I had started to regret taking this tour much earlier when noticing that except one other girl, every single person on this bus was over 50. But you don't expect gorgeous blue skies when travelling in Ireland in late October, so a tour with someone else driving along the sloping country roads and cliffs seemed a much safer bet than a hike or cycling.

The misty lake and mountain landscape of south west Ireland goes by as our bus climbs up and down narrow winding roads. The road, also known as Ring of Kerry, is touted as Ireland's most popular tourist trail and as such, is meant to be in prime condition. Which doesn't stop sheep with neon pink, blue and green markings, small ponies and the occasional cow from blocking the road now and then. Neither does the Irish Tourism board seem to care much about the impromptu landfills that peek out from between the rocks.

As we get off the bus at a sheltered beach surrounded by lush green hills, for the first time during this trip, people seem to warm up a little.



'Beautiful!'
'Amazing!'
'Look, it's the ocean, we don't have that in Michigan!'
'Yeah but plenty of other water, darling.'

Until now, I hadn't even realised that the two were a couple. Even though we had been crammed into the small Japanese bus together for three hours, they had seemed like complete strangers, exchanging glances but never talking to each other. They are an unlikely pair: he in his early 60s, with just a few strands of hair remaining on his head and wearing a t-shirt that is not only far too cold for the Irish autumn, but that barely covers his massive belly. She is about ten years younger, slim, with shiny, long, naturally blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes.

After a few minutes, we get back. Again, nobody talks to each other and everyone keeps their eyes glued to the landscape outside. 

'The bog land has played an important role in the history of Ireland. Peat from the bogs has been used for heating, and many plants growing there have been used for thatching roofs over the centuries...' the driver explains slightly bored in his southern Irish lilt, pronouncing his u's wide open and ending every statement with a rising intonation.

'What? I have no idea what he's saying! He should learn some proper English', the man from Michigan exclaims angrily and so loud that everyone in the bus can hear it. His wife closes her eyes and then takes a deep breath, as if mentally counting to ten. To no avail.
'Well but I'm sure I can understand what you're saying, so shut up!', she snaps back aggressively.
 
Our last stop for the day is a waterfall that is located in the dense woodlands about 200 metres up a small, unpaved path. As we get off, the driver jokes, for the first time seeming to really wake up today: 'The last one back in the bus has to kiss the driver! Those are the rules!'

'Up there? Only if you carry me up personally', puffs the man in the small t-shirt, seemingly exhausted just thinking about the hike. His wife looks at the other passengers apologetically. 'I'm gonna for it', she says and hops off the bus.

Five minutes later, she is back, slightly out of breath – not as the last, but as the driver is about to take his seat, she gives him a kiss. Not a small hesitant peck on the mouth, no, a full fledged kiss on the mouth.

Her husband looks shocked, lets out an angry huff but then realises there's not much space to move and create a scene in the small bus. As she sits down beside him, she throws a deliciously devilish grin his way.

'What the hell was that?', he demands, putting his large hand on his wife's fragile shoulder, pushing her slightly to the side.

'Luck of the Irish, sorry mate', the bus driver chuckles and hits the curb.

She smiles nonchalantly and he starts to stare out of the window.

As we start driving again, she sighs and leans over to me. 'Are you travelling all by yourself? Must be hard. It's so much nicer to be on the road with your partner.'


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