no room at the inn…?

Having flagged down the bus in Dunfanaghy, we drove in the dusk, watching as passenger after Irish passenger disembarked, to go home to a nice, warm, dry kitchen, where someone had made supper and there was a fire and food and a quiet place to sleep…. We were wet, and cold and on the bus for what seemed like hours. The goal, miles back, was to reach Dunlewey, at the base of Mount Errigal, where we understood there was a hostel for crazy backpackers like us who wanted to climb some mountains. All well and good, except the bus driver didn’t seem too keen on the idea, and we were no longer sure he was going to take us anywhere, except maybe out to the back roads of Ireland and leave us there. Which is essentially what he did. Eventually, everyone else had left the bus, and it was just us and the driver, ploughing on through the pouring rain, in the dark, on the twisty Irish highway. I was nauseous. Finally, he pulled up and stopped in front of the only building for miles, a large, modern structure, with ‘HOSTEL’ written on a big sign out front. ‘It wasn’t quite on the bus route,’ the driver told us, ‘but it’s too wet to be walkin’ out here at nighttime. You’ve got to climb the mountain now though, since you came all this way.’ It turned out that he had reached the end of his route when the last passenger disembarked, but had carried on just for us, right to the door of the hostel. It was just one of many such acts of kindness we encountered on our trip. We assured him that climbing the mountain was exactly what we intended to do, and raced through the rain with our big bags, up the small hill to the hostel.

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The woman at the front desk was very nice, and wanted to know how the weather was, and where we’d been this morning and how we got to the hostel in Dunlewey. All was fine, until we asked for a couple of beds for the night. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I’m so terribly sorry, we’re all booked up.’ We stared at her. Stranded, we though, out in the middle of nowhere, at ten o’clock at night, in the rain, with no transportation. ‘Pardon?’ we said. ‘Just kidding!’ she laughed, ‘Your faces were priceless!’ I was less than amused. But the woman got a great kick out of terrifying the Canadians, and then told us we could have almost any room in the place; apparently Errigal is not a popular spot in the middle of September in a rain storm.P1060394

We were given beds in an empty 12-bed dorm. The youth hostel, recognized by Hostelling International, is very modern, and has a focus on green technology and environmentalism. It was the cleanest, quietest place we stayed the whole trip. The kitchen for guests was fully equipped, and we made ourselves a snack with our leftovers, and I made some tea for Rachel’s cold that she’d managed to pick up back in Belfast. The only other women in the dining room were, we later learned, the owners, and they were very concerned about Rachel’s cough, and the rain, and that she feel much better soon. Then they went on to be very concerned that the rain was not going to let up in time for our hike the next day. And when we woke up the next morning and made ourselves breakfast from the bread and tea left out for us, the owners were there again, giving us directions up the mountain, and recommendations for the trip. Very sweet. We were completely ready to wake up to a lovely, sunny day, and take what we were told was an hour-long hike to the top of Errigal. Of course, it never works out like that.

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