…living in and dreaming of…

Skye

September 24th, 2018 · No Comments

We arrived late in Uist, where we just had enough time to pitch our tents, have a shower, eat dinner and go to sleep.

The next day we climbed gently along the River Rha to the viewing point towards the Quiraing.

The downhill part was over far too quickly, but gave us also plenty of time to while the afternoon away. The next day the weather turned and we were cycling through dense mist, and clouds of midges when we slowed down. So we passed the Old Man of Storr without stopping as midges and mist didn’t seem to make it worthwhile. The landscape had its own charme in this weather.

Skye is quiet touristy and the traffic crowds on the few roads there are. Sometimes we were lucky and could take other smaller roads, like here along the Moll Road, sparing us the traffic of the A87.

Before leaving Skye we had one more night of wildcamping. We were a little bored and made a contest. We each had to complete tasks and disguise ourselves with what little we had with us in the tent while outside it kept on raining.

And the last night we spend next to the ferry port at Armadale called Rubha Phoil. A magical place with one downside: the ticks. Apart from that, it is a lovely hideaway. Birds come to visit and this bird later was sitting on my knee investigating me or the chance of getting some food out of this redhead fellow.

There are walks through the woods and although the area is not that big, one gets easily fooled by the density of its fauna.

We stayed two days and Andrea got two tick bites, which haunted us a little the following days as we worried about any transmission of a disease. The Highland Games in Arisaig were a welcome distraction.

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Outer Hebrides

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

After arriving in Castlebay, we cycled south to the beaches of Vatersay, where there is an informal campsite that lets you pitch a tent in a beautiful setting next to the beach.

The beach was stunning and in the morning the sun came out to greet it.

We started cycling north along the west coast of Barra. As we had some time to spare until the ferry to Uist, we had a look at the Barra airport which is located in a bay, where during low tide, small passenger aircrafts land and take off.

In all our trip we haven’t seen as many cyclists as here on the Outer Hebrides. I guess the remoteness of the place is rather an attraction to most people and we could see some familiar faces in the campgrounds along the way.

Sheep are grasing directly next to the road and are more startled by the occasional cyclists than by the cars and motorhomes passing them.

Some of the islands are connected by causeways and one can experience the open spaces between the islands directly from the saddle.

We celebrated Andrea’s birthday in a small hostel with a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. As it was a quiet evening, we found some pleasure in getting creative with the photos in the newspaper.

The weather was enhancing the experience and sometimes the dramatic dark clouds were broken by the sunlight illuminating the ocean below.

Our last campsite was on the isle of Harris and we had a fantastic view from our tent.

We stayed an extra day which proofed a little difficult. We had eaten our emergency food the night before as the only store in town had already closed when we arrived. We scraped together a last meal with rice, cous cous and soy sauce and made the last kilometers the following day to Tarbert on an empty stomach. Because of time and energy constraints, we changed our plans and made our way directly to Skye instead of cycling north to the isle of Lewis.

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Kyntire

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

The ride along the eastern coastline north of Campbeltown is amazing, though hilly at times. We pitched our tent just next to the Arran ferry at the beach near Claonaig. I hadn’t heard about the isle before but it looked inviting.

The water was also inviting and we didn’t mind the cold temperature too much.

We made our way to Tarbert, which has a bit of an odd history.

There was a festival in town and we had a bit of a chat with this guy until he was asked by a little girl why he was so tall, as if there was something suspiciously wrong.

On a long cycling trip, one has to make sure to stretch. A pretty backdrop to do so is easy to find in these parts.

We still came past the odd castle in forgotton places like here Carnasserie Castle.

We wildcamped for three nights in a row but we stayed in places that let us wash up at the end of the day in the ocean or in a nearby river.

We still felt quiet fresh when we rolled into Oban from where we took the ferry to the Outer Hebrides.

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Northern Ireland

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

We spent our first night in Northern Ireland just next to the border. When we crossed it, we hardly noticed it. If it weren’t for the big protest signs from the border communities against the Brexit and consequently an EU border deepening the separation of the two Irish countries once more.

The next day we stayed in Portstewart with David from couchsurfing. An incredible kind host and interesting character. It took a while to get our bags inside and to get settled in as we were soon deep in conversation.

The next day David started to cycle with us and was our local guide.

The sun was out and the coastline shone in bright colours with the different blues of the sea and the white of the sand and the limestone.

About halfway we met Dave again whom we first met at the Leitrim cycling festival a week earlier. Together we cycled to Bushmills and a coffee break before he set off again to take the ferry to Scotland the same day.

We had more time and also stopped at the biggest attraction along the coast, the giant’s causeway.

There was some climbing to be one and usually gave one a fantastic view of the coastline.

Whitepark bay was as far as David went with us where we stopped for a small break and ate the leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Our goal for the day was Ballycastle, where we would stay with Paul, another cyclist who was so kind to let us stay in a spare room of his house. Once again a kind host and interesting character. We had a long and enriching evening together and talked until midnight when we finally went to bed.

The ferry to Campbeltown in Scotland wasn’t leaving before the afternoon. So Paul was showing us his favourite spot just outside town. We took the guitar with us and he his camera and a small audio recorder. We passed the afternoon playing some songs and making a photo and recording session out of it.

The ferry ride began entertaining enough. The small boat bouncing on the waves and seemingly an almost exclusive service for cyclists, four out of five passengers had their bikes on bord. After an hour our stomachs felt duly entertained and we were glad when we finally arrived at the harbour and had some time on the bicycles to find our balance again on the first kilometers in Scotland.

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Leitrim cycling festival

June 26th, 2018 · No Comments

Just a small note in one of the cycling groups was enough to make the decision to adjust our plans to make it to the small village of Manorhamilton.

In the evening we went to a presentation of two travellers before retiring to our tents early.

The next day we all made our way to the castle cafe where various events were going on.

The knotted chords played and sang on and off during the the afternoon.

Tattoos were given out to the hardest amongst the group.

Part of the people gathered then went off for a small round in the hills.

One inventor brought his Scary Go-Round. It was hard work getting this thing up to speed, but it was worth the fun.

In the late afternoon we started our tour to Drumahaire past Doon Lough.

There we sat up camp again before heading to the Crossroads. An Irish tradition around the solstice. A gathering on a crossroad with music and dancing. Every brings some food and drink and a fire is lit and the dancing and singing goes on until late.

There was a Breakfast cook up the next morning. Typically Irish and heavy.

Luckily there was a pause until we hit the local demo strech of the Greenway. We used the time in between to get our bicycles and ourselves decorated for the occasion.

There were judges along that stretch, electing the most beautiful customers, a guy sitting way up a tree playing his trombone and lots of food when we arrived at a cottage at the end of the Greenway. The “Old Market Street Swing Band” was playing and mking this a most wonderful afternoon.

For two songs, Andrea was invited to sing which you can see and listen to if you follow this link:

Old Market Swing Band & Andrea Passerini

The two people without whom this event wouldn’t have been possible are Laura and Ciarán from crank & cog.

After saying goodbye, we cycled from the festival to Sligo with our attire still donned.

Our time in Ireland is drawing to an end, but with such memories, one feels having really got to know a bit the country and its people.

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Ireland – part two

June 26th, 2018 · No Comments

We didn’t always make it to a campsite. So we wildcamped in parts and one time just asked a local man if he knew a piece of land where we could pitch our tent for one night. Michael immediately invited us to make use of his garden and made sure we were lacking nothing.

After arriving in Doolin we toom a bus to the Cliffs of Moher before walking back. The visitor center is quiet a busy place and you might get asked to pay a fee to enter the site if coming from the coach parking. After a bit of walking the crowd thins out quickly and afterwards one is looking back and has enough space to be in awe.

The cliffs are around 150 meters at the highest. Sometimes I didn’t feel so comfortable near the cliff’s edge and also had a hard time watching Andrea finding out how far she could advance.

We cycled through a zone called “The Burren” where we stopped at the Poulnabrone Dolmen.

Stopping in Corofin for the night, we made our way to Bofey Quinn’s pub to have a pint,

and to listen to some music.

Getting into Galway was really nice. The quality of the buskers was a mixed bag. One group stood out and had also a dancer.

After Galway we cycled through Connamara which we enjoyed immensely. The photos hardly do it justice.

We are probably the luckiest tourists travelling through Ireland this millennium. In five weeks we had three days of rain and the apart from this can only praise the Irish weather.

We headed to Sligo after Connamara to attend the Leitrim cycling festival in Manorhamilton.

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Ireland – part one

June 11th, 2018 · No Comments

Arriving at Rosslare in Ireland, it was already late and getting cold. With all the supplies we got from Lawrence and Marina, we had already feasted during the crossing and now only needed to find a place for the night which we found in a campground just five kilometers down the road.

The first days were spent getting used to the country. The first stretch isn’t that interesting to be honest and after a couple of days we decided to hop on a bus to get to the west coast quicker. We got off at Skibbereen and made our way to Schull. We heard of a Film Festival going on there and spend two afternoons watching short films. A pleasant break from the cycling routine.

I had to get some recordings done for the songs we did with Emilio and Gustavo back in Rosario. A quick internet research put me in contact with Paul, who ran the closest recording studio. Close to Glengarriff, we sat up camp in his beautiful garden and soon after got to work.

It took a while longer and it was already evening until everything was done. Andrea made a quick dinner and then we were off towards the village for our first pub visit in Ireland.

We walked along the main road and entered the only pub with music coming out if it. We ordered some Beamish and Murphy’s and took the only two remaining seats on the bar. In the pause after the song had finished, the man next to me suddenly started singing. At first being rather surprised, we quickly got into the atmosphere and were witness to some other rather bizarre musical interludes.

At the end of the evening we sat down with the two musicians, Marie and John, and talked about music and our travels. Later they invited us to come by their house later that week and visit the highest pub in the country.

First though we cycled out the sheep’s head and parts of the Beara peninsula. In case you’re wondering why the sun is shining in most pictures, we are extremely lucky with the weather.

There are a lot of views which you could just frame and hang on a wall.

The rhododendrons were introduced in the second half of the eighteenth century when plants were brought to britain from all over the world. On Ireland they thrive so splendidly that they now face a serious threat to the native vegetation but look pretty beautiful while doing so.

Cycling through Eyeries was a pleasure. It was a day of a wedding celebration at the local pub and the whole village was dressed in their finest. All the man in beautiful blue suits and as there was noone to be seen that didn’t belong to the party, it felt like cycling through a film set. In the afternoon we stopped at the Ardgroom Stone circle. Later the scene was taken over by a herd of cows with their calfs. Usually we get interested look or blank stares when we cycle past but this time we felt it was time to take our leave as the looks were clearly stating that we were on their turf.

We made our way to the house of Marie and John the next day and could stay in the cottage next to their house. We had a typical Irish dish for dinner and went to bed early after five days continuously in the saddle. On the first Sunday of each month there is a music session in the Highest pub of Ireland, the “top of coom”. Half of the people gathered chipped in a song, a poem or a story and with the more famous songs the whole pub was singing along like “The wild rover”, “The leaving of Liverpool” or “Waltzing Matilda”.

Our hosts Marie and John playing a song together. The instrument Marie is playing here is called a hurdy-gurdy.

After the session we talked with some of the other contributors of the evening and shared a couple of Guinness.

The next day we cycled to Killarney where we stayed in a hostel. The Killarney national park has a lot to offer and we saw only a fraction of it.

Muckross Abbey is a mysterious place and its ruin illuminated beautifully on a sunny day.

A small hike took us first to a small pool of water on top of the hill before descending to the Torc waterfall.

When we arrived at the campground near Banna, we half jokingly put on our swimming dress before hitting the beach. What a surprise it was to see a hundred people already in the water despite its rather cold temperatures. After being in the water up to our hips we weren’t sure for how long we could stand it. But after finally taking a complete dip in the waves, we felt quiet alright for another while.

This was only the first half of our Ireland experience. We have crossed into county Clare by now and will have another three weeks to explore the northern half of Ireland.

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Wales

May 13th, 2018 · No Comments

The morning started with a walk downhill. We had met Reja from Germany the night before. And as we were going in the same direction, we decided to continue together. The road made a huge detour to the next bridge and so we just cut across a field and made use of the vast network of bridleways and public right of way paths to get us to a footbridge over the Wye and into Wales. This turned out to be quiet an adventure because of fallen trees blocking the way and a rather steep and rocky section at the end.

On the other side of the river lies Tintern with its impressive abbey.

After Tintern we had to climb out of the Wye valley to continue our way westward. We cycled to Usk together where our short time as a trio already came to an end. Reja wanted to choose a flatter route closer to the coast, while we were heading farther North.

It was a pleasant ride through the country side. And I decided I want to become a tree designer in Wales when I grow up.

After a hefty push uphill, we cycled along the Brecon canal until we reached our destination for the day.

We stayed with Rachel and Luke close to Abergavenny. Rachel is a successful athlet, having just competed at the commonwealth games on the gold coast in track racing. Now they are planning their honeymoon: a bike ride from New York to Los Angeles.

They made a great BBQ cook up for us. Mushrooms with nuts and cheese, couscous with dried tomatoes and there were quiet a few more items on the buffet. For desert we tried homemade scones with marmelade and cream. Thus established to be trustworthy, we followed their advice to have a look at the “big pit” mining site at Blaenavon.

Before going underground one is equipped with the necessary items to survive in a mine.

Our guide John had worked in the mines for over twenty years. And although he still considers it a lucky day when he got a job at the mine, he feels like he was done a favor when the they finally closed down. Enabling him to give tours today in a good state of health.

It was a short cycling day after the visit underground. It started to rain and the evening was rather sad, pitching our tent on a vacant camping site with the reception already closed. Luckily the weather cleared until the morning and we had a good day of cycling, lost of climbing included.

After being on the road for five days, we found ourselves on a campground next to a little stream and a nice bench with table next to our tent. It looked like a good opportunity to take a day off. We celebrated a bit after those hills with a cider and creamy mushroom pasta and the next day with an apple pie to restore our energies.

Over the next days we’ll continue to cycle through Wales until Pembroke from where we plan to take the ferry to Ireland.

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England

May 13th, 2018 · No Comments

After a nice warmshowers experience in Plymouth, we cycled up the Plym valley. It was an excellent ride on a sunny day and we met quite a few cyclists who were keen to recommend the best ale, campsite, route etc. As we were climbing, the temperatures dropped and we steered towards the yha Dartmoor instead of camping in the wild. Even so this meant some more climbing to get there.

We rested our legs the following day and decided to stay another night to explore the national park with its tors,

and the remains of settlements of the bronze age. Maybe the climate was different then, otherwise it would be strange why Dartmoor national park is full of stone circles, stone rows and dolmen.

The Dartmoor ponies are a special breed of this area. Even with a grown horse, one has to kneel down to be on eye level. The tiny size probably helps in these environments with heavy winds, cold and hardly any shelter.

Dartmoor is quiet barren but there are some quaint little villages in the vicinity which were a welcome place to restock and rest.

A lot of these had inns, pubs and churches like you’d imagine while reading a story set in this area.

One thing I imagined before coming to the south of England were its country lanes lined with trees and hedges and it was a pleasure cycling these.

On such roads we travelled until we reached Okehampton where we stayed with Tim from warmshowers. We arrived early and took the time to visit the remains of the castle.

After a quick stop at the supermarket we drove a little outside of town to have another walk through the moor before having dinner, which Tim had already prepared beforehand.

Bath was our next stop where we went to by train. We wanted to visit Paul, a cyclist whom I met in central and South America. He was soon to be off for holidays in Spain, so we choose this quicker way to get there to see him before. It was great to see him and catch up while tasting several ales and ciders.

The next day, spring arrived and we went for a walk from Paul’s house to Alexandra park from where one has a great view over the city.

The center was busy with people wearing their summer dresses and with ice cream cones in their hands. We made a picknick in a small park behind the Royal Crescent before having a look at it.

A former rail line, connecting Bath with Bristol, was converted into one of the first cycle paths of England and was also the beginning of the national cycle network “Sustrans”. It was a short ride into Bristol where we stayed at the Yha once more. We had enjoyed the few days off in Bath a lot and felt more like cycling than to explore another city. So over the Severn bridge we went to Chepstow and into Wales the next day.

Entry fees are quiet high in Britain. Mostly we are content with a quick look from the outside while having one or two cookies, like here in front of Chepstow castle.

We then cycled north along the Wye river and up, untill we reached our campsite for the night.

With a good view to end the day.

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Bretagne

May 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

We arrived in Redon in the afternoon and passed the time, until our host Anne arrived, in the lovely cafe of the train station.

Anne works in the tourist office and was so kind to show us around town before we bought the ingredients for dinner.

We made some crepes, which we accompanied with apple cider. Both very typical for the Bretagne.

The next day we rejoined the Velodyssee, which was running along the canal between Nantes and Brest.

It had its straight stretches but had enough diversity to make it an interesting ride.

We conquered some castles along the way, but decided it would be too much work to maintain one.

Another welcome diversion were the beautiful little towns, like Josselin here.

As we arrived too late to visit the castle, we at least had a good look from the outside.

There are enough beautiful places to make a break with tables and benches. And from time to time, if one is lucky, with a small garden of spices to enhance one’s sandwich.

Typical sights are the locks, from which there are more than a hundred. Often with a nice garden and trees in front of the guardian’s house, who seem to take pride in maintaining these old premises.

The campsites were beautiful too. These were mostly smaller ones and had a more familiar atmosphere. At one of these sites next to the lake of Guerledan we tasted some local beer.

Food and drink were delicious and even on a Sunday afternoon you don’t have to despair if you are left without baguette.

Christophe from warmshowers was so kind to let us camp in his garden the next day. There were so many beautiful spots around the old water mill. In the end we set up camp below this apple tree.

In the morning we drank tea out of mugs he made himself and he told us a bit about his passion for pottery.

We were lucky to find a host in Morlaix which was a really lovely time with Catherine and Michel. In the evening we played some songs on the guitar and piano with the family. And while Andrea was singing ‘Besame mucho’, Michel was accompanying her with his pocket saxophone. They let us stay a day longer which we used to have a walk through town. Looking over Morlaix next to its famous viaduct.

And the view from below.

There are crêpes and there are galletes in France. Crêpes is what most of us know. Galettes are the version with buckwheat and is exclusively eaten with salty toppings. Catherine is a master of the arts. Especially the galettes, the dough made without eggs and only water, pose a challenge.

Here with the typical egg and cheese version which we topped with some grilled vegetables.

After Morlaix it was just a day’s ride towards Roscoff from where we would take the ferry to Plymouth in England. France turned out to be a wonderful country to cycle tour and if we’d have the chance, we wouldn’t hesitate to come back.

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