Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thrill-seeking and the west coast (of Ireland, obvi.)

We only spent one night in Dingle, and i think that was one of my biggest mistakes of the whole trip.  I loved it there.  Matt and I went for a very hilly run through the bay, and stopped to look at sheep.  I really wanted to go to the Dingle Brewing Co tour, but the brewery had really weird hours in the off season.  I will be back.  Oh yes, i will be back. 

Our next stop was Bunratty, which wasn't far, so we did some sight seeing on the Dingle Peninsula.
This road side statue caught my attention, apparently it was there when my mom was visiting 30 years ago!

We did some shopping in Bunratty, but didn't have time to visit the castle there, so we just admired it from afar.
We also drove through Kilarney National Park, but it rained the whole time, and i was displeased.  We had to stop for an hour while Matt photographed a stupid waterfall, so my brother and I started goofing around.

After Bunratty, we drove up to the Cliffs of Moher.  Everyone told me it was the most beautiful place and i HAD to go there.  It was beautiful, but i won't lie - it was touristy.  Even in the off season, it was so crowded you couldn't get a picture without some random Italian teenager in the picture.  So, i did what any American would do, i illegally hopped a fence with Matt, and we followed a cow trail along the edge of the cliffs for about half a mile so that we could get some pictures!
Sign?  I don't see a sign.
Matt stopped to take a picture of some cows whose space we were invading.
And so did I! (Look how close she is to the edge!!)
After the cliffs of Moher, we arrived in Galway, and it proceeded to hail the entire time.  So, we made lemonade out of lemons and got drunk at Tig Coili, a trad pub.
Which might not have been our best idea, seeing as how Matt and i were going to climb Crough Patrick (Mount Patrick) in the morning.

Croagh Patrick is a pilgrimage site, so Catholics from all over the country travel there to climb to the top, where St. Patrick supposedly fasted for 40 days, and built a little church.  (You have a lot of free time when you don't eat for 40 days, i suppose)  Aside from the ruins of St. Patrick's church, They built a little modern church at the top, and hold services twice a year.  On these two days, 10's of thousands of devout catholics will make the pilgrimage, sometimes barefoot and shirtless.  The day we went was just a random Saturday, but apparently there are pilgrims 365 days a year, so we weren't alone.  
I will never know why we would think a pilgrimage would be a fun Saturday afternoon.  About a quarter way up, we stopped to check the view, and it was so beautiful we decided to carry on.
We were stopped about half way up by a medic crew, who advised us to turn our American asses around because we were dressed like morons.  Apparently jeans and nike rain jackets are not appropriate hiking gear.  The weather had been a rain/sleet mix with gale force winds, and the suggested we might not be able to handle it.  Naturally, we ignored the warning, and continued on.  Our main reasoning was that obviously, you don't hike all the way to the snow capped top.  For the record, you totally have to go all the way to the snow cap.  We began to realize this when everyone around us were suited up in snow pants, boots, and heavy winter coats.  
Not only were we the only Americans, we were the only people under 50.  Apparently, young people have no appreciation for pilgrimages these days.  As we neared the top, the sleet became snow, the wind picked up, and the terrain became a vertical sheet of ice with a smattering of loose, melon size rocks.  Every time you put your foot down, rocks would shift, and you would start to slide.  Luckily, the 50mph winds helped to keep you upright.  As we neared the very top, everything became hazy, and you couldn't see in front of you, or behind you, and I proceeded to have an anxiety attack.  
This was all i could see.
I became hysterical, because i couldn't see any other pilgrims, and i assumed they were smart enough to turn around because the weather was SO bad.  I was convinced Matt and I would die up here, wearing our blue jeans, and they would make a TV movie about us.  I wondered if Emma Stone would be available to play me.....

Then a woman in her 50's came up to us, passed us, and said, "you know, the top is only about 100 meters from here...."  Ouch.  We followed her to the top, and found about 8 other people just hanging out in the blizzasterous conditions.  The woman was nice enough to take our picture, because my hands were frozen by this point from not wearing gloves....
Is this the resting place of St. Patrick?  No idea.
The little church that St. Patrick built.
On the way down, it was even scarier.  I kept sliding and falling.  There was an 80 year old man with a cane next to us, with his 60 year old son helping him.  They were joking, and laughing, and having the best time.  He was so grateful that he could still walk to make the pilgrimage, and that was incredibly humbling.  I was still visibly in panic mode, mumbling about wanting to live, and another older gentleman asked me if the bar at the top was still serving drinks, which made me laugh out loud despite my terror.  I am not a catholic, or religious, but i still found this pilgrimage to be extremely spiritual, and i have great respect for all the people making it.  Eventually, the descent got easier, and finally we left the haze, and i could see again.  At the bottom, we found a sign with instructions on what to do if you panic near the top of the mountain, so apparently, i am not the only one.  
Did i mention that morning they had a dualathalon that involved ascending and descending most of the mountain?
Seriously, the Irish are so hardcore.

I was going to talk about Sligo as well, but this seems like a lot of pictures for one post, so tomorrow i will wrap up with Sligo and Northern Ireland!


  1. Well, now I'd say that the Irish and YOU are so hardcore. Seriously. You must have been FREEZING!

    As always...can't wait for more!

  2. Those cliffs are gorgeous. But hiking that mountain sounds scary.

  3. That hike looked crazy- I would have been freezing my little rear off! The Cliffs of Moher were gorgeous. Kind of random that cows were there hanging out. I wonder if any ever fall over the edge?

  4. Hahaha those cows! Love it, though I don't enjoy cold at all and would probably be a cranky little thang. Oops.

  5. Whoa that's a hardcore adventure! With views like those all that anxiety made it all worth it, right? On that note, I would most definitely have a panic attack up there!


    Wow. What an adventure. It does sound scary to go through all the different elements on your way up there. Damn, the Irish are hardcore!!!

  7. AMAZING!!! The pictures are absolutely stunning! I would have been terrified to climb up to the top without spending hours preparing in advance. Power to you for willing to take the risks to afford yourself such an incredible experience!!!