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08 May 2005

black is the colour

so, what to do today. the night before rich and trish, a very nice couple from nottingham, england, had recommended biking in a peninsular region south of doolin. it was a bit too far to bike the entire way there from doolin, so i planned to take a bus down to a small town called kilkee and rent a bike there. i ran my plan by karl in the morning and he doubted that i'd be able to find a bus down to kilkee, especially on a sunday. he recommended biking the burren region to the east of doolin... a very rocky area with unique scenery and sprinkled with castles, stone forts, and prehistoric tombs. sounded like a plan.

the owner of the bike rental shop right next to the hostel was out for the day and karl was watching the shop for him. he set me up with a bike and a very nice detailed map and pointed out the best way to bike. perfect. another stop down to the doolin deli... loaded up with food supplies... and i was off.

the first stretch of road was up a hill. five minutes into the hill i pulled over and took another look at my map. hmm, wonder where five minutes of biking had taken me... had i passed any major landmarks? any major intersections? no. i decided it was a good time to eat my doolin deli apple. tasty. look around a bit... up the hill... maybe this whole biking thing wasn't such a good idea. took another look at the map trying to figure out what the scale was... maybe this circuit karl had drawn up would be a bit too far. okay, enough stalling... time to press on. bike bike... finally, i conquered the hill.

coast coast down. wow, what a great idea... this whole biking thing. take a few pictures here, there. nice trees, nice flowers, more stone walls. ireland is _really_ into the stone wall thing. i decided if i had any free time while traveling in ireland, i'd use it to build a stone wall. i came across a castley tower... no one around. i biked around it once and took some pictures. the sign on the tower door read 'private' and the griffins growled at me to stay away. damn, i wanted to buy a castle. my own private castle.

further down the road the sky filled with low lying clouds which looked angry.

into the first little town of kilfenora. church was just letting out and i was just biking in. i jumped off the bike and walked it up a tiny hill to avoid running over nice little children. at the top of the hill, the burren center... the central tourist office for the region... with not much inside of great interest, but around the corner, an old cathedral was being conserved. work was scheduled to be completed two years ago, so the sign said... work was still in progress. one couldn't help but walk over graves at the entrance. in a small hole in the rock above one of the window openings i could here tiny birds crying for food.

i continued on and the sky became blue again. always changing, the irish sky. another bigger castley ruins, just there, at an intersection with cars driving right by, the drivers not even caring that there was a hundreds of years old castley ruins right there. to them i guessed, ah, just another crumbling pile of stones. to me though, wow, some people built that hundreds of years ago and lived within. i took a left at the intersection and peddled up another hill. blah. the wind hard against me, i considered walking but didn't. then it started to rain lightly. blick. i thought about a hellishly soaking ride in the pouring rain, but the rain never became more than a light dampening.

an old stone church without a roof. the gate was closed, but i was required to investigate. i hoped the family living across the street wouldn't discover me. church eating plants were engulfing the structure.

a prehistoric circle fort made of: rocks. more rocks. i biked over the entrance barrier and it made a loud clanging sound. should i pay the four euro entrance fee? sure. the circle fort had been used as protection from the fierce winds, the nice irish woman told me. i read about the region in the office: "what is the burren? the word 'burren' is a corruption of the irish, boireann, meaning a stony place. the burren of north clare [county] is 500 sq. km. of exposed carboniferous limestone upland. such landscapes are known to geologists as 'karstic', a germanic term originating from karst, a limestone plateau near trieste, in italy. the burren hills display the full range of karstic landforms: blue-white sedimentary rock layered in horizontal beds; large flat pavements; and a whole world of microerosion features collectively called 'karren'." plenty of limestone for building walls. inside the circle of stones, some barely visible foundations of small buildings. outside, some cows grazing. it is here that after several attempts i was able to capture a spider web on film. i felt i'd passed a photography test and had progressed to the next level.

a prehistoric tomb called a dolmen. it wasn't possible to walk on the stone without taking each step deliberately. the ground paved with limestone, the clints and grykes in swirling patterns. i found those growing in the between. a sign warned against building miniature dolmen... made me laugh.

i found the left that karl told me not to miss. upward on a narrow road. no cars, no houses, no one around.

another circle fort, caher mcnaughten, and no one there. i pulled my bike inside and ate my sandwich within the walls.

i continued on against the wind... and the rain started again lightly, the wind a bigger obstacle than the rain. still with no one around, i struggled up a hill wondering when the flatness would come again. finally, a main road... coasting... still lightly the rain... into lindoosvarna, i had a drink and then continued on through the cold fresh light rain. almost home. coasting. track track and back, exhausted and satisfied.

tom was just about to start cooking up some more spaghetti when i got back. i told him that i'd help him as soon as i'd taken a shower, but he said he'd cook it up for the both of us. i took a shower in the perfect shower and came down and ate pasta. some other hostelites had arrived and we all decided to head down to one of the three doolin pubs. they went ahead, tom and i waited for my laundry to finish [balance the load in the dryer lest the rumbling and walking]. at the pub, a band of guitar, violin, and mandolin was playing in a tiny corner. guinness. spoke with andy, who had been coming back to doolin to the same hostel for about eleven years, he loved it so much. the landscapes he saw in his dreams were of here. he painted them in watercolor. at the table someone had heard a story about a couple who fell from the cliffs. when the man began to fall he grabbed for his girlfriend and ended up pulling her over as well. i had seen a monument yesterday; not sure if it was for them. black is the colour, the girls singing beautifully.

on the walk home, the stars shown brightly. gigantic and bright. we walked ahead, hid, and scared manuel and ivonna.

tom was leaving tomorrow, catching a ride down to dingle with a new zealander. have a great trip.

another _perfect_ day and another _perfect_ night. i could have stayed awake for hours longer.

posted by paul on Sun 08 May 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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