Black ice

December 5, 2010

DSC_0580.JPG I know I’m on a brief holiday as I have a bad cold and a throat that feels like sandpaper. Illness and rest seem to be married together and I confidently expect some dreaded lurgey to strike over Christmas to teach me not to take a break. It’s happened every year for the past decade, I take some time off and every mild disease which has been hanging around suppressed by adrenaline seizes its chance to inflict discomfort. Either way, enough of the moaning (well there is some more to come), drinking my first lemsip of the evening in a Donegal Hotel and the world is starting to look a better place.

So to the trip, sans grande americanos (Starbucks has not made it outside of Dublin) in a bright red puegeot 305 to a full download (a £120 indulgence last night) of an unabridged reading of all twelve volumes of A dance to the music of time. I have a meeting in Belfast on Tuesday, Cardiff were playing Munster on the Saturday evening so everything came together; other than the Cardiff team who threw away a victory but at least gained a loosing bonus point. After a somewhat hairy scary drive through freezing fog to Hungerford station I got on a flight to Shannon, picked up a hire car and prepared for the two and half days on the west coast of Ireland in winter. My plan was to get up before dawn to see sunrise over the Cliffs of Mohr, take the coast road to Galway and thence the scenic route to Clifden. Sunset on Achill Island and then a night time drive to Donegal town.

Well that was the ambition! First the plane was two hours late and the match was brought forward two hours, so I had no time on Saturday afternoon to go round King John’s Castle in Limerick. With twenty minutes to go in the match freezing fog swept in and no one could see the whole pitch (including the players). The walk back to the hotel was hazardous in the extreme with black ice on every pavement, and the hotel heating was deficient (to say the least) so I slept in two pullovers under a duvet. The next morning the weather had not improved so I modified the plans.

I left late and as the sun broke through the fog as I approached Enis, I turned left over the Eastern slopes of the Burren to the ruins of Kilmacduagh monastery. Crossing the style, black ice struck again and I slipped from four foot up, but preserved the new expensive camera from harm at the cost of lost skin on left hand and thigh and one ruined pair of trousers. I recovered, slowly and coldly to the point where I could take a series of photos and then set off for the port of Kinvarra, home of the Galway hookers (a type of boat before you get the wrong idea). Wonderful in the ice with a low sun, one photo in the header section of this post. Getting there was a bit of a nightmare however. I was discovering that the Irish do not grit their roads. I don’t know if this is policy or a result of current budget cuts but it’s not fun. At this stage I assumed it was the backroads only and coming into Galway things got better. So I set off for Clifden, however the sun was dropping in the sky and I decided I needed to be the hotel by 1800 to be safe. So I turned right after Oughterard for Leenane. I was half minded to do this anyway as the view from that road is the best of the Twelve Pins. The final stretch of that road was a nightmare, 2nd gear all the way and constant threat of slipping over the edge. The sun was now setting so I set off for Sligo without any further attempt at sighseeing. It took me three hours to get from Westport to Sligo, on one of the main roads in Ireland. Again alternating between 2nd and 3rd great, no brakes, wheels slipping in each bend. I finally made it to the car park in my Donegal hotel and promptly fell over with bags (camera still OK though).

All that said it was worth it, and it brought back many many memories stretching over three decades and more. I’ll blog about that later in the week, for the moment I will simply report on the trip! The flickr stream should show why it was a great trip, despite the nightmares and the stress. Tomorrow to the wilds on Donegal, then Derry and Belfast.

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