Ireland – The Continual Countryside

Bec is a straight up legend.

I’m still flailing in bed like an idiot, and she is up and making breakfast like a boss.

I mean, the way it tends to go, is that she likes to be getting up earlier to look prettier than me (thank God), but I am more than happy to kick my day off wearing whatever my hand touches first. Being that we are just in a camper van, we’ve got even more liberty.

I mean, if I wanna just wear undies and a T-shirt, then I’m sweet. I’m only really obligated to wear decent clothes if someone other than my wife is present, which at the moment is not all too often.

We spent the night in a place called Killarney.

Its right next to a mountain range, and is part of the Ring of Kerry, which is a super scenic road that you should at least do part of.

Bec and I tuck into breakfast and get on the road. We’ve got a fair bit of ground to cover today. Our goal is to reach Cork for the night. We’ll see how it goes but that is the plan. Our first point is this old dude’s mansion by the lake. We head in there to have a good gander at what all the fuss is about, and find out that the fuss is going to cost us more than 10 euro each. I’m sorry dude. I’m really not that interested in the building of a now, no-namer’s mansion.

I look to Bec, “What do you rekon?”
“Nah”
“Good”

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We get in the car and head back out on the road. Luckily for us, there is a waterfall only a kilometre or so up the road. We head up this road which gets increasingly dodgier as we get closer. Its just one of those roads where you don’t want to have another car coming down the road, because the most logical thing would be for me to reverse. Not so keen.

We get to the top, and the weather is just ok.

Its not raining heavy, but it’s sprinkling. What we have learnt is that the weather can go from being ok, to being utterly terrible in a matter of minutes. With this in mind, we take our rain coats with us too. We begin our little walk down to the falls. Its no more than maybe 100m away. We get down there, and I am sure that the picture we saw on google was vastly different to what we are looking at, but I am also dead sure that we followed the right signs.

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There was nothing to suggest that we had to go elsewhere, and there was nothing to suggest that we had gone the wrong way. We just kinda stood there, feeling a little underwhelmed by this waterfall. We head down along the stream for a couple minutes, and as before, I say to Bec, “Oh my God. This would be amazing to do a fashion shoot in”.

The lighting is perfect.

The foliage above casts a soft green hue across the floor of the forestry, and opens just enough for the sun to peer through and light the only area of the scene which is bare of trees and shrubbery. Very very cool. Maybe in another life.

We head back up to the car, and I start doing a ‘nan’ on Bec and sing her songs that are largely irrelevant in every area of life, and usually include the very activity that we partaking in right now. Just as I am mid song, Bec looks to our left, and sees that there is a path leading further down along the river.

We decide that we have nothing to lose, except time, so what the hell, lets do it.

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We follow the path, with all it’s slippery moss and damp soil until we reach the bottom of the steps. And there it is. That is what we thought we were going to see at the top. The waterfall. I ask this bloke to snap a photo of us, and he says to us that he just parked a couple hundred meters back down the road.

Right.

Damn.

Thats not ideal.

We could just pulled up there and seen what we wanted to see. He asks what is up the path we went. “Nah mate. Not really worth it hey”
“Righto. Thanks bruv”, in his very English accent, he replies, while him and his mrs continue up the path that we just told them was not worth heading up. I mean, we explained that its a lot of effort, with very little reward at the end. But, he headed on his journey with a smile on his face. I mean, this is the kinda situation I would expect to find myself in with someone from Poland, or somewhere where there was a pretty big language barrier.

This human being could speak english too.

I dunno how he could misinterpreted, but he seemed to. Thats cool. Go hard mate.

I begin clicking away, and decide that I am not happy with the shots that I am getting from this angle. I hear the words of Robert Capa ringing in my ears “If your shots aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough”. Time to get closer to the water.

The rocks are slippery.

My camera has no housing.

I am very careful right now.

I hold the camera about head height, so that way, at least if I start to fall, I have just that little bit more time to manoeuvre my camera out of the path of danger and away from the water. I only just told Bec yesterday how I was starting to take more risks with the camera and seemed to be finding myself heading to increasingly more dubious situations to get the shot I wanted. Being that I was aware, I may have possibly jinxed myself, I was even more nervous.

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I steadily begin to lower myself down onto the rocks protruding from the surface of the water, carefully placing one foot on the open and least wet spots that I can find. Just as I go to place my third step, my foot behind me gives way. I must have just put the enough weight on the right angle for it to go.

My heart jumps, my right arm shoots directly up in the air, as I navigate my camera away from the water’s edge, while my arm extends to brace myself on the rock I’m falling toward, as soon as possible and I go shin-deep in the river. I mean, this is nothing new. I can list more than one time that I’ve had my shoes and socks soaked form trying to get to the right spot for the shots. In Scotland, my shoes remained sponges for a good 2-3 days, because I kept going places that dry socks shouldn’t go, and the weather really wasn’t any good to try and dry anything with.

I collect myself.

I have a giggle, but luckily, it would seem as though I have come across the exact right spot to get my shot from. I set up for the shot upon the rock. The tripod I have with me is pretty much no good in this position, as it wont be able to extend to the right angles that I want it to, so instead, I just nestle the camera in the groove of a rock, while I use the strap to prop up the front of the lens to give it the height and the angle that I need for the shot.

This is pretty much my life since we have been away.

Improvising with what I have at the time. It has been nice for a change to have to think outside the box and work with what I’m given instead of just getting everything ready and everything going according to plan. Naturally, I’ve missed shots that I would much rather have nailed, but nonetheless, it has been great to try and grow my skill set a touch more. We hang around while I try angle after angle until I am happy with the shots. I have a lot more freedom to try different angles now, being that my foot is soaked, so I can pretty much just go anywhere without fear of repercussions, because I have already suffered them.

Logic 101.

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Bec waits patiently while I get the shots I want to get. She’s a legend of the highest order.

We climb our way back up to our car, get the gas cooker out and boil up some coffee, and then get on our way. This guy rocks up with his dog, and Bec says to me “Oh. He looks fit”
“Nah. He’s just putting on a show cos he knows you’re watching”
“No. I think he is pretty fit”
“Nah. He’s probably puffing over behind those bushes because he is out of sight now”
“No, I think that he comes here and goes running with his dog often”
“Nah babe. He’s a fat slob”

He was definitely fit.

He said hello to Bec as he was about to hit the path.

The moment he opened the door from his car, his dog ran straight out and stood right by the path that they obviously frequent, but despite my efforts to convince Bec that he was not as fit as he blatantly was, she stuck to her guns.

One day.

One day, I will have the body of a god.

I will dwell among mortals, and start fights among couples with my mere presence, while other men try convince their wives that I am not fit, when I obviously am. We pack up our gear and get on the road before Zeus returns.

Its just safer that way.

We get on the road, and it is evident that we have reached the good part of Ireland. Just as we get back on the road from our little waterfall walk, we pass this couple pulled over on the side of the road, and they they are out, standing in the middle of the forest. Naturally, we think that if they are looking at something, then we should be looking at something too. We double back, pull over, and Bec swears that she can see an animal, like a horse or something.

I’m not so convinced, but I go along with it anyway.

I turn my attention to the forestry around me, but then just as soon as I get shooting, I hear Bec, “BILLY!! ITS A DEER!”

My first thought is, “Well, if there were deer there, they won’t be there any more”, but I grab my stuff and head back up to the little ridge that Bec is standing on. “Where are they?”
“They ran away”
“Well of course they did”

Bec points the direction that they ran, and then I spot them through the fallen trees, motionless, just standing there and looking back, sussing us right out. I can hardly get in a close enough spot to be able to see them well, and by the time that I am in a good enough angle for a shot, they are out of there. Pretty cool that we were able to see deer in the wild.

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We head back to the car, snapping shots here and there. We are on the road for no more than half an hour, and we find ourselves peering over lakes and winding through mountain sides. After stopping more than just a few times for photo opportunities, we pull over at this lookout called “Ladies View”.

Girl power.

10/10

I get the shot that I want, and just as we are getting back in the car and getting ready to bail, this car rocks up next to us, and out gets this bloke, who means business. How can we tell that he means business? Cos he has got a pair of business binoculars with him. These are the real deal. He cranks these nokkies out and Bec and I are all kinds of confused, trying to work out what kinda bloke is gonna bring binoculars with him on a holiday. This bloke is committed.

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We get the shots we want, have our laughs and get going again.

As we drive, we begin to notice that there are sheep, really close to the road. Upon closer inspection, we realise that there is no fence between us and the sheep. This is not exactly what I am after. We are still waiting on our bond from the incident with the other car in Scotland, so I don’t really wanna be in a position where we are left out to dry because a sheep just decided that the grass on the other side of the road looks better than the grass right in front of it.

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We continue through the mountain ranges, and pass countryside after countryside until we reach a little town in the bottom or Ireland, called Skibbereen. Skibbereen really has nothing to offer, but just outside Skibbereen, at a place called Liss Ard Resort, is this wicked man made hole in the ground, known as the Sky Gardens.

Unlike the Sky Gardens in London, and the Highline in NYC, this place is not elevated, but rather, it is sunk into the ground. Pretty much, its just a big hole for you to chill out in, and watch the sky. There is nothing else around you, except a big green slopes. Bec and I are dead keen to have a crack at this spot. At the time, we had no idea that it was actually a part of a resort. We are following google maps, and it just leads us down this random farm road, up to this old shed with this cattle inside.

We are all sorts of confused and begin to think that it is in this old couple’s back yard or something. I can’t find anything that should hint that someone is home, so we begin to leave. Just as we are leaving, we see an older couple pulling up to their house. I get out to ask them what the go is, and they are staring at us, wide eyed, as we roll up their driveway with “Shut the F**k up donny” spray painted on the side of our ‘Big Lebowski’ camper van.

Completely justified.

I tell them where we are trying to get.

“Oh yes. Liss Ard”
“Yeah. Thats the one”
“Yes. I think they may be closed already”
“Oh really?”, as the disappointment began to show in my voice
“But if you would like, you can just park your car here, and just hop over the fence and go for a look”
“…really?”
“I think there might be hard to get into, but you can try”
“Oh. That would be great”

For a resort, they don’t really have many walls that really deter people from trying to have a gander. Bec and I park up, grab our gear, and make tracks toward the Sky gardens. Running under arches, hopping through electric fences, along paths through the trees, all the while following the signage to the Irish Sky Gardens, we find ourselves greeted by a white corridor, which, much to our dismay is locked shut with what looks like a jail cell door.

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My first thought is “I wonder how we can break the lock”, but I put that thought to rest half with my conscience, and half with the impossibility of being able to break a lock that size without some substantial help.

But!

One thing we have learnt since we have been away, is that where one way may be closed, there is always another way to reach the same destination. We skirt the edge of the man made hill, until we can see a path, which already seems to be cleared by other attemptees. Its very clear that the owners of the resort have tried their very hardest to ensure that people can only reach the sky gardens through the tunnel that was built in. But one thing that their engineers and managers forgot to take into consideration:

The willpower of people who are travelling on a budget, and really just wanna get inside the attraction.

This, as we already know is quite a bloody strong will power, so we plan our steps carefully, and decide to tell them that we are staying at Muckabee house if someone asks. Dunno if it would work, but might just buy us enough time to leg it out of there. We climb between trees, over bushes around thorn-covered vines and through barbed wire, until we finally are standing on the edge of the Sky Garden.

We begin to peer over, and the photos do it no justice.

The slopes are sooo steep, its not funny. We begin to peer over, and because of the gradual slope from the top, down, its just a touch hard to tell where it is going to be too far to go before you find yourself beginning to lose your footing. We spy a track leading up one of the slopes. We head around, and I begin to try my way down to see if it was a decent way to get down, and whats more, is whether it was going to be an easy enough way to get out.

It would be an absolute pain in the ass to try and climb up that without anyone else kinda paving the way. But, that being said, someone paved the way in the first place. We reach the bottom of the pit, and its just so odd. There is kinda nothing special about it, and its so minimal, but it is sooooo soothing. Just there being nothing but green slopes, a clear view of the sky with the clouds passing above and a big rectangular stone thing to lay down on. Its a bloody brilliant sight to see.

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We hang around, chat, watch the skies move and change shape, and then we decide we should head home.

This was definitely the highlight of the day.

Its a testament to minimalism and a statement of simplicity, and it works. There is no doubting that having to climb through a barbed wire fence, and having to navigate shrubs, trees and thorns added to the sweetness of the moment, but it was still pretty sick. We head back to the car, on a bit of a high. I knock the door to say thanks to Joe and Margaret, but they are nowhere to be seen, so we give them a friendly toot on our way out of their property.

Back on the road, and we decide that we should try and make it to Cork for the night. This was our original plan, so it is good that it is looking as though it will work out. We get on the road, and it is still light. One thing that I do not understand, however, is Irish speed limits. They’ll be giving you a 100km/h speed limit on a road that you wouldn’t be allowed to drive any faster than maybe 60 click in Australia.

…at best.

Naturally, most people don’t try and do that limit, but some people aren’t shy.

One such person was tailing my ass on the road. Were not on a highway. We’re no where near a highway, but this dude is right on my ass. We are cruising along at a pace that I certainly feel comfortable at maintaining. I wouldn’t really wanna be going much faster.

This person thinks otherwise.

Then out of nowhere, they start overtaking. My first thought is “You are an A-grade tosser”. Not because they are trying to overtake. I mean, do what you want, but this is a road that I wouldn’t entertain the idea of overtaking on. I look over, and lo and behold there is this old grandma behind the wheel.

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The thousand mile stare

My insults turn into praise, as I am shocked to see this old duck over taking me. “Oh yeah! You bloody legend! I can’t believe it”

She’s in no rush either. Just casually cruising past at a pace that she is comfortable with. No sooner had I finished being impressed by Irish grandmothers, then she starts to over take the guy in front of us. This time both Bec and I are losing our minds, cheering her on. Its not like the rest of us on the road are doing half the speed limit. We might be only 10/20 click under, which on these roads is more than acceptable, and here she is having a guts full of us slow, young drivers.

Bloody good on her.

We settle from the impressiveness of the elderly driving population in Ireland, as we pull into Cork. He haven’t really had a UK/European Fish & Chips experience yet, so that is where we are headed. By the time we reach the centre of Cork, the time on the parking signs is expired, and we land a spot literally only 20m away from the fish & chip shop we want to try.

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Its called The Fish Wife, and it’s not quite a hole-in-the-wall, but it is close to it.

You just tell when a food establishment know what they are doing, and these guys sure seemed to know what they were doing. The only down side was that we had nowhere to eat inside. We did, however find out that we can buy a feed here, and then head across the road to a dingy little pub, buy a pint, and eat our fish & chips there.

Who is gonna argue about having to buy a pint?

Not me.

We order our food, head to the pub, buy our pints and wait for the food to arrive. No sooner had the drinks arrived when the food came delivered from the fish & chip shop. This is the best set up you could imagine.

We are impressed.

Referral partnerships for the win.

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We eat our food, I head to Maccas to abuse their wifi and get some blogging done, while Bec heads to get our washing done. Currently, we have no means of communication. This is when I realise that Bec has my jacket, which has my memory card with the photos from the last few days on it.

I had been meaning to change the settings in my camera to save to both slots, instead of overflow but I should have done that the moment when I thought of it. Rookie error, Billy didn’t do it straight away, and now I am freaking out. As photographers will tell you, your photos don’t exist until they exist in at least 2 other locations.

I was freaking out.

I know where she was headed, but it is very possible that she was already half way through the wash at this point. I head to the cab rank and ask the bloke how much it will cost to get to the suburb. He has a job coming in, so I need to make a rush decision. I decide to get him to take me out to this place. Its a good 15m away, which means that it would be a semi decent job for him, and being that he kept stalling how much it was going to cost, I am assuming that it would be a decent ride.

I hop in the passenger seat, and I begin to tell him exactly where I need to head, when I see Bec pulling back up. The most likely outcome was that she had already done a quick wash. My heart had already sunk. I apologise to the bloke, who is visibly gutted, and offer him my last 10 quid in my wallet, but he politely declines. I run over to Bec, “Babe. Please tell me that you didn’t wash my jacket…”
“Nah. I didn’t they were all in use”
“Oh thank God” I say,  as I start searching through my pockets for my card.
“Oh! You lucky boy….”
“I know… I know…”

This was the last time I was going to make that mistake. I mean, I bought two cards for a reason, and each card holds nearly 1000 RAW files, so there is no need to have it on overflow. It should have always been set to duplicate.

I am relieved and I am so grateful.

I wasn’t expecting that work out in my favour at all.

Needless to say, I slept well that night.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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