This past Saturday I joined some of my classmates on a trip to the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs are located on the western coast of Ireland, just west of Galway, and they are a massive tourist attraction. And I mean that they are massive in every sense of the word, towering anywhere from 390 to over 700 feet above the Atlantic. Normally, I don’t prefer to participate in large guided tours; I’d rather adventure on my own or with a few close friends. I just think the experience can get diluted if you are part of big touristy group of strangers hurried along by a not-so-enthusiastic guide who has become rather jaded by the fact that he/she has given the same exact tour for the last 25 or so years. And maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult to fully absorb the wonder of nature when the giggling girls to your left are posing for their 34th Facebook photo in the past half hour. So with this being said, I ignored my instincts and signed up for a guided bus tour to the Cliffs; the 20 euro price tag was quite convincing. The trip, as it turns out, was actually a good bit of fun, but it certainly didn’t go as planned.
This may come as a surprise to some of those reading this, but I’m not exactly a morning person. So, the 7:20 A.M. departure time from UCD was a bit difficult. I wasn’t too chipper when I boarded the bus, but I figured I could catch a few more Z’s on the two hour ride across the country. Just as I settled into my seat and closed my eyes, the voice of bus driver/tour guide erupted from an unseen speaker, which happened to be directly over my head, “ALLLLRIGHT TRAVELERS, GOOD MORNING!”. There was then a long, drawn out silence. Again, the driver’s voice sounded overhead, louder than before, “I’m not sure anybody heard me, let’s try that again. GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY!!”. This time I think I heard a few distant groans that were more likely the sounds of discomfort than a response. John, the bus driver/tour guide, then proceeded to slam on the breaks and demand a response. Obviously, at this point, everybody gave him what he wanted so that he might stop yelling at us. Finally satisfied with our response, he put the bus in drive and dove right into his very practiced monolog about our day ahead. My hopes of sleeping on the bus were quickly washed away by John’s bubbling enthusiasm.
Our first stop was in the little sea town of Kinvara. By this time, John had started singing. His first song was a little number called “Galway Girl” (made popular by the movie P.S. I Love You) because we were, of course, getting close to Galway. After I managed to rub the sleep from my eyes, I decided that I liked John; he was unapologetic, earnest, and actually pretty funny. Anyway, we only stopped in Kinvara so that folks could use the bathroom or stretch their legs. It was a quaint little town with colorful architecture. After Kinvara, we stopped in Doolin to eat lunch. At this point, the weather was ferocious; the pouring rain was almost horizontal to the ground due to the gale-force winds. We weren’t able to stand outside for more than a few minutes without being blown over, so taking a tour around Doolin wasn’t exactly an option.
After a quick lunch, we set out for the Cliffs hoping that the weather would subside. The weather was so bad that we actually took an alternate route to the Cliffs to avoid being swept away by the angry ocean. As we drove up the ramp-way to the Cliffs, things did not look so good. When we finally pulled into the parking lot, it looked a lot like a scene from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”. There was another tour bus in disrepair from the violent winds, and there were people hunched over, clutching anything to avoid being blown away. I guess it didn’t come as that much of a surprise when the authorities refused John from even letting us out of the bus. So that was it; we had traveled across the country to witness one of Ireland’s most prized natural wonders, only to be turned away at the doorstep. John informed us that, in his 29 years of being a tour guide, he had never been turned away from the Cliffs (lucky me). To say that we were all a bit disheartened would be an understatement.
Per my last post, I didn’t dwell on these unfortunate happenings and reconciled with the fact that I have the incredible fortune of living in this beautiful country for a few months. John, making the most of this unfortunate situation, took us to another sea town called Lahinch. He informed us that Lahinch is home to perhaps the finest golf course in Ireland and is known as the surfing capital of the country. The ocean happens to be my favorite thing in the world, so this unexpected detour was just all right with me.
Sitting on that wall and gazing out at the Atlantic left me completely satisfied with the trip. I’m not sure what it would have been like from atop the Cliffs of Moher, but the ocean was certainly breathtaking from this vantage point. The photos really don’t do the true sight any justice. Looking out at the ocean, especially from this perspective, is always a lesson in humility for me. The pure vastness of the untamed waters reminds me of how small I am and how little control I have of this life. It’s a refreshing notion in this age of immediate gratification and entitlement.
So after we left Lahinch, we made our way back to Dublin with a quick stop to check out Bunratty castle (a 15th century castle in the County Clare). As we passed through the town of Limerick on the way back, John decided that we were going to play a game in which every person on the bus was required to submit a Limerick poem to be read aloud by none other than John himself. The game caught on quickly and made the ride back to campus quite enjoyable. So that’s my story about the guided bus tour of nothing significant. It was a good day.