Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ireland Day Two: The Irish are Feckin’ Insane

When other people … sane people … suggest walking up a hill and down the other side, what they mean is: there’s a hill, you’ll follow along about a couple dozen switchbacks as you make your way up the hill, then you’ll walk down switchbacks on the other side. Here’s what the Irish mean by walking up a hill: One hour, directly up the side of the hill. Seriously, the path (such as it was) went straight up, until it disappeared in the mist. (Then about a half hour, directly down the other side.)

(You’re not getting pictures. Well, you’re not getting pictures now because I’m writing in a hotel without internet access and will have to post later. You’re not getting pictures later because I didn’t take any pictures at the bottom of the hill (for roughly the same reason that I never took any pictures of my cat when I first got her – was unsure I’d be there for the “after” to go with the “before”) and, by the time I got to the top of the hill, the mist blocked the view of the way back down).

I’m getting ahead of myself. We woke, had breakfast – eggs with smoked salmon and many carbs on the side. (By the way, I haven’t actually been keeping score, but I’m pretty sure this is the third of at least five meals in a row where salmon was an option.) Then, piled into the vehicle – a modified Land Rover capable of holding 13 passengers and a driver – no, no, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Before we piled in said vehicle, we posed for a group photo – the nice people at the B&B must have snapped it with 8 different cameras before we were all satisfied.

It was … and still considers to be … interesting to me (from a sort of sociological point of view) how the 12 of us (we have one empty seat on this trip) have sort of become a cohesive group after about a day and a half of bouncing along in the aforementioned Land Rover together. (And I’m not just saying that because ROB RANKIN of VAGABOND TOURS apparently has his company name on Google Alerts, and therefore discovered that I’m blogging the trip.) It took a bit of effort to get everyone’s name and country of origin down (4 Aussies, 7 Americans, and one German guy who apparently thought he was signing up for a German-language tour, but understands enough English and has a good enough spirit to give it a go anyway). But we’ve now shared a few meals, Rob’s off-color (but good) jokes, a drink or two, some changing-room nudity, and a reasonable amount of Irish scenery, so we’re getting on pretty well.

So, to review: Eggs and salmon; group photo; pile in Land Rover; quick stop for a short walk (to a nice photo-spot) 

and a lousy cup of coffee and/or tea (the fact that I spilled some of mine on my shirt didn’t entirely matter, as my shirt was tea-colored and my tea was tasteless) and then …


(Hence the changing-room nudity.)
Am still not sure why I find kayaking to be a relaxing vacation activity, but I really do. And this time: seals! (Not sure if we’ve got photos of seals. There are definitely photographs of me kayaking, which I'll get later from the woman with the waterproof camera.) But it was awfully fun paddling out – and the weather really cooperated for this one, as sitting in a wetsuit on a sit-on-top kayak can be quite unpleasant if it doesn’t – and pointing out the cute widdle seals to each other.

Stopped for lunch and then off to the aforementioned hike up and over a mountain. Sorry, according to Rob, it was a “walk up and over a hill.” He left us with a map, first-aid kit, and his cell-phone number, and set off (drove the vehicle around the other side, and took the non-hikers to a Buddhist Temple – I’m told they prayed for us.)

During our hike upward, I reconsidered the title to that movie, “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain.” Because, here’s the thing, nobody goes up a hill and comes down a mountain. You go up a mountain and down a hill. Trust me on this. Along with this epiphany, I did many other things while attempting to focus my attention on more exciting things than how much further we had to go, and looking down to avoid stepping in all the sheep poop. 

We further bonded with each other along the way. (A voice behind me: “Just remember; as long as you can still talk, you’re okay.” Me: :::grunt::: ) We also considered what I’d blog tonight, seeing as Rob had commented that he’d read my journal, and joked that I’d said something about his ass. (Alternate title for today’s post: “Rob Rankin is a big, fat liar, but he does have a nice ass.”)

Things got much better once we reached the flat at the top of the hill and my heart rate returned to normal. (There will be photos of sheep.) 

And the view as we first saw the other side really was quite impressive. (More photos.) 

Besides, certain promises had been made about ice cream on the way to our next stop.

And that’s largely it. A bit more scenic driving; the occasional photo-stop 

(everyone admired it)

(one including “a five-minute walk over the top of the next hill” – none of us were ready to believe Rob on that one, but he spoke the truth);

ice cream promises fulfilled; and arrival in our next overnight city: Kenmare. Dinner was on our own, but Rob reserved us a coupla tables in the pub in/under the hotel where we’re staying, as the “live Irish music” tonight was played by one Michael O’Brien who, according to Rob, “is the only man in the world who makes the accordian sexy.”

(And wouldn’t it be delightful if Mr. O’Brien has himself on Google Alerts? That’s Rob Rankin of Vagabond Tours.)

But, 9 of the 12 of us decided that, on this recommendation, this was something to see. (And at least 3 agreed with the assessment, and at least 2 others bought his CD.) The key here is that it didn’t sound like an accordian – imagine a traditional Irish reel played by a violin and guitar, only the violin happens to have buttons and a squeeze box instead of, y’know, strings. Dude is actually playing the fiddle part on an accordian. Crazy strange? You bet. Crazy good? Actually, yes.

And now: to bed. We have a late start tomorrow, to allow us to either: (a) take an early walk around Kenmare; or (b) sleep in. Any guesses on which one I’ll take?

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