Friday, January 30, 2009

The Cliffs of Moher

"I'm probably stating the obvious, but stay away from the cliff face."

- Billy the tour guide, in the car park at the Cliffs of Moher

They're not that impressive, the Cliffs. They're about 200 metres high and they run about 200 kilometres along the west coast of Ireland. They're black and sheer, of course, and they have a greenish tinge owing to the mould that grows on the cliff face. 

This is Ireland, after all. Everything's tinged by green. 

The terrain around the Cliffs is cold and bare and windswept. It's limestone rock covered by sparse grass. In the visitors' centre, there are photos of bright, sunny days and bright, smiling tourists. I didn't see much of either today. It rained intermittently, and the raindrops were like tiny pins prodding numb skin. The wind was so strong that you could lean on it and still stay upright, and the sky so grey that you couldn't tell where the ocean ended and the clouds began. 

Billy told us about the Hungarian tourist who, in search for the perfect photo, went right to the edge, slipped, and was never seen again. As I walked around the perimeter, I began to see the Hungarian's point of view. The path is a good five metres away from the edge, and there's a heavy slate fence running along the path. On the other side, there's grassy fields and rocky platforms and very tempting vistas. The Perfect Photo is very much the tourist's Holy Grail, and many have succumbed to the lures of the quest.

I probably sound pretty flippant, but I'm not. I understand perfectly. I did something similar in Cappadocia a few months back. When the red mist of tourist photography takes hold, it takes strong willpower NOT to take that extra step. 

We spent the rest of the day hopping on and off the bus trying to take pictures whilst avoiding the rain. Saw a dolmen. And a littler version of the Cliffs of Moher. And a whole heap of castles and a pack of llamas. And we stopped for a couple of minutes to admire four spring lambs nipping each other to stay warm. 


As we drove past, I wondered if those Irish lambs know that their brethren down in the antipodes are enduring the worst heat-wave in 50 years. It reached 44 degrees in Melbourne yesterday. One can hardly comprehend it. 


Anonymous said...

Just saying hi. Hope things are OK.

Your brother

Connolly's agent said...

Things are fine, my brother.