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Published: October 7th 2006
It's amazing how long it took to get to Doolin from Dingle. As the bird flies, the two towns are maybe 100 miles apart, yet it took about 9 hours of travel by bus. Part of the problem is that you have to go around the river Shannon's estuary, but still, it was pretty slow going. I had a bit of a layover in Limerick, at the head of the estuary, so I walked around the neighborhood surrounding the bus station. In the US, the bus stations are often located in really dodgy areas of town (ahem Cleveland), and I wouldn't feel too comfortable going for a walk with my pack even during the day. However, I have yet to see a bus station in the UK or Ireland where I couldn't walk around. Often the stations are in the city center, but this one was a bit removed so I quickly found myself in a residential neighborhood with a couple impressive churches. I also walked by the greyhound track, so it wasn't the best neighborhood, but still. I really do enjoy walking around the places that I'm in, even if it's only for an hour.
After a couple hours
I was finally on my way to Doolin. The bus meandered through a number of towns and villages as dusk approached. Around dusk we drove by the Cliffs of Moher, which are a huge attraction, and one of the reasons I came to Doolin. The bus doesn't stop however, and I planned to hike to them the next day. What I was able to see from the bus was spectacular all the same.
Around 730 we rolled into Doolin and I hopped off the bus at the Aille River hostel. It's located next to the river (more of a stream) in a converted farmhouse. The weather was a bit chilly outside, and as I walked up I could see all the windows near the entrace were fogged up. I opened the door and there were about 20 people eating, cooking, and sitting around the warm turf fire. The atmosphere was really homey, and the owner went about getting us settled in. The hostel has free internet, and laundry costs just 2€ for the dryer, which is just fantastic. I really liked the vibe at this hostel. It was the first I had been to in a while where so
many people were eating and hanging out together. Probably because there isn't much to do in the town!
I'd already eaten on the bus, so I decided to go for a walk to get a feel for the village. Well, it's not very big, and after walking past the few shops I followed the signs to the dock, which was about a mile further along the road. By now it was pitch black, and cloudy so there wasn't much light from the moon. I had my headlamp with me, which was nice, but it was still a bit spooky walking along with some mist hanging in the air and just the halo of light from my torch to guide me.
After some time, I began to hear sounds of crashing waves off to my left. I had no idea what the topography of the area was like other than the fact that it's known for its cliffs, so I decided not to stray from the road. Once I reached the dock, it became apparent that it was on a small rocky head with water on three sides. I walked past the main buildings and onto the rocks a
bit. At this point I could make out the water crashing on the rocks nearby, but it was still tough to get a perspective of the place. I found a nice spot to sit where the rocks were dry (which I hoped meant the waves hadn't reached them in a while) and just sat listening. I also turned out the lamp, so eventually my eyes adjusted to the dark and I could see the tumultuous sea near me. There were a couple times where I thought the water was coming in too fast and too high and so I jumped up ready to move back, but it stopped well short. All in all, it was a thrilling experience with the power of the ocean laid bare on the rocks.
I was pretty well worn out from traveling so I hit the hay soon after getting back to the hostel. That night, we had by far the worst snoring I've come across so far. The woman sounded like a buzsaw and my earplugs couldn't keep up. I ended up waking up a couple of times during the night due to the noise, which at this point is pretty rare. Oh
well. She packed up in the morning and moved to another room so I was pretty happy.
In the morning, I awoke to wind-driven rain and temperatures in the 50's. Definitely not a pleasant day. I only had the one day in Doolin, however, so I was determined to hike the 5 miles over to the Cliffs of Moher. Well, I got about 2 miles into the hike and gave up. I didn't bring rain pants on this trip, just a gore-tex jacket and nylon hiking pants. By this time the pants were completely soaked and water was running down my legs into my gore-tex shoes. So I turned around and sloshed back to the hostel. Pretty typical weather around there apparently, though. I was really happy to get back and have the cheap laundry and I got my clothes clean and nice and warm from the dryer. Unfortunately the fire wasn't going, but it still felt good to be warm and dry. The rest of the day was spent catching up on my journal, postcards, etc.
Since I had failed in my main reason for coming -- seeing the cliffs, I was determined to go to one
I think I saw more American flags in Ireland than in the US...well maybe not, but they're everywhere
of the pubs to listen to the music that Doolin is also famous for. That evening, I went along with three germans (2 guys and a girl) to McDermits. When we got there, the place was absolutely packed and the band was in full swing. I managed to get myself a Guinness and we found a place near the band to stand. The band was made up of a guy playing the guitar, another with a hand held drum, a woman with a fiddle, and a guy who ended up playing guitar, fiddle, and banjo during the evening. They were amazing. The woman was totally into her fiddle, and she did some incredible stuff. The drummer managed a huge variety of sounds with a drum sitting on his knee and a drumstick that he rocked against the drum by twisting his wrist.
The atmosphere in the bar was interesting. It was about half locals and half tourists. An interesting note about Doolin is that people come from as far away as the US just to hear the music in this place. Pretty crazy. The music, however, really was fantastic and it went on for about 2 hours after we
got there. Not too long after we arrived, another girl from the hostel joined us. Gina, was really a cool person and we had a great time talking. Plus, the first thing she said to me was "Are you from Colorado?", which totally threw me off guard. No one has ever picked that one out before. She said it was because of my accent (?), my clothes, and my beard. Well, I was shocked to say the least since no one has ever been able to pull that off before. Turns out she's from Oakland and had spent quite a bit of time in Spain before Ireland.
When we got out of the pub around 1, it had turned into a beautiful clear night, albeit a bit windy. So, we left the germans guys in the pub, and the german girl wanted to get to sleep, so Gina and I walked out to the dock and stood there enjoying the crashing waves. It was a bit different from the night before, as the tide was out and so the waves were a lot smaller, but still fun nonetheless. It really turned out to be a nice night, and we got back around 230 and sat up for a while talking to a Canadian girl and and English guy for a while. The snoring woman had moved into Gina's room, so we all wished her luck when she took off for bed.
The next day dawned sunny and bright and I would have stayed an extra day, but I had a flight from Dublin at 6 am the next morning so I had to leave. I did get a chance to walk to the dock one last time in daylight, which was really cool to see what it actually looked like. The tide was out even further, but I did get some nice pics.
I was really disappointed that I had to leave Doolin without seeing the cliffs, but what can you do? The weather can't always be perfect.
Stay tuned for my departure from the english-speaking world to Berlin!
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