Kilkenny to Limerick; Not at all what we expected; Surfing couches, or rather inflatable matresses

We woke up knowing it was time to move on. It was an unsettled question whether we’d go to Killarney and then to Dingle and on to Limerick in a clockwise way (my preferred and the cheaper method) or whether we’d do it in the opposite, counter-clockwise direction. The decision ended up being made for us by the fact that it was the weekend, and there were no beds available in Killarney (or so we thought – more later), and so we caught the bus to Limerick. This little decision ended up shaping much of our remaining weeks in Ireland, because we met some really neat people who we would have missed otherwise.

We had no real reason for wanting to go to Limerick specifically – only that the name was familiar. I think we subconsciously expected it to be a quaint place populated by leprechaun-like locals all talking in amusing rhyme, but it turned out to be a run-down and poor town with the nickname of Stab City. The bus trip from Kilkenny was only a couple of hours. One of the nice things about Bus Eireann is that a ticket to a destination is good for travel all day between the two points, so if you want to stop somewhere for awhile and catch the next bus onward you can. We didn’t on this trip – though the small towns of Adare and Clonmel looked nice, we just wanted to get to Limerick.

We hadn’t been able to find a hostel in town, but we did manage to get in touch with a couchsurfing.com user who agreed to put us up for the night, and met us at the bus station. As it turned out, he’d decided that it would be better for us if we stayed with a friend of his instead, as she was much closer to the bus station. The friend, it happens, was another couchsurfing user who we’d written but hadn’t replied. She and her housemate were very nice, and they were moving out the next day, so were cleaning out and cooking all their food, so we scored a lot of freezer-burned and dodgy (but free) food. We all sat outside while the three of them, foreign exchange students all, tore into Limerick. They weren’t at all impressed with having to live there, and said it was dirty and boring and violent and that its best feature was undoubtedly the bus station. They were at a complete loss as to why we’d bother coming there at all.

In the end, they were right about it being dirty and boring, but I saw none of the telltale signs of endemic violence. I’m told that there’s a gang scene that’s pretty much impossible to escape if you’re young and local, and I saw some signs of heroin, but we were staying in the dodgiest part of town and I never really felt uncomfortable. It reminded me of the reputation of East Hastings in Vancouver versus its reality – lots of talk but nothing really that scary. Maybe it just says something about my lack of standards. All in all though, it seemed to me that the only endemic problem was alcohol abuse, and that goes for the whole country.

We spent the afternoon looking around and running errands. Besides the never-ending search for food and drink, I needed to find a small bag to carry my toiletries, since I’d run out of time to buy one at home and the plastic bag I’d been using wasn’t really cutting it. I did find one at an outfitters and bought it, only to find out that it was too small. We were also searching for a small travel clock with an alarm. I’d planned to buy a cheap digital wristwatch for the purpose, but had been strangely unable to find one at home or in Ireland. Alas, we had no luck in the clock department today either.

The evening was spent in a cheap internet café, Sheryl doing email and me working on the websites, which have turned into roughly six hundred times the amount of work I’d originally planned for. I did make a little bit of forward progress, though not as much as I’d hoped for, naturally. At this rate they should be finished sometime in July.

Before the café, we went for a drink at a random pub, which was full of scraggly and toothless locals. They were all very nice, though a bit distracted by the football match. One old man was both the most drunken person and the biggest Manchester United fan I’ve ever seen. We could understand perhaps one word in ten, besides “Man U” which he chanted constantly in tones of rapture. Weeping happily and singing like a brain-damaged child, he weaved from one end of the pub to the other, back and forth, back and forth. Each time he passed, he’d shake our hands, two or three times each in alternation, all the while beaming sloppily and continuing his mushy ramblings. I didn’t mind - I can’t begrudge anyone having that good a time, and they never expect answers from me.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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