Today was a really fun day consisting of a LOT of driving! Thankfully, my mom is pretty much a pro by now with the whole driving on the left and roundabouts thing. We woke up to an alarm (finally; first time since the first day we arrived!) and got ready before breakfast. Delicious food is much more enjoyable when you look good! We were checked out and on the road by 10am, the earliest yet! Our GPS said it would be about 3hr 45min to get from our hotel at Lough Eske to our next one at Dromoland near Ennis. Just wait til you hear how long it actually takes us...
Well, first we had to get another geocache nearby. In our defense, it was literally right off the road at a rest stop. Unfortunately for us, though, it was a waste of time as we couldn't find it. :( Bummer! We continued onwards, but detoured in an attempt to get a series of five caches in an area along the Atlantic coast. We had hoped that they would be beach-y, as the map showed the ocean very nearby; boy, were we wrong!
We turned off the main road, drove along farm roads for a couple of kilometers, then pulled off near a heavily wooded area. Thinking it would be a quick grab, at only 500ft away, I stayed in the car and let mom go for it. She headed off straight in the direction of the cache. However, as Game of Thrones can teach us (if we have read the most recent book), sometimes you must go back in order to move forward (anyone, anyone?!?). Point being: I got out of the car and helped her out of the brambles and onto a beaten path, which initially took us in the wrong direction, but eventually put us on the right path.We ventured together through the forest, still and quiet and soggy wet. When we came to a small lake (okay, a large puddle), I went around it since I was not wearing my waterproof boots. I still got the soles of the boots soaked -__-
We didn't have to hunt too long to find the cache, but I was distractedly taking a million photos: of us, of the forest, of our travel bug "Duck of Doom"...
When we found the cache, mom suggested that we continue venturing on to find the next cache in the series, as it was only 0.3 miles away. Back we went, through the sodden woods and past the car into even thicker forest. There didn't seem to be too much wildlife, and the path was well beaten, so I wasn't too nervous, but I kept an eye on mom, just in case. We found the location of the next cache, but after 15-20 minutes of searching everywhere possible, we gave up. The third of the series was even further from the car, so when we saw the road up ahead, I volunteered to go get the car while mom waited nearby. It was about half a mile walk back to the car, but with much better scenery. I veered off the path and after walking over a ridge was rewarded by a view of the Atlantic ocean! ...It looked absolutely freezing.
I got to the car, went to pick up mom, then agreed to wait as she went on for another cache further down the beach. When she returned, we agreed to take a break from caching for a few hours, as it was already after 12 noon, and we had gone the distance of only a 30 minute drive. Cripes, this would be a long day!
We drove further until we came to the town of Sligo, and decided to get lunch and another geocache. We fought for parking in the lot outside of Tesco, and walked around the pedestrian mall for a little bit, heading in the direction of the cache. We found the area where it was supposed to be, but were confused as the GPS had us slightly off. Finally, I found it on the footbridge that went over the river nearby. After this successful find, we decided to try a nearby pub/restaurant for lunch. I ordered the chicken, pesto, and goat cheese wrap with a bowl of vegetable soup, and my mom got seafood chowder. I didn't have too high of hopes, but when it arrived and I tasted the soup, I was so pleased! It was a creamy soup, like a puree of vegetables, but it tasted so amazing! I am seriously going to search for the recipe when I get home and attempt to recreate this in my magic bullet! The wrap was cheesy and rich. My mom's chowder had almost every kind of seafood in it, barring shark or whale (thankfully). I had a few bites and it was very hearty and creamy! I was fat and happy when we left the restaurant. I determined that Sligo might be my favorite of the towns we have visited in Ireland so far, thanks to the charming shops and quaint pedestrian areas to walk about (not to mention the awesome food!)
It was now 3:30pm, well past the time we should have arrived at our destination. However, we still had 2hr 30min to go. Are you serious!? We decided to skip the side trip into Galway and head straight for our hotel. But, the question remained, could we resist the lure of more geocaches...?
Answer: no. We did another detour for a cache that was nestled up near a big mountain (which looked more like a mesa to me, but it's name claimed a mountain, so who am I to argue with the Irish?). It was the start of a series that were located along a 4km walking path that leads up to the mountain through a beautiful looking forest/park. Mom had almost given up on finding the cache when I located it. The log was too wet to sign, so I got some photographic evidence instead. We agreed that the path looked tempting, but with the daylight hours ticking away, we really needed to keep going. Once again we headed back to on the road towards our final destination.
After one more attempt for a find (unsuccessful), we made it to our hotel at around 7pm. That's right, from 10am-7pm, we drove what should have taken only 3.5hrs, had we been direct. But, as they say, it's all about the journey, not the destination! Today, that was proven true... until we drove onto the grounds of our next hotel. The sight before us was enough to make my jaw drop. This is not my photo, but I had to find one and include it so you could witness the grandeur of where we are staying currently. Each place we stay keeps getting better and better, and Dromoland Castle Hotel has topped all its predecessors. We got complementary valet service, luggage transportation, and they even upgraded us to a deluxe room! Wow! The only downside so far: no breakfast included. But, they gave us a voucher for a discount at breakfast. We'll see if we bite... this place is expensive (and rightly so, I think!) Tomorrow I am going to make use of the leisure center and get some miles logged for my half-marathon training so I don't fall too far behind! Then, more exploring in this part of the country (which, of course, will include geocaches!) :D