I was probably day 5 into this trip when the muscle soreness I was experiencing was becoming pretty disabling. This is when I really wished I trained like Claudia warned. I needed to do something quickly or the rest of this trip might get ugly…. I found the local pharmacy, bought some BioFreeze, hot/cold ointment – and found my way into this old cemetery on the top of the hill overlooking this town, on the way to the cliffs.
I was on my way to the Cliffs of Moher. I was on my way to the ocean is really more like it. I wasn’t quite able to see it from this hill, but I could smell it, and it made me excited and like almost like home wasn’t far away.
In this cemetery was yet another ruin of church that used to stand there. The place was filled with the name Dwyer. My birth name. The Pharmacy was also named O’Dwyer’s. I sat there looking at all the carvings, reading the names, adding up the numbers. I met a man who was tending the grounds. He was a veteran of an armed service and wore badges and medals all over his clothes. There was a hint of mental trauma he carried in his eyes that made me not engage in a long conversation, but certainly gave him my time, attention. He was a mumbler. A talker-to-self character. I am also one.
I left and made my way a bit and came on this river that looked exactly like Guinness beer. (Which I had discovered to be a meal all in itself some days) This river was running downhill, over humps and the water was brown and foamy. Near the edge was this fabulous seaweed – I stopped to hang out and take some shots. The reflection in the water made it look like an alternate universe.
It took another hour or more before I saw the ocean. The smell of salt and dead sea creatures filled the air and actually made me cry. I guess it had been a while since I had gone home. I missed being near the ocean so much that at this point, it felt like vital life breath. It poured into me. I was so homesick. I was exhausted and sore but intoxicated and thrilled at the same time. Traffic was picking up and I was heading uphill at this point, and not one break in site, I should be to those fabulous cliffs in about three hours. Ok. Seriously? If anyone has seen the dangerous curves on my backside, I totally now laugh at the thought that I could actually peddle that far, uphill, with about 55 lbs. of gear on my bike. Haha. I’m freaking fearless sometimes (or is that delusion)
On the way up the hill is a St. Bridget’s Well which I stopped to participate in the honor it held and the break it gave my throbbing thighs. I found it fascinating inside. It was wet and mossy from a spring that was cracking the cemented walls and filling a small well inside. A pool of crystal clear cold water filled an overflow. It was filled with relics, religious statues covered in rosary beads, crucifix/crosses, and hundreds, maybe even thousands of pictures of people passed. It was an underground space filled with Pain and Love all at the same time. It was a pretty amazing place. I hung out and walked some trails around there, met some local travelers that had stopped to check it out too. An interesting, quite Pagan ceremonial place. I loved that. So ancient.
The last hour or so uphill was tough on me. I was beginning to notice the roads becoming narrower, and at times there was no place for a bicycle to be without really being in the road itself. Let’s just say, the side of the road consisted of blackthorn bushes. Not fun to fall into. This was getting scary. I tried though. I also noticed that I had not seen many cyclists at all this trip except a group traveling together – no one carried any gear on their bikes, but you could tell it was some type of tour thing. Before long, I have a tour bus riding my ass. I am pumping as hard as I can. I’m carrying about 50 lbs. on the bike; and I can’t get off to the side. I’m hoping to soon, but so far, not looking so good….. This bus driver keeps riding my ass. I am starting to get a little freaked out. I’m scared but at the same time I’m getting pissed. So we do this dance for maybe 10 minutes, something like that. It may as well been an hour. I lost all track of time, myself, all of it.
The bus comes to a stop. Off the bus jumps the driver, and he rushes over to me and goes,”GET YOUR ARSE ON THE BUS!!!” And I go, What the fuck! You were riding my ass that whole time, freaking me out, and NOW you are yelling at me?!! I had NO PLACE TO GO!! (I also think I instinctively puffed up my chest to look bigger and moved right into his yelling face) So he looks at me and goes, “Listen Miss Grace O’Malley, You get your arse on that bus right now! I have six sisters just like you!” He takes my bike away and puts it in the luggage storage and I am forced to get on this stupid ass bus. My face is red – combination exhaustion and anger.
I get on the bus and it’s a filled tour group of all older people, and they all started cheering. Hahaha. I started cracking up. The bus driver started laughing too, and says, get your arse up here and sit with me – what the hell are you thinking riding a bicycle on this road? Don’t you know that these days, there are far too many cars and buses for it to be safe…. I was still so freaking mad that I did NOT want to like this Irish bus driver one bit, so I think I scowled at him. I definitely gave him my best mean look.
The sweet couple that sat behind me from Donegal said, oh Love, you look to be about our daughter’s age. I said, I will be turning 40 next week – and they both shook – YES! And she’s in India right now taking a hike up that mountain over there!” Ha-ha. So we all laughed. I met some great people on this bus. And I was actually happy for the big cushy paddy seat I got to sit in. (But I was secretly plotting the death of the driver.)
Well, here’s a change of tune… I stayed hanging with the bus driver when we arrived at the cliffs. Turns out, sitting and talking to this guy was relaxing and funny. He said. “I did what you are doing once, and then I bought a motorcycle. And you know that stuff you stopped and bought, (I had showed him) don’t be putting it on your arse now. I know you’ll want to, but trust me, don’t do it. I traveled with a lady who smeared it all over her bruises and she regretted it for days.” I kind of cringed and went, oww, ok; I certainly will not be doing that. (Then I thought, shit, that’s the real place I needed this stuff, what am I supposed to do now? – Ok – just put it on my back and hamstrings, maybe my feet… Is it possible to smear your brain?)
Three hours passed before this driver had to leave again. There is a fleet of buses coming and going so you can stay at the cliffs as long as you want. He was funny as hell, and after we got over the wanting to kill each other part, we became fast friends. He took my bike off the bus, and I was on my way to the Cliffs of Moher across the street. He gave me a hug, a glimmer of hope that I’ll live through this and said some wind at your back thing again…. They love that one over there.
The cliffs could still be approached to their edge without any walls, fences or protection. People would fall to their deaths there. Wind could blow people off occasionally. It was a favorite suicide place. I could see that they were starting some construction, and that soon the Cliffs, like most places in the world will be behind a fence, wall or have some imposed liability around it.
I don’t have a lot of words for what I experienced there. It was overwhelming. The size of them… the greenness of the water and the earth, the humbling roar and crashing of water on rock. … I immediately felt a need to get down on my stomach when I got closer to the edge. I crawled to the edge that way. I saw that other people were doing the same thing. It was so scary that people were literally on the ground. It amazed me.
I sat there forever. I loved that I bought a cool camera and could film the little building on the very last peak. I watched and felt the ocean. I listened to the harp player on the stairs behind me. I watched people’s reactions to the powerful force of water. I got waves from a couple straggling couples that were on that bus earlier… I remembered stories I read of earlier days when ships were destroyed by Ireland’s rocky shoreline…
I took as many pictures as I could, I took in as much as I could, but I needed to go on. I had to find a place to stay. So I belly-crawled backward until I could stand. It took me awhile to be sure I found my legs before I even felt brave enough to stand up. I went and got my bike – ready to haul ass down the hill so I don’t get killed by another bus driver, when I look over, and there is that grinning, six-sistered mouthpiece bus driver, arms-crossed and looks at me and goes, “ get your arse on the bus….”
I said, “You seriously came back for me.” He said, “No I gave up my routes until you were finished looking at them. They’re amazing aren’t they?” I said yeah, beyond, and I’m feeling it a little amazed that you’re giving me a ride down the hill…” and he said, you don’t need to be riding that bike on this road. I will take you to the road you want to get off on, and leave you there. At this point, passengers started filling the bus. All chattering about how amazing… and all carrying souvenirs and t-shirts from the peddlers set up in the parking lot. I sat up front, showed him where I wanted to be let out.
It took only a little time to get down the hill. I was at my road. He pulled the bus over to get my bike out of storage. When he was outside he said, “ marry me, run away with me.” I said, but your passengers need you, and I have Bio Freeze and new directions on how not to use it…. He smiled at me and gave me a big kiss. He told me to be careful. He told me to stop being so stubborn. Then he said, are you sure? I rode away smiling. I was not sure about anything!
Except there was another hostel down the street, and I wanted the private room… so time to pick up the pace. What a great bus driver!