Killarney National Park, Round 3

We took the long way around, driving through a large portion of the park before we actually got to the main area. We were, of course, going back to Muckross House and Ross Castle, as they are the biggest “things” in the park. As we drove, our guide popped in a video of The High Kings so we could listen to some Irishy music and vaguely sing along. Most of the people didn’t care to, or didn’t know the songs.

Unfortunately for them, some of us obsessively spent every spare penny buying Celtic albums in high school and know them all but heart, upside down, and sideways. The only reason we didn’t stomp along was because we liked this bus driver, and we wanted him to like us too, even if this was the last day he had to put up with us. I mean, he had put up with us getting lost, walking home, falling down things, and demanding shopping excursions, so he kind of deserved for us to be halfway decent on our last day.

We got to the park fairly late, so after pointing MK in the direction of the absolute must-sees, I trotted off to catch the half-hourly bus into town. I would have walked, but as is normal with Irish country roads, it was rather narrow. Unlike most country roads, this particular one was also very busy, and I didn’t want to run the risk of getting hit. The driver was kind enough to tell me which stop would be closest to the train station, and gave me directions when I got off.

The train station was quite small, surprisingly enough. I had somewhat assumed that, since so many people visited the Ring of Kerry, the station would be larger, but I was wrong. Apparently most people come in on buses (in fact, so many buses go through the Ring of Kerry that there is actually a regulation of which way buses may go around the Ring, so after certain points, buses cannot backtrack–that was part of the reason why it was such a big deal that we got left behind).

I settled in at the station, and began sorting through my things. The train ride from Cork to Dublin is two to three hours, depending on which one you catch, and this station was past the Cork station, although I would not be going through Cork to get to Dublin (Cork is too far south). Now for a last day with my family before they left–permanently.

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In Which Everyone Forgets Us

After my cliffside adventure, it was probably a good thing that this particular trip is drawing to a close. I knew from the very beginning that I would have to leave the trip early if I wanted to see my parents again before they set off for the grand old US of A, and fortunately, that just meant skipping out on visiting Killarney National Park (because I haven’t gone there enough in the last few months). Unfortunately, it also meant I would be skipping out on visiting Killarney National Park, which is one of my favorite places to visit.

But, before we headed out to the park, we would have to leave Cahersiveen, which had been such a nice little home away from home for us. It actually did not take us long to pack–both MK and I are the sort of person who could live for a decent amount of time out of a backpack–, so we spent a good portion of our packing time just sitting around talking and listening to music. This apparently was our downfall.

We had originally gone downstairs to get some breakfast, and everyone was supposed to gather around nine to get on the bus and leave. When we went down at eight, there was absolutely no one around. So we ate breakfast, went across to the convenience store, wandered around, bought snacks, came back, and found that there STILL was no one ready to go. Since there still was about forty five minutes until we were supposed to depart, and it was a bit cold downstairs, we went back up to our room.

And somehow, while we were up there, everyone materialized, got on the bus, and then decided everyone was present, and thus chose to leave early. When we came down at the proper time, not a person was in sight, and we were informed they had left about ten or fifteen minutes prior. The hostess was kind enough to give them a ring and tell them to come back and get us.

Now. A few words about everyone else. Because, well, they abandoned us, so I can self righteously make comments about all y’all.

First off, our guide had a system where, instead of counting people, she simply asked everyone if the person they were rooming with at the moment was present. In general, this works great–except when there are two people missing and they both happen to be from the same room. But this should not have been a problem since, as I was aware of this system and as I knew I would be ditching the crowd to go off on my own adventure, I had asked several of my friends and several of MK’s friends to check and make sure she was with the group every time they got on the bus.

Some friends they were.

Sam later told me that, when our guide got the call that we had been left behind, she had apparently turned to the bus and asked “Why didn’t any of you tell me we were missing someone? I had you all check for your roommate!” to which apparently the entire bus said “But, they were rooming together!” So apparently more than one person noticed we weren’t there, but chose not to say anything because neither of us said anything, which, as I pointed out, doesn’t make sense. If neither of us are there, of course we aren’t going to be able to point out that neither of us are there. I told Sam I wasn’t sure I trusted her with MK any more. She just looked at me and went, “well, I was thinking maybe the two of you caught a train out from here, and she went to Dublin with you.”

I had to remind her I couldn’t get on the train until I got to Killarney.

I hope they won’t forget MK at Killarney. Fortunately, if they do, she can take a train from Killarney to Cork. She’ll have to transfer, but, it’s doable. Hopefully this time, Sam won’t assume MK randomly decided to go to Dublin with me.

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Picture Review XII

This gallery contains 11 photos.

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In Which I Fall Off A Cliff

Mom, you probably don’t want to read this post, so I suggest you not. I’m fine, I swear. Well, mostly fine. Just a little sore. Ok, a lot sore. And my pants ripped. I really liked this pair. But I didn’t drop my phone in the ocean and my leather jacket is fine, so, we’re good.

Okay, so, to start from the beginning. That’s a little hard because, well, I’m not exactly sure where to start with this story. I guess I could start with the fact that we visited Geoghan Mountain and Fogher Cliffs today, back out on Valentia Island. This area has lots of really neat rock formations, and also lots of rocky cliffs. We started by hiking up to the top of the cliffs, which was probably close to a mile walk. While most of the group wanted to go to the very tippy top, we turned off onto one of the earlier trails, mainly because no one was going down it, and at this point, we’re fairly sure that we like hanging out with each other. While we were going along, there were a variety of signs posted with various tidbits about folklore on one side, and a fence to keep the sheep from wandering onto the cliff trails on the other. Then we reached what appeared to be the end of the trail.

This is probably where the trouble started. You see, the Irish put up lots of ridiculously low fences, which are meant to be hopped over. My Irish friends have taught me that these basically serve as “proceed at your own risk” signs. Everyone goes past them, but if you do something stupid, it isn’t the fault of whoever owns the property, it’s yours, so nobody sues about it. These fences were slightly different. They were taller tan the normal little things that you find elsewhere, but they weren’t actual fences. They kinda looked like something to keep the sheep from wandering too far, and we’d been told not to worry about the sheep fences. So, like any two non trouble maker girls, we hopped the fence and began taking pictures.

Yeah, so, apparently that was an actual people fence. Also, as was very stupid of me, since I grew up in the country, I kind of forgot about this marvelous thing called “dew”, which tends to make early morning grass slippery. So I took a bit of a tumble.

Fortunately, my feet went out from under me, and I fell a bit vertically and not in a tumbly pattern. If I had been in a head over heels tumble, I probably wouldn’t have been able to catch myself, and I would have fallen all the way down to the rather uninviting Atlantic Ocean. As it was, I fell a good ways. I’m actually not quite sure how far I fell. It might have been twelve feet. It might have been twenty. It might have been a hundred. It kinda felt like a thousand.

The cliff wasn’t sheer, which worked to my advantage–I managed to catch myself on a small outcropping, which, while also grassy and dew soaked, had enough dirt on it that the treads of my boots caught, my hands caught a couple handfuls of grass, and my butt made a nice imprint in the the mud peeking out around the rocks. There was enough room that I was able to turn and, still partially seated, wedge myself between the rocks at a good enough angle to yell back and forth with MK, who was now on her hands and knees up above me. Being of my generation, my main concern was that my phone would not land in the ocean, which somehow equated to me tossing my phone up to her (thank God she’s a good catch), which she safely stowed with her things on the other side of the fence.

Now, to get me up.

Before I left the states, one of my friends had insisted that I go rock climbing with her every Friday. Since my home university had a rock climbing wall at the gym, and we both had automatic membership to the gym, I had agreed. I have never been more thankful for that stupid rock climbing wall than that exact moment, because that wall taught me two important things: 1) footholds can work as handholds, but handholds don’t work as footholds, and 2) it’s always better to push with your legs than it is to pull with your arms.

I’ve never climbed a dewy rock wall before, however, so competing with dew was new. I’m glad MK was there, because I was about exhausted when I got close to the top, and she literally pulled me up the last bit of the way. Then we both sat there, our legs dangling over the edge, dumbfounded. Eventually one of us decided we should start heading back before someone started looking for us. We also agreed not to tell our tour guide or Mary about what happened.

On our walk down the mountain, we found that one of the rocks looks like Pride Rock from The Lion King. If I had a stuffed animal of any sort, I would have insisted on taking the iconic shot where Rafiki holds Simba up for the entire animal kingdom to see. But, given my track record for that morning, if I were Rafiki, I probably would have dropped Simba, and the new king of beasts would have gone splat.

At least Simba probably wasn’t covered in morning dew.

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In Which We Visit A Church, Light A Candle, And Go Shopping

So, after we visited Ballinskelligs Castle and opted to take the bus back, instead of walking, we actually had quite a lot of free time. Since we’re lazy girls, and two of the few people who decided to take the bus, we asked the bus driver if he would drop us off in Cahersiveen proper, so we could do a little sightseeing and shopping (because what girl doesn’t like shopping?). He kindly dropped us off at the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church. Daniel O’Connell was quite an impressive man, and made quite a major contribution to Irish history. He was, strangely enough for his time, a staunch pacifist– he believed that violence should never be the conduit for change, and only joined the militia when he found that there was no acceptable excuse for him not to. Still, he opposed violence, and was a very skilled barrister. His most major accomplishment perhaps was the work he did campaigning for Catholic emancipation. There is little wonder, then, that a church would be named after him, especially in the town of his birth–he was born in Cahersiveen in 1775.

We went over to the church because, well, first of all, it’s pretty, and second of all, it seemed appropriate to stop in and say a prayer. For those of you not familiar with Catholicism, most churches have an area where there is a table with graduating steps, where people light candles and say a prayer. Some places you bring your own candles, and others, you leave a donation and take one of the already provided candles. In many of the Irish churches, these are dedicated for prayers of peace around the world, often citing Psalm 122, which encourages the reader to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and continues on with what is often used as a more general prayer or blessing: May there be peace within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. The psalm ends with an admonition to, because of the Lord, seek “thy” good. I’m sure the author probably meant Jerusalem, but between Jerusalem and that particular thy, there’s a few mentions of people in general and brethren and companions, so I like to think of it as a more general thy, as in everybody else’s. I quite like the psalm, and I often leave a donation and light a candle, because while lighting a candle does absolutely nothing for world peace, I think the moment of introspection that occurs while you’re thinking about the fact that lighting a candle won’t change the world does something for you, and it makes you think a little bit about how you might change the world.

So I lit one. MK was with me, and, although she is not religious at all, she chose to light one too, and we both stood there, thinking, hopefully about peace. I kind of had “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” stuck in my head. I don’t know why.

We eventually left, and quietly wandered down the street and in and out of a variety of shops. One of the nice things about MK is she understands that sometimes being quiet is okay, and you don’t have to rush to try to fill the space. We stopped at a shop that had items made by a lot of local artisans, all of which was beautifully done. Unfortunately, most of it was far too large and expensive for either of us to consider buying. I did find a small flower brooch, and I bought it for one of my surrogate grandmothers (all of my grandparents have passed away, but one of my childhood friends’ grandmother kind of adopted me when I was a kid, so I still think of her as an extra grandma). I know Christmas is quite a long way away, but if I do my shopping slowly, there’s a better chance I’ll be able to fit it all in my suitcases to get it home. We also stopped in at a healthy food store because they had post cards, and I ended up finding some stinging nettle there, already dried. I went ahead and bought it, since I had none at the apartment, and this was easier than randomly trying to harvest it at a stone fort.

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In Which We Visit A Haunted Castle

There is a legend that McCarthy Castle is haunted, and that the ghost particularly likes blondes. I am not blonde, MK isn’t particularly blonde, and we didn’t know any blondes on this trip. In fact, I’ve never found a record of McCarthy Castle being haunted, I’ve just heard the rumor. So who knows if it is haunted or not. Either way, it isn’t actually a castle, people just call it that–it’s actually a tower house, and it often goes by the name McCarthy Mór Castle or Ballinskelligs Castle, since it is located on Ballinskelligs Beach. The beach is quite pretty, both sandy and rocky, but rocky with the nice smooth stones that are like big pebbles, not the craggy sharp rocks that you find elsewhere (like, say, the California coast).

The tower house itself is not that big, and it is missing quite a lot of its walls, all of its roof, and quite a lot of the second floor. There are random piles of stone throughout, and our tour guide was quite worried that someone might fall off of it. Being the absolute rebels we are, we went ahead and hopped up approximately eighteen inches to stand in one of the delightfully broken down places so we could take pictures of each other against the ruins. Really, Ireland has so many beautiful ruins to take pictures in. One could have so much fun just planning otherworldly photoshoots.

Speaking of otherworldly, the ghost never showed up, despite the fact that there were a couple particularly annoying blondes who could have done with a good scare. MK and I considered walking back to Cahersiveen instead of taking the bus, but no one knew how many kilometers is was back to town, and the majority of the party seemed divided between thinking we were three miles away from town and eighteen miles away from town. Just in case you aren’t familiar with walking distances, three to four miles is about how much you can do in an hour, at a good walk. Eighteen miles is something that only seasoned hikers should attempt in a day, and I’m not aware of that many that would be up for it when it includes hills. At the time of this discussion, it was about three in the afternoon.

MK and I decided to take the bus. An hours walk? not a big deal. A six or seven hour walk with no water bottles or snacks? Yeah, no. We’ll take the bus.

A lot of people decided to walk.

It was around eight when they got back, hungry, sweaty, and tired. And dinner was pretty much over. Apparently none of them had much prior hiking experience, which makes me wonder how sore they’ll be tomorrow.

I think we’re due to visit some cliffs tomorrow, and if I remember correctly, they’re up a hill that the bus can’t make it up.


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Picture Review XI

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Gallery | 2 Comments