It’s Better Out There

I fell in love with Ireland on the West Coast. My regular visits, before moving, always included the West Coast. Intuition and Dream waken for me in the West. I met Himself (and saw loads of other handsome men – sssshhhh) on the West Coast. It’s no wonder my heart yearns to return to the West every chance I get. So when my little Big hopped over for a visit recently, we loaded up the car and drove West!

First things first, though. I drove. Yes, I DROVE the stick shift with my left hand, on the left side of the road!! I feel like wonder woman, seriously. I’ve driven on the left before but always with an automatic, and since our household owns a little sports car with manual gears and I was gosh-darn-gonna drive for this trip, I had some learning to do. The first time Himself took me out to practice at a roundabout I got nervous and reached with my right hand for invisible gears on the driver’s door! I’m not sure he was totally convinced I could do it, even up to the morning I dropped him at work on my way west. I’m certain he never imagined the driving adventures about to unfold….

Our first stop was Killarney. I love the woods and mountains there. It is stunning countryside, just perfect for outdoor pursuits. We stayed at the Railway Hostel in town, which was right in the town centre: cheap, clean and surprisingly quiet! It was also lovely to hear the church bells from next door. Our first day was an easy stroll around Muckross House gardens, then dinner at the Failte Hotel, where the l.B. had kangaroo. It’s an interesting meat. I found it very light in texture, almost disintegrating in my mouth. It had a rich taste that was in no way gamy, or over harsh. We ended that evening after a pint and a little music, because we had an early day ahead.

Our first full day was a 12 kilometer morning hike around the middle lake. It was absolutely gorgeous! We had good weather with typical 4 seasons in an hour. It was sunny, then rainy, then it hailed, then it was sunny. My Patagonia rain jacket and pants have been a life saver more than once in my years of wandering and this day was no exception. We even had to eat our snack of cheese and bread holding our umbrella with our heads so our food was dry and our hands free! We saw Torc Falls via the scenic route, and passed through ancient Oak and Yew forests. We also encountered the Three Billy Goats Gruff, though we couldn’t remember what the troll had demanded of them and were afraid we might be eaten shortly. The bird song was sweet and I was more than a little envious of the locals who have use of this amenity daily! After the hike we fortified ourselves with lunch at the Muckross cafe, where I saw an older woman with the cutest milk-maid braids. I asked for, and was granted, a pic. I suppose this is her customary look as she told me a story of how her little granddaughter asks her Momma to fix her hair like Nanna’s. I want wonderful long silver hair someday. Exhausted, but ready for more adventure, the l.B. wanted to venture toward Kenmare to drive through the tunnel.

You see…our family has a tradition. We once lived in Colorado where Interstate 70 takes you up, over and through the Rocky Mountains. The Eisenhower–Johnson Memorial Tunnel, with it’s 2.73 km borehole into the mountain, was an “Event”. The moment we entered the darkness we began to yell….and yell….and yell…..and quick breath….yell….all the way through to the other side of the mountain! Now, whenever we drive through any tunnel, we yell until we exit. As soon as the l.B. saw a sign for a tunnel it was fated, it seemed we owed it to the rest of the family to drive through. Little did we know….

The road from Killarney to Kenmare is a tiny, teeny, twisty, switchback, blind curve, barely-enough-room-to-pass, road up into a mountain and back down…where HUGE BUSES DRIVE BY!!! There I was, in my second day of driving the stick shift with my left hand without supervision, and up into dangerous territory I was headed with no turn around spots!! I hugged the wheel at 10 & 2, eyes glued, trying to remember to breathe. Deep breath…deep breath….deep breath…. Thank all the gods we made it!! and found the road to the West which would take us back down through the Gap of Dunloe. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (maniacal laughter)

We missed the …. secondary road (?) to the pass and instead hopped on a third class road. In Ireland, a third class road (which is designated by a little yellow line on the OS map) really just means single-lane-dirt-sheep-path-barely-big-enough-for-two-people-walking. I only thought I was nervous on that huge paved road up the other mountain….where there was a good inch of space between me and passing cars. Now there was NO space!! only occasional little dodgy dirt pull-off spots next to ravines! Here we go…up, up, switch-back, blind curve, up, up…when the l.B. says, “good thing we haven’t met any other cars.” Pray you never hear those words. Around the blind curve we meet…a huge car with pink and grey ribbons attached to the bonnet (hood)!! (yes, that means…a Wedding Party) The ENTIRE wedding party…bride, groom, followed by 10 other cars!! I don’t know how I made it, but I did…..and we passed softly into the twilight of the Gap.

But that’s not the end of the story…