Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a wet week in the west

A walk in the woods just west of Galway City.

We were joined on our walk by a lovely dog who didn't appear to have an owner nearby. He walked with us for quite a while and the boys loved it- I think it was a highlight of the trip because they continued to talk about it for ages.

We spent the first two nights in a hotel in the city before moving to this hostel (above) in Clifden for a night and then back to Galway for a night in another hostel. The first hotel had an awesome breakfast but not much else going for it. The hostels weren't busy and we got a four bed room to ourselves in each one. The only other guests in the hostel in Clifden were five sedate young French people who may have been saving up their energy (and money) for a big night out on New Year's Eve. In Galway we stayed in a city centre hostel so that we could easily walk to the theatre for a pantomime on the last night. Which totally rocked! The boys (all of them) got right into the interactive side of it and yelled and booed at the stage. Will have to take them to more things like that.

We drove around quite a bit, checking out the coast and dreaming about buying a house in Connemara. The rain did stop now and then, for a few minutes at a time, but the rain didn't stop us getting out for a few walks. We stopped at the wee beach above to watch a pair of surfers hit the waves before the sun had even risen.

We stopped in a few pubs for lunch or supper or just hot chocolate. Each time Brendan would get out his Octonauts annual and drawing stuff. We also had a couple of nice restaurant meals in Galway.

As the boys ran about at this viewpoint a farmer drove up to check on his cattle. I asked him if he could suggest a beach where the boys could run around a bit. The conversation went something like this...

him.. Ah, yes, down there now, (pointing) just by that headland.
me... And how do I drive there?
him... You can go straight on when the road turns down there. It goes right and then left and then one road goes this way and another that way (arms waving) and then there's a road going straight on when the road forks. It's not straight on mind, just to the left but then you turn right.
me... Ahh, great, thanks. So I don't go left or right but straight on when the road forks?
him... A course there's a whale there.
me... A whale?
him... Yes, a whale.

Now, I don't know why but I thought we were still working out driving directions and started picturing a "biggest whale" like the "biggest axe" or "biggest moose" kind of thing you might find in North America. We carried on...

me.. A whale? On the land?
him... yes, on the land. 45 foot long it is.
me... A 45 foot whale, on the land?  (my brain was working slowly at this early hour of the day) By the road?
him... Well, yes. But you have to walk.
me... We'll be able to see it?
him... Ah, yes, there are a lot of people out there so you'll find it.
me... You mean a real whale?  (he must be thinking I'm really thick by this point)
him... Uhh, yes, a real whale. Beached though, it's not alive. (Kindly pointing out the obvious now- given how stupid I've appeared till now)
me... Wow. Ok. Great. Thanks.

So off we went in search of a 45 foot beached whale. We made sure to tell the boys that the whale was dead long before we got to it. The beach was on Omey Island, a tidal island which was only accessible for a few hours either side of the low tide. We had to wait a few hours and then parked on the mainland, walked across a lovely stretch of sand and along the single narrow road across the island, over a gate, through a field and down the rocks to the beach. Despite the rain there were quite a lot of people out walking on the island and we made a note to come back and visit when the weather is better.

It was both sad and awe inspiring at the same time. I thought it looked like a sperm whale but wasn't confident. I asked some others but noone knew. Later that day I read in the paper that it was as a 45 ft male sperm whale that may have been 60 years old. He had died at sea and washed up on Omey Island 2 days before we were there. Sperm whales are toothed whales and Brendan informed us that they eat giant squid in the "midnight zone" (what the Octonauts call the dark depths of the ocean).

After the walk we were all completely soaking and headed to the nearest pub for soup and sandwiches.

On another day, Steve took the boys to the boys to the spot where Alcock and Brown landed after their successful attempt at the first non-stop transatlantic flight. I was a lucky woman and got to look around the shops and buy brightly coloured wool socks.

No comments: