Day 8

August 15, Saturday
Day: 8
Mileage: 28
Dingle Loop: Ventry -> Slea Head -> Reask -> Gallatorus Oratory -> Dingle
Night's Lodging: Westgate Hostel & Camping, 2nd night
Weather: Rain ''til 11 a.m.; brief evening drizzle during camping stove dinner

During the night it heavy-drizzled, with yet another gale force wind. My tent flapped. And flapped. And flapped. I awoke wondering which section would become airborne first; and then what would I do?

It was August 15th, and I didn't know what [biking] day it was. Day 5, 6, 7, something like that. Time flies when you are having fun.

Pete, Mike and John were leaving, headed to Killarney. As they packed up, Mike, a mechanical engineer in control systems, and Tracy compared "engineering" notes. We said our goodbyes, marveling at the coincidence of our meeting.

To get our bearings, we wandered through town, locating pastries, tea, lunch goodies, then stopping at St. Mary's Church as the 11a.m. Feast of the Assumption service began. Irish townsfolk streamed into church, one large family after another. Four or five, six little children in tow. A golden retriever stood at the church entrance happily greeting everyone as befits a "golden." Inside the church was beautiful, with stunning stained glass and attractive stonework, a dark stained vaulted beamed ceiling and a circular altar area in front of the sanctuary.

Early in our ride around the Dingle loop in the drizzle, I passed and passed yet again a pair of women cyclists. Jack, as he approached them from behind heard one say to the other, observing Rufus (my touring teddy bear mascot who rides facing backwards behind my saddle) in his ziplock bag rain coat, "Oh good, this time she's protected the teddy!"

I was totally fascintated by the beehive huts and Gallarus Oratory (built in the 9th century, an early Christian monastic structure), all constructed in the dry stone manner, completely watertight without benefit of any mortar of other chinking of any kind. Gallarus Oratory resembed a capsized fishing boat, with a door at one end and a window at the other, surrounded by a dry stone wall. Incredible stone work!

On Slea Head Drive, just before Slea Head Point, the shore rises straight up to 1,000 feet or so. The countryside was populated primariliy by flocks of sheep and desolate nearly beyond description. I didn't know how anyone made a living. One family had contrived a method to glean extra funds by requiring a 75p "fee" to cross their private land in order to access a public archaeological site. We paid and crossed.

I've seen a number of dogs in full leather nose-encompassing muzzles. At first I thought it inhumane, but when a large black and white fur ball hurdled out of a bush toward me, perhaps mistaking me for an errant sheep under his command, I was less distressed about muzzles. We wondered if they nipped heels of anything that moved - cows, sheep, humans - and therefore must be discouraged in some way.

Outside of Dunquin on the Dingle loop we continued to see hedgerows of fiery red fuschias. Goats and sheep were munching everywhere, even along house foundations. A highly recommended pottery/tea/bread shop (interesting combination of items) was on our route. I was sorry that I didn't buy any pottery as some unusual pieces appealed to me, but their answer to the touring cyclist's favorite question, "Do you ship?" was "No."

I had been fortunate in that as I passed people, I'd heard them speaking Irish, which although totally unintelligible to me was beautiful to hear. This was an area of Ireland, Gaeltacht, committed to preserving the old language, both spoken and written.

On this day, timing was everything. As we entered Ballyferriter, the road was exceedingly crowded. At the Ballyferriter Heritage Center, depicting the history of the Dingle Peninsula, we stopped to use the "facilities," and immediately became part of a crowd celebrating a book publication. The ex-prime minister of Ireland, complete with cameraman, glad-handed around us. As uninvited but welcomed guests, in spite of our unusual attire, we received canapes to snack on and were encouraged to wander through the center, as members of a grand party. Just one of those serendipitous happenstance's which occurs on bike trips.

At the escavated site of Reask, known for its carved slabs bearing both Christian and Celtic motifs dating back to the 5th or 6th century, as we aimed for the archeological ruins, cows returning for their 5 p.m. milking came at us two-by-two-by-two on the damp narrow path. We managed to maneuver past them, untrampled. Cows are such stupid animals, but how can one resist those eyes? Unbeknownst to us, a VIP group from the Heritage Center was also on its way to Reask to hear the archaeologist (featured at the book publishing party at the Heritage Center) who discovered it in the 1970's talk about his experiences. Esquisite timing, again.

(As I write by flashlight at 11:45 p.m., sea birds squawk in the distance, there is snoring in a tent close by, the full moon plays tag with a layer of marine scud while a few stars dot the blackness above. Perhaps we'll have a clear day tomorrow for our trip to Killarney.)

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