AS A LONE gal setting off to hitchhike around Ireland's west coast, there was only one warning to abide. If the Irish folk in the cities were renowned for being friendly and approachable, their country cousins were even more so. The only impediment I was likely to face on my journey was over-eager and talkative strangers keen to bundle me home for a cuppa or six, pausing my adventures as they unleashed their family history upon me.

And the townies were right. As I set off to claim my first 'hike in County Clare, it was a sparkling Sunday morning and the streets were deserted. Reluctant to extend a thumb on the barren streets, I found my first ride at the petrol station. Deposited at a quiet fork in the road, I sat down to contemplate my next move with not a vehicle in sight.

A car rolled into view within 10 minutes. A plump gent with kind eyes swung open the door and while he wasn't going my way, he changed tack and off we sped along the winding roads bound for Doolin. He told me about his estranged family and his business endeavours and took me for an Irish coffee at the local pub. He dropped me at the Rainbow Hostel and waited until I found a bunk before scribbling down his number. He spent much of his time on the road and if I was ever stuck and he was nearby, he'd happily pick me up again.

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