A number of people, including our B & B host, told us that we should take a bus tour to visit the Ring of Kerry. That seemed kind of silly to us since we have rented a car and prefer to travel at our own pace, but the drive was much longer than the one we did yesterday and it would give Ken a chance to look out the window and enjoy the scenery without worrying which side of the road we are on.
So we signed up - only $30 for a full day tour, although admissions and food were on us. The small bus held only eleven of us today although it could accommodate more, and the driver was responsible for providing us with information as well as driving. Watching him juggle his hand held mic, shift gears, and steer at the same time was an act worthy of any circus. It was quite a contrast to the tours we took in Asia recently where the number of tour providers often equaled the number of tour takers.
The Kerry Bog Village Museum
was a tribute to the folks who made their living cutting peat
out of the bogs and drying it so it could be burned for fuel. Because Ireland has a unique ecosystem that encourages plants to grow, but prevents them from rotting away, vegetation piles up like glaciers and the peat is like coal waiting to be made.
The peat workers cut squares of vegetation out of the ground, dry it in three weeks to three months depending on the weather, and end up with charcoal like bricks. Until recently a number of Irish have made their living harvesting peat and it was used by plants generating electricity until some fool decided that they should import coal from Illinois instead.
The drive itself was no more challenging than the one on the Dingle Peninsula yesterday. The hillsides were less green; perhaps because peat had been harvested from them. Numerous nice homes dotted the hillsides and sheep grazed placidly. They all have large paint splashes on their fur. I'm guessing this is instead of a brand and can help their owners determine who's who.
The best scenery was at the tip of the peninsula where we overlooked numerous rock outcroppings and crags jutting into the water. The weather brightened up a bit, but we have almost forgotten what the sun looks like. A campground
on a nearby beach looked appealing. Camping in Europe is very different from the US experience and most of the campgrounds we have seen here have been rather grim and unappealing, but this one looked worthy of a longer visit.
The final stop was at the town of Sneem,
a town that has won tidiest village in Ireland a number of years. Its brightly painted buildings were a cheery sight under the gray skies. The one lane bridge that went through town could really cause a log jam in the summer when bus tours like ours pass by every few minutes.
As we returned to Killarney
we passed through the national park and admired the chain of lakes below. They are stocked and fishing is supposed to be a favorite activity here.
An aside: we can't get over how expensive things are here. The weak dollar as compared to the Euro has made things worse, but if we just look at the prices as if the Euro and dollar were equal, we still would feel ripped off. For example, we needed to wash some clothes. There are few self service laundromats in Europe so we had to pay someone $18 to wash one large load of clothes. No ironing. We are unable to find restaurant food at reasonable prices. Our B & B's come with nice breakfasts, but the rest of the day is a challenge. Today we had cut up chicken pieces on salad for lunch. Cost: $9. Quantity: it all could have fit in one hand. Tonight we had fish and chips for dinner. Cost: $15 The meal was served on a paper plate with plastic forks and accompanied by buttered Wonder bread. We can remember having some of these same complaints when we have been in Europe in the past; these issues are not unique to Ireland, but will cause us to hesitate if and when we consider returning to Europe again.