August 26, Wednesday
Mileage: biking, 0; walking, 2; bus ride -Galway/Connemara/Galway
Night's Lodging: 4 Winds B&B, Salthill
Weather: Windy, rainy in the early a.m., dry by 9 a.m.. Sun and drizzle during the day.
Bernie, our B&B hostess, was incredibly pleasant and accommodating. (Tracy and I had escaped the wet and windy camping area and moved into Jack's B&B). After breakfast, she gave us and early morning ride into town to the T.I. (Tourist Information) so that we could get a good seat for our bus tour of Connemara.
(Jack was sick from eating salmon-tainted sauce from our lunch yesterday. He remained in bed all day long, tended to by Bernie. We dithered about what would happen tomorrow, a "must ride" day, if he weren't able to pedal. Rather than dwell on it, Tracy and I explored.)
Things I learned on the bus tour:
Connemara marble. (We visited the "factory.") 500 million years old. Light green and dark green. Twice as hard as Cararra marble. Galway black marble is 200 million years old. With white sea critters in it. Shell, fossil fish, diatoms, etc.
Northern Connemara - beautiful and good hiking area.
The tops of the mountains are sprayed by helicopter with fertilizer and grass seed to have grazing clear to the top.
Ray, the coach driver, had only been doing the coach tour routine for two and a half months. Used to drive trucks. Hadn't been to The States yet. Going to take his three year old to Disney World when she is 6-8 years old. In my minimal overseas travel, what everyone wants to see in the U.S. is Disney.
At appropriate points along the road, Ray educated us on whatever disaster occurred: "Over to the left on the coast, about 30 years ago, a WWI mine washed ashore. The men of the village didn't know what it was, so they hammered it and whacked it with shovels. It exploded and killed 16 people."
Or, "over on the right here in Killary Harbor, a Spanish ship ran aground. Some of the men were given refuge by some town families, while others were captured and thrown in prison."
And more, "I'll tell you now about The Famine...." which he did, in historical detail, while driving us through the Rosseveal area, full of poor land, and everywhere 3 ft. high stone walls - built to get the rocks out of the soil. Even the potato patches looked emaciated.
Killary Harbor - Ireland's only fjord (goes clear to the sea, not freshwater). Used during WWII.
One of Ray's favorite expressions, "...well worth a look" with the inflection at the end of the statement.
Oughterand/Lough Corrib. "When the mayflies rise, school lets out so kids can catch them and sell to the anglers."
Chestnut trees. Government sponsored replanting because they have been chopped down or died out. End of them in Oughterand in North.
Out of Oughterand, sheep, conifer nurseries, "western landscapes." Desolate areas like parts of Montana, Alaska, Idaho. Some of this reminded me of Tuolomne Meadows in Yosemite (California).
Seven varieties of heather in Ireland. Some are protected in Connemara.
Sheep have the right of way on the county roads.
Past the Maam Valley, we got the story of the O'Flagherty's and the O'Malley's and of the pirate Grace O'Malley, Queen of Clew Bay. (p.277 of Eric Newby's book "'Round Ireland in Low Gear.")
All the rolls of silage for cows, wrapped in black plastic.
Boggy land. When the bogs are "used up" the underlying rock is exposed. One-sixth of Ireland is peat bog. Bogs are used up in south Connemara.
All the "L" stickers that we are seeing on cars = learner's identification.
Potholers - cavers & public works.
Catholic church in Galway-put coin in slot to light votive "light" with a switch. Modern electrical age. No real candles.
Lough Ballynahinch. Many of these large lakes are private bodies of water.
Piles of peat stacked in small teepees. As Tracy said, "Just looks like a bunch of big cows have been through here."
Men are "lads" or "chaps."
Really awful roads - quite noticeable on bus and also on bikes (especially the shoulders).
"Drystone" walls - Co. Galway is one of last to line their roads with these walls. (No mortar used.)
Land - boulders and rocks proliferate. Watery bogs. Heather and grass. A moonscape with "extras."
Gaeltacht area with Gaeltacht radio station. (Irish language area.)
At the bar in Rosseveal-where the bus stopped-English was the foreign language. Cozy peat fire blazed. Small pub with bottles and glasses filling all available space in the short bar. Much atmosphere in a dark and friendly way, even though it was only 4 p.m.
"Give it a look" = "Go see it."
"Give it a miss" = "Don't waste your time."
In my touring, I noticed many family crisis centers, counseling centers, and other therapy options, with paper fliers in every town. I wondered if the Catholic doctrine of "no divorce" and "no birth control" bred a great need for helping people in continual crisis since their options seemed so limited. In addition, living in the gray weather would drive anyone nuts, in my opinion.
Upon our return from our bus tour, Jack looked somewhat better. Not completely, but obviously in less distress. Bernie fixed us tea, cookies and crackers with meat pate. She told us about her family while we nibbled these goodies around the dining room table. Her own kids were 17 and 18 years old. One was waiting to hear, imminently, how his university qualifying exams went and whether he'd be able to go to Galway U. or would end up somewhere else (e.g. Cork or Dublin). Where you studied was determined by a matching system based on exam points and personal preferences.
A tabby cat with Irish emerald green eyes sauntered around. Did all Irish cats have green eyes? And Chip, the B&B's 15 year old spaniel/Labrador dog with huge paws and a sturdy body-old and doggy smelling-became my pal, nuzzling for attention.
Tracy, ever creative in ways to reduce his traveling costs, volunteered to trade work for room/board. Bernie took him up on his offer and gave him a bucket and squeegee for the outside of the first floor windows. For the remainder of the afternoon, he washed/dried windows. To Bernie's surprise and delight, he finished the whole first floor, inside and out. Later she confessed that she took pity on him - being a student and of limited funds - but didn't expect much success in "bargain completion."