Brigid Travels

Updates from The Road

Round the World - The end of the trip [2000]


Well, I landed safely at LAX at 2:15 on Saturday, and Cindy and Scott picked me up. They had a great welcome home banner for me, crafted by themselves and Rosa (thanks!). For those of you at work, I hung it in my office. For everyone else, I'll take a picture and put it up on the website with the rest of the pictures! It was questionable whether I would get home, though, because my 10pm flight from Fiji left 5 hours early so I missed it! Luckily I was at the airport early enough to get first on the stand-by list for a 7:40 flight through Honolulu (the other one was straight through). It's for the best that I missed the original flight, though, because I would have landed at LAX at 8am and not been able to get home for hours! The flight was fine, and I got a few hours' sleep, plus the bonus of an extra day due to crossing the dateline.

Fiji was ok - but there are still signs of the coup that happened in May. For instance, there was a manned sandbag-strewn raised bunker at an intersection outside of town. I went to an orchid garden, took a dip in a hotspring (but that is a secret because my guide wasn't supposed to take me there - it's where locals go), and did a wee bit of hiking to a point that looked over Nandi and off into the island-studded ocean. It really was beautiful, but the whole political/ethnic situation is aggravating the poverty and crime situation so I didn't feel all that comfortable there. I was not looking forward to spending the night there if I didn't get a flight out. But they were very excited to have a tourist to pay attention to - their season has been dismal.

Sunday I mostly slept, and I think I am almost over the jetlag and the daylight savings time switch :)

So that's it. Back at work today was good - I really did miss everyone! And I got most of my pictures developed (over 300 - not including Ireland films which are still en route, probably in the middle of the Atlantic on a slow boat). Some of the photos are great! And Cindy gave me great ones for the first week of Ireland, so really I'm just missing 2 weeks. I'll bring the pics to work for the next week or so, and eventally will do a whole scrap book with brochures, ticket stubs, narrative, etc.

I already posted all the emails that I have sent to my webpage ( -> Sabbatical Recap). My plan is to get a webpage with narrative/highlights/favorites/FAQ/lessons learned/best stories/etc to go with the better pictures scanned in by Christmas (hopefully sooner). I'll send one more mass mailing to you all when that is done, and at that time I'll probably have a little travelogue shindig for those of you who are interested in the San Diego area (and Philly area when I go there for Christmas - plus I might have to go to DuPont and talk, too, since they have been following it!).

Anyway, thanks for hanging with me during my travails. I really appreciate all the emails of support I have gotten all the way through. And pretty much everybody said they were worried by my Mt Kenya tale - sorry about that. If you have questions, feel free to ask!

Until next time... Brigid

Fiji [2000]


Flight Out

NON-LAX 10/28 10:00pm-1:20pm (American Airlines 739)


  • Nadi – I only had an afternoon here, and went on a pretty tense driving tour – they were gearing down from a coup a few months earlier.

in Fiji [2000]


This one will really be the last (I think). I'm at the airport in Fiji, and it is 12:30 on Saturday. I'll be arriving home at LAX in an hour (thanks to the dateline). Tonga was pretty good, but the people on "The Friendly Islands" were a little too friendly - very nosy, which can be ok, but the guys were pretty slimy and gave a new meaning to 'leer'. I had read that they saw too many American movies and thought all American women were easy targets, so I was a bit prepared.

I arrived Wed and was grabbed by the first taxi guy claiming he was a tour guide as well (that's what his badge said). So he drove me to the blowholes where the waves spewed up through small channels in the volcanic rock. Quite dramatic. Then I saw a palm tree that had 3 heads (Edward was very proud of this genetic mutation) and looked at some bat-like flying squirrels high in the trees.

The first night I decided to stay in a hostel-type guest house, and afterwards decided to never do that again if I can help it. Nothing too bad, but just not clean, and the water was not very hot, and the roosters crowed at 4:30am. I was glad I had brought my own sleep sack, but still got a bunch of bites. Thurs I got picked up at 6 and flew to Vava'u, arriving about 9. I checked in at one of the most expensive places on the island ($50) and walked to town to see what I could do until the next day at 3:30 when I needed to return to Tongatapu in order to make my flight today. Unfortunately since it was raining a bit, I had pretty much no choices. The tourism woman suggested getting a taxi to the Tongan Beach resort and then taxi back to go on a boat if the rain had stopped. I decided to walk instead, not knowing how long it was - I had all day to kill. It took me 1-1/2 to 2 hours through some very lush palm fields, and it rained almost the whole time so I was soaked. But I made it there, and they said they did, indeed, rent snorkel stuff in the rain so off I went into the water. There were some pretty cool fish on the coral - blue, yellow, black/white. My favorites were the bright blue starfish and the fish that looked like it was spray-painted blue/green/yellow. The water is so amaxingly clear.

I taxied back to the paradise and took it easy the rest of the day. After dinner, I joined some New Zealand fishermen and together we sloved all the world's problems over a few beers.

Friday I walked around a bit and bought a book on Fiji's coups in the late 80's. The only books in the bookstores were religious, children's and history/art of Tonga. This one probably slipped in because of the regional historical aspect. It must be regulated by the King. Also, I heard an amazing choir practicing - hauntingly beautiful to be walking, checking out the chickens and pigs (and adorable piglets!) on the road and roadside and hearing that.

Back on Tongapatu, I stayed at one of its most expensive hotels, the Dateline ($50), which was exactly like an old college dorm. At least it had an ocean view and TV - I watched a BBC World report on how much mud-slinging there is in the presidential elections. And I think I heard the Yankees won the world series. So it appears I didn't miss too much :)

There were many people in the traditional garb especially on the island of Vava'u - woven mats tied around their waist. It doesn't look to comfortable or slimming, but it it very interesting to see the variations. Also, many people wore leis, either on their heads, around their necks or draped from shoulder to hip. All just as a matter of everyday life. Very pretty.

I'm about half way through the Fiji book, and so I'm a little nervous about being here, given their more recent political disturbances. But everything calmed down months ago, so I'm sure it will be fine.

Gotta go - I booked a half day driving tour. I had wanted to take a quick flight out/back on a little island, but since it is not high season the flights are not plentiful enough for me to do that.

In any case, I will be back home in a day! I can't believe it is over!! I'll send one last mass mailing after I get home, and I'll be putting a whole bunch of stuff on my website by the end of the year.


Tonga [2000]



10/25 : horrible guest house, Nuku’alofa 10/26 : Paradise International Hotel, Neiafu, Vava’U 10/27 :

International Dateline Hotel

– Vuna Road, Nuku’alofa

Flight Out

TBU-NAN 10/28 10:20am-10:50pm (Royal Tongan 305)


  • Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu – I spent a miserable first night in a rooming house, and a better last night in the dorm-like Dateline Hotel. Beautiful, but the locals are a little too friendly.
  • Neiafu on Vava’u – I had a nice few days here, wandering around the island and meeting Kiwi fishermen!

NZ day 2 [2000]

Well, I didn't snowboard today - I slept instead, which is probably for the best. But I definitely have to come back here - I love New Zealand! I ended up reserving the last seat on the last bus from Kaikoura to Christchurch. I spent my last few hours there in the Kaikoura Bar with some very friendly and incredibly amusing New Zealanders - Adam, Matt and Kimi. Adam has a killer imitation of Beavis' Cornholio. Hopefully the picture will turn out.

I slept most of the ride home, being woken up only when I smacked my head against the window as the driver zomed around some of the mountainous curves a little too quickly. We got home almost an hour early (of a scheduled 3 -1/2 hour ride).

I woke up at 6, in time to catch a shuttle to Mt Hutt, but decided I was too tired to risk my life on the mountain today. So I slept, until about 3pm. I think it was a good decision.

This evening, I had dinner at a great vegetarian spot - Dux de Lux. Tomorrow I'm off to Tonga, where I probably won't have any more email access. So I'll send the last update after I get home this weekend.

Just 3-1/2 more days :( Brigid

Dolphin swim [2000]


I really need to get a thesaurus. Everything has been amazing, incredible, intense, stunning or wonderful. Swimming with the dolphins was all that. We had a quick briefing where they told us not to touch the dolphins (they run away), don't flail your arms, but do make squeaking noises, do move rhythmically, do dive down under the water with the snorkel on if you can. They like those things, and will play with you. We drove out into the ocean about a half hour, and then found a suitable pod, without any babies. Moms (and nursemaids) were too protective so we couldn't be near them. On the way, the boat crew gave us 2 rounds of antacids (I think) which were supposed to function against sea sickness. I was the first one in the water and the last one out. We had full wetsuit gear on (including hoods, gloves, booties) and snorkel gear (mask, blowpipe thing, fins). Once in the water I started my rhythmic movement - I put my flippers together as if they were one and moved like a dolphin does. Very soon they came to see what was up. I was careful not to touch them, to keep my hands to my body, but they were so close it took effort. Initially there were 3 of them checking me out. Eventually I got into talking to them through my snorkel gear in alternatingly squeeky and soothing tones. And I dove down (as much as I could with such a bouyant wetsuit). Every time I dove down, a couple of dolphins came swimming by very close to compliment my effort. They were all over everyone - our boat had a dozen swimmers. They popped up and sometimes jumped around us. Every once in a while they would disappear, but always reappear when I tried to do my diving :) After a little over an hour, the boat sounded its horn and the last of us still in the water got on the boat. The dolphins seemed to know what was up, and crossed in front of me as I was trying to maneuver to the boat. To use an oveused word, it was amazing. One time, a dolphin crossed in front of me, then swung on hist back and sailed under me, looking at me over his white belly :) The water was so bright blue-green... the dolphins were black and white, just stunning. And when I looked out of the water, there were snowcapped peaks beyond the dark beaches. I loved it!

The only problem is that I missed the 4:08 train and the 5:45 bus was full, so I got the last seat on the 8:10 bus. I didn't realize it's a holiday here today, so everything is booked up. But I have to get back to Christchurch so I can (hopefully) catch a 7am shuttle up to go snowboarding :) Yes, I'll be careful - no broken ribs or back injury that lays me out on the floor for a week.

This web shop is closing - I guess I'll get something to eat while I wait for the 3 hour bus ride.

:) good day, despite the lack of sleep (I'll catch up in Tonga) Brigid

Hi from Kiwi Land [2000]

I just wiped out my message with an unknown shortcut key, so I apologize if you already got one just now. Last time I wrote, I was between Madagascar and Mauritius in Nairobi. Madagascar was great, but the last day while I was hiking, when the rain stopped the mosquitos attacked me so have a plethora of bites on my calfs (or is it calves? I think calfs).

The flights have all been fine - only one with a mother I wanted to belt for not attempting at all to hush up her screaming child (who was too old to be putting up such a fuss, if you ask me and all the passengers around me). Mostly I read - 'Circle of Friends', a good book!

When I landed in Mauritius, I realized that I had not been surrounded by Westerners for over a month - it was kinda weird to be in a crowd of people I could understand. Most of the tourists there were British, plus a healthy dose of French and Indian. It's a very touristy island, as evidenced by the fact that Prince William was on holiday there a little while before I was there. The water is beautiful, as are the mountains that fall into the sea, but I guess I have been spoiled by being in places that have more raw power. So the night there was fine, but I was not overly impressed.

The next night I spent in Perth Australia, but after a late flight and all the customs rigamaroll, I checked in at 11:30 pm and had to leave at 9:30am. So what I saw of Perth was through a cab window. It did look similar to San Diego, as Tony said it would!

Last night I arrived in Christchurch and again went through alot of customs stuff for a few small wood things I bought in Kenya, and here they checked my boots to be sure I didn't have mud sticking on them. The Aussies and these guys are very serious about quarantine stuff. I had picked up 2 feathers - one in Ireland and 1 in Kenya and I have to have them fumigated before they can leave the country. I guess it is good to be careful - look what kudzu is doing to the southeast. Well, I guess none of you would know that story (imported vine for erosion control, took over uncontrollably, climbing on trees, killing them, decimating forests).

Anyway, I got into the hotel at 3:30 and had to get to the train station at 7am, and including jetlag I got 20 minutes of sleep. So I'm ready to greet the dolphins! In an hour, I do my swim in the ocean, and hopefully we'll see some whales as well.

I'll tell you about that next time! Brigid

Mauritius [2000]



Port Louis

Flight Out

MRU-PER 10/21 10:20am-9:30pm (Air Mauritius 940)


Port Louis – I just stayed overnight here – and it was a bit too much of a European playground after my weeks in Kenya and Madagascar.

another quick one [2000]

I'm back in Nairobi waiting for my flight to Mauritius, where I will spend tonight. And tomorrow night I'll be in Perth. Madagascar was very good - it was much harder to communicate there, since I don't speak Malagasy or French, but enough people spoke enough English for us to get ideas across. It is quite the land of disparity - such intense poverty but such intense natural resources, and my accommodations were very plush. I went hiking on the days I wasn't traveling, and it was very cool to see chameleons and lemurs in their native environment. The volume of wildlife was less than in Kenya, but hiking in the rainforest was really cool - and appropriately it rained. It took over 2 days for my boots to dry out. More on Madagascar later, as I have to catch my flight.

On the flight from Tana to Nairobi this morning, I read a copy of Financial Times from a few days ago, and I saw a little bit of CNN in Tana, so I'm starting to get reacquainted with the outside world, but very slowly. I can't believe I'll be home in a week. But between now and then, I have dolphin swimming, snowboarding and beach relaxation to accomplish!!!


Madagascar [2000]



10/13 and 10/19 : 

Hotel Colbert

 – 23 Rue Printsy Ratsimamanga, Antaninarenina Antanananarivo 10/14-15 :

Vakona Forest Lodge

– Andasibe / Perinet 10/16-18 :

Relias du Masoala

– Ambatomasina-Andranonangozy BP10 Maroantsetra


10/16 : Toamasina-Sambava-Maroantsetra (Air Madagascar) 10/19 : Maroantsetra-Antalaha-Antanananarivo (Air Madagascar)

Flight Out

TNR-NBO 10/20 5:30am-8:45am (Air Madagascar 730); NBO-MRU 10/20 10:20am-3:20pm (Air Mauritius 535)

To See

Parc National d’Andasibe-Mantadia (Perinet), Nosy Mangabe, Masoala Peninsula, lemurs!


    • Antananarivo – Madagascar’s capital city is noisy, dirty and shockingly poor.
    • Toamasina – We drove from Tana to Toamasina through Perinet Reserve, stopping at the Centre d'`elevage et de reproduction, Marozeco Farm (roadside "zoo") and the Reserve Vakona, a private park on the grounds of my lodging. In Perinet we hiked through the dense forest looking in the treetops for lemurs.
    • Maroantsetra – I stayed in the wonderful Relias du Masoala across the bay from Nosy Mangabe. There were no other guests! I had guided hikes on Nosy Mangabe and Masoala National Park, via boat rides.

update on Earthwatch study [2000]

Jambo. Sorry I skipped over the black rhino study - and I don't have time to do it justice now, but I'll see what I can do in the 5 minutes I have.

I definitely recommend doing one - the people are great and very eager to learn, the people that run it are very aware of safety and getting the most out of the experience. My team was 9 people - 2 couples, a set of brothers and 3 single women. The 3 of us shared a thatch-roofed hut (individual rooms) and we were also teamed up together, so I got to know Wendy and Anette very well.

We would go out into the bush each morning between 7:45 and 8:15, and walk between 5-13 km. The most exciting times were those first few days being chased by elephants, lions, buffalo, and rhino (more details on those later). The last day was a special treat - we went out with the rhino patrol (as soo as they spot them, we note where they are on the GPS and what they are doing). We tracked 2 adolescent males and found them! They were napping in some brush 50 m away!! Rhinos can only see 50 m, and the wind was blowing in the right direction so they couldn't smell us, so we were relatively safe. But when we took some pictures, they both stood up and looked in our direction. We stood quiet and still, but they were at attention for a good 15-20 minutes. And when the guard made sure we knew to climb a tree if they started charging, it didn't make us feel so secure! But eventually they lay back down (ears still rotating, listening for us) and we backed away. What a way to end the experience!


Hi from Nairobi, again [2000]


Quick note to say I'm still kicking after my Mount Kenya expedition - I'll try to send another one before I leave for the airport tomorrow morning. I'll send another email with more details on the rest of the Earthwatch study later, but that ended on Monday (lots of fun, great people). I got to the gate of Mt Kenya National Park in the morning, and we had to deal with rain so got up to the first 'hut' Monday evening - Old Moses (9km, 800 m ascent - not too tough). By the way, the huts have no heat (just a bed), no hot water and you have to bring your own toilet paper (I didn't know that, but brought some in case, but not enough so I had to ration for 4 days).

Tuesday we went 17km, up 1100 m to Shgipton's Camp so that was tougher, because we also had to deal with more altitude affects and again the rain and mud. But most of the altitude was in relatively extreme chunks so it was ok. Wednesday I got up at 2:30am (after sleeping maybe an hour due to the altitude) and we started our ascent at 3:45am. It was 3.5km up 800 m - straight up gravelly and rocky slopes. And the rocks slid, so you couldn't put full weight on them. My guide, Joshua, later told me that nobody ascends after 6am because if you could actually see where you were going, you would be too scared to continue. It was intensely exhausing, and Joshua had to pull me a couple of times, but I made it to Point Lenana at 7:15am (just under 5000m). Unfortunately, since I took so much time going up, the ice crystals that held some gravel together started melting and the way down was not fun, or fast. We had to do the crab quite a few times - on hands and feet, sliding down the slopes, when you are going too fast or get close to the very steep, unrecoverable edge you stop yourself by dropping your butt. I don't get the gluttons for punishment who do this as a hobby. I'm glad I did it once, but I'm thinking high altitude trekking is not for me.

So I finally got down at 9:15am and realized that I had to hike 17km out, to the first hut. Oh - and because of the altitude I could not eat - I wasn't ill, just couldn't force anything down. After resting an hour, we left. My guide Jimmy got a little ahead of me, and I realized I was lost as I saw Jimmy disappear into the fog. I kept going, thinking my trail would meet up with him at the river, but I kept going up. So a few minutes later I sat down on a rock and thought about what you are supposed to do when you are lost: remain calm (nope - I was so exhausted and scared that I would have to spend a night where I was that I started sobbing - a real energy boost); have enough food to make it through the night (check - I had 1/2 a power bar, and 2 pkgs of candy a guy from South Africa gave me when he saw how exhausted I was after the ascent and that I wouldn't eat); water (check - I had 1/2 liter); a signalling device (check - the powerbar's label was silver inside, but it was all foggy so that doesn't really help); a whistle (check); a flashlight (check). So I calmed down a bit - in between yelling 'Jimmy! Joshua!' into the fog.

Eventually a voice called back - Joshua had found me. So I had to go all the way down the ravine to the river to take the 'easy' route back toward the ridge. For a 1100m descent, there was a ton of uphill and muddy downhill. But I made it to the Old Moses Camp. There were about 15-20 cheery energetic people at the camp, ready for the next day's hike to Shipton's camp at the base of the mountain and I was so worn out, they just stared a bit as I dragged my sorry butt in. I ate a bit and slept. Today was much better, except that I discovered 2 huge blisters, but I ignored them on the way down. The car Jimmy had arranged did not pick us up, so he got the park rangers to agree to take us. After ~20 min they got the car started, and it was a wild bumpy ride to Nanyuki since the steering was so loose. At one point we slid around into an embankment on the muddy way down, but nobody was hurt. In Nanyuki we had a beer at the Impala Butchery and Bar (to get to the cafe area, you walk through a little room where they are hacking at carcasses) and I took an incredibly packed puegeot station wagon to Nairobi. I cannot tell you how nice it is to have a bath, and toilet paper!!!!!

Gotta go - I'll try to send more in the morning as I don't think I'll be able to email in Madagascar. I cannot believe I will be staring at lemurs tomorrow!


Jambo from Kenya [2000]


That's hello in Swahili. It has been an exciting week. I'll go into details later as I can only write a page worth today. Monday was spent traveling to here (Sweetwaters Reserve outside Nanyuki). My accommodations are 1/4 of a thatch-roof hut, which is very comfortable. So far I have been chased on foot (and had to run away from) 3 elephants, 2 rhino, a cape buffalo and today we had to walk slowly away from a lion (running would have only encouraged her to gore us). The guards only had to shoot (to scare off) for the elephants - we had followed one big male swimming down the river, and when he cane out of the river and charged us, we ran towards a momma and baby who charged us as well. Lots of running for that one, but I haven't had to climb a tree to get out of reach of anything yet. Other animals I have seen in their natural habitat include: zebra, lions, elephants, giraffes, warthogs, hartebeest, eland, hyenas, baboons, cap buffalo, bushbuck, impala, Thompson's gazelles, reedbuck, ostriches, jackals, hippos. Also chimps in a Jane Goodall sanctuary - one threw rocks at us through the fence! Yesterday I went into town to look at their wares, and that was a whole different adventure.

Other notes: The night sky is gorgeous - I can see the milky way clearly - but I have not seen the moon yet - I'm not sure why. Daily schedule is: get up ~6:30; eat breakfast (usually porridge and toast); go out into the bush with an armed guard from 8-12 or so (different tasks each day),; shower; eat lunch; rest until 3 (generator-run electricity is only on 6a-12p, 3p-11p); download data we collected in the morning; do an afternoon activity (or nothing); eat dinner; night activity (or nothing). Afternoon and evening activities are things like game drives and trips into town. Tonight we are going to a disco in town - should be very interesting!!

By the way, I can't see my own email, so I will not be able to read/respond to them for another week. Hopefully next Thursday or Friday.


Arrived in Nairobi [2000]

Very quick message from Nairobi. I made it here safely yesterday and the team is now assembling for our trip into the wilderness. I think I'll be a bout to email every once in a while - I'll send it to one person and they will forward it to you. After resting all day yesterday, I'm pretty much over my cold and ready to go! As I was drifting off to sleep yesterday I could hear beautiful singing and chanting, I think from a church close by. It was soothing. But there is definite absolute poverty here, And the hotel is across the street from the Israeli embassy, which makes the heavily guarded police stations in Northern Ireland look tame.

talk at you when I can -


Kenya [2000]



9/24 and 10/12 :

Fairview Hotel

 – 10 Bishops Road, Nairobi

Earthwatch Study

Saving Kenya’s Black Rhinos

, Ol Pejeta Ranch on Sweetwaters Research Centre – PO Box 167, Nanyuki

Flight Out

NBO-TNR 10/13 10:15am-2:30pm (Air Madagascar 739)

To See

Animals on Sweetwaters Game Reserve, Goodall Chimpanzee Reserve, Hike Mt Kenya, Nairobi


  • Nairobi – We stayed in Nairobi on the first and last nights – a very crowded and dirty city.
  • Sweetwaters Reserve – I stayed at the Sweetwaters reserve while doing the black rhino Earthwatch study. It was incredible!
  • Mount Kenya – To top off my Kenya experience, I climbed Mt Kenya – it was very tough and I got lost at one point!!

Dublin, ancient stuff, brawl [2000]


I have just a few more hours in Dublin! The last time I wrote was Monday. On Monday, I was not feeling so hot, so instead of heading out on a train, I decided to hang around Dublin. I did some souvenier shopping, had some yummy Italian food for lunch, then went on the Jameson distillery tour. It's similar to the Guiness 'tour' - they have some dioramas (spelling?) set up and don't actually make the stuff there anymore. That evening I went to what was advertised as the "home of Bailey's", which was a short movie and a drink at a bar in a shopping plaza connected to a racetrack (!). I don't recommend that one. Also Monday I took my first malaria tablet (whoohoo!!). The first of 8.

Tuesday I wasn't feeling worse, so I went on an all-day bus tour, stopping at the Hill of Tara (ancient sacred spot), saw the castle that was the centerpiece of the movie 'Braveheart' (no, Mel was nowhere to be found), stopped at Slane for lunch. There are rock concerts on the lawns around Slane Castle - Springsteen was there in the mid-80's. That night I decided it was about time for more Irish music. It is so handy to have that bar with nightly music just downstairs! I found out that about 50 Irishmen will be descending on San Diego next spring, for a wedding. Also, I heard of a good San Diego Irish bar - the Old Sod (or maybe it's Auld Sod). I'll have to check it out when I get home.

Wednedsay I was feeling much worse, so I spent most of the day in bed watching the Olympics - mostly swimming. In the afternoon, I shipped a huge box of stuff home (I didn't realize I had accumulated so much!). It'll get there in 6 weeks, when I get home. That night I went to the Olympia Theater and saw Trisha Yearwood. I was in about the 10th row, so it was a great show.

Thursday I was feeling better and took the train to Athlone, checked out the castle on the Shannon River there, and took a bus to Clonmacnoise, an ancient Christian site. It was inundated with American tour bus patrons, so I slipped out the back cemetery and checked out the Nun's Chapel which was just as dramatic as any of the other 7 church ruins in the complex. I knew about it thanks to my wonderful Lonely Planet guidebook!

My next stop was Kildare, where St Brigid started her abbey. I got there just in time to climb the tower (I hadn't realized I could climb the tower! It's the 2nd highest round tower in Ireland and the tallest that you can actually climb (of the 2). Then I wandered around the grounds, and the caretaker snuck me into the church though it was officially closed. Very beautiful church. My next destination was the Irish National Stud Farm, so I hustled the few miles out of town to try to get there before they closed at 6, arriving at 5:45 (yay!) but their last tour was at 5, so they were effectively closed at 5 (boo). Walking around, the only animals in the fields were cows. On my way back to town, I followed the signs to St Brigid's Holy Well - it took me down a serene secluded country road. Birds chirping, breeze blowing, sun waning but still shining. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, by the time I sojourned to the train station, I had missed it by 5 minutes and was starting to rain. I spent the 1-1/2 hours to the next train having dinner at a pub (Silken Thomas) and hanging out on the platform in the rain because I thought the train came 1/2 hour before it actually arrived!

On Friday, much of center city Dublin was blocked off as a pedestrian zone and the local trains were free - a few other cities in Europe did the same thing at the same time to try to encourage public transportation. I took the DART to Dalkey and walked to Killiney along the sea. Stunningly beautiful, green water, sandy/rocky beach (though much of it was covered in aromatic kelp). This is the most expensive houses in Ireland - it was a bit like wandering around Bel Air. But I didn't see Bono. I cut off the road on a path that appeared to lead down to the beach. It went over a railroad and there was a bit of graffiti on it - 'the Beatles Rule', 'clothing optional beach',... I thought it was just graffiti, but as I rounded the last turn in the path I realized the clothing optional statement was true, and it appeared to be some sort of organized thing. So I went back up, and took the next path down to the beach!

I took it to the other end of its track and had dinner in the seaside town Howth. Last night I went to the Celt Pub to get my last night of Irish music - 5 or so girls who were very good. People keep talking about the Irish group the Corrs, who is apparently enjoying some success in the States right now - everyone is very proud of them! Afterwards I went to the Zanzibar night club and walking home, the guy I was walking with had a freak (who we later learned just finished a 7 year jail term) land a flying kick on his back, for no reason, after we had watched him chase after a car and rip off the rear windshield wiper. This was quickly followed by a brawl in the fast food joint that he dove into. So I got to meet some of Dublin's finest Garda (police). Interesting last night in Ireland.

Today I'm off for Nairobi. I'm not sure when I'll be able to write again, but worst case scenario, I'll write it all up when I get home at the end of October (I'm keeping a pretty detailed journal).

Hope all is going well for you - bye from Dublin! Brigid

more Dublin and Northern Ireland [2000]


I guess the last time I wrote was a little over a week ago - when Cindy went home. Lots of stuff to report. I spent Fri and Sat mostly recovering from our whirlwind week, plus doing laundry (required quite a bit of effort), grocery shopping and I took a bus tour - one of those open top, double deck ones. It only rained a little :) I had been to most places, but I it was a good overview, and I'll make sure I get back to Kilmainham Jail to do the tour.

Sunday I went to mass in Latin and there was a boys choir - really beautiful and interesting. Then I headed to the National Library and the National Museum. The library isn't normally open on Sunday, so I didn't have my geneological stuff with me, but found a record of an ancestor, John Wilkinson, in 1861 (might have been 1833) that rented land near a lighthouse on Rathlin Island and had to pay £6 in taxes. After that, I caught some of the All-Ireland National Hurling Championship (I think it was Kilkenney-orange/black stripes- and Omagh-green/white/orange). The ones in orange/black won. The town was not nearly as wild as I expected for that. That night, I went to a sing-along screening of the Sound of Music. Very cute.

Monday I spent most of the day at the National Library looking for ancestors, with not much luck. Almost all of their records are from 1861 forward, and I already have at least that much for the 4 branches of my ancestrors I was looking for. I did find a few books on Rathlin Island, though, which I skimmed to get familiar with my next destination.

Tuesday I got on the train at 7:30am, and 3 train changes and 2 buses later I arrived in Ballycastle at about 6pm for the night. On the way, between connections, I wandered around Lisburn and then Portrush, and took a tour of the Old Bushmills distillery in, oddly enough, Bushmills. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous - rolling lush green fields separated by crumbling stone walls, with cows and sheep. It reminds me alot of where I grew up in rural PA (plus sheep, and more rain). The coast is very dramatic with lots of cliffs, similar to San Diego, but rocky instead of sandy cliffs (and less sunshine and colder). Supposedly Portrush is a surfing town, but you would have to pay me alot to get in that freezing water. Listened to some local Irish music (led by a Scotsman) and had a pint or 2 in the Angler's Arms.

Wednesday I caught the ferry to Rathlin Island at 'half 10' (10:30). Once there, I took a mini-tour over to the north end of the island, where there is a bird sanctuary. Apparently in the summer there are thousands of puffins nesting. But they left at the end of August so I only saw a few seagulls. A guy on the bus was a shipwreck diver, and he said there are hundreds of wrecks around this tiny island, because the sea can be so incredibly rough. The rest of my birthday I spent wandering around the SE section and much of the afternoon and evening with a very distant relative - Dolores Kyle. That night I caught a pint and played some pool at the pub, and stayed at the lone guest house on the island.

Thursday I rented a bike and went to the SE end - Rue Point. I interrupted the sunbathing of many seals, and again saw lots of sheep and a few cows. Then I decided to head to the lighthouse, but turned down the wrong road - seems incredible because there are only 2 roads to that side of the island! But I'm glad I did. I followed what I thought was the path after the road ended, but then that ended. So I just headed to the coast and pushed my bike along the edge. It was absolutely amazing - lots of little coves, some tumbeld-down abandoned farmhouses and again the lush green hills rolling to the sea. Tons and tons of pheasants - a sporting group sponsors a pheasant hunt a few times a year and drops a huge amount on the island. I also came upon the Bruce castle ruins, on top of a tiny piece of land jutting into the sea. I didn't see the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out for awhile, but I believe it was below the castle (sheer cliffs). Eventually I got to the lighthouse, hoisted my bike over the wall and rode back to town. That was a much less spectacular route, but still very pretty. I spent the rest of the day with Dolores, walking a bit, at the pub - met a few very colorful characters - and stayed that night at Dolores' brother Patrick's place.

Friday I caught the half 8 ferry back to Ballycastle, and had a lazy day walking around that little coast town and taking it easy.

Saturday I went driving around the whole area with someone who was working on Rathlin - Geard - a wonderful tour guide. We went to the Giant's Causeway and to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. I'm running out of synonyms for 'beautiful', but you get the idea. Then we drove all around the coast and inland. Again, it reminded me alot of eastern rural PA. That night I stayed at a hotel in Cookstown, and went to an amazing huge club called The Opera - all the decor inspired by Phantom of the Opera.

Sunday morning I tried to catch a bus back to Dublin but much to my (temporary) extreme chagrin, very few buses run on Sunday - one to Dublin at 9:30a (which I missed) and one at 7:30p to Belfast. After calming down, I took a taxi to the closest reasonably big town, Dungannon. Amazingly, a bus was just leaving for Belfast so I got on. As I walked around, it reaffirmed that my favorite city so far is Belfast - I'm not sure exactly why.

The place I stayed Saturday night, Cookstown, is in the heart of the 'Troubles' area. In the surrounding towns as well, there were some seriously high fences and barbed wire, multiple layers of gates and lots of cameras around all the police stations and RUC headquarters. In Cookstown itself, there is an Army depot with blast walls in addition to the police station measures. I saw many British flags flying, and one Irish -which I was told should not be flying. In Belfast the courthouse was protected in this way, but otherwise everything was normal. There were 4 high schools in the Cookstown area - 1 each of 'normal' public/protestant and Catholic(St Pius X!) across and down the street from each other and then 1 each of gifted public/protestant and Catholic. There is a new very well funded integrated primary school which has some pretty ominous high fences. In one small town at a stop, Geard pointed out 4 major buildings that had been blown up by bombs a few years ago. But pretty much everything is rebuilt. There were some signs saying 'Disband the RUC' - apparently they are a pseudo-police arm and are very one-sided (I'm not sure which side). Also, I saw a bit of 'IRA' graffiti but it was all few and far between. All that said, I felt very safe and would definitely come back.

So I caught the train from Belfast to Dublin yesterday and cannot believe I only have 6 more days here! I have so much more to do!!!


pub crawl (stumble), Inishmaan, Galway, Cliffs of Moher [2000]

The musical pub crawl went really well - I highly recommend it. There were 2 musicians that played, told stories and talked about Irish instrument history, while we hit 3 pubs. The next morning we ran for an early train to Galway (3 hrs away). Some women on the train told us that we should definitely hit the Aran Islands if possible, so as soon as we got there, we were able to get directly on a boat (10:30). The boat is connected to a shipping company so it looked like a fishing vessel and there was cargo in the lower part of the deck. It was about 2-1/2 hours to get to Inishmaan - the middle-sized and least visited isle of the three. We arrived around 1 and the boat home left at 5. It is a very small island (8km long x 3km wide I think - pop about 100) but we managed to get lost abs harassed by the local village idiot. Eventually we got our bearings, and climbed on top of a few ancient fort ruins - very impressive. The while island was criss-crossed by those intricate stone walls, often penning in belligerent cows as Cindy discovered when she tried to photograph one. It was the 'typical' quaint Ireland I have heard about. That night we explored Galway a bit - a very nice city much like a ski town. It is a college town definitely geared for tourists but still retains the 'village' feel. The next morning (Thurs) we rented a car and drove down the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. I only drove on the wrong side of the street once! It was interesting not only because of driving on the other side of the road, and being in such a tiny car, but also because they have tons of traffic circles instead of stoplights. Some of the roads were insanely narrow, too, with those picturesque stone walls about 3 inches from the road's edge and the road barely wide enough for 2 cars. I did alot of trimming of overgrown foliage - and Cindy felt like she was being pelted by it. On our way down to the cliffs, we came upon a castle on a lake and climbed up to the top. It was spit-raining and blustery, much like you would imagine in the middle ages. Very cool :)

By the way, the only rain we have gotten so far was a few drops one or two mornings, full rain in Scotland, and Thurs morning and early afternoon. So it has not been the stereotypical dreariness.

The Cliffs of Moher were beautiful - sheer moss-covered dropoffs falling down into the turbulent sea. We also stopped by the holy well of St Brigid which was very close by. One things that amused us was the kegs stacked behind the fence that surrounded the area. Supposedly the well has healing powers. The kegs tie into the story told at the Guinness factory that up to a few years ago, they were recommending that pregnant women drink a Guinness a day for the vitamin and mineral benefits - their ad slogan - 'Guinness for Strength'.

So we drove back to Galway, had a pint at Fibber Magee's and got on the train back to Dublin - dinner and some more traditional music at the Celt Pub.

This morning I sent Cindy home (luckily the French transportation embargo hasn't made it to Ireland yet).

It was great to have her here so we could explore enough for me to get my bearings. I think we hit all the big ticket tourist items, so over the next few days I'm going to have to figure out what to do for the next 2 weeks!

This weekend should be wild - the All-Ireland Hurling Finals are Sunday and the airport cabbie said they will start taking over the town tomorrow. I believe it is Kildare and Offaly I think ... I don't remember but I'm sure I will know by Sunday. The thing last weekend was Kerry and Armagh in a Gaelic Football semi-final - Kerry won.

Next week - Giant's Causeway and Rathlin Island...


Dublin, Belfast and Scotland [2000]


Since we last left our heroes.... we hit the rest of the Dublin top tourist sights - St Patrick's, Guiness factory, Book of Kells. All were very good, though not amazing. And a few more nights of authentic Irish music.

Yesterday we took a train up to Belfast - lots of beautiful farmland, sheep and cows. We wandered around Belfast for a few hours - it is really bustling, and reminded us of Pittsburgh in the 70s. No evidence that we could see of the troubles. Then we got on a ferry to Troon Scotland. It is a quaint little village on the Irish Sea. Good pizza. The traditional Scottish breakfast is much like the traditional Irish breakfast - plus a very dark unidentifiable patty. We believe it to be meat since Cindy got it and I didn't, but who knows. We took the train to Ayr to shop and wander around, and had lunch in a pub that is a renovated church. This afternoon we took a plane from there to Dublin, so tonight - musical pub crawl...

Brigid and Cindy