Visting Inishbofin – Part Four The West Quarter Loop

IMG_4780

Sunday arrived. The last day of my Inishbofin adventures. The rain was intermittent. I layered on my clothing before I left the hostel and four minutes down the road, before the sheep and its hungry lamb appeared, I pealed it all off again. The sheep weren’t interested in my rolled up water proof protectors. Looking briefly before resuming their interrogation of a clump of grass, I set off again, towards the western side of the island. My last day and my last loop walk.

I passed the double decker bus, but the shutter was down. Birds perched on the roof, flitting off to chase insects. The grass around the wheels shuddered in the breeze. In the distance sheep bleated messages to each other. Life started later on a Sunday. I followed the coastline passed whitewashed cottages and a hotel, and a triumvirate of cows on what looked like a regular stroll down the quiet Sunday road. Representing all colours, sandy, then red, then brown, they neatly stuck to the left hand side, allowing for passing traffic. They’d obviously taken this route before.

Further up, passed the ram’s head skull, I came upon the gate into the loop path, guarded by a sheep mother and infant. Horned and purple streaked, like gate keepers from a sci-fi movie, I cowered. I stood and went through all possible outcomes of this standoff. The sheep gazed back and eventually moved off, through a very convenient hole in the wire. I breathed a sigh of relief. I scrambled over the ladder and followed. The track was accidental, created by farmers’ vehicles as they rounded up their livestock I imagined. I was bracketed on one side by the grassy mountain itself, dotted with sheep of every colour. On the other, the wild Atlantic ocean, made wilder on this day by unforgiving winds that lashed the ruins of abandoned houses on Inishark. Bring binoculars to see them more clearly, for they are a strange sight. Abandoned in 1960, the ruins are a reminder of the cost of progress.

IMG_4781

I kept going, following the track passed Inishark, grazing sheep and napping lambs to Dún Mor cliffs, all the way to the sea stags and the island’s seal colony, where two seals frolicked among the rocks. I sat for a while, watching the other visitors as they took in this breathtaking landscape. This was by far my favourite walk. It even included bog in the process of being cut. Mounds of turf were protected under tarp, awaiting their owners return, and soft white bog cotton held onto their roots as the wind whipped them around. Bikes were strewn here and there as cyclists abandoned their horses for escapes up hills and out onto cliffs.

IMG_4811

I could have stayed there forever, just watching the water, feeling the wind wrap itself around me. I saw a vision of Ireland I thought was long gone. Stone houses, wooden gates, wandering sheep and colonies of seagulls, all existing effortlessly beside each other. It seemed to have sprung straight from a Paul Henry canvas. I trudged back to the hostel three hours after I took off that morning with a heavy heart. I was leaving the following day. I was leaving behind this landscape, soft and resilient.

IMG_4779

 

Africa Day 2017 Dublin

I danced to east African music and then Galway Girl

The shuttle bus was packed. It was free after all and the alternative was a 25 minute trek through the Phoenix Park to Farmleigh House. I was excited for Africa Day, but not twenty-five minutes excited.

I was late, rolling up to the lakeside cafe fifteen minutes after everyone else had clearly arrived. Some not so subtly checked their watches. Amateur photographers can be so impatient. There was still lingering to be done, as a few more latecomers stumbled upon the group, made easy to identify with all brands of camera swinging from our necks. Of the 62 who RSVP’d, a decent 12 showed up, with more to wade through the throngs later.

As with all ‘Days’ at Farmleigh, we headed for the main area, today the ‘Malaika’ stage, behind the colonial house. And suddenly the group had dissolved. All that waiting, only to disappear into the air with the notes escaping from the strumming guitar of Ines Khai. It would be another forty-five minutes before I found some semblance of the group gathered beneath a crowded tree as the clouds emptied their contents for the first time that day. The group had new faces, replacing those who had wandered off to the ‘Kwassa Kwassa’ stage. Sadly, those unlucky few had tripped right into the middle of the Minister’s speech. Was it too late to slipd quietly away back to the bazaar. There was a colourful rug I was looking at that would have matched the blanket on the couch.

Head wraps were offered at a reasonable rate. Ladies chose from prints of red, black and green fish-like patterns, burnt orange leaves, diamonds on yellow fabric and blue and red lined strips of white. The smell of beef stew and chapati carried across the car park to campers who had staked their claim on a patch of flattened grass before the skies reminded them where they were. Some ventured over to the join an already long queue. Some glanced and weighed up their chances of losing their spot or cradling a warm belly, smiling at the mere thought of spicy rice and chicken.

If you ever held an image of Africa in your mind’s eye, it could be found here. Tall men in white robes swatted away the ant-like diligence of photographers intent on capturing the image of the day, showing their wares from Senegal and Lesotho. Under grey skies, colourful dresses, head wraps and tunics could be seen.

Drumming workshops, a language exchange, even a debating session was on the agenda. But my favourite part of Africa Day was the ‘Atilogwu’ stage and the energetic DJ Spaqz and his crew. And it was here that I danced to Galway Girl, after dancing to music from Kenya, Ghana and Egypt.

I’ll be back next year, for the tastes, sounds and sights of a little bit of Africa in the middle of the Phoenix Park.