Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls

Waterfall Flowing Upward
If I were to start a sentence with "I won't ride my bike when..." how would you complete that sentence? 

Yesterday I completed it with "...when the waterfalls flow backwards." 

According to the weather report last night, Castlerock was "the windiest place in the UK." Having taken the train into Coleraine early morning, on my way back I could hardly stay upright when walking home from the station. The wind felt like a magnetic force pressing me into the ground.

Later in the day, I was out taking photos with a friend when I saw it... There is a series of waterfalls along the cliff edge of Binevenagh Mountain in the Downhill stretch of the coastal road - thin streams of foaming white water, flowing down from a great height. Only this time the streams were flowing up the mountain instead of down. Blown backwards over the cliff's edge, they looked like a set of erratic, rogue fountains. 

Unlike anything I've encountered here before, this sight made me feel like a complete slack-jawed tourist. Feebly I tried to capture it on camera, but really I just stared and pointed. "The waterfalls are flowing backwards... They're flowing backwards!!!"

"Sure," said my friend nonchalantly, "the wind gets nasty here. If you threw a brick over that edge there it would come back to you. Not a day to be on your bike hey?"

I imagined cycling up the mountain with a brick in my basket and perhaps some video equipment just to conduct that little experiment. But no, it was not a day for the bike. It was a backward waterfall kind of day. 

31 comments:

  1. Wow. Ok, I wouldn't be out there, either.

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  2. The same phenomenon is not uncommon in the Milford Sound area in New Zealand. However, we blamed that on the fact that we were upside down in the southern hemisphere.

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    1. Hey bicycle man. Just to prove I was paying attention during compulsory Irish lessons.

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  3. I would absolutely love to see that.

    I like your description of the wind as a magnetic force pressing you to the ground, I know the feeling just from reading that line...

    Spindizzy

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  4. I've been looking forward to strong winds that run along the coast where i live.

    For every headwind you suffer through you get a tail wind.
    Tuck in and get lost in the ride.

    Ireland has definitely been added to my list of places to travel with a bike.

    A TT bike and the right wind and road section, thats the dream.

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  5. Reminds me of a place in Scotland an old school friend told me about, after he and his family moved there. It's known locally as the "electric brae." Basically, it's a stretch of road in hilly country which appears to have a slight but noticeable uphill gradient. However, get on a bicycle there and the bike will freewheel uphill along this stretch of road, without any effort from the rider. Sadly, it's an optical illusion. The road does slope downhill, but the surrounding terrain makes it appear otherwise. Back to Ireland, that country is well-supplied with waterfalls, as you might expect. One of my favourites is at Glendalough in County Wicklow. In fact, that whole area is well worth a visit. One day, I'd taken my wife to the Meeting of the Waters near Avoca, immortalised in the poem by Thomas Moore, later set to music. "There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet/as that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet, etc." It was a cold day in early spring, and we were the only visitors there. There's a head and shoulders bust of Moore there, carved in stone on a plinth, which bears some lines from the song. "How does it go?" she asked. I was astonished that even an English person would be unfamiliar with the song, and I began to sing it. I could remember three verses - there may be more. When I finished, I was astonished by a thunderous round of applause. Unheard and unseen by me, although not by my wife, a German coach had pulled up in the lay-by and disgorged its seventy or so occupants. I just wish I'd had the presence of mind to pass my hat around.

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    1. I have asked to a friend about Thomas Moore, he says “poetry and literature from Ireland are great” and also “take care about quality of translation because in ideal world we need to have native way of thinking and spirit of Ireland”.
      I am going to tell at a bookseller who provides some books with original text on left page and translation (French) on right.
      Eh eh, maybe reading this blog give us a tad of Ireland spirit ?

      Laurent

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    2. Laurent, would I be wrong in imagining your post above being delivered with a French Canadian accent? I think any work of literature suffers to some extent from translation, so much is the character and spirit of a country bound up in language.

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    3. Hi,
      I am from France (Bordeaux). I'll buy a new book when I finish reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
      L.

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  6. Thank you for your posts.They are always interesting and I get to experience them thru your writings and camera lens. I only ride locally now. The wind blows here, but nothing like you described. Wish you the best in your new location.

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  7. You are lucky to be within reach of a train station! Is it reliable in that part of the country? I recall slow rickety trains that broke down as often as they ran, but hopefully things have changed!

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    1. So there's a train station right in the center of Casterock, walking distance from where I am currently staying. The new place where I'm about to move is about 2 miles from the Bellarena train station. The train goes along the coast, with stops in major centers including Derry, Coleraine and Belfast. All the trains I've been on so far are modern and fast, with free (albeit poorly working) wifi. I hear about the rickety Old Trains from locals, which are still supposedly in circulation, but I've not yet had the fortune/misfortune to get on one of those.

      The only problem with the coastal train is that it only runs every 2 hours, so you can't just take it any time you feel like it. Also, it's kind of expensive (though I imagine there is a monthly pass for regular commuters).

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    2. One of my favourite Irish literary figures was Percy French, who graduated from Trinity College Dublin in civil engineering, but was unhappy inspecting drains in the West of Ireland (as, indeed, who would not be?) and turned his hand to writing quirky songs and poems, and touring with his stage show. He lived at one time in County Clare, and became incensed and frustrated by the inefficiency of the local railway and its crews. Having suffered some financial loss through the failure of the train service, he sued the company, but was unsuccessful. Instead, he wrote a song about the experience of travelling on that railway, called "Are you right there, Michael, are you right?" Everybody knew which railway company it referred to, and it caused them more embarrassment than if they'd settled his claim. It and his other songs, like Ballyjamesduff, are immensely popular to this day. He died in Formby, Lancashire while visiting an acquaintance, and lies in St. Luke's churchyard there.

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  8. Cycle tourists who have done the Patagonia route report prevailing tail winds so strong they were pushed up steep inclines and the converse head winds stopping them on steep declines.

    Experiencing these natural phenomena is one of the great joys of cycling.

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    1. I've had to descend in a granny gear due to headwinds before; incredible experience. Alas I have yet to be pushed uphill by a tailwind.

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    2. Yes, this weekend I was confronted with a sustained wind gust which literally stopped me in my tracks on a mild descent. I was standing on the pedals trying to push forward and just started laughing....that same instant another gust came from the side and pushed me across the lane. I was helpless. This would have been more serious had there been traffic but it was terrible serious later. Turns out this particular system produced multiple tornados a couple states east of us....terrible.

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  9. "It was a backward waterfall kind of day." I like that.

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  10. Never been blown off my bike yet, despite having grown up in Tornado Alley, but there's still time.

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  11. Did a little ride a couple of weeks ago, Brooklyn to Point Lookout along the south shore of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau Counties. 30 miles east, on autopilot, felt warm, all is great.
    Turn 'round, I thought the sand in the air was going to blast my face off. Plus, with the saddlebags, handlebar bag on the rando bike (not to mention I am deluxe sized), it was like one of those Air Force planes landing with the parachute behind it. Bridge railings howling from the wind. Folks leaning sideways riding over the Marine Parkway Bridge.
    Next time it's skinny tires and slick clothes.

    Victor K.

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  12. Looks like it may have been a bad day to learn to rappel, too!

    I've been nearly stopped in my tracks by headwinds while going downhill and had to downshift, too.
    Been nearly blown off the bike once.

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  13. Seems the Dutch may have it taped! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8qgjyqibwY

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  14. ,,,Wind Driven Sleet,, unless its riding home to Dover.

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  15. I remember listening to the Jazz singer Mark Murphy singing about how the wind was his love, convinced that he had never ridden a bicycle.

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  16. You just have to be traveling in the right direction.

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  17. Since you asked, when I am required to wear a helmut.

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  18. this is not bike related but, yes, the wind does odd and surprising things.

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  19. Was that ugly trailer lived in?

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  20. Totally not bike related, but I really love the randomly sprinkled hip hop references into your writing. I love riding bikes and that TLC album was one of the first ones I bought.

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    1. Glad my love of hip-hop is appreciated. The spooky thing is, I heard the TLC song on the radio later in the day after I wrote this post, after not hearing it in years.

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  21. A dramatic demo of orographic lift. Glider pilots love it, but not with such high winds...

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