August 19, Wednesday
Eyeries->Glengariff via Allihies and Castletownbere
Night's Lodging: O'Mahoney's Hostel
Weather: Sunny with puffy clouds. No rain!
It rained like hell last night. I think as soon as Tracy pitches his tent, we're guaranteed a rainy night - it certainly couldn't be me.... I tossed and turned and didn't sleep well, listening to the rain which at first seemed like a heavy drizzly that sounded stronger than it really was, particularly when blown by the wind. And it got worse.
Just plain living here. Our camping hostess made sure she turned on the heat for the hot water before we took showers yesterday, and asked this a.m. "was the water hot?" Hot water on demand. The radiators in the bathrooms were hooked up with extra pipes acting as towel drying racks. Great idea! Her kitchen had a washing machine. Didn't know about a dryer. The kitchen was a mess which I guessed was normal. Shoes were scattered everywhere, clothing here and there; the washing machine was old and decrepit looking, with that rust which comes of gunky soap collecting in crevices.
More fauna to go along with that opinionated sheep with the horns curled back around his head. This place had enormous slugs, one of which slithered to the top of my rainfly. I had to deal with it before even considering rolling up the tent. Little jack-rabbity things hopped around the pasture .
Post (postal) cars - in Ireland they were green. In the UK they were red. Tracy and I giggled about putting a fat stamp on our foreheads and hitching a ride. Apparently this wasn't so far fetched. Post cars did take hitchers with them, and in fact, in the Galway area it was a standard means of travel for some.
The hills between Eyeries and Allihies, along the peninsula coast, were short and steep. Some I walked. But the rugged splendor of the scenery with the valleys dotted with houses, churches and farms made up for the pedaling struggle. We were up and down and through one beautiful desolate little valley after another, the villages set in the protection of the mountains on either side, leading out into the ocean.
One of the frequent sights: set in a nook or cranny against a gate, against a hedgerow, anywhere - an old three speed bike, waiting for someone to claim it and ride off. Probably one of the elderly Irishmen whom I keep seeing with those old bicycles.
(I think for the first time going up these little hills, the wind is at my back. In 10 days it's been in front of me or to the side. This time I think it's a tailwind.)
We did find Jack in Castletownbere. Almost by accident, but find him we did - cycling along the main street, investigating the farmer's market where we all browsed, marveling at the low prices, and purchasing food.
We stopped to watch the sheepdog demonstration at the famous Beara Sheepdog Center featuring border collies, a breed from the Scotland/England Border .
As these dogs raced like a black fur blur around their flock, it was clear that they absolutely lived for herding sheep. The woman dog owner worked her dogs with voice commands. Her husband used whistles. Each dog had it's own particular set of commands, including six basic commands for "down." One dog, Peg, looked so much like a sheep with her white coat with few black markings , that in competition the sheep think she's just one of them. She is marked like a black-faced white-butted sheep, the exception being her long fuzzy tail. An all white sheepdog is a disadvantage because it looks too much like a sheep, and the sheep don't recognize it as a dog, but think of it, initially, as one of their own. (Sheep aren't very bright....)
Sheep are brought down from the hills by the dogs in June for shearing after the spring lambing (April). In addition to sheepdogs, he farmers keep a fox terrier in the grazing lands to root out vixen foxes and kits because the vixen kill the lambs.
Today we went 50 tough miles.