Yesterday we slept at a church somewhere on the outskirts of Dublin. We’ve drifted through so many towns lately that I don’t even bother to learn most of their names anymore. The day before that, we spent the night at a waterfall, drifting off to sleep listening to the tranquil sound of running water. Before that a ‘Road Chef’ dodgy restaurant just off the highway. That’s the beauty of living out of a motor home. Freedom. If you want to camp out at ‘McDonalds’ and wake up to a £1 cup of spicy wedges, then drive your house into their car park, put on your hand brake and start counting sheep. Tonight we’ve decided to live at a 24-hour service station. It’s like having a giant vending machine in your front yard, only without the inconvenience of having to carry around copious amounts of oversized coinage whenever you want to purchase anything.
This has been our first taste of the trailer trash life and I must confess that we have all had no trouble adapting to the changes. Previously, all we knew of traveling was squeezing into tiny, overpriced hostel rooms crowded full of strangers. Now we have our own van and we don’t have to pay any rent. Fair enough it’s still crowded full of people, but this time they are all good friends. Scotty and Taz are still along for the ride bringing our posse up to five for this leg of our journey. And sure we still have to pay for petrol. And a new battery or alternator every time the van decides to break down, which is happening increasingly often, so I suppose it all levels out. But more about that later.
Lee and Mick have taken it in turns taking on the role of driver initially and with them at the helm we’ve seen some pretty amazing things during our road trip around Ireland. We’ve driven past some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen. Green hills partitioned by stone fences and vine covered trees. Winding roads overlooking huge cliff faces being rhythmically turned to white with ocean spray. Ancient castles that still manage to remain standing after enduring the ravaging effects of so much time. It’s absolutely breath taking. The castles do tend to become a bit blasé after a while though. The first time you see one it’s like “Hey look guys! A castle! Take a photo!”. But by around the fortieth they start to get a bit mundane. It seems that every piece of land comes with its own dilapidated castle ruin.
While driving around the picturesque ‘Ring of Kerry’, we narrowly avoided driving into a large sheep leisurely strolling across the road. This incident repeated itself another sixteen times that day. Driving in another country can be quite nerve racking. Some of the roads are barely wide enough for one car let alone a camper van and any other traffic heading in the opposite direction. Lee and Mick are to be commended on their driving abilities. It’s going to be interesting to see how they fare driving in countries with different road rules.
The only real disadvantage to having a house on wheels is that there’s always the possibility that your home will break down and leave you stranded in a whole manner of inappropriate locations such as the middle of a highway or a busy intersection. We’ve had our fair share of car trouble but thankfully we were always assisted virtually instantaneously by one of the overly friendly and helpful locals. We have come to believe in the possibility of fate after being helped by countless guardian angels with heavy Irish accents. Its hard not to be freaked out when you break down and straight away a mechanic carrying a toolbox comes to your aid before you even have time to think about what your going to do.
One new experience for us is having to earthquake proof our home. Anything in the van that is not strapped down has a tendency to become a projectile whenever a tight corner is turned. There’s nothing worse than driving along and having 99 pennies worth of corn in a can hurtle past dangerously close to your head. Hence, most of our spare time goes into devising new and creative ways to temporarily attach possessions and appliances to the interior of the vehicle. And believe me, we have plenty of appliances. When we discovered that the van’s gas cylinder was incompatible for re-filling in Ireland than we realized that the built-in gas griller was going to be nothing more than an awkwardly shaped table from now on. We needed a new way to cook food.
So we turned to Argos. Argos is a strange little shop that sells virtually everything, but as opposed to normal shops you don’t actually see the products on a shelf. When you go into the store, all that you find is a small room with catalogues to look through. You pick what you want out of the catalogue, pay your money and they bring out your order from the back of the store. This unorthodox method of shopping is highly addictive. We went into Argos with very little money looking specifically for only a little electric fry pan. We came out of Argos with an electric fry pan large enough to deep-fry a turkey, a kettle, a toaster, a sandwich maker and a £35 debt to Scotty. The ridiculous thing is, we don’t even have electricity for our van unless we’re plugged into a caravan park power source. And because we spent all our money on appliances we don’t need, we don’t have the cash to stay at caravan parks very often these days. So in conclusion, we have spent the last of our money on paperweights. Annoying paperweights that need to be secured to the bench lest they shoot forth and strike us down whist driving, causing us to career into the nearest wandering sheep or ancient castle.
The five of us have had many good times on this road trip but unfortunately it has come time for Scotty to leave us and head back to his life in London. There is talk of us meeting up again in Scotland so hopefully this won’t be the last we see of him in the UK. It’s a horrible feeling leaving a friend behind at the airport after spending so much time with them. That crushing realisation of impermanence that makes you aware that nothing lasts forever and before we know it, we will be back home and our trip will be over. Better make the most of it.