We’ve come to dread our “travel days.” Somehow during our planning we concocted this romantic idea that riding the rails through the countryside and laying back on an express coach peering out the window at quaint communities is how one travels through Europe. It can’t be so bad, we would say to each other.
This very well may be the case for many. But for Brit and I, travel days are our most trying. We’ve somehow managed to mix the romantic elements of relaxation, reflection and beauty with anxiety, frustration and muscling our heavy packs. Almost none of our travel plans have been flawless, often missing connecting trains or buses due to late arrivals or incorrect bookings.
In my brightest travel booking yet, I reserved train tickets for a 1:40 departure. The decision was easy, really. It was half the price and half the travel time than the other options, a no-brainer, if you will. I even bragged a bit about how savvy I had become to Brit. Well, shortly after it was bought and paid for, I came to the horrific realization that UK train schedules operate on a 24 hour clock. I had booked a train for 1:40AM. Brilliant, as the English may remark.
Well, today’s travel plan was no exception from the rule. Bus from Dublin to Cork, followed by a connecting bus from Cork to Leap. Leap is where Ann, our first host, agreed to pick us up to take us the final 4 miles to Union Hall. Now, how could that possibly go wrong? It’s just two buses…
In an unusual turn of events, Brit and I managed to arrive to the Dublin bus station with 25 minutes to spare. That was enough time to actually have a proper meal before our departure at noon. After quick food and coffee we managed to cram it down just in time to get in line. The line grew and grew as our departure time neared. Anxiety slowly building. Why the anxiety? For me, when traveling in an unfamiliar place, there’s always a small bit of doubt sitting in the back of my mind that we are in the complete wrong place to catch our bus, train or plane. There’s never any actual peace until seated.
I knew it was important our bus left Dublin on time, we had only a 45 minute buffer between our connecting bus leaving out of Cork. Without a way to update Ann if something went awry in our travel plans, there’s the possibility she may not know to wait for us in Leap. Images of Brit and I standing by ourselves on a street corner in a small Irish village under a lone streetlight began to creep through my mind…and the anxiety builds.
Our bus finally arrived, we hurriedly boarded the bus, battling the rain as we heave our packs underneath to began our journey to Cork. The ride was pleasant and we finally got our first taste of the traditional Irish accent that had somehow eluded us in Dublin. Our driver yelled each stop along the route until finally we heard, “Calk!”
Unfortunately, we had arrived over an hour late to Cork, causing us to miss our connection and giving us another hour to wait until service 237 to Leap was scheduled to depart. If that wasn’t enough, service 237 to Leap was an additional 45 minutes late, throwing us way off schedule and resulting in several concerned glances between Brit and I.
Below is a short clip from our 4 hour bus ride through Irish countryside. I promise these video clips will get better as time goes on – not bad for iMovie on iPhone, right?
Luckily enough, a friendly traveler who had been on our first bus from Dublin offered the use of his cell phone so we could call Ann to bring her up to date. We were able to easily resolve our rendezvous in Leap and the logistical anxiety subsided.
The bus stop for Leap is very easy to miss. In fact, during our email correspondence about meeting in Leap, Ann mentioned more than once to remind our driver to call it out as we arrived. She has since shared some funny stories about chasing down other wwoofers who failed to get off in Leap. In one such case she described speeding after service 237 in her sedan, getting in front of the bus and signaling with her hazard lights for it to stop. Then, boarding the bus to search the aisles and rescue her guest.
Now safely off the bus and loaded in Ann’s sedan, we began the short trip to her home in Union Hall. Night had fallen and soon all which was visible was only what the high-beams could hit. The road began to wind and narrow, bright green foliage walls rising on either side, now taller than the car. The road was weathered, littered with pot holes, some patched, some not. The uneven ride added to the mystery as we swept through turns so tight the encroaching brush would whip the car as we flew by. Even the drive to her home had become an adventure.
We arrived to her home around 9pm in complete darkness. The only light that shown was that of the kitchen, hidden behind a drawn-shade over the window.
“You may be inundated by three dogs,” said Ann as she stepped out of the car. She was right. Exiting the car, the barks of her dogs broke the silence, jumping up, ready to meet their new guests. We walked inside, set down our bags and took off our boots. As soon as we entered the door, you could feel the warmth and the smell of something rich and cheesy. In the oven was a large tray of lasagna, waiting to be devoured. The food was served; we had arrived.
The travel day which had seen the usual complications had reached its end.
Our real adventure was about to begin.
The darkness outside was impermeable. I had lost my sense of direction after the drive down the winding road, but I knew she lived near the sea. You could hear it behind the gusts of wind that whistled through the window frames. We peppered Ann with questions at dinner, asking about all sorts of things. We asked about her interests, her land, her animals and even what she had in-store for us.
Going to bed that night felt a bit like Christmas Eve, the great excitement and anticipation for what was to come the next morning. She showed us to our room, down a long hallway away from the kitchen. Her home is beautiful, seemingly unaffected by the blustery weather which seems relentless outside.
We awoke the next morning to something spectacular.
I’m not sure what I was looking for when I came to Ireland, but I’m pretty sure Brit and I have found it.
Blondie and the Beard