Alongside the Liffey River on the Eastern edge of Dublin sitting like a monolith, the Guinness Brewery occupies a massive space larger than any cathedral. Not just physically, but culturally in the hearts minds and gullets of the Irish people.
We walked up past City Hall to O’Connell street to became aquatinted with James Joyce’s Statue. It was while we were strolling along Talbot street that Therese’s shoe gave up the ghost. As luck would have it, a cobbler was working in the doorway of his shop only a few meters away.
“‘Twill take an hour at least for the glue to set, so I can add a few stitches.” we wandered off, herself in socked feet, past the simple memorial for the 14 innocents killed in a car bombing back in 1974.
The troubles; Revolution, uprisings and conflict are part of the Irish story. Nationhood has its cost and is celebrated as evidenced by the massive obelisk monument to war in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
We killed time at Ryan’s traditional Irish pub people watching. The free wifi gave us a mixed weather report, so on a whim we took the train to Galway.
Galway’s Latin Quarter was alive, pulsating with tourists and fresh batches of college students enjoying the Indian Summer. Jewellers proliferated selling claddagh rings and Irish crystal, buskers and numerous stall holders added to the relaxed festive atmosphere.
On the outskirts of Galway at Salthill, we stayed with our hospitable Warmshowers host Brendan, who helped us plot a course along the rugged South West Irish coast to the Burren, Doolin, the Aran Islands and Kilkee.
The Burren was first farmed some 6000 years ago. It’s a wild inhospitable place. We spent the day climbing up past the farms on back roads and into the Geo Park a UNESCO site. On this treeless windswept plateau, Medieval cairns and pilgrimage sites abounded. We literally went back in time as we left the bikes and walked to Saint Fachtna’s well. A humble site of worship for pilgrims dating back 800 years or more , I blessed myself with the waters.
After a hair raising descent down narrow rough roads we arrived safely in Doolin where we camped out back of a hostel. Inside around a roaring fire an impromptu session of Irish music was being played by a mixed group of musicians a couple of whom were Australia’s from Yackandanda.
From Doolin we took the ferry with our bikes to Innismoor the largest of the Aran Islands, where we cycled the ring of Aran from Kilronan in the harbour past the craggy outcrops and rock walled paddocks to the seal colony. We rode to Dun Aonghasa a spectacular semi circle stone fort built high into the cliff tops, the oldest in Western Europe. Buffeted by the westerly winds of the Atlantic Ocean, I stood in silent amazement at this powerful pagan monument. Standing stones, a megalithic tomb, ruined fortresses and deserted farms competed for my attention. There’s still mystery in these islands.
It began to rain heavily early evening and continued all night, we packed up inside the tent then cycled off up impossibly steep sharp hills onto the Cliffs of Moher. Rivers of water flowed down the hills to greet us. At times the small back roads were almost impassable, more than once we had to get off and walk the bikes along flooded roads. The rain grew heavier, our wet weather clothing was wet, soaked to the skin we cycled on up and over the rises.
I found myself feeling exhilarated, somehow the maelstrom of wilderness torrential rain, wild wind and the rhythm of the bike, melded together to form a unique oneness with everything.
At Kilkee we rolled into Pure Camping looking for shelter. Kevin the owner, allowed us to set up camp in his shed. “Just $6.00 for cyclists” he said and then asked if we liked fish. Apparently a friend had just dropped off a few freshly caught mackerel. “Yes Please.” I said.
Felling blessed in Ireland.