Yesterday’s post ended with me having reached Tralee. Before I continue the tale, I really need to point out that my journey is a snapshot in time, filtered through my personal views.
A personal journey
If I passed though a place 30 minutes earlier, or 30 minutes later, my experiences and perceptions may have been quite different. More to the point, this is my journey through Ireland. When you have your own journey (and you really, really should!) your experiences will be unique to you, like mine are to me.
I mentioned before about the lack of roadside litter in Ireland. Once you notice it, you simply cannot stop being so surprised by it, especially when used to the UK, where roadside litter is rife.
However, the closer I got to Tralee, the more litter I saw. The driving also became noticeably worse and more aggressive. Inevitably, I suffered a lot of close passes – throughout the rest of my adventure, Irish drivers were almost uniformly good when overtaking.
Always trust your gut
I learnt long ago to trust my gut, and my instincts told me to keep my back to a wall and to be alert, as far as I could.
In the centre of town, a driver ignored a yield sign to cut me up, and in response to my shouted “Oi!” I received a stream of obscenities. I blew him a kiss and laughed, so he wheelspun away.
When leaving the centre of town, two dodgy& looking guys ignored traffic and walked straight in front of a car. The driver had to brake very sharply, and they both turned and said “Whatcha gonna do?”
A quite large lad got out of the passenger side (I think he was getting out there anyway, regardless of the 2 thugs). One of the thugs again yelled “Watcha gonna do, eh?” (but he sure kept his distance). The lad from the car made me laugh, though: he simply looked at the gobby thug and said, in a strong Irish accent, “I see you, you Paddy prick”. The thugs simply shut up and walked away.
Not intimidating, just sad
Leaving the town, there was a very scrawny lad on the pavement. He was wearing a face screwed up to the point that I wondered if he was chewing on slices of lemon.
His legs were around as thick as my arms, and he walked as if carrying two large pumpkins under his arms.
I briefly looked his way, and that was enough to set him off. “Watcha looking at!?” came my way, and I just couldn’t help but start laughing at him.
He didn’t appreciate that, and an immediate torrent of obscenities followed. His accent was very strong, and he was talking very fast, so I genuinely didn’t understand most of what he said, but it only made me laugh more.
My experience of Tralee wasn’t good, and I left with the impression that the town has an aura of repressed violence, where young lads all are trying to pretend to be even more ‘ard than the next guy.
I previously used Google maps to identify some woodlands outside of town to camp, but the donuts left by the tyres of both racers led me to ditch that as a good spot, so I simply cycled on.
After quite a while, I found a little track leading to some farmer’s fields. It was a great spot, as the fields had no gates (meaning no livestock) and we’re uncultivated.
I quickly pitched my tent and soon was curled up in my sleeping bag. I had a good night’s sleep, knowing I can have a very lazy start to the day.
As usual, I was woken by the dawn chorus, but dozed off again, knowing that I have all the time in the world.
Until I heard the gunshots! I know very little about hunting in Ireland, but didn’t want to chance an encounter with a group of pheasant hunters (like what you often get in the UK) all armed with shotguns and most unhappy at me camping in the field!
I packed up in a flash, and was very quickly out of the field! So much so that I only brushed my teeth once I was standing next to the road again.
However, I could see no sign of any hunters, which puzzled me. Until a short while later when I cycled past a sign announcing the local gun club’s grounds. I was both relieved and annoyed. But mostly relieved!
The landscape has changed very much. Gone are the craggy, dramatic mountains. In there place, there are far more flatlands and gently undulating hills. It remains spectacularly beautiful though.
Once in Listowel, I went into a coffee shop attached to the local Spar, only to be told they can’t serve hot drinks as their machine was broken.
As my various mechanical problems with my bike proves, things do break from time to time, and I fully accepted the situation. I then asked them if they can do any other drinks, and was told they can do iced-coffee. When I asked for one of those, they suddenly realised they couldn’t do that, either.
Eventually, I asked if they could serve ANY drinks at all, there was a blank pause, before one of the workers said that there were drinks in the fridges in the main shop. At that point I lost interest and walked out. I found a deli nearby, where I had a delicious coffee.
To be in with a chance of winning John Devoy’s fantastic book, Quondam, you need to answer all the questions that I post on a daily basis.
Here’s today’s question: Why does Northern Ireland have only six of the 9 counties of Ulster?