Friday, July 1, 2016

IrelandbyBike (con't) NW Grand Tour May 26th-June 2nd

Day Four (4)
Well here we are all ready to go again in wild, wet, and windy Ireland.  We just had a full Irish breakfast AND yogurt and granola and should be stoked for the road.

Today we head for Gweedore which can't be a real place.  They say its particularly Gaelic which is interesting since it seems to me most folks not speaking to me are already speaking Gaelic.  It's a little like a pretend foreign country--you notice that someone you need to speak to is saying something mysterious and foreign and then as soon as you speak to them--boom- they come out with the quaint old understandable Irish English.  Maybe we are in the Truman show.  Everyone is paid to wander around being quaint--drinking free beer--watching TV and we are the only ones spending money.  They don't seem to go in for tacky billboards.  We have Captain D's with big ugly orange and blue signs they have some faded wooden board with a name like The Hunter's Glen.

It is warm today.  Must be 75. I love it when the natives apologize for the heat.....They cannot imagine summer in Alabama.  Our hostess has washed all our clothes so we pack our bags to leave in the entrance hall for Seamus to come by sometime during the day and transport the bags to the magical kingdom of Gweedore.  Self guided cycling does NOT mean denying yourself anything in the way of luggage.  Somebody else fools with your luggage the whole trip!  You just have to get where you are going and carry it into your room.  Unless of course they have already assigned you a room and go ahead and put it in your room, like they will tonight.  We won't know that when we arrive and so we will check ONE of the rooms at the Au Chuirt Hotel not knowing they have put all the bags in the other room instead of leaving it at the desk as has been customary heretofore.

I'd like to mention right now that I love everything about Ireland except blood sausage.  It is de rigeur for Irish breakfast and I appreciate that.  They probably wouldn't eat my grits either.  Everything else is delectable.

We are going through Glenveagh National Park today!  First a little trip through the Derry Loughlan Forest.  Don't see too many forests in Ireland--should be interesting.  We go through ONE town before climbing the valley to Glenveagh--Doocharry.  The views of Lough Machugh are bucolic in the sun.

The "forest" in the background

River bridge into Doochary

The peaceful cycle along the stream that feeds Lough Machugh is gorgeous.  See fisherman below

After a peaceful cycle we break out into the climb to the back entrance to the National Park.  It's a wide open uphill to Lough Barre which is a conservation district and then suddenly we are at the top of the hill.  There's a little gate and we have converted to mountain bike riding.

We all took nice pictures overlooking Loch Ghleann Bheatha:

The trail down is rocky and squirrely and I had some concern that any one of us could puncture or crash.  Our last crash in Telluride ended up in the hospital with a broken neck for Rob so we were not looking for any repeats, we took it slow and steady.  Polly's knees were giving her trouble and the downhill was a gift. We still had to climb out of the Park up over the shoulder of Mount Erigal (the highest mountain in Donegal) to get to our Shangri-La in Gweedore.  It was a busy day at the Park, lots of visitors.

Here's a picture on the ramparts

Today was probably the prettiest day in Ireland for a long time and everybody was making the 4km hike from the parking lot at the entrance to the castle.  We were amazed at the numbers of hikers.  You wouldn't get that many people to hike 3 miles in and out in America.  There was a woman pushing a relative in a wheelchair.  An old fashioned really heavy wheelchair on a gravel path with hills for 4km!  Not gonna happen in America.  You would need free food and beer, a lightshow with fireworks and the Second Coming to get people that far from their cars.  We were passed on the hills by a seriously overweight mom pulling a trailer with her children in the back.  Oh, what a relief it was an electric bike.  Those things can really go and melt the hills.  It got Polly thinking about her sore knees...
    So we got out to a major highway in mid-afternoon with a 10 mile climb up Mt. Errigal.  It was hot and I can say that it was the least desirable bicycling we did.  We endured.  Sore knees and all.  At the top is another hiker's parking lot to climb Errigal but a beautiful view down into the "Poisoned Glen" so named as either a site of something terrible or a mistake in punctuation. Then it was Downhill all the way to sanctuary.  And so here we are at the hotel with the mountain in the background, waiting for our luggage which is already in one of the rooms. 

This is our first hotel, up until now we have stayed in B&Bs--it has a good number of rooms (100?) and most importantly for our purposes- a hot tub and sauna.  Once our luggage was found exactly where it was left--we chilled in the hot tub.  Ugh, somehow I haven't said that right but that's what we did.....

Dinner was passing good--not up to what we had had thus far but we got entertainment!  An Irish guy who played American covers. I am afraid, for all the talk about Irish heritage in this part of the country, that we are not going to catch a band playing traditional music.  Our room was HUGE and had two queen beds in it with room to pitch a tent and roll out 3 or 4 sleeping bags.  It was quiet too an almost 5 minute walk to the lobby..

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