There's the smell of disuse. The dirt floor is patched with hay. Rusted engines, farm equipment, and clothes in cardboard boxes are piled haphazardly along the concrete walls. Beside me, my distant relative Peter seeps restrained excitement. We move to the next room, a smaller room, of the defunct stable and Peter points out a walled-up doorway where the rooms would have been connected. Normally I would have little interest in where doorways used to be, but at this farm everything has elevated significance. I look to the doorway and imagine horses on the other side of it. Then I can almost see my great-grandmother passing through to feed them.
With a population of less than five million Ireland is a small country, but other than America there is nowhere in the world I have a stronger connection with. My American cousins and Irish cousins crisscross the two places. Every year Irish family comes to America and American family goes to Ireland. The actual relations are distant, usually connected three generations back, but the social ties are strong. So for me, coming to Ireland was never truly about The World Walk, but about getting to know a part of my family.
Upon landing in Shannon airport I was greeted by an inspector from the agriculture department. He double checked Savannah's paperwork then welcomed us to Ireland. After that I was welcomed again, this time by my cousins Colm and Margaret. They made a three hour drive from Dundalk to pick me up and show me around. First stop: The fishing village Roundstone for a Guinness and seafood chowder.
The way to Dublin was short, only a hundred and fifty mile walk over flat and populated terrain. After spending two years in perpetual summer, the cool air and calm countryside was a welcome change. It almost felt as though I were cheating. I was too relaxed, the drivers were too polite and the cities too well organized. I should have been stressed, on edge, peering over my shoulder.
Minus the sporadic hails storms, the walk from Galway to Dublin was as peaceful as could be.
In Dublin I had another cousin to put me up for a few days. I spent most my time there visiting friends. My single touristy day I spent learning about the Book of Kells at Trinity College, then hastily forgetting what I learned at the Jameson Distillery.
After a few days taking full advantage of my cousin's generosity in Dublin Savannah and I started off toward Dundalk. The walk to Dundalk was a brief two days. We spent our single night camping in a harvested hay field. Then we burnt out forty-five kilometers before six o'clock to arrive at yet another cousin's home.