We got to experience the contrast in quality of service between two different tour operators and it was very interesting. First of all, we were lied to by the owner of O'Neachtain Tours. Niki (our CSer) mentioned that there was a particularly good guided farm walk on the Cliffs of Moher tour. I asked this particular woman about it and she said that there were no farms out that way and I must've been thinking of their other tour. When we were on the bus, however, we did stop at a farm and everyone was able to get off the bus for the walking tour except for us and another couple. Upon enquiring/complaining to the bus driver (who was actually from a different company called Lears), he confirmed that the woman had flat-out lied to make the sale, and so he ended up driving us around the area to an old monastery and telling us all about the country's various folklore to make up for it. He was a great bloke, very informative and very friendly. Following this we stopped off at the ancient (>5000 year old) Poulnabrone tomb for a very quick photo opportunity - they are attempting to reduce degradation of the site by limiting visiting time to only 10 minutes.
Then it was onto the famous Cliffs of Moher, only the third highest cliffs in Ireland but very spectacular all the same. For the majority of the day, and especially during the drive upto the cliffs, a thick fog loomed and could even be seen rolling down the high hills towards the sea as we passed traditional thatch-roofed seaside villages. This fog was still very much present when we got off the bus. Amazingly, by a stroke of luck as if instigated by some almighty force, the fog dissipated and the snaking cliffs came into full view as we approached the cliffs' edge. Wonderful. Then, to add to the mystery or luck as it were, it all rolled back in again as we jumped back on the bus.
That evening I decided that, although we had thoroughly enjoyed the tour, the way in which we were sold the tickets needed to be called into question. I had a few words to the guy on the desk at the tour office, he agreed it was poor form and took my number for the manager... But never called... What a surprise.
We had a bit of a wander around town later on and bumped into a fellow, you know the type: a nomad, living in a caravan run on vegetable oil, handing out booklets outlining the problems with the world and the ways in which we can change, heading to Africa next year to do humanitarian work with underpriveliged Kenyans... A really nice guy, we chatted for about an hour, and Christina managed to take some inspiration for a similar African trip.
The following day we were feeling amazingly lazy and our time was thus spent indoors watching movies, including a bit of the timeless comedy known as Father Ted, which is set on a fictitious Aran Island of the west coast here.
The other tour we participated in was to the north-west of Galway (the first being to the south-west). My expectation of this tour to an area called the Connemara was that we would be visiting one of the only few remaining entirely Gaelic-speaking regions, or Gaeltachts, of Ireland. Well technically we did visit it when our driver (this time a very awkward O'Neachtain driver) dropped us off at the only English-speaking markets in the area for half and hour while he drove back to the depot to pick up a smaller bus. We then proceeded to drive straight through without any other stops until we reached the first English-speaking town outside of the region. I would have been happy if he'd even just stopped so we could see street signs in pure Gaelic (without English as can be observed in the rest of the country), but we weren't so lucky. From what I saw from the comfort of the bus it looked like a nice area although the weather was certainly against us with the rain almost not ceasing for the entire day.
Dara took us out for another Guinness session that evening and we said our goodbyes early the next afternoon.