Ride: Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland to Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Terrain: As we've returned to the sea, the landscape is substantially flatter, and under normal circumstances, this would be easy rolling. Unfortunately, when one door closes, someone somewhere opens a window and lets in a huge gale that makes you feel like you're cycling through mud. You're exposed the entire time, so best get used to it. It's a very straightforward route the whole way through, and you stay on Shore Road (or some variation thereof) until Newcastle.
Another easy day awaited us when we woke up in the morning. It was 40-odd kilometres again from here until Newcastle, so we got up a bit later, ate a bit later, and set off a bit later than usual. These final stages are more laid back, so we've settled into a relaxed rhythm which allows us to languish longer over our bacon and beans, reading the morning papers aloud to each other like a pair of wrinklies. It also means that we should be able to set off after the morning rain and arrive before the afternoon rain. We're getting the hang of this now.
We couldn't have been happier as we started cycling with the warm sun on our backs. But the smiles were quickly wiped off our faces the second we met the fierce headwind, which seemed to appear out of nowhere. In the blink of an eye, the sky became dark and threatening and for the next 20 kilometres, we endured unpleasant blustery weather until Kilkeel. Not for the first time this trip, we find ourselves fighting to keep our loaded tandem upright while the wind attempted to wrestle us into a hedge. It's exhausting in a quite different way from riding up a hill.
That being said, in this moody weather the County Down coastline is a very pretty thing. We tried to remain appreciative of it despite our current feelings, as we're not sure when we will see it again after this trip.
Our halfway point was Kilkeel, and as it was still too early for lunch, we elected for milkshakes at Cunningham's Kitchen, a hip cafe/grocery store down the road. They were easily the best milkshakes we'd ever had, in no small part because the milk in Northern Ireland is ridiculously fresh (in this country, people walk around taking swigs from plastic pints full of the creamy good stuff - no lie). Another thing that's out of the ordinary from what we're used to back home is that water is free here, unlike in Germany, where you have to specifically request Leitungswasser (tap water) and risk incurring murderous glares from the staff who want to sell you the fancy sparkling stuff. So we also enjoyed ice-cold water collected from the Silent Valley Reservoir, just a few miles away.
We were slurping away and chatting about nothing in particular when a movement near our bike caught our attention. With growing amusement, we watched a wee granny stare in utter shock at our tandem, mouth agape. Eventually, she caught on that we were the owners, and gave us a huge thumbs up through the window.
The rest of the ride was flat and uneventful, albeit exceedingly beautiful with the Mourne Mountains looming over us, and we got to Newcastle just as the weather was turning for the worse. For no matter how bad it currently is, the weather here can always find something even nastier to throw at you. Thankfully, it's still a bit early in the year to run into any White Walkers.