I spent the night alone in the completely deserted hostel – vaguely disturbing. I awoke to a silent hostel, breakfast food sitting forlornly on the table. As I left, the junior staff member cycled up to clean the hostel, and I cycled away.
By 10:00 am I cycled with the wind at my back, and a beautiful sunny day. I passed a typical Norman church ruin, and stopped for some photos. I find the Norman churches more interesting than the Gothic cathedrals; Gothic cathedrals feel more symbols of wealth and power than places of worship.
By 11:00 pm the sky blustered grey. I stopped to check my position on the GPS, and realized I could check the weather radar. (In my defense, I haven’t had cell service until Galway, and I’ve been under the weather since then). Radar showed an incoming storm, with me cutting across the middle of its path. A light mist-like rain began to fall, with dark clouds to my left, yet I could see blue skies ahead. A mad dash followed. I stopped once, only 4 km short of my destination, to let a brief band of rain pass, and then finished the ride at the hostel in Westport still dry.
Reception didn’t open until 3:30 pm. I sat in the hostel kitchen waiting for the rain to pass, when a staff member noticed me and and checked me in. The Old Mill Hostel rests inside an old mill, with walls of mortared stone providing a great atmosphere. In town I picked up more cold meds, and wandered. I walked to the local castle, the Westport House, located inside a local amusement park area, with paintball, a flume ride, and other associated modes of entertainment, all closed.
A statue of Grace O’Malley, a famous 16th century pirate queen, stands on the grounds, as a relation of the family that now owns Westport House.
As I couldn’t tell from the Irish Rail website how bicycles work, I walked to the nearby train station. The station information didn’t open for a couple of hours (when the next train would arrive) but from the posted URL I found the information I needed: bikes are permitted on all Irish trains, but add 6 euro, and they recommend you reserve the space in advance. Visiting a Tesco (supermarket) on the way back, I updated my supplies. Walking back to the hostel a passing rainstorm caught me unawares, and came close to soaking me before I found shelter.
Back at the hostel, I met Dennis, hiking around Ireland (with occasional train relocation) for the last seven weeks, an indefinite finish date, and 50 km day hikes making me feel a bit less superior to hikers. He cooked dinner while I surfed the Internet, and offered to share, as he couldn’t buy small enough quantities for only one person. He created something from chicken, pineapple, and apples, and a sauce which added slightly more heat than either of us expected.
After dinner we spent a long time discussing where each of us headed next. I don’t like my plan of the next leg as a train to Dublin, but in coming to Westport the next hostel falls 130 km away in Sligo. Given how tiring I found racing the rain today, farther than I wish to go. The places Dennis wishes to visit in Ireland all fall outside of a direct path to Westport, so he needed to figure out the best way from here to there as well. To continue my trip now involves planning for my flight, and associated time to ensure I have a way to get my bike on that plane. At the same time, to directly close the loop back to Dublin requires passing through more central Ireland with fewer hostel options. I’ve made that journey before, and would prefer something different.
By the end of our discussion, Dennis heads to Inishmore, passing through Galway. I decided to continue towards Belfast. No train heads directly from Westport to Sligo, and any layover takes most of the day. However, I can take a short train ride tomorrow to reduce the distance to Sligo from 130 km to 70 km, a compromise between my desire to cycle, and (hopefully) not overextending myself.