Monday – July 8 : Derrynasliggaun – Westport (59,5 km)
For all kilometre sponsors and those who would want to support me and Cipriano with a donation per kilometre: Today I hit the 2000-km mark! Sponsoring per kilometre can be done via the ‘solidarity’ tab on the website or via a personal message or email to me mentioning the amount of cents/km you want to donate. After completing my journey, I will send you an email with the number of cycled kilometres and the amount due, with a maximum of 5000 kilometres.
I passed the 2000-km mark during a stunning ride, first around the lengthy Killary fjord and the Aasleagh waterfall, where salmons were jumping to try and swim upstream, and subsequently via lakes, vast plateaus and the ocean shore until Wesport, a small but bustling town. Just take a look at the pictures…. Click on the link above to see all the pictures on Flickr.
Tuesday – July 9 : Westport – Crossmolina (51,5 km)
A normal ride through the Irish countryside and alongside mount Nephin today.
The initial 13km from Westport to Newport I followed the Great Western Greenway, a former railway track. This was hardly noticeable, however, because it had many sharp curves and steep slopes. Very often it felt rather like a detached cycle path alongside the N59. The Greenway continues for another 30 km until Achille Island, which is said to be very nice, but I didn’thave to go in that westbound direction.
After a 90° turn in Newport, the wind blew from behind, which made me very happy because I had weak cycling legs today.
On my way, I learned that the Irish added an ‘e’ to their Whisk(e)y after a feud with Scottish Whisky distillers over a new, much faster stoking method which, in the eyes of the Irish, was detrimental to the taste of the Whiskey.
Today, I sleep in an untended ‘free contribution’ camper site near Crossmolina lake, with only a small but clean — according to the lady of the tourist office — toilet facility. That’s why I am now still sitting in a pub. I will soon leave and cycle to the site, pitch my tent and crawl into my sleeping bag. 😴😴😴.
Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park
Fourteen villagers of neighbouring Lahardene community boarded the Titanic to sail to the promised land, leaving behind a grim an impoverished life on the Irish countryside and longing for a more promising life in America.
Due to the potato famine in 1847-49, the population of poor country Mayo nearly halved from 400,000 tot a 200.000 in 50 years time, because many young people emigrated to other continents in the Irish diaspora.
From the Lahardene 14 Titanic passengers, 11 never returned. Their backgrounds and motivations were explained on an informative panel. Among them was a recently married (1911) couple that was expecting its first baby. The pregnant wife and her sister in law were allowed into lifeboat 16, but the husband/brother was denied access because priority was being given to women and children. The two women then decided to climb back aboard on the Titanic to perish together with their beloved husband and brother. This action saved the life of another young girl from Lahardene, who was allowed into the lifeboat because the two others had chosen to die… Heartbreaking.
The memorial was not established unitl 100 years after the Titanic disaster. A man in the village told me somewhat later that speaking about the disaster had been taboo for a long time because the drowned had not been able to pay back the loans they underwrote to pay the fare. Heartbreaking for all the bereaved families and friends, once again…
Wednesday – July 10 : Crossmolina – Sligo (80km)
The so-called ‘camper site with toilet facility’ in Crossmolina turned out into a night of camping wild. Unlike the affirmation by the the lady of the tourist office, there were no campervans. There were only a few fishermen mooring their boats and dog walkers. I pitched my tent somewhat out of sight and sat inside, because there were too many insects to sit outside.
When I went to the toilet to brush my teeth a little bit after 10 o’clock, the building was closed, most probably because there were no campervans staying overnight. Fortunately, I had sufficient water and there were plenty of ‘bushes’.
As of 7:30, dog walkers turned up again, but by that time I was almost packed and ready to go. Around 8 o’clock I left for the 80-km ride to Sligo.
A little over an hour later I arrived in Ballina, which was gearing up for the annual folkloric market. Ballina is called the ‘capital of salmon’ because it is located at the estuary of one of the most salmon-rich rivers of Ireland. In the previous century, up to 50,000 salmon a year were caught, but large-scale salmon fishing with nets is now no longer allowed. Only angling with fishing rods is authorized now, and that is what many were doing this morning.
The rest of my ride was in rainy wheather, and on top of this GoogleMaps sent me via a gravel road that was hardly cyclable. Fortunately, it lasted no longer than 1 km.
Within a few minutes, a session of life music will begin in this pub, but that will be too late for me, I fear….
Thursday – July 11 : Sligo – Bundoran (50km)
It was a rainy morning, so I decided to first pay a visit to the W.B. Yeats Memorial House in Sligo, a red brick building built in Victorian style. I think I was the first visitor of the day, because I was invited for a private tour around the exhibit by a museum guide.
During his childhood, Yeats regularly stayed in Sligo and wandered around in local woods, hills and beaches. During all his life, Sligo and its legends have remained a source of inspiration, although as an artist/poet, Yeats had to live in major cities to make a living. On my way to Bundoran, I passed along the church where he was buried, and saw his grave with the famous epitaph:
“Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman. pass by!”
When I left the museum, the sky had cleared up and a ray of sun was peeping through the clouds. Since my destination was no more than 40 km further, I decided to make a 10 km detour to visit the ‘Carrowmore Megalithic Complex‘, a site that harbours 30 megalithic passage tombs. The site is 5700 years old, that was the era when farming communities were sprouting in Ireland.
Originally there were more graves, but over the years they were pillaged and destroyed, or the stones of cairns had been reused for building the famous Irish stonewalls.
What is remarkable about this site is that all the graves were built in a large oval around a major, central dolmen buried under a high cairn. That ‘Listoghil’ dolmen has a narrow corridor (passage) to reach the central tomb. The corridor is directed east/south-east, toward the spot where the sun rises over the hills at Halloween (31 october) and around 10 february, in a way that sunrays can shine straight into the grave. The front of the grave consists of a stone with a pointed upper side, which operates as a solar clock on the rear stone. The capstone is inclined by 6 degrees, allowing the sunrays to shine right into the tomb. To create this inclination, the capstone has been propped up with smaller stones. Of course without the help of any cranes or forklift trucks…
Archeologists assume that the corridors symbolised the passage way between the lands of the living and the dead. The megaliths were probably regarded as eternal stones that maintained a link with former generations.
Carrowmore is located at the centre of the peninsula and is, except for the side that borders the ocean, surrounded by hills. Tall cairns are to be found on each of these hilltops, of which the one on mount Knocknarea to the southwest is visible to the unaided eye. That cairn is said to be the grave of Maeve, a fierce queen that figures in Irish legends, but there are other burial sites in Ireland that claim to host Maeve’s grave as well. The grave underneath the cairn has not yet been investigated. The local guide wants it to remain like this, because if research would prove that the grave does not contain Maeve’s bones, local tourism might plummet….
The more megalithic, Celtic and early Christian sites I visit, the more thoughtful I become of our planet’s evolution, the mutual interdependence of all phenomena including mankind, and the drastic impact we had on it over the past few millenia — just a drop in the ocean of cosmic time. This evolution is very visible and tangible in Irish landscapes.
During my ride to Bundoran I had to endure a few showers, and in fields and peat bogs I saw more cairns and megalithes. The final stretch I cycled again alongside the ocean.
Friday – July 12 : Bundoran – Rossnowlagh (18km)
Short drive of 18 km. I wanted to stay an extra night at the Bundoran hostel because the facilities and the WiFi were so good, but they were fully booked for the weekend. So I moved on to the nearest campsite. Unfortunately, a beach campsite without WiFi or facilities for tent campers. Tomorrow I shall move on again. It isn’t easy to find a good place to rest and update travel reports.
Saturday – July 13 : Rossnowlagh – Ballybofey (54km)
I made a little detour to visit Donegal, yet another charming, cozy small Irish city. A double-headed music band was playing on the market square.Then I took the only road, the N15 – fortunately for cyclists with a broad roadstrip – to Ballybofey, over the hills and the vast Barnesmore bog.
In Cappry/Ballybofey, a non-touristic region, I headed for the recently opened Ulster Way Hostel, a small place with only a few beds and a bathroom for hikers next to Finn Farm, a horse riding club for show jumping horses.
Eddie welcomed me as his very first hostel guest.
He told me later on that he had witnessed Bloody Sunday, that awful Sunday on 30 January 1972, when 13+1 innocent, predominantly young people were shot dead by British paratroopers during a peacefull civil rights march in the streets of Derry.
After diner, we kept on talking about the Troubles and the consequences of Bloody Sunday for the Irish people and politics in the north.
Although it was fairly late when I went to bed, this conversation kept me awake for quite some time.
Sunday – July 14 : Ballybofey – Derry
Some 10 miles beyond Ballybofey, near a village called Raphoe, there is not only a ruin from a former medieval castle, but also the large Beltany Stone Circle (64 stones), which dates back to the Bronze Age (1400-800 BC).
Eddie from the farm hostel where I stayed Saturday night told me that carbon dating had indicated that the megatliths were not found locally, but that they had been transported in from miles away. There is no explanation for this (needless?) gargantuan labour.
Within the stone circle, druids performed human sacrifices of youths that volunteered to be offered to the gods to implore a good harvest and prosperity for their community. Villagers walked three counter-clockwise rounds around the stone circle, then the sacrificing ritual took place within the stone circle, and subsequently the entrails and human remains were left behind outside of the stone circle. Later on, humans were replaced by animals for the sacrificial rites.
Eddie sees a parallel between the psychologies of these young sacrificial volunteers and current muslim suicide bombers.
After I spent quite a while at the stone circle, impressed by what Eddie had told me about the sacrifices, I cycled another 40 kilometers via small rural roads to the one camping in the area, some 9 km north of Derry.