I enter the Library Project in Temple bar to pick up in my hands the photo book I’ve been wanting for so long. Like the landscape south of Dublin, its pure Inspiration. I open the book and the very first page hits me with a perfect quote to sum up the pedaling expedition towards Britta’s bay.
“It is by ridding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them… Thus you remember them as they actually are… “
I still hold in my memory the pilgrimage to Santiago the Compostela as the best “vacation” to date. Nay, it was the best experience I’ve had so far in this lifetime. The reason is in its simplicity. It was probably on this trip I fell in love with self-powered movement. Walking, skateboarding, cycling all hold this underlying thread of getting there by my own account. On my merit. Independently of any other sources. One foot in front of the other is all it takes. One foot up, one foot down, full circle. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” was the inscription a friend from a previous life had written in book she had given me for her birthday. A saying that, as I fully understand only these days, doesn’t need to apply to actual walking.
The word on the street was two glorious days blessing us with their presence. In Ireland that usually just means it’s not gonna rain. However, the weather lived up to its promise. As I was slowly escaping the grip of the Big Shmoke, the weird misty fog lingered around quite persistently. I couldn’t, or, didn’t want to believe that it’s there to stay for the day. Which would only serve to prove that the forecast not only cannot but must not be taken seriously in this country. More of a guideline. A suggestion. An estimation. It sure wasn’t in any hurry but then again, neither was I.
It was almost erotic how the mist was playing and teasing. Moving about, rising and falling, ever flowing…uncovering a part of Bray head, just to hide it again seconds later, only to unveil another one. Like a lover being drawn to a woman skilled in the art of seduction I pressed on. The game continued throughout the walk. Squeaking and moaning of seagulls, whispering of the wind and foaming sea beneath me was like a lover letting me know, in her own language, I’m on the right path. I immersed myself in the landscape fully, trying to decipher something mysterious it was constantly whispering in my ear but I just couldn’t make out the words completely. I went full analog for the duration of the walk.
As soon as I hopped on for a test spin, I knew I had my hands on My bike again. It was like a reunion with an old friend. After the first one got stolen I finally managed to scrape together enough money to buy another one. A bike that would be as flexible as I consider myself to be. A jack of all trades, a master at none. Reliable on a tarmac road, not frightened by a road less travelled and definitely not afraid of breaking the rules and carving out a new one for himself. A sturdy bike. An adventure bike. A companion.
This trip was of course a road test. Riding around Dublin is all good but how would it fare against a longer trip and, fingers crossed, one day, thousands of kilometers. Because I gotta tell ya, I’ve tried many modes of transport and cycling is the greatest. It includes and immerses me in the landscape in a similar way that walking does, without having to carry anything on my back. Apart from the camera. Being able to stop for photo opportunities anywhere anytime is essential and valuable beyond measure.
Riding a bike on a warm, sunny day is essentially like going on a trip with a convertible. I say essentially because there’s nothing like that feeling of the wind blowing through my hair. Blowing all the way through Greystones, Kilcade, Newcastle and finally Wicklow where I only resolved to press on as I wanted to reach the beach and sand dunes of Britta’s bay before the sun fully sets.
There’s a point in the evening when, no matter how hot the day was, the sun looses its power and the wind coming from the sea is free to chill the air down. I found a nice little nook among the dunes to spread out the sleeping bag. Minutes before I was checking out Couchsurfers in Wicklow. Although they seemed interesting and willing to share their couch and their world my resolution was firm – it’s just me and the Nature tonight. Just me and the stars. Just me and the uncertainty. She’s been teasing me the whole day so it seemed appropriate to keep her company during the night as well.
Like lovers with limbs intertwined, I was awaken by sounds of the waves and seagulls. Well, I did open my eyes multiple times during the night – just to make sure it’s not raining. Like I needed eyes for that… The sun wasn’t able to disperse the mist until about 9 am. Groggy, I packed up my gear and started making my way through the dunes towards the beach, where I was to have my first dip of the year and first ever in the Irish sea…
It was still rather early (Irish early). There were only two other people on the beach but far from where I was fumbling about whether or not to dive in butt naked: “Eh, fuck em…” As I ran towards the cold, cold waves I seemed, in my mind, like a movie character, finding his freedom again. I share plenty characteristics with cats and one is definitely the dislike of cold water. I mean, why would I do this to myself? However, as experienced have thought me, it is by far, the best way to start the day, fast track style. Do I take cold showers in the morning when I’m back at the house? Fuck no, it takes me two hours and two cups of tea to get my mind kinda ready to get along with the whole Life ordeal. Must be why I find living in houses so depressing. It’s just too comfortable, you know? I think we should’ve never designed our shelters beyond their original intentions – shielding us from the elements, when they get too much to bare. Ah well, to each their own.
I can’t believe I became one of those people. You know, we live in the cities and when we finally spend two days in nature we’re all awed and inspired; holding our angular, hard, harsh concrete dwellings against the light, kindness and perfection of Nature. We dip our toes in the water, lay back on the grass and let the soil suck out the stress from off our shoulders. Our jobs and the hustling and bustling of the city become quite meaningless when contrasted with the grand masterpiece of Evolution. For a moment we feel we could and would, definitely, for sure, if only given the chance, throw it all away and live happy ever after. However, attached as we are, when the open road invites us to carry on riding, we chicken out and find a 101 reasons why we really need to head back to our golden cages…
This lighthouse was on the list from the previous day. I’ve seen it from the distance as I powered towards Brittas bay. It didn’t seem like much from the main road but oh boy, was I mistaken! Sometimes the things we think we shouldn’t be bothered with at all, turn out to be the gems we were to dig out.
The first surprise was the view that opened up when I’ve reached the top. The gates advised me to stay well away. Private property! Danger! Don’t! Verboten! Imagine my confusion… I thought this was a touristic place? A nice looking girl exiting the gates got me unstuck: “Oh the signs…yeah…just mind the signs…” So I made my way towards the lighthouse. There was a car parked in front of it and a man standing, filling up his pipe with tobacco, trying to light it up with a match in the blowing wind. After I confirmed I wasn’t stepping in the lighthouse he relaxed a bit and told me he’s travelling around Ireland with his family and that spending 50 EUR to sleep in the lighthouse was expensive but money well spent. He was a nice little chap with his pipe, his German accent, a French barrette and we had a nice chat about this and that but he was departing in minutes so I started making my way down to the new lighthouse, built on the cliffs.
Feeling absolutely refreshed I hopped back on my bike while a red car pulled up the red main gates with a man jumping out in great hurry. I nodded when prompted if I went all the way down to the other lighthouse. He gave me a thumbs up which I, naturally, understood as thumbs up are usually to be taken. But in retrospect, the funny way he and his two companions in the car were eyeing me, I came to believe I’ve must have triggered an alarm and the thumb was most likely the kinder version of The Finger. Sorry dude… like, put up a sign or something 😛
Wicklow was mad busy with traffic – the perk when you arrive at rush hour. I sped through the cracks in the traffic, on a mission to get to the train station. I hadn’t a clue when the next one to Dublin was due but I reasoned there should be some between three and six in the afternoon. Leaving the lighthouse, my tempo was a balance of chilling and actually getting somewhere a bit faster. See, I’ve made the mistake of checking my Facebook, which notified me that the guys are gearing up to hit Dublin mountains for an afternoon of longboarding. Thus I entered La La Land. I figured I could probably get back well enough to throw some slides down on a glorious day like this. Just a few, I was knackered. Pondering that I noticed a line of cars parked by the side of the road. On a quite uneventful side of the road. They seemed parked with intention. I swerved over to investigate. There was a young family crouching it’s way under the sign “private”, onto a gravel road going straight down somewhere: “Hello there, might I ask what’s down the road there?” The man of the family explained it leads to a lesser known beach. It’s kinda private but kinda not: “Can I take a look?” For sure I can but I must promise I’m not gonna tell anyone where it is. I responded with a cliche: “Tell anyone where what is?” He smiled and winked: “Listen, you go ahead, I need to look out for the little ones.” And of I went.
Since this was more of a family oriented beach I couldn’t just run into the waves naked. Though it was hot I didn’t feel much tempted to take a swim. No, there was another reason I came here, I sensed. Apart from, of course, being the lucky bastard that I am, getting an inside tip about an amazing beach from one of the guardian angels. When I say amazing I mean the crown fuckin’ jewel of the trip. The main gift under the Christmas tree. “You wanna come up for a cuppa” type of invitation from the girl you’ve been fancying the entire time. The lover that finally surrenders, unveils and disperses the mist. To think that I almost ignored the invitation is unimaginable. Starring back into her blue Irish eyes, my heart was breaking at the thought of leaving her…: “What has begun cannot be stopped”, I thought and I meandered down the slope to finish what I’ve started.