Traveling the ancient path.
04.06.2014 - 04.06.2014
June 4th, 2014
It's always best when the day starts with Irish breakfast. Our hostess, Mary, made us a fantastic breakfast, and also did us a favor by calling down to the docks to see if the weather was good enough for the boats to head out to the Skelligs today. Apparently the ocean can be to tumultuous to allow the tour boats to make it out there. The news was a thumbs up!
The Skelligs are two islands, basically huge jutting rocks, out in the southwestern Irish Sea. One of the islands is the largest gannet nesting place in the world, and the other is the site of a Monestary that was built in the 7th century. The other is also a nesting place for puffins and many other birds. Once again, Nicole and I decided not to look up pictures or read about this place before we arrived. We truly had no idea what to expect. The weather outside was windy, and rain was driving against the windows as we ate breakfast. Apparently my sunny Irish luck has run out. It is a double bummer considering I left my coat on a train in Munich. We savored our breakfast and then headed down to the docks to find out what we had signed up for.
It was a piece of cake to find our captain and our boat. The captain showed us into the cabin where he had all the rain proof gear that we would need. Yay! Rain gear. But wait, what is this? The sun started to peak out and became only blue skies as far as we could see. Irish luck back on! We had to wait awhile for a huge group of Frenchmen to load our boat. They were a laughing, lively bunch! Another group of their friends loaded in to the boat next to us. As we pulled away from the dock, the French bid farewell to their boat mates with smiles and laughs. I was amused. The whole morning I had been self talking and preparing myself for the open ocean. I have been in Resurrection Bay in Alaska and had brief moments I thought I may lose my cookies. I knew whatever was coming was going to be much more intense. So as the French laughed their way to the ocean, I could only think to myself, "You all should be preparing yourself. We will see who is right and who is dead." Actually, I just thought, " We will see who is laughing when we hit the waves."
I could never have expected this boat trip. The waves were rolling like nothing Nicole or I had ever been on. We both made our way into the cabin,while the rest were in the open back of the boat. The swells were easily 20 to 30 feet. You would climb up one, unable to see beyond the wave, crest, and then go down the other side so fast your stomach dropped like on a roller coaster. Only 5 minutes into this and 4 of the other passengers were feeding the fishes. Nicole told me after, that she thought we were going to get swallowed by the sea. She told me she was praying that we wouldn't die. She had already figured the quickest escape routes if we capsized and the likely locations of the life vests. I was telling myself that I was having a good time and that I was NOT going to be sick. I found that by standing in the cabin and watching the waves, I was able to keep from feeling woozy. If I can see the waves, what they are doing, and anticipate the way the boat will luuuuuurch, then I feel pretty good. We finally made it to our destination, but this in itself was and adventure. The boats would pull up, one at a time, to a rock dock. Then we would all offload as quick as we could as the boat is rocking all over the place. It is not a quick and easy thing to do. What in the world were those monks thinking traveling all the way out here?! This is a difficult journey in modern boats! When my feet hit ground that was no longer moving, I found my stomach may not have lasted much longer in the open sea. I had to stop and breathe the fresh air with more positive self talk before my stomach began to settle down about 20 minutes later.
Starting at the bottom of this massive rock island, the bird life is immediately apparent. As we wind our way gradually up and around to the start of the stairs, you see gannets, seagulls, puffins, and many other birds I did not know. It is nesting season on the Skelligs, and all the birds seem to be sitting on some nest or another. Looking out over the ocean, you an see the other Skellig as well as the Irish mainland. You begin to feel very isolated from the rest of world. If the monks wanted solitude, they certainly found a great location. We finally find ourselves at the base of these ancient stone steps leading steeply up the mountain and out of site. Are you serious monks? These steps are made from slabs of slate, some a foot thick, four feet long and 3 feet wide. The fact of the mountain side is very steep. The work that had to go into this, I can hardly fathom. The stairs are definitely a work out. We have been doing steep hikes every day for the last 4 days, and now the Skelligs. Aside from the marvel of this ancient staircase, the views as we steadily climb keep me in awe. It's just, "Oh wow," every other step. After 600 steps we reached the Monestary. I have seen beehive huts before, but this place was amazing. It was an entire community. There were rooms for the monks, 2 chapels, a garden, places for livestock, and even 3 working cisterns. What is even more amazing, is that the ground we were on was flat. How can it be flat when we are on a steep island rock?! The monks had to build up the ground below us on the face of the rock. So, they built a retaining wall and then had to back fill it before they could build, all without a Mini Excavator. I can't even fathom where they got all the dirt from, nor how they hauled it up the side. And how did they build those stairs? Seriously how in the world?
Nicole and I made our way to a nice view point of the stairs and the sea and had a little lunch. One of the best memories was just sitting there with her for the next hour, enjoying the moment together, and not wanting to leave.
Leave we did an hour and half later. My stomach had settled by now, and so had the sea. It was a much better ride home, but definitely not smooth. Only one person was sick this time. I chatted a bit with the captain. He was very impressed with how good of a sailor Nicole was. He seemed to take a liking to me and had me drive the boat in the bay. We found out his name is Patrick Casey, and a very seasoned sailor and nice person he was. The Skellig trip was equally as impactful and spectacular as Neuschwanstein Castle was. I cannot choose between the two.
As is our way, the night was far from over. Nicole and I loaded in to our car buddy to drive the 2 hours to Dingle. Casey and I had visited Dingle in 2011' so I was excited to take Nicole back. We made it no problem to our super nice and clean B&B. This is easily the nicest place we have paid to stay. Or hostess was, of course, the jolliest of Irish ladies and was very happy to have us. Resting only briefly, it was time to head out to dinner and find a pub for some evening craic. We found ourselves in the Dingle Pub that Casey and I had eaten in when we were here. It was mo expensive than I remember for less food, but we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We took the car back to the B&B and walked into town in search of some good music! We finally ended up in O'Sullivans Courthouse Pub. It is a little pub that I remembered being awesome, and it still was. We made it in just before the rush of people came, which allowed us to have a seat at the bar! We immediately hit it off with the barman Micheal. No I did not spell his name wrong. It is Gaelic for Michael. He is probably 22 or 24 or something. Anyway, the music was fantastic! The crowd was perfect, and we had the best night! This is why we love this country. You cannot beat great Irish music played by musicians who love it, your beverage of choice, nice laughing people around you, and being with the one you love.