Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Everything Post

I think it's been more than a week since my last post so I shall cram a bit of everything into this and try and make it shortish haha.

The rest of the week horse riding was simply the most amazing experience I have ever ever had. Peggy and Jennifer were so lovely and we just clicked so well. Both have the same taste in music and common interests and it feels like we have been friends for quite some time. There are rough plans to do horse rides together in all our home countries. And also New Zealand. And France. I miss them a lot!

There were some amazing sites on the ride. One of the highlights would definitely be riding through part of Lough Derg in County Clare. The sound of horses moving through the water for one is a great sound, then there's the very slight thrill of riding the shortest pony in the group and watching your foot nearly touch the surface of the lake! From the middle of the lake you could see trees to one side and 2 very Irish hills and fields to the other sides and marsh land up ahead.

Every morning we went to catch our ponies ourselves. Bob was always as far away as he could get, but after the second day he was always the first to start walking towards us. I'd like to say it was because he liked me, but it was because we all carried a handful of food to fill his fat little belly! One morning they were at the very very top of a steep field and we had quite a long and winding hike to reach them, cursing and puffing the whole way.  But once we reached the top we had some of the best views of County Clare, so we had to forgive them. At some points we'd ride up and up and up and then get to the top and just be silent without words.

The pine forests smell great, especially where they've been logged, and where they've been cut foxgloves grow everywhere. And I think all of western Ireland is covered in little streams and creeks. If you look deep into some parts of the pine forests everything is covered in green moss. The ground floor, the trees, the roots, the rocks, til it all becomes indistinguishable. In some parts houses that were abandoned in the famine 150 years ago have been swallowed by the forests and you can just see one part of a wall covered in moss and blending in with the rest of the forest. I think those parts were my favourites. I also loved riding and seeing all the ruins left behind in the famine that have trees growing out of whats left of the roof or moss and vines have swallowed the foundations. It's sad that there are so many abandoned buildings but at the same time it is a little bit magical. Jennifer, Peggy and I decided we needed to buy one and fix it up and decorate it with vintage nick nacks like An Sibin, the riding centre. We were all so sad to leave that place after 4 nights and move onto B&B's and a hotel for the next 3 nights. We all thought it was simply perfect.

We would point out places and say 'that, that's our house right there' and by the end of the week I think we had 30 houses, one of which was a tower at the Cliffs of Moher.

From our hotel in Lisdoonvarna near the Atlantic Coast, Berty organised a bus to come pick us up on the second last night to take us to the Cliffs. It was after hours so we didn't have to pay and there was hardly anyone around which was lovely. The guides came with us too and it was fun to see them playful rather than serious like they are on the ride and we all got along really well. Eva ran ahead yelling 'are you all ready to canter' in her adorable Irish accent. And crossing the road we would all call out 'car' on the way back to the bus. The Cliffs themselves were incredible and we had so much fun taking stupid photos and generally being idiots and climbing through the fence at the end to stand on the edge.

The last day however was not so lovely as the rest of the week. It was raining before we even woke up and continued for the entire day without break. We scraped down the horses and saddled them up to ride out in the rain. For 3 hours it bucketed, which alone would have been fine, we had had a few unexpected showers all week and that's why we spent all our time wearing heavy rain coats with padding for warmth. But this was freezing rain and it was about 8 degrees before you added the severe winds. For the last hour I was very nearly in tears because my feet were so cold in my boots that they HURT, and that numb feeling you get in your extremities had carried all the way up into my hips. I spent so long praying that nothing would startle Bob or any other horse that would then scare Bob, because if he spooked I was not going to be able to stay on!

When we got to the area for our lunch break I don't think any of us have been so happy to see Berty's blue van signalling the end. My arms were so cold I couldn't hold the rains or move my arms so Bob kind of ran me through a tree. And when he stopped Berty called out 'ok everyone off quickly and grab some tea' and I said to Innis 'I really don't think I can get off.' Eventually I did and we all crammed into the trailer bent over double. I couldn't move my hands to take off my gloves or hold my tea cup and couldn't straighten my fingers. We were all really grateful when Berty asked if we would like to finish early and have the horses collected. Sad to say goodbye to Bob and Peggy, but really grateful. We were all frozen and it was too dangerous to continue. I was starting to be reminded of films where horses carry wounded people and they are slumped over and eventually fall off, that was going to be me! Still a very very fantastic week.

Lisdoonvarna has an unusually high German holiday population but it's a lovely little town. The pub there is amazing and the musicians just walk in off the street, pick up an instrument and join in with those already playing, sometimes mid song. The walls were covered in post cards, and there were even some from Australia :)

I think this post is long enough for now. I am off to the oldest pub in Belfast, which is so historical it is owned by the National Trust haha. I shall post about Belfast tomorrow!

Miss you! x

Monday, 20 June 2011

A Horse called Bob...

Ok, so I am temporarily hijacking my own blog in order to kiiind of turn it into a travel blog. I keep forgetting to write things down so maybe if I blog things might get recorded? I don't know.

I am currently in Ireland! Yesterday I traveled from the beautiful post card perfect historical town that is Adare. Sooo lovely. Now I am in guest house/riding centre outside a really small town called Whitegate in County Clare. The house I am staying in is a renovated stone cottage that is roughly 300 years old and has been restored and added to. It has all these different levels and corridors and it's kind of like a labyrinth. There's also a small tower up to the next level as well. It's been decorated using all these nifty vintage things and old saddles and horse equipment. There's old leather suitcases, old medicine bottles, and really old books lying around and pine cones and quills and flowers and candles and it is pretty much exactly as I would like to decorate a house. It is perfect. 

Outside my window I can see the small stable where our horses were kept last night (usually they stay in fields) and there's 2 donkies as well. Everything is so green, even the rocks! And I never knew Ireland had so many pine trees! It's kind of like riding through a huge Christmas tree plantation! 

The food here is amazing. I've eaten walnut and jam cake which was amazing, cherry cheesecake, and had the usual baked dinner and English breakfast. Today for afternoon tea we were served chocolate and red wine cake. Possibly the best thing I have ever ever tasted and I might need to ask for the recipe. The food is cooked by a lovely French girl called Astrid and she's well deserving of the job.

My room mate is named Peggy and is from Germany. Shes a couple of years older than me and speaks a fair amount of English, which is good because I speak no German obviously. She has told us tomorrow we speak only German :P I'm sure it will go well... The other girl here is my age and from Canada. Her name's Jennifer and we all get along pretty well. It's nice just being the 3 of us and aged similarly. Tomorrow though we will be joined by an American couple. Hopefully they will be nice too.

We rode for 5 hours today with a small break in the middle for the cake. The landscape around here is so varied. Pine trees, moor's, heath land, forests, farmland, stone. My horse is a gorgeous little red roan pony named Bob Marley for his wicked hair styles, dreadlocks and permanent bed hair image, and also for his very laid back personality. He suits me perfectly and hasn't run off with me yet. He struggles a little to keep up after we've been cantering for a while so I don't think he could run very far with me if he did haha. But I am very much in love with him. 

I have never appreciated the surefootedness of horses more than I did today. The mud they went through was easily up to their knees and there were rocks everywhere and steep inclines and downward slopes with all kinds of roots and rocks in the way. I am very impressed. And as you ride around here there's horses absolutely everywhere! Part of the moor we went through is a sanctuary set up by a guy called Pat and you can take old or ill horses there or horses without a home. Apparently there's about 60 horses there. We had a couple of ponies tag along for a while. As you walk past paddocks all the ponies come up and walk along with you and talk to the horses we ride. They're every known horse colour around here too. Not all bay and chestnut like at home. There's red roan and blue roan and piebald and skewbald, and palamino, and dun, and grey, and black, and spotted and all so adorable. Most are Irish ponies and they poke their little faces over the fence at you. And when I get home I want a donkey. They are so amazingly friendly and will follow you everywhere. Every single one I've met so far has been lovely, and there are a lot of them around here. There's also a couple of tiny tiny kittens here. They can't be more than 4 weeks old. They cry every time someone looks into their stall and I want to smuggle them into bed with me. Their little noises make me want to cry!

I am kind of in pain already :P My knees are killing me and so is my back from all the cantering and posting to a ponies rough trot haha. But still so amazing and I am going to try and force myself to make it to the end of the week! I don't care if they have to strap me on Bob, I'm sure he'd look after me!


Bye! x