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  • Sunday, August 24, 2014

    The Newgrange and Knowth Passage Tombs

    (Photo: Passage tomb at the Knowth site)
    The next day I again woke in a room of diffused red light from sunlight passing through the curtains in Regina and Fernando’s living room. While packing up, there was a knock on the front door. Regina had already left for work and Fernando was still asleep, so I answered it.

    “Good man, already up and getting ready to leave,” Gearoid said and walked inside and up the hall toward the kitchen. “Can I make you some coffee or tea?”

    This is the second time someone who didn’t live in Regina and Fernando’s house, offered me some of their tea and coffee. For some reason, I love this. It added to that already grand sense of community I felt in Duleek.

    I sat at the table and found a note from Regina, “Ryan, it was great meeting you and I wish you a safe and happy journey around Ireland. Call us when you are in the area. You are always welcome. Kindest Regards, Regina”

    (Photo: Another Passage tomb at Knowth)
    Fernando came downstairs and joined us at the dinner table and we talked over coffee. Before I said my final goodbyes, Gearoid said he would meet me at Newgrange, because he could get me in for free.

    I walked the remaining few miles and later Gearoid passed me on a motorcycle. “The Irish don’t walk,” I could hear him saying.

    At the end of the road, by his brother's house, I saw his motorcycle parked on the side of the road. He was talking to his sister-in-law and niece. He and his niece joined me for the final kilometer to Newgrange.

    I commented on how narrow the roads are in Ireland.

    (Photo: So that's how they mow the tombs)
    “Ah, they'll go around," he said. "Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother getting out of the way. Insurance compensation in Ireland is really fantastic. And if you are killed. Oh man, you are set.”

    There was a line at the visitor’s center, but we walked right passed them. He said something to an employee and she asked me if I wanted to tour both Newgrange and Knowth, both sites with prehistoric passage tombs, each one about five hundred years older than the pyramids. Of course I wanted to see both, why not? She stuck too stickers on my shirt that displayed the times I was to go on the tours.

    While I waited for the first tour, Gearoid and his niece showed me how to get around the area and made some recommendations. They even showed me on a map some places I could camp that night.

    His niece handed me a booklet with information of the area. “Oh, no dear," Gearoid whispered and put his hand on the booklet. "I don’t think he can read." She giggled.

    (Photo: Newgrange)
    “I guess you’ve never seen me read before,” I said.

    “He only went to the second grade," he said to his niece with a compassionate voice. "I don’t know, maybe it’s a decision that he’s made that he just won’t read,” he said.

    “Yeah, I refuse,” I said flatly.

    “So, how were you able to get me right through the line like that,” I asked.

    “Oh, because I am who I am,” he said smiling. “Everyone knows us.”

    “I was curious,” I said. “Everybody is waiting in line to pay to get in and we just walked right passed them.”

    “This is our area. We are here. This is us. We are home. That’s enough you know?” he said.

    “Well, I really appreciate it.”

    (Photo: Inside the Knowth passage)
    “It’s nothing at all, it’s been lovely having you around.”

    “Honestly, it has been the best two days on my trip,” I said. “It reminded me why I’m walking." Before getting to Duleek, I had been wondering if my plan to walk this entire time was the smart one. There are so many places to see in Europe that I won't have time to go see.

    "The thing about walking," I said to Gearoid. "Well, like, how many American tourists fly to Ireland to visit Duleek?”

    “Oh we don’t want too many,” he said. “We don’t need them now, we already have our grand.” He was referring to the thousand-euro grant they now qualified for by drawing in at least twenty foreign visitors into Duleek.

    “I’m not putting you down, but when Americans fly to Ireland they don't think about going to Duleek. They want to visit Dublin and kiss the Blarney stone. If I wasn’t walking, I never would have had this experience.”

    “We only kept ya because you’re worth fifty euros,” he said. “There was a bounty on your head. We’ve never spoke to visitors before. We just sort of keep them going. We’re just like, hey look at that fella’.”

    I laughed.

    “I don’t do sentimentalities.” he said. "But I’m delighted to hear that.

    Before we parted, he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket and told me to get some coffee inside while I wait for my tour.

    “Ah, you don’t have to do that,” I said, but he insisted.

    We said goodbye then I went inside and got in line for that coffee. His niece ran up behind me and said, “Here.” She dropped more change in my hand. “He told me to say he found some in his other pocket.” She ran off giggling.

    (Photo: Stone art)
    So, one last thing. I guess I should talk about Knowth and Newgrange since this post is full of their photos. I shuffled through the grounds on a tour with a bus load of tourists. I walked inside of one of the oldest buildings in the world. About 5,000 years, 500 years older than the pyramids. It was absolutely amazing and worth the visit. There is a reason the tourists go where they do, but walking here gave me an experience unlike any of the other tourists around. I needed this confirmation that I was doing this European tour exactly how I needed to be doing it.