To the Gap of Dunloe and Beyond!
August 12, 2010
Irish Weather- Cloudy with a 100% chance of rain
Today we got to really experience Irish weather for the first time.
Here, there is (supposed to be) this fine layer of mist that blankets everyone as they go along their way. A light rain is to be expected and people dress anticipating that. Here, layers of clothing, windbreakers, rain jackets and umbrellas come in very handy. But for the majority of our trip, we have somehow managed to escape that. Instead of days of rain, we have had occasional moments of rain. This has been great for us because 1. Everyone gets really cranky when they’re cold and wet and 2. It makes for much prettier photos of the scenery and no ruined digital cameras.
Today though, we experienced the wet and cold factors. Not that I’m complaining, you see.
Bicycling and horseback/cart riding
We started our journey this morning by splitting off into two groups: those who could handle the ups and downs of the mountains paths on bicycles and those willing to venture off into the Gap of Dunloe in horse carts and horseback riding. The horse carts were interesting because most of us had ever been in anything comparable. They were small four-person carts lugged by a single horse. At a couple points, the hill was too steep for the poor horse to cart us up so we got out and walked for a few yards. Lauren and Laura started off on their own horses and we switched a couple times so that me, Emily and Torie got our turns in.
I forgot how painful horseback riding can be! Every time the horse started trotting downhill on the uneven road, I felt like my rib cage was going to shatter into my internal organs. I wasn’t directly doing much physical work but I felt like I’d been running a marathon. But Lauren’s pro horseback riding tips helped me keep balance so despite the soreness, I was thankful not to fall off the horse.
“I’m on a boat!”
The whole ride lasted probably a little over an hour. The cart drivers dropped us off at a little cottage by the lake where we grabbed a bite to eat; most of us had soup and hot chocolate. We met the other half our our group there and when lunch time was up, they headed back the way we came from and we headed out onto a 12-person boat with 11 people, plus the guide. The other guest turned out to be the lead vocalist for a popular tribute band here called the Kill Kennedys. It’s crazy who you meet by just striking up conversations with strangers.
On the boat we covered the span of the three lakes in Killarney National Park. The boat was small but didn’t have the turbulence of the ferries we’ve been on during this trip so no one really got sea sick. But we did get sprayed by the water rushing past the sides of the boat whenever we hit the crests of small waves. The fresh water was refreshing but being on a lake in the mountain means that the air is pretty cold. By the time the ride was done with, we were all human Popsicles and ready to clamor out onto dry land where we all rushed the the bathroom to fight each other for the chance to huddle under the hot air of the hand dryer.
We met our guide, Mike, there to take us to meet the rest of the gang, who were returning their bicycles. Once we were reunited with them, we headed back into the park to explore the Torc waterfall. Since the rainfall has been limited lately, there was not as much water to be seen rushing down the moss and lichen-covered rocks. But it was beautiful nonetheless.
On the water to the waterfall, we encountered a mini-waterfall run-off. Josh and Aubrey dared to venture into the freezing water for a few minutes and came out shivering and covered in goosebumps. I went in to take a closer shot with my camera and slipped on one of the wet, mossy rocks. Thankfully, I’m pretty adept in the Art of Falling as I’m disaster prone so other than a scrape on the knee and a few bruises, I was fine.
After freshening up at the B&B, we headed over Bricins Restaurant for a three-course meal. I chose seafood chowder as my starter, lamb and vege boxty (a traditional Irish potato pancake cooked on the griddle with a choice of fillings) as my entre and apple and blackberry crumble as my dessert. It was spectacularly good. Afterwards, Dr. Rick, Josh, Mike and myself all made little speeches and Dr. Rick gave us all shamrock pins in memory of our trip together.
After dinner, Naomi, Lauren and I headed back to the park for a walk with Dr. Rick in the hopes of seeing the red deer. Aside from seeing them far off in the distance, we didn’t have much luck. But Lauren, known from here on out as the “cow whisperer,” managed to get a Kerry cow to eat grass from her hand. Then we headed over to Husseys to meet Mike, his wife Kate and his bother Dan for some drinks.
Tomorrow, we leave Killarney to explore Cork and Blarney Castle, then back to an airport hotel in Dublin to spend our last night in Ireland together.