Bicycling from Bandon to Kilmacsimon Quay
a photo essay by André Jute
Leaving home in Bandon, the Bridewell tributary of the Bandon River to my back as I take the photo. We're going to where the big river joins the sea.
Zero kilometres, zero speed, 24ºC, altimeter set to zero
Buying a sandwich to go at Brady's for a picnic lunch. "You can have anything you want in it." The blue flask is a thermos with lemon and honey tea. Until we return to Bandon, we will not find another shop. You can drink the water from the streams but you should bring at least a couple of bananas for sustenance.
Here we are at the town boundary with the sign telling us not to speed over 80kph/50mph. As if we would!
2.2km from home, 23ºC, heartrate 89bpm.
Hello dinners! And before us the road running mysteriously to where? Actually, you're never more than ten minutes walk from some friendly housewife who will let you use her phone in an emergency. I don't even fix the rare flat tyre, I call a taxi to bring me home, delivering the bike to Joe-the-Bike on the way.
In Ireland you're never far from water. On one side of the road the ever-present burbling stream, on the other a boggy ground with shooting hassocks of grass. This is very peaceful.
This is the start as what I think of as my forest. I ride here every day, a minimum round trip of 8km. Today we will go further though.
There's always a bridge to stop at where you can stare into water for meaning. It sings happily but you must supply the meaning.
The light changing on the same stream in a couple of minutes.
No landscape is complete without a picaresque ruin, a dangerous beast, and a rapacious exploiter. So, here, in the space of hundred yards along the road, are the gloomy ancestral home of a bubbly lady I know, a culvert in which last year lived a small hungry pike, and some party in a jet madly rushing to find what I already have.
This is as high as we go, the top of the hill, 74 meters on the clock (actually 99 but the air pressure has changed meanwhile and the meter is wrong). Heart rate 109 because it is a steady, long ascent rather than a brutally steep one. Notice that I'm not even down to the lowest mode for the automatic gearbox on my bicycle.
We have already passed one opportunity to turn back to Bandon for a round trip of about eight klicks. We have also passed several opportunities to take steep or rough roads back to the return road to Bandon we shall take later this afternoon. Here we have three more choices: up a steep hill to where we can arrive by a more scenic and easier road, back to Bandon via a busy, undulating secondary road, or downhill on the scenic route. In addition, we can also turn back the way we came and coast downhill for about eight kilometres into Bandon. Today we choose the scenic downhill route.
Bicycle speed freaks apply here. Until now we have seen a handful of cars whose drivers all greeted us and waited patiently for us to vacate the narrow lane so they could pass. Now here's a moron in a foreign-registered Mercedes who doesn't know how to behave. I get off the road in a hurry, as you can see. This is a very rare occurrence if you choose your lanes right, which is why it is a good idea to take local advice unless you are an experienced cyclist.
West Cork is littered with monuments to the memory of men who died young for their particular vision of Ireland. Notice the fresh flowers 85 years later. It isn't smart for strangers to ask searching political questions in the countryside. On the other hand, the people are exceedingly friendly; almost everyone will greet you and there is no fear of talking to strangers.. Here's a dog and its mistress that we met on the road just before the little monument.
As a professional intellectual I am also a fulltime skeptic but I must confess that there are many pieces of Irish landscape that have deep significance for me for some reason, sometimes just a strange attraction, sometimes a literary association like the Deer at The Gap or the Tailor and Anstey at Googanbarra . It always seems sacrilege to cross these gnarled shadows on this piece of deep, deep road at speed.
At the bottom of the hill. The experienced cyclists and athletes can turn right here and go to Ballinspittle and thence to Kinsale and from there back on the main road to Bandon. We too have several choices of return route but today will turn left along the river. That horse was lying down, favouring what seems to be a splinted leg. While I took out the camera, it stood up to stare at me. We are the most exciting thing to pass this week!
After only a few yards we turn off the main road along the river to go down to Kilmacsimon Quay. It is on the estuary of the Bandon River.
The short road to the quay passes beside a spur of the estuary on which there is always so much to see that I wish the country council would put up seats. Of course they won't, because almost no one goes there. On the day I took these photographs, besides my party, we saw only a man who lives there walking his dog.
So where do the trees stop and the water begin?
A pedalling friend bundled up in the depth of winter last November and under spring blossoms a couple of days ago, photos taken six months and 20 feet apart. I was born in a desert and somethimes think it is unfair that so much beauty is crammed into such a small island as Ireland.
We have arrived at our destination, Kilmacsimon Quay, Co Cork, Ireland.
By the time we reach the quay, heart rate already down to 94 in these healing surroundings, looking across the estuary at the gorse on the hills, we're still less than 10km from Bandon. The return journey will be slightly longer and include much pretty scenery. But we'll save those photos for another essay on another day. Time to eat the fresh salmon sandwich I bought at Brady's.
The second part: Cycling from Kilmacsimon Quay to Bandon by a different scenic route
•André Jute’s most recent book on aesthetics in action is
Grids: the structure of graphic design (Rotovision, Switzerland).
All text and illustration Copyright © Andre Jute