I Love Other Peoples Vacations – Dingle!!
The challenge of “living” on vacation, – as it could be said that we do, is the difficulty in maintaining balance. At first it really is a vacation but soon one discovers that sampling ice cream and pasty at every shop as one tends to do on vacation is not sustainable. Additionally there are other considerations such as paying bills, buying groceries and preparing meals of course but on our boat we have the very real and added responsibility of home schooling. While some cruisers are maintaining a work schedule and certainly that is more difficult than what we are doing, we have to maintain a consistent discipline if we are to keep from gaining 20 lbs or failing to prepare Jack for his future. As we work to maintain some semblance of a schedule (exercise most days, no dessert unless the weekend, school everyday from 8:30-12:00) when friends come to town, the whole thing goes straight out the window! Such was the case last week with Janie’s visit. And with her visit came the very full week that follows.
Before I get to it, I have to give a giant shout out to Dermott O’Sullivan, owner of O’Sullivans pub in Crookhaven, Ireland. While traveling between Kinsale and Dingle we decided at rather the last minute to anchor out in Crookhaven. I had read that Mizen head is a stop not to be missed and a recommendation by Tina Jones (Ocean Pearl) together with a quick calculation of time/speed/distance and we learned that it really was convenient. Upon arrival we took the dinghy into town (with winds blowing 20-30 knots and outside temperature about 55 and water temp. 60) to check it out . It was adorable and tiny! Year round occupancy at 45 people and containing exactly 2 pubs and 1 small store, we thought that the entire town must be in O’Sullivans. The menu was very simple with basic sandwiches and soup. There was 1 hot entree offered, roasted vegetable quiche sort of thing which was delicious and Jack and Alec were both very happy with their choices. At the conclusion of our meal, Alec asked the gentlemen attending to us how one might go about getting a car or taxi to Mizen head. Dermott chuckled saying “there are no cars or taxis Mate – we have 45 residents who live here. Take my car, It’s summer and I ride my bike everywhere!” So the next morning, we arrived ready for whatever the day may bring -and Dermott was right there, keys in hand, with instructions not to miss 3 Castles which is at the tip of the next peninsula beyond Mizen head. He again assured us that he wouldn’t need the car all day and “Have fun”. Preparing to back out of the space Alec looked back and discovered that Dermott’s dog was still back there- not in the back seat but the hatch area. After a very long laugh, I returned to the pub to ask Dermott if he wanted us to walk his dog? We all had a good laugh and a very apologetic Dermott asked his loving companion’s forgiveness and we were off. We really did love our day spent in Crookhaven. The visit to Mizen head was as interesting as it was reported to be and 3 Castles was great also. We discovered also that Crookhaven is the site of the first Marconi radio transmission from Europe to North America so there was a lovely opportunity at education as well. All of this wouldn’t have happened without the once again kindness of strangers. Those of you who read the blog last summer will remember that on at least 2 occasions someone had just handed us the keys to their car. We have been offered meals, directions, cars, cocktails, and incredibly generous and constant gestures of kindness. Not a day passes that we don’t feel in some way the beneficiary of this amazing benevolent kindness that seems to follow us. We said “so long” to Dermott and his girlfriend and enjoyed another meal at O’Sullivans and we were on our way. I have a little locker on board which houses small gifts for just this purpose. We arrived a gift in hand and we would have filled up the gas tank had we seen one. Some Euros left behind in the ash tray served this purpose and was a simple and nice way to say thank you. I also had some simple notecards with our boat name made up before we left. Im always grateful to be able to reach in and grab these ready to go gifts and notecards.
Following in the gentle wake left behind by other cruisers is perhaps the nicest aspect of this type of travel and Jennifer and James Hamilton and Braun and Tina Jones have clearly left behind wonderful impressions. Since we have arrived only a month ago, we have been approached by 2 different people who met the Hamiltons 2 years ago when they passed through. The tone of the meetings indicates the wake they left behind and new friends who want to offer every help and consideration. Last year we followed in the Ocean Pearl steps and received every courtesy due to their connection. It is a conscious effort and indeed a pleasure to be sure that we are the same stewards of this good will. Arriving in Dingle involved making new friends including Nole, grandfather to 16 children and 5 grown adult children, he has a boat in the same marina Gratitude spent her time. Nole not only took us step by step through the stops going forward but he also took us on a 3 hour narrated ride through Slea Head route showing us more than we could have ever dreamed from even the most experienced tour guide. Refusing all offers to join us for dinner, we were only able to share a small gift for his kindness as well.
Ok so back to Janie! Before she got here it rained, rained rained. Not a bad thing since we like to clean and organize and do as much as possible so that when company arrives we can play play play. Well the moment she boarded a plane in Orlando, our skies here in Dingle cleared and it was sunny the whole time she was here. The greatest concern that I had was the trip to Skellig Michael which is highly dependent on calm weather. The previous week involved the cancellation of all tours for at least 3 days due to the precarious landing site and open ocean crossing to get to the island. The poor souls who had booked tickets several months ago are simply refunded the money and out of luck for visiting Skellig. In fact, several weeks ago I started trying to get a ticket for Janie to join us but no luck – she was able to get on a boat to see the island but she couldn’t get a landing ticket 😦 This is the good and the bad news for this incredible place. Speaking personally, its only good news. The very wise powers that be in Ireland limit the number of visitors by permit. On any one day no more than 180 humans may land on the island. On average, weather prohibits the landing of boats 2X per week so this further limits the impact. There are roughly 10,000 nesting Puffins who are in residence between the months of April and July. At any time now, they will all take flight and go to Canada until they return here to the EXACT same nest next April. They don’t nest in cliffs as many other sea bird species but rather they burrow in land, so humans could inadvertently step on a nest if they were to wander from the path. Further, a low weight baby Puffin would be unable to make the trip to Canada when the group leaves. This is such a fragile and important spot that it has been designated a UNESCO Heritage site. It is one of the most amazing sites I have ever experienced and if I had a larger readership I would probably omit talking about it at all for fear of any further exposure. By comparison, when I visited Machu Picchu in the mid 1990’s there were roughly 200,000 visitors per year. In 2013 there were 1.2 million tourists. There was a 700% increase in the annual number of visitors between 1980-2013 (according to machupicchutrek.net) If one has been there, you know how fragile and precious this sacred place is. My feeling then during that Machu Picchu trip was exactly the same as my feeling last week visiting Skellig Michael. Sacred is not too strong a word. Leaving by boat and making a slow trip around Little Skellig (pictured below with a lot of white – both birds and guano) and after having witnessed this amazing place, I was moved to tears in the same way I am moved by music or great art. It was as though I was in the presence of the most holy and divine here on earth. I was touched and moved very deeply. What a gift being able to see this place was. The only birds on Little Skellig are Gannets. Little Skellig plays host to a colony of over 70,000 of the species, the 2nd largest colony in the world. The Gannets will stay until the beginning of September when they will return to North Africa for the winter.
So what makes this so special apart from the ecological standpoint is that this was previously a home and monastery for Christian monks between 600 AD and 800 AD. The monks typically arose with the sun and spent their days building these magnificent beehive like structures in which they lived, worshipped and ate and are still standing today nearly 1400 years later. These monks suffered at the hands of vikings as well as a very difficult life of self sacrifice and later eventually left the island to live amongst their orders on the mainland. There are 2 lighthouses which have been in service with a keeper until I think the 1930’s but now they are automatic electric and the island is now in service to education and the tours that are operated in which we participated.
Clearly that was the highlight of the week but other fantastic experiences for all of us included: A trip to Kingdom Falconry here in Dingle. In residence are multiple Owls, Falcons and Eagles.
We spent a day in Tralee, the capital city of Kerry County and we spent a day riding bikes at Killarney state park where we saw deer and a Franciscan Friary from the 16th century.
I love this quote!!!
And finally we enjoyed several talks, meals and experiences with a dear dear friend who came to spend her time off with us. Thank you Janie xo It was so wonderful spending time together. We love you.
So…. whats next. Well, I hate to say it but all of this fun has left us bereft of time… again. We have decided that though we had planned to visit Scotland and even traverse the Caledonia Canal, it is all going to have to wait. We have more friends joining us in London on the first week of September (can’t wait to see you Tracy and Jennifer!) and with tickets bought and reservations made, we just have to admit defeat and head in that direction. Leaving at the next weather window opening will hopefully get us close enough to make it without rushing and also allow us to enjoy (weather permitting) the Scilly Islands and some of the Southern English coast that we were thinking we might have to rush past on our way South. One of these days Im going to get the hang of this cruising thing 🙂 I just get to a place and find it so lovely it is hard to imagine liking any place more! The reservation awaiting us in London is at St. Katharines Dock located in the heart of London right at the Tower of London on the Thames. It simply doesn’t get any better than this! Thank you Braun and Tina for prodding us into making this reservation way back when! We can’t wait and we have been reading up on what to do for the month we are in residence! We have tickets in hand to see Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (for the girls coming to celebrate my birthday) and plan to purchase tickets for the Lion King to bring Jack. Other than that, Im open to suggestions!!!!
Thanks for reading and sending lots of love