Exploring Ireland, september 2002.

Thursday sept.12, crossing the north sea.

Hans picked me up at work: I had taken all luggage with me this morning. A quick and boring motorway ride took us to the ferry in Hoek van Holland. Bike secured to the deck, cabin found, off to the Irish pub to get in the mood. Many like this were to follow, because it's good for you!
This boat, the Pride of Rotterdam, built in 2001, is the most luxurious ferry I've been on so far. Cabins with private bathroom, live entertainment, a number of pubs and restaurants; it's almost a cruise. A bit too much for me really. I'm going to find out that on this pre-booked holiday (never done that before on a MC trip) LUXURY will be the keyword...

Friday 13, crossing England.

We slept pretty well, had some rolls and coffee for breakfast and left the ferry shortly after eight. This was to be another motorway day, boring but efficient. We had some stops for petrol and coffee, but it wasn't until we were on the A5 that the riding became more interesting. Wales will be worth a visit in one of the years to come. When we stopped for coffee and a snack we had a nice chat with two guys who were transporting a fabulously restored Vincent to a nearby museum.

We had to wait a while in Holyhead for the ferry to arrive, but as the sun was shining that wasn't much of a problem. The Holyhead-Dublin ferry, being of the catamaran type, took us over the Irish Sea quickly. Getting out of Dublin in the friday afternoon traffic was something else. Paris traffic seems rural by comparison. Navigating on the sun we left Dublin in the end, but by the time we were close to our destination (near Athy) it was getting dark. Finding the first pre-booked B&B took us another half hour. The lady of the house served us tea, scones and fruit as we hadn't had any dinner. Then the bad news arrived: Hans had to return home the next day as his mother in law had deceased. His holiday was over before it had started...

Saturday 14, to Killarney.

We left the B&B at around 9.30, having waited for the fog to disappear which didn't work... For about 10 miles we rode together, then Hans took the N9 back to Dublin while I headed south for Waterford. By noon the fog had disappeared and I was able to enjoy the ever better scenery. From Waterford to Dungarvan, then the R666 and N72 all the way to Killarney. I managed to loose my luggage but luckily found it again before the cars arrived that I had passed shortly before... Found the B&B which was to be my home for the next 4 nights 6 miles north of the town. I walked to town to get myself food and beer and find the internet cafe to keep the folks back home updated.

Sunday 15, riding Beara and the ring of Kerry.

After a sufficient Irish breakfast I headed off to Glengariff to ride Caha, or is that Beara? The roads were great now as was the weather. I made frequent stops to enjoy the scenery. Halfway on the south road I headed north to cross the Caha mountains: this is what we ride for! Then to Kenmare, to start the ring of Kerry trip. Nice, but not overwhelming and many tourist cars on the road. So, at a place called Blackwater Bridge I headed north to do another pass again. Much better riding here! The roads were of a less than good quality and as my rear shock had broken down it wasn't really comfortable, but the trip was well worth the suffering. I rewarded myself in Cahersiveen with a quality lunch. Back to Killarney. Bought myself a book and spend some time reading it whilst drinking Guinness.

Monday 16, Killarney National Park.

Time for some physical exercise. I rode to Muckross house, one of the entries to the Killarney national Park. First I visited the traditional farms: an area where small to big pre-1930 farms were rebuild and fully operational. One gets a very good impression of life as it used to be on these farms, and the people operating the farms in the tourist season were friendly and knowledgable. I really enjoyed it. After the visit I took a long walk around the middle lake of the park. Beautiful indeed, and whenever I got off track I was rewarded by seeing ruins of chapels, houses etc. I stopped frequently to ponder about the meaning of life in general, and mine in particular ;-)

I brought some chocolate for the daughters of the landlady (3 and 5 years of age), and that evening they amused me by showing me their homework, quarreling and teasing each other.

Killarney National Park

Connor Pass
Tuesday 17, Dingle.

What a beautiful place this is! The only drawback of this is that so many tourists come to visit during the season that the locals are pretty much fed up by them and don't bother to chat with you anymore like they used to 15 years ago. Not much of a problem if you're not travelling alone, but I did...

I rode the smallest roads available, occasionally ending in the middle of nowhere but always beautiful. Wish I had taken a camera, as things like old fortresses and other ruins seemed to be popping out of nowhere all the time. I stopped in the town of Dingle for lunch at a pub called Murphy's. Good food but crowded. Then a tour round the most western part of Dingle, Mount Brandon inviting me to climb it; maybe next time. Back in Dingle town, crossing the Connor Pass. Again beautiful, roadworks going on to improve the road surface. Why not leave it like it is? I noticed many small roads suddenly turning into motorways courtesy of the European Community, some of the charm getting lost in the process.

Wednesday 18, Killarney-Portumna.

From Killarney to Limerick was pretty straightforward. I noticed Steve and Mike, 2 of the guys I was supposed to meet in Portumna, going the other way to do their Irish Butt: a tour of all available peninsulas in one day. Crazy b*stards. Around and north of Limerick a lot of roadwork was going on, preventing me to take the route I had planned for. After a while I managed to find the roads I wanted again and had a comfortable ride over good roads along the Shannon. On arrival at the hostel none of my Cis friends were there, so I dumped all my gear in the room and left for a walk to Portumna castle. This castle was destroyed by fire some 250 years ago and is now being rebuild. Extraordinary effort and quite impressing. After the visit I sat at the harbour for a while, and then went to look for an internetcafe. None available yet, but the lady at the local library let me use one of the PC's there. A pint at the local pub, then back to the hostel where almost everybody was present now. Good to see all those familiar faces again and 'add' a face as well: Barbara! I was offered a glass of wine by Sue, and then we went to a restaurant 'just a mile' down the road. Mick, Debby and me walked there and estimated it at least twice that far. Steve and Mike also arrived at the resto, being totally exhausted. The meal was fine and so was the visit to the local pub later. Traditional music which went straight into the soul. As soon as the girl started playing her harp the pub quieted down in a matter of seconds. Fantastic! Again later we were all thrown out of the pub by the local gendarmerie...

Portumna Castle

Cliffs of Moher
Thursday 19, the Burren.

Steve and I decided to have a quiet ride together today. He was feeling a bit ill so we decided to keep speeds sane and take frequent stops. We stopped to sit on the beach for a while (it was sunny again like every day of this week) and swapped bikes for the rest of the day. I really noticed the difference between a working and a no-longer working shock! A great bike this CBR600. We had another stop at the Cliffs of Moher. Many musicians here trying to earn some money. Some were good, but certainly not all of them! Lunch at or near Ballyvaughan, then south again through the Burren National Park. Great small road, but the bus was something of a surprise. One short stop there, and then back to Portumna. This time a bit quicker in order to test the bikes scientifically... Back in Portumna Malcolm showed us how to test rear shock absorbers. We had dinner in a simple restaurant and then some drinks in a pub where Mac and Debby played pool. We said goodbye to some of those present now but probably not early next morning.

Friday 20, Wicklow mountains.

After saying goodbye to those that had more or less woken up Steve and I headed east to the Wicklow mountains. As we approached them the road got more interesting, nice sweepers and nice but no idiot speeds. We shared a last lunch in Laragh, then Steve went south to Rosslare and I went north to Dublin.

The ride through the Wicklow mountains was beautiful: forest roads, open roads, views into gorges that looked like Shangri-La and in the end a great view on Dublin. I managed to get to the ferry harbour without too much trouble, and spend some time sitting in the sun and reading. It felt really weird leaving Ireland, it must have been a dreadful farewell for those that left for America the last few centuries. On the ferry I met a nice German student, Jenny, with whom I chatted without 'chatting her up' (an expression she taught me). Once in Holyhead I found the B&B, went into town to have a chinese meal at a very strange chinese restaurant, and then into a pub where I was chatted up (!). Yet another pub and another, then back to bed.

Saturday 21, Holyhead to Hull.

I tried to ride without looking at maps for a while. This took me to interesting roads in North Wales but progress was non-existent. I decided to ride the rest of the way on motorways, and as I approached Hull (some 60 miles to go) I left the motorway again to take minor roads. Had lunch in Holme, a race with a Mercedes some miles further on the road and a beer in the old city of Hull. Then the ferry. I didn't see a single drop of rain in Ireland, amazing! Hope to get back one day.