11 July 2012
Breakfast: 240 grams of slightly burnt bacon, with which I filled the kitchen with smoke; two fried eggs; boil-in-a-bag rice that tasted a bit like the soap I washed the pot with; mango juice blend and tea.
Journey as far as Waterville boring and heavily overcast with too much traffic. Saw the road literally bend under the weight of some coaches. Daydreamed most of the way when I wasn't pedaling furiously up hills looking for a place to pull over and let vans pass. I've now formed an irrational fear and hatred of red cars, especially red audis. All the red cars I've come across since I started this jaunt nine days ago has either been going way too fast, or passed me way too close (or both). Red vans are hit and miss but red cars are unanimously scary.
Sun peeked out at us while I sat eating a boiled egg near the beach in Waterville, but ultimately decided he'd rather play hide n seek for a while than actually come out. My knees kind of twinge every once in a while and whenever I'm not moving on the bike I have a headache in my temples like someone is driving screws into them. Wonder if it's a tension headache or if it's from something I ate.
Up the Coomakesta Pass from Waterville, blown helpfully up the last few metres by a powerful wind. Glorious views from up there, so of course it's where all the coaches stop for a while. Downhill all the way to Caherdaniel, the whole town sunbathing while its neighbours were spritzed. Had green tea in the Blind Piper and met two fellow cyclists in there. From Caherdaniel, it wasn't too much farther on to Sneem--just through some Misty Mountains, past Smog's treasure room (I was totally channeling the Hobbit at the time, as if Bilbo had had a bicycle)...
In Sneem the sun came out for a while again, and I sat by a shop on the river soaking it up. Decided to be brave and adventurous, so I called Mickey the Bags to ask about where would be a good place to camp for the night (since it was at least sunny at the time). "Ah, you must be Jam. ...oh no, you can stay here, I've got a spare room and all"
Flashback: while in Killarney on day six, outside the hostel with BK, I met an older woman who was asking me about my bike and my trip so far and all that, impressed and saying I was the first person she'd met cycle touring Ireland alone. We clicked somehow and ended up talking on that street corner for hours, about all sorts of things. I finally had to go up into the hostel and she had a bus to catch but when she found out I was passing thru Sneem, she insisted I look up her brother, a musician there, and another friend and neighbour with lots of land she was sure he'd let me camp on. She gave me phone numbers, details, and texted her brother that I'd be by on Tuesday night and to say hello. She also offered her own house to me in Tralee, where she lives, and where I will also be passing thru.
So I called her brother and he said he'd come up in the car and he did and we put BK in the boot with my luggage and drove off to his little unfinished house nestled in the mountains by some falls in one of the most ancient and magical parts of this island.
How do I describe my night here? This musician's in his sixties, long gray hair tied back in a ponytail, low quiet voice, constant conversation. Talking to him is like uncoiling a fraying rope, subjects and thoughts and musings and anecdotes bristling out of the main braid but still connected to each other. We sat in his sitting room sipping tea and talking for ages, surrounded by walls stuffed with books, instruments (including an alto sax) on the chairs, leaning in the corners, suspended in the rafters. A small black stove burning peat and wood in the centre. Abstract paintings leaning up against a wall of books. As we talked he'd often remember the book he got something from, bring it to me, until my lap was overflowing with books and CDs and whatever else we were speaking of.
A friend and neighbour of his came over and we just enjoyed each other's company. Mickey started drinking coffee with a splash of whiskey in it and grew more animated as the night wore on. Imminently philosophical and jocund. I stayed up till one in the morning just listening to him, watching the gaffer tape that holds his glasses flapping about as he looked up Daoist poems or sung the praises of Dorothy Parker. It started to rain and get really windy out so it was really nice to be here, inside, warm and dry and ever-entertained.
I did have to collapse at one tho', crawling under the duvet on the mattress upstairs. Once the lights were out the darkness in this country cottage was complete. Mickey did a bit of recording downstairs, and I drifted off while music came and went below.
That's why this post is coming up the next morning, and not last night. Too busy enjoying human company. Mickey seemed absolutely chuffed to have a visitor. This is real Ireland; these are the stories of the people who populate this island, far from the tourist traps and circulating foreigners enjoying the views but forever distant and removed from the essence of the places they're seeing. This is why I get on my bike and kick up my heels and just go. Trust people. Enjoy people. Make new friends.
Who can explain this, replicate this? Only a metaphysical poet or an alchemist.