I always forget how hard the first few days are. Probably for the best.

The GPS showed an ATM 8 miles back, and 10 km forward just before crossing into Northern Ireland. Last night I decided to cross over into N. Ireland by ferry, exchanging my currency problem in one country for the same problem in another. Hopefully crossing the border I’d find a solution, as I wouldn’t be the only person searching for cash. At the ATM ahead I could pick up euros as well.

I woke to rain in the middle of the night, and it continued to rain on and off through the morning. I’d planned a late start and short day, and by the time I’d planned to leave the rain had stopped. I passed through Carlingford, and the one ATM in town was broken. According to OSMAnd, there were no more ATMs ahead until Newcastle. While searching, I noticed there was also a hostel and camping in Newcastle, and decided to extend my (short) day to a slightly longer one of 50 km. After visiting the local castle, I headed for the ferry and an uneventful crossing.

After disembarking I explored the nearby Green Castle. Next on the way to Kilkeen, an incoming cycle tourist veered over to my side of the road to chat. Hansel was from Germany, and had been cycling in Scotland before arriving in Belfast and heading south. We swapped information about the road ahead and each continued on our way.

In  Kilkeen I think I passed at least four cash machines. My immediate problem solved, I continued on towards Newcastle. It rained on and off all day, only once hard enough for me to hide behind a convenient hedge until the rain passed by.

On the final run into Newcastle, something was horribly wrong. It took a moment to figure out that something was wrong with my steering. I pulled over and realigned my front wheel, but failed to resolve the issue. Further investigation showed there’s something wrong with the front headset. It had been making a faint squeaking noise, but now the amount of effort required to steer had changed for the worse. I have finely tuned reflexes based on that not ever changing. I spent a while tinkering with it. Oiling made it better, but not fixed. I thought about pulling it apart to take a look, but decided that the side of the road in the middle of nowhere wasn’t the best place. Fortunately Newcastle should have a bicycle shop, which I’ll deal with in the morning. All the more reason to take a day off in Newcastle!

I followed the GPS to the hostel, which wasn’t there. After circling the block a couple of times, I headed over to Tourist Information, fortunately still open due to the season. After some discussion, they pointed out the hostel is across the street and down a ways from where I was looking, and I found it no problem. I was ambushed at the door by Collum, who was relaxing outside after a long day. He ran through most of the questions in my FAQ (along with some new ones). He was apologetic for taking my time, but having arrived in Newcastle and found the hostel I had all the time in the world.

Stephanie, the hostel host, is amazing- pure friendly energy and the only staff member for this now 74-bed hostel. The hostel has been undergoing major renovations, and is now two townhouse-like buildings merged together. She assigned me to an as-yet unused room (the first occupant since its renovation), and lead me a convoluted path through the redesigned building(s). She also reminded me that in N. Ireland the distances on the road signs are in miles. Important to remember or I could be really depressed about my progress!


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