Bere Island

Scuppered boatWe snuck out of Feargal’s early on before he woke up as we had to meet another friend of Joleen’s to catch a ferry. Caitriona (I think I have the spelling right) lives in Crosshaven, but has a family home on Bere Island, where her father grew up. There are two ferry routes over there and we, of course, found the wrong one first.

We did eventually spot the tiny turn-off for the one we needed (“Pontoon”) and Joleen reversed the car onto it. Nothing as substantial as a roll-on/roll-off job in this area. At a squeezed, the ferry will apparently take five vehicles, though they’d have to be bubble cars. The larger ferry fits five comfortably, I’m told, and seven if they’re sandwiched rather tightly. Caitriona was in that situation once and it wasn’t until she was wedged in that she realised the was completely screwed if the very sank – she had no sunroof and couldn’t open her doors!

Near the firing rangeI’m glad to report that our vessel didn’t sink and that Caitriona stayed outside the car for the trip over. I sat inside and read my book. It’s nice to get a bit of time to lose myself in a novel.

Bere Island’s around 7 x 3 miles in dimensions and the populations floats around the 200 mark. There are only two pubs and they’re pretty far apart. So if one’s shut, you’ve quite a walk to the other. We left pubbing till later and began by driving (the long way round) to Caitriona’s family home.

This turned out to be a fantastic old building set back about 100 yards from the sea within the only section of woodland on the island. The view over the sea was of Hungry Hill on the mainland, something it’s recommended to hike up if you have the time. Which I didn’t, sadly. It’s spectacular, frankly.

Inside the house was spacious and very old-fashioned. It had the kind of clean smell that reminded me of the dentist’s or doctor’s from when I was a child. All old furniture and wood with beds stacked in the rooms as you’d expect from a sizeable family. We stopped long enough to ditch the bags and sort out walking gear. Joleen had a few targets to hit photo-wise and they’d involve some hiking.

Small break in the rocksWe began with a spin round the island and over to one end where the only sandy beach exists. This coincidentally is near to where the Army and reserves (commonly referred to their old name as the An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, or FCÁ) practise their shooting. There are a series of “pits” where the riflemen ensconce themselves and take aim at targets with a sandy bank behind them.

As it happened, some army types were kicking around in preparation for such an exercise and Joleen had a chat with one of them about the range and so on. I was told to “shut up” due to my accent prior to her engaging him in conversation. I’d not be a convincing spy. We did get to see the area where the “target-holders”, and I assume score-masters, sit. I’m sure if you spent long enough digging through the grey sand used to stop the bullets you could find yourself plenty of spent rounds.

Instead, we walked past and down onto some rather impressive rocks. The structure makes the island look like it was made of lots of narrow rock “plates” stacked up, which then toppled leaving them stuck into the ground at an angle. We found a very small enclave with a sand-like surface made entirely from smashed and ground seashells, predominantly blue and white in colour. The views were just stunning, and we were at sea level.

View over rocksDodging the army types, we drove around seemingly at random taking in the island as a whole. Some of the housing is a little bizarre. One is essentially a boat with the hull cut off. The top half has been dropped into a garden and passes as a small house. Another is a standard-enough looking caravan – with an oversized A-shaped roof quite literally strapped onto it and held in place by industrial-strength tent pegs.

The first major touristy thing to see was the cross – a large white concrete religious symbol sat atop the highest point on the island, so therefore a bit of a walk. Mass is often held there, though there is a drivable track that is used to get the older worshippers up. The track is closed regularly, though, and also on the 31st of January every year to all public passage. Apparently this is to use a loophole in the law to prevent a public right of way being created – as long as it’s shut at least once a year, no right of way can be introduced.

A window…The view from the top was – surprise – impressive, though it was pretty windy and cloud was closing in. We were also getting past the peckish stage and well into “hungry”. The walk back to the car seemed quicker, though it was downhill. Once out of the wind and with feet sighing relief, we opted to find somewhere to eat. Well, not so much “find” as go to the only place that we thought might be open. A cafe next to the ferry dock which is open long hours every day of the week. The food wasn’t brilliant (except the scone I had – delish), but hot, filling and reasonably priced. Entertainment was provided by a small child dropping the white ball into the pockets on a pool table then dashing to the window in the side to try and work out how it got back to the little hole at one end. He did this for about ten minutes. Well cute.

Weighed down with calories, we returned to the car and drove further round the island to a point where we could walk to the lighthouse. This is a marked walking trail and we followed it for around 45 minutes. The lighthouse is perched on the western edge of the island and – you guessed it – offers a wonderful view. Two men were visible down below taking photos and making notes about it. A popular structure!

Attack of the killer chickens!The sun came out for us, but the wind still gave us a battering as we packed up and trudged down to the car for the last bit of driving. The final sight to see was the Martello tower, again positioned at the top of a hill. Thankfully this one only involved a short walk!

The tower has had a lot of work done on it to make it tourist-friendly, though the lights inside didn’t work and someone’s smashed all the exterior ones that would light it up at night. Also, by the time we got there, the wind was blowing clouds all around and over us to the view was… well. There wasn’t one.

Cross on the hillAfter our hefty late lunch, food wasn’t a huge priority so we returned to the house to relax. Caitriona had a lie down while Joleen and I tinkered with photos and wrote blog articles on our laptops. A light dinner of ham sandwiches and strawberries was munched before we donned footwear again for a walk to the nearest pub, in Rerrin.

As we left the house, Caitriona turned to us. “I just saw a guy with a gun! He saw me and turned, then walked back up the drive to the gate!”

Great. And here’s me with an English accent. I assumed she meant some wandering farmer with a shotgun. Treading delicately out to the front of the house, it turned out it was a couple of soldiers, all camo’d up. Facepaint, leaves in their hats, the lot. And about 18 years old. With big guns.

Bere Island LighthouseThey quickly established this was an occupied residential property and asked very kindly if they could park two Land Rovers down near the water. Essentially, they were playing “hide and seek” with another team and had to remain hidden overnight. As I mentioned earlier, the house was in probably the only wooded spot on the island so I can see why they stopped there.

Caitriona gave them the OK and we disappeared off into the twilight for a couple of pints in O’Sullivan’s. The older army lot were in there. I assume they’d decided it was more fun to have a few drinks than go looking for recruits hiding in Land Rovers. Fair enough, I can understand that.

We walked home around midnight and the roads were completely dark. I’d brought my headlamp and wore it which made finding the path a lot easier. When we got back to the property, we spotted the “hidden” soldiers a little quicker than they perhaps would have liked.

Martello towerGiven that they’d left the interior lights of the Land Rovers on, kept slamming doors and were talking loudly this was hardly a surprise. Then Caitriona had a go at them for setting up shop in one of the old barns as the floors were weak.

We slept well. At least any potential burglars were in for a hell of a shock.

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Bantry via Sheepshead

Horseshoe BayWaking did not come easy. Joleen’s 8:30 breakfast request was something she’d be taking a ribbing about. Mind, we did still had a lot to do and see so an early start would still be useful. Even if we were both wrecked from the partying the night before.

After a lovely breakfast of muesli, locally-made raspberry yoghurt (absolutely delicious) and proper sausages and bacon we donned boots and hiked out towards the lighthouse that sits opposite the Beacon. It was only a short walk from the B&B and we were surprised to find that it actually sits inside someone’s back garden.

As we were prowling around the cliff edge to get some shots, the house’s owner – a chap called Ken – popped out and told us we were more than welcome to come into the garden if we wanted. Although the lighthouse is on his property, he has nothing to do with it. It’s fully maintained and operated (automatically these days) by the council – white light to sea, red light to the harbour.

Shirkin lighthouseKen’s owned the house for around 40 years, though has only settled there in moderately recent history after spending a lot of time travelling with his wife. He’s a real character and knows a load of history about the island, the lighthouse and the surrounding area. We only spent ten minutes or so chatting but you just know he’d be great to sit and talk to for an hour over a beer or a hot chocolate.

Today the weather was gorgeous, but during winter the winds will blow the waters into the cliffs and send waves over the lighthouse – and Ken’s house. Hence this being predominantly a summer abode for them! He had work to do, so we left him to potter as we clambered over the wall and had a better look at the lighthouse then walked back down to the Islander’s Rest to check the ferry times.

Where we found we’d just missed one and had two hours to wait for the next. Ah well. I could think of worse places to be stuck.

We killed time by reading and backing up photos, then marched off to catch the 14:30 boat back to the mainland. Just outside Baltimore we stopped at a hotel for a late lunch, then took a drive out to Sheep’s Head. This is a peninsula with some gorgeous views along its length. There was much stopping and snapping of photographs as we made our way along the rollercoaster-like bends and dips of the single track roads.

Shirkin Island ferry stepsAfter reaching the end, we doubled back and headed for Bantry – again stopping and diverting slightly for photo ops. We found one viewpoint with a handy map of the sights visible from where we were standing. Joleen was astounded to see the Fastnet rock pictured on the map. And even more astounded that it was – on this clear day – very much visible even at a substantial distance.

Bantry is by far the largest place I’d been in for almost three days. A harbour town with some character – and a horrific new hotel complex that looks like a set of white blocks. Whoever gave that monstrosity planning permission needs to be shot.

Our options for the evening has been threefold: go to another session in Schule, stay at a Buddhist retreat, or visit another of Joleen’s friends. We narrowed down on option three and Joleen told me “you’ll love Feargal – he’s one of a kind”. After some of the people I’d met who I already considered quite “individual”, for her to make a point of mentioning this one almost filled me with forboding. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Jelly fishy thingyAnd I’d not have expected what I did find. Feargal’s actually a couchsurfer, though more active as a host than a visitor. He’s also very popular. I can see why. The man’s mad, but in one of those wonderfully endearing ways. Imagine an ecological Wilf Lunn – the guy with the mad moustache who used to build crazy contraptions on children’s TV shows in the 80’s. Feargal’s house shouldn’t just be visited by couchsurfers, it should be a stopping point for tourists. It’s mental. Remember when you were a child and you’d think of these really wild things and wish “wouldn’t it be great if…”? Well, as far as household stuff goes, Feargal’s not let the “if” stop him. Or the “what”, come to think of it. He just “does”.

Feargal himself is small and unassuming. He’s very quiet but passionate about a lot of subjects. Conservation, recycling and so forth are very high up that list. So much stuff in his house is made from recycled junk. From the lamp in the spare room to the framework holding up his recycle collection bags in the kitchen. The soap holder in the bathroom is a large seashell suspended from wire wrapped round a bolt nailed into the wall – all junk found on the beach. The toilet roll holder is made of similar bits of scrap metal.

And the 6-or-so-person hammock suspended over his back yard.

Disrepaired boat and landscapeOh, yes. A huge hammock made from scaffolding poles and fishing net. Which Feargall wriggled his way up to with ease while Joleen and I scrambled up his wood-and-shopping trolley stairway like a pair of paraplegic gymnasts. We sat and chilled for a while then decided to get food. Indian was settled on which meant a short jaunt into town.

Ever ecological, Feargal suggested cycling in – a fine idea. Then I saw the bikes. A rusty girl’s bike with a basket full of driftwood and flotsam, and an ageing tandem. Sorry, not ageing. “Classic”.

It gets better. One of Feargal’s recent couchsurfers had adapted an old radio to run off the dynamo that’s meant to power the front light. With careful use of diodes and rechargeables, when you pedal, the batteries are charged and the radio runs from human power. The tape works if you have the light turned off and direct all your pedalling to the player.

Tape? Ah, yes. Feargal’s still using audio cassettes. I’ve not seen such a huge collection of cassettes in one place since I was in Jordan. And I’ve not even mentioned the tape player in the bathroom that comes on automatically when you switch the light on.

Well, I have now.

Fort and landscapeWhere were we? Ah, yes. Bikes, stereos. Fluorescent jackets. And a stereo playing Ireland’s answer to Classic FM. “Don’t worry”, I was informed, “nobody will know where the music’s coming from.” I was cursing the radio for not playing Ride of the Valkyries when Feargal took off downhill with Joleen in fits of giggles on the back seat of the tandem. I followed, trying to video it before realising I needed both hands to brake, shoved my camera in my mouth, panicked and nearly swallowed the damn thing. Good job it’s waterproof.

The jaunt to the curry house was pretty short and Joleen was grinning like a loon by the time we got there. What struck me as bizarre was how the younger generation ignored us (or pretended to) while the older folk stood and stared at the numpties in bright jackets with the musical bike basket.

We ordered food and had a while to wait, so Feargal announced it was my turn on the back seat. Great. Death by tandem. I could think of better ways to die. But I’ve survived rickshaws, motos and tuk-tuks so I could hardly chicken out.

I’ll tell you, with two people pedalling they go fast. Within a couple of minutes we were at the beach where a chav/ned/whatever-the-Irish-call-them was showing off to his mates on a quad bike, kicking up sand and winding a dog up.

Jolene and Feargal“Now you go in front,” said my Nemesis. I swear this guy was trying to kill me. I admire him for being prepared to wipe himself out in the process. That takes devotion. The thing is, he didn’t reckon with my amazing cycling skills. And sense of self-preservation. We made it back to the curry house in one piece, despite my efforts to slalom between some bollards set about two feet apart earning a squawk from the back seat. That’ll teach him.

I was relegated to the back seat for the cycle back to the house where our mixed bag of veggie Indian deliciousness was accompanied by gorgeous apple and blackberry juice. You know the tetrapaks you get “made from concentrate”? Feargal knows an organic shop that sell the concentrate. Lining the bottom of a glass is enough to mix with a pint of water and still make your teeth auto-dial the dentist. Lovely.

We chatted about all kinds of weird stuff (we now have mathematical proof that gravity doesn’t work at the North Pole) then retired; Feargal pausing only long enough to show me how to hang by your toes from a pull-up bar (he has seriously strong foot muscles). The man’s utterly and completely hatstand. Every country should have one.

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Cape Clear and Sherkin Island

Sherkin IslandThe early start wasn’t as early as intended. The sky turned out to be greyer than we were promised by the weather, though it further promised that this wouldn’t last and that things would improve later. Honest.

So we packed for a couple of nights, chucked our bags into Joleen’s little runaround and set off. First stop – Baltimore, about 90 minutes drive along the south coast.

Now, you know, I’ve not really explained why I’m in Ireland. Or why I’m following a girl around who’s taking pictures. Especially when I pretty much stated a month or so ago that my plans were to take a trip through the Baltics.

Well, I mentioned this to Joleen and got the following response:

Look, feck Lithuania…. come on over here. You can be in Finland by the 15th if you want to.

Sure go on, it will be a laugh. So, see ya next week so?

How could I argue with that?

Baltimore from the seaSo, here I was in a small fishing town off the south coast of Ireland in stunning sunshine sipping the closest thing they make to a pint of bitter over here. Our aim for the day was to get around Cape Clear and onto Sherkin Island for the night. We had some time to kill before the ferry to Clear Island, so we drove a little way out of town to the Baltimore Beacon.

This is a huge white structure, kind of gherkin-shaped, with a ball on top. It sounds pointless, but it’s visible from far out at sea and sits at the opposite side of the harbour entrance from the lighthouse on Sherkin Island.

Back near the harbour, we indulged in pizza for lunch from The Jolly Breeze. As can be expected from the area, 75% of the menu was fish and seafood-related so I went for one called a Diavolo which had nothing on it that hadn’t come from a mammal. Very tasty and not to bad for €10 from a touristy place.

Baltimore BeaconThe ferry to Clear Island took about 40 minutes and was accompanied by the occasional burst of trivia from the guide on board. My favourite information was about Clear itself. It’s contains the southernmost point in Ireland and was the first place to get any news from the Americas. Ships passing by would drop waterproof containers off the side which would be retrieved by rowboats from the Island. The news would be read and then transferred to the mainland and then to London and other European capitals. The population of this small island were therefore the first people outside of the Americas to know of the outbreak of the American Civil War (or some war between states – I assumed it was the same thing, but Sean has corrected me in the comments below) and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

It is a small place, about one mile by three. There is a school there where children go for a summer camp to brush up their Irish Gaelic, a compulsory subject in all schools until leaving-age. The tiny shop near the ferry dock stocks about 20 things as the residents get their groceries delivered near-daily (during summer at least) by the ferry. Surprise, despite it’s small size the island still maintains three pubs. As for vehicular transport, I think the average condition of a car in Lagos was better than the ones here.

Currently, cars on Clear Island aren’t subject to road tax or the Irish equivalent of the MOT. The justification is that the island’s tiny and the cars generally don’t leave. They only do a handful of miles a week. This is changing in a year or so, though. The roads do need a little work as they’re so bevelled that the tyres are low down the sides (they’re all single carriage) and the undercarriages scrape on the centre.

This would explain the 4×4 I saw as I set foot off the ferry. The exhaust was snapped just in front of the rear wheels and was held in place with a piece of knotted rope. And I think this was the island taxi.

We started hiking uphill just to get some random shots of the scenery. The sun was high in the sky and beating down as we plodded along the aforementioned single carriage roads. We’d walked a fair distance when a car pulled up containing someone Joleen knew. This happens a fair bit – she seems to know people everywhere!

Clear Island signpostThis did save us quite a bit of time as we managed to see the old lighthouse and the healing lake that we’d otherwise not have had time for. The car was one of those Cape Clear Classics, and burbled uphill with a noise as if it were powered by a 50cc outboard motor. We hiked back down to the harbour and enjoyed some strawberries, while surrounded by children from the college speaking broken Irish. Or at least they were when there were teachers in earshot – they get demerits for using English.

As the afternoon ticked on, we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland before jumping across to another for Sherkin Island. Enough time in Baltimore between them to neck a quick half (of Coke – sugary water better after all that sun than a beer), then all aboard for the very short hop to Sherkin.

From maps, I’d guess Sherkin’s about the same size as Clear though a different shape. The population is around 120. They’re served by a small school building and two pubs. All the other buildings on the island are private properties, though one or two operate as B&Bs when the mood takes them.

Islander’s RestWe met the owner of one of the B&Bs on the ferry – Fiona of the Horseshoe Cottage, so called for it’s position overlooking Horseshoe Bay on the island. Although we’d have had no problems getting accommodation on the island (friends of Joleens were moored up there and there’s a hotel as part of one of the pubs) we decided to try something different and give a local some cash.

Fiona’s English, as is her husband Joe, and they moved to Ireland around 13 years ago, living on the banks of the Shannon and raising their 9 children (nine!) before migrating to Sherkin. Their other guests at the house while we were there were two WWOOFers, one of whom was working on the new extension when we arrived. Certainly earning his room and board!

We didn’t have long before the Islander’s Rest stopped serving food, so we dropped our bags and legged it to the pub for a hearty burger / set of ribs. Over dinner, we chatted to some of Joleen’s friends who were warming up for their “session” at the Jolly Roger later that evening. Apparently the sunset off the island is something special so we opted to burn off the calories we’d just taken on and walked off to the other side to see it and get some pictures.

Only it was, in Joleen’s words, “crap”. Ah well, not a good night for it. Instead, we strolled up to the Jolly Roger where things were starting to warm up. It was a muggy night, so a pint of Bulmer’s over ice was downed before moving on to the black stuff.

The “session” was a get-together of traditional folk musicians. Michael, the WWOOFer from the B&B was there and played a rather excellent set on the piano. A chap we’d seen on the ferry on the way over was utterly superb on the steel guitar, whacking out a 5-minute segment. An old fellow with the best raggedy white beard I’ve seen outside of the Middle East read a story he’d written some years ago about the changes in drinking culture and lifestyle over the years. Great stuff.

A “session” in the Jolly RogerThe music’s not my kind of thing but I always appreciate talent. And from the lone vocals of Dick Hogan to the pluckings of Jimmy Crowley on the bouzouki, they were all superb. Anyone was welcome to have a shot and one of the women sat to the side gave her tuppence-worth, singing a lilting ballad then holding her head in her hands in embarassment when she was finished. I don’t know why – she was fantastic.

I hope these folk would take it as a compliment if I said, in the spirit of drinking beer, giving it their all and playing music just because they damn well love it – each and every one is truly metal! OK, so I wasn’t waltzing with a piano stool like one loony in the bar to show my appreciation but I had a great time. And thank you to Curly for the Jameson’s. Went down lovely after the Murphy’s!

One thing I have noticed about Irish folk music is that so much of it is about leaving Ireland and then realising how much the writer misses the place. It seems like the only reason for hopping onto a boat overseas is to find out how much you miss the Emerald Isle so that you can return and earn your fortune telling everyone else how crap the rest of the world is. And with craic (see, learning the lingo) like this in so many bars it’s easy to see how they’d miss it. There really is no other pub culture like this, certainly not on this scale, in any other country I’ve visited.

Salty old seadogThere is one thing that gets me, and maybe this is because I’ve not been brought up on it. It’s the random laughs as if there’s been a huge joke that I just don’t get. This happens in a lot of songs, and try as I might (even though they’re in English and I understood the words) I just didn’t get it. Maybe it’s expectation of a punchline at the end of the song or something, which they all know because they’re traditional songs they’ve heard before. Whatever, watching this group – this whole pub – enjoy themselves so much was just great.

We crawled back to the Horseshoe around 1:30 as Joleen had convinced Fiona to rise at 8:30 and sort our breakfast. A decision she now regretted as we could have stayed on for longer. As it turns out, the music went on until nearer 4am. Once these sessions start it often takes a force of nature to stop them.

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Off the grid

Just so nobody panics, there will likely be no new posts until Thursday or Friday this week. Joleen and I are heading off into the wilds and islands of the South-West this morning and won’t be back till later in the week.

I gather wi-fi (along with running water, combustion engines and electricity) is unheard of in these parts. Regardless, I’ll have my laptop with me so should hopefully be able to get all the pictures and waffle online soon after I return.

If we escape the natives.

Around Crosshaven

Crosshaven harbourThe original plan today had been to head off on the road and see some of the coast, but the weather wasn’t up to much. And, frankly, neither were Jolene or I after the previous late night. Instead, we opted for a walk along the hills nearby around the village.

This is a route Jolene’s familiar with, having lived in Crosshaven all her life bar the occasional trip abroad. The weather wasn’t as bad as we’d feared, but the sky was pretty cloudy for a lot of it so driving long distances to take photos would have been a waste of time.

Thankfully, it certainly wasn’t for us. The country lanes were lovely and as we walked on, the sun did eventually come out and burn all the cloud off. Our first stop off point was Templebreedy Church, a small derelict building swamped with ivy and with a very old graveyard. There are some nice views from this relatively high point, and the graveyard itself makes for some very photogenic pictures. One of Jolene’s best efforts – a night time shot of a headstone – is available as a print from her mother’s shop in town.

Celtic crossJolene’s great-grandparents are actually buried in the now-overgrown graveyard, though we couldn’t find their resting place as there was simple far too much grass. Bizarrely, and slightly annoyingly, the oldest grave in the place was “upgraded” a few years ago. The original headstone – or what was left of it – was mounted on the church wall. This looks superb, framed by ivy, but the actual area where it was placed originally looks awful. It’s been trimmed back, but then painted in glossy blue and white paint. It just looks utterly out of place in an otherwise beautifully atmospheric spot.

We trudged down towards the cliffs and stopped by the house of a couple of Jolene’s friends which overlooks a bay. They were watching the tennis, but very kindly allowed Jolene to make them (and us) a cuppa! In return, I did my IT thing and sorted out the wi-fi connection on one of their laptops. And left my watch lying on their sofa. I didn’t see it again for days. A good job the time in Ireland is something that just ticks away. You don’t really need to keep track of it.

It was here that Jolene regaled me with a little story. When she was staying with someone, he made up all the tea things (pot of tea, little milk jug and so forth) and left his two guests to make their own tea. When they did, he pointed at each in turn and said “you’re Catholic and you’re Protestant“. What’s more, he was right.

Oldest tombstone in the graveyardBizarrely, he’d figured this out from how they’d poured the milk. Historically in Ireland (going back a couple of hundred years), the Protestants had all the money while the Catholics lived in poverty. As such, they had delicate bone china cups which didn’t react too well when you poured boiling water straight into them. So they added milk first, then the tea to the milk so that the cups didn’t heat up to quickly and crack. Catholics, on the other hand, just poured tea directly into whatever thick mug they happened to be using.

True? Dunno. A mate of mine always told me the milk goes in first to avoid scalding it or something, which affects the taste. Given that I’m the kind of person who buys teabags based on which supermarket has an offer on rather than the delicate flavours involved, I’m hardly one to comment on taste.

A short walk further on after our little rest was when the sun came out with a vengeance to make up for earlier in the day. By the time we arrived at our next rest stop, the house of one of the girls who works at Cronin’s, I was certainly starting to show signs of redness. I really should wear more suncream.

From there, we got a lift into town to buy supplies for another BBQ – a delayed housewarming. Armed with two 5-litre kegs of beer as our donation, we were driven back up to the house by Dennis, Jolene’s brother. He and I managed to get the BBQ going (though we kind of left the cooking itself to a couple of the girls as the beer kicked in) and chatted to what seemed like a delegation of the UN.

If I recall correctly we had two Kiwis; one German woman; one English guy (me); a Polish girl with her Carribean boyfriend and her daughter; a Lithuanian couple and their two daughters; and three Irish hangers-on.

Old dial phoneThe food was great, and the beer just kept coming (5l is more than you think when you buy those kegs – beware). As darkness started to descend, we walked down to Cronin’s via a very large empty property that’s up for sale. It’s wide open and a complete mess inside. A shame as it’s got, as an estate agent would put it, “a lot of potential”. Basically, it needs a shedload of work but it’d be great with the right owner. Right now, it looks spooky when you wander round it in the twilight.

Down at Cronin’s I got into a conversation about football (surprise) with one of the locals before Jolene called it a night as we needed a moderately early start the next morning to fit in a few sites she needed to get photos of.

Two days, two BBQs. I’m not going to lose weight at this rate even with the walking.

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