Quote of the Moment
"All really great things happen in slow and inconspicuous ways." Leo Tolstoy

Friday, 21 March 2014

E8: The Arrival

I left Prague at 5pm on Wednesday the 26th February. In doing so I was embarking on the most adventurous trip I had ever done. To hike over 550 km (340 miles) solo across a country I had never been to at a particularly poor time of year for the weather and with a full pack (which I never weighed) including tent, winter sleeping bag, food and water (read: v.heavy)! I was as excited as I had been in a very long time, after a difficult time for me I had put all my energies into planing, booking and now departing on a real challenge.

Anthony the Unready?

I had always planned to get to Ireland by plane. I checked the prices one week and completed the whole budgeting process. Then, when it was time to book the week afterwards, the price had jumped from approximately £35 single to £100 (without accounting for baggage). I was mortified. Perhaps the trip, which was running on the most fragile of shoestrings, would have to be cancelled! I did some digging around for alternatives and found a bus. Well... 4 buses that would take me the whole way from Prague to Adrigole Ireland in 3 days and two nights. 3 days and 2 nights on buses, with 6 hours in London and 3 in Dublin. I must have been a bit mad, but the price was right - £100 in total plus saving at least one nights accommodation cost - and I had always wanted to go on a long distance bus for some unfathomable reason. So I left Prague on a Student Agency bus (£30 Prague - Dublin, BARGAIN!) that would travel through the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and France, through most of which I was asleep.

I wrote in my Diary...
"The Bus has just been processed by Passport control for both the French and the English authorities within 100 metres of each other. I just realised that I don't actually know how we will be crossing the English Channel! It is a little unnerving. I will just have to wait and see. Within the next hour I could be on a ferry for the first time since I was a child the Channel Tunnel for the first time in my life!"
It turned out to be the Channel Tunnel which was decidedly underwhelming and boring. With nothing to do in a hollow tube of a train carriage and the bus with no entertainment system as it had to turn it's engine off. Oh well, it still was a first for me!

With some time in London I planned the day before to meet up with an old friend, Chris. We met on his lunch break on a nice early Spring day and on his lunch break where a particularly nice burger was consumed (Thanks Chris!). The walk I took from Victoria Coach Station to Soho where he worked had one interesting monument in the way, Buckingham Palace where I saw the Prime Minister speeding away in a horse drawn carriage and took a bunch of photos which didn't really come out properly!
Best of a bad bunch.
I then had another overnight bus to contend with. This one was run by Eurolines and cost £35 (Double BARGAIN!) and would take me all the way to Dublin, and this time I knew it would partly be by ferry. In comparison the Eurolines bus service is far behind the Czech Student Agency service. On Student Agency you get free hot drinks and a particularly entertainments system full of films, music and a couple of TV series. On Eurolines you get none of that. A shame really.

On arrival to Dublin I met a couple of nice people on and off the bus who I chatted with for a while as we waited in Dublin's Bus├íras. I had my picture taken by a random unsuspecting bus. And waited for another wheeled vehicle of bum-numbing despair which would take me to Cork (£35!).

This is starting to sound like one long string of buses. So all I will add is I arrived in cork with just enough time to go to the toilet and comfortably wait around at the correct bus stop. No anxiety, slight boredom and an almost successfully completed journey!

A castle seen from the Bus. I hoped that I would get to see more of this on the trip. I didn't so I suspect that a return to Ireland is a distinct possibility at some point... In a car!

Irish Weather. Irish Hills. (Dry) Irish fields. Picture taken from the bus.
 It turned out that in the weeks before my arrival the Beara Peninsula had suffered a MIGHTY STORM. The net result of which was to cause difficulties for me on my arrival to Adrigole and the 'Peg's Shop' bus stop. I got off and frequented the said Peg's shop for supplies then strolled the 200 metres of country lane, continually astounded by the wonderful, stark and enrapturing Beara countryside (more on this in a subsequent post). I arrived at the Hungry Hill Lodge, and it was closed. I looked at my phone, no signal. I entered the grounds of the Lodge, no-one was there. So, concerned that I would have to camp out for the night, I trudged back up to Pegs Shop in the hope that they could phone someone off the landline for me.

The Kitchen at the Hungry Hill Lodge, my first night's accommodation.
Since the MIGHTY STORM all mobile and most internet services across the Beara Peninsula had been broken. This meant that I could not contact the owner of the Hungry Hill Lodge, said owner didn't know that I had a booking and I was not able to contact home to tell Sarah that everything was ok and I was set to start the walk. A bit of a disaster on the side, everything about me was fine, but the peripheral things that would have made the start comfortable and easy had suddenly and surprisingly failed because of the failure of technology. Still I couldn't grumble, once contacted the owner came to the Lodge within 5 minutes, I had a warm roof over my head and the owner of the Hungry Hill Lodge - who turned out to be from Coventry - was welcoming. All in all I could count this as a good start to my Irish E8 Adventure!


Thanks for reading this first instalment of the hike. I promise that they will get shorter! Please take the time to comment and if you know anyone who might be interested in these adventures please share on Facebook, Twitter or anything!
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