Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hiking and Hitchhiking

"Do Not Climb on Wet or Foggy Days" yeah...but this is Ireland
Before leaving Ireland I figured it would be fun to go on a hike.
Croagh Patrick is a mountain not far from Galway that (mildly-crazy-)people climb barefoot as a pilgrimage. We attempted to wait for a day with nice weather so we could enjoy the view from the top and all, but those are hit-and-miss-to-the-extreme in Ireland so we settled for what Braveheart called "nice scottish weather, the rain is falling straight down". There were plenty of Irish folk who felt the need to inform us that we had crappy weather for a hike though. As if the rain and fog hadn't clued in the silly American girls that this was not an ideal day.
He wrote on the back "They put the origin in the wrong way round"
But it basically meant, "My word these girls are silly"  
This is not entirely their fault though, because we were giving off the ditsy-american-girls-who-are-rather-bumbering-vibe pretty strongly at this point in the trip. After months of living and traveling in Ireland, we booked our Bus Eireann tickets backwards. Instead of going from Galway to Westport and back to Galway where we live. We booked three tickets from Westport (where we weren't) to Galway and back to Westport (where we don't live and didn't want to send the night). Our bus driver was amazingly helpful the way strangers in Ireland tend to be and he called his boss and got our ticket sorted for us.
All the photos I took were white fog across the top half
But there is in fact a mountain hiding behind there

His impression of us as a-wee-bit-blumbering did not end with our little ticket mix up though. My competent-traveling-pride would like to chime in here and blame both of these mistakes on the not-overly-helpful-Bus-Eireann-website. The site made it look like Westport is the last stop on the route and we trusted it. This misplaced trust resulted in all three of us sleeping through the stop in Westport and waking up in time for Castlebar. My competent-traveling-pride would also like you to know that most bus stops in Ireland are in front of random pubs and shops with no actual signage to give one any clue about where you are stopped besides "Monroe's" or "Sally's" or the like.
The beginning of the path up Croagh Patrick looks like Middle Earth
All it was missing was hobbits and some great looking elves and rangers
Regardless, we had to go up to Mr. Very-nice-Irish-bus-driver and point out that we missed our stop. He checked out the bus schedules and tried impressively hard to help us out, but as far as bus were concerned we were stuck in the lovely town of Castlebar until at least 1:30. So we all chipped in a got a taxi, which cost more than we wanted to spend, but actually only ten euro each and she took us all the way to Croagh Patrick so that was grand. The taxi driver said she had hiked Croagh Patrick once and we asked if it was fun. "No." Apparently she went on a really hot summer day, so at least we were safe from that problem. She also pointed out that we had awful weather, when we rounded a corner where we should have been able to see the mountain, but instead there was more fog and clouds.
Brilliant camera skills capturing Star actually managing to not fall over
We started hiking up and enjoying the beautiful-Middle-Earth-style-scenery while attempting to keep our feet relatively dry. And at the same time multitasking to attempt to stay upright and not fall over either. As we walked we realized that we didn't do the whole list of things you do when hiking such as: tell someone somewhere in the entire world where you are going or when you should be back for instance. For the majority of the time we were also the only hiker in sight. This was particularly evident when we reached the fog. The clouds were so thick we could see white, white, and a bit more white in the direction of the water. So we paused for a bit to consider our options.
Look at the pretty little wait ... that's our path... oh dear
Looking a little less like Middle Earth and a little
more like Mount Doom 

 The path was slick and slippery as all get out from the rain and lose stones which seemed to be putting our knees and ankles in increased danger as we went on to the steeper part of the path. Plus the fog was showing no signs of lightening or lifting so our view from the top would be no different from the view of whiteness on the way up. We debated with ourselves for a bit then decided the wise mature thing would be to head back down and not risk getting hurt to see more fog form the top instead of the middle of the mountain. Star and I also had Mss Posie in our brains telling us not to be lame-brains and to not let our pride get us hurt before this summer. (I'm sure my mother wouldn't approve of me falling to my death or hopping down the path with a swollen ankle either).  So we turned back and headed down the path from about half way up where the fog got really thick and the path started looking more and more like Mount Doom -- or a less snowy and more rainy version of the Misty Mountains. Neither of those ended up being very fun hikes for the characters so we took heed. And even with the mature-decision-making and heading down early, we had a ton of fun on our little hike.
The "As you wish" side of the path which we tried to avoid falling down
And the significant wall of fog we were walking into
Yup, we're American tourists and sheep are still exciting
None of us had more cash on us for a taxi back to city centre of Westprt from Croagh Patrick so we started walking since it was less than 10 kms anyway. And kms are ... you know... less than miles... I should be better at certain conversions after months living over here huh? As we walked along we decided that since my housemate who is from right near Westport used to hitchhike to work all the time in high school and since the taxi driver had assumed we were hitchhiking from town to the mountain, it can't be nearly as dangerous over there as it is at home. Plus you'll remember that we used up our wise-mature-decision-making earlier when we were half way up the mountain.
Mr. Not-sketchy-with-a-mohawk-guy's car
It took a few tries to overcome 20+ years of terrible-things-happen-to-those-who-hitchhike, but after a while we all stuck out our thumbs for the passing cars. After all how many mature choices can you be expected to make in one day? A few cars passed us but waved, then one pulled over to pick us up. Our faces could not have been more shocked. The very-nice-and-honestly-not-at-all-sketchy-guy that picked us up drove us the last few kms into town and dropped us at the bus stop. He told us about hitchhiking with his brother around Europe after school so he always feels bad for hitchhikers now. Especially thumbing it in the rain.
Giddy after hitchhiking and not dying 
The dry socks were the best purchase ever made
We wandered around Westport for a bit before our bus came. Getting Irish Coffees to warm up. And reveling in the wonderfulness of dry socks from the 2 euro store. All in all it was an excellent and exciting adventure.  Hitchhiking can now be checked off the bucket list and we didn't even get ax-murdered in the process. Although next time I find myself on the emerald isle, I will need to hike all the way to the top of Croagh Patrick on a slightly less rainy and foggy day so I can see more of the view.  Not barefoot though, cause that still seems like an unwise way to hike, even as a pilgrim, and I'm clearly all about the wise decisions.


  1. quite right about your mom, there.

    reminds me a lot of what Anne of Green Gables would do, too.

  2. Anne is one of the best role models a girl can have :) I would plan on sleeping in a flowering cherry tree if I ever had the chance