[The title of today’s post is in reference to dad’s trip to China, and when bartering with the vendors, you say Teg Wei when the asking price is too much.]
I set my alarm for 7:00AM this morning, and was out of bed at 7:03. We had to pack out in the hall because the six other people in our room were still sleeping. After this, we had breakfast and checked out.
I used every bungee cord and rope we had on the packs this time. We covered our packs with waterproof covers because it was already sprinkling. We had looked at googlemaps the night before to get the directions to leave town by. We had to choose the walking route because bikes are not allowed on the motorway. From Dublin to Galway, there are a total of 86 directions. We decided to try to remember 4 or 5 of these at a time so we wouldn’t have to keep stopping after each one to get them out. Needless to say, we missed our first turn.
Now, I want to set this straight before you get the impression that we’re a couple of morons. In Ireland, if there is a street sign, which there hardly is, it is posted on the side of a building facing the opposite direction it should be. Not to mention, it’s in Gaelic half the time. So, we miss the first turn, but decide it’s okay because I remember from the map that we need to stay North of the river leaving town. We followed the river through various little villages and countrysides. After an hour and a half, we figured it was time we ask for directions.
First, Britt tried a lady that works in a petshop in Lucan. Apparently, she lived in that shop and never left because she couldn’t even tell us the direction we were going. Finally, we found out by the Grace of God we were going the right way. However, our google directions were garbage. We bought a map of Ireland that turned out to be very helpful. We navigated our way through 64.915 km of dangerous and dreary Irish landscape when we decided it was time for lunch.
We chose the town of Enfield to stop at a corner cafe. We sat outside because the sun was out and we needed to keep an eye on our gear. An old farmer struck up a conversation with us by commenting on the day. He heard my response and asked if I was German. I didn’t think I sounded German, but I politely replied that we’re American. He talked about his free-range pigs, and said he didn’t know where North Carolina was. He asked if any of our family was Irish. I said my grandma’s name was Irish, but I didn’t have a clue where she was from. I liked listening to him talk. He had a simple way of reasoning and discussing things, and anyone that would have a conversation with a stranger has to be okay. He said over and over that Britt and I were “very united.”
Sitting at lunch, Britt and I discussed our first day on the road. Both of us commented on various body parts that were hurting. The navigation was challenging, but a lot of fun. Then we got to the part where we were both quiet, but we were thinking the same thing. The cafe was right next to a bus stop, and every bus we saw was heading for Galway. And then I let the truth loose.
When we started planning the trip, it was Brittany’s idea to do it by bike. I liked the idea because it sounded unique and cheaper, but neither of us knew anything about biking. Summer came around and we were gearing up our bikes to hold loads and changing tires to fit long distance travel. Our wallets and heads were in it, but our hearts weren’t. The most we rode in a day this summer was 25 km. Partly because of the heat, but mostly because of the lack of motivation to improve ourselves at this. Long story short, we asked the first bus how much it would be for two students and two bikes to Galway. €11 a piece and just €5 more for the bikes. Yes please.
Two hours later, we were in Galway looking for a place to stay. The first few places were full for the weekend. One wiseguy behind the counter was asking €40 for the pair of us, or €30 if we sleep in the same twin sized bed. We checked out some of Britt’s research pages to look for the locations of other hostels. After sweeping the city looking for the Galway Hostel, we were about to give up, when I looked down an alley right next to us. “Oh. Here it is.”
It turned out to be the cheapest and had free internet and breakfast. We asked the guy at the counter where to eat dinner and have a pint. He suggested to eat at Kettle of Fish then to The Crane for live Irish music. The restaurant was in the pedestrian section of the city. That area was by far my favorite. With all the restaurants and pubs and little shops, it felt kind of like Christmas. We shared a plate of Hake, which is like a local cod, and some chips. I noticed their Heinz ketchup here is much sweeter than in the states. I like it a lot more.
After dinner, we found our way to the pub per the directions of our friend at the hostel. It was a dark, dimly lit, old building with low tables and even lower stools. On the walls were old pictures of musicians sitting in those same stools. We started with a couple of Carlsbergs and listened to the chatter of the old locals sitting around their pints of Guinness.
Towards the end of our first one, we were wondering when the music would start. One by one people started grabbing their glasses and milling off to a backroom. Taking our queue, we followed them upstairs to another barroom to find a quartet of haggard looking people sitting around a table on a raised platform, each holding a different instrument. I got us each a Guinness, then got a table right in front of the stage, immediately behind the fiddler. After tuning for a couple of minutes, the banjo player started strumming some chords, and the rest joined in. In perfect harmony.
Then, he began to sing a ballad about a soldier in a war writing a letter to Syracuse that’s filled with lies so that his lover wouldn’t know the truth about how bad the war really was, and how blood-stained the land is. We sat there in silence taking in those melodies, and every once in a while, a newcomer would pull up their chair, get out their instrument, and join in. By the time we left, there were nine different musicians on the stage of all ages. From the old bald man on the accordion that would play his own songs whenever there was a lull, to the young Irish girl with the fiddle that played songs that none of them knew nor keep up with.
Walking back downstairs, we decided to make an adventure out of getting back to the hostel. No maps no directions. Just go which way feels natural. We made it back without one wrong turn. Maybe I just need a few pints before I start navigating from now on. We got back into our room and jumped in our beds. Most of our other twelve bunkmates were already asleep and sawing logs.