I arrive in London Heathrow Airport exhausted from a red eye, without a single wink of sleep in me. The border guard quizzes me with a string of pointed questions. How is it that you’re temporarily unemployed? Are you a housewife? What do you mean you’re not married? Where do you live? How are you financing this trip? She demands I show her how much cash I have on me. I slowly pick through my backpack to find the fifty euros my mom had exchanged for me and tell her I’ll mostly be using my credit card. A Visa? You have a Visa card? Show me your Visa card. What’s your credit limit?
Finally she lets me through but not before warning me that if I give any different answers at the Ireland border, they’re going to ship me back. “Why would they ship me back?” I ask, quite honestly confused. “I don’t know!” she cries as she stamps my passport.
Three bleary-eyed hours later I board an Aer Lingus flight for Cork and manage a forty-five minute nap. It is as though I wake up in a completely different land. It looks the same but it feels different.
Irish immigration has three cheery sentences for me. How long are you staying? Wow, a month! Well have a great time! And I’m on my way.
The local time is 11:00 AM but my body tells me it’s 6:00 AM. I am that delirious yet delightful mix of so fucking excited, so fucking scared and so fucking tired.
Noel Boyce, so deliciously Irish with his ‘Wee bit’o’this’ and ‘Wee bit’o’that’, puts out his hand for a shake but I give him a hug. “Welcome to Ireland,” he says with a big smile and immediately takes my suitcase. It’s clear from the start that I’m in very good hands.
For a few hours we get my bike set up and explore downtown Cork. It’s grey but there are brightly colored flowers everywhere. My delirium quickly simmers down to pure sleepiness so Noel drives me to Dempsey’s Hostel in Kinsale, the official starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way. He pumps up my tires and makes sure everything is spot on for our first ride.
By 8:00 PM I am out like a light. Tomorrow the journey begins.