Land of the Mad Lupin Lovers

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Ireland part 6

Friday July 17
The weather wasn’t better.
My Swiss roommates were up early, but I stayed in bed until 8:30, when I was forced out of bed by boredom – the wifi wasn’t on! I had breakfast in the sitting room, then went back to my room, where I found out the outlets weren’t working either. Some kind of weird timed system?! Very odd. At least the wifi was back by then. :p
I tamed my hair into two tight braids and pinned them into a bun; it was still very windy outside and I didn’t want to risk getting knots. I set out for the supermarket to get some food and some cash money, then I headed for the harbour to get the bike I had rented back in Galway.

Yeah, skip the bike. I nearly got blown over on my way to the rental place, not exactly ideal for biking, plus I had to pay extra for an electric bike. The biking was off. Fortunately there was a row of little buses lined up near the pier, angling for tourists. I was ‘caught’ by an older gent named Thomas, a ‘true Aran man’ as he said himself, who spoke fluent Gaelic. He told me that Inishmore has 14 villages, two primary schools and one secondary school plus the College for the Irish Language, the Gaelic school. Quite a lot more than I had expected. We chatted a bit about living on an island, and I rescued a random bee which had been blown into the bus by the strong wind.
Unfortunately for Thomas I was his only customer, so he handed me over to Patrick, a red-haired man who – of course – also spoke fluent Gaelic. We drove off at some speed. Our first and main stop was Dun Aengus (the actual Gaelic is Dun Aonghasa), a prehistoric ring fort on the edge of the cliffs of Inishmore.

It was quite a climb to get there, on uneven ground and with a very strong wind and intermittent rain – it literally changed from sunny to rain and back again every five minutes. The last part of the way was especially hard, a sort of staircase made of uneven stones. Even with the aid of my walking stick I had a hard time going up.

Halfway there, I seriously considered going back – shame about the fort, but I just couldn’t...

And then two German girls tapped me on the shoulder: could they help me climb up to the fort? Yes, please! So we linked arms, and the three of us climbed upwards, holding on to each other (admittedly me mostly holding on to them). Along the way, it turned out one of them was called Ronja, after the book by Astrid Lindgren. She was surprised and pleased that I pronounced her name right, and that I knew the book! Ronja and her friend were from Frankfurt, and they were hoping to study medicine after the summer.
Once we’d reached the fort, they went to have a look around. I decided to stay behind near the entrance: the wind was even stronger here at the top of the cliff. I did go about twenty meters inside, holding the wall with one hand, to peer out a little. But after I was blown against the wall I quickly made my way back. :p

I got as far as the white sign. :p

I sat on a large rock out of the wind for a while, waiting for Ronja and her friend, who had offered to help me back down as well.

It took a while, however, so eventually I decided to get down myself, at least to get a head start, and with lots of pauses along the way to take photos! Down turned out to be much easier than up, especially while holding the wall or railing with one hand and using my cane with the other. I did get a lot of offers of help to get down – the stick was apparently a very clear signal that I needed help. But I managed all on my own, even if I did get nearly blown off my feet again.

The view was worth it, though.

Fun fact: those pointy rocks are chevaux de frise, or Frisian horses. I go all the way to Ireland and still run into Frisian horses. :p

Right, the Aran islands are part of the Burren.

Once back at the visitor centre, I blew my nose (cold + wind = the feeling your brains are leaking out of your nose), fixed my hair, which had been blown into a mess despite the braids, and took refuge in a little craft shop, where they sold yarn and hand-knit sweaters. Even though the saleslady was crocheting.
Yarn is apparently sold in kilos here, which makes purchases sound rather terrifying – I got a kilo and a half of yarn! Enough to make my own Aran sweater and something extra.
Me: “are there any books on Aran sweaters for sale on the island?”
Her: “You mean patterns? No dear, all patterns are in here!” *taps her head*
I should have known. :p
Back to the bus stop. On the way, I met up with Ronja and her friend again, plus a random American, who were happy I had managed to make my way down. We chatted for a while as we waited for Patrick and the bus. Turned out the two German girls were planning on walking the Dingle Way. The American was from near the Rocky Mountains, quite different from Ireland!

Shops in Irish cottages.

Patrick arrived with the bus and we moved on. We stopped at the Seven Churches, a former monastery settlement, now merely ruins.

After that, we passed a beach (nobody wanted to get out for a swim), the replica of an Irish cottage used in the film The Man of Aran, and loads and loads of little green fields bordered with the traditional Irish stone walls.

Whoo the beach!
(Taken from the minibus so it's blue.)

Meanwhile, Patrick was showcasing the traditional Irish dry sense of humour: “you know the film The Matchmaker?”
Us: “no...”
Patrick: “that was filmed here. You know the film Leap Year?”
Us: “No/yes.” (kind of mixed)
Patrick: “that was filmed here, too. You know the film Jurrassic Park?”
Us: “yes!”
Patrick: “that wasn’t filmed here.”
We were back in Kilronan at about three in the afternoon. Ronja and her friend wanted to head out to the beach, but I had had enough of wind and went back to the hostel. I dried myself off, then settled down again in the sitting room with tea and a book.
I headed back to my room at around six. It was sunny out, but still windy. I had hoped to visit the other fort on Inishmore as well, Dun Dúchathair, but I was worried about the wind since apparently that one is even more open on the cliff, without the benefit of strong walls, and I didn’t exactly want to get blown off a 90-meter high cliff.
First, though, dinner. I had an amazing Irish lamb stew at the local pub. Also a good opportunity to observe Irish pub life.


Back in the hostel I asked the proprietor about Dun Dúchathair. He confirmed that it would be very windy, plus it was about an hour’s walk from the hostel and it wasn’t accessible by bus or horse-drawn buggy. Yeah, no, no Dun Dúchathair for me (even if the name is quite fun to say). So the rest of the evening was spend in the traditional way, reading on bed!

Saturday July 18
A relatively late morning for me: 9 o’clock. Getting up early would be pointless anyway, since check-out was at 10:00 but the first boat to the island would not arrive until 10:30. Breakfast was a cup of tea and an apple because of the expected stormy trip back to the mainland - I didn't want to get seasick. In the dining room I chatted with a guy from the Netherlands and a guy from Ireland, who were both studying in Belgium. The Irish guy knew a few words of Dutch and even managed to say ‘gezellig’!

I packed my suitcase and checked out. Now what? My boat wouldn’t be leaving until an hour and a half later, and it was raining again. Only one thing to do: go to the Aran Sweater Market! On the way there I nearly got blown off my feet again, very promising for the ferry ride back... Since 1,5 kilos of yarn wasn’t enough, I got some more and stuffed it all in a collapsible IKEA bag. Thus loaded with yarn, I headed back to the pier, even though it was only 11 and the boat wouldn’t leave until 12. Soaked through and nearly blown over again, I managed to find shelter in a waiting room – along with about fifty other people, including a group of Italian/Spanish teenagers. I’d almost begun to miss them.
Boarding started at 11:40; thankfully my suitcase was lifted on board by the crew. I settled down downstairs in the middle of the boat, with a clear view of the crew, figuring that as long as they weren’t freaking out, everything was fine (I really did NOT look forward to this crossing).

Of course, when you’re really dreading something, it’s hardly ever as bad as you expect. Our crossing was pretty uneventful. Yes, some high waves, but I had found a steady spot and I didn’t get seasick. It was actually pretty amusing to see the crew: they had even hopefully opened the little on-board bar, but apparently nobody was very hungry. :p
We arrived in Rossaveal, Connemara at 12:45. The crossing had gone perfectly – until I slipped on the wet gangway. Ouch. Fortunately, nothing hurt except my pride. The bus took me speedily back to Galway, where I managed to catch the bus to Dublin in the nick of time. Tired from the travelling, the weather and my cold (snif), I spend the two and a half hours staring out of the window and listening to music.

I arrived in Dublin at 16:45. Very odd to think that I had been on Inishmore, population about 840, only five hours ago, and now I was back in Dublin, population about 500.000! I was staying in a different hostel; this one was closer to the main bus station (convenient for when I would be going back home) but further from O’Connell Street, where I had been dropped off. It was about fifteen minutes walking, a bit annoying with a yarn bag, but oh well. At least this hostel had a lift! On the other hand, I was back to a room with an en-suite bathroom but only one outlet – apparently that’s a Dublin thing.
Pub grub for dinner in a true local pub where the regulars had their own bar stool which was kept free especially for them. Some of the regulars had to use a walker to get around, but that wouldn’t stop them from getting their daily pint!
I had hoped to have an early night (I was tired from the long travelling) but alas, new roommates arrived at around 23:00. Welcome back to Dublin.
Only two more days to go!

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