Wild Rover: The Rocky Road to Dingle

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In the end of March 2019, I went on a one-week holiday to Ireland to visit my buddy, Calvin, who was studying there at the time.  Of course, I had my rangefinders with me to document my short journey, though my main objective really was to drink, drink, experience the fresh local cuisine, drink, drink, drink, immerse myself in the local culture and people, drink, see Calvin, drink, drink, view the scenic Wild Atlantic Way, drink, drink, and drink.  Oh, and drink at the Guinness Storehouse.  This episodic series, “Wild Rover,” covers that experience.

It is no secret among my friends that I am Celtophile–a lover of all things Irish and Scottish.  Indeed, Calvin’s sister not long ago asked me whether I had come out to my parents yet about being trans-Scottish; I am sure they already know, though I have not told them about the kilt.

Around this time last year, I found myself living out the versuses of some of my favourite Irish drinking songs . . . the lighter-hearted ones, not the ones about 1916 and the IRA . . . as in the merry month of March from O’Hare I started, with a stop at Philadelphia, then all the way to Dublin, whack fol lol le rah!  My itinerary seemed simple enough: land at Dublin early Friday morning from my overnight flight, pick up a subcompact hire car, drive across Ireland to the western most sea-side town of Dingle in County Kerry, where Calvin was studying at during that time, stay there for four days, then drive back to Dublin for two and half days before returning home.  How hard could that be?

I am not sure why the flight display insisted on showing shipwreck sites . . . 
The plucky little Opel Corsa that got me from Dublin to Dingle and back.  Funny-handed drive.

I would describe driving to the west coast of Ireland as like flying into the Death Star; it is fine for the first half of the four and a half hour drive, but then the roads just get narrower and narrower.  I do not get a chance to drive stick-shift in the states at often, so I try to get one whenever I rent a car.  It just makes the driving experience more fun and deliberate.  Coincidentally, it is difficult getting an automatic in Ireland, as stick is the norm.  Driving funny-handed, though, and on the left side of the road was a bit more of a challenge, which similarly was just a matter of getting used to with some experience.  But when even something as small as a subcompact felt too wide for what I can only describe as a road flanked by stone walls and hedgerows that is wide enough just for one and a half cars to occupy the full breadth a time . . . yeah . . . . And then there was that half hour detour when I got somewhat lost while driving through some hamlet near Limerick, just as school had let out it seemed.  And then there were the roundabouts, which one is okay, but there was a series of them in short succession on the highway.  I complained about it then, and somewhat now, but damn was that fun.  It makes for great craic!

When I finally arrived at the town of Dingle, proper, after having gone through all of the roundabouts around Tralee, then the twisty and hilly route through the Dingle peninsula–which apparently was easier than the alternate route of Conor Pass–I finally arrived at the supermarket parking lot to link up with Calvin as prearranged, as the place he was staying at had no systematic address–it was merely known as “[landlord’s name’s] House on Spa Road” for mailing purposes.  So after exchanging greetings, then a string of curses to Calvin for not warning me about all the roundabouts around Tralee, he navigated me to the house he was staying at, which would be my basecamp for the duration of my stay.

The view from my basecamp, “[landlord’s name’s] House on Spa Road.”
In the four days I had spent in Dingle, I had ate amazing fresh food–as well as lots and lots of black pudding–drank whiskeys and beers, sang along with locals at various pubs, discovered just how wickedly hilarious the Irish are, and how the Force is strong in Dingle.  While I did have the opportunity to practice some street photography in that small, sleepy town, what really drew my attention was the unbelievably awe-inspiring scenery around the Dingle peninsula, one of the highlights of the Wild Atlantic Way.  I often call myself a “humanlife photographer”; landscape photography does not pique my interest, really.  But Dingle and the Wild Atlantic Way, especially around Slea Head Drive, was something I had never seen and experienced before.  Describe it in words would do no justice.  This is what I saw.

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It was a 15-minute walk between basecamp and town, of which the most life I countered were in the form of sheep.

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Behold, the holy site that is the Dingle Distillery.

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Despite that this was a holiday trip rather than photo expedition, I still insisted on photographing with film and my Leica.  Fujichrome Velvia 100 seemed quite suited for the Wild Atlantic Way.

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That is correct, Dingle was a film location for Star Wars: Episode VIII. There was concern with the island of Skellig Michael becoming damaged from tourism after serving as the filming site for Ahch-To in Episode VII, as well as weather conditions adversely affecting filming, so various areas around the Dingle Peninsula, including Ceann Sibeal, were chosen.  The landlord of my basecamp is also a Garda who took part in security for the cast and crew; he has selfies with Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill.  It was difficult hiding my envy when he showed them to me.

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More sheep.  My boots discovered that they poo a lot.

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Something something something Jedi.

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One two three four five
Hunt the Hare and turn her down the rocky road
And all the way to Dingle, whack fol lol le rah!

© Khoa Dao, K. Dao Photography, 80 Proof Photos

Author: Khoa A. Dao

Renaissance man with the temperament of a beagle; easily bored, needing to be active and explore, prone to picking fights with the Red Baron.

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