Why should it be easy, when it can be tough - North for the winter! Here are the part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 & part 8. Now winter is long over and we still keep wandering around the Windy islands. Let's see where part 9, will lead us... 😎😆
You can also fallow the trip in Polarsteps. Not to overload the post with pictures, most of the photos you can find at the end of it divided into galleries.
4 October 2023 – Cork, Ireland
Whatever opinion I had formed about Denis even before I saw him was completely confirmed when we met. I didn’t ask about mermaids, he was going to run around America looking for them…
So I wasn’t at all surprised when one morning, a few days after finding a replacement for Hendrikje (and me, respectively), out of the blue he told me I could pack my bags.
I just smiled, spun around and threw the laptop into my backpack – everything else was already packed. My intuition had warned me a few days earlier and I was ready. There was no drama, I was lucky it wasn’t raining and within 10 minutes I was on my way to Cork. Hitchhiking, of course. Four people and I was in Cork by noon! 😉
I had planned to get to Cork exactly one week later, so my travel and stay arrangements were for the week after. So I didn’t have many options – I was already on the road, which meant about 2-3 hours to Cork and no time to look for a new host. It’s not like there are much in the area either, oddly enough.
Just to note that a night in a HOSTEL, not a hotel, is around €50. B&Bs start at €130, I don’t even want to know about hotels. I think even in Switzerland, which I was in a hurry to cross with minimum night stays, it is not that expensive…
Marion, my host for the week after, had mentioned something about a trip to Dublin, so I wasn’t going to bother her at all, just texted her that there was an unexpected twist that might affect my visit. I won’t probably show up, at all…
I had another hope, albeit a very faint one, as we are talking about a working person and single parent who would hardly be able to react so unexpectedly at the last minute. He was a friend of a friend’s friend… Friends of his had stayed with Miska in Dublin and the relationship was a bit imminent, but then again we, the ones with a special craziness, always find ourselves.
I’d spoken to him before but it was too complicated exactly because of the situation with roommates, 12 hour shifts and a child of 7, so I had arrange my stay with Marion. Still, Jaroslav had left the door open – “If you need to, you can count on it.”
Well, I kind of had a feeling that it was going to need to and it happened. I feared it was too short notice, but hoped he could accommodate me for at least one night and continue on to Dublin the next day.
I had no other option. A whole week hole was almost impossible to fill up at the last second. I would have had to skip all the planned stops and trot straight into Dublin. There was no time to re-organise. I hadn’t asked Miska if she could take me in, she was pretty busy too, but I was sure she wouldn’t leave me on the street. We’d figure something out…
7 October 2023 – Cork, Ireland
After I had written to Marion that there was a change of plan, I also wrote to Jaroslav with a faint but still a hope that he would be able to take me in at least for one night.
I was still in the first (of 4) cars when I got a reply from both of them. They were both ready to pick me up! I thanked my guardian angel who always watches over me and set about organising things in my head, then with Jaroslav and Marion.
Marion had other surfers at the moment but would find a spot for me too. With Jaroslav I could stay max 2 days with the hope of not bothering him or his mates too much as he wasn’t part of the “surfing community” – he was just a friend of a friend of a friend… lending a helping hand to a stranger!
So, I hastily sketched out the plan – going to Jaroslav’s for 1-2 nights so I don’t overwhelm Marion, then 1-2 nights at her place and then we’ll see, I’ll figure it out by the time. At least I’ll be able to see something of Cork instead of just flying through in transit packed with my backpacks.
9 October 2023 – Cork, Ireland
Jaroslav welcomed me with open arms sharing everything he has with a stranger. His roommates, apparently with a not so open attitude, had somehow accepted the situation of having a stranger around for a few days. It was obvious they weren’t charmed, but they didn’t mind either.
I hardly saw Jaroslav – with his 12 hour shifts, he was out at 6am and back home after 8:30pm, which gave us the short about 2 hours until dinner took the pressure off the day with a glass of wine.
I stayed 2 nights in a really friendly environment. Marion couldn’t resist though the curiosity to meet the crazy one that showed up a week early and actually found me the first day while loaded with Roberto and Carla, waiting for it to get to 8:30pm so Jaroslav could come home and meet me.
We walked around, chatted and she drove me to the address from which 2 days later she loaded me back up to unload me in her own living room. Overnight. As the surfing couple were still at her place, I spent the first night on the couch and as a bonus met the shaggy Gesche and Thomas cycling around on electric bicycles.
After they left the next day, I moved into the guest room and asked Marion how long she planned to keep me around, so I can prepare the next step of the itinerary. Well, it turned out she wanted to keep me until the originally agreed date, which was a whole week! So I didn’t need to adapt anything from the previous arrangements, and it gave me extra time to explore Cork.
We were both crazy Capricorns with similar mindsets and lifestyles, so we meshed well and took advantage of the time we were given. As well as the rare sunny moments in the Irish weather.
13 October 2023 – Waterford, Ireland
In the kitchen this morning I came across my new hitchhiking sign to Waterford, a work of art by Marion.
The night before we had an argument about my departure time. I always leave as early as possible. Chances are best when people leave for work. However, she managed to convince me that people COME to Cork for work and there is no one to pick take me oposite direction that early.
I was quite tense but decided to trust her. As a backup I had a bus every hour. So at noon Marion loaded me in the car and drove me out of town.
It took me a few minutes to figure out that the place wasn’t particularly suitable, so I went ahead – an old gentleman had told me there was a bus stop somewhere up ahead, and I planned to tromp over there.
But I didn’t have to. I walked along, occasionally turning around waving my sign. Finally it worked out. Someone stopped for me! 😁 We talked on the way and I wasn’t at all surprised when he told me that if I had stayed at my original position, he wouldn’t have stopped for me. “It’s too risky and dangerous at this place.” I smiled to myself and congratulated myself on my good judgement! 😉
My first transport dropped me off at the supermarket in a town somewhere ahead, and I was just waiting at the traffic lights to cross and head out of town when someone spoke to me. A gentleman asked me if I needed a lift, at which I grinned ear to ear – but of course I do! “But aren’t you afraid to get on with me!” I laughed. “Should I! If you’re going to kidnap me I can only feel sorry for you” He laughed in turn. I continued: “You’re talking to a hitchhiker! If I was afraid of the strangers, I’d catch the bus (I’d rather still be at home actually…).”
So, this time the transport found me. And pulled me a little further to a gas station on the side of the road.
I trotted Roberto to the short wall there (Carla is always on my back, I might be a crazy one but I’m not that stupid) and went to the side of the road with my fancy sign. I just grinned and I hear a horn. Huh?! No one was on the road. I looked around me – nothing. Horn again. I turned in a circle – a big truck was just about to pull out of the gas station and the driver motions for me to turn the sign around so he can read it, at which point he grins ear to ear and motions for me to get in. Yeah, it’s easy to wave, but how’s Roberto climbing on that tall animal, damn!
Well, with a united effort we climbed it. A biker and an adventurer! He managed to go almost into the city centre, only to leave me at the address.
Wonderful company, I didn’t notice when the 100+ kilometers passed by!
I easily found Samuel’s home, who greeted me with a cup of tea and a smile. It turned out he was working from home and was very busy, so after a few minutes he left me and returned to the programming code. I, on the other hand, caught a bit of a tour of the notorious Waterford walls. I continued the tour the next day. In a word – Beautiful!
There was a BBQ in the evening and the company was super international, which was a fun and interesting experience. Unfortunately, I’m not a night bird, and I had an early start to hitch to Kilkenny in the morning, so by 9pm I was already dozing away. At some point, apparently someone got the hint and the crowd gently moved out of “my” room, and Sam brought me the blankets.
I said goodbye to everyone, including my host. I didn’t see him again. In the morning I went out at 10 and, as you might expect, everyone was asleep… 🤷🏻♀️😁
16 October 2023 – Inchmore, Ireland
Of course, to hitchhike, I had to be out of or at least on the edge of town. Yes, but I was in the middle. And with Roberto and Carla, I definitely didn’t feel like walking the 3+ miles, so I tromped to the nearest bus stop, sign in hand, hung out and started hopping.
It wasn’t long before a lady honked her horn and waved me over to her. Mary was in the opposite direction. However, she knew I would have a hard time finding a ride from downtown, so she was determined to get me to the right place.
After less than 5 minutes at the new location, I was on my way to Kilkenny. I arrived well before noon and Dan, my host there, was a little surprised. No more than me, certainly. So I sat down to wait on a bench in the sunshine and fresh air next to the bin. 😜
Soon Dan showed up, we threw Roberto in the car to keep Luna the dog company, and Dan led me around to show and tell me about the history – we were in downtown Kilkenny anyway.
15 October 2023 – Kilkenny, Ireland
After the walk around the city we headed to other interesting places – old castles, churches and cemeteries. Dan, being an archaeologist, was a never-ending source of stories, which made the tour even more interesting.
To finish, we sat down for a beer. On his recommendation (once I’d enlightened him that Guinness wasn’t my thing) I tried a red beer, which until recently had been a local beer brewed in Kilkenny. Until the giant Guinness bought it and it is now made in Dublin. (a minor part of Dan’s knowledge of the region and its history)
Years ago Dan had bought and with his own labour restored an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. A wonderful place! Beauty, tranquility…. I could have stayed for months…
Dan took over the cooking except that the salad (all from his garden, including the cucumber and tomato!) and mayonnaise were entrusted to my grace. Dan was pleasantly surprised. I even discovered some plants in his garden that he had no idea about. 😉
18 October 2023 – Dublin, Ireland
Three, instead of the planned two days, flew by in the company of Dan and Luna in the peace and comfort of the old farmhouse. Dan was due to travel to Dublin the next day and, of course, I loaded up in the car with my entire entourage.
A happy accident, perhaps… 😎
The traffic 30 km before Dublin was already horrible. We literally stopped. Madness. Dan was running late for work, so there was no time for anything but dropping me off at a nearby bus stop. And poured in my handful of “change for the bus” (gotta have the exact amount for a ticket). Dan… I miss him already…
Change, change, what change since besides the bus they also provided me with a cup of Irish coffee at my favorite pub, which is where Miska and I went again. I think Dan had considered a taxi, not a bus… 🤗❤
So, after riding for about an hour on a bus, I poured down to wait for the next one which would take me as close to Miska’s place as possible. I’m looking around absently and getting nervous as Roberto and Carla are getting heavier by every minute, and the bus is not coming yet.
My gaze absentmindedly runs over a smiling female face approaching the bus stop – just a woman and child going somewhere. I continue to wander for about half a second while my brain assimilates the fact that the lady is too far away to smile out of sheer politeness. I turn back to her again – but of course – Hannah!
What are the chances that in a city of many thousands where I know exactly 3 people and two of them are at home waiting for me, I would bump into the third in the short few minutes I spent at a bus stop somewhere! Close to the chances of me travelling successfully, the way I do, I think… 😜
Hannah decided to pay on the bus with her card for me as well, however the driver decided Roberto was a respectable enough pass and didn’t need another ticket, so… 😉
Miska was waiting for me and, despite having another couchsurfing guest, welcomed me with open arms as always!
I was actually in Dublin just to see her and Breda. If it hadn’t been for the two of them, I would have made it through transit towards Northern Ireland.
The whisky and ginger ale cocktail at home was a great end to a wonderful day! 🤗
It wasn’t too hard to decide where to go next day – my favourite pub, which I didn’t manage to get good photos of last time. Of course Johnnie Fox’s was just an excuse to have a nice trip and good beer/Irish coffee. I think Dan would have been pleased by the way the “change for a bus” was used! 😜
20 October 2023 – Glendalough, Ireland
Breda, knowing that we were too many people in Miska’s, had offered me to stay with her if I want. Sure I did want! So the next day she came over, loaded me up with all the menagerie and drove me to her place.
She’d worked all day, I’d been round meadows, cemeteries and pubs (the walk to Johnnie Fox’s) so we were both exhausted and after an hour or two of a nice chat I hid under the cozy duvet and sank into nothingness.
The next day both Breda and Miska had decided to take me to a special place. I had no idea how far away this place was though…
When we got there all three of us were starving, and Breda decided to treat us to breakfast. Well, it was something I hadn’t tried and will definitely remember – salmon and scrambled eggs.
Damn, it was delicious! And it was a lot! I was going to burst, but I didn’t give up – I ate it all! 😆🤪
Then it was time for the rainy walk through the old cemetery with a tower, like the one Dan had shown me, and a short detour to the lake.
It was really lovely, and in good weather Glendalough would definitely be a stunningly beautiful and peaceful place (if you exclude the tourists, which I’m sure would overflow on a sunny day).
In the evening Brida continued to spoil me and made an improved version of the same whiskey & ginger ale cocktail, only this time with lime and brown sugar. Mmmmm… Three times… 🙈🤫
21 October 2023 – Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, Ireland
It was my last day in Dublin and the next day I would continue to Northern Ireland, so Breda and her husband Evan (you remember the midnight tour of Dublin in the back seat of Harley, right?) took me to the oldest cemetery in Dublin.
Of course it was my idea! Other suggestions were the Botanic Gardens, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s… Well, I would like to see them too, but with the limited time I had, the cemetery won out without competition!
And I didn’t regret it. It was super interesting for me. To top it off, Breda included us in an organized tour where the guide didn’t skimp on the talk. Unfortunately, none of the names mentioned meant anything to me – I’m not very familiar with Irish history, and on top of it – I don’t remember names!
So half of the stories went right past me, but the other half was still worth it! 😉
22 October 2023 – Poolbeg Lighthouse, Dublin, Ireland
Once again plan has changed last minute and instead doing Workaway for a week near Enniskillen, I was about to stay with an old Miska’s friend for a couple of days in Belfast. Not only that, but I was about to be picked up from her place as he was just passing by from Galway on the way home…
Except it would have been the evening, which left us almost a whole day free. Breda had an engagement and the family had to travel, so they dropped me off at Mishka’s and we said goodbye. Until next time…
I was content to just sit in front of a cup of coffee and chat with Miska, but she was determined to take me somewhere new one last time before I left Dublin. And she did take me!
Equipped with Breda’s glasses, Miska’s jacket and jeans a gift from Brida, as well as the invariable two cameras, I found myself at one of Dublin’s iconic spots – Poolbeg Lighthouse.
We got lucky with the weather too – although cold and windy, it was sunny and great for a walk and photos!
22 October 2023 – Glenoe, Norteen Ireland
It turned out that Fabrice lived in Gleno, not Belfast, but I didn’t mind. Well, I wasn’t going to see Belfast, but I probably would survive without it.
I only had two days, anyway, since after my commitment in Enniskillen fell through, I’d hastily hatched a new plan. And I didn’t want to bother my friends’ friends unnecessarily either.
23 October 2023 – Antrim, Norteen Ireland
Fabrice was busy. The next day he had a doctor’s appointment near Antrim. It didn’t mean anything to me, of course, but when he offered to drive me there and let me hang around until he finished with the doctor, I didn’t give it a second thought.
Along the way, in the course of conversation, it came up that I didn’t have any pounds with me, and they don’t like Euro too much here, at which point Fabrice poured me a whole pocketful of coins (at least 7-8 pounds) for coffee if I needed to hide somewhere from the cold.
It wasn’t cold. The weather was sunny and lovely for a walk and photos. I made almost 20km walking before Fabrice called to say he was on his way to pick me up.
25 October 2023 – Glasgow, Scotland
Early in the morning Fabrice drove me to the port of Larne, reminding me that in his face I could always find help and support!
In the meantime, Ollie (the manager of the hotel where I would be spending the next few months) informed me (good thing I asked!) of a change of the plan – I was supposed to be there on November 3 instead of October 30. It was a bit late to react – if I had known in time I could have stayed another day at Fabrice, but whatever…
I couldn’t find any information online about a bus at the other side and had no idea how I was going to get to Glasgow, but I reckoned the ferry port couldn’t possibly not have good transport links.
Bulshit! I had to wait an hour and a half just to get to somewhere in the middle, then to look for another option to get to Glasgow. Bulshit again! In this sunshine, there’s no way I’m going to hang around waiting for I don’t know what. I thanked the girl at the counter for the information, packed up my two companions and carried on my way to hitchhike. I think I left her with a dropped jaw, but I’m sure the girl will survive…
I trudged along the side of the road, even risked taking Roberto off my shoulders. It was a challenge, and I had no chance of throwing him onto my back again without someone else’s help or something high to prop him up on. The road wasn’t particularly busy and could take hours, so it was better to risk getting him down than to keep him on my back.
Well, it took about 10 minutes before a work van with two grinning Irishmen loaded Roberto and me on. They decided to stop for cigarettes and asked me if I wanted any… I couldn’t understand what, which to them immediately meant they had to buy it for me so I would know for next time!
Along with a can of coke! (I only wanted coffee, but of course the coffee machine wasn’t working 😆🙈) It’s there in the pictures. And it’s sweet, of course. And yes, it turned out delicious. 😉
We laughed and sang along the way. Something was wrong with the radio and it wasn’t working, so they started to sign… Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler! One of my favorite songs and probably the only one whose lyrics I know completely. So the party was full! Laughing and singing!
“Aren’t you afraid? I might be a killer?” After a minute or so, the can opener breaks and can’t be opened, at which point I pull the knife out of its case at my waist, to break it open. I wish I had taken a picture of their expressions and the ensuing raucous laughter that had all three of us rolling around for at least 5 minutes! 😆😆😆
They were heading towards Edinburgh, so when we got to Glasgow they got off the motorway just to drop me off, then had to get back into traffic to get out of town. I got off, we said our goodbyes, and I poked around in the map to see where I was, explain to my host George, and see how I could get to the rendezvous point arranged with him.
I had gotten caught up in it when a horn honked. I raised my head in surprise, only to meet the smiling Irish faces again. They hadn’t even left yet! They beckoned me to go to the van, opened the window and poured a handful of coins into my hands, “Here’s £10, remember us and help you out just a little bit” While I had fumbled in the navigation, they had dug in their pockets to collect at least £10 to give me… 🙏🏻❤🙏🏻
Tearful at the gesture, I waved goodbye again and finally managed to find my bearings and explain to George where I was and that I was off to find a bus stop. Only to be answered – If you can find a place to wait for me, don’t move from there, I’m coming to pick you up.
What a day……
26 October 2023 – Loch Lomond, Scotland
The next day George offered to take me to Loch Lomond. I couldn’t believe it! It was super far away and I wouldn’t have had another chance to go there.
It was a long drive but the autumn had decorated it in all colours and it was an absolute pleasure. We spent the day talking and laughing. We stopped for lunch in the small village of Luss – too touristy for my taste, but lucky for us it was almost empty now.
A really lovely place with a charming old cemetery and church. According to George, these are Viking graves there.
We continued on to the Falls Of Falloch and the 300 year old pub – The Drovers Inn, which has never been overhauled. For now the only rival to my Dublin favourite.
We finished the evening with Chinese and more and more conversation.