Day 3: Houses of the Holy

I got out of bed this morning at 8am and quietly climbed down from my bunk and gathered my bags. I was sharing a room with the Australian cyclist and a man from Southport. The Australian was already up and reading and I nodded goodbye to him as I left the room.

I put my stuff in the baggage room and announced to the Canadian at reception that I would be back in two hours. The Giants Causeway was 10 kilometers away, and I had decided to walk.

As I had thought, my ankle felt better and I made it maybe 500m before I started to notice signs that it was going to deteriorate again. There is a vanity railway running from Bushhill to the Causeway, and the path followed that. As I joined it I noticed that it was suitable for bikes, and that I could have cycled it, and in anycase I could have cycled it on the road. I questioned why I had decided to walk it.

Sensing that I would not be able to walk it, I reasoned that I could run it. Running would take half the time - I'm not sure what it is that causes my ankle to swell up to the size of a golf ball, but I think time has something to do with it. So I ran, or rather, jogged slowly. Aside from my ankle my legs felt like led from the heavy cycling the day before.

I ran past the visitor center and ran (or jogged slowly) towards the stream of tourists flowing down a hill.

When I reached the Causeway I walked around for a bit, climbing on the rocks. As I looked at a particular set of rocks I recognised them from the album cover of Led Zepplin's "Houses of the Holy".

houses House of the Holy

I jogged back up the hill and could feel that my ankle was weak, and I decided to try and get a bus, I passed the vanity train station and asked the ticket man if there is a bus, he said there was at the top of the hill but he didn't know how often it ran, so I climbed the hill, looked at the time table and saw it would be another 40m. So I ran back, my pace getting slower and slower as I went, but I made it back to the hostel and fairly collapsed in a chair.

houses Beach

But I couldn't stop, as I had a long way to go. The first thing was to decide where to go that would be a long way. I wanted to do at least 100k. Derry looked like it may have fit the bill. There was a hostel - but it was fully booked, and there was a campsite that was closed. There was a campsite somewhat closer, and there was another hostel further inland. I decided for the hostel, it would change my route and would let me join the EV1 route.

green Green

The hostel was also fully booked, but I asked if there were any campsites near by, he said the Meadows Campsite. I looked them up. "Only for very special campers" it said. "That's me!" I said to myself. It was for people that liked the "outdoors" which gives a strong weight to people that are usually knackered at the end of the day and just want to sleep early. I phoned ahead and got confirmation, not I just had to get there.

I left the hostel and cycled along the coast to Portrush and then Portstewart, fueled by cool and refreshing highly-caffeinated energy drinks, I headed towards Limavady (which proclaims to be the home of the song "Danny Boy..."). Mountains loomed largely on the horizon and my bum was hurting, and I had still only done 50k.

At around six o'clock I passed an open hardware store. I considered what I was missing:

  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Coffee Mug
  • Italian Mocha Coffee Maker

I went inside and there was nobody there, I looked around for some minutes before I guy down the stairs. I asked about the Knife, he considered a moment before saying "no, I don't have any of those" and then, not expecting any more success "a camping mug?" "ah, I might have something, follow me" I followed him up the stairs and indeed he had a (rather large) thermal flask, and then he also showed me a camping tool - which featured a knife, a hammer, pliers, screwdriver etc. While not the fit-in-your-pocket Swiss Army Knife, I thought it would nonetheless be a useful addition and backup knife.

Plum Bridge Plumbridge

The guy was very friendly and talkative and gave recommended a route to me at some length. I listened and when I said goodbye checked his route and my route. His route was almost certainly quieter and more scenic - passing the largest mountain in the range and being "mostly downhill" but it was also significantly longer. In the end I took my route - and, as it turns out, my route was not terribly steep, and at this point I really didn't care about scenery, it had now been about 6 hours.

I was expecting at least one or two very steep climbs as I approached my destination, and was pleasantly surprised when there were none. It really was mostly downhill. I stopped at a convenience store (which was still open at 7) and got some pasta, pasta sauce and cheese. "You don't sell beer do you?" "No, I'm sorry" (and it looked like she really meant it). In contrast to England many convenience stores seem to not sell alcohol, although I've seen those that do.

I finally made it to the campsite at around eight o'clock, and very soon was in conversation with my neighbor who, when he heard that I couldn't get the shower working, fixed the shower, and when he saw me cooking, leant me a table and chair. Later on the owner of the campsite arrived and all three of us talked for some time before I paid £15 and went to do my washing up.

It's been a pretty tough day and it's now 11:45PM and I've burnt 15% of my laptop battery writing this post, probably should have charged it at the hostel. The campsite is now very quiet and I can hear the trickling water from a nearby stream.

Day 2: To the Giants Causeway

Map Map with "Liquor store" locations

Currently sitting in a hostel in dinning room in Bushmills eating chips-cheese-and-beans[1]. I just had a conversation with an Australian who is riding around the coast on a Brompton bike. I'm drinking a ginger beer and it's been an interesting 24 hours.

Last night the campsite was very noisy, there were 6 year old kids running about everywhere and a group of 14 year olds having a small party in the next field (not part of the campsite) blaring house music through a portable speaker. I decided to go for a walk, when I came back I decided to fix my cycle computer.

I spent 10 minutes running the wheel backwards and forwards past the magnet, changing the position of the spoke magnet each time to no effect - no signal was getting through to the "computer". Then I saw a stray wire - the wire connecting my computer to the receiver was severed. Using my fingernails (I couldn't find the knife) I pulled the insulation off the wires and twisted them together before wrapping the bound wires in gorilla tape. My cycle computer is working again now.

Before and after Before and after: fixed with fingernails and good intentions

The blaring-music kids in the next field seemed to have developed an animosity with the 6 year olds as a girl started shouting the most revolting abuse at a six year old boy "you fat f--k, you c--k sucker, how old are you? suck my ass" and so on, and it just went on and on. She was clearly enjoying channeling her hate at this 6 year old kid and his friends.

My neighbor went over to ask them if they could keep it down "Sir, are they your kids?" "No they are not, but I don't want my kids listening to that language" "I'm sorry Sir, but " and then she tried to justify it before deciding to redirect her anger at this burly Full Iron Man participant "you c--k sucker, you dirty old man, why don't you suck a dick" and so on (they were doubtless emboldened by the large fence between them). Perhaps sensing that they had gone too far they then left and did not return.

After this episode there were only the kids running about playing games until 11PM and then two scottish blokes drinking, laughing and belching until 1AM. I n the absence of ear plugs I resorted to listening to music for programming for 2 hours before it was quiet enough to sleep, and I slept well, waking up at 8 and, after a quick shower, was on the road at 9AM.

My destination was Port Rush, which by an optimistic calculation was 100k away. I headed north and stopped at a Spar to get a coffee. I sat on a bench outside and a squad of road-cyclists arrived. They struck up a conversation I said I was heading to Torr Head, they told me to not go to Torr Head.

My Iron-Man neighbor from the previous night told me to avoid Tor Head and I probably would have avoided it in ignorance, but when somebody tells me not to go somewhere because it's "too steep" then I will go there.

Glen An impressive valley

I decided to listen to some music, unfortunately I realised I had no music and I didn't want to stream music on Spotify (to save bandwidth ha ha ha ha more on this later) but I did have Megadeth (Youthanasia) downloaded. I listened to that for an hour and stopped for lunch. I decided to transfer some music from my laptop.

Lunch Bike on the beach

I used an application called Syncthing to transfer the music from my computer to my phone, I believed that it would transfer the music directly from my laptop to my phone via. the Wifi tethering, I assumed the laptop would be on the same network as my phone so transferring via. the internet would not be necessary. I was transferring 10GB of music, and after 2GB the transfer rate tanked. And I thought "oh shit I've just transferred 2GB over the internet and burnt all my data roaming allowance". It seems I still have around 4GB of 6GB left, so 🤷 maybe it's fine.

Panoramic Panoramic

After following the coast road to Cushendun I started the first of 3 or 4 very steep climbs in undulating terrain. As I started I realised that I couldn't change to my largest gear on the rear sprocket, I stopped and increased the tension on the gear cable. Without that high gear there is no way I could manage a 33% (so one of the cyclists said) climb. At some points going at 3kmph and twisting from one side of the road to the other. It was hard work and the climb peaked at around 320m before basically descending 3 or so miles to Ballycastle. My legs were struggling and sore, but I pulled through.

Tor road the start The road was already quite steep at this point

The Tor road was a small, minor, road and I was relieved when I saw the A road up ahead. as I crossed the junction a police 4x4 came round the corner and surprised me, it stopped directly in front of me as I was half way across the road - so that my bike was in the middle of the road with it's tail in the path of potential traffic. The policeman wound down the window and I cycled towards the back of the van to get clear of the other side of the road before he started lecturing me.

"Where's your helmet?" "You've got no high-vis jacket" and he scrutinized my bike evidently looking to chastise me if I had no lights. "Is it a legal requirement to wear a helmet in Ireland?" "It may well be a legal requirement but it's not safe to not have a helmet, we've had fatalities on this road, on this corner" "have you got a helmet" "no I have not" and he went on like this for some time while I was stranded in the middle of the road on a blind corner with his 4x4 blocking the traffic. He seemed like a bit of a c--t. He was very passive aggressive throughout "take care yeah" "yeah, thank you so much mate, you've been a great help". It's not a legal requirement to wear a helmet and I'm pretty sure the only irresponsible behavior was them stopping me half-way across the road. Of course for the next hour I involuntarily replayed the situation and all the different ways I could have handled it.

Towards Ballycastle Looking towards the Giants Causeway

At Ballycastle there was lots of traffic and tourists. I stopped at a Spar and got myself an energy drink and some jam tarts. I sat outside near the beach with people passing. I looked at places to stay tonight, in Portrush the campsites looked like they may be as bad as the one last night, there was another campsite about 10k before Portrush which looked better. I decided to search for a hostel on my map and saw "Giants Causeway Hostel".

I had no idea I would be passing the Giants Causeway today. In this case it made perfect sense to stay at a hostel, leaving my stuff secure while I visit. It would also be a perfectly acceptable reason to violate the 100k per day rule.

As I was leaving girl stopped and asked me where I was going, she was very enthusiastic and said she walked the Wild Atlantic Way in 29 days.

Listening to music though a single earphone (yay Bluetooth and not having a headphone jack) and proceeding with cloudy weather I got to the "Giant Causeway Hostel", which was probably about a 15 minute walk from the Giants Causeway. I suspected they would be full, and they were (except for a private room for £65 but I'm not paying that if I can avoid it). The Spanish girl at reception phoned the main hostel in Bushmills and they did have a bed in a dormitory for £15.

It was a bit further than I hoped, and I checked in, had a shower and decided to walk to the Causeway. The receptionist said it was about an hours walk. Unfortunately I didn't make it far. My ankle deteriorated quickly and I had made barely 100m before I went through the stages of "I'll be fine", "I'll probably make it", "this really hurts", then finally accepting that there was no possible way I could walk 10 kilometers. I turned back and my ankle became very problematic and I had to walk very slowly to the off license to get a couple of beers.

I've decided to either run it or walk it tomorrow morning, as my ankle should be able to handle it then (fingers crossed).

[1] I don't particularly like CC&B, or at least I don't like them now. I used to like them when I was a teenager, usually at 3AM at Scoffers in Weymouth town center. I try to like them each time I return to the UK.

Day 1: Leaving Scotland

I am now sitting in a ferry teriminal in Craegvany waiting for the Stena Lines ferry to Belfast. Unusually I was instructed to wait inside the terminal until somebody will show me to the ferry rather than waiting with the cars outside.

From Belfast I've decided to head north and follow the northern coast in order to join the EV 1 (Euro Velo 1). I had intended to follow the EV1 inland from Belfast, but I couldn't see any reasonable accomodation en-route.

I arrived in Scotland 5 days ago, staying at my brother's. I've been staying in a caravan in the garden. The first three days passed by extermely quickly, and on day 4 I thought it would be prudent to check my equipment.

caravan interior view of the caravan

The bike was as I left it, not in perfect condition, but good enough. We hosed it down and my brother fixed the broken mud-guard by riveting a piece of aluminium to it.

spaying the bike down cleaning the bike

Next I realised that in my hurry to leave Berlin I had almost completely neglected to bring any suitable clothing. I had several pairs of socks and boxer shorts, two pairs of shorts and a vest. I had no trousers, fleece, no t-shirts, Aside from clothes I was also missing a multi-tool for the bike, a coffee machine, and various other items.

bike guard improved mud guard

Yesterday we went on a shopping trip to Dumfries and I got everything that I needed, except the Mocha Coffee Machine. I had to make do with a french coffee press, which I'm sure will be smashed to pieces in the following weeks.

The weather has been pretty shitty for the past 5 days, with occassional breakthoughs of sun, but the weather for the next week looks better, nethertheless I'm preparing myself to get wet.

Map From the ferry port to Larne

The crossing was uneventful, it took about two hours, when they called for the people to return to their cars I went down and got lost in the maze of lorries before finally finding my bike at the back of the ferry. I pulled it out and lined it up behind several motorcycles and waited, 10 minutes later the motorcyclists started up and I followed them only to be stopped at the exit by a member of the crew and I had to wait until all the cars and lorries had left before I could go.

When I left the port I checked my bike, the cycle computer wasn't working. There is a magnet on the wheel spoke which needs to pass closely to a magnetic switch on the stem, after fiddling with it for a few minutes I gave up. My brother took the liberty of "fixing my brakes" as they were loose, unfortunately they were too tight to let the wheels pass them without contact on the wheel, so I loosened them up again. Everything else seemed fine and the bike was running silently. I'll try and adjust the cycle computer so it works again later.

I passed a Greggs bakery and stopped to get some lunch. I got an espresso and a ploughman's roll for about £3.

Heading up the coast Heading up the coast

I am now on a campsite at Larne. I couldn't find the reception and when I asked somebody she pointed and there it was in plain sight. The office was closed by I was approached by a lady who summoned the proprietor. "It's normally 17 pound, but as you're on a bike it's 10 pound and it's cash only" he waited. Taking the hint I searched my wallet, I didn't have any 10 pound notes, but I had a good amount of change and had exactly 10 pounds.

Carrikfurgus Castle Carrikfurgus Castle

When I pitched my tent my neighbor stuck up a conversation "how far have you been?" "only 30k, first day". He gave me some advice and told me to avoid a certain road because it was very steep, I replied that that's probably what I'm looking for. He mentioned that he was going to Copenhagen next week to do a full iron man but that he was very impressed with what I was doing (cycling around the whole of Ireland) I replied that it's actually pretty easy, aiming to do an easy 100k a day and that doing a full Iron Man was something else entirely.

I have, however, only done about 30k today, the ferry got in at around 2PM and although I could have gone further I thought it better to take it easy. I haven't done any training for this tour and it's probably good to work my way into it.

After pitching my tent I went to the supermarket, I needed a lighter for the gas stove, and thought I'd get some tobacco and maybe some whiskey pass the time. They didn't have any booze at all, and it was only after paying I realised the tobacco (30g) cost 28 euros! In Berlin it would cost maybe 10.

On the way back I had some sharp pains in my ankle. I've had a injury (presumably from running) for almost 2 years now and it doesn't seem to get better, although it's only a problem after running, and sometimes after cycling. It doesn't seem any worse than it has been at any other time and it's only a problem when walking, and on past experience it will get better over the next days.

Tomorrow I'll try and do 100k to Portrush, including the road that my neighbor warned me about (while also saying that it was beautiful).There seems to be a fair number of campsites on the way, so that shouldn't be an issue.

Now I'm going to try and cook some baked beans.