks I thought, looking down after a few minutes to check if my legs had turned blue. In now, but not quite up to the waste it begins to feel OK, and thats when I realize that it's because my feet have gone numb. Unbelievably there's a woman just to my left in her bathers, smiling away whilst riding the waves on her body board.
Just before lunch time we're back on the road. Riding down the beautiful Irish coastline everything seems to be forgotten, but we are both exhausted, so only about 45kms later, after some steep hills and a few short down pours we stop in Tramore, an incredibly picturesque coastal town set on the top of a steep hill overlooking a u shaped inlet were the ocean meets the river.
It rains for the rest of the day, so we hole up in one of the many pubs for what's left of the afternoon.
Looking in the mirror that night I can't believe it, I think I might have sunburn!
We got off the boat and looked around. And then, simultaneously we both asked each other, 'where are we?'
'Ringaskiddy' a sign said. So we started riding in the right general direction, or so it seemed. Until we took a turn down a side road, one of the best side roads we've ridden in months, beautiful surface, barely any cars, framed by old stone walls and tunnels of green.
And then we came to a river, where we saw another ferry.
And it seemed in the right general direction so we decided to get on.
But it said we had to pay, one euro each, but we only had one euro and fifty cents between the both of us, but the man said it didn't matter, we could go for free.
So we got on the boat, and went to the other side of the river, a river sparkling blue, twinkling underneath the boats above its surface alongside the houses that line its stone walled shores.
You would like this place, really I think you would, you might, if you came here and the sun was shining like it is right now, even start to imagine yourself living in a place like this. Well I did.
And then we discovered that we were on an island, the Island of Cobh. And so I was thinking, I was thinking that no-one really talks about how beautiful Ireland is, and apparently, at least we were warned by some Irish people before we came that this was the ugly part, the part we shouldn't bother with. So I'm wondering to myself, bloody hell I'm thinking, have they ever been here, because how much better than this can you get?
And right about then as the road, framed by stone walls goes over a crest I see a big tree growing out of the water, and then we look ahead and see a beautiful bridge, and behind this beautiful bridge there's the remains of a castle. And I'll stop here and just say that you should come here, if you can, and ride these streets on a bicycle. But don't just take my word for it, have a look at some of the photo's. I took those and I'm not even much of an amateur photographer.
We crossed the old bridge, hundreds of years old, centuries, and left the small island.
And then, thirty kilometers later, busting to go to the toilet we stopped at a little pub at the side of the road. It didn't look much, but we got inside and the old couple said, 'this ere' place is more than three hundred years old.' Wow.
And then it got really, really, really windy. And then, when we got to the beach, a beautiful freezing cold Irish beach we looked up and it began to rain, a cold sleeting rain.
So we looked left and we saw a family, running excitedly for the water, shirts off, diving into the icy ocean, cries of joy, body boards out. And then, unable to believe my eyes I look to my right and see some elderly gentleman bobbing gracefully among the waves and the spray. And I look over through the rain and the wind at Shanna and say, 'crazy bloody Irish!'
What a country!
We made it to Swansea with plenty of time to spare, but not before getting caught in a rain storm. We hid under a bridge, wondering if it would clear, and when it slowed down to a drizzle we kept on riding.
After hanging out for a while we decided to go down to the ferry terminal early, about 5pm. When we got there I figured we were in the wrong place, with a checkpoint and big semi-trailer trucks pouring through. We asked the man, twice because we couldn’t understand the first time, if we could go through to the ferry. ‘Six o’clock is the earliest ye can coom, no earler’ then this’ he said.
7pm and we go back to the checkpoint, but the man has left, so we just keep on riding, until we hit the traffic jam. Half an hour of standing in line, sitting on our bikes and it seems we’re nearing the front of the queue when we see someone yelling out to us, in Irish and gesturing that we should go around the back way. Thanks for telling us, Shanna says laughing, and mumbles something to me about us freezing our butts off for nothing.
We get down to the spot and there’s no one there who knows what’s going on, so one of the coppa digga’s (police) standing around doing nothing sends his buddy off to find out.
Ten minutes later and he comes back and tells us we have to go join the queue and line up with everyone else so that customs can search our bags. Awesome, I say, annoyed, no more like pissed off.
Half an hour later after going through customs were one man is working and being watched by six other people (no wonder the UK is going broke!) and we are finally on board. After riding more than ten ferries over short and long distance this one has taken well over double the time to board of the next best challenger.
We watched the boat leave the harbor under Swansea’s glittering lights and then found our room on board, a hot shoe box. It was so hot in there we decided to check out the boats attractions, and found, a leprechaun for sale in the down stairs shop.
Over the PA system the captain announces that the stabilizers are coming out to try and settle things a bit, but nothing seems to change, and our stomachs are still churning. Finally, with the boat rocking like mad we fall asleep at midnight, but get woken up by a bunch of drunk welsh women at one in the morning. In my sleeping attire (a pair of jocks), groggy and still half asleep I open the door to see what all the fuss is about, and immediately get an ear full of cat calls. One of them says sorry and I hope this means the noise will lower a few decibels.
6am and the captain is on the PA again to let us all know that the restaurant is open for our business, if we would be so kind to get up now and cough up some more money.
At 8am we go down below to the cargo area to untie our bikes, only to find that they’ve been untied already, and are now in a different position. We look at each other, droopy eyes, both thinking the same thing, it can only get better from here.
And it does.