Bally Rally, Ireland

These rallies are a wonderful way to get to see parts of the country that one normally may not get to see. Some Rally Masters are devious buggers - like Chris McGaffin and the Bally Rally! <G>

We were basing out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown, in Dublin, and riders started rolling into the hotel on the Friday afternoon in readiness for the evening's distribution of the rally book, as the waypoints had been distributed electronically a month or so beforehand. It was good to catch up again with some of the riders from the Brit Butt Rally a few weeks previously.

As I'd already ridden to most of the waypoints in the north a couple of weeks before, [report here] it was relatively easy to select a high scoring route based around the north and northwest. I played around with it a bit, then tried to sleep. Nope, not gonna happen, well, not until about 3.30am. Unfortunately, I'd somehow set the screamin' meenie alarm for 6.00 PM - not AM!! D'Oh!!! So I slept in until 7.40am. The rally was starting at 8.00am!

Michiel gave me a call, to see if I was awake (only just!) and I raced downstairs to the bike, to load the route into the GPS from the laptop, which only took seconds, loaded everything else into the topbox, threw the rest of my gear on, took onboard the egg, and was ready to leave by 8.02am. Missed the group photos, but Chris took one anyway as I was leaving.

You're probably wondering why I took onboard an egg. Well, as the first paragraph says, some rally masters are devious! As a tribute to the often appalling condition of the roads in parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Chris had devised an additional bonus for us, but only for those who volunteered to undertake the challenge - carry an elaborately (?) hand painted fresh egg the whole distance of the rally, taking a photo of it beside the odometer every 200 miles (give or take a few) and bring it back whole to receive a huge 2000 additional bonus points. The bonus was, naturally, called Mission Impossible! Of course, should the egg be broken along the way, it would cost the rider 2000 points! Five eggs left the starting blocks.

I headed out for the north east, as my first bonus was the Martello Tower not all that far from the hotel, and the bike must be in the photo with the rally flag, which MUST be included in all photos unless indicated otherwise in the rally book. Somehow, during my route planning the night before, I'd forgotten to update the .gbd file with this bonus ( a late decision) and I was wondering when I should get the message to turn off to it. But the GPS kept saying I had 175km to go to the first bonus! Gulp! Frantic searching through the waypoints list, found the required one, and punched "Go to". I'd only just passed the right turnoff, so had to keep going to the next, and make my way back along the coast, on small backroads to get to the bonus site - Below.

I really do hate my GPS and Mapsource at times!! I'd been to the next bonus site, and knew what to expect. What I didn't expect from this waypoint was to be taken along every tiny backroad imaginable, only to be deposited in the middle of some small town, with no Ulster American Folk Museum anywhere in sight! Perhaps I'd accidently moved the waypoint on the mapping program the previous night? Whatever - I had to work out how to get to the right place in a hurry, as I was now way behind timewise. Fortunately, Chris had included the co-ordinates of each bonus in the rally book, so I punched them in, only to find it was another 63km to the bonus! Eeeeek! Not having the best of days, methinks!

So, of course, Chris had another trick up his sleeve - he made us walk to the far end of the park, take a photo of the Pennsylvania house, above, then walk to the other diagonal extremity of the park to take a photo of the Campbell house, below. The nice ladies at the counter in the Visitors' Centre had an idea of what we were doing, as I was the third rider to come through, so they knew exactly where we had to go, and gave directions with shortcuts where possible. And they gave me Senior's Discount on the entry fee, too! Haha! 2000 points in the bag.

Along the way, it was time for the first photo with the egg - below. As it happens, I'd recently bought a six-pack of eggs when camping, so had a couple of spare spots in the egg carton, which made carrying the precious cargo so much easier.

Now it was time to settle in for the ride across to the west coast, to the town of Bunbeg, then down to the beach to get a photo of a derelict fishing boat. But there was yet another twist here - the photo had to include the rider standing beside the fishing boat on the beach. Which sounds all well and good, until one realises that the boat is quite some distance from the shore, and the requirements can only be achieved at low tide! Hence the hurry to get there. Low tide was at 12.31pm. I finally got there at 1.47pm, and was in luck, for a change, as the tide was still well out and I was able to get out to the boat and back safely, much to the astonishment of those people relaxing on the beach, I'm sure. I mean, just how often does one get to see a biker wearing full protective gear, including the helmet, walking out to an old boat, taking a photo, then walking straight back to the road?

The lighthouse at Fanad Head below on the far north west coast was the next bonus I was aiming for, and I'd also been to this site previously, so knew what to expect along the way, as the roads out in this area are often rather small, single lane tracks.

On the way back down the peninsular, we had to take a photo of a beach view from a certain lookout point at the top of some switchbacks below. Easy points, that one!

Further over to the east for a fair distance, to the old Torr Head coast guard station. I'd also been to this one previously, and knew just what Chris would make us do to claim the points! Yep, we had to walk all the way up the steep hill to the building, then climb an old rusty ladder up the side to get to the lookout spot at the top, where there is a tripod, there to take the photo. As I was standing on the top step of the ladder, fighting with the wind playing havoc with my rally number, a voice right beside my head suddenly asked "Can I help you with that?"

Sheeesh, I nearly fell off the ladder in shock. I hadn't seen the man standing around to the side of the abutment as I was climbing up the ladder, but he must have watched me climbing the hill then heard me on the ladder and wondered what I was doing with a sheet of laminated paper blowing haphazardly in the wind, trying to take a photo of it.

So he kindly positioned it next to the tripod, below and the bonus was done. Except for the long walk back down to the bike.

The next bonus was within sight of Torr head, just a few miles up twisting mountain roads to the sign board below at Greenhill. Also very easy points.

Not far from here, it was time for another egg photo.

Then out across the moors where I had previously met Emerson tending his turf two weeks ago. First boo-boo -- the GPS sent me down the wrong road for 7km. Turn, go back again. Find the right road and eventually get to the bonus site. I'd been here before, too. Here's where I made a stuff-up, as I found out at the scoring table, and took the photo, with the bike in it, of the wrong sign!! The real one was hidden, up the hill behind the carpark, along a goat-track! So that was 900 points that I blew, [and 6th place, too] right there!! Oh well, these things happen to us all.

South now, along the coast and through the middle of Belfast, which was actually pretty easy travelling, then out and along the coast again to the township of BallyHalbert, where we had to get a photo of any town name sign. Below.

The photo of St Johns Lighthouse below is a bit skewiff, but Chris was able to recognise it, and I got the points, all 1111 of them! This was a Daylight Only bonus, and it was 10.20pm or so when I got there, but it was still clearly discernible against the background sky.

There was another egg bonus photo just after the above bonus, too.

As darkness was rapidly falling, there was no option but to head for Dublin, where there was a "Courier" bonus group, available 24 hours. This consisted of 5 bonuses within the greater Dublin area, all separately worth 150 points each, but if collected in the correct chronological order, the points jumped to 300 each bonus.

Away I went, and rode into the centre of Dublin, looking for the Molly Malone statue, the first of the bonus set. Now, I'm an old fart, and rarely venture out to drinking establishments on Saturday evenings, or any other time, for that matter. So imagine my horror when faced with the squillions of semi-drunk revellers staggering all over the streets of the central district at 1.30am. So many bars, taverns, night clubs, restaurants in such a small area. It was unbelievable! I thought there was a global financial crisis happening? Not here in Dublin, apparently!

Anyway, my oh-so-trustworthy GPS kept taking down me pedestrian walkways filled with drunks and bars, round and round in circles I was going, wondering when one of the drunks would start objecting to me riding where I shouldn't be riding, disturbing their drinking. It was just a tad worrying, I must say. And the traffic, almost all taxis, was horrendous. The streets are very narrow, often only one lane. Eventually, I'd had enough. No way could I find Molly Malone, and I was getting a bit frazzled and worried, so hightailed it out of the city centre and worked my way back to Blanchardstown, where I found a Maccas almost next to the hotel, so had a drink and something ghastly to eat while watching some cops taking down a carload of youths in the drive-in lane, holding up all the traffic, much to the amusement of the staff, hanging out windows everywhere watching the show.

Back to the hotel, where Michiel had fortunately given me his spare key card to his room "just in case I needed it" (as I'd booked out on the Saturday morning, not intending to return till about 7.30am, so I didn't need a room) as he was staying over on the Sunday night. I worked on the mapping program for a while, and worked out a couple more bonuses I could get once daylight broke at about 4.15am or so, as I didn't want to go back into Dublin and face the drunks again. Then I thought I'd have a short nap on top of the bed to fill in time, as I was a bit sleepy, not having had much sleep the night before. Yep, slept right through until 7.45am!!!! So the rally was over for me.

Downstairs, I found everyone had returned safely, so we had brekky, then went to the rally room for the announcement of the placings. Surprisingly, despite having bagged my last points more than 8 and a half hours before the finish at 7.30am, I'd done remarkably well, ending up 7th overall with 13,066 points and an unbroken egg. All eggs survived the rally.

Gerhard from Germany was the winner. He carried an egg.

Rob Roalfe, UK, was second. He didn't carry an egg.

Michiel, from Belgium, was third. He carried an egg.

Had Rob done so, he would have been the winner on points!! So the egg jokes were coming thick and fast for a while.

Overall, it was an eggcellent rally!!! <groan> Congrats to the placegetters. Well done, Chris, and all the riders. Fun, fun, fun <most of the time!>

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