August 29, 2014

The Cliffs of Moher

For someone who was once borderline anti-people, I came to find that making new friends on my adventures was one of my favorite parts of traveling. One exceptionally fortunate encounter occurred in my sweet little town of Doolin. It was here, in my hostel, that I met four beyond-lovely girls, with whom I would spend the next two days. 

I was lucky enough to meet Vanessa, Chelsea, Katie, and Amelia before they had ventured up to the Cliffs of Moher. With our shared destination in mind, I joined them on a bus trip up the mountain to see what really should be considered one of the natural wonders of the world. 

Stretching along five miles of coast and standing, at their highest point, 702 feet tall, the Cliffs are virtually unfathomable.

Rather than state property, as it would be in the US, the majority of the land that stretches down the coast is privately owned farm land. However, because the Cliffs are such an attraction, the people have developed a sketchy path that runs right along the edge for sightseers and adorable harpist-peddlers alike. 

I'm probably lucky I didn't trip and plunge into the ocean, considering my eye (as well as all other tourists' in my path) was stuck to my camera the whole time, trying to capture the majesty of the site. 

From the main entrance you can walk either direction along the path; since we would be walking back down towards the right, the girls and I first headed up the left slope. 

On one side you have stone-walled farm land that stretches for miles.

Immediately adjacent to this the earth falls away, and the Atlantic extends endlessly.  

Had I been a traveler before the great age of explorers, when the world was still thought to be flat and have an end, encountering the Cliffs of Moher would have been enough to convince me I had reached the edge. Even now, imagining the great precipice, it is hard to imagine a world that can extend past such a sheer slice of earth. 

We walked and walked, our breath not being taken away by a rigorous hike, but rather by the unwavering marvel of the view. Occasionally we found it necessary to stop for breaks to just have-a-sit and take in the greatness around us.    

How would you like to be one of these happy cows, basking in the grassiest of fields, with a view from atop a world famous coastline? I'm thinking happy cows come from California Ireland. 

Happy cows, or crazy cows. Maybe both. 

For anyone concerned, there is in fact a (small) fence keeping the majestic moo-moos from wandering their happy butts right off the 700 foot drop. 

If it was America, there would be a fence for humans too, but since Europe likes to keep their population under control, there is no fence so natural selection can take place. They weed out those they don't want by seeing who is fearless enough too get close to the edge. Or stupid enough, but I'm going to go with fearless to make up for this picture.

My friend Vanessa, whom I met along with the others in the hostel, was also from Cali, so obviiiii (as a California girl would say) we had to get a picture of us rockin' Ireland. 

After a whole heck of a lot of walking in one direction, we turned our behinds around and headed back to Doolin. Everyone we met in our tiny home had told us that we simply must use the new coastal walkway "built" to take us all the way back to town from atop the bluff. 

That in mind, we headed to the left of O'Brein's Tower, per instruction, towards a downward slope. We encountered this sign before skirting around a fence, that made the trip all the more promising. 

We would learn that the simplicity of the walk was a bit exaggerated, even if no one was lying about the unparalleled view you get heading back. 

There are all sorts of birds perching themselves along the cliff face, and every time we saw any of the black and white catagory, we became animated with the idea of the puffins that reside in the nooks of the cliff. Unfortunately, unknown to us the cutie little birds only seasonally roost along the Cliffs (okay it was previously unknown to us before visiting the Cliffs' gift shop that puffins even existed in Ireland, but still). We were subdued to settling for these cute flying, penguin-like things. And if that sentence doesn't make me an excellent bird watcher, I don't know what will. 

Amelia and Chelsea on one of the many clover-searching breaks we took along our walk. 

Though we were told the walk wasn't that far, the speck in the distance that was Doolin, made the trek seem awfully daunting. 

Just in case you didn't know, clumsiness and perilous action is not the leading cause of death along the way, it is rather the killer cliffs. They have a serial vendetta. 

For a good while along the walkway, there is a path outlined by some jenky fence posts, so you can walk along all care free...

...just soaking up the view...

...then one hazardous edge, a hop over a barbed wire fence, and a cow pasture later you realize you've made a bit of an "oopsy" and you have cow poop MUD covering your feet, after barely having made it out alive with your flip flop still attached to your foot. 

But have no fear, the excellent walkway will lead you over several other fences to some genius Irish architecture, that will help keep you in the right direction and out of more pastures.  Who needs boards and nails and things when you can just drag giant stones out into fields to be used as stairs and bridges. 

There was some doubt of wether or not we would ever make it home, but eventually we made our way back to sporadic, but promising signs of return.

And who cares about making it back poop-free when you get to encounter these little cuties along the way. 

Harold and Frank (as I have just decided to name them) begged us not to leave; they couldn't stand to be left without more pets. It was a heartbreaking site. 

"How dare you walk away from me! Look at this face: no one walks away from this face!" -Harold (he's got a bit more of a temper than Frank). 

After several miles, and countless awe-inspiring sights, we finally spotted Doolin, off in the distance, beckoning us home. 

Another half mile later, and we had finally reached the promise land.

We were congratulated at the end of our journey by this majestic fella, who surely sees all the stupified, adventurous tourists who choose to venture down the dicy, though well worth it, trail. 

I'll be honest, every misadventure on our way down the slope made the whole experience all the more fun, and having some wonderful young ladies to laugh along the way with didn't hurt either. I feel so lucky to have come across such spectacular people along my travels; especially those like these girls who are all leading such independent and strong lives. It's all really, very inspiring, and I do hope we can all cross paths again some day. Ten year reunion trip to Doolin? I'm thinking absolutely. 

Yours, Kenna 

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