Sweaty Craic! Cycling Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way (Day 2)
Day 2: Glen Garrif to Killarney (71km)
Just pedalled into Killarney in County Kerry after a medium-length day with some lung-bursting hills on my second day of attempting the all-Ireland Mizmal end-to-end route. Throughout the day the countryside has been decked out with the green and yellow flags of Kerry: their Gaelic football team is appearing in the grand final tonight against Dublin and it should be lively tonight in Kilkenny in the heart of Kerry.
I asked Stephen one of our support crew what the outcome might be if I walked into one of the busy city pubs and said 'C'mon Dublin' in an English accent?
'You really don't want to that Mark," he laughed.
There may be fireworks tonight in the big game but today's cycle itself was a firecracker of a ride with three long and tough hills around the sublimely scenic Ring of Kerry.
I began well-fuelled from an evening of local produce - I'd been fancying local west coast mussels all day passing the mussel beds in the coastal inlets.
Then after a steep post breakfast first climb the landscape gradually transitioned into treeless moorland up to the Caha Pass - only 332m yet a stiff climb from sea-level. What made it tougher was MAMIL attacks (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) as a sportive was taking place and I must have been overtaken by a 1,000 furiously fast cyclists - their heads to the ground. But today was a day to look up as the scenery crossing into Kerry, which is spectacular.
A section following the River Sheen leads to another lovely climb into bleak granite topped moorland at Moll's Gap, where we had lunch - waiting for us.
Thereafter the road leads into the enchanting Black Valley - a lot more radiant than its name suggests. "Its one of the most remote and uninhabited parts of Ireland," says Paul Kennedy, leading our cycle today.
The narrow lane twists like a serpent following fast flowing streams that occasionally tumble over waterfalls. I noticed a rogue 'Dublin' flag supporting the bitter rivals of Kerry for tonight's game. But there is few neighbours around so I guess nobody will notice this outrage in Kerry.
Exiting the Black Valley requires a Herculean effort via one of the most stunning hill cycle climbs I've ever made - ascending the Gap of Dunloe. Now gap is somewhat of a misnomer as it should be known as 'the massive hill of Dunloe'. A steep zigzagging track leads onto a beautiful pass cutting through a row of 1,000m mountains.
The descent is very technical and not for worn brake pads as the bends are tight and fast and I had to concentrate hard with so many scenic distractions. It's not exactly a freewheel into Killarney thereafter but its an easy jaunt - almost a celebratory ride reliving the magic of cycling in Kerry. The green and yellow flags are flying when I arrive and I'm expecting the 'black stuff' to flow. Will head in to Killarney centre tonight and profess a new found love for Kerry's Gaelic football team even though I haven't got a clue about the sport.
And I certainly won't be uttering the 'D-word'.