The next morning when I awaken, I find myself alone in the hostel. Trav has left to take care of the airfield for the day, as he said he would. I've got until the afternoon before I need to be at the ferry, but I've had a relaxing sleep, so there's precious little time to do what I'd like to do:
Climb Holyhead Mountain
I pack hurriedly, munch on a banana, and drop into the hostel's office. The workers there don't know the best way to get to the mountain, or even if there's a trail. Though, after some bumbling, they point me to a photocopied map with scant directions which I'd found the night before. Ultimately, they suggest I take the road, though they say this will be a walk of some miles. Comparing them on the map, I figure if I can find the trail, it should save a great deal of time and distance to go overland.
Thus decided, I set out. And, naturally, realize a few minutes later that I've left behind a yoghurt (gasp!) and two oatmeals which I'd planned on eating for breakfast. But now that I've left it's Too Late to go back and get them. They are lost to me.
Out on the road, I can see Holyhead Mountain as a low rise in the distance. It doesn't look too far away. Pulling out my map, I'm told to follow the road towards town until I reach the trail across from the sign for the housing development.
Reaching the sign, I can find no trail in evidence. I pace back and foreth a few times, hoping that it'll show itself. Ultimately, I find something that looks like a trail, and follow it.
The trail begins by passing through a mud puddle the size of a small pond before gravitating to, and meandering along, the winding edge of a pasture. After some curling, I reach a few posts and clamber over a fence using them before continuing up into another pasture. At this point, my map simply, and unhelpfully, tells me to follow the trail through the pasture.
The trail, as though sensing my geographic ignorance, suddenly bifurcates. Unsure of what to do, I choose one, and find that they join together again shortly thereafter. Only to split. I choose again, and they don't rejoin. Instead, the trail splits and splits and splits. And as it splits it seems to grow muddier and muddier and muddier.
Soon, I am choosing trails based not on whether they look like they're going the right way, but on the depth and extent of their mud. Though I'm usually pretty ace at keeping my feet dry, these trails push right to my limits and beyond. Somewhere, between two high pine pushes, moving up a steep, slick section of the trail, my foot slips and plunges up to the top of my shoe into a disgusting gray ooze which could be mud, but which reminds me just as strongly of manure.
It's not a good moment for me.
I yank my foot out of the goo and hobble to the top of the slope whilst simultaneously working through most of my limited vulgarities. At the top, I have an epic view of Holyhead town.
And of Holyhead Mountain, which has seemingly come no closer.
Hopefully, I set off in the direction I think I should go, and end up pushing through some very dense pine bushes and thick grass before pushing out into a pasture filled with horses.
“Do you know the way?”, I ask. The horse gives me a long face and shakes its head. I cautiously skirt around them as they graze, and, finally, spot a gate in the distance. Climbing through, I explode onto a little paved road leaving muddy footprints behind. My map tells me that the trail's somewhere behind or through a house.
Which naturally leads to me rambling through someone's yard in a highly suspicious way. The trail, however, doesn't make an appearance and the house turns out to be unoccupied. Glancing at the sun, I know I don't have too long before I'll be needing to get into town. The mountain is so close now!
But, like other times, this is an adventure that will have to wait. Regretfully, I turn my back on the mountain and begin trudging down the lane into town.
Coming into town, there's not a lot of time left before the ferry departs, but it's time enough to stroll about a bit. Just as I set myself to strolling, a spatter of heavy rain bombards me, and I'm forced to duck into a Spar. Taking a breath, I jump out again and dash down to the ferry dock.
The last time I was on a ferry (not a boat) was in Seattle and, before, in Greece. Both of those times, I'd just walked right onto the ferry without really having to talk to anyone. Not so here, there's a thorough ticket checking, and then metal detectors for me and X-rays for my bag. On board, I head for the front and find myself a chair with a good view.
Holyhead Mountain slides past, and then the lighthouse I'd hoped to go to. I move to the side of the boat so I can watch them fade into the distance. Then its just the us and the sea. At some point during the crossing, I am further from land on a boat than I've ever been before. Most excellent.
And the view coming into Dublin! When I was here in November, I'd seen these cranes and boats in the distance as I wandered the town, and now we are moving among them!
With a shudder, what begins churning in front of the boat as it executes an impossibly tight right-hand turn and pulls into dock.
And this is where they get me. Maybe there's a way to walk out of the shipyard, but, if so, it's not apparent. There are only taxis and buses. And I don't have Euros for either. As I'm explaining this to the bus driver and figuring out what to do, an older gentleman leans forward from the back of the bus, his face a mountain range of wrinkles, and hands me a stub of paper. The bus driver explains, “He's just given you a ticket.”
Which is how I get into Dublin and to Connolly Station. One of the only places open with a reasonable Calories-to-Euro ratio is a McDonald's knock-off (*sigh*). Having bought a meal, I strip off my wet socks, set them atop my backpack to dry, dig out some new ones, and check the internet. Everyone around me seems oddly beautiful, from the cashiers to the diners, and, perhaps understandably, given the socks, uninterested to avoidant.
The train's brightly lit, and I fall into a conversation with a fellow passenger who's studying Irish linguistics and their history. Sadly, I don't now recall very much of what we spoke about, though he does assure me that there's no way I can miss the Cork Station and even looks up on his phone how I can get to the bus station.
He's long since gotten off when the train pulls into Cork a few hours later. I sling my bag on and take off at a run down the street. I've got two minutes to make the connection and fully expect that it isn't possible.
But I'm gonna try!
Huffing, I run up the hill out of the station, around the corner, down the hill to the river, across the bridge, and pound along a couple of blocks to the station. I poke around hopefully, but it's soon clear that the bus truly has left. For the second night in a row, I won't be making it to Kinsale tonight.
Somewhat dejectedly, I walk around downtown Cork looking for WiFi. The streets are very flat and the district seems to be surrounded by rivers. The first McDonald's I come to doesn't have a working system, so they point me in the direction of another on the far side of downtown. I walk over that way, feeling tired because it's now rather late (10PM).
I buy something hideous for the sake of appearance and, sitting in a corner beneath the stairs, find a signal with which I write Tatjana, “I won't be making it to Kinsale tonight.” But she's anticipated this! And she's found someone in Cork with whom I can stay! His name is Manú. She's included his number, so I give him a ring and he tells me, in accented Irish, that of course I am welcome and then he gives me his address.
Leaving the McDonald's I cross downtown Cork again, cross the river, and begin asking people for directions. As usual, there's disagreement with widely-varying ideas about where High Street might be. But, in the end, I find myself walking up a steep hill looking at house numbers. At the top, I haven't seen what I'm looking for and head back down. But, at the bottom, I can't see anything else that could possibly be High Street, so I turn and head back up.
Which is when I see a little gate I'd previously missed stuck between the impassive white walls of a couple of row houses. Going up, I see that the narrow path passage, perhaps a shoulder-width and a half wide goes back to a kind of garden. I press the glowing button of the buzzer and Manú's voice comes over, then there's a vibration and the gate yields to my push.
What I'd taken to be a garden turns out to be a sizeable lawn with a house in it and all manner of plants edible and beautiful. The houses around form the garden's walls, but ultimately seem unobtrusive. It's as though some magic is at work creating this green and pleasant place with a cottage in the middle of Cork City. Manú greets me at the door, accepts my praise for his abode, exchanges pleasantries with me, shows me where I'll be sleeping, and takes me back to the kichen.
“Have bread, if you want! It is fine.” He opens the fridge, “And here is butter!” While he's showing me these things, I look out the kitchen window to see a sea of lights spread below and around the house—it's an excellent view. I can also see the silhouette of bars in the yard and ask Manú about it.
“Ah! They are my chickens!” he says with obvious pride. “I show you them in the morning, but now, I sleep.” I bid him good night, and slice off some bread, taking in the view. Going to put the bread in the toaster, I find that the cooking lever doesn't slide as I expect it to and, looking inside, I see why: it's full of crumbs!
So I give the toaster a few whaps and dump them out. As the toast is cooking, I fill a cup with water, intending to make tea. But the microwave turns out to be a disaster of cooked-on foods and oil on the inside. It's late, and I'm tired, but that doesn't prevent me from going at it with some soap and water. The whole time, I'm thinking, “This is ridiculous!” And yet, there I am.
Finally, satiated with tea and jelly-ladden bread, I repair to the living room couch. When Manú had showed me the living room, I'd been impressed by all of its many Buddhist statues, plants, and ornate lamps. Now, lying there, I have a chance to perform an olfactory inspection: the air is thick with the smell of incense. Not that there's any burning. This is the smell of hundreds of incense sticks which have been burned in the past, and the smell of old incense ashes, and the smell of smiling incense-covered Buddhist statues.
Cracking the door to the patio, I go to sleep.
I'm awakened seemingly mere moments later (though clearly it's morning) by an anguished cry from Manú.