Saturday 18th June
I slept well until the chainsaw testing department got into full swing around 1.30am. Despite my earplugs it was difficult to block the noise out. I dozed for about an hour and then drifted back off to sleep. I was wakened as requested by one of the volunteers at 5.00am, had my fill of cereals and fruit at breakfast and was away by 5.45am. The day was not just as bright as the day before, and I had arm warmers and a gilet on to keep the chill at bay. I was looking forward to today’s hills that would surely warm me up.
I had great views back to the mountains of the Beara peninsula as I headed west along the Ring of Kerry, thankful that it was far too early for the tourist coaches to be out, and that I would have the roads to myself for at least a few hours. The Kerry peninsula is the most popular on the tourist trail, and so gets a fair amount of traffic each day.
The views were becoming less clear as I neared the western end of the Ring of Kerry, and by the time I got to Balllinskelligs I could barely make out Skellig Michael for sea mist. There was a ‘tight wee climb’ a few miles before Portmagee that had me grinding away in my smallest gear, called the granny gear, for about ten minutes until I finally got to the top. At this point the sea mist became land mist, or rain, as it is more commonly known.
I donned my waterproof before a swift descent brought me to the first control of the day, where the campervan was parked up. I filled my face while my brevet card was being attended to, and chatted with fellow randonneur George for a few minutes before setting off again.
The big climb of the day before me was the spectacular Connor Pass on the Dingle peninsula, but looking across the bay to Dingle, I wasn’t sure that I would be seeing very much of it at all. I stopped in Caherciveen and got a filled roll made up for later. This proved to be a serendipitous undertaking, since the shop at the control in Castlemaine looked as if rationing were still in force. I found out later that that it would be closing down the following day, so I suppose it can be forgiven for not having too much stock left.
The day’s weather continued to deteriorate as I went west again towards Dingle, and by the time I started out on the Slea Head loop from Dingle town the rain was properly on. I wasn’t overly bothered, as I had full shell clothing with me, including overtrousers, but it did mean that I didn’t get to see the Blasket Islands. I did see the promontory fort of Dunbeg on the cliff edge before getting to the info control at Slea Head, where I had to say how many statues were standing at the foot of Christ on the cross.
Back in Dingle town around 6.45pm I used the public loos both as convenience and shelter to add more layers, since I was soaked through by this stage. As I left, two other riders, Nuno Lopes (From Brasil) and Nick Cannon (from the Isle of Man, but living on Guernsey), came along. Having ridden on my own for most of the day, I was glad of the company as we climbed the Connor Pass. As predicted, the view from the top was non-existent. Once we descended the north side, however, we were astonished to find a completely different day weather-wise. There was no evidence of rain having fallen here, and the sun even made an appearance from behind the clouds at one point, further exaggerating the difference.
The kilometres seemed to pass more quickly in the company of others, and we arrived at the shelter control in Ballyheigue at 10.30 pm. Two days done, 650km covered and 7000 metres climbed. I had access to my first drop bag, with clean, dry clothes including my Gabba jersey, a water-resistant jersey that was to become my best friend in the coming days. Showered and fed, I was out like a light at midnight, this time on a blow up mattress, looking forward contentedly to the recovery day that was to come.
Route: WAWA day 2 Kenmare to Ballyheigue 321km
Next: Day 3