It is a beauty of a spot -- the grassy cliff just calls for our tent. The strip of sandy beach below beckons our naked bodies to the sea. The telltale remnants of an old fire are another good sign, proof that we are not the first to discover this spot. It appears like we've found the most perfect camp spot on the Dingle Peninsula, and it is ours for the taking.
I check that it fits all our requirements. Is it tucked away so that nobody will see us? Check. Are their any signs of the land being privately owned? Nope. Is there a level, soft spot for our tent? Yup. Is there a place to park the car? Yes. Is it someplace gorgeous where we would like to wake up? Big check.
It is too early to pitch the tent. We normally wait until the sky darkens - which happens late in the summertime, around 10:30PM -- so we can remain somewhat inconspicuous under the cover of night. Tonight, we have planned a turf fire. Today, we have no plans, ‘cept to laze around all afternoon in the grass and sun.
Barefoot and books in hand, we descend upon the little sanctuary, reading and sunning in the sweet smelling grass. Something about being cradled by the earth and hidden from passerbys leads my thoughts to making love - the summer's open air, the cliff side holding us, the expanse of sky and fast moving clouds above, the salty sea breeze touching our bodies. Oh, and all the fantasies alight my mind, in this true Eden hideaway. I look over at my travel companion and am immediately alarmed by what I see.
He is in a totally different state than I. Something is foul with him. He wasn't quite himself when we were looking for the spot. I can see he's not feeling well and getting worse by the minute. The fish ‘n' chips we hungrily at last night at the Indian place in Dingle are at odds with his system. They are poisoning it. I recognize the early symptoms, knowing they will quickly worsen to body aches, then fever and chills.
Then it starts to rain. I mean really dump. The weather in Ireland is so unpredictable. We get back into the car, and he's feeling awful. Turning and tossing in the driver's seat, he tries to make his body comfortable. I am alarmed because we are running low on water. He'll need it to stay hydrated tonight. He is doing all of the driving and now, in his sickened state, not able to drive us someplace to replenish.
I take our three, big plastic bottles and set out on foot to find water. Along the quiet road, two men stop to offer me rides into Dingle. Though I am in a hurry, I politely decline their offers -- I don't feel comfortable getting into the car with them. I have trouble getting into the car with just anyone, even though this is Ireland and not Los Angeles. The whole time I would be scheming about my escape plan, if one were needed.
Soon I find a B&B where the kind proprietor refills my water bottles from her kitchen tap. It is slow walking back with the heavy bottles, and I shift them between my hands to balance the load. Suddenly, the road fills up with cows being herded toward a new pasture. Then a car stops behind me. It is a woman heading home from work, and she offers me a lift. She seems okay, so I accept her offer and duck into her car, just in time to avoid the enormous cows. Once the cows clear, my travel companion appears in our car, heading the opposite direction. He has come looking for me. I thank the woman and switch cars. He is not doing well, and we head back to camp.
It is a terrible, sleepless night of tossing and turning and more rain. By morning, his fever has broken. He is eager to rinse the sweat off his body. He drapes a towel over his shoulders and strides down to the sandy beach. He undresses and enters into the seawater in his characteristic way, walking in thigh high, then ducking under a collapsing wave. He emerges from under the wave, and he flicks is head back, slapping his long hair against his bare back. The water must be freezing. He rinses his body off, splashing his armpits daintily. A few minutes later, the water has grown unbearable, and he retreats back up to the beach. I watch him from the cliff top.
He looks refreshed, more like himself. The healing qualities of the land and water have given him back some of his vitality. But he isn't fully himself, so we abandon camp to find a hostel where he can finish recovering.
At the hostel, he asks me to look at something strange on his hip. It is a huge insect that has catapulted its head diagonally into his skin. Gross! With my sharp tweezers, I dig out the tick.
All in all, after a camping experience tormented rain and fever and ticks, we are really glad to be under a roof tonight. Though it certainly is not Eden, neither was our campsite.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007