Planet   Backpacker
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier

Cycling the West Coast of Ireland

 It's said that it only rains once a week in Ireland:  from Sunday to Saturday.  By chance, I arrived with my bike in Dublin during the only week in the summer when it was sunny and clear.  Be sure to pack a rain suit along with bright clothing and nerves of titanium to deal with Ireland's wet weather, narrow roads, and dodgy drivers...
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier
Dingle Peninsula, cycling Ireland, Planet Backpacker
Cycling the Dingle Peninsula -- one of the safer roads in western Ireland.

By Robert Downes

From the book, Planet Backpacker


The River Shannon

Kilkee, Ireland


   I camped by the broad River Shannon last night.  Got off the ferry late and there was no campground, so I hustled behind an embankment when no one was looking and bandit-camped by the river. There’s a glimmering light on the river, which is wide as a bay, and it strikes me that the light is shining from America, 3,000 miles away.  It was the light of freedom for many of the old Irish emigrants. 

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    As the sun went down, I wondered if my ancestor, Michael Downes, passed this way on his journey to America back in 1850.  Perhaps he saw much the same sunset.

   It feels like the good old days of my backpacking youth, when my lodgings were often a snug hollow under a bush or a freeway overpass.  Once, back when, I slept in a cemetery in Chicago, and on another trip in a garbage dump outside of Copenhagen.  I slept beneath a volcano in Sicily and under a freeway overpass during a lightning storm in the mountains of Tennessee.  It’s a satisfying feeling, bandit camping, since there are virtually no public parks in Ireland and hardly any roadside parks.  If you need to take a leak while traveling through the old sod, you are SOL, as we say. We have it so lucky in America -- here it is all pay, pay, pay...

  It was a tough ride yesterday and I needed all the help of St. Patrick, Mother Mary, Mother McCree and all the saints of Ireland to get down 60 miles of wicked, narrow roads in heavy traffic.  Lots of prayers, along with my St. Christopher medal, lucky travel shirt, lucky travel hat and a magic Irish coin got me through in one piece.   But there were a couple of close calls, I assure you, and if the roads are this skinny in England, I’m going to “Plan B.”

     ... I spend much of the day composing angry letters in my head and cursing Robin Krause, the author of Ireland by Bike, which induced me to ride these narrow lanes.  The book regales the wonders of biking in Ireland, but says little about the narrow roads and murderous traffic.  I assume that Krause wrote it before a new round of prosperity hit Ireland and every drunk on the island ran out and bought a car.  One driver nearly takes my head off during a stop to adjust a pannier -- he goes speeding past a line of six cars at around 60 mph, missing me by  a foot.

  

   ...In a small town north of Moher, I get the first of what could be many flaming earfuls about “George Boosh” from a stocky Albanian chap wearing a black baseball cap.  He’s got a visa to work in Ireland for several months as a builder.  

   “Why do George Boosh and America want to kill so many people?” he demands.  “Why not peace like Cleenton? What would you think if soldiers were coming to kill your family for no fucking reason?  For terrorists?  What terrorists?  That was in 2001; there are no terrorists now!”   

   Blah, blah, blah -- you’re preaching to the choir, dude.  I explain that many people in America hate the war in Iraq and think that George Bush sucks, but basically, this guy just wants to vent.

   “Well, you know, the American people did kick the Republicans out of office in the last election,” I point out, somewhat defensively.  “That was our way of saying we don’t support what President Bush did in Iraq.”

   “Yes, well I think you should come to Albania,” he wags a finger at me. “You will see, there is no terrorist there.”

   “Well, I’m sure that’s true.”

   “No terrorists -- just people trying to get by.  Just living. People who want peace.”

   “Right. I’m definitely planning to go to Albania someday,” I say, anxious for the lecture to end.  “I have heard many good things about Albania.”

   International relations are restored and I ride off with a wave, but it does make me wonder what sort of reception an ‘ugly American’ will get farther along the road, especially in the Muslim countries.


  Hazards, danger, warnings, crime, etc.: One doesn't usually think of crime or danger in connection with dear old Ireland.  There are some street people and riff-raff types in the bigger cities -- Dublin and Galway -- but these are well policed and assuming you're not stone drunk and sleeping it off on a park bench, you should be okay.

   The bigger risk is Ireland's traffic on its narrow roads, as mentioned in my experience cycling up the west coast.  It's a tight squeeze and traffic is often flowing over the speed limit.  For American's there's the additional problem of driving on the "wrong" side of the road.


   For more on cycling Ireland, check out "Planet Backpacker" by Robert Downes, available as an ebook at amazon.com Kindle or through Apple iBooks.



Ireland, cycling Ireland, Planet Backpacker
You'll experience much more of western Ireland on a bicycle than in a car: the sounds and smell or the sea and land and a deep, personal connection.
Click on the logo to order 'Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World" from Amazon Kindle -- $4.99 for the illustrated ebook.
Click on the logo to order 'Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World' as an Apple iBook from iTunes.  With more than 75 illustrations, $4.99.