26 March 2012

Lots of Adventures

For the last week, I have had an old friend visiting me and have been trying to entertain her. I had to try and work at least a little bit, so I brought her into the office with me. We went downstairs to visit a colleague who will very soon be leaving the apartment, and he let us hold all of his animals. This one below is Lizzie (short for Queen Elizabeth III - I named her). She is a Bearded Dragon from Australia. She is not dangerous at all.

This, on the other hand, is dangerous. Or at least, a little dangerous. This is an albino king snake, whose name I think might be Wilbur. He used to be a very angry snake but has settled down a lot. This was my first chance to hold him and he did not want to stay still for the camera at all. Instead he wanted to crawl up my sleeve.

There is a second albino king snake that lives in my colleague's office. This one is smaller and more aggressive, which lead to him being named Little Bastard. He is a rescue snake - the SPCA found him and some other snakes starved and emaciated and called up the zoology department to ask if anybody could help. However, Little Bastard doesn't seem to appreciate being saved and has a tendency to bite. Luckily his teeth are small.

The main features of the scary animal tour are the tarantulas. In particular, there is a very docile Chilean Rose Tarantula that I have now held four times. The first time I may have panicked somewhat. Let's not go into that. Now it's fine though. She is very tame and will sit perfectly still on your hands until you wiggle your fingers - then she will start walking about. She is quite used to being handled and knows that we will not harm her so she doesn't bother to get aggressive.

All of the other tarantulas are just for looking at - they are far too aggressive to handle. This one is my favourite - it's legs are bright purple! There were also scorpions to look at, but again they were too aggressive to handle. The nice one that I used to hold is dead (and has been preserved for our little musuem).

So that was our entertainment during the week, and on the weekend the plan was to go on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. However, the tours leave at 10 in the morning and that just didn't end up happening for us on a Saturday. Instead we hired a car and I drove us! I had never driven in Ireland before and hadn't driven a manual car for about three years. So it took a little while to get back into the swing of the whole changing gears thing. But once I got used to it, it was fine! We had a map and made our way down to County Clare, where we first stopped at Blackhead. This is basically a big outcropping of flat rock. It's supposed to be interesting for geological reasons I think. As is the whole of the Burren. To me, it's just a lot of rocks.

We drove up to the Ailwee caves and were going to go have a look at them, but it turns out that you have to do a tour, you can't just wander through on your own. The tour costs 12 euro and goes for 40 minutes! It really didn't sound that great, it is just a big cave, after all, and it was already 4 in the afternoon, so we decided to continue on so that we'd see the cliffs before the sun disappeared (did I mention that it was a gorgeous day?). Before the cliffs we stopped at Fanore because it's my favourite beach in Ireland. We came across the cutest little puppy that was not at all interested in us because it was too busy jumping all over a very frightened little girl. We rescued her, and got to give the puppy cuddles before it's owners came for it. Then we went for a short wander on the beach and took photos, which turned out somewhat dark because the sun was so very bright. There were surfers and apparently there was a dolphin cruising the waters there this weekend - it's a regular in those waters, bit of a loner and somewhat territorial, so surfers tend to get out of the water when they see it.

Finally we made it to the cliffs and the sun was just beginning to set and be all colourful. It is great when the weather is clear here, I wish it would last. Went went for a walk but we were tired and it was very windy so we didn't go very far. We stayed out long enough to get some nice photos and that was about it.

I found out that the Cliffs of Moher feature in the Harry Potter movies - the part with the cave that Voldemort has hidden the locket/crucifix in. Not only that, but the Cliffs of Moher were in the Princess Bride too! They were the Cliffs of Insanity and the actors actually had to climb up them!

So after a long day of driving we were very tired and had to try our best to get lots of sleep because the plan for Sunday was to go hiking. The getting lots of sleep thing didn't really work out as planned so hiking was really hard. But at least the weather was nice! It was so sunny and warm - it apparently reached 19 degrees! It is unseasonable warm and I really want it to stay this way. We were on a mountain called Mweel Rea, which is in the same region as the other hikes that I have been on, and is actually right beside the hills that were the location of that first disastrous hike a few weeks ago. When we began the hike yesterday the top of the mountain was covered in cloud but luckily that blew away before too long.

We climbed up a slope that the guides referred to as the 'ramp'. Perhaps you can see it in the photo below - it is the sort of smooth looking part of the slope, where there are no steep cliffs.

The slope seemed very steep going up but was not so bad coming down, so it was probably more my legs that did not want to climb than the climb actually being so steep.

We did not go to the top of Mweel Rea (which, incidentaly, is the highest peak in this part of the country). We were too slow and it was getting late so we stopped at one of the lesser peaks. It was hard enough as it was, and there was a piece of chocolate cake waiting for me in the bus so I was happy enough to turn around an head back down the mountain.

On the way down I found a little frog (in the bog). It was small and brown and left slime all over my hands. Guess that will teach me for picking up frogs. Then, as we were walking through the bog, trying not to get too muddy, my leg sank in, all the way down to the knee. Luckily I didn't lose my boot. And there was a lake at the end of the walk for me to rinse off all of the mud in. Finally I got my chocolate cake, after which I was well ready for bed, but there was still a 2 hour bus ride to sit through. By the time we got back to Galway I was starving, so instead of a nice early night I made a yummy dinner (chicken, mashed potato and lots of gravy, which as everybody knows is one of the most important food groups). We stayed up talking (as usual) and then watching stupid videos on youtube, which is probably why I was so tired today. Now it is only 9 pm and I want to go to sleep already. Although daylight savings did start this weekend. so perhaps I can use the excuse that my body thinks it is 10 pm and thus nearly my bedtime? So despite the hour, I am already in my PJs, in bed, about to pick up my book that I haven't had a chance to read all week.

18 March 2012

St Paddies

This spider was on my bedroom wall this morning. Actually, it was this afternoon because I didn't feel like getting out of bed this morning. Who knows how long it had been there. Yuck. But I am home alone this weekend so I had to take care of it myself. I was going to call a friend that lives nearby but it was a skinny spider so I figured I could handly it. I took my largest glass (it is a big purple plastic drinking cup) and I placed it over the spider and as soon as I did so the spider freaked out and started moving really fast, so I was worried that it would somehow get out. But of course it couldn't. I put a postcard beneath it and tipped it out the window. I did not appreciate that start to the day.

It is St Patrick's day today and town was packed. I went out to get groceries and could barely get through the main street. They were all drinking already. I missed the parade but it is not much good. The streets were absolutely filthy. The day is a bit of a let down really because it is just a big drunken mess. It is nice to have an excuse to dress up and wear green but it must be really disappointing for those people with kids because from morning onwards the streets are full of gross drunk people. I think St Paddies might be more fun back home perhaps, because we don't take it quite so far, which means you can actually enjoy it instead of being packed shoulder to shoulder with drunken buffoons and girls that are wearing tops in place of dresses (the girls here like to dress like hookers you see). From my apartment I can hear a lot of people talking and a background of music. The music is ok but the talking and shouting is really annoying. Especially when at 4 am people who live in other apartments in this building come home from town and put on really loud music and talk really loud and just be all-round dickheads. Why can't everyone just want to go to sleep like I do?

Tomorrow is Sunday and my plan is to do very little, and to do most of that on the couch in front of the tele. It is supposed to rain. There is no hiking this week, but last week I went and it was really good. It was misty so there was not much view, but it wasn't too hard and my muscles were not sore afterward. We'll see how next week goes though, maybe it was just an easy hike and my fitness is not actually improving. Monday here is a public holiday, which I should not take because I have a lot of work to do, but I work in labs that are not actually my own and I don't have keys for them, so I guess I have no choice but to not work? I can't really work at home these days because my computer is too slow to run the software that I use. I would like a new computer. Perhaps I should go check my lotto ticket tomorrow and maybe it will say that I have won and then I can go on a shopping spree. I would like a new computer, and new towels and sheets, and a food processor, and new boots. Not to mention to live a life of leisure.

06 March 2012

Sunday Hiking

So, it's Tuesday evening now and it's high time I added some writing to the pictures below. On Sunday I again went along with the mountaineering club for a hike up a mountain and it was actually good weather! It was my first mountain hike with a view, and it was very cold but still a really good hike. We went up a mountain called Benbaun (all the mountains here start with the word ben, it's something to do with the Irish language). It means 'white peak' and on this occasion it was actually white. The hike took about 4 hours or so - it was steep enough going up but quite easy going down, so there were no horrific accidents like the last week. The respite from strong winds and rain meant that it was also possible to chat to the other people on the hike. The lower reaches of the mountain were very boggy - I think the majority of farmland in Ireland must be bog. It was very wet and muddy, but I managed to not fall completely into the mud. I did, however, manage to slip just where there was a sharp rock beneath the mud and know I have a huge black bruise on my hip. Then, when I finally got home, I was absolutely shattered but wanted to share my pictures anyway because it was so exciting to have clear weather!

Now it is a whole new week of working and it is already not going well. I guess it's time to get seriously into lab work, only just the thought of it makes me so tired! But, on a positive note, I submitted my first manuscript, which hopefully will be accepted and published in a scientific journal. Which will be very exciting. Only the entire process generally takes several months so it will be awhile before I know anything about it at all. I would like to say that this means a entire half of my PhD is done and dusted, but I get the feeling that that would be speaking too soon. So I guess I should just start working harder and hope that I will be done by the end of the year (lots of fingers crossed).