Slea Head Drive; Barbed wire, abandoned castles and knee injuries; Fungi the elusive dolphin spotted; Menacing sheep; Indiana Jones; The Little Bridge

Sabrina the Austrian girl invited us and Armin to come with her on a drive, following the scenic Slea Head route along the coastline of the Dingle Peninsula (Corca Duibhne in Irish). We weren’t about to say no, so after moving our packs to a new hostel (the one we’d missed out on the day before) we all piled into her rented car. Dingle is my favourite part of Ireland. The scenery here is second to none, if you like old broken green mountains, plunging cliffs and blue, blue seas. The day was beautiful and sunny. We’ve had nearly unheard-of good luck with the weather here in Ireland. It hasn’t rained once in two weeks so far. A man at a campsite in Rathdrum told us that it had rained for sixty-four days straight the summer before, by way of reference. I’ve been sunburnt two or three times and my nose is permanently peeling - in Ireland!

The drive was fun. Armin and Sabrina were good company and fun people. We parked and took pictures at a dozen different places. At one point we stopped at a huge rock point jutting out over the ocean, and Armin ran out to the tip - ran, mind you - so that we could take his picture. Little did I know that this was to become a theme, to the point where I began to be unable to watch the boy near any kind of cliff edge - see the entry for May 25th for more on this.

Towards the end of the drive we came across an abandoned castle across a few fields from the road. Ireland is sprinkled with the shells of little one-tower castles so it was hardly a surprise, but it had a neat shape since there were three standing wall and one fallen one and it was on a little hill, so we decided to take a look. This involved squeezing under (Sheryl) or climbing over (Armin and I) a barbed-wire fence atop a drystone wall by the road. It was easy enough to get through once, but a rock in the wall slipped under Sheryl’s foot on the way out, sending her tumbling into the road, slamming her knee and elbow into the pavement. Nothing broken, but she did sport some bruises afterward that were spectacular even by her standards.

Sabrina left us in town, and she and Armin went off to see another part of the peninsula, from which he’d hitch back and she’d go on to her next destination. We had a bit of lunch and went off to hunt dolphins. Dingle Town, you see, has a… pet, or resident mascot, or tourist attraction, in a dolphin who was orphaned there years ago and never got around to leaving. His name is Fungi. Sheryl and I both missed him on our earlier visits and we were half-convinced he didn’t really exist and so we were determined to see him this time. We took a walk out south and east to the mouth of the harbor by a little square stone tower of dubious provenance, where Fungi was said to hang out. A very chatty elderly couple from Birmingham we met on the way were happy to tell us that they’d just spent half an hour watching him from that very spot. Not discounting the possibility that they were shills planted by the Dingle Town Council, we hurried to the spot to find - you guessed it - a striking absence of dolphins. After twenty minutes of waiting, though, our quest of years was finally fulfilled and we saw Fungi at last, playing alongside a boat which was driving up and down the harbor, crowded with people - obviously a Fungi-spotting tour. He’s a very good-looking dolphin, I must say - with a nicely-shaped head and dorsal fin. But I wonder what sort of dark and twisted dolphin mentality shuns the company of its entire species? Perhaps our earlier speculations of Fungi’s predation upon humans are true after all? Tourists do go missing in Dingle from time to time, after all. They say they fall off the cliffs, but I wonder if the residents have sealed some devil’s bargain with a demonic dolphin. Only time will tell.

One can only watch a dolphin for so long, diabolical or otherwise, however, and we continued our track along the shore, gaining elevation with each step and passing through sheep fields. Normally sheep are placid and possibly the stupidest animal there is - no threat to anyone. But, mindful of my previous unpleasant experience with normally-placid livestock not two kilometers from that very spot, I kept an eye out for angry sheep. All was well, though there was one large ewe who didn’t like us at all and looked like she might have been thinking of starting something. I guess we were just too mean-looking for her though because she backed down.

Back into town to see the new Indiana Jones movie, which we’d been waiting for for, well, years. All the Europeans at the hostel sneered contemptuously, but they just don’t understand the awesomeness that is Indy. Sheryl counted the people in the cinema and she said there were about fifty, which made it nearly a full house. They were mostly children, who all got bored halfway through and started running up and down the aisles whooping and - I kid you not - rolling their candy down the sloped floor toward the screen. Call me an uptight North American if you like, but if any kid tried that at home he’d be skinned alive.

To round out a full day, Sheryl, Armin and I headed to the Little Bridge, by favourite pub in Dingle, and listed to some good music by a fiddler and a piper, accompanied for awhile by a plain-faced woman with a voice that rang like a bell.

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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