Distance covered: 54km
Number of people I saw paddling wheelie bins: 4
Bugs in my tent at this exact moment: 14 (that I can see)
Number of gannets on Little Skellig Island each summer: 52,000
Lowlight: Getting up at 6am, cycling like a mad thing for two hours to find out that boat to Skellig Island was cancelled due to high winds.
Highlight: Stumbling across Ireland's favourite camping ground that plays Beethoven in the bathroom.
There are three things I know to be true with the Irish:
- They're always up for a pint of Guinness
- They're always good craic
- They are never out of bed before 6.30am on a Saturday
These facts made for an unusually quiet cycle from Glenbeigh to Portmagee to catch a boat to Skellig Island.
The only people I saw for a 27km stretch were Pat the Baker, a granny up early for church and two German tourists.
Normally this stretch of road would be loaded with tourists so I enjoyed the serenity of winding through the misty Kerry mountains in solitude. Once again the rain was pelting down but I'm getting used to that.
The wind was also blowing and it got me thinking; what's worse, big hills or big wind? To be honest I think wind is just an invisible hill that challenges every pedal rotation but the cars whizzing past are completely unaware.
Wind on a bicycle is like the pain of a splitting migraine, you are the only one who is aware of it.
Anyway, I got a call two hours into my cycle from Ken (son of a professional ballroom dancer) to tell me the boat had been cancelled due to dangerously high winds. Downtrodden, I checked into Mannix holiday park which turned out to be the silver lining of my soggy Irish cloud. This place is not your regular campsite. Take the toilets for example; there's potted plants on the counter and I got to shower with Beethoven. (His music at least.) My cycle tourist friend Dave was staying at a hostel down the road so we decided to take the car ferry to Valentia Island and cycle around for the day.
The island is within reach of the Gulf Stream so it gets milder weather than the mainland, which explains the abundance of brightly coloured wild flowers that tumble over stone walls and pathways. It's only 11km long and 3km wide so it's perfect on a bicycle but some of the hills would even raise a Lance Armstrong eyebrow. Valentia Island was also the first European terminal of the first communications link with America waaaay back in 1886. I was quite taken with the Slate Quarry (apparently during the famine you could get a headstone for half a glass of whiskey) and the Grotto.
As so often seems to be the case on this journey, I then stumbled upon the most unusual of events at the Knightstown port while waiting for a ferry. All the kids in town and their competitive fathers were racing home-made rafts in the marina. Apparently it's an annual event that attracts a novel range of entries.
People were paddling everything from inflatable mattresses to wheelie bins.
The winner was then presented a trophy by the 'Oyster King', a mature gentleman wearing a crown made of oyster shells?? I didn't dare ask why.
Ever the optimist, I'm hopeful to make it out to Skelligs tomorrow. At least this time it's only a 16km cycle to Portmagee but if not, I've got many-a-tip on things to do in this beautiful part of the planet.
To see more photos of this day check out the album at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10150253505206580&set=a.10150251834641580.326762.683496579&type=1&theater