Day 20: 35 miles of Gap of Dunloe, by bike
Killarney Travel Blog› entry 20 of 60 › view all entries
Woke up a little late, but had the ingenious idea to go on a walking "safari" around the city of Killarneyfor a couple of hours. That idea quickly faded when the bike shop next door was hiring them for all day use for only 12.50, so I took a city/trail hybrid bike with a nice seat and full ass suspension (as opposed to that monstrosity of a seat on the bike in Belfast). The guy suggested an approximately 32-mile circuit looping counterclockwise from Killarney to the Gap of Dunloe and then around the big lake back to Killarney. As soon as he finished the description, as if on cue, the clouds parted and the sun started beaming down happily.
"Let's do it," I said.
Got a little lost trying to find the right trail amongst many in the Killarney National Park, but I got started after checking out the Ross Castle nearby. Then I pulled into the right path, and made my way past numerous golf courses peppering the countryside as I made my west past Farrow (7 mi), then headed south into the Gap of Dunloe, which is like a slice from a knife through the middle of a mountain. It was impressive. The narrow lane road was shared by pedestrians, bikes, cars, and horse-drawn carriages. It got pretty crazy at times, what with all the people trying to avoid stepping ankle-deep in some horse shit and me, trying not to let my hanging tongue get that low.
There were wonderful old stone bridges, high waterfalls everywhere, and lots of sheep and cows spraypainted an assortment of colors. Them sheep are loud! The scenery was just fantastic. My aching legs were but an afterthought to the majesty around me.
I heaved and hoed all the way up to the top, where there was a HI youth hostel (?). Stopped for some ice cream (haha, take that, Lance!), sold to me by a 12-year-old cashier girl. Her mom was cool with it. After a sufficient rest, I plunged over the other side, downhill and fast, dodging the horse shit. I was in heaven. I actually screamed "weeeee!" at one point.
I came across some older male hikers when I got down to the plain, and they were putting their shoes on after what looked like a little dip in the stream next to the trail. It turned out that the portion path was actually flooded for 20 feet across. They had crossed it, barefoot.
I now faced the decision to either cross the submerged path ("and two more after this one!") and get my shoes and socks all wet, or turn around and go back. "Don't be a wuss now, boy" said one of the older guys.
"Don't worry, I'm just gaining some momentum," I explained as I raced toward the water at full speed on my bike. I splashed all over, the water level halfway up to my ankles as I stood on the pedals. And once on the other side, not a single drop of moisture on my socks. I let out a cacophony of happy manly grunts as I thanked the powers that be for GoreTex 100% waterproof trail running shoes that I had on as I tackled the two remaining flooded paths with similar ease. No water inside at all! I got back on the main road surrounding the big lake on my way back to Killarney, and dodged cars and tour buses from running me off the road for about an hour until I rolled into town. No proper bike lane the whole time.
When I arrived back at the hostel, I met a Polish dude named "Magic" (although it was something more akin to "Majik") because his real name was so hard to pronounce. He spoke atrociously little English, and an even more atrocious euro-mullet. He invited himself to go have a pint with me ("uhh, ok"), and we talked about how Polish girls are the best (by far) and Irish girls are all fat. I believed him. The we met up again after dinner for some more bar action with The Grand, (apparently the Polish hangout in Killarney), then Mustang Sally's (a horribly stereotyped American-themed bar with a hen party all in matching black shirts on the old'n'busted ladies wearing them). Then Magik turned into a dirty old man (he's 29!) and started spitting piss poor game in Polish-checkered English at the girls. I could practically cut through the awkwardness with a knife. No bueno. Finally, I felt like it was enough; this guy was not my type at all. I can't even remember the polish word for cheers now. (But the internet sure can: Na zdrowie!)