I may have previously elaborated on the occasion in which my Dublin friends and I spent a holiday weekend exploring the Ring of Kerry, on the west side of Ireland. I also may have mentioned one Sive Hostel at which I had the good fortune of meeting the LeBayon family as well as two hikers, Paul and Melissa. Both parties were to play valuable roles in the progress of my journey (I have already elaborated on the generous services rendered by the LeBayon family); this account begins with the aid of Melissa, a fellow American and San Francisco Bay Area resident.
I had boarded the bus in Waterford on a Monday morning after Lorcan dropped me off at the station. Little did I know that some buses service every little town and village between here and there, while others are more direct. I unwittingly selected the bus that provided me with an exciting and exotic six hour journey with a live demonstration of the snoring capabilities of overly-large passengers, while a broken overhead vent worked its hardest to simulate Arctic conditions in and around the little personal space I had. Fortunately I have been well trained in cold-weather survival and was able to engineer a vent plug with nothing more than a dirty napkin that had been fermenting in my jeans pocket since the plane flight to Dublin.
It is said that men are poor communicators. I have proven this statement to be true beyond a doubt. During my imprisonment at the Byrne stronghold, in my few lucid moments when they granted me Internet access to inform my parents I was safe and healthy, I had managed to send off one email to Melissa. For those of you who don’t remember, this individual was a temporary resident of Galway, studying at the university there. Upon meeting her at the hostel during our holiday drive I was extended an invitation to sleep on the couch or floor of her apartment, should I come through Galway. To my credit I attempted to send two emails to this willing host, though for some reason unknown to me (the Internet or the Universe was acting against me) the second email did not go through, and I was none the wiser. It was during the Trail of Tears bus ride toward Galway that I finally decided it would be a good idea to attempt communication again. And then I saw it: a little red “draft” marker next to the supposedly sent email. Ah, so that’s why I never heard back from her! I wasn’t due in Galway until evening, perhaps I could contact her by then. To my good fortune the ever deserving Melissa was Internet active and received my message, and I was not left out in the cold. A big thanks to her for waiting an hour at a cafe for me to show up (remember, I hadn’t realized I boarded the stupidly slow bus; I had informed her incorrectly that I would “be there soon”).
Over the course of the next couple days I explored lovely Galway, a beautiful medieval town with a lively city centre and many fun shops to visit. Melissa introduced me to her boyfriend and many of her archery friends, all friendly people I wish I could spend more time with. We had some good craic at the bowling alley one evening and stayed up late into the night having conversations about music, architecture, science, and dumb stuff. I say “we;” I took part in the conversations about the dumb stuff and listened in on the rest.
Through the wonderful tool of CouchSurfing I had organized time to stay with another host in Galway, though this person was not available until Wednesday (hence the invaluable invitation from Melissa to stay Monday and Tuesday nights). So it was on Wednesday eve I found myself on the street again, searching for a face I had only seen in tiny photographs on a computer screen. I knew this person was 1) female; 2) had long hair (assuming she hadn’t cut it); and 3) would be looking for a dumbfounded American with a big bag on his shoulders.
“Hi, I’m Sarah!”
“I’m Bryson! Nice to meet you.”
“I have another guy coming, last-minute. But I think his phone is dead, I hope he got my message about where to meet.”
Looking out the car window, I saw… a dumbfounded American with a big bag on his shoulders.
I proudly informed Sarah that I had a knack for spotting these kinds of people, and elaborated on the importance of blending in with society so as not to look like a tourist. She rolled her eyes and glanced back at my oversized backpack sitting in her back seat. I think I had impressed her.
“Are you Brian?”
“I’m Sarah. Hop in!”
The next couple days with Brian and Sarah were, in a word, exciting. The day after we had arrived Brian and I took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, which included lots of stops at iconic and beautiful locations along the way. We travelled through the Burren, a strange “karst” landscape of limestone that has split into slabs, creating a puzzle-like surface which is great fun to walk on. The Cliffs themselves were quite spectacular. Rising nearly 400 feet above the sea, they are a sight to behold. Brian and I had loads of fun walking along the cliffs. The wind was blowing so incredibly hard. Truly, I have never witnessed winds that strong before. There were three separate occasions during our walk in which I put one foot forward, and absolutely could not move for the force of the wind pushing back at me. It’s a strange feeling, and now I feel sorry for all those Americans who have had to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes (we don’t really get that in sunny California). A lunch of seafood chowder in a nearby village was the reward for surviving the gale-force winds, and back to Galway we went.
Brian is a whiskey enthusiast. Living in Florida, he works for an airline and gets free standby flights. He had come over to Ireland for a few short days just because he could, and had succeeded in procuring copious amounts of sampler bottles of many different whiskeys upon his arrival at the airport. Unfortunately for him he would have a difficult time transporting all this lovely liquid home, so he commissioned Sarah and me to aid him in properly disposing of it. The night became known as the Whiskey Night. For every half shot I sipped down, Brian had two, with the end result being quite predictable. A good night was had by all, though Brian wasn’t too keen on getting out of bed the next day. He and I are now officially bros, and I have been assured that, should I ever wish to visit Florida, I have a place to stay. Plus he can get me flights to Key West. Awesome.
Brian eventually had to leave us, but I had a couple more days in lovely Galway. Some long walks, some lazing around, some playing with the dog and cat and lots of tea drinking became the rule. I had purchased a ferry ticket going from Dublin to the Isle of Man, scheduled to depart on the morning of the 28th; I had sealed my fate and was forced to leave Galway. Ah, but my Dublin friends are in Dublin! A two-and-a-half hour bus ride landed me in the capital city that I had arrived in four weeks earlier, and my homing instinct took me right back to the flat of Guillaume and Mélissa & Co. I was welcomed with open arms and a pasta dinner, and a few of the guys we had taken our holiday drive with came over to see me once more. It was refreshing to see my friends once more, for the last time I saw them they were driving away after abandoning me (okay, I abandoned them) in Castleisland. We had a great evening of relaxed visiting, and the next morning I was up early to head off. A five mile walk to the ferry was in order, and by the time I arrived I was sweaty and sore, and it was only 9:30 in the morning. Ah, it was going to be a long day. I had been in Ireland for 28 full days, and on day 29 I watched from the back of the ferry as the Emerald Isle faded from view. In three hours’ time I was to be disembarking onto the Isle of Man, home of the legendary Tourist Trophy races.
And the adventure continues…