In Honor of St. Patrick's Day, we'll kick off the Trail Tales series with the Dingle Way.
Dingle Way, Day 1
2 July 2010
Fred and I got up early, left our hostel in Dublin and hopped on the bus to Limerick at the Busarus. That's the Irish word for Bus Station I guess. I like to say it in my head like this "Bus R Us" but that's not right.
I quickly learned that Irish buses are among the most sinister car-sick-inducing torture devices in the world. The seats are very tall and so it's impossible to see out the front window from any seat besides the very front. Irish roads are narrow and windy. Irish bus drivers seem to enjoy playing Billy Joel at very loud volumes. I knew I wasn't going to make it if I stayed in the back, so I had to move right up to the front. Right up there, next to the chatty old people who cross themselves whenever they pass a church, and there are a lot, so it's more like an episode of Sit-and Be-Fit than a calm, silent, still bus ride.
And I think I might die.
For 6 hours I focused on not puking, or trying to devise a contingency plan if I do. I decided that in the event of an unexpected voiding of my stomach I would try to aim it for the space next to the door, then at least they could hose it out easily.
Luckily, we made it to Limerick and then to Tralee (which is pronounced Truhhh-lee, not TRAY lee) without any vomiting. From Tralee we got on another bus which we thought was going to take us to Camp. But it didn't. Fred told me "doesn't that sign say Camp? Shouldn't we get off? Maybe you should tell the driver we want off." I said "Relax Fred, calm down. The bus will stop and then we'll get off. We'll know when we're there." But I was wrong. The bus did not stop. In Ireland, you must jump up and down or wave or holler to signal your intention to get off the bus, wherever. Stops listed on the schedule are just suggestions. When we realized that we'd driven past Camp we started to get anxious. When the next-town-looking place rolled around we stood up, and sure enough the bus stopped and let us out.
In Annascaul. This not where we planned on being. We meant to walk from Camp counter clockwise around the peninsula. Now we're forced to go Clockwise.
At least we've finally made it to Dingle.
The first thing I noticed about Dingle, is that it is cold and windy. It's also much more mountainous than I expected. From the map, from home, Ireland looked flat-ish. 950 m Mountains are not really mountains, or are they? They are. Especially when they grow directly from sea level.
I know that I have underestimated this place. We stopped in a small park with the statue of some antarctic explorer. Tom Crean. He went with Shackelton and stuff...and he's from Annascaul. Fred and I hadn't eaten since breakfast and now it's 3 pm and we need to hike at least 6 miles, preferably twelve before we sleep. I pulled out a loaf of soda bread, a chunk of cheese and began to chow down, whilst contemplating Fred's "10 pound more awesome" bag.
I wonder if he can really make it 90 miles with all that Stuff. Who brings an iPad backpacking, anyway?
After we finished eating we cinched up our bags and headed off. Over a bridge, across a road and then Up. We walked up for quite a ways, until there was no more Up and then we could see the ocean, and we walked Down for a while. It was warm enough out to walk in just a long sleeved shirt and it wasn't raining.
So Far So Good.
We came across a beautiful bouldery-beach with a castle.
Thanks Ireland, that'll do nicely.
Then, there was more up. We were mainly walking on narrow farm roads, which was not very exciting at all. There were nettles and whoever was in the back was in charge of hollering "Car!" so that we could dive, quickly, into a ditch or press ourselves up against the nearest nettle-infested garden wall. And it was a windy day, so there were lots of false alarms. We did manage to entertain ourselves though, playing with the local fauna--farm dogs--and arguing about whether Cromwell built the castle or knocked over the castle.
The sheep dogs in Ireland are very friendly. They are generally allowed to roam and seem to generally stay where they're supposed to. More than a few times we were followed for quite-a-ways by friendly dogs. This is the first one we encountered. In DunQuin we were followed all the way home from the pub by a dog. On the other side of Mt. Brandon we were followed for about a mile by a dog who liked to play 'fetch' with rocks that we kicked in front of us, until someone drove by in a car and stuck their head out the window "Bella! Come on!" and the dog turned around and trotted after the car.
After about 6 miles, we spied a gas station. Since I refused, on principle, to pay 10 Euros for white gas in Dublin we decided to just fill the fuel bottle with gasoline at the first opportunity. So we stopped at a gas station that backed up to a really nice canyon that was bridged by an old rail-road viaduct. I filled up the fuel bottle and went inside to pay the 45 cent bill. The man behind the counter looked at me funny and said "Very small car?" I held up my fuel bottle and said "Yes" I bought a postcard and a candy bar and went back outside to see what Fred was up to.
He was lounging against his 10-pounds-more-awesome bag with the nastyiest-pus-ridden-flea bag tom cat I've ever seen in his lap.
I loaded up the fuel bottle and looked at the map for a bit. "Fred, how much further do you want to walk?" I was nervous about where we'd stay, and since there was 6 more miles to Dingle Town I didn't think we'd make it before it got dark.
I convinced Fred to go inside and ask the man behind the counter if there was any place we could stay around Lispole (where we were). Fred came back out with a bottle of water and the message that Dingle Town was the closest place with accommodations. "Did you ask about camping, or bed and breakfasts?" He said he didn't know and I shook my head. It was already 7 and I didn't think we were going to make it to Dingle. I went back into the shop myself to ask the man specifically about camping. I was a little embarrassed because by this time we'd been hanging around in his parking lot, petting that nasty-pus-ridden-flea-bag cat for like 15 minutes. "Do you know anywhere we can camp around here? I don't think we can walk all the way to Dingle Town tonight" The man didn't even pause for a second before he said "Sure, camp across the way in my field. There are no animals in there and the electric fence is off". Of course, it took a few iterations to get the message across--so thick was his accent, or my brain.
Awesome! Our first experience with Irish hospitality. It was easy. The man showed us his field and we set up our tents in a flat spot behind a nice church.
We had a quick dinner. Though we were tired we walked a mile down the road to the nearest pub. The man behind the counter was probably about 80 and by the looks of the decor, was named Tom and had been running the place since the 40s, or whenever he stopped playing rugby on his local team (Go Kerry!). We were the only people in the place. We tried to have a conversation with the old man about the vuvuzelas on the TV (world cup was on) but again, the thick Irish accent was hard for us to get through. The man was really lovely though, and we went and played a game of pool on a tiny pool table (or was it a snooker table?) before we headed back out. By this time it was nearing 9:30 and we toddled back to our tents. It was still light.
Turns out, it never gets dark in Ireland.