Thursday, October 2, 2008

Back Packing in Ireland

I was driving along the South East Coast, today, between Bray (in County Wicklow) and Enniscorthy (in County Wexford) when I passed two backpackers hitch-hiking. I'm not one for stopping for hitch hikers, usually. I don't regard it as safe - both for me and also for the hitcher, depending on who picks them up - and, if it's a single female, I generally want to be sure that they are old enough and strong enough to be out on their own, let alone getting in a car heading away from where they came from, with a complete stranger! So, I usually carry on down the road, on my own.

This time, there were two people, a man of about 20 something and his girlfriend. The young woman was carrying a cardboard sign saying 'Wicklow'. Which made it even stranger that I stopped, because I wasn't heading for Wicklow at all, although it was along the road to where I was going (Avoca - where they made the hit British TV show "Ballykissangel", some years ago). But I did stop, albeit 150 or so metres past them, because I was mulling it over before braking. I think (but I can't be sure) it was because they were both carrying enormous backpacks and they both looked very cold and miserable!

They both also had the look of "hippies" (or whatever the "naughties" - 00 - expression is for "hippy".) Plus, I noticed on closer inspection, they both had rings through their lips. That made me wonder if it was the naughties equivlent of a wedding ring - but I didn't have the nerve to ask them.

They turned out to be Jimmy and Emma, two Australians, back packing around Europe (they had flown in to Dublin from Spain the previous day) before going back to college. Jimmy was studying - and working as an instructor in - outdoor activities, canoeing, climbing, sailing, cycling, absailing and all the other stuff that can make me feel tired just hearing the words. Emma (much to my relief) had chosen a more sedentry subject to study - that of Visual Arts, which included photography, but she was particulary interested in sculture, and working clay. I told her that I was always impressed by anyone who could produce art with just their hands (and not with a machine like a camera or computer) and that if I tried prodding a lump of clay about with my hands, it would still look like a lump of clay when I stopped prodding it.

When I dropped them in Wicklow, the weather had turned, and the promising bright light had vanished leaving forboding grey skies, and a chilling wind. I took them down to the harbour, because they wanted to pitch their tent for the night. I raised the subject of youth hostels, only to be told that the more they camped, the more money they had left for the rest of the trip. And, anyway, they had very warm sleeping bags.

I went and took a few shots of the harbour and met up with them again, on the grassy headland, on the way back to the car. "We've found somewhere good to sleep tonight" Emma said, beaming at me. I was delighted, assuming they had located a youth hostel or somewhere else, with a roof. "Where?", I asked, shivering in the wintery wind.

Emma, beamed again, and pointed behind me. "There", she said, "it'll be cosy sheltered up against that wall".

I took them back into the town, so they could go shopping, and they thanked me and I drove off - looking for my 4 star hotel in Enniscorthy, thinking that I had probably never been that young and adventurous. Even when I was young, and a bit adventurous.

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