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