Wheeling my large yellow suitcase along the rough tarmac road alongside the water’s edge, the bad feeling began to fester when there was no-one else waiting at the pier. Once I stopped and took out my ticket, my stomach sank when I read ‘8.00’, not ‘8.30’, on my return ticket.
Everything had been going well that morning: I’d been up and out of bed and packed ready to go. I’d forgotten to inform the caretaker the day before that I would need to have an earlier breakfast that morning, so he was not up and about. I’d decided I would get something once I was back in Galway.
Walking back up to the Hotel Inisheer, I was able to access their free wifi, even though the venue wasn’t yet open. The timetable on the Aran Island Ferries website read that the next ferry to Rossaveal on the mainland was due in at 10.30. By this stage on the trip I had lost all confidence in the accuracy of public transport timetables in Ireland, but this time had been indicated by the site’s booking form, so I expected that would be correct.
The hotel was not yet open and my phone battery was already plummeting. I sat outside Hotel Inisheer for almost an hour, the sun shining by the chilly Atlantic wind still mercilessly blowing. I should have checked my ticket the night before, I scolded myself. How had I not thought to do that, especially after having gotten stuck in Ballinasloe for an hour and a half longer when I’d misread the train timetable? I had become so efficient in my travel movements, and now this. I’d stayed out longer than expected the night before, after another Island visitor had invited me to play pool and then subsequently watch the Ireland vs Wales football match whilst enjoying a number of red wines and even a brandy. At least the next ferry wasn’t too far away.
One of the staff members at the hotel greeted me and invited me in for some breakfast at about 9.15am. It was so nice to be out of the wind. I ordered a small Irish Breakfast and a pot of tea, and by the time it arrived another couple had come into the restaurant.
At about ten o’clock I finished up my breakfast and made my way back down to the pier. By this time another two visitors were there too, and one of them asked me if I knew if any of the ferries would take them over to the neighbouring island Inishmann. I replied that I thought the other ferry service, the Doolin Ferry, operated inter-island services and that they would be the best bet.
Approaching 10.20 the water was calm and free of vessels, and I reminded myself not to worry, as it was not yet 10.30. Almost on the dot a small vessel became visible, and then another. As they approached, I was disappointed to read ‘Doolin Ferries’ on the side of both of the boats. I approached the staff as the passengers disembarked from the services, and asked if they knew when the next Aran Island Ferries service was due. 4.30, one replied. So not one, but two, of the times on the Aran Island Ferries website was incorrect. They really let things go during the off season.
I asked one of the staff if I would be able to jump aboard the returning Doolin service, and he agreed. Soon we were setting sail to Doolin, a village located on the edge of the historic Burren in northwest county Clare. I had remembered my previous AirBnB host Sharon had advised me that public buses ran from Doolin, and so I had thought as a plan B I could jump on a bus traveling to Galway. The staff member that had allowed me to jump onboard the Doolin Ferry service approached me and asked me for ten euro for the ride. I explained to him that I did have a ticket for the Aran Island service, but he explained that they could not honour it. I was able to muster together nine euro from my remaining cash and coins, and he accepted it.
Upon arrival at the Doolin port, I began making my way up the long stretch of sealed road into the village. When pushing my suitcase along the rough surfaces on Inisheer, I had kept the case to the parts worn smooth by the cars, but there was no such surface area on this road, which made the pushing even slower and more difficult. I had little space between me and the cars coming and going from the port. At one point a car slowed and the driver called out the window to me.
“Do you want a lift?”
“Oh, yeah, thanks!” I replied in relief. “I’m just going into the village.”
The driver got out and helped me put my case on the back seat. He apologised as I moved a few tools off the front passenger seat, and I dismissed his apology, thanking him for helping me.
“So where are you off to?” he asked as we got on our way again.
“I’m trying to get to Galway,” I replied. “I’m catching a train back to Dublin this afternoon. You wouldn’t happen to know when the buses are running, would you?”
“No, I don’t, I’m afraid, but I do know they’re not that often.”
“Well, if I need to, I’ll just catch a taxi back to Galway.”
“Oh, don’t be catching a taxi back to Galway!” the man exclaimed. “You’ll be paying 100-150 euro for the trip. That’s all your spending money gone! You’d be better off just spending the night and getting the bus in the morning.”
The man dropped me in the village, and I thanked him again. I had to walk a little way before I got to the bus stop, and as I read the timetable I learned that the next service didn’t arrive until 3pm. I approached backpacker’s hostel across the street, leaving my suitcase outside as I went into the reception.
“Hi there,” the young woman at reception greeted me. “How can I help?”
“I’m just wondering if the 3pm time for the next bus to Galway is correct?”
“There’s no buses today,” the woman replied. “The drivers are all on strike.”
My stomach sank again, harder and faster than it had on Inisheer.
“Okay, are there taxis around?”
“I’m not sure, I’d say head up to the hotel up on the corner, they have tour buses that go into Galway, you might be able to give one of the drivers a tenner to get a lift.”
Walking up in the direction of the hotel, the panic started to set in. I had remained fairly calm all morning, but the trip back to Galway was seeming more and more impossible. Maybe I would be spending a night in Doolin after all, which I wouldn’t have minded so much except for the fact I had already paid for an AirBnB room in Dublin. I’d already lost my money on the Aran Island ferry and coach transfer, and I wasn’t too keen on losing more.
On the way to the hotel I came by an information centre, and went inside. I explained to the woman behind the desk that I was trying to get back to Galway, and she replied that the only way would be by taxi, and that it would be expensive. I replied that if that was my only option that was what it was going to have to be. She made a call to a driver she knew named John, who gave her a price for the trip. Ninety euro. I accepted without hesitation. It wasn’t ideal but it was what I was going to have to do. The woman invited me to wait in the courtyard of the hotel behind the information centre and she would call me when the taxi had arrived. By this stage I was feeling fairly sorry for myself.
The taxi arrived about fifteen minutes later, and the woman at the desk came out with me and she and the driver went on to discuss their disgust in the public transport system.
“They do these strikes and don’t tell anyone, and all these tourists have no idea and are stranded. I had another poor girl earlier this morning who needed to get to the airport, and was absolutely beside herself.”
“I understand if they want to strike,” I added, “but at least give some notice so that people can make other arrangements!”
Before too long myself and John the taxi driver were on the road, continuing the discussion about the disorganisation of the public transport system in Ireland in general. Throughout the seventy kilometer trip the conversation turned to Australian wildlife, and John was surprised at how I had managed to survive almost twenty eight years in a country inhabited with such dangerous creatures. By the tale end of the hour and a half journey, we were talking about paranormal activity.
I got on the 3.05 train to Galway, and even had time to sit down in a nearby cafe for some lunch and a hot drink beforehand. I arrived back in Dublin at 5.40 and caught the Luas tram into the city centre. My next AirBnB stay was in Dundrum, a twenty minute drive outside of the city centre. I needed to change Luas lines from red to green, and disembarked at the central Abbey Street stop. Looking around the area, I expected the green line to be located near the red. Looking at the map provided at the stop, I could see that the ‘City Centre marked out between the two lines, although on the map it looked like the red and green lines were practically side by side. I headed off in the direction I thought the green line started, my frustration once again building. I stopped by a nearby information centre and went inside, but when I told the staff member I needed to get to Dundrum and was looking for the green Luas line, he informed me I needed to catch a bus instead from outside the nearby Savoy cinemas. By this stage in the trip I was very much getting tired of the misinformation I was receiving every time I went to catch public transport. I made my way to the cinema, and by this stage I had forgotten which bus number I needed to take. I waited by the stop, and finally the number appeared and reminded me, but it was not going to arrive for another forty minutes.
I sat down on the ledge just outside the cinema and managed to find a free unlocked wifi signal. I took the opportunity and jumped onto the AirBnB app, and found that my host Catriona had sent me a message asking me how I was traveling. I explained in short the situation I had been in that day and that I had only just arrived in Dublin, and that the next bus to Dundrum wasn’t until 7pm. She asked me where I was, and I told her, and she replied that she would come and pick me up. I was aware that she was working in the city that day. I thanked her, and asked if she wanted me to wait where I was or go somewhere else. Then I lost the wifi signal.
It was about 6.40pm, and I was giving Catriona until 7pm when the bus to Dundrum was supposedly arriving. I hated the thought that I would inconvenience her, but I had now lost the ability to communicate with her, and I just wanted to get to Dundrum already. My energy and patience was rapidly declining.
I heard a horn toot and looked up to see Catriona waving at me from her car pulled up near the bus stop. Thank God, I thought. I approached the car and she apologised profusely for the mess while I thanked her for her help. Catriona asked if it was okay that her small white dog named Paolo sit on my lap for the trip, and Paolo made himself comfortable.
On the drive out of town Catriona pointed out the green Luas line, and expressed her confusion at why the two lines had been spaced so far apart. I confirmed her confusion, adding that they looked as if they passed each other side by side on the map, when in reality they were a few blocks apart.
Catriona’s accent had a distinct Australian twang, but when I asked her she informed me that she was indeed born in Ireland but had lived in Australia previously during her teenage years. She also laughed that her Aussie ‘twang’ came out when she was around other Aussies.
Before too long we arrived at Catriona’s home in Dundrum. Catriona offered me a glass of wine and I accepted without question; I desperately needed it after the day I’d had! We ordered Thai takeaway for dinner, and I was delighted to learn that many places delivered for just a few euros regardless of the size of the order. Back at home there was usually a minimum spend of around $40 to have takeaway delivered, and not all places provided the service.
Finally the long and challenging day had come to an end, and I collapsed into a warm and comfy bed. Catriona’s hot water system was playing up, but I didn’t have the energy for another fight, so I decided to leave a shower until the morning.