It’s hard to remember those times with no apps in your phone, no internet data, no maps, I know. Ancient times. Well this story actually didn’t happen in the Middle Ages, it happened year and a half ago in the magically beautiful land of West Cork, Ireland.
My cousin and I spent few weeks there cutting brambles in the rain (that is rain for us, lovely outdoor summer weather for the Irish) for this lovely couple who hosted us and fed us in exchange. Their house was somewhere in the hills of the Mizen Head peninsula, which is the most specific localization I’m able to give you. The thing is, the Mizen Head peninsula isn’t exactly densely populated. Within the five mile radius, there were only two small villages in the opposite directions and the rest of the people lived in houses quite randomly scattered around. Can you picture that in your head? House, forest, hill, cows, hedges, more cows, heather meadow, hill, another forest, oh is that a roof top in the distance, hill, forest, something like that.
And while you’re picturing this, imagine the most beautiful landscape possible. You can look literally everywhere and it’s going to be the most beautiful scenery that you’ve ever seen, and then you turn around and wait, no, this is the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen! Irrelevant to the story, but I thought you should know.
So one day, my cousin and I decided to go for a trip to the village of Ballydehob (population 800), because we heard it’s really pretty and also we needed chocolate. It took us about 30 minutes staring into Google Maps to find out where we are now and to memorize the way, because there were no clues we could remember (are you still imagining the landscape we talked about earlier?), but finally, we were confident enough to head off.
And that’s when Jeremy, our host, offered to take us to Ballydehob by car, because he decided to go there with his daughter and spare us one way of the trip. It was already afternoon, because we were working in the morning, so we were more than happy to get there earlier and have more time before heading back home on our own.
On our way there, we were both paying attention to the road, noticing which turn to take and what house we need to pass on the way back and by the time we got to the village, we were absolutely sure that we know the way and told Jeremy he could leave us there, no problem!
You probably know where this is going, right?
Yeah. Well we had a wonderful time in the village, it was really very pretty and we managed to get some chocolates and burgers (our hosts were vegetarians) and about hour and a half before it was supposed to get dark, we headed back home on the road we thought would lead us there.
Now at this point, I should tell you something about me and my cousin. For some reason, we are both absolutely convinced that we have the perfect sense of direction. We both grew up in a city, have our whole family living there and the only time we had ever spent in the countryside was a few weeks every year during the summer holiday on a summer camp. Basically, we have no reason whatsoever to think we should be any good in orientation in the nature, but in our heads we’re pretty much Pocahontas.
So you can imagine it took us a while after having no idea where we are to admit that maybe, somehow, perhaps, giving that we haven’t seen anything familiar for the past half an hour, we might be lost?
After wandering around for some more time, which involved lots of going forth and back again on different roads, we finally decided that yes, we are lost, we should ask for directions. Now there were two problems. We didn’t know the name of the place we were trying to get to, because the address of every house on West Cork peninsulas is probably something like “Mizen Head pen., that one next to the funny shaped pine”, and there was nobody to be asked. The only thing we saw was this sign:
Only joking, that was elsewhere. The point is, we were alone in the middle of nowhere, it was getting dark and we had no idea how far we were from home.
“So why didn’t you call your hosts,” I hear you cry, “they would come and pick you up!”
Yes, well. First, what would we say? “Hey, we’re somewhere between 2 to 10 miles away, most likely to the southeast but possibly north!” And, most importantly, we had everything under control! Pocahontas, remember? Two girls from Prague in the Irish wilderness, like that could scare us!
Because there was no chance to actually meet a person or a car on the road, we decided to find a house and ask there. After a while, we found this ridiculously beautiful mansion with gates and columns and everything, which is something that you just don’t expect to find in between forests and hills, and we knocked on the door.
Now if I was living there and heard somebody knocking on my door in the late afternoon, I would lock myself in, summon the fairies for protection and never leave the house again until full daylight. Luckily for us, the door was opened by a bunch of teenagers looking absolutely unruffled that two complete strangers decided to drop by.
We asked them if they knew our hosts and where they live, which they didn’t, but they called their parents and because everybody knows everybody in these parts of the world, we were told the right directions and one of the teens even offered to drive us there. We thanked them for their help and said we would walk back and not only because the boy didn’t seem old enough to know how to drive a car. It was only around an hour away and we wanted to properly enjoy the rest of our trip. Which we did and we never felt more alive! By the time we got home it was already dark, but we survived in the wilderness and the only thing that we were later sorry about was that we weren’t saved by Jeremy Irons who had a castle nearby.
And how would the story go today? We saved our home location in our phones, went to Ballydehob, got some food and followed the offline map back.
See what we’re missing, people? Aren’t you tempted to leave your phones behind? To use good old paper maps, talk to other people when you need help, think for yourselves? Well I’m not. Ever since then, I always have the offline maps of the country I’m visiting in my phone and I’m happy to have only this story to tell.
But we all still have a chance for an adventure. It’s called 3% battery left. And then we shall talk again.