Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Good Friday It Is!

Decided that I wanted a reckless, unplanned holiday over the Easter weekend, so I packed my bag with only a toothbrush, a set of clothes, and took off on my bicycle.

Given that I had a 4-day weekend, I had this 'delusion of grandeur' that I'll try to cycle to Waterford and back, which when I recounted my little adventure to my friends later, they all had thought that I was a little 'ambitious'. I'm sure they were just be polite with me not to point out that I was deranged to try to cycle 320km to and back. :)

Without even a map or any plans on how I'm supposed to get there, I cycled aimlessly south, passing through Shankill, Bray then Greystones. I had never been in those places before, and each of them were a lovely little towns of their own, with Bray the biggest, Shankill the smallest, and Greystones just nice. In a way this Goldilocks (yours truly) is certainly tempting fate without even planning for where he's going - it is really not funny trying to tough it out on the streets; there's still plenty of cold in mid-April to try to sleep on the streets when you're in Ireland!

Stopped in each town for a while, and had plenty of soft-serve vanilla ice-cream cones along the way, which was when I noticed this Irish anomaly on their menus called the 'Special 99'. Even after later when I try to figure out they story behind the name by asking my Irish colleagues, nobody seems to know why having a stick of chocolate in the ice-cream makes it a 'Special 99'. Very well then, I'm just going to have to make up my own story, and bluff anybody who asks that an Irishman invented this in '99, which took the whole country by storm which is how the name came about. So take note that you've heard it here first!

Along the way, I met a couple of French backpackers whom I started chatting up with. They were asking for directions and I found out that they are travelling to Glendalough (pronounced 'Glen-da-lock'), where the main attraction there is some old ruins. They were lost, but they had a plan where I had none, so I thought I could give them a hand by trying to look up the place they are going on my Blackberry-cum-GPS, which only gave me a rough idea of where we were, and had no relevance to any of the landmarks that they have shown me on their map. ( A mental note to self: don't ever rely on the Blackberry's GPS to find your way out of the woods if your life depended on it! )

Anyhow, given that I didn't have a plan, and they were quite adamant to go there, I thought they must be on to something, so I decided to abandon my original plan to Waterford via zipping along the coastal fringe, and follow them inland instead.

With hindsight, this had probably turned out to be a pretty good choice.

Given that they were travelling by foot, and didn't have too much luck with hitch-hiking, we decided to camp out in someone's paddock:

Obviously it was a little illegal, given that we're trespassing, but certainly the tripedation made it a little bit more exciting. Claire set up the tent while Alexandre and I started to look around for some wood to start a little campfire of our own. (When I recounted the story to an older guy later, he was curious where I got my firewood from - unbeknown my insanely dumb luck in retrospect, he was surprised that we managed to get some wood for burning; someone had left some strewn around when cutting down some overgrowth.)

Spent the evening camping out with them, to which later they mentioned the fact that I had no place to stay. They had only a two-men tent, and didn't have any room for me, so I had go try my luck when they pointed out that there is a "Bed and Breakfast" somewhere adjacent to the street across the paddock. It just might be as well, to leave them some privacy to have some romantic personal time under the nice Irish moonlight. I think they did enjoy their camp there, but they did try their darn best not to make me feel left out by admitting to me about how cold the night was before, and that I must have had a better time living under a properly heated shelter.

To me, living in a 'Bed & Breakfast' was a rather interesting experience . I had never lived in one before this, and certainly had no knowledge of the existence of such a concept. I had this mistaken idea that it was just another style of commercial hotelier gimmicks where they charge you extra by tagging breakfast to your bill compulsorily. Armed with this half-baked idea in my head, I was kind of worried when I made my approach to the residential property the BnB was signposted, and getting rather concerned that I won't be having a place to stay for the night.

While the place did turn out to be a BnB, my lack of knowledge became even more of a comedy later when I was seated with the hostess in the living room for a rest when I remarked about how much the place resembled a family home, to which she responded in confusion, "but, aren't you looking for a Bed and Breakfast?" She would have gotten into bed that night confused, not only until the next morning would she have found out that I had absolutely no idea what I was in for when confessed that I thought I was going to be living in some funny-styled, breakfast-included hotel.

The next Saturday morning past Good Friday turned out to be another glorious day, with the sun streaking above the country fields. I joined the couple once they got packed up and started on our way again:

Even when one is outside a city, nobody can really escape into what is truly countryside anymore, as a helicopter hovered nearby in mid-air:

Glendalough was still a while away, and the French couple hitched their way there, while I was left to cycle in the vast country road in the early morning. It was an absolute bliss, all nice and serene, which is only irregularly punctured by a car whizzing through once in a while. And then I got to my intended destination:

Glendalough is like a nice national park, certainly reminded me of Yosemite, just a lot less crowded and commercial. If I had my way, I can certainly spend the remainder of my life here - if not only for this damn thing in life called 'work'!

Along the way, I got to know a few more friends - this is Fabio from Italy. I bumped into him along the way cycling. He and his mate happens to be heading towards the same direction as me, so I became the new party in their convoy. It's always fun to meet people from different cultures, you get to learn how very much people are different from you first hand. One of the early things I've come to learn ab0ut the Italians are they're rather fond of appending 'no' after their phrases, when they are actually wanting to mean 'yes' - talk about confusion!

It was my good fortune to bump into them, as they had been instrumental in my return journey. I had no map, and had a lame-GPS that was running out of battery. Since they knew their way, and happen to be cycling their way back to Dublin, I decided to not push my luck any further, and tag along their return journey home.

Along the way back, there's more of the lovely Irish countryside:

Sheep! The damn cutest thing in the whole wide world! Baaaaa!

In the Chinese Almanac, I'm born in the year of the Sheep/Goat/Lamb (what's the difference?), maybe that explains why I have this weird sense of affection towards these cuddly little creatures. :)

For an absolutely unplanned weekend, I must say the outcome has certainly been wildly positive. I can't believe my incredible luck I had for the couple of days - had a few firsts, made a few friends, and enjoyed an incredibly lovely weather for a country more renowned for cloudy, rainy weather - I must have had a 4-leafed clover stuck in the underside of my pants somewhere! So then, all that's left for me to do in this country is to catch some Leprechauns and find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! (Apologies to my Irish friends for such corny jokes ;p)