Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.
Generally, guided tours aren’t my deal. Something about the surrender of free will and all the herding makes me nervous. Few scenarios can push me into one, unless I’m afraid for my life – like ziplining over rain forest canopies in Costa Rica, snake “hunting” by moonlight in El Salvador and climbing active volcanoes in Guatemala.
Or, in this case, the desire to see more of Ireland than what I’d taken in through the creamy blur of Guinness goggles in Dublin pubs. Since I was travelling with a friend and without a car of our own, I reasoned that an organized outing might not be quite so abysmal if it meant we’d be able to enjoy a little Irish countryside.
But within moments of our departure, I knew it was a terrible mistake.
Our guide was also our driver – an arrangement, we later realized, that ensured there’d be no mutiny, with passengers shoving his microphone dangerously far down his throat.
For seven hours, he babbled. When he didn’t have something relevant to say, he filled what should’ve been peaceful moments to appreciate picturesque pastures and gently rolling hills in quiet reflection with personal opinion and brash commentary concerning all matters from biofuel to gender roles. When he ran out of opinions, he resorted to nonsense.
“Dublin isn’t a big city,” he said. “You’ve all been to Manhattan. You live there, probably.” Then, “What do you know, collectively, about dogs?” And then the country of issue of every foreign license plate we passed.
“Let’s just get out,” I said to my friend before we’d left city limits. “We could leave the tour right now and catch a city bus back.” I was completely serious, and more than willing to cut my losses with the €35 ($52) we’d paid and make a run for it. My friend has resolve, though, and told me to develop some.
But two hours later – the amount of time it took the lubricating vapours of last night’s whisky tasting to dissipate – even she admitted losing the will to go on. Our eyes rolled unrestrained in their sockets and we laughed so as not to cry. By hour six, the situation was critical. The passengers were restless. We needed silence like we need oxygen.
Ironically, it was herding animals that saved us. The guide had begun talking over easy listening versions of classic Irish songs, and inexplicably inserting clips of the Braveheart soundtrack, when a flock of sheep loomed into view. “There’s Ireland for you. Go take pictures,” he mocked us, like it was our stupid idea. So we did, and enjoyed a few moments of respite when it was needed most.
Later that night, over perfectly poured Guinness at a cozy Dublin pub, we shared those photos and did our best impressions of the guide, laughing and writing our favourite quotes on coasters as keepsakes.
And we realized it was the greatest tour we’d ever had, although for all the wrong reasons.
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