Part 8. The End of the Road

The following morning was painful, indeed. I have long noticed – the more fun you have in the evening, the more you pay for it the morning after. This painfully acquired knowledge had nothing to do with trying to avoid the after-effects, though. Some people will never learn, and we definitely belonged in those ranks…

Squinting at the inconsiderately appearing rays of morning sunlight (where are the dark clouds full of rain when you need them?!), we generally felt like two Draculas caught without cover in the midday spotlight. We crawled out of the hotel trying not to catch the eye of the prim lady owner, and having said good byes to our last night’s drinking companion, who looked annoyingly fresh, decided to give the cliffs another go.

The Cliffs of Moher

This time, the cliffs presented themselves in the best possible condition – in crisp morning sunlight, with puffy white clouds above them and not a gust of wind in sight, they were gift-wrapped, picture-framed and ready to be admired. If I remember correctly, the part with the O’Brien’s Tower was featured in “The Princess Bride” as “The Cliffs of Insanity“.  Even on the backdrop of blue sky with white innocent clouds and in bright daylight, they looked vaguely menacing, so you could understand the director’s choice of location. We could have done without the hangovers, obviously, but these were self-inflicted wounds, so one can’t be too picky, really. Seeing the cliffs up close and personal (or as close as we could get without falling down and breaking our necks), it was hard to imagine that less than 20 hours ago this grandeur was completely hidden and covered by fog and rain. Eat your heart out, David Copperfield – you got a lot to learn from Irish weather!

O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher

At this point I have to make a confession and admit my historic, geographic and linguistic ignorance. Up to the moment when I started writing this bit of our trip notes, I was somehow convinced that Cliffs of Moher and mohair sweaters had common origin. I was already gloating at a catchy name for this chapter, with “Cliffs and Cardigans” and “At the Birthplace of Wooly Sweaters”, being just a few possible options. However, having googled what I believed to be a true fact, I was bitterly disappointed – to my dismay, the mohair sweaters made from the fur of funky-looking Angora goats from Tibet were not only spelled differently, but had absolutely nothing to do with the famous Irish landmark. A shame, really – this would have made for a neat story!…

“The Cliffs of Insanity”

We walked half the way along the 120-meter tall rim (this time without the rain gear!), took a couple of hundred pictures of the majestic cliffs, trying to avoid having at least a dozen other visitors in the shot, picked up our bikes from the parking lot, and moved on, direction in-land. We had only 2 days left with the bikes (time really does fly when you are having fun!), and were already thinking of getting back to Gorey, even if the route to it was not the most picturesque one.

Cutting across the country made us realize how tiny the island actually was. Riding on the Wild Atlantic Way, and following every nook and cranny of the coastline, it was easy to imagine why the route was considered the longest coastal road in the world – following the intricate maze of country roads and goat paths on any given peninsular could easily take a full day of riding out of your schedule. When crossing the island in an almost straight line, it took little more than 3 hours from coast to coast. Talk about relativity of distances!…

Our run through the country was un-eventful and un-memorable, apart from one short stretch of the road, passing by the Magners cider factory just outside of Clonmel. Now, that’s the neighborhood I would not mind living in! True, it was ugly as sin, but it smelled fantastic! Even me, not being a big fan of ciders, had to admit that the whole area smelled of violets and rose petals. True, the Magners ciders that you normally drink at the pub do not, but I attribute it to the general ambiance of the places they are usually encounter at – with the overpowering smell of Guinness and body odor of the patrons reigning strongly over any flowery petals lingering in the background. Yet, our quick ride past the factory gave us that deceitful feeling and illusion of experiencing the magic of nature for once taking its toll over the human reign…

Waterford greeted us with an unexpected street festival, and most of the roads downtown blocked by police guarding the happily drunk crowds. The ultimate majority of hotels and B&Bs seemed to also be fully stocked for the night with visitors from nearby villages and small towns. We almost forgot we were closing in on the weekend, and our painful hotel deprivation experiences of just a week ago seemed to be being re-lived over again… This time, however, we were in town at a decent hour, when all tourist information offices were still open! Having quickly located one on the waterfront promenade while scouting the area, we parked the bikes in the back street, and after only 5 minutes were the proud owners of a provisional reservations made in our name at a nearby hotel by a lovely lady at the tourist office. We hurried down the road, and confirmed that the room was, indeed, ours!

Waterford, decorated for the street festival

There is nothing more needed, welcoming and relaxing after a day on the road than a hot shower! Having parked the bikes at the hotel parking lot, and unloaded our gear, we thoroughly enjoyed ours, and went on to explore the town. We missed most of the street festival, though, and by the time we hit the streets, the musicians and street sellers were all packing up, and crowds blocking the streets just a couple hours earlier were slowly dispersing.  Only a group of stray clowns was left marching around town in seemingly random patterns, playing pipes and drums. They seemed to be everywhere – turn around the corner, and suddenly there they were, circling around you in their sunny yellow wigs, and oversized shoes, humming to a tune that only they knew.

The happy clowns of Waterford

Last time the clowns were spotted much later in the evening, leaving a pub. Still with all the gear, including the pipes and the drums, they were moving down the street in a proud and well-thought-out formation. Probably in the direction of another pub.

Happy clowns seen leaving the pub later in the evening

Despite the fact that we missed the festivities, Waterford presented us with a breathtaking sunset that was hard to forget – dramatic colors of evening sky mixed with the changing shadows of the clouds reflected in the waters of the river. All this was a perfect backdrop to our relaxing evening in town.

Dramatic sunset over Waterford

However, it was the people of Waterford that left the most lasting impression of the place. Having missed the festivities, we had to feed our social cravings in other ways, and after admiring the sunset landed in The Reg – a bar/nightclub right opposite the hotel, where all our entertainment yearnings were satisfied to the fullest. The club was THE place to be for any aspiring anthropologist.

At 8 in the afternoon, the club was semi-deserted, and the Friday night crowds were just starting to sip through. We ordered 2 drinks at the bar, and took a strategic position at a high table in the corner with an open view of the dance floor. The DJ was just warming up, the dance floor was empty, and we could survey the surroundings with no obstacles of either physical or audio variety. Across the dance floor from us, two skinny bitches dressed up to the nines were nursing un-identifiable alcoholic drinks in martini glasses. They weren’t really drinking them – just stroking the thin stems of their glasses, and hungrily eyeing every male approaching the bar. Throughout the evening they did not have any food, or order any more drinks. They did not get lucky either – either they were two very picky skinny bitches, or they had some other agenda for the evening, that was not visible on the surface.

More people arrived, and the place started packing up with more interesting characters. A heavily pregnant woman with a mother landed at a table next to us with two beers (we could only hope that at least one of them was non-alcoholic), and within minutes we could see her being seriously chatted up by a decent-looking bloke: judging by the rather obvious conversation that was hard to ignore – a complete stranger, who did not seem to be the future happy father. They stayed in the club for a good couple of hours, and with every minute their acquaintance seemed to be progressing in a warmer and closer direction, up to the point that we started worrying that all this excitement could cause the baby to want to come out earlier, if only to slap Mommy on the wrist for being naughty. the woman’s mother did not seem to mind. The skinny bitches were eyeing the trio from across the dance floor with an open mix of amazement and disgust.

Just when we thought that the evening could not get any better, a hen party showed up. The bitches and the pregnant aficionados at the next table were quickly forgotten, and all our attention switched to the new arrivals. In a very business-like manner they camped at a big table on the side of the dance floor, ordered a round of cocktails and two bottles of bubbly, and got ready to show off their dancing moves. Once they all gathered on the dance floor in a circle around their hand bags, you could see that the group was an odd assortment of characters, indeed. There was one really big lady (she turned out to be the only one who could do at least a couple of dance moves), one painfully thin anorexic girl with no sense of rhythm whatsoever, another heavily pregnant one (this must have been the season, or the place!), and the bride-to-be appeared to be wearing a curtain.

Hers was not the award-winning outfit of the night though. A new group stormed the dance floor in just about an hour, and we had to hold our breaths. Hello, 80-es! There were oversized and ill-fitting leather short, paired up with white lace bodies, one-piece pant suits that would flatter nobody, transparent blouses with what seemed to be men’s underpants worn over checkered leggings. Now we’ve seen it all! The club in Waterford appeared to be a time-capsule that catapulted you right back into the days everyone was desperately trying to forget about…

Having had our doze of the 80-es for the night (and probably a couple more years to come), we went to bed.

The following day was short – just a 100 km run from Waterford to Gorey, where we handed our babies back into the loving and capable hands of the Overlanders for taking them back to Munich, a familiar 1.5 hour bus ride to Dublin, and the road trip was officially over. Due to time restraints, we could have done only half of the Wild Atlantic Way, that all the way from Kinsale (where we started) to the most northerly point of Ireland at Malin Head, but we sure received the full range of impressions and memories. Definitely to be repeated one day before we get old and feeble, and next time we might as well do the other part!

The route of the last 2 days of the trip

Part 7. Cow Country & Invisible Cliffs

The following morning started bright and early with no severe consequences of a late Guinness night. The air was crisp, the blue skies were glimpsing through the clouds, and the day promised to be dry and gorgeous, if not overly tropical. We started off in high spirits, but after about half an hour on the road the oyster excesses of previous days started catching up with me. No, there was nothing disgusting or outrageous like severe diarrhea, projectile vomiting or any other outwardly unpleasant signs. I just wanted to crawl in under the bike and die. And I could not care less whether this bike was stationary or moving. My head was full of shit, and I felt like there was an alien inside me, trying to rip his way out through my insides. This, probably, was not the best condition to continue riding in, but I sincerely hoped that the fresh air, the cold wind in my face and a change of scenery would help blow the cobwebs away, and calm down the fucking alien. It sort of worked. In a sense that I did not feel any worse staying on the bike, than I did away from it.

Apart from fighting the alien, the most memorable part of that day was driving through cow country. Somewhere between Ballyheigue and Ballyduff, a stretch of road a good 10 km or so long took us through lush green fields, falling into the waters of the bay, that were richly peppered with cows. Of all sort, breeds, colours and sizes, they had one thing in common: farts. Man, could these creatures fart!!!!…. Even through head scarfs and bandanas we used to cover our faces, the smell was overpowering and toxic. And all this in wide open wilderness, where ocean winds blow strong! Needless to say, the alien inside of me was NOT impressed. I tried to hold my breath (which obviously was not possible for longer than a minute or so), nearly chocked on my bandana, had to seriously speed up, and was unbelievably grateful when we put the cows behind us.

Up until then I have always been skeptical about stories that global warming is caused not from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production, or gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes, but by excessive cow farming and their farts. The latter did not seem that large-scale to me to have such a global impact on the climate. Guess what?…. I am a convert now! Fucking hell, can they fart!!!…. And if a couple of hundred cows on a field open to all winds of Ireland can do THAT, I seriously don’t want to think what thousands and thousands of their mates grazing on the pastures in Texas and Argentina can produce!

A picturesque spot to admire frost-resistant locals, bathing in the cold

During a brief break in the drizzle, when the sun managed to glimpse through the clouds for the whole 10 minutes, we stopped for photos at a particularly picturesque spot at a place the name of which completely escapes me now. We admired the waves, the scenery and the clouds, while freezing our socks off in the cold wind. Five layers of clothing were not helping much. At the same time, a bunch of frost-resistant locals were happily bathing further down in the bay, obviously enjoying the weather. Go figure…

The cows left a lasting unpleasant impression, the alien inside me continued to rip his way through to freedom, and all things considered, we decided to cut the day short.

View of Tarbert pier from the ferry

A quick ferry ride from Tarbert should bring us to Killimer in County Clair, where we were fully intent to start looking for a pit stop right away. The ferry was almost empty, with only a handful of cars queuing up to board behind us. We struck a conversation with a Swiss guy, travelling through Ireland with a wife and 2 toddlers in a car packed to the brim with diapers, toys, paper towels, and random assortment of clothing, sticking out of all windows and strategically blocking all rear-view mirrors. One little ray of sunshine was running around the ferry like a maniac, trying to escape and dive into the cold waters of the bay, while the other one started crying his lungs out the moment his daddy switched the engine off on the ferry. For a moment even my alien shut up and paused in awe of the chaos that these two tiny creatures were causing.

Parking in Kilrush

Killimer had literally nothing to offer apart from a gift shop right opposite the ferry port, which we were not staying in, so we continued on the road in search of a place that would offer not only shopping, but accommodation facilities as well. The next such place was Kilrush, and this was where we landed. Buggle’s Pub & B&B was the first one we spotted, and despite the proprietor’s grim and suspicious looks, he did give us the key to a room with a bed. This was all I needed at that moment! I slept for about 12 hours straight, and when I woke up, the alien was nowhere in sight or feel. He must have quietly left while I was asleep, and invaded some other poor body in Kilrush. I had no problems with that.

In the morning, we had breakfast downstairs, prepared by an even more gloomy and skeptical wife of the proprietor. None of our charms, compliments to the food, accompanying classical music or the beautify of the interior managed to warm her heart or at least bring a trace of a smile to her face. After a stroll through the town we confirmed that, very untypical to Ireland, gloominess and general skepticism towards strangers seemed to be the two predominant features of all good folks of Kilrush. Most of the people on the streets looked grey, unhappy and generally un-impressed with their surroundings. Convinced that there must be a lot of in-breeding going on here, we packed up our shit and moved on.

The skies looked grayish (I was tempted to say “like everything in Kilrush”, but will not), and we timely remembered having brought rain gear with us, which we readily put on before continuing on our way. And just like that – it started to rain! Well, it was not the heavy rain we experienced a couple of days earlier, just an annoying drizzle that crawls under your skin and fogs your helmet visor. Guess what? Not with rain suits! Well, my visor was still fucked, and I had to use the back of my gloved hand as a window-wiper, but there was no “crawling under your skin” bit! Moreover, the rain suits wind-protective qualities also kept us warm. True, they made us look like two inflatable elephants, but we were not aiming at that month’s cover of a biker fashion magazine, and were quite happy just to stay dry.

Our destination for the day was the town of Doolin, where we were meeting an old friend for a drink, which, inevitably meant that we were staying put there. Riding after an Irish meetup, when even walking can often be challenging, was totally out of the question. Before Doolin, however, a huge landmark, and a point of interest for many locals and tourists swarming the country, was on our list – Cliffs of Moher. According to the guidebooks, the cliffs rank among the most visited tourist sites in Ireland and enjoy (or suffer – depending on your point of view) approximately one million visitors a year. We were more than keen to join the hordes! 

The Cliffs of Moher – as much as we could see on the day…

Unfortunately, nature was not on our side. The drizzle, following us from the morning, has thickened up into an impenetrable wet foggy wall, and although we hoped for the best, bought the tickets at the Visitor’s Center along with hundreds of other tourists, and even walked around the area in hopeless search for the sights, the cliffs were nowhere to be seen. On the plus side, the two of us were the driest people walking around for miles. We caught more than one glance openly lusting over our rain suits – this must have been the only occasion on record when full motorcycle gear and rain protection made anybody look sexy and attractive! Disappointed about the absence of the cliffs, but chuffed over our waterproof irresistibility, we turned away. Only to find out that since the cliffs were a no-show, the kind Irish tourism board authorities allow us to re-use our tickets tomorrow! Yippee!!! We will be back!

Our digs in Doolin

Doolin greeted us with more rain, and crowds of lost tourists, aimlessly walking about. Cullinan’s Restaurant & Guest House presented a lovely opportunity for a stop, bed and a shower. Drying ourselves up we though how ironic it was, that before you get dry you have to get more wet… The place was lovely, with spacious, well decorated rooms, modern bathroom facilities and comfy beds. It also boasted an award-winning restaurant that looked absolutely amazing. We were too hungry to wait till the evening opening hour, though, so consoled ourselves with Guinness and steak in a pub across the road.

Our evening plans were set anyway – meeting an old friend in a McGann’s Pub down the road, having a good time together, and hopefully not remembering anything else about the evening. Walking to McGann’s down the narrow and windy road, we met a couple of locals – a cute little donkey with furry ears and huge dopey brown eyes, and a huge fucking bull, decorated with an unfriendly gaze, and impressive family jewels. The only thing separating both from the road, was a low stone barrier and a thin (hopefully electrical) wire, outlining the pasture area. While the donkey did not look overly dangerous, the unsettling thought that if the bull gets really pissed off, the thin wire (electricity or no electricity!) did not look like a sufficient enough barrier to hold him back, kept bugging us. We sped up, trying to avoid eye contact.

The close-up of the big fucking bull. He does NOT look impressed.

The evening program was completed fully and to everyone’s satisfaction! The morning after greeted us with headaches the size of Brazil, and absolutely no recollection of how or at what hour we managed to get back to the hotel. The lonely bar bill listing 16 Guinness, 12 white wines, and more than a dozen ciders (and this was only what we paid for! From what my hazy memories of the night before allowed me to recollect, our friend Mark readily reciprocated with buying us drinks as well…) was lying on a bedside table, as a guilty reminder (or a proud medal – whichever way you want to look at it), of the excesses of last night. 

The uncharacteristic white wines on the bill were on me. After a week of Guinness accompanied by Irish breakfasts in the morning and oysters in the evening, I was farting like a horse. There was no stopping it, and feeling absolutely disgusted with myself, I thought I could soon compete with the cows on the global warming contribution front. This had to stop, and I voluntarily decided to stay off Guinness and switched to wine, regardless of the cost or quality thereof. After 12 glasses, though – who cares?!… The evening/night (we were already hazy on the details) was great, and even though we would be paying for it with hangovers and headaches throughout the following day, we had no regrets.

Our route on Day 4