So I did. Ennis is roughly the size of a 20c coin, and not a lot more exciting. There will not be any photos for this entry. There is only one hostel so I headed there to beg for a bed, and somehow my staggering luck on this holiday continued as I snapped up one of the last available bunks. 30 minutes later I was passing by the front desk and there was indeed a sign declaring "no vacancies"
. The tourist information office was very friendly, and took the required 40 seconds to fully explain all the wonderful things on offer in the area. My favourite was a walking tour that took me about 15 minutes to complete and traversed around such diverse ecosystems as "a street" and "a polluted river". Realising I would have to manufacture my own good times, I hung around the communal area of the hostel, laying in wait for unsuspecting backpackers to harass into coming to the pub with me. This did not take long, as others had seemingly drawn the same unfortunate conclusions I had.
We stocked up for a head start at the Off Licence (bottle shop), then headed down the road for some authentic Irish pub music and more alcomahol. It was at this point that my dashing Wallabies top enticed Michelle to talk to me - a Kiwi of course. Now, I have already declared many times in the past that the best way to flush out Kiwis is to don the Wallabies top, and this was just another prime example on a very long list indeed. The rest of the group consisted of an oh-so-cool Frenchie called Julian, a yank called Steve Power (kid you not), and a couple of brothers (also yank) whose names I can't recall right now. We started buying rounds of Guinness so it was always going to get messy, but hilariously so, as we danced Irish jigs like idiots and at some stage attracted a dedication from the band in one pub - "Land down under"
. One of my favourite highlights would have to be a philosophical discussion in the US corner involving the definition of a "game" versus a "sport". It was somehow concluded that golf is only a game, UNLESS you carry your own clubs then it becomes a "hike". Flawless logic I thought (I won't bore you with it here). Another fine discovery made by yours truly is that a 10 baht coin looks deceptively like a 2 euro coin, hence more than quadrupling in value. I didn't realise it sooner, but they seem to accept them here without a problem.
Over the course of the night I hatched an insidious plan with Michelle to take advantage of her hire car and tent to potentially save some euros and take in some of Northern Ireland, while also escaping the suffocating boredom of Ennis. She agreed to trade for my dazzling company and scintillating conversation, so the rendezvous was set for Dublin in a couple of days.
Next day I went with a few other hostelers to see a game of Gaelic Football at the local stadium. It was reportedly free entry, but was thinly disguised as 10 euro when we got there. At the game there was an old Irish bloke sitting next to me who didn't mind discussing the finer points (and some of the rules) which certainly helped in understanding what the hell was going on
. I've seen "International Rules", the mongrel combination of Gaelic Rules and Aussie Rules, but never the pure Irish game before. First thing I noticed was that once you have the ball, no-one can tackle you! What the!? Instead, they run along next to you, waving like lunatics and hoping that you'll lose control when you try to bounce the ball. The game was EXTREMELY low scoring, ending in a mind-numbing 0.7 to 0.7 draw, which roughly equates to 60 minutes of shots on goal sailing ridiculously wide of the target. For the record, my team (the ones wearing red/white/green) had the opportunity to steal the win from a free kick after the final whistle. Even though the kicker was the standout for us, he still hooked it and is no doubt still buying drinks for the rest of his team as we speak.
As lovely as Tralee was, I concluded that meandering away from the town with no clear plan or purpose was a far better prospect than staying another horrendous day there. No offence to Tralee, but there is just simply nothing to do there. I was beginning to settle on the idea of Limerick as a feasible option for the night, but during a brain-storming exercise with a few locals I uncovered the disturbing fact that Limerick was in fact cutely referred to as "Stab City" by the Irish. Brilliant. Maybe not a bad idea to just skip Limerick and head straight to Ennis...