Wednesday, 20 August 2008

On My Way To Ireland It's Been A Long Time

I moved to England in June of 2004. By August I was lonely; I missed my family, my friends, Canada. I needed an adventure. My adventure came in the form of a week-long hiking trip through County Kerry in southwest Ireland. I wasn't brave enough to hike on my own - I signed up for a guided tour - but it was still one of the coolest things I've ever done.

We hiked 10 - 20km daily, making our way across the Iveragh Peninsula and completing part of the Ring of Kerry. We hiked through the Gap of Dunloe, on an early Christian route and medieval coaching road, and through a peat bog. We explored Killarney National Park and, on our only non-hiking day, took a fishing boat out to Skelligs Rock.



The Gap of Dunloe
the medieval coaching road was so narrow that I thought I was going to trip and fall into the ocean

The non-hiking day was our "off day" - the day that the tour company had nothing planned for us. This meant that whatever we chose to do, we organised ourselves (and the company would not be liable for anything that happened to us.) I went along with the group because everyone wanted to do the Skelligs trip and my alternative was spending the day alone. We didn't have internet access so we couldn't book a fancy, guided tour to Skelligs. We figured that there would be reputable tour companies at the docks. Instead, we found a bunch of teenagers in charge of some fishing boats. We decided to hire one of the fishing boats to take us 12km straight out into the Atlantic Ocean. We were herded into the back of the boat, given rain slickers but not life jackets and told to sit on the box that took up the back of the boat. There were no seats (so no seatbelts) and the railing only reached mid-thigh when I stood beside it. The twelve us us huddled together on the box and tried to stay away from the edge of the boat.

Skelligs Rock was a monastery sometime around the 7th or 8th century. It was raided by the Vikings in 823 AD (they kidnapped the abbot!) and ceased to exist in the 10th century due to climatic changes that made the sea journey impossible. Once you get to Skellig Michael (the island with the monastery) you climb 640 stone steps that were carved into the face of the island. I didn't know how I would accomplish this (hi! clumsiest person ever!) but it wasn't an issue as the sea was too rough to land.

The waves were higher than the boat. Of the twelve of us, only three managed to not vomit. I was one of those three, not because of an iron stomach but because of the sheer terror I felt at going anywhere near the side of the boat (there were no barf bags - if you were going to be sick you had to puke over the side of the boat. Without falling in. During a storm. Not scary at all.)

We made it out to Skellig Michael but had to turn around immediately to avoid crashing the boat on the rocks. When we got back to the dock,the kid who took us out was reprimanded severely by the owner of the boat (though when we asked for a refund he turned his surliness on us.) Taking the boat trip to Skelligs Rock was both the most exhilarating and foolhardy thing I've ever done. Exhilarating because I've never done anything like it due to my ocean phobia. Foolhardy because looking back on it now, we should have known that the sea was too rough and we never should have climbed into the back of the boat.

This is the only picture I have from that day, taken before we got on the boat. Once we got out onto the sea, our cameras were put away to prevent them from getting soaked

The rest of the trip seemed tame in comparison.

My first trip to Ireland was as a solo traveller. I am so excited to go back with Shawn. We didn't go on a honeymoon right after the wedding because of our work schedules. We've started planning our honeymoon for next April. Destination: Ireland.

9 comments:

  1. This sounds like a Hillary Swank movie.

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  2. i would love to go to ireland, it looks amazing!

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  3. I have always wanted to go to Ireland, what with my Moran heritage and all...

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  4. I have almost all of the exact same pictures from my Irish travels! I didn't risk life and limb to get to Skellig though...

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  5. I am so jealous I think I might cry. Those pictures are amazing.

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  6. OH MY GOD. those pictures are AMAZING. that trip sounds insane... and how fun that you get to go back with your husband now (HEE! HUSBAND!)

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  7. My first two trips to Ireland were solo too and then Cory and I managed a long weekend in Northern Ireland during our Scotland honeymoon. He's never seen the republic though and we're itching to go. I'd say we'd try to meet you there for a few days but the thought of introducing a toddler and an infant into a honeymoon isn't appealling. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!

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