A business trip to Dublin for two full days, with plenty of slack time on the travelling days. Should be plenty of opportunity to finish off the run for February.
I had three days of the four to fill up, but I was anticipating enough time and opportunity to get some finds done, so I was fairly relaxed. On reflection, I don’t think I anticipated quite how many finds I would make.
I flew over on Monday afternoon from Birmingham Airport, but just to make sure I dashed down to my last one of the MK Boundary Walk Red series – Red 15, the one that was missing when I did the walk before Christmas. That get’s the day ticked off, just in case. As it happened though, I arrived at my hotel around 5.30 pm and even after recovering from a serious bout of sat-nav rage I felt like I was good for a few more. So first order of business was to figure out how to deal with the text messages my mobile supplier was sending me advertising unlimited data connectivity for £5 a day in my European country of choice. It’s a good deal when the option is 69.9p / Mb. Next order of business was to lock the rented sat-nav into the glove box of the rental car. Rubbish. When I got back to the airport to return the car the guy at the desk helpfully showed me how to locate the hotel. Couldn’t figure it out on the Monday, never tried using the thing again. Oh ! And Ireland doesn’t have postcodes, although they might do soon, apparently.
I chose to go for a drive around the Airport. Only a couple of kilometers away and heralding the promise of 9 or so nice easy caches to start me off in Ireland.
Of the nine, one wasn’t there, one was a puzzle that had me drive all the way round the airport and then wanted me to drive all the way back again, one was in IKEA car park, one involved a slightly dodgy walk alongside a dark road with no paths. And the others were all traditional drive-by or park and cache jobs. So I found 7 and then retired to my hotel for some food, beverage and sleep. Not a bad first night.
Tuesday was a busy work day so I was wondering what would be the best approach. I was a bit tired too. Also when my meetings ran out on Tuesday afternoon I decided to have an easy night – I noticed I was only about 3km away from the border between Co. Dublin and Co. Meath, so a trip over the border to colour in another entry on the “Caching Map of UK and Ireland” seemed a good choice. There were a couple of easy looking “Sidetracked” caches at stations on the Western Commuter (Docklands Branch) – The stations at Dunboyne and M3 Parkway. Dunboyne was a nice little station with not many people around. M3 Parkway is a terminus station designed mainly as a park & ride, with a huge empty car park. According to one of the Irish guys I was visiting, the downturn has been as bad as the boom time was good. 15% unemployment and no more infrastructure required means not a lot of work going on. I was surprised though by how quiet the roads were, and there was evidence at both stations that the railways would be pretty quiet too. Still, another day on the matrix filled and another county coloured in on the map, and still back to the hotel for food and some work by 6:30, just as darkness was arriving.
Wednesday was a day when my matrix was already done, so no obligation to go out, but when I got back to my hotel at 5pm it occurred that there wasn’t much useful work I could do, plus I would have a couple of hours in the morning, and I wasn’t feeling that tired, so might as well go out. When I first found out I was coming to Ireland I had a sniff around on the caching map and thought going to the Howth Peninsular might be nice, but after Monday night’s fun with contrasting light and dark, which I’m not too comfortable with when roads are involved, I opted for a night of urban caching down in the city centre.
I went down by bus, ‘cos it was cheap, frequent, and avoided the need to find a car park. The bus stop was 200m down the road and the bus journey takes a leisurely 25 minutes to get from Santry to O’Connell Street. I’d done a bit of research both at the hotel and on the bus, so had a bit of a plan. It didn’t involve the two virtual caches called Northside Pub Crawl and Southside Pub Crawl, as these seemed to involve about 25 stops each. In fact, I switched off display of non-cache waypoints on the phone app because there was just a confusing mish-mash of these everywhere, with no discernible pattern or route. Bum to that.
So I started off with a big traditional cache on a side street, which took a little while because the local TV company was filing an episode of something or other in the street when I arrived. I had to remain inconspicuous, so although they were filming up the opposite side and the cache was accessible, there were also loads of people and some very bright lights. Not good. I eventually found a long enough gap to extract the cache and chuck it in my rucksack (to hide what I was doing), then waited five minutes more to put it back again. Nice cache though.
Next up was a webcam and a virtual. The webcam was up a back street and I had read up on how to take a screen shot on the iPhone whilst on the bus, so I could complete the task unaided. The virtual was at the Spire of Dublin, which is apparently the tallest piece of sculpture in existence.
After these two, it went a bit free form. There are loads of traditionals to the south side of the Liffey heading out towards the docks, and around the old Grand Canal. I completed about 15 caches before I got back to Grafton Street, where I made a stop to recharge both myself and the phone. From here I continued through Temple Bar without stopping for a beer, and then proceeded west along the Liffey to a puzzle I’d managed to solve earlier in the day. At this point it was getting late and I was increasingly conscious of the time of the last Number 16 bus back to Santry – 11:30pm from O’Connell Street – so I needed to get a shift on. After stopping on Grafton Street I completed another 8 caches to bring my total to 23 for the night (with 3 DNFs). I thought that was OK, and it was enough to elevate Ireland to my second-highest country, in caching terms, beating the 32 we did in France in 2010 (which took us 2 weeks to finish). And all of this evening’s caches were done without needing to use my torch, that I’d carried over all the way. That wouldn’t have happened at Howth.
It seemed to be a very long walk up to the bus stop on O’Connell Street and when I found the bus the driver told me I’d need the right change, ‘cos his machine couldn’t give any. If I wanted, I was welcome to hand over one of my 20 Euro notes to cover the 2.50 Euro fare, but I thought that was a bit excessive, so in the 5 minutes he told me I had spare, I spent a minute and a half on the pavement looking around and feeling disheartened, and then a couple of minutes asking a nice taxi driver if he could split a 20 into something smaller. Thankfully he both could do it, and was willing to do it without taking a cut. Nice man. So I went back to the bus now armed with the right money and had a long discussion with the driver because I’d misheard him the first time. My target bus stop is just on the boundary between two zones so the fare was different depending on where I planned to get off. What I heard as €2.50 or €2.40 Euro was actually €2.15 Euro. As it cost me €2.50 to get down there I assumed this is the one I wanted. I proferred the requisite and he said “I can’t give change” Funny, I thought, when I’m giving you the right money. But eventually we realised and I paid €2.40. Night buses are normally more expensive so I was perplexed by the idea that it was cheaper to go home than to get down there, given I was on the same route and got off at the same stop. Never mind. I got there. Maybe I’d actually just paid over the odds on the way down.
When I got into the hotel the bar was still open so long as I didn’t mind sitting in the lobby and having my beer brought to me there. I didn’t mind. When I paid the bill though, it came up as lunch. Well, I know it was 12:30 wen I ordered the beer, but that was 12:30 in the morning. Like I’d really have beer and pringles for lunch on a work day !
In the morning I had plenty of time. Hotel check-out at 12 noon. Flight at 1:45pm. A couple of hours work to do and a need to go caching. Just over the road was a park I had been “saving up” for Thursday morning, anticipating I’d be able to spare and hour or so to attempt the 3 caches there in the park and one on the road home. I found the 3 in the park, including dropping the lid of one of them into the sticks and leaf mould and not being able to find it again. I didn’t find the one by the road. But that gives me a total of 35 for the trip, which is pretty good given that I was working and I only really had evenings and this 1 hour in the morning to do it. Result.
I toyed with the idea of driving around the airport to have a pop at that puzzle again but eventually couldn’t be bothered and just had a leisurely hour in the departure lounge instead.
The flight home was OK. The train home was delayed a bit because of some oiks chucking stuff onto the line just after Coventry. And I was met at the station by Kas and the girls with enough time left in the evening to feel like it wasn’t a total waste of a day. The girls seemed genuinely happy to see me, which was nice. Sometimes I feel like they barely tolerate my presence, so it’s nice to feel wanted.
The caches I found on the trip were :