Our second week in Ireland has come to an end, and with the end we begin a new phase in our exploration of this place. Yesterday we took the bike apart (one would think that after 900 km of faithful service we would have a name for her, gender is figured out though) and later today we take a train to Dublin to join an organized tour with a coach.
The past week has been another filled with new sights and wonderful people. We began it by cycling around Lough Corrib, the lake north of Galway, on a charity ride for CROI, the Irish Cardiac Association. We donned our Canadian jerseys for the event and rolled out 125 km with 1000 other riders. In last week’s post, I suggested cycling was not as popular as it might be at home. This week I was firmly corrected on that score. This area, while not densely populated has a lot of cyclists, many of whom seem to belong to various bike clubs, decked out in their matching jerseys, riding peloton style. There are also a lot of organized events, races, and charity rides. You could do one every weekend. The government is also encouraging cycling,particularly to work, by subsidizing over one third of the cost of purchasing a bike. This program stimulates the economy as well as helping with the environment and fitness issues. While we still didn’t meet many cyclist during the day,the warm weather has certainly brought them out for evening rides during the week.
We continue to visit with a lot of folks along the way. Our bike draws people to us, we’ve now seen one other tandem here, a rental, and the conversation can quickly move from what we’re doing to what they do. The economy is high on everyone’s agenda with many words of praise for Canada’s track record through this last crisis. Everyone seems to either have relatives currently working in Canada or have returned from there themselves. There are few opportunities here for young people and the more established generation continues to struggle. We visited with one self employed contractor who has not built anything in four years. Houses, partially finished, are posted with for sale signs. Many other homes are for sale at bargain basement prices. The recession is not over here yet. Wages are low, but prices for food and fuel are higher than we are used to. Gas is €1.53/ litre (nearly $2) meat and vegetables look to be the same price as ours but in Euros rather than dollars making them 35% more expensive. Everyone here seems to be struggling and while they complain, it’s not a bitter complaining but rather a sense of this is the way things are right now, a trial to be endured and overcome.
It’s with some sadness we leave this part of our trip. The rhythm of the day, the new sites to see, and people to meet, was becoming quite comfortable. If the weather had not improved from our first couple of days, we would likely be very glad to be done with the ride, but, as everyone tells us, this last week has been extraordinary. The sites we’ve seen have been extraordinary as well and have left us grateful to Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring for putting us on to the little roads, the places the coaches don’t (or at least shouldn’t) go, to experience the vista of a placid lake nestled between mountains, with virtually no one else there. We try to take pictures, but the camera is just too small.