Taking his life into his hands, Colin Sweetman tries thumbing from Galway to Dublin

Preparing oneself for an otwo Attempt as potentially dangerous as hitchhiking demands delicate and considered research. Instead, however, I decided I’d consult the internet for advice, and got the following advice: “You can meet a lot of people and make lots of friends. You can also become very frustrated, beaten, or raped.” Hoping that neither of these two things would happen, my biggest desire was just to get from point A to point B: Galway to Dublin.

galwaydublinHaving received a free bus ride down to Eyre Square, compliments of the band on page 7, I immediately had to sneak into a hostel – every room in the city had been booked out for the Galway Oyster Festival. Getting into a room had been no problem (someone left their door open), but explaining my situation in the morning to a room full of Cockneys was another matter entirely. When I woke up, I was greeted with an extended arm: “How are you? I’m Dunphy?”

“Oh, you probably don’t know me,” was my bankrupt response, as I scurried to the toilet to get my head straight, from where I could still hear everything they were saying about me in thick British accents.

“I dunno man, we was talking for bout twenty minutes last night ‘til we spotted ‘im, and were like ‘hang on, who the fuck is that?’ – haven’t a fuckin’ clue where ‘e came from. Check your passports though.”

This went on for a while, occasionally calling me a weirdo and talking about their next destination, Kerry. I contemplated asking for a lift, but decided against it – mostly for the reason that I had quite literally already taken one of their beds. Having finally emerged from the bathroom, I swiftly packed my bag and bolted for the door.

Checking out of the hostel – or at least pretending to – I happened to overhear a few Germans in front of me. “Ja… und der besten… in meinen Auto… nächsten… Belfast.” Bingo.

I hitched a ride with these three Germans. “Easy,” I thought, “They could let me out at Roscommon at least, then I’ll almost be halfway there”. Little did I know how boring hitchhiking would soon become.

The car ride was intense. Never before had I witnessed such absolute boredom mixed with speckles of pseudo-enthusiasm. Typically, a magical thing happens when a bunch of twenty-somethings enter a car on a faraway journey. They sing, they drink, the laugh, they smoke, they listen to loud music – all the while paying no attention to the road in front or behind.

Germans, however, love to sit quietly in a stuffy car with windows closed, radio off, speaking occasionally while gleaming at the bumpy surroundings. The appreciation they emitted made me think that they lived in some kind of dull, grey box sitting on infinite flatland with little more than a car factory to keep them going. “My God,” I thought, “Is this the way life would be without heavy drinking?” At least they weren’t pederasts.

After being dropped about five minutes from Roscommon town, I proceeded to walk on what was a cloudy but humid day. Now, my version of Hell has always been anything to do with a constant status of repetition. Walking along the Athlone road was exactly this: nothing but fields, houses, trees, fields, houses, trees. At one point I thought the road was going to swallow me whole.

Eventually, I thumbed an AA van driving past and was picked up. The driver spent most of his time speaking on his radio and eventually pulled over somewhere after Knockcroghery, from what I could gather. He said something about having to turn at Corboley to help someone out, though the sound in his voice was doubtful.

After this I walked again and thumbed every car, bus and truck that I could see – it being already 6 hours into the journey. One minivan kept slowing down, speeding-up, turning, crossing until it eventually had succumbed to the decision to stop. I went up to the window and asked where they were going. They said Athlone; I said let’s go.

The moment I got into the car it became apparent why the car was acting so erratically before it had picked me up. The couple seemed tense, and from the woman’s pathetically hidden disgust I could see that she definitely did not want me in her car. In any case, the silence was unbearable: you could probably have heard a badger fart in a field a mile away.

After this I gave up. Ireland was a place where you could get a lift from, but only at the price of extreme social discomfort. I made my way to the nearest bus station via taxi and left for Dublin aboard the relative luxury of a Bus Éireann, arriving about two hours later.

Would I attempt to do it again? I think I’d rather sit on a hedgehog.

Click here to see the original published article.