Ballyheigue – Oranmore, 642 – 907km

Another day, into County Clare.

Away by 9:30am, the gradients now ease compared with the last two days.  I’m able to maintain a good rolling average.  The GPS bounces off once, twice, the mount effectively broken. I wrap a couple of lengths of electric tape around the middle of the GPS and mount securing it.  It also no longer rattles, peace descends.

I’m doing mental calculations for the timings for the Tarbet ferry.  I think I can make the 11:30am sailing but timings are tight.  The route is not direct and eventually I see a Tarbet sign saying 10km with 20 mins to make it in.

Head down, hands on drops I spin away in the big ring. A slight downhill. The wind has finally turned and a tailwind is giving me a helping hand.  I make the ferry and seconds later the ramp is drawn up and we are underway.

On the Tarbet Ferry, still raining

I’m breathing heavily, heart beating away. But I’m feeling good. For the most part recovered from my dehydration. My appetite has yet to fully return. David Coupe and another Audax UK rider are on the same sailing.

The rain continues to fall as I reach Kilrush Shelter control with David Coupe.  Hot curry and rice with tea and fruit juice. Perfect. My appetite is returning. I don’t finish the curry, but I make a good effort.  Energy levels are up.

Beyond Kilrush we make a turn left and head out to Loop Head Lighthouse.   It’s west south west and directly into a strengthening head wind.  It’s reminiscent of the fens. It’s brutal.  All exposed skin is being sculptured into new forms.  Waves race inward, crash and tumble, spray and salt water pervades the air. A wild elemental day.

The final long climb up to the lighthouse combined with the headwind and rain makes for painful progress.  Once reached a photo as proof passage and then to turn. Before I am clipped in, the wind is urging me along.  I gather speed exponentially. I am a superhero cyclist.

At Loop Head Lighthouse

Bottom of hill and lunch at a nearby pub with fellow riders. A beef and coleslaw sandwich with salad, not on the menu but they’ll make it for me. Washed down with a coke sitting by a patio heater.  Stuart and Andy say hello, still heading to the lighthouse. Invited, they do not have time to stop.

A glorious big ring spin, hurled by the wind back east then north. I’m that grinning maniacal wild child.  No longer fatigued, no longer nauseous, no longer without appetite, no longer without energy. I am renewed, recast.  I howl with primitive elemental joy.

Cliffs of Moher, Photo (c) Jonny Collins/Jcollins Productions

Beyond the cliffs of Moher. The landscape opens out into limestone pavement to the left and cliffs to the right.  The Burren. We are in the last light of the day and a soft orange glow suffuses the rock, brings it to life.

I stop in this place, alone. I find a rock overlooking the cliffs and sea, sit there legs dangling down.  A moment of quiet, a moment of connection.  I listen to whispers on the wind, hearing secrets I can never divulge.

I continue, on into the night, good fast roads that rise and fall above the dancing sea.  The hills turn to shadow, the sea an inky black, with headlands fading to infinity.

Oranmore sleep control arrives around 1am.  A volunteer takes my bike for me, thank you. Brevet stamped. Irish stew and tea, chatting with Noel Mohoney. Tracker on charge.  A wide eyed child falls once more into the arms of Morpheus.  I opt for 3 hours sleep.