On this particular afternoon at the beginning of February I answered the call of the roaring wind.
I ran a little further into the rain to the top of the cliff and stood in it, head on. It was wild and revealingly thrilling.
An awakening that can only happen when there is solitude and space and an openness to feel.
We’d been here just over a month. The high of the newness was wearing off and a new phase, new feelings had started brewing.
Here on this cliff I knew I was me. A truth revealed. This life, this choice, being exposed in this unknown journey was far less scary than the idea of permanence, of what could have been.
How easily I could have slipped into the other life we had planned. The one we thought we wanted, the one that seemed ‘normal’, easier. Yet, for me, it wasn’t.
Something deep down was unleashed here on this cliff in this moment, something strong and powerful and raw.
The perfect prelude to a trip we would do later in the month into the wild west of Ireland.
Let me take you there. I’ll even share our first dad or in our case papa joke.
Excited? Yep, a whole lot of that! It was time to take our new motor home (The Travelodge) out for the first time. A little trial run to see how things work, a few lessons before we take the great dame over to the continent and become official ‘vanlifers’.
We were delayed a day as storm Doris savaged the coast with average wind speeds of 45-65km/h and gusts reaching 110km/h, heavy rain, sleet and snow. Code yellow apparently? Aussies don’t really do wind warnings we do bushfire warnings. All new to me. How many km/h is normal?
It’s the same feeling though, you know the one? Fear. Not the kind of fear you need to face when something feels scary. Something out of your comfort zone. The fear that tells you I’m not in control of any of this, be wary.
The Australian bush can feel like that in the summer. I often feel a little on edge during the dry heatwaves especially after the horrific fires on Black Saturday. I was there that day, near by the heart of it. Saved by a wind that switched course only to so heartbreaking create a force that savaged many, many lives and families.
When you’re driving a camper you need to know about wind, apparently they don’t cope in the wind, the force. You also need to know that the designated dunny* emptier will need gloves to the armpit, “splashback” he tells me. And all the doors and drawers need to be in lockdown…otherwise, crap is going to fly, everywhere!
- A dunny is what an Australian toilet is colloquially termed.
Restaurant on wheels
The camper ‘just paid for itself” I tell Dale…ooops Greg (Aussie joke) as we pull into the carpark of The Castle (Aughnanure), ba ha no pun intended (another Aussie joke). Lunch is on and easily taken care of. Seriously it’s the shit, pull up, make lunch. Real food too, not the crap you have to buy when you get your petrol from the service station. Although I will say, you can, and we did, buy a bottle of red with our petrol…when in Europe my friends.
You know I love off peak travel, I can’t say it too many times. You may not be able to enter the Aughnanure Castle in winter but you can scale the walls and you will be the only ones there. We do do some paid things but this kind of stuff is a little about the wonder and the mystery, right? I’m not calling entry into every castle entry a must do. I will however, call a little wander and an explore an excellent thing to do after lunch.
Before we get back on the road I’ll give you the first DAD joke.
Zoë reads the plaque aloud – “The Ancient Yew Tree.”
The Papa responds “So that’s the ancient YEW tree, where’s the ancient me tree?” Classic, huh?
“A savage beauty” said Oscar Wilde.
Three simple words. A-savage-beauty. As we entered this fierce, rugged mountainous land I couldn’t breathe. I literally couldn’t breathe. I randomly get these moments, they usually co-inside with some kind of (big) change.
I knew what it was as I held onto the dashboard and started breathing deeply. Here we were in the motorhome, doing it, travelling, the dream. The wildness of the landscape just tipped me over, it was intensely momentous. A few minutes, some talk to distract myself and the panic passed as it does for me.
We initially had the plan of stopping at the Killarney Fjord overnight. Given that Storm Doris had passed through the day before, we were a little tentative about parking up in an exposed area. As we drove through the fjord it was raining so no snaps for you.
I’m not sure my snaps would do justice to this wonder. I don’t even have the words to explain, ok, I’ll try.
You will be awestruck and feel humbled. You may not be able to speak as your entire being relishes what your eyes are witnessing and you try to take it in and make sense of the untamed yet soft bliss. Yes, that’s how it was for me. I will go back there.
A park up
The night was to be spent in what Greg kept referring to as a ‘park up’. His Dutch app campercontact advising him that Letterfrack had a rustig (quiet) spot. As we pulled into the car park of the visitors centre I asked Greg if I need to go in to ask where we park? I soon learn that no, I don’t do that, because it’s a car park not a camping ground. The app. tells you where you can literally ‘free park’ without restrictions. Right, got it. Like it. Sounds a little wild.
Initially, we’d planned to take a family hike but with the winds howling and a couple of chesty kids in the back Greg and I tag teamed a hike each up the Mountain.
Here, I would meet my friend the wind again. Same feelings although this time it was more than the wind. It was also the air, the force of the movement, all of it, the vibrations were utterly exhilarating.
Clarity. The new phase, new feelings were understood. A time to shed to allow for new growth, a change of seasons in life and nature. I’d needed this winter.
Many cultures particularly those connected to the land know about the spiritual power of the wind. The power of air.
I feel like I need to sit with this before I start exploring it in writing. I can tell you though having just read up on the element of air it’s all there. All the magic. Something that seems deeply familiar and wonderfully connected.
This shot of the kids exploring near the van shows everything I dreamed of. The simplicity of this moment right there. I had just returned from my hike and it all felt right.
The littlest he knows a bit more than the older ones did at his age. I know that’s normal but I look forward to him bringing the others back to his world a little while we travel. I can’t think of anything better than five months on the road without TV and WIFI for these guys.
Travel with iPads, the top 10 tips for travelling with children will tell you. Or, how about, not. Maybe it would be kinder to simply let them be in their own minds.
Slow travel flow
We slow travel. Even if it is a weekend away we slow travel, totally doable. Simply, take your time. Go with the flow, let your plan be only a guide.
On this day we planned to make the Aran Islands. It was what I was looking forward to the most. We were already tight for time on route to the ferry when Chuckie happened. A big one, all over himself and his brother’s hair.
The Aran Islands were not happening today. We would come back, slow travels never try to ‘fit’ it all in, we return.
We stopped and sorted Chuckie and got back on the road. The lonely planet at the ready for new plans to be made.
Then, boom a message from my Irish brother in law telling us to check out Roundstone. He’d heard it was something special, a favourite hideaway of Bono’s.
And what do you know? The turn off to Roundstone was coming up in the next 10kms. Slow-Travel-Flow right there.
In this tiny town with only a general store open (winter) we spent a few hours pottering and wandering.
A visit to a potter’s studio and gallery. Perfectly fitting for the two who are currently taking pottery classes.
A quaint Irish fishing village with all the rustic charms, cows in the front yard, the coloured houses and fishing boats. Surrounded by mountain ranges, vast waterways and ruins that tell of a long gaelic flavoured history.
We brewed a coffee pot and as my friend Julie says we sat in the sunshine and dolce far niente*.
The oldest serenaded us with ‘love is in the air’ from the camper window. He’s still working that one, it’s hard for him to let go after getting so many belly laughs. He’s not usually the joker.
* Italian for ‘the pleasure of being idle’
When you know you’ve had a moment
From County Galway to County Clare. The drive is part of the adventure when exploring Ireland. The roads on this day mildly flooded as we drove amongst the farm’scape and into the harshly windswept rocky mountains that form The Burren.
The infamous Cliffs of Moher. Yes, they are something. Touristy (even in the off peak) but wow, something.
Ideally you’d probably take one of the big hikes but we arrived in the late afternoon and it was enough to marvel. To the right of the cliffs there’s a guarded path and to the left they are at your own risk.
I took the left without kids and even for me, a seasoned terrain lover they were the boss. There is no negotiating here. To the girl in the heeled boots, think. Be adventurous lady but stupid is, well, stupid.
The carpark here at the Cliffs was our park up! Yep, like 20-year-old backpackers with no fear we camped here. I’m giving credit to Greg for this. I never imagined he’d be this kinda crazy cool but I love it.
He did study outdoor ed. at university he keeps reminding me and for the first few years of our relationship he did kit me out in Scarpa’s, Gore-Tex and polar fleece. So I guess this love of wild adventure, it’s in him.
I’ll be honest it did take a while to get to sleep and I did check the weather report and had Greg check the weather report. Had to be sure the winds were not going to be Doris like.
I did drift off to sleep knowing this would be a story I’d tell (more than once). It felt like a land that had been wandered by many and owned by none. An ancient majestical celtic land.
Waking up having breakfast, watching the cliffs from the window, drinking the coffee “kids” I say.
“look out there, here we are, in the carpark, having slept next to the Cliffs of Moher. Remember this moment, big breath, you’ll tell this story one day.”
And that’s why we slow travel near and far, big and small. Moments, stories, insight, connection, new directions…
Not my usual Bernard Fanning this week 😉 I’m hanging in the 70’s. Here are a couple of songs that can take you to where my head/heart space has been this month.