19 August 2005

PUFFINS AND SEALS: BEING PART 2 OF OUR IRISH TRAVELS.

SAT06AUG: SKELLIGS: after the perfect weather of the day before, saturday crept in and settled with the mist, drizzle and poor visibility. we thought our skelligs trip might have been cancelled, but didn't hear anything indicating such rotten luck, so we drove over to port magee. there we met joe roddy (who looked a lot like andrew - my sister esther's partner) who put us in the right boat and told us to get decked out in these hilariously huge waterproofs! eventually we were off, over the swell of the steely grey ocean - needless to say i loved every minute of it - huge lashings of spray right in my face, the roll of the boat, the feel of the sea beneath us. dan, however, was quite yellow! he sat guarding the bag, with a queasy face, looking out for PUFFINS! and he found one! it was really, really small and had a colourful beak!!! and it was all puffiny! eep!... the first major skellig came into view (in irish gaelic, sceilig (sp?) means cliff, or rocks, or something), jutting out of the dark ocean. it had what looked like snow all over the ledges, but when we got closer we realised the white was actually hundreds of gulls (and hundreds of gull-poos). we passed the island and headed towards skellig michael - our destination - even more impressive, rising into the fog. as we drew closer, i saw a path rising up what was essentially a sheer cliff (albiet covered in grass), and i swore at that moment i would NOT climb that path, because A. i value my life and B. i didn't fancy meeting shelob at the top. however, once on solid land (i felt like i was walking like captain jack!), our path was a lot more sheltered (though not much broader, and almost as steep)... just as we got off the boat (dan and i were the last) we saw two seals - mother and child? - in the water... what can i say? the whole trip was amazing! as we headed up the steep stone-slab stairs, the mist concealed the ocean and the wind whipped the fog past us. the stairs are hundreds of years old - some monks back in the 6th to 9th centuries decided it would be a great place to live (removed from earthly delights etc), and built not only the stairs, but a settlement at the top. and when the clochans came into view, it was eerie - the buildings look like huge beehives made of stone, and the mist made me feel like a space explorer on a strange, deserted planet. we had a talk from some guides, and nosed around, then headed back down. on the way we stopped for the (now clearer) view, and as we ate our lunch, we spotted MORE PUFFINS!!! one of them even flew a few metres away from us!!! on the way back we circled the other side of the first skellig, and there were thousands and thousands of gulls. i have never seen so many birds in one place. and there was a whole group of seals, too! very exciting. dan felt better on the way back, and we sang sea shanties, and 'The Ballad of Young Tom'... excellent! it was the best 70EUR we had ever spent!... ... from there we decided pub lunch was in order, so we went to the pub with the best known view in ireland, and saw that under that declaration came a qualification (FOG PERMITTING). sat for an hour or so, and saw a tiny bit of the famous view, and lots of the famous fog... it was a great day.

SUN07AUG: LOUGHS, FORTS & DREAMS: we drove our roommate (abe, from new york) to his fishing spot on the lough behind waterville, and liking the scenery decided to drive to the end of the road. this hills are very strange - all those layers of rock that look like they've been peeled back like the lid of a sardine tin. we passed lots of sheep, radioactively green grass (this is the colour from which ireland gets the name 'emerald isle', obviously), a little stream or two, colourful boats in little inlets of the lough, and a few little cottages - i decided that one day we'll come back and buy a property, where we will run a tiny cafe (advertised only by a sign on the main road saying CAFE: FRESH SCONES, 1/2 HOUR -> ), attached to a hostel for walkers and travellers... and we'll have our recording studio, and a garden with herbs and chooks! (you can take the girl out of the country, but...). we also drove to steige fort, a stone fort somewhere between 2500 and 1900 years old, and the walls to about 2-3 metres are still standing - in places they are a few metres thick, and have little rooms actually inside the base! that evening we went to the pub to listen to some GENYOOWINE irish music. it was CRAP! there was a good whistle player and a horrible man in beige pants playing a really nice fender guitar badly. he should have stuck to the bingo night entertainment. we went back to the hostel, chatted to the people there, watched as 8 irish navy ships pulled into the bay.

MONDAY08AUG: WATERVILLE-DOOLIN: sadly said our goodbyes to the guys at the hostel, warmed our hands by the turf fire, and began the drive to doolin. after the ring of kerry disappeared (what wasn't hidden by the mist!), the scenery became rather dull. as you travel north up this part of the coast, the towns become bleaker, and the scenery more messy. in the south, the houses and buildings in the towns are painted every shade of blue, purple, yellow, apricot, taupe, red, green that you can imagine, but as you drive north they become less colourful (maybe because there are fewer tourists to please?!). we crossed a ferry and saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water!!! arrived at aille river hostel in doolin after passing many little old men in little old red massey ferguson (and suchlike) tractors - they were so cute! the hostel is lovely - bigger than peter's place, but still very friendly. doolin is known as a bit of a centre for music, so we were looking forward to the pub that night. first, however, we went into the lower village and discovered that none other than LUKA BLOOM was playing there that weekend. had a bit of a crisis - should we stay? should we return? arrr!!! - and had to sit on the stone wall overlooking the river and cliffs to calm down. we saw a great sign in the middle of a paddock, which read 'NOT SAFE FOR BATHING BEYOND THIS POINT'... ye-es... ok! that night we had a decent meal in mcgann's pub, and watched the music (guitar, banjo, accordian) for a while. it was pretty low-key, so we headed to mcdermott's, where the place was ON FIRE (not literally) with an amazing group of musicians playing full-pace (great banjo player, pretty amazing concertina player, bodhran, fiddle, guitar... and a couple of them also sung). great night! we really felt like we were in ireland!!!

alright! in other news, we have booked a car and some accommodation for scotland; esther j has left australia/arrived in europe; london has been sunny and warm, and is now drizzly and crisp... i shall blog more, anon. i hope these blogs aren't too boring and long for you (you'd have thought i'd kissed the blarney stone, the way i'm carrying on!). take care, and keep in contact!

1 comment:

  1. dreaming of seals1:30 am, August 20, 2005

    I dreamt of seals recently...
    I also recently finished reading Marie Darrieussecq's new novel in which seals were being blown up. The book sucked.

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