Friday, December 9, 2016

Thus Far: Hitchhiking Part I

Original date 5/31/12

Thus far I have discovered; hiking over mountains is hard, meeting new friends is easy, and Ireland is magical. Thus, my journey continues. By now I have finished my adventure along Kerry Way having covered over 80 miles of the 120 originally planned. I have written about the difficulties of hiking across the “bog,” about the people I have met along the way, and about the amazing beauty of this place. Over the past week I have experienced an array of wondrous things. I met characters from across the globe, hitchhiked, camped, and laughed my way across County Kerry all the way back to where this particular journey began, my new favorite town in Ireland, Kilarney.

I found that I was not the only hiker who eventually became overwhelmed from the tough and grueling trail known as Kerry Way. Almost every person I met who was attempting to hike the “Way” hitchhiked for a least a part of their journey. It made me feel pretty good that I was not the only person to fall victim to the trail; with an assortment of sore shoulders, spent legs, knees that no longer wanted to work, and a lack of willingness to put myself through another day scrambling over some mountaintop somewhere, we all eventually felt the need for a reprive. I don’t remember what day I left, as the hours and days seem to be running together for me now, but at some point I departed Carsiveen on foot heading for the edge of town hopeful that I would be fortunate in my pursuit of a ride to Caherdaniel. It was there I was going to camp for a few days and hike out along the “Way” to the Strand (aka Beach) at Darrynane.
It was a tough crowd that morning and I began to wonder if hitchhiking was a complete and utter waste of time. However, I finally got a ride from an Irishman named Danny (go figure) who was on his way to work in Port Magee. Danny was eating a sandwich as he pulled over. He ushered me into the passenger seat with a randy smile and I spent the next ten minutes feeling the need to wipe the dollop of mayonnaise off, which rested on the left side of his face the entire time we spoke. Although he wasn't going far at least it was a start. He dropped me of at the turn to the port where he worked, smiled, waved goodbye, and wished me a safe journey. I can only assume that the mayonnaise has since been removed. At least one can hope. T
That was the beginning of my hitchhiking experience which continued with some fairly good results, As I stood in the road waiting for my next lucky break, I was blessed with a spectacular view and again a rare glimpse of Irish sunshine. Kay was the next person to pick me up. After what I can only describe as a hair-raising lift around the cliffs of County Kerry, she delivered me unscathed, but weak in the knees, right down into the center of town in Caherdaniel. I then made my way along the road side to the campground where I stayed for two days until the midges drove me back to the confines of a hostel (more on them later). To get to my next destination, I stood in front of the campground with a sign that simply read “Sneem."  Tt wasn't long before I was motioned over into a van by two Germans who happened to be heading in my direction. Now, I have spoken about going with ones gut on more than one occasion…I really need to start listening to my own advice. My traveling companions were heading into Kilarney which would be my ultimate destination. However, I really wanted to go to Sneem and Kenmare to hike part of the “Way” and discover the beauty of those towns. Insticnt told me to stay in the van and just go to Killarney, instead, I forged ahead, I got out at Sneem, waved goodbye to my travel companions, only to discover, there was no hostel. Okay…forward march. My thumb was already warmed up, so flexing it like a fighter about to do battle, I forged ahead yet again. Off I eventually went with Ian, a lumber jack who waxed poetic about the beauty of the earth, soul searching and sustainability; my kinda guy. Ian dropped me off in Kenmare where I was assured there would be ample accommodations. Ummm…yeah, no go. Kenmare was beautiful, but the one and only hostel was dinky and overpriced. So being the hard headed person that I am, I briefly looked around town and then decided to hitchhike, right then there, back to Killarney. In this I learned a life lesson; when hitchhiking to a specific town, it always helps to be on the correct road. I stood on the wrong road for about three hours trying to get out of that god-forsaken town (my pet name for Kenmare). Finally, a nice woman who lived there told me I would have more luck if I stood on the main road into Killarney, not the scenic route that only the tourist took. Duh. She was kind enough to give me a lift to the right road where within a matter of minutes I was tucked into a small beat up ole car with Michael and his daughter who were seemingly headed in the correct direction. Michael, I found out after the fact, wasn't actually going to Killarney, he was going to Cork. I was somewhat shocked when he dropped me off at a T-junction in the middle of freakin’ nowhere Ireland, I was like "wholly shit batman you…are screwed." The sign indicated that I was 20 miles outside of Killarney and the day was drawing to a close. I just stood there with my sign which read, well, "Killarney" looking like what I can only assume was either pathetic or terrified. Luckily, it took even less time than the last to get a ride. Within the first three cars turning for town a nice family, who obviously saw the look on my face, picked me up and took me all the way to the hostel. Whew. Hitchhiking was almost as crazy as hiking over a mountain alone and every bit as challenging. I want to thank all the folks who made that part of my adventure, although often hair-raising, a safe and memorable experience. And to the Germans who made it to Killarney hours before I did, next time…I’m stickin’ with you.

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