27 July 2012
I was trying to describe last night's campsite when I was so rudely attacked by midges. Basically, the site itself was beautiful. Mossy ancient trees and rocks, evergreen canopy, blanketed in bright green clover. So I set up camp and began to eat supper, marvelling at how magical it was, up out of sight of the main road toward Dungloe. Then, WHAM. The midges found me. I think midges and damp are Ireland's curse because no landscape on Earth is allowed to be perfect.
Anyway, I used up all the rest of my repellent, but still the midges were so thick I was literally *breathing them in*. So I changed and crawled into my bivvy bag ASAP. Tried to write a bit while inside it but the midges poured in thru the little breathing hole I left, flying all over my phone and into my eyes. Basically I had to shut the bivvy bag over my face, leaving only my mouth and nose exposed. Except then they flew into my mouth and up my nose, so I had to pull my kerchief over my face and try to sleep that way. I hardly slept, let me tell you. The ground was rocky and it was a bit warm so I kept wriggling in and out of my sleeping bag within the bivvy bag and of course if the opening shifted from my kerchief'd nose the midges would terrorise me... Basically, worst night so far, and a big mistake. But once I'd already set up camp I was too tired to move it. Of course, this whole island is one big bog so on a warm night like that I doubt anywhere would be better. 'twas the first time I found myself wishing I'd brought a tent instead, something less flexible but with the ability to zip up all the way and shut midges out, allowing me to change or type unmolested.
When I finally got up in the morning I ate nothing, just changed and packed quickly as possible and fled. Pulled some gunk out of my derailleur on the road, some grass and stuff now black with oil, and now I don't think my fingernails will ever be clean again...
When I finally stopped for a small snack, sitting on a rock in the peat bogs, I was attacked by huge, multicoloured bog flies. Aaaaaaaaarrgghghhhgh! I smashed all that dared to touch me and fled again.
Finally stopped for a proper brunch in Doocharry, just eating random food from my panniers. It was lovely in the sun by the Gweebarra river (pictured above) and there were few bugs. The town's only shop had no peanut butter, tho' :( . Got going again toward Glenveagh National Park. Small one lane road, little traffic, so sunny it actually bordered on uncomfortably hot. A lot of the houses I passed were trailers. Poor farmers out this way I guess? The park itself was beautiful, whispering grasses on every side, crisscrossed with running water, lumpy grey mountains bursting at their mossy seams. It was a long, slow uphill, and my sleep-and-bacon starved legs fatigued right quickly. I was slick with sweat all day. The degree of incline was very low but I felt so draggy... I kept checking my drivetrain and tyres but the only mechanical problems were in my muscles. The park was lovely tho', so I just slogged along at a nearly walking pace and enjoyed it. Nice lengthy downhill toward Church Hill (sorta) before the road flattened out again. I hardly remember much past that crossroads (I went toward Letterkenny); I was practically falling asleep at the wheel. (handlebars?) When the sign said Letterkenny in 8 km I was on a nice downhill so I was like, could this downhill last 8 whole km? Please?? And it did! Yay.
Letterkenny is apparently the biggest town in Co. Donegal, and it seems nice. I meant to go on to Derry today, but fatigued as I was, I figured I'd stay here tonight, then cycle to Derry tomorrow, catching a train toward the Giant's Causeway to cut off some of tomorrow's journey. So I stopped at the first hostel I saw, but it turned out to be for the homeless, haha. Guy there directed me to the Port Hostel behind the theatre, and I headed that way, stopping at a health food store first to get some snacks and more non-DEET insect repellent.
This place is very obviously an old house converted recently to a hostel. The owners seem new to the hostel business; very friendly and laid back, but inexperienced-seeming. Good value for money--€15 got me a private double bed for the night. So needed after the fiasco of last night. Ate a whole gluten-free cake while interneting and then made a huge GF pasta dinner to make up for my lack of snacking throughout the day. Long hot shower. I don't seem to have too many bites... One obnoxiously on my stomach, a few on my arms. I guess the repellent didn't keep them from crawling on me but did keep them from biting.
Defo sleeping in so late start tomorrow.