Sunday, February 17, 2019

But Wait! There's Moher!

The Cliffs, upon our arrival
Originally meant to be posted Wednesday, May 24.2017

Wednesday morning we set out on our last great Ireland adventure - the Cliffs of Moher. The last time I was here was with my father in April of 2014. That day it was cold, blustery, and wet, which I was led to believe is the natural state of the Cliffs of Moher, being on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean. So Bonnie and I dressed appropriately: In layers, with knit toques (warm winter caps).

When we arrived, around 10:30am, that was pretty much the state of the weather, except it was quite a bit warmer. So the caps stayed in our backpack. As you can see in the picture at the top, the mists and fog were still lying pretty heavy, obscuring some of the view's grandeur. But as the day began to warm up more, they dissipated pretty quickly.


The Cliffs are inspiring.
The Cliffs are in a wee bit of a horseshoe shape, with the Visitor Center at the bottom of the U and just a short leg to the right, with a long leg (pictured above) to the left. At one point, Bonnie moved to take a picture of the left side, but behind another person. When I motioned her over to get an unobstructed view, she whispered, "that's not what I'm shooting." (See photo to right.) Yes, the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher are certainly inspiring. They are spectacular and once you've seen them in person, you never forget them.


O'Brien's Tower
Off to the right of the Visitor Center is a series of broad stone steps that take you up to O'Brien's Tower, built by Cornelius O'Brien in the 1800s, simply to afford visitors a better view of the gorgeous Cliffs of Moher. Even then he had an idea that tourism to this spot would be huge. See photo to the left.

When I was here with my father, the terrain going out the far left side of the Cliffs would not allow a wheelchair, really, and my father was not in any shape to walk. So aside from admiring the view of that side of the Cliffs from near the Visitor Center, we never approached. This time, I was determined to not just walk on that side of the Cliffs, but to walk all the way to the end and see the watch towers up close.

Now, one warning if you're contemplating this feat: you need to give yourself 4-6 hours to get there and back. The Cliffs all together are just about five miles of shoreline. At least four of that is on the left hand side. It's a deceptively long walk. Imagine a string lying on a table. Now take each end of that string and push the ends toward one another. That loopy, wrinkled effect in between one end and the other is the part you're walking.
O'Brien's Tower from the other side.

 So it was a long, beautiful walk, and the day grew warmer and warmer ... and then the sun came out while we were not yet halfway to the end of the Cliffs.

We were entirely unprepared for that.

The sunburn, at the end of the day, was remarkable. I resembled a lobster that had been boiled ... twice. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The walk, before it became a chore just to put one foot in front of the other, was simply gorgeous. You could see the fabulous Irish countryside for miles and miles. Down onto the Atlantic Ocean and its wild blues and greens. Gulls and terns swooping and diving and calling to one another.  At one turn we came across a spot where other visitors had stacked hundreds upon hundreds of small rocks upon each other into dozens and dozens of small cairns to mark the memory. We were careful not to disturb any of them.
Other visitors mark the memory with cairns.


We continued on our way. At one point we reached a sign that said we were leaving the park grounds and were now completely on our own. Any risks we took or harm that befell us would now be completely on us. 

And, as you can see, you could get into plenty of risk if you want it. 
Bonnie as close to the edge as I'd ever want to see her.



All of this and we're still only about halfway to the watchtowers at the end of the left side of the Cliffs.
Still trudging on.



But, as you can see the Towers in the distance, our goal was at long last in sight and we took hope and kept the pace brisk. Though it looks like a fairly straight line walk, the trail would wind and wend and dip and curve and angle in both width and height. It was not something easily walked. But yes, we made it!
Here we stopped for a snack and a blood sugar check.
At some point, I finally realized that my skin was feeling a bit tight and perhaps it might be a bit of a good precaution if I tried to offer my pale complexion some measure of protection.
Alas, too little, too late!


But the hoodie not only added drag to the backpack, it added a layer of heat to what was already becoming a stiflingly warm day. So it wound up being off more than it was on throughout the 4-5 hour ordeal.

And, as you can see in the photo below and to the right, that was a mistake.


Unretouched.
I have to tell you, it took me three weeks to recover from that sunburn. And when I went to a dermatologist for some suspicious spots on my head later that summer, he removed **eight** skin cancer growths. 

I have continued to see him every six months since, and each time he has found additional spots on my head and ears. It's as if that trip to the Cliffs has set off a chain reaction that now has lead to any slight exposure to the sun bringing skin cancer cells to the surface. I find it remarkable what an effect this final day trip in Ireland has had upon my life. Perhaps that's why its taken me almost two years to finish writing about it. 

Nevertheless, on the whole, it was a glorious trip and Ireland remains a dream destination. I still tell people that if I go back for a third time, I won't come home again. 

More importantly, it fulfilled one of my father's dying wishes. He was always sad that Bonnie couldn't travel with us due to her work schedule. So I made sure we went to Ireland together and did it right. I have no regrets.

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Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis but that may change without notice. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Click the photos. They'll get bigger. Trust me.

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