Ireland · travel

Ireland from West to East: The Burren

We left early morning from Galway and headed south for the Cliffs of Moher and Killarney. We were treated to a raging session of The Cranberries’ Zombie which our guide played for us over and over again like the children we were, acquiescing to shouts from the back of “ONE MORE TIME!” with raucous cheers. It was safe to assume that a fair amount of the passengers were still drunk from the night before.

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Along the way, the grass grew sparse. It protruded from stony worm holes- a testament to perseverance. The story of dragging seaweed in baskets to form sod, practiced over an unfathomable amount of time, was repeated as we passed the odd cow munching on whatever foliage remained. Our guide remarked that this area, The Burren, was home to protected flora like rare orchids, hellebores, gentian, and cinquefoil. The winter grazing of cattle prevented more dominant weeds and grasses from crowding out the floral array. We slowed to the side of the road and scrambled out onto the rocky plain. Early Alpine miniatures- diminutive, sweeter, stockier versions of their bigger, bolder, cultivated cousins all clinging for dear life in the tiniest of spaces. We could avoid them through careful footsteps but they could not avoid the cows.

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“Don’t they belong to someone? How are they kept track of?”

“They mostly just wander. They can’t go too far- and really, what’s the worst that could happen?” our nonchalant guide responded.

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One edged towards the cliff. Our eyebrows formed a collective grimace of concern. The winds blustered through us. The guide shrugged.

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Personally, I kept well enough away from the cliffs. Given that my vertigo was worsening and I was staggering my way through Ireland, I doubted very much that I would remain on land should I venture to the edge. Especially with the wind. I crept up to the final six or so feet, planting myself in a bit of a hole so that if I did get blown over, hopefully, I’d snap an ankle and get anchored to the ground instead of blown of the edge (yes, it was this windy and yes, this was my brain’s best case scenario). There was an intense beauty in the desolation and I made a mental note to return.

“I don’t normally bring people here but we were on the way and ahead of schedule- and besides there’s rain on the Cliffs now- so I thought we might as well,” our guide said.

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And with the wind and the waves as our only music, I was grateful.

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