Thank you for joining me for the second installment of my journey through Ireland. These last few weeks, much like the first few, have had their share of excitement, discovery, and head scratching moments. Since my last post, I have done quite a bit of exploring, mostly around southern Ireland. In reality, classes have picked up a bit, so I have to pick and choose my days to wander. Still, it is mainly just lecture as they do not believe much in homework apparently, which is more than fine with me. With that it leaves me quite a bit of extra free time to go to cool places during the week.
I have a break in class from Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening, so that has become my exploration time. These have been some of my favorite trips because they involve little to no planning and a lot of figuring it out on the fly. For example, on the 17th of September, I hopped a bus up to Killarney and spent the day touring the castle and gardens. I walked around for hours before sitting down at a fishing dock away from the crowds to take in the scenery. There I met a guy named John, who had been backpacking Europe for a few months, and struck up a conversation. The conversation lasted a couple hours and ended with John eventually deciding he would buy a plane ticket to head back to the states to get a fresh start. I can’t take any credit for his realizations, but I wish him the best in his new pursuits. After that whirlwind, I attempted to walk back to Cork, got lost and ended up hailing a cab to get back to my apartment. That’s a story for another time.
The next weekend I was lucky enough to embark on a fly fishing trip to a small town in the next county over. Late on a Friday night, I made the trek over to the town of Clonmel where I rented a last minute AirBnb. The nice lady who owned the house called me a cab for the next day in order to get to the fish shop. After arriving a bit early the workers and guide showed up and started collecting gear. Once we were armed and dangerous it was time to snag some trout. The day consisted of catching a few fish, learning some tricks of the trade, and seeing a ton of awesome country. The guys were extremely knowledgeable and kind as almost everyone has been. All of this made for a great day on the water.
Jumping ahead to this week, again with a few friends, we went and toured the town of Kinsale on the southern coast by way of bike. There we went around the city and out to an old military fort dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. I was able to learn a bit about the area’s history and take in the scenery. To no one’s surprise the views out over the Atlantic were nothing short of amazing.
This leads us to this Tuesday. A few days ago, I was sitting in my morning class thinking I had not done anything spontaneous in a minute or two, so I headed to the bus station as soon as we were dismissed. I had remembered reading about a bike trip through the Gap of Dunloe that was a must do, so I bought a ticket and was off. Upon arriving in Killarney, I rented a bike from a local place, nodded as the guy went through the local stops to make, and tore out of town. About 8 miles in I chained up and began to ascend a hiking path. An hour or so later I stood at the top of Slippery Bridge or “Big Gun” peak looking over more country than I could even take in. After staring in amazement for awhile, I headed back down realizing I would be in a real time crunch to make the last bus back. From there I picked back up the bike trip and headed through the Gap of Dunloe. I would try to explain the surrounding scenery, but it’s just one of those places you have to see for yourself. I attached a picture below, but it does not even do it justice. Five or so miles later of pedaling up the rugged terrain and down through the Black Valley, I finally got a bit of signal and realized I had an hour and a half to bike 15 miles back either direction. With the steepness of the surrounding hills, that just would not be possible. With a little detour and a lot of luck I was able to find a flooded walking path back through the forest and out to the main road. A couple miles and a soaked pair of shoes later I was right back on track. From there it was a long but manageable 8 miles back into Killarney. Legs burning and heart racing, I chugged along cursing myself out, and made it just in the nick of time. I chained up the bike and hustled to catch the last bus as it pulled in, a great success.
As I look back on these last few adventures, I realize they are not things that can be strategically planned out. Life is about adjusting on the run, so sometimes you just have to buckle up and let it fly. I know these are the times I will look back and appreciate the most because they weren’t supposed to happen. I can’t be quite sure if it’s curiosity, determination, or just plain stupidity, but the three combined seem to create something special, something an itinerary will never capture. These trips are just more meaningful. They are about the journey and not the outcome, more about the story of getting there and less about the end result. That’s life.
Again, thanks for reading, and I will continue to keep updating as often as possible. Much obliged.
Photo courtesy of The Gap of Dunloe
Matthew Twaddle is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in civil engineering. He is attending the University College Cork in Ireland through the UMKC Direct Exchange Program during the fall semester. Matthew is from Maryville, MO and is excited to continue his education in Cork, Ireland where some of his family still resides.
Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.