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.

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