Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Little rocks for giant steps

Today is miserable. It is pouring and blowing a gale outside and inside I am miserable with a very sore throat and the start of a flu I think - heavy head cold, headache and all the joint aches and pains. Still, I have drugs so all is good. As it is our last day in Derry, it is now or never to try to get to the Giant's Causeway so after waiting to see if the rain would ease (which it didn't) and checking the weather site to see how close we could get a forecast to the Causeway, we find that Belfast is anticipating the 'possibility of a shower or two'. So, living in hope we set out. Hah - like we had any hope today of fine weather!

We set out in the rain and while not heavy, it is constant. Unlike Saturday, there are no queues to get into the Giant's Causeway site today - hurrah. So on with the wet weather gear and off we set out to go and have a look at this marvel of Mother Nature.

Clochán na bhFómharach - a marvel indeed, for it is breathtaking architecture created by nature and at its finest. Although the wind is howling and at times the rain pricks like needles, it is a challenge for one's attempt to ignore this wonder.

We ride the Causeway's coach to the base of the causeway, as the rain is unrelenting and the downward slope is most yielding. The causeway is the result of ancient volcanic activity, a noble benefactor which has sculptured approximately 40000 exposed interlocking hexagonal basalt columns. Declared a natural wonder by the World Heritage Council in 1987, it is now the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

The area is accessible by a three kilometer 'Finn McCool' trail, and with signs alerting visitors to take extreme care due to uneven surfaces and landslides. One has to be constantly vigilant, particularly due wet weather. Still, there are those who ignore these warnings and are indiscriminate with their own safety - climbing over rocks on the ocean edge. You can only start to imagine how slippery the basalt is, polished to a high sheen by thousands of years of water.

There are six natural features which can be viewed from the trail: 'The Camel', 'The Granny', 'The Wishing Chair', 'The Chimney Pots', 'The Giant's Boot', 'The Organ. With the exception of the 'The Giant's Boot' (which is a solid weathered rock) the other five features are comprised of hexagonal basalt columns. The inclement weather can only enhance the beauty of these wonders of nature.

The legend accounting the creation of the Giant's Causeway was by the exploits of an Irish warrior named Finn McCool
(Fionn mac Cumhaill). Folklore indicates that McCool built the causeway so his Scottish rival Benandonner could cross the Irish Sea to Scotland to fight McCool. When he saw Benandonner coming he was frightened by his size and so asked his wife Oonagh to hide him. She wrapped him like a baby and when the Sottish giant arrived told him that McCool was out fighting. Benandonner was then frightened off by the size of the 'baby' and fled home, destroying the causeway behind him! We kinda like the legend - lends an air of wonder to the cause!!

We leave the Giant's Causeway, but not the rain, and drive towards the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Carrick-a-Rede means 'rock-in-the-road' and the structure is near the village of Ballintoy, and 11 miles from the Causeway. The bridge spans 20 metres and is suspended 30 metres above the channel below. It joins the mainland to Carrick Island which had been used by salmon fisherman who had erected bridges to the island for 350 years. The site is no longer used for salmon fishing and is now owned and maintained by the National Trust. These days the bridge is mainly a tourist attraction, and is taken down every year in late October or early November, depending on weather conditions, having been put up in March.

The walk to the bridge is one kilometer, but with the howling wind and intermittent rain makes it seem like two. The view of the coastline is exceptional, and traversing the bridge is an experience not to be missed - particularly during conditions like today. The bridge swings to and fro in the gale, it also twists and wobbles as one walks across it. The bridge IS made from rope and supported by two forty millimetre steel cables; the walking surface is reinforced by laced wooden panels. Yee-ha!

On way back to Derry we decide to detour north via Carndonagh to see St Patrick's Cross. However, it is getting late and damp so we decide to postpone the detour until tomorrow, and opt instead for dinner. Dinner is taken at Wotherspoons Pub 'The Diamond' at The Diamond in Derry. Steaks were the order of the day - quite edible, but nothing out of the ordinary - typical pub steaks.

So we come back to Groarty House. John has been taken with our blog and had asked how hard it was to start one, so I am determined to spend a little time with him to show him how easy it is. Stuart off handedly tells his dad he has one - a fact that surprises John a little, but then as parents of todays teens, we have all been surprised at the level of our children's prowess on 'that blasted computer' from time to time - so don't feel like you are alone there John! We set up the shell of a blog in Wordpress and I have charged Stuart with helping his dad to further develop it and keep it up to date.

John and Margaret had asked whether we had seen the movie 'Australia' and when we replied that it was just out when we were leaving offered to let us see it. So Margaret, Stuart and I sit down to watch it. But, where is John and Michael??? Ohh - boys will be boys and John has taken Michael to see his mid-life indulgence - a 1964 Sunbeam Alpine. And then, with Michael drooling, John lets him take it for a drive. Over hill, down dale, across the border and back into the city before they head for home. You should have seen the two of them when they came in - like little boys who have just been given a new toy!!!!

So, what did we think of the movie? Not bad (particularly from an outsider perspective) - a little overdone - we were able to be the voice of Aussie reason a couple of times. But altogether too much crammed into the space and time. Like many others there were at least two points in the movie when I though that it was over, only for the story to take another turn and then re-start again! But the sceney is as stunning as it gets and although exaggerated, the characters are typically how Australians are seen by many over here. Michael of course didn't think much of it - not his cup of tea at all. It was a late night to bed and we need to e heading off in the morning.

Oh, and by the way - no comments, I know I need a haircut - hopefully there will be time now we are putting down roots for a week in Galway!

No comments: