Spontaneous on the Skelligs

27 Oct

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 Traveling alone without my parents throughout Europe was a scary thought just a few months ago; I had never went on any trips without them. Since arriving to Dublin, I have gained a sense of independence that cannot be taught, only naturally achieved. After feeling comfortable here in Ireland, my home away from home, I thought I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity that came about. While walking through the hallway of my dorm,Nicolette, my neighbor and fellow classmate, randomly asked if I had wanted to go to Skellig Michael with her. It was a Wednesday afternoon and I had just finished class. I had homework due the next day and I was quite tired. The weather was chilly and lightly drizzling. I had no idea where it was and only heard about it briefly in my Irish Life and Cultures class. I also didn’t even have a phone at the time. Immediately I answered yes, “I would love to go”. This rash decision was one of the craziest and spontaneous adventures that I had been on in my lifetime so far, and I am so glad that I had agreed on going.

            Ben, Nicolette, and I quickly grabbed a backpack and threw in a change of clothes and a toothbrush, grabbed a jacket, and left Griffith Halls of Residence. We had only a rough idea where we were going. Not even sure if trains left to Killarney at a convenient time, we got a cab to the train station. Luckily there was a train that left 20 minutes once arriving at the station, we each got tickets at a student rate and scrambled to find the train. Once riding the train for ten minutes we finally  realized that it was completely dark outside, we were unsure how to switch to the second train, where we would stay the night, how we would get to Port Magee in the morning, and if boats were even running the next day to Skellig Michael! At first all of the unknowns scared me, I thought I was going to be completely lost, I was prepared to sleep on the ground in the middle of nowhere, and was skeptical if I was ever going to make it. Since I never traveled by myself without my parents, this was a very new experience for me.

            Once finding the second train from Malow to Killarney Nicolette found a hostel on the train we could stay at and she booked for one night. Arriving in Killarney, a quaint and beautiful town on the western end of Ireland, we walked through the lit up streets around many busy restaurants and pubs in the city center. We asked a cab driver how to get to the hostel, and he said, “Take a right turn over here, then a left, then a right, then another left”. It was very funny how vague he was; it has been an ongoing trend of many Irish people when asking for directions, but oddly enough we found the hostel without any problems!

            The next morning we called for a taxi that drove us three from Killarney to Port Magee, which by great luck the boats were running. The cab driver drove through open fields alongside the few mountain ranges in Ireland. It didn’t seem very large to me since I live in California, but it was very different than the usual landscape. The very few pine trees along the drive stood out to me because they were so unusual in the typical context of Ireland’s land. We passed through a town called Killorglin in County Kerry, where the Puck Fair took place. The cab driver explain that his festival has been going on since 1603 and people try to catch a goat in the mountains and bring it back to name it “King Puck”. He explained that people took this festival very seriously and many people even from outside the town came to gather especially for the occasion.

            The drive into Port Magee was absolutely beautiful. We drove alongside a windy road above the bay coming in from the North Atlantic Ocean. The views were stunning of the Irish countryside next to the clear water down below. At the quiet port town there was not even an ATM, just a couple of restaurants and convenient stores. The fresh smell of the sea excited all of us to finally be able to go to the island. The boat we took was extremely small and only had a total of nine passengers. My excitement slowly moved to anxiety as we got further out into the middle of the ocean. The boat was rocking alongside the unbearable swells of the ocean, and it was constantly splashing everyone onboard. After only 30 minutes of the hour long ride I was ready to be on dry land once more. The only comfort was the wild dolphins that swam alongside the boat every so often. By the time we reached Skellig Michael the waves were extremely choppy, the wind was raging back and forth, and my desire for adventure was as strong as ever.

            No feeling was greater than standing on top of the large mountain at Skellig Michael. I knew that I had made it there on my own, even on such short notice. The views were breathtaking and I feel that a picture won’t even do it justice. The day was absolutely perfect; the sun was shining high in the sky, the wind was minimal, and the horizon line was completely visible. I could not have asked for better conditions while traveling up the 600 stone steps leading towards an ancient monk monastery. Everything about the island interested me. I wondered how people had first gotten all the way out to the island without a motored boat that I took, how they survived for hundreds of years on, and how they fit through the low doorways into the small huts! The amount of self-sufficiency the monks had was extremely impressive; they lived and prospered on a completely deserted island and were able to pray in peace. Once leaving the island and traveling on the boat back to the port I finally was able to realize the great discovery I had made that day; I had not only seen an extraordinary ancient excavated site, but I had done so independently in a way that expanded my global perspective.

            Getting back to Dublin had not been any problems. The 24-hour trip seemed so long, yet when I got back I had realized that I didn’t actually miss very much. I am so glad I was able to see this ancient site because it is unknown how much longer people will be able to go there depending on the roughness of the seas and the preservation of the monastery. This trip will not be forgotten during my studies here, and it was a great way to see Irish life throughout this beautiful country.

Erica Nesses

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