Sunny skies at last! Yesterday, after weeks of rain, wind, and choppy seas, the weather finally broke, and I had a gorgeous, calm afternoon to go out to the islands.
Because of my work schedule in the morning, it made the most sense to just do Inisheer, the closest of the three Aran Islands. Mary Jo drove me down to the pier, and, at the last minute, I decided to splurge and add on a sightseeing excursion to the cliffs for the return journey. Ticket in hand, I boarded The Happy Hooker for an afternoon jaunt to the island. It was such a glorious trip out there with the sunlight on my face and wind in my hair (though still cold enough to need my jacket and ear warmers)!
When we arrived at the port in Inisheer, we were greeted by Sandy, the resident dolphin. She was living in Doolin until they began construction on the new pier, and since then has taken up residence off Inisheer. She was having a magnificent time playing in the waves created by the incoming and outgoing passenger ferries, and I loved watching her.
I had several hours to explore the island before the return to Doolin. Upon disembarking we were presented with a couple of options for sightseeing: horse and cart tours, bicycle rentals, or your own two feet. Now, I, being adventurous spirit that I am, and wanting to see as much as possible, opted for the bicycle rental. I forked over the cash and was given a map, a bike, and proceeded down the road on what was probably the most miserable and painful bicycle seat ever designed by man. I kid you not, the old wooden teeter totters at my elementary school were a luxury compared to that stupid seat.
It had also been about 8 years since I was on a bike, so I made a pretty comical image teetering down the road, trying to get used to riding with my camera equipment strapped to my back and my backside already protesting at the underserved abuse it was receiving. I was half tempted to turn around and return the bike and ask for my money back, but my stubbornness (foolishness?) wouldn’t let me.
One of the problems with cycling as a photographer, I discovered, is that every time you want to take a picture, you have to stop, lay the bike down, take the backpack off, take out the camera, take the pictures, put the camera back in the backpack, put the backpack back on, and continue on your way. My camera was too large and the lens way too expensive for me to just ride around with it on my neck. In the end, with all the stopping I had to do, not to mention the hills where I had to walk the bike up, I’m not sure I gained any time by using the bike. But there were occasional stretches of narrow, secluded roads that I could ride freely without worrying about pedestrians, horses, or vehicles, and it was a blast!
The island itself was breathtaking. The sea was an intense blue green, and it literally sparkled in the afternoon sun; small fields were separated by miles and miles of stone walls and fences, and occasionally a horse or cow would peer over, looking for a handout.
The island has several points of interest, including a medieval sunken church in the hilltop cemetery, a rusted out shipwreck on the beach, a lighthouse, and the ancient castle ruins. All that, combined with stunning views of the island landscape, the Ciffs of Moher across the way, and the distant Connemara mountains, made for delightful summer afternoon. By the time I turned my bike in I had just enough time to get fish and chips (sooo delicious) at the chipper near the pier before catching my return boat back to Doolin.
I was thinking that the return trip would detour to the islands, but I was wrong. We went back to Doolin, let off passengers, took on other passengers, and then made the short trip up the coastline to the cliffs. Now, the boat ride to and from the island was relatively smooth and easy, a couple of larger swells, but nothing compared to the choppiness of the last few weeks. Boy, is it a game changer as you approach the cliffs! I quickly learned why the cliff tours only operate in optimum conditions, because even on the nicest of days, it gets rough as you approach the rocky outcroppings. It makes taking pictures difficult when you can’t stand without holding on to something, and even then keeping your feet can be tricky!
I managed to get a few decent shots (and several more lopsided ones), but as we began approaching the large sea stack that houses thousands of nesting seagulls, I was hit with sudden seasickness, and had to go back inside the cabin. I sprawled out dramatically across a row of seats in hopes of keeping my amazingly wonderful lunch where it was supposed to stay. I succeeded, but sadly, no more pictures! I was able to crane my head a bit to see the sea stack through the window. EW!!! It’s much nicer from a distance. Thousands of birds make it pretty disgusting, and as the boat left and other people started to come back inside, I overheard a guy talking about being hit with raining seagull poop, so I figured it was probably just as well that I went inside.
Much to my relief, and to the relief of my fellow passengers I’m sure, I maintained my dignity until we got back to shore. Alas, as incredible as it was to see the cliffs from that angle, I’m not anxious to give it another go. Apparently even dramamine couldn’t hold it’s own against the powerful forces of nature!