Last evening when we checked into the Rosslare Port Lodge the young Punjabi girl at the reception told me that it would be enough if we started for the port by 8 am since it was just a short drive from there. Breakfast was on board the ferry, Lal and I decided. I woke up early to complete the blog posts. The Lodge offered free WiFi; it was available only in the reception area, though. Moreover, I was under the impression that the lounge would be available to do my work without disturbing Lal and the thought that coffee would also be there send me downstairs by 4.30 am. The lounge was closed and coffee was not available. Hence, I sat down in the reception area and worked without any disturbance for a couple of hours – two of the three pending posts were completed and updated. Only Day 73 remained, which I would be able to complete on the ferry I knew, for the crossing would take about 4 hours.
After we had got ready and loaded the luggage I went to the lounge for a cup of tea where I met the Punjabi girl from Ropar, who had taken up the work at the reception as a summer job. She lived with her husband, who was working with the Metro, in Dublin. The summer job provided handsome money to support their studies and stay. The Lodge remains boarded up in the winter months for lack of business. She mentioned that jobs were not easy to come by in Ireland, particularly after she had moved there a couple of years back. I thought she was quite happy to be living in Ireland despite the fact that they have not been able to set aside anything for a rainy day or start a family. They valued their anonymity and independence. She hoped to undertake a journey in Kerala soon.
By 8.15 am I joined the car queue in the Rosslare Port. After the booking was confirmed and the check in completed I was directed to drive the car to a lane that was already loading the Isle of Inishmore to Pembroke. So many cars and freighters had lined up to be loaded for the crossing that I wondered how they would all be accommodated in the ferry. The cavernous ferry decks with mezzanine levels serviced by hydraulic ramps loaded more than 500 vehicles. The crossing service by Irish Ferries is popular only in the summer months. I carried the laptop and other accoutrements to the passenger deck and settled in a vantage location from where we would be able to appreciate better departure and docking of the vessel. The ferry was not overcrowded, by any means; there were many holidayers on board. A couple of buses carried elderly people who seemed to be visiting UK after many years – their conversation suggested my observation. On board the first task was to get some breakfast. After ‘shopping around’ I realised that the full breakfast option would be the best; bacon, sausages, hash potato, scrambled egg, toasts, baked beans and coffee. Lal and I had a leisurely meal, surfing the net on the free WiFi on board and taking in the sights as the ferry service left the shores of Ireland.
I got busy on board updating the Facebook page of Record Drive and Day 73 of the blog. As I was completing them the shoreline of Pembroke came into view. The timing could not have been better. The small city looked picturesque from the waters. Disembarkation did not take long. As we drove out of the ferry we were waved down by a few Keralites based in West Wales. It did take us by surprise, for I knew only about the reception arrangements in Swansea. The reception in the Milford Haven Port did not take much time, thanks to their consideration. I was supposed to be in Swansea by 2 pm, but was getting delayed en route due to road works. Vinsu, who was liaising with me for the reception suggested that we get to the Hall where the reception was to be held and later go to the Hotel. We reached the venue by 3 pm and a fairly large gathering had aggregated despite it being a working day. The formal function was organised by YUKMA – an umbrella organisation of over 100 working units. A shawl and three mementoes were presented to us by various organisations. After that and a long photography session we were treated to some amazing Kerala food – beef ulath, fish patichathu, cabbage thoran, vann payaru, papadam, pickles and on and on. I wished I had not stuffed myself with the full breakfast on board the vessel.
Vinsu took on the responsibility of showing us some parts of the City after we had checked in. The accommodation was not up to the mark. The room was tiny and the en suite arrangements meant that one of us had to stay out of the room for the other to use the toilet and bathing facilities with self respect! I asked the elderly gentleman if he had another room we could rent; he politely recused himself from the task! The only saving grace of the accommodation was the location and strong WiFi connection.
Vinsu dropped his family home and came back to the lodging to pick us up. He drove us to the Bracelet Bay from where panoramic views of the coastal city could be had besides enjoying views of the Sea. It was quite windy but otherwise the weather was great. The city is supposed to be one of the earliest settlements in Wales. Experiencing the old buildings and understanding local traditions and systems while walking the lovely walkway along the Bay was the right way to spend the evening prior to attempting the last leg of the journey from Swansea too London. We spend some time in a café on the Bay to flavour some local ice cream. Later Vinsu drove us through to the Fendrod Lake; en route he pointed out the many war memorials. The swans and ducks provide a serene environment that has to be enjoyed quietly. The park around the lake is popular with those wanting to remain fit and maintain their health.
During the reception we had mentioned that we preferred local cuisine to Indian food because the latter we would get anyway once we get back home. Hence, Vinsu, Joji, Binu and Thankachan decided to get together in Thankachan’s house for specially cooked Welsh food. The evening went on till an hour before midnight with a few more Keralites dropping in, a website being inaugurated, networks and connections established and partaking of wonderful Welsh food. Starting with leek and potato soup, going through to the main course of veggies, potatoes, beef slivers and sauce and winding up with the lemon sponge cake and custard was a huge gastronomically challenging journey. I felt sorry for having wasted some of the main course, for I consider wasting food to be the biggest crime one can commit in a society. “Take what you eat and Eat what you take” is a golden rule my mother had taught me and never permitted to violate. It was not easy taking leave of the kind souls who had looked after us with such care and affection. Not for a moment did we feel anything than being at home. All good things had to come to an end. And this one did too. Vinsu and Binu dropped us back at the accommodation to spend the night before the 'assault'.