Ireland – Simple Pleasures

Barna to Dingle

The bus ride to Dingle is actually three bus rides, but thankfully my back holds up without complaint and I don’t have to wait long for either transfer. About a half hour outside of Limerick the bus turns a corner and we glide past a cemetery. I’m sitting next to the window looking out when I see a young boy gazing at a gravestone. He’s facing us directly so I see him full on, sitting on a ledge and bent forward slightly, unmoving, staring straight ahead at the gravestone in front of him. I blink and we are past him. Whose grave was it? His mother’s? An uncle’s? A friend’s? I wonder. He is too young, maybe 16 or 17, to feel this: what I feel. All day long I think about him.

I find Dingle, a village on the western peninsula of the same name, to be quite charming. It is easily walkable with an abundance of colorful and quirky shops and pubs, and in a matter of a few moments you can be up on a hill looking down at the town, or out on a coastal path looking back at the harbor. I stay in a hostel over a pub, only the third time in my travels of the past four years that I’ve found reasonably priced accommodation at an eating or drinking establishment. This one proves somewhat disappointing. I’m used to iffy WiFi at hostels so I’m not surprised at that, but I also have to contend with spotty or broken hot water, lighting and electricity, so showering and charging my iPad are problematic. Most frustrating however is the irregular access to the kitchen. When you are buying groceries and cooking your own meals to save money, this is a big deal.

Dingle is home to a dolphin of indeterminate age, but likely – given his 30 year presence in the harbor – to be approaching 40 years of age. I have read about him – Fungie – and wondered if he is perhaps not one but a series of dolphins. Research has been undertaken on the matter, however, and it seems to be the case that Fungie is one very unique, individual dolphin who has chosen to stay in the harbor year round, and for reasons we may never be able to explain, seems to take pleasure (otherwise, why would he do it? He isn’t being fed) interacting with the fishing and tourist boats that pass in and out of the harbor. His appearance is so regular in fact that there are dedicated “Fungie sighting” tours offered by more than one operator on a year round basis, and they see him often enough that this has become a profitable endeavor year after year. I find this remarkable, and I want to see him, but I can’t afford to spend 16 euros to go out on one of the boats to do it. So I opt instead, after reading accounts of other visitors and residents seeing him from the shore, to walk a coastal path out to an old lighthouse. The trail twists and turns but hugs the beach most of the way, and there is a large rock outcropping by the lighthouse where I can sit and watch boats coming and going at the juncture of the bay and ocean. I eat a peanut butter sandwich and stare hard at the water, concentrating on the movement around the boats, looking for a fin and listening for cries of ooh and aah from the boats. If they see Fungie or any other dolphin, I see no evidence of it from my remote perch on shore. After awhile I get up and begin walking back. I keep watching the water rather than my feet where the trail allows, and several times I stop and wait. I listen to the boatmen calling out what sounds like “come on boy”, though distance and accent could be deceiving my ears. I strain to see flippers, fins, anything. I have concluded it’s no use and I console myself with the knowledge that it’s been a lovely walk regardless when finally, as two boats get close enough to create a large wake between them, it happens: shooting out of the swell into the air then diving back again, is Fungie, and immediately after I hear a loud “Attaboy!” from the boat. He is far away, and it is a fleeting sight, yet in that moment I feel a surge of joy. It lingers, pulsing and flashing, for the rest of the day.

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