West of Ireland #2: Leenane and Killary

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Following Westport we managed to get to the Connemara Sleepzone hostel between Killary and Leenane.

If you’re looking for a quiet break this is a fabulous spot. Good value and they do group deals. Stay and enjoy for €16-€20 a night. There’s a pool table and a bar, a TV with a good DVD collection, comfortable sofas and a collection of board games. Monopoly in French is particularly amusing though to spend half the game attempting to figure out the Chance Card.

Allez á la GO

The kitchen is modern and big and the fridge is walk in (so no fighting with other hostelers over squishing their milk). At breakfast the next morning we eat on a picnic bench at overlooked the spectacular views of Ireland’s only fjord. We sat out on the grass lawn of the hostels garden and enjoyed the rare but magical moments of Connemara sun.

The next day we were booked in for rock climbing and high rope activities in Killary Adventure Centre. We got these two guided activities for €48. A was still limping after the misadventure over the wall (guilt) but she was in a better mood after our night in and ready for the fun. We explained her unexpected injury to our instructor but she seemed certain that A would be fine for most of it.

First came rock climbing, not that there were many rocks involved. The artificial climbing wall was close to 70 feet high and well designed. I had a bit of climbing experience and I found it challenging enough to be interesting but manageable enough to still be a holiday activity. A gave this wall a skip but joined in when we started climbing on a climbing wall that was a series of logs, planks, chains and boxes roped together for thirty or forty feet. There were other high rope games, such as building a tower of milk crates under a harnessed in member of the group, trying to get as high as we could.

Finally was the bungee swing. Unlike bungee jumping (though from the same permanent scaffold) you are strapped into a harness chair beside a friend. Myself and A went first. After you are secured, you get winched up to the level of the frame; 30 metres in the air. You stare down at the ground low beneath you until you pull the string that you were given at the bottom.

We screamed and plummeted towards the ground, we swished past an impressed looking L and T before being flung into the air on the far side of the frame. When the swing eventually swung itself out we were breathless and exhilarated. L and T were restless for their go but we all got a second chance at laughing (and screaming) at the prospect of mortality and adventure.

The next day we were due to get the bus from the nearby town of Leenane. I had assumed it was closer to the hostel than it turned out to be as we found out when asking the nice French woman behind the desk. 6 and half km she tells us. Damn. A is a little worried she won’t make it on her ankle but the French woman suggests that we try hitchhiking down the road.

Now I knew that people hitchhike down this road a lot. Had my own parents not picked up many a German or Spanish student here during my childhood? But they had also reminded every time we had dropped them off that I was never, NEVER to go hitchhiking. But the sun from the day before had disappeared and I decided, we’d split up into boy, girl groups of two (no one would pick up four or just pick up two boys) and set off down the road, readying our fake smiles and eager thumbs. T and I were the fastest walkers so we went ahead. This meant that any car that would stop would see A and her injured ankle first.

No one stopped.

They beeped, waved and made complicated gestures through their car windows but no one stopped. We weren’t quite on the outskirts of the village when it started to rain. T and I reached Leenane about fifteen minutes before L and A did. We all piled into the little café for tea and chips in foul moods about the amount that we could not rely on the kindness of strangers.

The waitress saw our bulging rucksacks and exhausted expression and sympathetically asked us about our trip. We poured out our woes onto this willing witness. ‘The bus to Letterfrack?’ She asked with a frowned. ‘Why, where were you staying?’ We told her. ‘Up at the Killary Adventure Centre?’ She asked again. ‘But isn’t that place a bus stop too?’

I’ve never come so close to being the victim of homicide as I was the moment A turned her eyes on me that moment.

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