Two hostel-comrades retired, leaving me sitting on the edge of Nimmo’s pier – a rocky outcropping resembling a broken castle wall which thrust into the southern bay. I drank the end of my can of stout and relaxed as the sunset lazily over the North Atlantic. 5 weeks into my Irish adventure and I was sure Galway’s blend of idyllic village small city would take the pudding for my favorite haunt.
I wandered back toward the hostel later, after the sun and a few more pints had gone down. Despite the best efforts of a few Albanians’ snoring, I slept peacefully. The next day was Friday, and I was looking forward to seeing what kind of a party peaceful Galway had to offer.
An odd stench. A stiff back. Red filled the inside of my eyelids and – when I opened my eyes – early morning light was streaming in through the windows. The Shire-esque drunk of a hostel-keeper turned and – with as little grace as he had hair – “We’ve overbooked tonight, you’ll have to find somewhere else to stay.”
I imagine I grumbled something to him, but it was inconsequential. He left the room, and me to my packing.
A fistful of hours later, I found myself in Eyre square, under a sapphire sky, on the random day in Galway that utterly lacked vacancy in Hostels. What else is there for a man to do, but to gather his backpack, tent, and wits, and book a ticket to the Cliffs of Moher.
The Cliffs of Moher were mere days away from becoming one of the new Natural Wonders of the World. Defiant and solemn, they rebuke the timeless army of herculean and cold waves with utter stoicism. They slope down onto a small inlet surrounded by the town of Lahinch and it’s quaint lighthouses. It’s about there, at the second-to-last stop along the bus route, that the driver looks into the rear view mirror “Last stop before the cliffs and change of route.” He stares at me, “Last hostel along the route…”
I sit, smiling.
Midnight black is a shade of grey compared to the sky looming in the west. Out of the window of the bus, as we turn along the ascending road, I see a demonic void of unrelenting darkness approaching. Hurricane Irene was hobbling across the atlantic to cast it’s death knell against the cliffs.
An idea was born. Somewhere tucked back in the testosterone producing areas of the brain, whatever primal urge humans possess to defy the insurmountable. To clash heads with Gods who hurl bolts of judgement with impunity. It creeped from there and subverted the guard post of reason.
I’ll camp atop the Cliffs.
Oh, sure. I could have gone to the camps, they’d be tucked away from the cliff top. There’d be showers and bathrooms, perhaps some company and food. But I had a flask of whiskey, some jerky, and a mission of complete irrationality.
I unloaded from the bus and hoisted my pack over my shoulder which consisted of the contents of my world and a tent. I stood outside the entrance to the visit center, nigh on midnight, and saw my timer counting down. Every second brought the demonic clouds closer to the cliff face. Thumbs under the straps of my pack, I walked toward the saw-horse barriers.
The land around the cliffs is a serene plane. In the dark, I stumbled forward, wary of imagined stones or divets. The wind pressed against my goal. Soon, I found a slight rise in the ground, I’d pitch my tent behind that so as to diminish the howl of the wind.
I tossed the pack to the ground and relished in the challenge of setting up a clipper tent by myself in the howling wind. Grinning, I took a swig from my flask and set about the task.
Weighing the tarp and footprint with my backpack, I clasped the frame to the tent in a frenzy. The wind caught the whole unit like a mite of dust and – had my hand not been on the frame – it may have been blown back to Lahinch. As it was, I felt I was a good gust away from being airborne.
After a struggle with the tarp, my tent was set – stakes footprints and all. I clambered inside and smiled after another shot from my flash. I prepared a lavish feast of jerky, whiskey and enjoyed the company of the banshees who caved the tent in so close to my face, I could see the visage of the wind on the tarp.
I forced myself awake before the park opened and packed my tent. The sun hadn’t won over the clouds, but they’d turned a mild, predictable irish grey. And before me, a sea bird at eye level, flying on the same salt breeze that kissed my face, and the 700 foot edifice of the Cliffs of Moher.