Limerick to Killarney; Anything can be fried if you try hard enough; Joe the friendly ex-convict; Cameron the Aussie miner; The infamous poitín; Drunken midnight ramblings; A life-altering moment

I’m not sure why, but we slept quite late in the morning. It took bloody forever to get Sheryl out the door, she gets slower every morning. We didn’t leave until 11 or so. I’m not a morning person myself, but I really don’t want to slug about while we’re traveling – there’s too much to see. Not really in Limerick, though, so no harm done I suppose. She’s still feeling quite sick, too.

There were a few minutes to wait for the bus to Killarney, so I ran across town back to the outfitters to try and return the bag. Stupid me, I wasn’t thinking – it was a Sunday in a Catholic country, and nothing was open for business. Back to the station to find Sheryl waiting impatiently – she needed to run back to the house we’d stayed at to retrieve her towel. I waited in line for the bus while she did that, making it back just in time. We bid Limerick a happy farewell and didn’t look back.

Killarney, in County Kerry, is a charming little town. We felt instantly at home there. The mountains make a beautiful backdrop too. Kerry truly is the best part of the Republic. We’d been worried about finding a hostel and had booked ahead. Sheryl had called around from the Limerick bus station and found that there were lots of vacancies, and so it proved. The first hostel we looked at was nearly empty. It was a nice-looking, clean place that smelled good, so we were pleased. We had the room to ourselves again, which was also really nice. The rooms were nice and clean and the mattresses were at least somewhat comfortable (as far as thin hostel mattresses go) and the rooms all had silly plaques on the doors naming them for animals or cartoon characters. I told Sheryl she was fortunate that we narrowly escaped having to stay in the Smurf room.

After ditching our things, we headed out to explore the town a bit and find food and run some errands. At the pharmacy, I made a possibly life-altering decision on the spur of the moment. It’s an interesting thing, being male, really. One of the defining characteristics of manhood is the shaving of the face, and most men form their face-shaving habits early, based, more or less on whatever their father does. Some guys take the fetishistic approach, with expensive soaps and badger-hair brushes. Me, I’ve always preferred just to get as much hair off my face as possible as quickly as possible, without making a ritual of it. I use, I’m not ashamed to admit, flowery girly shaving foam, because it always gave a smoother shave than the men’s products. But Sheryl forgot to bring shaving cream, and so in a fit of nobility I handed my girly shaving cream over to an actual girl. I’d been resenting the bulk and the weight of it anyway, to tell the truth. I’d heard of men successfully using sex lube to shave with, and so I thought I’d give that a try instead. Well, trying to find sex lube in a small town in a Catholic country was a completely unsurprising failure. There was, however, shaving oil. With a feeling of dreadful import, and knowing I might be making a very important life decision, I bought some. It’s strange not having foam on my face but I’ve never had a better shave, and more importantly, a tiny bottle will last me months.

More of the eternal food shopping followed. Since we were in a nice place for the night and felt we deserved a nice meal, we got some garlic bread and a chicken roast with stuffing. We were quite looking forward to it, and had a nasty surprise when we got back to the hostel to find that there was no oven in the kitchen – only gas burners. Fried chicken and microwaved garlic bread wasn’t as disgusting as expected, though.

While we were eating, a nice man offered us some bread and butter, which we were happy to accept. Joe was a tall, heavy bald man who looked a little like an Irish Buddha. He’d just been released from prison in Dublin and was starved for human contact. Inside for four years (why, he didn’t say and I didn’t ask, because you just don’t), he was in Killarney trying to win visitation rights to his children, none of whom he’d seen in those four years. The youngest girl was only three and he’d never seen her at all. The council was putting him up at the hostel until he found an apartment, which he needed to establish himself as a fit parent to the courts. He was working as a street vendor part of the time and looking for an apartment that the council would pay for the rest of the time. Very much a hard-luck case, but a nicer and friendlier man I’ve never met. He called Sheryl “smurf” which would have been instantly fatal for anyone smaller.

We spent most of the evening chatting with him and playing cards. Cameron, an ex-miner from Australia, joined us after overhearing a random comment about Australian paper currency. The four of us sat around drinking a bottle of the infamous Irish poitín, a word which in Irish carries essentially the same meaning as moonshine in English. I’d always heard about it and never thought I’d get to try it for myself. Joe claimed it was 200-proof but I don’t think it was more than 140 at most. I’ve had much harder and much harsher spirits, but the poitín had a nice sweet flavour to it. Joe and Cameron, coughing and gasping their way through their glasses, admitted to some surprise at how I swallowed slowly and with a smile. I told them that the key is to get to the point where the throat lining is all scar tissue.

Joe wasn’t a drinker and had only a small drink for politeness’ sake, and Sheryl had only enough to do her sinuses some good, so Cameron and I put a large dent in the bottle between us, and then we all went out for a midnight walk around town, including a stop for ice cream, naturally.

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.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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