Post 24 - 2015 Biking Adventure

by Fred Schlomka - 

Day 48 & 49 & 50 - Ireland

18th, 19th, 20th June - Limerick - Querrin - Miltown Malbay
Total biked - 1,345 kilometres ( 840 miles)

Our departure from Limerick was easy, and there were no problems getting on the train to Ennis. We were able to keep the bike in the train entryway. It was a little weird. No-one else was on the train, but it only made one stop and then we were in Ennis.

Biking to the Loop Head peninsula took longer than we thought. Instead of about 50km, we ended up biking almost 80km due to our propensity to take the smallest most interesting route, rather than the main roads. It’s usually on the small roads and lanes that we stumble across interesting places and meet people.

Sharon the hairdresser is a good example. We stopped in a cute little village and passed a hairdressing shop. Sunita decided that her bangs needed trimmed so in she went to ‘Original Roots - Ladies & Gents Hair Salon’. Meanwhile I went into the hardware shop across the street and commiserated with the proprietor about the lack of good craft tools in today’s Western world. I often visit hardware stores in out of the way places, looking for handcrafted tools. The owner told me that when he grew up there were 5 blacksmiths in the area who would repair and make tools in addition to shoeing horses - today there is just one who only has time to travel from farm to farm replacing horse shoes that are manufactured in a factory, not in his forge.

Sharon the hairdresser clipped Sunita’s hair and absolutely refused payment. “Go on with you” she said, “There weren’t even enough clippings to mess up the floor”. So off we went. Later in the same day, we had another similar experience. The generosity of the Irish. Our bike was slipping gears again and the owner of the Bike Centre in Kilrush fixed our problem and also refused to be paid. The owner then showed us to the best place for coffee and cake. (We were exhausted and hungry!) After our jolt of caffeine and sugar, we made it the rest of the way to the campsite. 80km is an all day ride for us.

Lots of animals here and there, from fine looking horses to well-fed cows. I pause at a field and commune for a few minutes with a large donkey - or mule. I wasn’t sure. Anyway he was happy enough to munch on bits of a granola bar and pose for a photo.

The rural architecture is getting more interesting. Some of the older houses have massive thin slabs of slate on their roofs that have obviously been there for a century or two. There’s a certain greyness about the stone and slate that takes time to appreciate properly. There’s an ageless quality to the homes that have layers of moss and kitchen clinging to the slate roofs, and one has to admire the dry-stone walls that line many of the fields, testament to generations of care and labour.

It seems that half of Ireland is for sale. Like Wales, Ireland seems to be in the midst of a depression of sorts. We have passed rows of brand new empty homes, and Auction or For Sale signs are ubiquitous in many areas.

Since the 2007/8 banking fiasco people who were sold mortgages they couldn’t afford have lost their homes which are now on the market at bargain prices as the banks continue to cut their losses. Actually the banks continue to be profitable since the Irish government (Like the USA and the UK) bailed then out and left the same crooks in charge of the banks.

PureCamping is a little oasis in Querrin, a tiny village at the beginning of the Loop Head Peninsula. Trea and Kevin run the place. He is a Neuromuscular Therapist and she a yoga practitioner and teacher. They left their former hi-tech lives behind to create a peaceful haven for themselves and their guests.

Immediately after arrival we decide to stay an extra day. I book a therapeutic massage with Kevin for the following evening and we sign up for the yoga class together. Nice sauna too. I’m an early riser so the strutting and crowing cockerel didn’t bother me a bit. However he had free range in the campsite, was huge and a bit intimidating so I gave him a wide berth.

The extra day off was a boon. I took a quiet walk in the managed woodlands area, got caught up on more laptop work, and we took a leisurely bike ride (sans baggage) a little way down the peninsula and visited the castle at Carrogaholt. We had a nice warm lunch in the local restaurant and even mailed our postcards, many bought in  Italy. That evening I had a therapy session with Kevin and got a little relief for my tight shoulder and back muscles. I also learnt a great deal from him about how muscles are affected by repetitive sport activity.

In the morning Sunita and I took a yoga class with Trea and left feeling refreshed and healthy.

The weather has been variable these past days - generally foggy, drizzly, and a bit cold. It’s ironic that summer weather on Ireland’s west coast is a bit like winter weather back home in Jaffa. However it’s off and on, and we take our customary tea breaks every few hours. Our wet weather gear is very good so we stay dry.

As we approach the seaside village of Quilty I see a tower in the distance. It looks like a minaret. Surely not. I had no idea so many Muslims had immigrated to the Wild Atlantic Coast. As we cruise down the hill into the village I realise it is a church. Intrigued, we backtrack a bit to visit this unusual building. Sure enough it is a traditional stone and slate church with a tower instead of a steeple. I learn later that this is a nod to Ireland’s monastic architectural legacy and built  in the early 20th century as a tribute to some brave local fisherman who saved sailors from a large French freighter which had foundered in a storm.

The church is called Our Lady Star of the Sea. The round tower belfry was intended to serve as a landmark which could be easily seen by the fishermen at sea. The stones for the tower were quarried from Mr. P. Talty’s quarry at Caherush.

We arrive in Miltown Malbay and book into the Central Hostel above Kelly’s Bar, right in the middle of the small town. We have arrived in music country. Every second building seems to be a pub, and they all have music sessions every night.

The proprietor of the hostel gives us a room with three bunkbeds all to ourself. The place otherwise seems to be empty. It is low season. Sunita learns that the place to be that evening is Friels Pub. Apparently some of the best session musicians play there. So after dinner we head off to the pub as the wind resumed howling and driving rain down the main street.

Leading the session that Sunday night were Brid O’Donohue and her two daughters - Deirdre on harp - and Sinad on fiddle. Sunita and Mike, a visiting Australian concertina/guitar player joined the group for a very jolly evening of really fine music. It was fun for Sunita to meet another harpist.

A couple of beers later I crawled into bed several hours past my bedtime.

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