“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Ever heard of the Green Mamba? No, not the venomous snake. The venomous South African Passport. Unfortunately walking down the ‘travel for a living’ route was quite frankly a poor life choice on my part seeing as though being on a South African Passport limits destinations where one can travel freely without the hassle of extensive paperwork, expensive visa fees & dealing with balding old men behind the counter treating you as a first-hand criminal.
Even with a visa, one still has to go through what I like to call, ‘The Grilling Station’ where ‘friendly’ immigration officers who greet you on the other side dig so deep into your soul that you end up walking away with the shakes and choosing the pharmacy as your first stop in the country in the hopes of finding some anti-anxiety pills for lunch.
So this partially exaggerated view that I expressed above brings us to the ‘why’ we landed up in Ireland. South Africans are granted 3 months of travel time in Ireland (Northern Ireland excluded as it is part of the UK), to travel & explore freely, yet another reason to love the friendly Irish people. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome country but realistically it isn’t high up on most people’s ‘To See’ list. I had been to Ireland a few years prior on the treacherous Paddy Wagon tour where a bunch of gap year reprobates fresh out of school free from any responsibility, embarked on a weeks journey across the country. Rough to say the least, rough but unforgettable.
I messaged my boyfriend, Ben, after we had been discussing possible destinations, considering the sad state of my passport, something along the lines of: ‘What about Ireland?’
To which he replied: ‘Yeah?’
And then I said: ‘Yeah, I don’t need a visa for it. We just can’t go into Northern Ireland because then I’ll be arrested & I’m not really about that prison life. How do you guys feel about this?’
And it was al concluded in this simple message back to me: ”I’m in. Steve & Alexia are keen too! Ireland it is.”
And so my 23 hour journey to Ireland began.
After undergoing a ‘Grilling Session’ due to the fear that I’m going to drive into the UK with my UK boyfriend & never again return back to my homeland, leaving my family, friends, great climate & life behind, I convinced the officer that indeed I was planning on returning home to my third world country way down South, with the shitty exchange rate, terrible political situation & even worse president, all of which was actually worth coming home to. To be fair, I can understand that people driving back into the UK from Ireland is a real issue that needs to strictly monitored so I did understand where he was coming from. Eventually I was granted access into Ireland, Dublin, which according to Ben is the largest city in the world, you can ask him why.
After meeting up with Ben & picking up my horrifying bright pink bag from the baggage carousel, we wasted no time at all & in typical Ben & Nicole style headed off in a foreign country without any directions, a place to stay or itinerary. To be honest I wouldn’t do it any other way. My energy levels were running at an all-time low and sleep was hastily climbing to the top of my priority list, hence we booked into a hotel in Dublin for the first night where I passed out for a solid 18 hours in what might have been the biggest bed that I have ever laid eyes on. The next morning, we jumped onto Airbnb, picked a cottage and set off deep into the countryside to who knows where.
Our idea was: Pick an Air BnB in the country, not near any large towns & near the ocean. Well folks, I’ll tell you something, we sure as hell got that. We headed up a windy mountainous road way after dark in the thumping wind and heavy hail, passing a few little cottage lights every now & then. We finally got to our cottage & set up camp. The lights were off & we bundled ourselves out of the warm car into the prevailing blustery winds stepping straight into fresh sheep crap which had been turned into mush with the rain. They had chosen the front door porch, as little as it was, to be their toilet & we had the unfortunate pleasure of tramping straight into it accompanied by a ‘slshhhh’ sound as it created a suction underneath our boots.
Despite the weird little ornaments, old sepia pictures of a couple’s wedding above the bed from what I can only presume was taken yonks ago, as well as a painting of Jesus whose face had melted as a result of being directly above the central heating, the place was quaint & rather homely, with two little fires blazing each night & warm soup & red wine in the evenings as we listened to the rain come down on the roof.
The coastline in Ireland is really a force to be reckoned with. Rugged, wild, isolated & treacherous are some of the words that spring to mind and upon our visit to a little place called Port in Donegal, my visions of surf movies that were shot in Ireland, such as Dark Side of The Lens, came alive. As we set out to explore this wild piece of coastline, there were shipwrecks and crosses scattered on the hillsides in remembrance of those who had lost their lives at sea in storms, and I could see how easily this could happen. In the space of two hours we got hit by heavy rain, summer sun, extreme strength winds & a hail storm which proceeded to make its way over the rolling green & brown hills following the Wild Atlantic Way, whilst the unforgiving waves crashed into the jagged rocks below accompanied by thunderous noises as the ocean spat and churned up anything in its path.
A couple of days later we set off again with a brief stop in Galway, as we had had many suggestions to visit this city, continuing our journey to a little place in the heart of the Burren called Fermoyle in Fanore where we met up Steve & Alexia. We stayed at a place called Fermoyle Cottage which I would highly recommend to anybody looking for an authentic countryside experience as the cottage is surrounded by Irish countryside and farms as well as it being a short 5 minute drive to the grey stony coastline. Our days consisted of snuggly lay-ins, traditional pub lunches, getting car-sick, getting lost & a lot of laughter & much needed catch-ups.
We were lucky enough to be a half hour drive from the Cliffs of Moher situated in County Clare. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this breathtaking natural beauty, let me quickly give you some information. These magnificent cliffs stretch for 8km’s along the Atlantic Ocean and at their highest point reach 702ft or 214m. According to the website, the word ‘Moher’ is a derivative of the ancient Gaelic word ‘Mothar’ which means ‘ruined fort’ after a 1st century fort used to stand where the Moher tower is now situated. There are no traces of the ‘ruined fort’ left. If you head this way, make sure that after you’ve visited the cliffs, you continue driving for another ten minutes in the direction of Liscannor, until you reach a pub in Kilfenora called Vaughan’s which just happens to be home to the best fish & chips around. You can thank me later!
Unfortunately time was running out as Ben & Steve were due to head off on another trip & our brief few days in Ireland came to an end. This trip reminded me that often destinations that we have no expectations about are often the best, especially shared amongst friends. As Alexia mentioned in her blog post, which can read here, it is rare to find friends, let alone another couple, that enjoy doing adventures the same way as you do, disorganised, unexpected, spontaneous & full of fun. Thanks Lex & Steve for the great time, there really is nothing better than sharing moments like these with people like you, leaving me walking away feeling inspired to create.
To those of you who have never considered Ireland as a destination, do it. Apart from having the world’s most friendly population, even more so than Canada, it’s beautiful, its raw & it’s natural!
P.S. Don’t forget your rain jacket!
If you want to watch the vlog from our trip, just click play below.