Monday, November 21, 2011

The last (so called) stage

Tuesday, 6th of October. This morning there was a silent knocking on my door, hardly noticeable. When I boot on my lended computer to look for the time it was actually 8:18 A.M. – so I really had tu hurry, because my train would depart at 9:07 A.M. from 10 kilometres afar Nennig. Fast packing, fast symbolic breakfast… I angled my brakes more wide, so the wheel didn't hit so bad. My ability to slowdown wasn't so good now, but still working. And I also swapped the package of the panniers, so it was less weight on the carrier's broken side. Both helped.

I went on hurrying when I was on my bike, and surely it was uphill for a long time – but the outlook when being on top and also the high-angle downhill was great, and at this time I became more confident to catch the time. When I passed the German border – second border this day after first passing from France to Luxembourg – it was stormy and I felt some raindrops, so welcome back home! – but it were actually just this few drops. Nevertheless it was a cloudy and windy day.

As the station in Nennig was a very small one, there wasn't any lift but even no other help for people on wheels. I was quite impressed of myself, that I was able to shoulder my packed bike without any difficulty.

When I bought my ticket at the vending machine I was wondering, why it costed more than the railway website had informed me before. And when having a look at the itinerary it was also another route with less change but it would keep me via Cologne. I was wondering but just thinking this could maybe caused of the fact that I mentioned my bike when I did the internet search, so probably the vending machine had made his decision on shorter connecting times (but somehow in both cases I would arrive nearly at the same time at my destination – as I said, I didn't really thought about it). I needed the help of a train conductor to see my mistake: I had bought a ticket to Dortmund instead of Darmstadt, where I wanted to visit some friends and meet Klaus on Friday to visit the birthday party of his cousin. In Trier – first connecting station for both goals, so till then I was never the less in the right train – I had to go to the counter. Fortunately I had 25 minutes transfer time (but according to the line in front of the counter, I also needed this time). Surprisingly the Deutsche Bahn cancelled my old ticket and gave me the right one without any extra charge, so in the end I got some money back.

It was curious to sit in a German train. The people around me appeared to be grouchy, crabby, mopish. It's strange how prejudices and generalisation are working. I suppose half of my impression was caused by the fact, that I wasn't able to see my home country's people from an open minded curious view. In fact it wasn't that bad.

I visited some friends in Darmstadt and stayed overnight. Nice guitar session, interesting talks. Exiting sense of self, the changed me in a familiar context. Next day I met Klaus and we visited the birthday party of his cousin together. Great meal and many lovely people and all of them so fascinated about what I did. On Sunday another of Klaus' cousins who also had joined the party took us home with his car.

Being back is weird. Nice but very different. Live is easier when the only thing you have to do is cycling. Summer is definitely gone now. Things have changed. But I still contend with the same things I did before I went on my tour. I'm still learning to become free.

– THE END –

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A daytrip to Luxembourg city

Wednesday, 5th of October. I slept until 10 A.M. and some minutes after waking up Pierre knocked on my door. When having breakfast he suggested to spend the day in Luxembourg, we would take the car and later pick up Jordane, who is working in this town. When sitting in the car I felt strange, somehow like a bad headache, but before the pain comes. My neck muscles were totally hard, I felt completely tired all of sudden. Because of additional noise and light hypersensitivity it could have been a migraine, so I took some medicine against that. But it wasn't really better when we started walking, so I asked for a coffee break and this really helped. We just sat and relaxed for a while and I tried two different types of coffee drink and after that I felt definitely better, so much better, that it was also distinctly and visibly for Pierre, because he mentioned that I seemed to be much more alive and also had a smile in the face and some glance in the eyes.

Luxembourg is really nice, it has lots of green, and the historic part is exiting. To me it was great discovering, I found lots of curious sights – I took many photos. And it was also fun to talk with Pierre. He told a lot about history when showing interesting places. When talking about favourite films and music we had also some excursuses about European culture and music theory – mainly the movies were much more a way to talk about things that were meaningful to us, no topic for small talk. And it really felt good to discover that we had lots in common, so I was and still are very lucky to meet him and also Jordane. When being altogether we went on having good talk on a personal level. I loved the anecdote, when a female friend of Jordane, whom she told they now would have their first couchsurfer and that it would be a woman, asked her, if she wouldn't be frightened that this woman could steal her husband.

Later we made some music together. Although both said they're just learners, both know a lot about music and also have extremely good equipment. Jordane is doing drums and Pierre is playing the guitar, and when he started to play it was really impressive – thereafter I first felt to shy to start myself. While to me the guitar is a way to accompany my singing, Pierre is able to play amazing turns and melodies, and he knows several styles – his sleight of hand is on a level I can only dream about. Curiously Pierre himself was impressed of my strumming technique and had problems to copy or do ordinary accord sequences. That's strange to me, but maybe it shows that it's just a question of practice – I definitely want to work on my guitar play and extend my abilities. It would be great to go on with music exchange (and of course exchange at all!) and I'm highly motivated to go on with learning from the guitar book I already have.

To me meeting Pierre and Jordane was very special and the best last hosts one could wish – just the right thing for the end of my trip.

Not my day (but in the end it became much more better)

Tuesday, 4th of October. This wasn't my day. I felt nervous from the moment I woke up, I have had crazy, unpleasant dreams, I felt somehow confused. I only wanted to go on my bike as soon as possible, but somehow this didn't work. I couldn't find my map about this day's stage, so Ben printed some maps from the internet but we had a misunderstanding, so these maps were mostly useless for me. When starting to pack my bike I discovered my carrier now totally cark it – not only more than one assembly seam were free, also the main frame was broken at the position where the pannier used to hang up. We tried to make an improvisational repairing. But nevertheless now it was no longer static. Next I discovered I had lost some air in my back wheel. So what to do? Just use the air pump and see how long this would work or stay and search if there's a hole in the tube? I decided to push one's luck and it lasted for four kilometres until my wheel suddenly was flat. During reparation I found an old patch loosened. I decided to do it the easy way and just change the tube.

Going on with cycling I followed an asphalt track which leaded into a non asphaltic track through a forest. Hard ground but all of it bumps and potholes. Anything from comfortable cycling. I was really annoyed. Then the road became crazy – no straight forward, but lots of turns and windings in every direction. I had asked some people I met where this road would lead to and they named the village I was looking for, but they really should have told me that it wouldn't be a straight way. To me it felt like cycling in circles. Once I followed a branch path, because I could see the end of the forest, but at its end there was only a field, locked with a wire fence, non passable. So next thing I tried was following a dirt track parallel to the field with my bike – dirt track means sparsely grown forests one can tell tractors had driven along in earlier times. Of course I wasn't able to cycle. I stumped to the ground, overgrown with bramble springs, and tried not to get caught in these mantraps. Nevertheless my legs had lots of stitches and scratches after that. After getting over the second blown down tree and still no chance to leave the forest I gave up and went back, went on following the winding road wherever it would lead me to. When it came to an end after some more kilometres and I could also see the village from where I would knew my route, it became cold, windy and cloudy. I wouldn't had been surprised if some rain had come next, it would had fit to the day. Surprisingly the rain hold off.

Größere Kartenansicht
  • A) start
  • B) flat tyre
  • C) met people who said, the road would lead to Ville-en-Woëvre
  • D) followed branch path, then tried to follow a dirt track parallel to the field for maybe 500 metres, then returned
  • E) reached Ville-en-Woëvre to follow D 908 road – no more experiments!

It was 12 o'clock when I thought I would go on my bike, 1 o'clock when I finally had done the check up, decided to go on and had done the package (funny thing was that thereby I found my missing map), 2 o'clock when I had repaired my wheel, 3 o'clock when I was back on my route (and so far I had cycled maybe 15 kilometres). I had planed to arrive at today's hosts' home at 6 o'clock, and today's stage was also planed as a short and easy one with only 80 kilometres. I worried about this failing time schedule, I was looking forward to meet Pierre and Jordane since yesterday, they were looking forward to meet me, and now I would arrive probably very late so we wouldn't have much time together – stupid thing.

Also the problems with my bike became more serious. When I was back on the normal road I noticed a regularly bumming caused by my back wheel, with every rotation it gave me hitches – definitely no comfortable way to cycle and also much more cumbersome than it would have been with a ideal bike, but I would go on like this – with the decision on my mind, that this would be my last stage. After this I only would do the distance to the next train station in Germany. 4,000 kilometres in total would be definitely enough.

Still it wasn't easy to make a phone call. Close to 6 P.M. I found an ability in a bakery where I bought a piece of cheese cake (my first cheese cake since I left Germany!), as Pierre and Jordane expected me by this time – they had also pronounced some meal… But I could only reach the mailbox. It became night cycling and around 9 P.M. I finally arrived. It had been 95 kilometres.

Pierre was glad to see me, he had worried about me – my call hadn't arrived, later we assumed I must have had dialled a wrong number – he actually have had a look on my website, had found my phone number there and had called Klaus, who becalmed him, that I surely just would have some problems with the bike, but would soon or later arrive. I felt really moved about so much care. From the very first moment – already in they way they had answered my request – these people seemed to be so open and warm.

Most important thing to me this evening: For the second time in period I met people, who had decided not to define themselves about work. Pierre had quitted one and a half year ago when feeling constantly uncomfortable with the social relationships in his company. Nevertheless he's doing lots of things. He's an inspiring photographer – nothing one can live from, but a good thing to spend time with. It doesn't seem to be so impossible – even if society declared it to be unthinkable to have other plans and concepts for life then just go to work until getting retired. And it was good to hear that others also knew respectively had felt the social pressure, that one have to work – when visiting some relatives, Pierres mother took him by the side and whispered: “Don't tell you're not working – they wouldn't understand!” All these people, Pierre and Jordane as less as Ben, don't want to life on others and they all have to care about how to get some money for living, but there seams to be much more freedom to live different, as one would think.

It gave me such a good feeling to talk with Pierre and Jordane, I felt so good and welcome, so I suggested to stay for one more night, and both were glad about it. So in the end there was no loss caused by arriving so late.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Douaumont ossuary close to Verdun

Monday, 3th of October. I stayed for two nights at Bens place. Ben lives in a very nice house. When arriving in the night we mainly said hello, and after a shower and a meal I went to bed. But next day, a Monday, we spend the whole day together, starting with a very intense talk.

Ben told, he quitted work three years ago, so I became sensitive and wanted to hear more. The meaning of work in people's life was and still is an important topic for me. Ben was so relaxed when talking about a different value system: staying at home gives him and also his family – he has a sixteen year old daughter and a wife – so much more freedom. They now have less money but they also need less. There was no need to go on doing things he didn't want to do. To me it's still new, that one can change priorities. I still have all these „You are what you own “ phrases in my head (what I never believed but what seem to infect me more then I was aware). To me it was kind of apparentness to met someone who's happy with not working after I found out about my bequeathed inferiority complex. It's probably possible to do so without feeling guilty.

I told Ben about the changing in my life – quitting my job at university and maybe quitting work at all. When telling all the aspects why I no longer felt comfortable in doing my job I was a little bit shocked because it's so much what came together that it's actually no wonder I'm not able to go on. Looking from this side on the facts was kind of new, usually I prone to think that's my fault to be over-sensitive and not able to be factual and distance myself. It's still hard not to judge myself but take my feelings as a healthy reaction.

It was a very good talk, but after it I felt pretty exhausted and talking came to an end for now. It was a bright sunshiny day. Later we drove by car to Verdun and I got a feeling about the area I had cycled through in the night. Ben told a lot about history especially the battles in the first and second world war. We visited Douaumont ossuary close to Verdun, a memorial containing the remains of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun in first World War. In front of the monument lies the largest single French military cemetery of the first world war, it contains 16,142 graves.

Some years ago there were made graves for the Muslims which now face to Mecca. But the most curious experience was that there were lot of crosses pulled up the ground and lying there like a trenched field. Because the crosses are made of concrete they have to rebuild regularly.

Ben also showed me the little windows behind the ossuary, placed under the big red ones which symbolize all the blood. Beneath you can see all the human bones, the remains of both French and German soldiers who died on the battlefield. Some of the cave rooms, each representing an area, were full to the top.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All in good time

Sunday, 2th of October. I went on my bike at 10 A.M. and because I had written down detailed route instructions for the first time I had no problems to leave the town and find my route. When cycling through lots of small villages it felt like a real Sunday – silent and peaceful. Downright lost. Everything seemed to sleep – except the dogs, to whom my appearance must have been a real experience, they barked for me for minutes and went on when they couldn't see me long ago. A cyclist seems to be a really important event in a dog's life. Once I passed a flee market, which was nice, lots of people were there, but nothing for sale I wanted to have – at least nothing which was small and light enough (and I also tried not to find anything too much interesting…).

The day was wonderful sunny. During the whole forenoon I met lots of other cyclists – sports cyclists, promenade cyclists, some of them disguised as professionals, strolling cyclists, most of them men but of all ages, so I was constantly greeting. In the afternoon the heat became unpleasant, especially because I was once again in open country where the reaped fields in brown and yellow enhanced the impression of wasteland. But I had learned from experience and was very careful with my resources, so I did a siesta from time to time when I found some shadow, and once I almost felt asleep. From time to time the landscape was somewhat hilly but normally comfortable. And before the heat became too frustrating I passed a nice forest, a fact that my map had told me, too, so I had been looking forward to this for a while.

When being in the Meuse department I passed lots of tiny villages, which were connected by little roads, sometimes just very small asphalt paths which were nevertheless shown on my map. It was a real pleasure to cycle through this landscape. By going on like this I didn't recognize how time went by. I had watched out for a café or restaurant for a while, but this wasn't easy on this sleepy Sunday. In Triaucout-en-Argonne I finally found a little bistro, where I ate a big roll in company of a group of older corpulent men and women, who were in an extremely good mood and were joking and laughing all the time. I couldn't understand nothing, but it were ribald topics for sure. And the laughing was infectious.

Back on my bike the shadows had become very long. Sundown was really peaceful, good place to be. But surely it ended up with night cycling. When I arrived in Sommedieue it was dark and meanwhile I felt fairly exhausted. My route guided me into a thick forest, so the darkness became much more intense. And of course it went uphill – and the good thing was that I couldn't see how high angle the uphill was and how long it would least. To me it was just being in my smallest gears and do the pedal routine. The darkness was somehow frightening. My light made just a small spot in some distance and some noise came out of the forest. And it went on like this for quite a long time. At some point I began to believe that this path would never end and felt like being part of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's short story The Tunnel. When looking at the map later it had only been for ten kilometres, but ten kilometres in a dark forest with no time or speedo by constant uphill can become very long… I reached the little village Mesnil-sous-les-Côtes, home of my couchsurfing host Ben, after 145 kilometres at 10 P.M.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reims

Friday to Saturday, 1th of October. Antoine, a cute nineteen year old first semester, lived just for some weeks in a cosy small student flat just in the centre of Reims. We had nice talk when I arrived in the night, especially about our couchsurfing experiences, music (he is playing the guitar, too), psychology (his studying topic) and education system in France in general. It was relaxed and open atmosphere, and when we went to bed Antoine offered me his bed to sleep. He himself would sleep on a sleeping mat in then kitchen. But as his bed was a fold-out couch and therefore big enough for two people I invited him to share the place with me.

Next day Antoine showed me around somewhat, as the city was still new to him, too. I really like this city. It was a fantastic sunny day and the atmosphere was very relaxed. The Place Drouet d'Erlon, that is just in the next street of Antoine home, reminded me a lot of Victory Square in Temeswar (Romania), where Klaus and I had been some years before. It contains many lively restaurants and bars, as well as several attractive statues and fountains, my favourite one is shown at the photo above. During the summer it fills with people sitting outside the many cafés enjoying the summer sun. And they have psychedelic buses in this city…

In the afternoon Antoine did some work for university (he's still very engaged at the moment…), so I went to an Internet café to go on with my blog and organize my remaining stages and couchsurfing hosts. In the evening we met some of his friends and went out for a beer. Because Reims is a student city most night life happens during the week, on weekends all the students go home to visit their parents. This phenomenon was new to me and still seems a little bit weird.

Being with his friends was curious. Since my staying with Antoine and his flat mates in Caen I'm used to the French way of welcoming and biting farewell other people, it's no longer weird to kiss the air – nevertheless it's still a little bit strange that this convention on the one hand seems to be more personal as the German handshaking but on the other had it's much more difficult to break through and give the other one a real hug. So on first impression French people feel more close but at the same time they make sure to keep some distance. I don't know if they are aware of this, maybe they just can't imagine to act different. The friends of Antione in Reims were young nice man, but they weren't able or didn't have the heart to speak in English. So most of the time the three guys talked and had fun and then Antoine translated to me in three sentences the topic of the last five minutes. In this sense the first evening was much more nicer and personal. Once we played tabletop football, but the French table are totally different from the ones I'm used to in Germany. So I lost very bad. No fun.

Another thing I recognised and couldn't understand was the fact, that French people didn't seem to be aware of pollution control. As one example of many my fellows (and also the other people in the pub) drank their beer out of a plastic cup. I myself had ordered a Guinness and because the pub had only bottles they asked if I'm okay with the bottle, so I took the chance to ask for a glass – and I got one with a very nice unusual shape. Because I was curious I asked Antoine about this unnecessary production of waste, and first he seemed to understand the problem as he talked about French mentality who didn't want to change behaviour to change reality. But the more I focussed on the question, why he didn't drank his beer from a glass, the more he didn't seem to understand and ended up in the phrase that they always used to do so. Later in the discussion he assumed that the pub probably had charged me extra for having a glass (I had paid more than the others), so I had a nice chat with the people behind the bar, who assured to be glad to give people a glass – surely without any extra charging – if they would like to have one. I'm afraid French people are far away to think about all the little changes in behaviour to save nature which are so usual in Germany.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Regenerated

Friday, 30th of September. Surprisingly I was regenerated next morning. Cycling was nice and easy, it was once again hot, but after the first maybe 20 kilometres on a high traffic road my route leaded me through some lovely forests. I was really amazed. And I didn't browbeat myself and just didn't thought about how far to go this day. Of course it took me a while to find my route although Laigneville is really small, but the French signing is still mad sometimes – you have to follow the guiding to a place which is somehow in your direction but definitely wrong and if you are lucky the place where you want to go is signed at the next junction. I have no idea how someone should know, to me it's trial and error, although there seem to be rules for this lack of logic.

This day I crossed three maps. In Villers-Cotterêts after around 60 kilometres I called Antoine that I would arrive this day and not have an extra break in a hotel as I had warned him the day before. Once again the people in a tourist information where so friendly to let me use their phone.

In the end it was a 145 kilometres stage, so it was naturally night cycling. I had no idea where in Reims Antoine would live, so I started to ask people about his street from the moment I saw the first town sign, and once again I was lucky and one cyclist guided me – sometimes the missing knowledge of foreign languages is useful because it causes more practical help.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The heat is killing me

Thursday, 29th of September. I hurried to leave the hotel next morning. As soon as the day broke (okay, it was 9 A.M.) it became very sunny – very bright and warm. This day's stage began with a serious uphill what also permitted me a nice outlook over the whole city. By the way, Rouen is placed on the river Seine, that I thereby also got to know. No need to go to Paris, that I avoided by purpose.

As I said, it was hot and it stayed hot, and unfortunately my route leaded me along open field – no trees, no houses, what means no shadow. And the harvested land amplified the impression of heat in the parched veld. Not really comfortable to cycle through. I made lots of breaks. Usually one wouldn't do anything exhausting within such a heat. But my couchsurfing hosts in Laigneville would be able to host only this night, as they wanted to go on holiday the next day, and as there was no youth hostel in this area, I didn't had that much alternatives. And because I had lots of time – Guillaume and Padcalin wouldn't be at home before 9 P.M. – I took my time. And indeed it was 9 o'clock, when I finally arrived after 120 kilometres.

Once I cycled on a street which was made new, the asphalt still seemed to be hot – it's weird to be on such a road, I'm always frightened my tyre could melt… Actually it felt very different when I went on cycling – numberless little asphalt stones had glued onto my tyre and I spent some time to delete them by using my clasp knife, but found my tyre undamaged.

I had the pleasure to be the first couchsurfer of Guillaume and Padcalin, who had only surfed but not hosted before. Both were very friendly, they offered all an exhausted cyclist could probably need, although they were tiered themselves and still had to arrange a lot for their vacation. So we spent little time together, including a delicious meal, before we all went to bed early. I couldn't imagine to go on cycling the next day, but as there was no way to stay somewhat longer – I had to leave the house early next morning, as both went to work for half the day before going on holidays – I would cycle as long as I felt comfortable and would look for a hotel when cycling would become uncomfortable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A real dosshouse…

Wednesday, 28th of September. It became late when I finally left Caen. As always it was hot (close after noon I saw a display which told it was 30 degrees), as always it took me some time to leave the town. When I finally found my route it was a big road with lots of traffic. And it went like this for a longer time. It would be a long stage up to Rouen (in the end it was 140 kilometres) so I tried to do the most direct route, but therefore it wasn't that nice to cycle.

In Lisieux I saw one of the tourist information centres and once again asked for maps. The woman behind the desk, a German student, who worked at this place during the semester break, was extremely helpful and this tourist information was the best appointed one I saw during my tour – while the others only had maps of their department, here they had everything, so when leaving I had everything I would probably need. It's funny how different the maps are, there's no standardized design, no consistent size, each one is very unique.

It became night before I reached even the suburbs of Rouen and I had to hurry, because as far as I knew the youth hostel I planed to spend the night in would close at 10:30 P.M. and in the end it became a problem to catch the time. Rouen is much more bigger than I would have thought. I started to ignore most of the traffic rules, but it didn't help. It was 10:40 when I finally arrived at the youth hostel, and a man who was working there opened the door but only to tell that the reception was closed – he didn't car about my situation. It was really frustrating. Next thing I did was searching for a cheap hotel, and I ended up in a real dosshouse, best of it were the soft and clean towels. If you take it with some humour, it was definitely an interesting experience.

At first I wasn't so sure if this place was maybe a transient hotel, the friendly but somehow sleazy fat man at the reception couldn't speak more than a few words English, but nevertheless he didn't stop to talk and to ask for details of my tour, while we tried to communicate about the details of renting a room. When I finally came into the room, there were two beds, each placed in one of the corners, which seemed to be camp beds with uncomfortable innerspring mattresses. Inside this room there was also a shower installed, a special feature which costs me 5 € extra and had caused lots of mildew on ceiling and walls. The toilet was outside at the staircase.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time out in Caen

Tuesday, 27th of September. I took a time out in Caen, and it was a very relaxed day. I went on with my blog (but was very slow because I felt very tiered, too). In the evening we, this means Antoine, his two flat mates Amin and Marine, Sebastian, a friend of him who is also living in the flat at the moment (he came for one week to visit, but felt in love with the city so he's staying somehow longer) and Tino, the other couchsurfer, went to the town, had a drink in an Irish pub and had some fun at the castle Château de Caen. Sebastian is a very ambitious photographer, and all of us had fun when posing.

The Greenway in Manche

Monday, 26th of September. I would have loved to stay longer with Olivier and his family, but one shouldn't outstay one's welcome, so the next morning after a restorative breakfast Olivier drove me back to the café where we first met and I went on cycling. In Ducey I visited the tourist information to ask for cyclist's maps, and the woman in the office was exhilarated to help me, because in this area they had a greenway, a re-used railway track which leads through the green nature without any traffic. And while I still had some doubt because this would lengthen my stage even more, the woman exert herself to convince me – it would be easy cycling, because it's really flat and so nice… and she was right. Olivier had warned me, that the route up to Caen would be very hilly, so it was surely the right decision to take the greenway. It was just nice and relaxing cycling. I was also glad to have such a fine map. The landscape wasn't somehow special but very familiar from lots of tours I did in Germany. It was nice to have this train history background, and there were also some very nice outlooks. But mostly I liked the old train station houses. The only challenge were the uncountable conkers and bell-ends, which were laying spaced all over the ground, but this wasn't a problem at all.

After 75 kilometres close to Vire the greenway came to its end, so the remaining 60 kilometres became hilly, but it was still nice cycling. Surely it became late, surely it was night cycling. When I neared Caen there were lots of toads on the road trying to pass. I tried not to kill them, so I had to cycle wiggly lines, but I assume the chances for the toads weren't so good – actually there were more flat pads on the street then toads alive… Don't they have any tunnels for the toads in France?

It was great to see the city lights of Caen in the night! But I was also exhausted. Once again it had been nearly 150 kilometres – I think I'm a little bit crazy, and maybe it's no wonder that I arrive so late every day… This day it was 10 P.M. Coming to Antoine's place was a good thing. He's so nice, friendly and tolerant. Even if he's actually a couchsurfing newbie he acts like a natural born couchsurfer. He lives with two others together, Amin and Marine, and there was also another couchsurfer, Tino, who was on a motorcycle tour for some month and had arrived today, too, it was fun to join this community. It was also a pleasure to meet Tino. He's very relaxed, uncomplicated and positive. It was fun to talk in German and to compare our experiences when being on long distance touring and doing couchsurfing most of the time. I taught him how to juggle, and he was such a fast learner! Maybe it helps if you are a drummer…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Much to little sleep

Sunday, 25th of September. Leaving the bed was easy, but staying awake became a problem. Nice night, starry sky, but after my experience on my way to Baltimore I'm fastidious… A special experience, although I didn't really understand why we had to come so early, it had to do with the tides, as far as I understand, but I didn't noticed something special there. The Mont Saint-Michel is definitely worth seeing, but it's so extremely touristic (on a usual day you are not able to go but shuffled by the masses) and therefore curious, similar to the Cliff of Moher – a big road leads to it and in front of Mont Saint-Michel there's a big parking place. Indeed they are planning to build a bridge instead of the road. Fortunately so early in the morning there are only a few people, so it's really quiet and peaceful. To me it was mainly a very nice walk, also nice to climb the stairs and so on, but then the big tiredness came over me, so I was sitting there, eyes closed and became very cold, until we drove back with the car to have some breakfast at the youth hostel.
Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy (Manche), France at night. Photo taken by Benh LIEU SONG, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MSM_sunset_02.JPG

Then I went on my bike, but I was extremely slow, and became more and more tired. Once again the day would become very sunny and warm. Once again I started to sweat. I couldn't find my sunglasses this morning, but this time I'm sure it wasn't my fault, it must have fallen out of my bag somehow. I laboured along for some kilometres, every uphill so little it could be I felt so intense, I was always in my smallest gears, I wasn't able to do different. I realized I wouldn't be able to do today's stage and tried to figure out how to go on: Go to Caen by train? (Next train station was still 20 kilometres away, I had to learn) Quit the tour? (Wouldn't this be somehow extreme?) I had to find an internet connection (or a public phone) to agree with my today's host and also to learn about the train possibilities and other alternatives. It was pretty hard to think and not to become desperate… When arriving in Saint-James after maybe 20 kilometres I asked some people in a café about an internet café or other ways to connect to the internet – once again it was very difficult to communicate, what was very frustrating in this situation. The men agreed that there used to be an internet café in this village, but it's closed on Sunday.

I must have looked very bad – suddenly a man addressed to me and offered, I could use his computer at home. He had called his wife before, I had seen him using his phone but had no idea this had to do with me. I was really glad – a gleam of hope. I left my bike at the café and drove with Olivier in his car to his house and family. Olivier and his family, too, were so friendly, so helpful. Not only let me use the computer, but also offered something to drink and to eat – Valerie, Olivier's wife makes a fantastic chocolate cookie! After a while sitting on the computer and became more and more cold I realized that it wouldn't help to go by train – I just needed a bed, so the only thing to do next would be looking for a hotel and fall asleep. When I told this to Olivier, who came from time to time to see how I was, he just said: “Hmhm” and left the room, and when he came back, he once again had talked to his wife, and now he offered me to stay, I could use the little daughter's room… So unbelievable! So helpful! So trustful! I didn't know what to say, this helped so much, I was glad, so happy, now I could relax. They showed me the room, the bath and then the family left the house, and I went to bed and I was fast asleep until they came back some hours later.

I was able to do some better route planning this day and I also spend much time talking with Olivier, who was glad to be able to practice his English (Valerie only speaks French). Olivier was also very interested in the idea of couchsurfing, especially because this could be a way for him to better his English – currently he is only able to practice during a weekly phone call with a teacher and when he's visiting other countries. So maybe I made a new couchsurfer… It was so relaxed, such a nice atmosphere. This is one of my most important and special experiences I had on my tour – taking a stranger and make her feel at home. I just can say many, many thanks – mercy, mercy, mercy! Many thanks for your trust, for your faith and for being so friendly and open. I felt so welcome… I hope, we stay in touch, and I would love to host you in Bamberg. Olivier, you are a real friend, much love to you and your family.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From Saint-Brieuc up to Pontorson

Saturday, 24th of September. Now my speedo is totally broken, but unexpectedly this didn't effect me… Now I count my kilometres by reconstruct my tour on Google maps, and I don't care about the exact number – after 3000 kilometres likely it doesn't really matter, and I'm also okay with not knowing how much kilometres I still have to do.

It took me two hours to leave Saint-Brieuc and really find my route… It was around 2 P.M. (and probably around 15 kilometres) when I was able to start straight cycling. But on my way I saw interesting thinks like this rodeo machine…

Once again hilly cycling, sunny cycling – I was sweating all the time! Still nice, still exhausting. Once when I stopped to ask for refilling my water bottles a very nice woman invited me for a coffee. She was able to speak German and glad to have the chance to practice.

Once again I had problems to find my route when passing a town. In Dinan it was not only that the D 794 road I had followed up to the town and wanted to follow also when leaving the town wasn't signed anymore, it's general this bad signing: The signs placed on the exits of a roundabout for example are only readable if you are within the roundabout. It was also much traffic this day, that means stop and go, caused by a marathon that happened this day.

Also once again it became very late till I arrived at the end of today's stage after 125 kilometres. I had some hours of night cycling, and this feels also very familiar, because it's not so cold at all after sundown, but sometimes the air is very cold, just for some dozen metres. It was close to 10 P.M. when I finally arrived in Pontorson and also found the youth hostel – but no one of the staff was there anymore, they had closed the reception at 8:30… Some of the guests opened the door for me, and one of them offered me a place in the room where he and his friends where in, because there were still some beds free. But I would have to stand up together with them at 5 A.M. because they wanted to visit Mont Saint-Michel and didn't want me to stay alone in the room. When we had some more talk later they invited me to join them, and I was glad to be able to do so, because some people on my tour had told me about it, but I hadn't realize I was so close, just ten kilometres away. But for the moment I was just exhausted and after a short shower I felt asleep.

France

Friday, 23th of September. Good sleep, good morning, still amazing, full of new energy and curious for the new day… When arriving in France at Roscoff harbour it was bright sunshine – so warm, I didn't needed my long sleeved shirt, I needed my sunglasses and suncream! During the last weeks I sometimes had thought I was maybe to late with my tour, so cycling time was over, but here in France it was just best late summer. Switching back to the right side of the street wasn't a problem, it's just the other routine, and now I can do both… Everything felt so much more like home,the landscape, the weather – I can't really explain.

But what's a real problem in France is the signing. If there's a system (and I don't think so) I don't get it. It's not that they give you some orientation by naming the next bigger cities or villages. When you leave the direct, big ways, which usually leads into motorways, they just name the next village, but sometimes they stop before arriving and name some other village close to where you are… Usually they say nothing about the distances. And what makes it more worse is that my map is also not good, wrong map scale, justified for car drivers, but it was the best I could get on the ferry. It doesn't tell anything about the smaller villages, so I can't make a connection between signs and map. And I also had to learn that the people who made my map had their own understanding of which roads are important to show, they don't orientated themselves on types of streets, so sometimes the route I follow end on my map but goes on in reality.

I needed some time to figure out these things, had to make some detours and also had to learn that most French people don't speak English or another foreign language. So I ask them in English the others answer in French and then I do what they have told me respective they do what I have asked them – it's surprising this works! But nevertheless I feel a little bit lost and much more thrown back on my own resources. Every time I cross a bigger village or town it's really difficult to find back my route, they stop signing and naming the roads name/number! So all this takes lots of time… Morlaix for example is a really worth seeing town, but without the help of a local I would have lost my way…
Morlaix (Brittany, France); Place des Otages, Viaduc. This photo was taken by fafner, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Morlaix_Viaduc.jpg

France is hilly. Acceptable hilly, but hilly, so cycling is demanding. Here in France within this fantastic weather I really become aware that I do challenging sports all the time. I didn't felt so when I was in Ireland. There it was just fighting with nature powers. Here I'm only fighting with myself. Cycling the small roads is just great. Less traffic, familiar landscape, very relaxed, all this remembers me a lot of all the one or two day tours I did with Klaus. This whole France experience is just godsend.

But as one can imagine, the cycling took lots of time and it was also a long distance – in the end I had cycled 140 kilometres when I reached the city limit of Saint-Brieuc. It was night cycling for the last hour. I stopped a car to ask for the directions to my host's place, and instead of giving directions, the kind young woman told me to follow her – she guided me with her car until I was at my goal. It wasn't that far, but once again I couldn't believe how friendly and helpful people act to me!

Then I met Sylvain, my couchsurfing host for this night, and it was such a nice welcome. After taking a shower I felt so relaxed, so awake, so positive… It was fun to talk with him. Sylvain was just lovely, so cute, very committed in giving me a good time and also so sweet in being a newbie, as I had the pleasure to be his first couchsurfer. I was curious about the differences between the couchsurfing groups vegetarians and gay vegetarians – he's a member of both. Maybe one can imagine what my pervert fantasy imagined… I would have loved to stay longer and spend much more time together as he is very easy going, curious and positive, but I had to go on my bike and he had to learn for an exam. Really hope to meet him again…

Leaving Ireland

Thursday, 22th of September. I left Patti and Mark in the morning to cycle the 75 kilometres back to the ferry the same way I had come to some weeks before. Interesting to see how different my feelings were now, nothing left of seeing everything as new and amazing, everything was just usual, banal and a little boring – nevertheless nice. For the first time for weeks no clouds all the time, it became a really sunny day, and when there were clouds, it was far away from raining.

The crying came over me from time to time and culminated in the sentence: One's worthless if one's not working. I didn't know how deep my father's inferiority complexis working inside of me. I think I understand the mechanism, but I can't change my feelings, so it's still something to work on. For now I think it's just good to have some insight. Nevertheless it was just awareness, pure feeling. I didn't felt bad at all. Mainly I was still glad to come back home, and also full of faith, curious what will happen, how I will go on. And generally I'm really optimistic and think I'm on a good way.

Also at the ferry harbour it was really nice, the whole procedure was very relaxed – and then the ferry… The Oscar Wilde is not only a really big ship, but it's a real ship, that means as the most important fact for me one with a sun deck! For the first hour I milled around, looking for all the new things, seeing how things work… It was just amazing. As Melanie had told my I set up camp in my reserved seats room and put my sleeping mat and bag to the floor, as some others did, too. I felt so new, so refreshed – in this sense I'm pretty green, but it's great if you can be thrilled by a passage and all the things what are connected.

For the first time since I'm on tour my t-shirt with the free hugs print at both sides really worked! When I was walking around I heard some people talking about it, and when I met them later (something had fallen off my pocket down the stairs and one of them kept it and gave it back to me) I offered directly a hug, and he was glad – I think it was his first time – and made an “Oooh”-sound when being hugged. Later when I once again did my tour on the ferry an older man (he's 65 I had learned) asked me: “Is this true?”, referring to my shirt, so we had a really warm long hug, and I also hugged his wife, sitting next to him, who said while hugging: “Oh, I miss my daughter so bad!” Then they invited me for a glass of wine (and more glasses later…), and we spent the whole night together. Barbara had been a nun when she was very young, following the will of her parents when she was sixteen, but two years later she felt in love with a priest, so she quit, but the priest didn't. Later when meeting her husband Michael she became mother of four children. They invited me to come to their home in Cork and also to sleep in their cabin – so nice, so friendly and also a little bit drunk… During our conversation once a man came to me from the back and while saying: “I can't resist…!” he hugged me from the back, and than I answered his hug from the front, too. I also had a funny little moment, when I had eye contact with a retired man who obviously had read my shirt, so I gave him a smile and he answered very polite: “No, I don't want to…”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back home via France!

Wednesday, 21th of September. Tomorrow I will take the ferry back home – home to the continent, where I will understand less then here, I assume, but feel much closer to home, I suppose (when I left the continent it was the first time, that I felt being far away from home). My stages are planed. Except one stage at all these places is a youth hostel located, so in case something went wrong with my couchsurfing hosts, it don't has to bother me so bad.

I'm so glad to come back home! I sent a mail to my boss at university that I will quit. Although I still have no reasonable explanation and still think it's illogical and irrational, I feel better now. And I yearn so much for Klaus, my love. So much things to look forward!


View Larger Map

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

General thoughts about the package

Tuesday, 20th of September. I'm pretty contended with the lot and the things I have packed. I have met several people who had said I have pretty much stuff with me and if it's very heavy (it isn't). Melanie was the first one, who was fascinated how few things I have with me – she isn't a cyclist and much more used to travelling with a van, but it's good to hear something like this, too. I needed some time to realize she didn't meant her statement ironical… To me it felt all the time like not to much and not to little. So here for the statistics:

Bicycle clothes

3 cycling shirts
1 good, 2 normal. One of them is really for emergency and for the good feeling to have some clean stuff as a backup. I never had more than two of them in usage, but some days where I would have needed the third one if there wouldn't have been a washing machine. (I don't mind of the clothes are dirty, but I don't like to smell…)
1 long sleeved compression sports underwear shirt
Best I've ever had. And although the sellers named it underwear it is pretty good to wear as a normal long sleeved shirt.
2 padded knee length cycling shorts, 2 long sports tights
Since the weather is so cold I wear the shorts and the tights on top of each other (I have also 1 padded pants, that was great in August, but now are the cycling shorts better). It's perfect to have two pairs for changing…
1 pair of cycling gloves
It was new when I started the tour. Now it's pretty used and close to get broken, maybe I need some new ones soon. Sometimes I also would like to have a pair of cycling gloves were the fingers are protected, too. But at the moment the mitten addition connected to my rain coat works good enough.
1 cap
Perfect as sun protection, also good to keep the head warm. And it fits perfect together with the rain cap of my rain coat. I don't like that much how I look, but this shouldn't matter.
1 functional bandanna
Best to have to protect the neck from the wind.
1 cycling sun glasses
It was much more important when it was warm and sunny, but now I know how useful these sun glasses can be (although I don't like how I look when wearing them).
1 pair of rain pants
Needless to say more.
1 pair of gaiters
Most important, best one can have (especially if only one pair of shoes is packed…).
1 rain coat
Very light and works also perfect as a windbreaker.
1 warm jacket
Becomes more and more useful and works on the bike as good as after cycling.

Other clothes

around 5 pants
I don't have an overview, because when I need one I grab into my bag and until now I found more than enough.
around 5 pairs of socks
Same as with the pants. But I think much more often it could be too little, especially as I have warm and not so warm socks…
3 bras
Need all but never needed more.
2 pairs of footed socks
Good to have with me. Wore the thinner pair when it was warmer, now I use the other pair.
1 pair of jeans, 1 pair or thin trousers
First to wear outside, second to wear inside. Get dirty sometimes, but who cares? If both were laundered at the same time, I can still use one of the tights, and the trousers dry very fast.
4 3 t-shirts
2 for usual wearing, one mostly for nights, the 1 to much I was glad to give to Melanie as a present to say thanks for the shelter she gave me – so in this sense the shirt was definitely worth it to take with me.
1 long sleeved cord shirt
I love it.
1 cord bonnet
I love it.
1 long sleeved shirt
As an alternative to the cord bonnet, also able to wear over it (but if it's cold I usually choose the warm jacket).
1 pair of shoes
Works fine, they went wet one time, but went dry again over night with some newspapers inside.
1 warm tuque
I use it as a sleepyhead when it's cold around me.
3 neckerchiefs
1 I use nearly all the time when I'm not on the bike, 1 to protect Hobbes from falling down and get lost (what's totally dispensable, Hobbes says), 1 big one I don't need.
1 swimming suit, goggles
Useless. But you never know…

miscellaneous

1 wash bag
Full of useful things, some of them I never use.
drugs
Most of them against headache, but fortunately I need them extremely seldom. Most important: magnesium. Also some emergency stuff if I get wounded. Things like this. Didn't miss anything.
1 sketchbook
Works also (or mostly) as a diary, notebook and collection of paper stuff.
1 pencil case
Full of fine liners and felt pens in different colours, some small brushes and pencils – just what one needs.
1 map with paper stuff what accrued
Good to have a place where collect those stuff, but I thought more than once about sending this map with its content back home. Otherwise it was good to show some of the papers to other people and talk about it…
1 little map with songs
My general orientation when playing the guitar. Very useful if I don't know what to play. When I started my tour I had also my big Beatles songbook with me, but this was some weight I had to get rid off.
1 western guitar
It was the right decision to take it with me, that's for sure. It's good to be able to play, and it's also an effective eye catcher when people see me crossing with the guitar on top of my package…
1 electronic tuner, 1 capo
Very useful when one's travelling with a guitar.
1 digital photo camera
Useful and important tool.
1 torch
I feel much more relaxed since I bought it.
some (rechargeable and non-rechargeable) batteries
Had to buy the non-rechargeable batteries when I bought the torch, but it's also good to have a backup if the rechargeable ones are empty.
3 small, 2 tiny juggling balls
I don't really use them, but otherwise they don't bother. And it's not wrong to have some more options – and I remember some great nights where I and my hosts had some fun with them.
1 glue stick
Really needful thing.
adhesive film
Really needful thing. I need it a lot to repair the map… Tape in general is very useful.
1 loo paper
Really needful thing, although I didn't needed it urgently on this tour.
some bicycle tools
Needless to say, really needful things. I missed some small things but nothing important.
1 mp3 player/USB stick
Includes some of my music which is good to be able to listen and also good to share. And it has enough space that I can use it to secure copy the photos I'm taking.
1 map of Ireland
Really needful thing. I think I will buy a map of France, too.
1 sleeping bag
Really needful thing.
1 sleeping mat
Really needful thing.
1 rucksack
It's usually packed inside one of my panniers. Very handy to have something to carry things with me which is independent from the bike.
2 panniers
That's where most of the stuff is packed in.
1 bumbag
I use it for many years as a handlebar bag, it includes all the stuff I want to reach while cycling and it has written on it “Never give up”.
1 stuffed tiger
One needs a friend on such a trip.
some more little things that are not important or big enough to be counted
Little plastic bags for example are very useful, so I collect them. Same with rubber band and tissues.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm caving in

the Irish railway map, many thanks for prividing to Irish Rail
Monday, 19th of September. I not only did the direct route to Dublin, I did it by train. Saturday was once again just a rainy day and I wasn't in the mood to go out and cycle. Wherefore? Sean, Anne's boyfriend, had agreed to host me, Anne was happily in Dublin, too, at the moment, and we arranged to meet in an Irish club where they wanted to go to this evening.

When I wanted to buy my ticket the woman on the counter referred me to the train people to asked if I could take my bike with me. First they weren't so sure but then they agreed. Going by train isn't so popular in Ireland, most people are using the buses. There are not that much routes, and also the usage differs from the way it is in Germany, it's much more relaxed but also seems to be much less organized.

I liked the train ride. A new facet of my Ireland image. But all over Ireland the same boring weather. When I arrived in Dublin I tried to open my perception for this place, and actually it was a little like an interesting new experience – big colourful lights, night life, maybe somehow unique… I had some optimism, and it was fun to navigate through the city centre to find the club where I would meet Anne and Sean. Club Conradh na Gaeilge is a non-governmental organisation that promotes the Irish language in Ireland and abroad – so Sean taught me how to order my guinness in Irish (but I can't remember the spelling anymore…). I had a little faith by seeing Anne again, but was also fragile inside of me. When I'm in this mood I need lots of affirmation that people really like me and mean it. Otherwise I feel bound to act self confident, to show I'm an interesting person, who is worth the time to spend with and no boring burden. And Anne and Sean were very friendly but also busy. And then I'm not so sure if people just try to be nice but not really care.

On Sunday I once again cycled the ten kilometres up to the city centre but felt so lonely I wasn't able to motivate myself to do some touristic or cultural stuff. Dublin is so loud, so much people, so much traffic (this day lots of people on the street were celebrating because some sports team had won some game), and I was so small and lost. For the first time on my tour I really missed Klaus, because there was no reason to discover this town without him. I went to an Internet café that also gave me a bad feeling about being impersonal and not trustful and secure because of the suggestion to lock the rucksack. This was the time when the crying started. I couldn't stand it, couldn't control it, It was just losing all cohesion. I tried to find something to hold on to, but in the end there was just crying and this complete caving in. I cycled back to Sean's place, when another rain caught me. But those things couldn't get me down, I felt so lost and without any faith, so it didn't matter or was just fitting.

When I was back, Sean asked if I wasn't okay, so my small ability to buck up got lost again. My only idea how to help myself was to take the next train up to Tramore, as this place was the closest to home I could get in the moment. Sean wasn't reserved when I couldn't hold back tears and tried to say helpful things – that I surely miss my boyfriend, that I'm probably homesick, what actually isn't wrong but when you are so much caving in those statements can't really help. I needed to stay with friends where I could be sure it would be okay to burden them with myself. And I couldn't imagine it could be fun for Sean to have me around crying all the time because I feel so lost and don't know how to go on with my life. So I packed my stuff. When saying good bye Sean seemed to be really concerned. He regret we didn't spend more time together to get to know each other and do some music together. And then he gave me a long and warm hug. This felt so good. Maybe I could have had some more trust. But going to a place where I could be sure to feel comfortable felt much more safer.

During this train ride the crying came over me from time to time, but changed it's character. It wasn't no longer just feeling lonely and homesick but much more about feeling helpless and desperate about still don't know how to go on with my life. Am I a loser if I can't stand society's rules? What makes oneself a worthwhile person? Am I bad and selfish if I just produce this feelings that I can't stand it anymore? Isn't it just handy to wallow in self-pity about my suffering and just feel to ill as I would be able to do what all people have to do? It's all gridlocked and I can't figure out these conflicts. Why can't I be different? Maybe I use my feelings to manipulate others, so if I would be an worthwhile person I would just feel different. I don't want to fulfil any demand anymore. But a worthwhile person would just be able not to think about these things as demands.

When I left the train a woman wished me good luck on my trip home which felt good. Night cycling the ten or fifteen kilometres up to Tramore was nice, so in the end I cycled nearly 50 kilometres this day. This evening I realized for the first time that the days have become significant shorter – it was dark when I get on my bike at 8 P.M. So once again: Maybe it's also not the best time for cycling. And I still don't have to. I'm looking forward to come back home. And cycling through France could be nice, I think I will give it a try. But first I will stay with Patti and Mark and have some good talks like we started to do yesterday. It's not that I'm unhappy. I just don't know how to change live and become satisfied. And it doesn't help that I'm so annoyed about myself and think I'm putting myself much to center-stage.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ireland sucks

Saturday, 17th of September. Once again: Rain, clouds, wind – it looses all its fun. So I'm changing plans again: I will not cycle the North of Ireland and Northern Ireland. My last vision is Dublin, where it shouldn't matter if it's raining or not, because there I will be just a visitor doing sightseeing – and then it's only two more stages until I will see my first Irish hosts and friends Patty and Mark again, with whom I will spend my last days in Ireland.

Yesterday started good. Some short rain shower shortly after leaving Castlebar (so once again a stop to put on the rain protection and then take off after ten minutes, but without the changing I would have been soaked). Then nice sun for maybe two hours. Fast and easy cycling for the first 50 kilometres. The area of Lough Conn is just great, but when I left it became cloudy and also some misty rain started from time to time. It also becomes autumn, what normally would be good, but if it means this bad weather, it isn't.

Cycling the N 59 from Ballina up to Sligo was definitely the wrong idea. Road and landscape are just boring – just a straight way with continuous ups and downs. And I don't realize an uphill, I'm just thinking: "Oh I'm not that fast, seems I'm more in a comfortable mood right now", and when it goes downhill I become clear. But it's nothing nice about this. Give me winding roads in interesting landscape, and I don't care about if it's hilly!

I had an acceptance for hosting me in Sligo, but no contact details – neither an address nor a phone number, so I hoped for a couchsurfing message when I arrived in Sligo, what I did after 110 kilometres at 5 P.M., but no message. I thought about going on after some warm food. but after being on the N 15 for two kilometres without any chance to cross a nice pub or restaurant, I decided to return – I definitely wouldn't cycle this disgusting road! And while thinking so I also didn't see any usage for going on to the North. And the fact, that I didn't had any contact details of my host in Ballylifllin confirmed my resolution.

So at least I found a good place to eat in Sligo and to think about how to go on. I felt really frustrated. Not about power. Not about no cycling anymore. It's just that I don't like it here at all. I don't feel comfortable. So I don't have to stay here. But nevertheless I could have cried. The nice woman in the Café Society helped me a lot when let me use her private internet access and also her phone and actually helped me to guide Kate, my host in Sligo (who meanwhile had answered again, so mow a I had a mobile number), to her place – Kate was so lovely to pick me up (I felt really lost in this town, I'm too sensitive to traffic and crowd). So it wasn't that easy but after some trouble we met.

Sligo has lot's of traffic, all in a one way street system… I don't feel comfortable in all these towns, Limerick doesn't seem so unusual at all. I love these small villages with all these colourful little shops, but not the towns. I don't know if it's because of the weather or the North – maybe people are different here. Maybe I have to much insight in people's daily routine and can't see any beauty in it any longer. Maybe people told me to much about the real Irish, what just means their experiences as a foreigner in this country. I don't know. At the moment I'm looking much more forward to cycle France.

On the road again!

Thursday, 15th of September. I felt like doing cycling, I was awake, and it looked good outside. The whole forenoon it felt like the new morning, some gentle light, like from the first morning sun. And also when I was on my bike. it felt so peaceful, and I was constantly looking around to see all the beauty which surrounded me. So totally different from my last impression when I first cycled this roads with all the storm and rain and force of nature.

In Clifden I lost my way without noticing. Clifden seems to be very nice, but it doesn't care about ones orientation – barely a sign. So when I found one, I was glad to follow, but didn't thought about the road I was looking for didn't start in this town, so there were two ways for it (I wanted to cycle the N 59 up to Westport, but took accidentally the direction up to Galway). Nevertheless the landscape was nice and interesting, and when 20 kilometres later I realized how I went wrong, it wasn't a loop way, just an alternative way which didn't lead along the coast but along Darryclare Lough and Ballynahinch Lough, and when cycling the R 334 it was just great, such a nice little road. Now I was in the really hilly area of Connemara, but the road wasn't effected that much by this, some ups and downs, nice winding, but to both sides the mountains raise, Maumturk Mountains to the right and Twelve Bens to the left. And lots of sheep next to and on the road!
Photo taken by Joebater, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Benbaun.JPG

So it was just lovely new cycling, not that windy, mostly sunny. Originally I had planed to cycle the R 335 from Aasleagh up to Westport, but after a short break I noticed some tiredness, so I decided to take the shorter route, that also would be nice, a local woman told me, and it was. (It's so enjoyable, you just have to sit with your packed bike somewhere and people will come to you and ask about your doing…) The weather changed a little, so it was still bright clear sky in front, but cloudy and stormy behind me, and the dark clouds tried to catch me, but it wasn't that worse.

Once I passed a building, where a sign on the wall in front attract my attention: stop and pray. Just in the middle of nowhere. Then I realized the building was a church, build in modern style. The sign works, but just for half: When I was taking my photo another car stopped, too, but both we forgot about the praying…
 

In Westport after 80 kilometres of cycling I had a bigger break to eat something salty, and when standing up again, I had abruptly bad biting in my calves like getting a cramp – it came out of nothing. I did some stretching and took an extra magnesium and then it was okay again, no problems when going on with cycling. But very curious.

I arrived in Castlebar after 115 kilometres and didn't had any problems to find the home of this night's couchsurfing host John, to whom I had contact since I arrived in Ireland. Unfortunately my towel didn't arrive, I have no idea what has happened, I have contacted Allan but are waiting for reply at the moment – hopefully my stuff didn't get lost. Curiously I don't want to buy a new towel.

John was just nice, although he was tired of working the last three nights and haven't really slept since the last night. But I felt comfortable from the first moment. John has a unbelievable shower, which is located immediate behind a door – so the shower room isn't bigger than the shower tube!

It was a very relaxed evening we spend together and also curious, as there were some other people who were very – let's say: fascinated about conspiracy theory respective UFOs, aliens and the government who knows about this but does not tell us. They showed me some very weird "documentaries" on You Tube, that were made so extremely emotional manipulative – filming of unidentified objects and lights, crazy frightened people on the phone, scary music in the background, most reports taken from the news, so very popular level and much more entertaining, especially when the announcers talked about the features…


Johns brother shocked me when mentioned, I must have very rich parents to be able to do such a trip – it's not only that actually I'm doing this trip in very cheap way, but to think I could be one of these spoiled kids who never have to do something for the things they get! He couldn't be more wrong about me. One should think others know that such a bicycle tour isn't always fun.