Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ireland - Part 4: The Skelligs

Well, I have to admit that the trip out to the Skellig Islands (the larger of which, Skellig Michael, is home to the monastery that we wanted to climb up to) was quite an adventure. We showed up on Friday morning at Port Magee hoping for the best, in terms of sea conditions, since the Skelligs are about 10 miles out and the ocean out there has the potential to be very choppy, even in more ideal situations. Friday morning was also rainy, which didn't help the situation. I did manage to take one short video of us when we had gotten on the boat, and had wanted to take a few more, but I didn't want to test the waterproof status of my camera:

We (Mom, Dad, and I) crawled over two other smallish boats to get to the boat that would take us out there; there couldn't have been more than a dozen passengers on each boat. We were all given rain pants to put on, but they weren't that great; the pair I was lent didn't fit; Mom's weren't waterproof. By the end of the afternoon we were all pretty much soaked through.

The boat trip took about 45 minutes, and the ocean got choppier the closer we got to Big Skellig (Skellig Michael). There were steps that had been carved into the side it, but one had to wait for the proper conditions to clamor over the boat and onto the steps, which were somewhat narrow. (The boat's captain had tied the boat to something-or-other that was protruding from the steps, but didn't actually knot the rope; he was essentially holding the boat as close to the steps as he could; between the rough waters one had to wait a minute or two until the boat was steady enough.) The walk up started easy enough, and there was a little shelter under which one could wait (and which is where I hung out for the duration), but by this time it was raining pretty steadily, and everything was thoroughly wet. I knew that it was a strenuous walk up to the top of Skellig Michael, that we didn't have much time to explore, and I couldn't envision possible safety measures at the top, so I decided to just admire the view of Little Skellig, the scenery. and bond with the several hundred puffins that stick around, while Mom and Dad made it all the way to the top - no small feat, considering there are just over 600 steps; no hand railing; and apparently the steps are sandwiched between a wall and a nothing. (Mom said she had actually gone down some of the steps sitting down, and was glad she did; another tourist slipped on the steps, which were slippery, and fell on her; had she not been sitting down, they both very well might have fallen off the cliff.) And by the time Mom and Dad got up there, they only had about 10 minutes before having to come back down. As it was we all just barely made the boat.

The boat ride back was really an adventure. As I was waiting for Mom and Dad to come back down, I was peering down at the three boats that had deposited tourists, and I noticed that they (the boats) were all bobbing like corkscrews. (I truly never appreciated that imagery until that moment.) Getting back on the boat from those slippery, stone steps was even more of a challenge, and it was at the moment I ceased caring about personal space and just used several other tourists as a means to balance myself as a I found a seat. Mom and I decided to just sit on the floor of the boat and hold on to the side, which was a wise move, I think; more than a few waves came over the side and doused us pretty well before the boat's captain shuffled us off to the other side of it.

We stopped for a few minutes to take a look at Little Skellig, which serves as a nature preserve; boats aren't allowed to dock there, and it serves as a gannet colony. Truly, Little Skellig is absolutely covered in gannets; there are so many that it looks snow capped. (I took a picture for reference.)

We were all glad to get out of the boat, though. We had to drive back to Arigna still, and we didn't get home until about 11:15 p.m. that night, all of us exhausted. We spent all of Saturday recovering, Mom and Dad especially, since they were wiped out from all the climbing (after which Mom drove all the way back herself). It was most definitely worthwhile going to the Skelligs, and I was very disappointed that I didn't get to climb to the top, but I didn't trust my (lack of a) sense of balance with the weather as it was. This was a total judgement call - I observed various other people also deciding not to climb to the top - but I'm doubtful I'd ever go back. The sea was just too unpredictable and too rough for me to chance that again.

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