31 July 2012
Had a weird dream that we drove my grandmamma to Las Vegas so she could get her gallbladder removed. What is this I don't even.
Today was the most emotionally draining and confusing so far. The morning was absolutely miserable and pushed me to the limit of my mental endurance. The afternoon was amazingly calm and beautiful. My last proper cycling day had all the ups and downs of a long trip like this mashed together into less than six hours...
Started out by going down to see the rope bridge to Carrickarade island, which was of course chock full of tourists. Originally the thing was a way for fishermen to get across to check their salmon nets but now it's just a thing people do to say they did it. I didn't pay to cross and didn't even go all the way up to it, 'cause I realised I wasn't terribly interested, so I cycled away.
I really wanted to get out of the traffic I started out in on the A2, so I followed the instructions in the book and went off onto a third-class road in Ballyvoy. It seemed to make sense; I followed signs for Cushendun and everything. Passed a lot of sheep that absolutely panicked at the sight of me. Passed some llamas too, of all things. Then the road slowly gave up on the whole *being paved* thing. It began lashing rain and I had to get off the bike and push her up gravelly tractor tracks. At some point, I reached a dead end with three sheep gates on all sides. Rather than turn around and go down the rough slopes I'd just pushed BK up, I opened a gate and kept following the tractor tracks south. Then the wide tracks became a muddy path. Then the path disappeared into grassy muck. And that's how I came to be pushing my bicycle thru a bog, too stubborn to turn around, soaking wet and swearing.
I slogged along that way for what must have been two hours. I would tell myself, just reach the crest of the next hill, and you can decide what to do next. My shoes and socks were soaked all the way thru so I made no pretense anymore about avoiding puddles. Several hills were crested. The bog got boggier. Everything was wet and icy cold. I wanted to cry so bad, but I was like, no. You're stronger than that. Keep walking; as long as you head south you can't go wrong. Eventually, I saw a proper road in the distance, and headed for it, hauling BK thru the reeds and rushes and trying not to break my ankles as I randomly stepped into sinkholes. When I was like five metres from the road, I hated all the cars driving past, callously flashing me with their headlamps, offering no help as I was nearly waist high in grass and ankle deep in rain-drenched moss. Reaching the hard black asphalt was like waking up from a nightmare. I then had to pick all kinds of grass and debris out of my derailleur and chain, covering my hands in oil, before I could set off at a decent pace once again.
The sun emerged from behind a canopy of thick dark clouds before I hit Cushendun and I stopped there to get another sports drink and a snack... but I only had euros in cash, and both their ATM and card readers were broken, so I apologised and left with nothing. I had to pee really bad and I hated everything. When a kind young woman asked me if she could help me somehow, I had to choke back tears. I just wanted to quit today. If there was a train or a bus to Belfast there I would've gotten on it immediately--gotten on it and missed one of the best day's cycles yet. But I didn't know that. I did check the map, but the nearest train station to me was still in Larne, which was where I was headed anyway.
I did cry a little on the road to Cushendall, just to get all the built up stress out. When I reached that town I found a working ATM and bought my drink and snack, then begged to use the toilet in a hotel and kindasorta crashed a wedding reception. Outside the sun was quite warm, so I found a place by a little harbour to sit and breathe for a while. Calm down. Ate peanut butter and marshallow fluff out of their jars till I felt a bit sick. (Had an apple too, Mama.) When I was full and rested, I headed for the coast road I would follow all the way to Larne.
If it weren't for the constant annoyance of traffic, this road would, hands down, be my favourite cycling road so far. It was all flat or slightly downhill, allowing me to keep an easy pace of 20+ kph without stopping very often. The sea was on my left, no more than ten metres away, the water clear as a cut jewel and calmly lapping against the mottled black and white rocks. The sea in the distance was a solid blue line against the softer sky, horizon impenetrable as infinity. Sunlight bathing everything. How can one remain angry at life, bitter from a miserable morning, on a road like this? With the wind gentle, sea quiet, traffic polite...? When all your burps taste like marshmallows?
There were sage coastal cliffs, mystical forests, fields full of sheep, town after cute coastal town. I was going at such an easy pace I hardly stopped and took no pictures, but it was beautiful. When I reached Larne, I boarded the first train for Belfast and was on my way.
Whoa. Lady voice on train is a Northern Irish accent instead of a British one. Cool.
Carmel and Ciara came to pick me up once I reached Belfast central. Ciara and her husband Tim are like my Irish parents; Carmel is my Irish auntie. We fit BK into the boot with a bit of bother and some twine. At her house was a nice hot shower, supper (chicken wrapped in bacon!!), plenty of wine. And such good company. I can't forget my sister Nicoletta as well. The surrorogate family back together again. What a brilliant way to end this epic journey.
Tomorrow, Sunday, is a rest day in Belfast and I'll return to Dublin on the 30th of July. (this may not be posted till after that due to network problems.) I can't believe this is almost over. I won't know what to do with myself after this.