Episode 7 - Stranded Amongst Guinness Drinkers

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March 13, 2006

So we are now five days into our Irish road trip, having come up the coast through Counties Kerry, Clare, and Galway. We spent the first night in Ennis, Co. Clare, taking in some great trad music and beer. We left the next morning with the intention of spending the night in Galway, but ended up in tiny Westport on the coast of County Mayo. We have been here now for four days. It is a really beautiful little town, one of the first planned towns in Ireland and, according to Lonely Planet, Co. Mayo’s “tourism honey pot”. But you’d never know it, and therein lies the beauty of traveling during the off season. There are always beds available in the hostels and the pubs are full (really full) of Irish folks, as opposed to tourists like us.

Why have we spent so long here in the honey pot, you ask? Well, we were heading out of town on Saturday morning, having slept Friday night at a great hostel in a converted old mill. We were all bundled in to our little Ford and excited about the prospect of spending the day traveling up the coast toward Sligo. With two chatty Swiss Christians tucked snugly in the back seat (what’s a road trip without Swiss Christians?) and rain pounding hard on the windshield, we almost didn’t notice when our muffler fell off ten miles into the journey. It pretty quickly became horribly and deafeningly apparent, tho, as any of you who have lost a muffler will surely know. So Bobby tied the thing back on using our camera strap and we headed back to Westport. Having just passed several garages, we were optimistic about getting the thing fixed and continuing on. But two garages later, Toby from the back seat started praying out loud. Bobby swears this is true, and although Toby had indeed asked permission to pray, he would have had to have been literally screaming to be heard above the roar coming from under our car. As it turned out, there was simply too much noise for even God to hear Toby’s request for a new muffler that rainy Saturday, and we put those kids on a bus and settled in to our new life in Westport.

We love it here. The hostel is full of whacks of the international variety. There is Juan, a Spanish man with an affected Mick Jagger air and the worst looking black eye I have ever seen; the eyeball itself is swollen and liquidy, and bright red with blood. When I asked him what happened, he said “Animal!” and pantomimed what I interpreted as being run into full force by a rhinoceros. But I also heard a rumor that he was involved in a knife fight in Galway. He’s coming to the pub with us tonight. We spent last night at the pub with Tom, an Italian who only last week decided to spend six months in Ireland and is now working at the hostel; and Brendan, a chubby, middle-aged, red-faced Irishman who speaks fast and drinks even faster. He’s here on holiday from Dublin, taking part in his own private, annual ritual of spending a week here at the hostel and attempting to drink enough Guinness to fill Croagh Patrick, a feat in which I have nothing but confidence.

But Bobby and I, being such productive folks and the total antithesis of Brendan, decided that since we are stuck here we may as well work. There happened to be sign posted in the hostel that a man named Ed was looking for someone to split firewood and plant trees. Who better for this job than us? That’s what we thought this morning. Now we are hobbling painfully around the hostel, having spent the better part of the day splitting wood into tooth-pick sized morsels (per Ed’s orders) and naturally in the pouring rain. On the bright side, Ed and his wife Eriko are two of the most wonderful people I have ever met—organic farmers, musicians, teachers and true kindred spirits; our paths will surely cross again. And tonight Bobby and I feel that we have no choice but to nurse our wounds with (what else?) a pint or two. Anyway, we’ve got to find out the truth about the rhinoceros.