My Nissan Micra rental car was tiny…whatever you’re thinking, think smaller. Perhaps for this reason, the decision to sleep in said car for an evening wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. But for all of the faults in the plan, it did show me just how far the Irish will go for the sake of some friendly hospitality.
Leaving from Cork, another backpacker from the hostel hitched a ride and we decided to travel the Beara Peninsula together. This section of Ireland is best known for the Ring of Kerry…but I had the time and all of the locals indicated that I should drive the Ring of Beara as well; the Beara landscape is very rugged and rocky with lush green valleys and tall rocky cliffs and hillsides and there are very few tourists.
Suffice to say that it was stunning. As we navigated the tiny, pot-holed, Irish roads, Curtis and I discussed our options for hostels that night. Curtis is backpacking around Europe in a decidedly different manner than myself…he’s camping and hitchhiking the whole way. With that in mind, he pointed to a spot on the map – the very, very tip of the Beara Peninsula, and suggested that we camp there for the night with the stunning views of the ocean on three sides as our greeting in the morning.
Truthfully, it sounded pretty awesome! By late afternoon we had hiked some of the slopes around Beara and finally made it to the tip…the only problem? There was no where to set park and set up the camping stove for dinner.
A reworking of the game plan and we turned the car around and approached one of the houses sitting along the bay. As we slowly pulled into the driveway of one of the houses a hearty and weathered face popped around the back corner of the house and threw a distracted but welcoming wave our way.
I was a little nervous about our new plan and as I stepped out of the car a yapping puppy tore around the corner and bee-lined straight for us. The puppy jumped on me, then ricocheted off of my legs to pounce on Curtis. The man we had just seen followed the dog’s path around the corner, wiping his dirty hands on his pants.
In the way of the Irish, we got a heartfelt hello and a wee bit of talk about the weather before he sent us a questioning look about why we’re parked in his driveway.
Curtis took the lead and we asked if we could park in his driveway for the night. To say that he was taken aback is an understatement. Mighty gave a deep laugh and then nodded his ascent while openly wondering just who in their right mind would want to sleep outside in this rainy and cold weather.
But the Irish are a friendly lot and we were soon chatting with Mighty and several of his neighbors, all very amused by those young’uns planning to sleep outside in the car. As the conversation wound down Mighty indicated that he had to go start dinner for his mother. As he headed over to the nearby garden he asked us if we would like a few potatoes?
The correct response to this would have been yes. And I am still kicking myself that we said no. Honestly, I kind of thought that Mighty was taking the piss (pulling our leg) with the offer of potatoes…I mean, come on, how cliché is that!
But he was serious. He waved us off with another amused chuckle and invited us up to breakfast in the morning if we made it through the night. As we made our way back to the car, Mighty picked up his garden ho and began to dig up his dinner.
Neither Curtis nor I slept particularly well throughout the night; it was incredibly cold and not altogether comfortable. But all of that was forgiven when, at the crack of dawn, we stepped out of the car to a cold dewy morning with sunlight just creeping up over the horizon, lighting up the bay and highlighting all the fisherman leaving the harbor for a day at sea.
Mighty called down from the house for us and we headed inside to a sunny kitchen with the warm scents of fresh Irish soda bread. Mighty offered to cook up some fresh mackerel for breakfast and was outright speechless when I indicated that though the offer was so kind, I don’t eat fish. He was shocked and after a lot of laughter he asked me what I eat to keep myself from starvation?
With a straight face I respond, “Grass.”
The guffaws brought down the house and as his laughter settled into a chuckle Mighty prepared tea, bread, jam and fish for our breakfast. As I was tucking into the dense loaf of brown bread a four year old head creeped through the door and little Nisha plopped down at the table for breakfast, followed minutes later by his dad, one of the neighbors we met the previous day.
We shared a lovely breakfast with the group and they were so warm and gracious. After we were fed and warmed up with the tea, Nisha’s dad actually went so far as to offer us his spare bedroom if we were staying in the area for a second night.
Although we couldn’t take them up on it (Curtis had a plane to catch a few days later), the Irish hospitality certainly proved true. And my conclusion at the end, man, I should have said yes to the potatoes! ;-)