I left Cork city and began yet another day-long bus journey through Limerick and Galway. A stopover in Galway on a rather sunny afternoon was a welcome respite, as I sat in Eyre Square and munched on some random snacks, even running into Jenna once again. We determined that I'd stay with them again for my final night in Ireland after my trip north to Donegal.
On the bus again, through Connemara and Sligo, seated next to people who were keen to not talk to anyone unless by cell phone. After too many hours, we finally arrived in front of the Abbey Hotel in Donegal Town.
Armed with my travel book, I set off out of town and onto the road to Killybegs, looking for the hostel I'd read about therein. Some wanderings back and forth in the darkness finally led me there. Up the stairs I went; the doorbell I rang. I waited a bit, hearing sounds from within, until, somewhat surprisingly, a window behind me opened and a young woman popped her head out: "Sorry, we're closed for the season! You'd be best trying Diamond Lodgings."
Walking the mile back to town, I suddenly realised that this was probably why no one answered my rings at the hostel in Sixmilebridge. I'd be the only traveler they'd get for two months! Undaunted, I found Diamond Lodgings, nestled secretly behind an imposing gate on the street surrounding the town center. I rang the bell several times. No response. A cab driver, noting my lack of success, suggested I head down the road to the Atlantic Guest House.
Third time's the charm, and I got my room for my two nights in Donegal. Satisfied, I headed off to the Reel Inn, where I spent my evening listening to traditional music, talking to a couple from Asheville, NC, and generally enjoying myself.
The next day brought rain. I had a huge breakfast at the guest house and then wandered around town amidst the raindrops. Thankfully, the once-a-month Saturday market was on, so I spent most of the morning wandering between the little shops and talking to the shopkeepers. It was great to hear of their lives and experiences, and even ask them about my ancestral clan - the McMonegals. Some were still around, they said; in fact, McMonigal Stone Company was just down the road. Distant relatives, perhaps, alive and well, despite spelling differences!
That afternoon, I took the bus to Ardara, being informed as I got off that there was no return bus to Donegal Town. The driver rang some other drivers and we figured out a return schedule for me nevertheless. I spent the afternoon wandering around and taking photographs. I had hoped to visit the Maghera waterfalls, but was disappointed to see I'd have to walk 30 km or so. No time for that! I settled for a random road that took me past several farms and a pen of sheep that all glared at me as I passed.
Returning from my wanderings and having a half hour left before the bus arrival, I stopped in the bar on the corner of the street. An elderly gentleman immediately struck up a conversation with me, sipping on what was probably Brandy. We talked a while and he told me of his childhood, running around Donegal with nothing in his pockets and no shoes on his feet. He was also quite proud to share the name of American senator and astronaut John Glenn.
On the bus again, from Ardara to Killybegs. Upon arrival, we discovered that the other bus driver, who was supposed to wait for me, had gone on. "You're gonna have to thumb it, then," said the driver, who was going in the opposite direction.
And so I stood on the side of the road for half an hour in the cold windy darkness, thumb extended.
Finally, a car stopped and a half-hour ride began, during which Kieran told me all about Irish Gaelic Football and how amazing it was and how great that Donegal won the all-Ireland final this year. A fun glimpse into the culture. My second successful hitchhiking experience.
That night, I went to another pub and had a conversation with a creepy Romanian man for a while. It was mostly a college-aged crowd, and I had some conversations with other young Donegal folk before wandering outside to pray for the town and those students in the pub, spending their Saturday drinking heavily. Oh, that they would know the glory for which they were created, the glory of the One who created them!
Sleep came soon afterwards. Another day on the buses; another night with Nathan and Jenna. One more bus, two flights, home.