Jamie has been talking about taking us to a place where we can hike to a waterfall for days now, but every time we plan to, it rains. Irish weather is extremely random. You may wake up to pouring rain in the morning to find a hour later there’s not a cloud in the sky (or vise versa).
**travel tip: always carry a rain jacket with you**
We have finalized our plans at the hostel in county Donegal and are scheduled to leave early the next day. I can’t believe our time in Faithlegge has come to an end. It happened so quickly, yet it feels as though I have lived here for ages as well. (As I said before hours are days and days are months here.) Either way it’s now or never if we plan on seeing this damn waterfall, so we plan to leave around one. Caroline still has to do laundry and pack so she opts to skip out on the hike. Which is sad, but we understand.
Jamie, Lizzie and I set out on the road in Jamie’s little Volkswagen, but Jamie had worked that morning and was really hungry. Actually to be honest he was kind of “hangry”.
Soo, (after attempting to explain the term “hangry” to him for ten minutes and failing miserably until I was almost crying I was laughing so hard) we stopped at the European equivalent of a Walmart and bought picnic food. The thing about Jamie is as brooding as he may be, he is equally as goofy. As is Caroline. I haven’t laughed as hard as I have in the past two weeks since.. well let’s just say it’s been a long time.
We park outside of a tiny forest area which is confusing because there are hardly any trees in Ireland. Upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that this isn’t a natural forest. The total space that the trees encompass forms a perfect square and the trees are evenly spaced in rows in a somewhat creepy mathematical way. We walk through it quickly until we come to a barbed wire fence. We then walk along the fence until we reach a ladder that allows us to cross over it. The land is privately owned I assume by sheep farmers and sectioned off by short walls of carefully placed stones as most land in Southern Ireland is…and I am confused. When Jamie told us about the water fall, he had also complained about the tourists. (Most of the tourists that I’ve met love to complain about other tourists as if they are locals themselves. It’s quite humorous.)
This does not make sense. There is no way that tourists could find their way through here. We don’t even seem to know where we are going as we weave our way through large rocks and wild flowers. There is no trail. And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure if we are technically allowed to be here.
Jamie seems to be confused by my confusion which is annoying. He says the problem with the waterfall is tourists and the solution to natural sights that attract too many tourists is always to go one mountain over. So we are literally (I guess) one mountain over. He did not share this with me beforehand. He says he did.
The mountains here are impossibly tall. They have no trees growing on them so they are unlike the mountains I am used to hiking in the South-Eastern part of the States. The only decent places to get strong footing are along the thin random paths the sheep have made. Also the mountain we are climbing is steep. Like really steep. Despite the fact that it is shorter and fatter than the three taller mountains that encircle it. And since we are NOT following a trail, we are more or less walking straight up the side of it.
I feel a serious amount of vertigo hiking between all of these looming cliffs, but I also know that I have to see what’s on the other side. Halfway up Jamie can’t wait anymore so we stop, layout, and picnic on a rock. We realize that we have forgotten utensils and we can’t find anything to utilize in nature so we empty our backpacks and analyze the contents.
A water bottle. Cigarettes. A writing pen. A notebook and a whole lot of space.
I am now wondering why I have carried all the food for the picnic in my backpack because it is much smaller and literally busting at the seams.
Ten packs of Emergen-C. Two books. Three thin notebooks. My railway pass. And a writing pen.
We end up using the writing pens as chopsticks and as we eat the sun comes out and all the different greens in the rolling hills in front of us seem to come to life.
An Australian woman once told me that there are 54 different hues of green in Ireland. She wanted to know who figured that out and more importantly who had paid him to do it. I want his job. I don’t know how to express to you the intensity of how green Ireland is. I have never seen some of these colors before. Ever. Especially not in nature, and especially not all at once. Sometimes the views are overwhelming. The valley of hills in front of us is bright with yellow-neon-greens while the cliffs behind us are covered with dark blue green moss and with grey green stemmed purple wild flowers. Jamie says he has tried to explain the green-ness of Ireland in letters to his friends in Brittany, but he just can’t. It is true. It is not really a sight that can be explained verbally. It also is difficult to capture in photograph. Especially for me because I only have my iphone to use as a camera. Which frankly sucks because when a sight is this beautiful all you want to do is capture it. Because maybe if you can get it exactly as it appears in real life on film you will somehow capture the emotion that is connected to it. I am reminded of all the times I’ve failed to capture a particularly clear and beautiful starry sky. It is almost as if the universe is saying, “Hey you! This is an experience. Not a photo opportunity.”
On a quick side note: I’ve been thinking about it and…
It is way too easy to get so caught up in capturing the beautiful parts of life that you actually forget to enjoy them. It can be hard not to overshare every intimate moment you have on social media. If you live this way long enough it can get to the point where the experience is about the picture and the quality of the experience is measured by how many other people approve of the picture.
But alas life is not about likes.
The like button is like a poll where you give people the option to tell you what is good and what is bad. It is not outwardly presented this way which is precisely why it is so powerful. If you live your life in a way that the majority of people just happen to approve of and are genuinely happy that’s great. But I don’t think that this is the case most of the time. I am guilty myself of posting something to social media and then removing it when it only got three likes. “Why didn’t more people like this? It must be bad. More people liked this status I should start being more like this.” But if you edit what you choose to share with the world based on how other people receive it you are setting a bad precedent for your real life behavior. (Not having access to Internet and therefore being separate from social media has really made me think about the amount of time I spend on the Internet and the affect it has on my self esteem. If you couldn’t tell..) It sucks because we are sort of the test-subject-generation for online-life.
I struggle sometimes even with this blog and how to share my experiences. I am a sensitive person. A lot of the times my experiences and the way in which I perceive them are emotion based. I do not want to have a blog that solely lists the places that I go and the things that I do. That would feel cold and in genuine to me. That being said, I will also keep the truly personal experiences to myself. (And you thought you were getting all the juicy details!) Why would you want to know all that stuff anyways? Knowing too much about people especially strangers is exhausting..
So…Where was I?
I was laying on my stomach on a flat dry moss covered rock after putting the trash from our picnic into Jamie’s bag this time. Jamie is lying on his back beside me. The sun is so warm we don’t move for about an hour. Jamie tells me about his three year stint in the army. He tells me about the kind of person he used to be. I tell him about the kind of person I used to be. We wonder about the future. Jamie says that after Ireland, he wants to come to America. Start in the U.S. and travel to Costa Rica. He would like to cross the ocean by boat even though he is scared of the ocean because it would be a good experience. I have also thought about this. I tell him about boat-hitching and about a website that helps you find a boat. I want to go to Costa Rica.
We finally make ourselves get up and make it to the peak of the mountain. On the other side there is a lake in a valley between two cliffs. It feels like Middle Earth. I have never seen anything like this before. I start to descend the other side and Jamie stops me. He says he thinks time has stopped, and I think he is trying to refer to the beauty of the view with incorrect English. But he is being literal. I look around and realize that this high up you can’t hear (or see) a single car on the tiny roads twisting on the hills below. The sheep are suddenly silent. There is no breeze. The clouds are frozen above and the water like glass below. It is like something the twilight zone and I feel really light.
We walk down the other side and around the large lake. If it wasn’t so cold it would have been the perfect spot to swim. We try to sit at the far side of the lake but are unceremoniously attacked by a serious swarm of gnats. I have never seen anything like this either. We are forced to run the length of the lake and half way back up the mountain before we decide it is safe to walk again.
I am out of breath both from running and laughing. By the time we make it back to the car it is completely dark outside.
We stop in town on the way to the cottage to get Thai takeout as a last night in the cottage treat.
Caroline is excited to see the Thai food. She has packed and also watched three Harry Potter movies in their entirety while we were gone. Dinner is different than usual.
Caroline asks Jamie to come with us to Donegal. Jamie says he will miss us too. He says we have lots of other people to meet. Caroline says we will always compare other volunteers to Jamie. He says the cabin will feel different without us. I say it will be nice and quiet. He says he doesn’t mind that we always wake him up with our general loudness. For Jamie this is a very sweet and sentimental thing to say. We don’t talk much after that until we say goodnight and exchange emails. Jamie says to wake him up before we go. He wants to have one last cup of coffee with us. Jamie once told me that he didn’t drink coffee. When I asked why he had been drinking coffee every morning in the cottage with me while we waited for Caroline to get up he said “to share a moment”. I will miss Jamie.
The next morning we wake up with the sun and get ready to leave. My backpack feels lighter and I am sure that I have forgotten something. I have not. Daniel is dropping us at the bus stop as he takes his daughter to school. Jolene hugs us goodbye and asks us to keep in touch. Caroline looks like she might cry. Jolene says she has a hard time with goodbyes too. Jamie says he will see us when he comes to America. The car windows are foggy so when the door closes I can’t see Jolene and Jamie anymore but I know they are watching us leave. David drops us at the bus stop and tries to kiss me goodbye on the cheek. I haven’t grown accustomed to this European custom yet and always place my head awkwardly and get kissed on the eyelid or something.
We don’t have wait long for the bus which is nice. I do not cry like I thought I would. Strangely I feel at ease because I know that I am supposed to be on this bus. I do have a lot of other people to meet and places to see. And truthfully I can’t wait.