The Irish Journey

August 31st, 2013

Resting my  back against the cool metal of the Spire of Dublin, I waited to see which of two people turn up first. Hoards of people scrambled across the streets of Dublin and in their quick frenzies scooted, skated, limped and hustled along the way of O’Connell Street. I sighed in relief at being even a bit early, having just come from the Dublin Airport. At 4:00pm on the dot,  I turned around to the familiar face of my brother. “Fancy seeing you here” I smiled.

It was the first time I was in Europe with my older brother. I felt obligated to show him all of the wonderful things of Europe, and share with him my tricks of living cheap in the foreign country. After a few last minute decisions and plan changes at the Spire we decided to foot it up the hour walk to the part of Dublin where my friend Rob, whom I’d met in my year abroad in Germany lived. He was a Saint and a lifesaver that night, giving warm extra beds, showers, hot tea, and even toast and Rashers (thick slices of bacon with spices) for breakfast with coffee. After my trip from the States took me 7 hours from Chicago into Stockholm Sweden, and then another nearly 3 hour flight from Stockholm to Dublin, I hadn’t slept in 2 days. I could barely keep my eyes open that night and as soon as I did sleep, I went to bed around 10 and woke up at 13 hours later the next morning! Apparently we’d walked through an area where a man was shot just last week. It seems people are being shot on a daily basis in Dublin these days. “Its mad” or “manic” as they say. But that was just the beginning of our travel adventures. The long nights sleep was fully necessary to leave me fully functioning on European time, and then we got to sit another 3 hours from Dublin to Galway.

Image“Oh yes, that bus there? It goes to Westport at exactly 5 past 8 tomorrow morning.” I’ve come to learn that such a phrase is a relevant term in Ireland. People often don’t even give correct instructions. When a bus driver is asked a question, everything is relevant. Even if he doesn’t have the answer, he will muster an answer or give you some sort of answer, even if he has no idea whether or not it is correct. “Oh that bus there? That one arrives in about 3 hours but …. It depends on the bus driver.” “Oh that bus there? Yes, well, normally it would be leaving at 5 past 8, but summer hours ended last week, and so it no longer runs.”  With the rural road situation here, it really is impossible to have a schedule like those that function in Germany. Our supposedly quick trip over to Westport from Dublin turned into leaving the house we stayed at in Dublin at about 1:30pm, after sleeping off the jetlag until 11:00am, and a Bus Eireann that left at 3:00pm putting us in Galway at 6:30pm for 5 Euros, rather than the 21 euro bus ride straight to Westport. Decisions, decisions, right? Upon arriving in Galway we realized that there were no more buses to Westport that late at night.

We had to find a hostel. Directly across from the bus stop where we hopped out to realize that we were stuck in Galway for the evening, we found this dark brick building which housed a friendly hostel. It was where all the backpacks were going, so it seemed a logical choice. Kent and me, wanting to explore some of the city dropped our large backpacks under our beds and set out to explore the town. We found lamb burgers and fish and chips at a local pub/restaurant and continued on our way to find the perfect pint and live Irish music. After a long walk on the river walk through Galway we found ourselves back near our hostel, on a corner where jig-like banjo music was floating out of the wooden doors. We found our pint of Guinness and good music, and craic.

This particular hostel that night was host to a group of Germans in Lederhosen who, after drinking a fair amount, decided to run around the hostel banging on all the walls and doors they found. We never once talked to any of the 9 people staying in the dorm room we were in as by the time we got back from out adventures about half of them were already asleep and the other few trickled in later in the evening. Breakfast included in the fare, we took our slices of bread and butter, corn flakes, coffee and quick free internet and left for the day, again to wander around the town until the 12:00 bus left for Westport, apparently the actual bus to go to Westport, as the 8:05 bus was no longer running.

Steve, our host for Westport picked us up in a flat black Mercedes at the bus stop station in Westport. We’d hopped off the bus into a blustering rain storm, scrambled for a toilet, which we found, costing 25 cents and which locked the doors to automatically spray and disinfect after each use. Then, after having lost our free bus Wi-Fi, included in the bus fare, we were internet-less and didn’t know how to contact Steve to tell him that we’d arrived about an hour earlier than we’d expected the bus to get there! We ran across a soaking parking lot, passed a young man who, upon seeing our large backpacker packs asked, “How are ye likin’ the weather in Ireland?” and smiled and waved us on. The first café we stumbled upon had a “internet hub here” sticker on the window and as I walked through the doorway, I realized it was the exact café, “Rings” its called, that I had been sent to for the best breakfast in Westport in 2010. The man who had given us a lift to Croagh Patrick, when I hiked it with Rob had given us 20 euro and said to go eat there. It was wonderful! It was hard to find in the first place, and today we managed to stumble across it on accident. Must have been fate. The ladies there let me borrow the store phone to call Steve, who met us back around the corner at the bus stop.

We bobbed and rattled along the Irish countryside, in the black Mercedes with little suspension, completely leaving Westport for about 10 minutes. We drove along the backside of the famous Croagh Patrick Mountain before parking next to two, old, in the process of being restored flat black hearses. Steve worked on drag racing cars back in London and has apparently built a 175 mph racing hearse. He now enjoys the quiet countryside of Ireland in his wheelchair, and from his Mercedes, welcoming Couch Surfing travelers into his home on the Irish countryside. After warming up and the sun coming out for a bit that evening we decided to take a hike, bundled up along the path that follows the base of the Reek. We wandered along marked hikers paths, sheep trails and between solid walls of grass and moss. Ireland is thriving with life and greenery. Coming back, we took another trip in the flat back Mercedes into town into the store to load up on supplies and I finally came across my favorite Irish treat, Hobnobbs and Barry’s black tea. What we couldn’t find though, were ZipLock bags. I found a nice looker stocker guy, and asked him. He said, what are they for? “You know, like sandwich bags” I said, and the question sent him off in a mad, panicked fury, nearly running across the store to a spot he thought they MIGHT be, while mumbling about his section. He led us to sandwich containers, realized it wasn’t quite what I wanted, and started speed walking off in the same mad fury to the other side of the store where a young man was stocking tea. “Ah yes, just around here!” he said and the two guys led us to the next aisle where low and behold, sandwich bags and Ziplock bags lived. They were so panicked, as if the inability to not find exactly what we needed within a 2 minute time frame and not get back to their aisle stocking would mean the end of their lives. It furthered my assumption that in Ireland an answer MUST be found, even if it isn’t an answer to the original question you’ve asked. Regardless, we got a night tour in the car of Clew Bay and the sights to see in town. It was a great ending for the night.Westportbed1

The sleeping arrangements at Steves were one actual small bedroom fully equipped with a dresser, nightstand and closet and a twin size bed. The other, was a mattress on the floor of Steve’s toy room. He restored children’s toys, little “Dinky’s” , Matchbox cars and had rows and rows of them for sale, along with more rare small toys that he sells at toy shows. After shutting the lights out, ready for bed, (I ended up in the actual bedroom, convinced it would be warmer and Kent was far more prepared for cold weather sleeping) Kent came into the room with his mattress and sheets and plunked it down on the floor next to me. I’m still not really sure why, but thus we slept in the same room.

It’s been a give and take adventure, you buy this, I’ll buy that. I get the floor this time, you next. At least we’re both rather considerate people except for the fact that I’ve had the actual bed the past two nights. Its Kent’s turn next time, for sure. After a full nights sleep, following hardly sleeping in the hostel in Galway we woke up at 9am Saturday ready to go. We made ourselves toast and porridge and black tea for breakfast (which we’d bought at the late night store run), I showered and put on my hiking clothes to brave the famous Croagh Patrick yet again. We realized that the previously sunny morning had turned dark and it was “piss pouring rain” again outside. Around 11:30 it cleared and we set out, climbing up the mossy green opposite side of the mountain. I hadn’t done this route before but we met in the middle flat part with the rest of the groups of hikers. There were plenty. The slippery, rocky route took us through more spitting rain at the top and massive winds on the “cone” as the locals called it.  It peaks rather sharply at the top where the Church sits. Mission accomplished and on to the next matter of business we hiked the regular route down, and ended up hitch-hiking the stretch between the Reek and the city, picked up by a nice

Croagh Patrick

man in a BMW. It reminded me of my grand hitch-hiking adventure in 2010 where I sucessfully hitch hiked the rim of Ireland for a week.

I found out as we got into town and found Internet that Steve had had some sort of accident while out working on his hearse that day in the sunshine we’d had. “Left key under stone car” he said, in a not on the door, and he also left it on a lined piece of paper in the crevice of the door for us to find. A kind man indeed, getting wheeled out in an ambulance he thought of his CouchSurfing guests and left us a key. We’d hired a cab to drive the long trek out to his house and back to the Abbey where we’d booked a hostel room. I hope he’ll be okay.

Early tomorrow it’s back to Dublin and then on to Biarritz, France on Monday.

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