Thursday, June 05, 2008

Day Seven- Inis Mor, Dun Aonghasa

We went down to the town of Kilronan and checked our bags in at the Bord Failte, and rented bicycles to ride out to Dun Aonghasa, the stone fort far out on the cliff tops. Bicycle is the best way to see the island; the boys were game. Bren was querying the locals about the wormhole, an ocean phenomenon he read about in one of the guidebooks. I warned them that I could not keep up with them because of my asthma. I figured I'd make my way slowly out to the fort, maybe meet them there, then head back slowly to the village and shop at the Aran Sweater Mill, picking up some excellent knit goods.
They took off and I made my way out to the fort. I parked my bike at the visitor center and paid to go in. There's an excellent exhibit about the fort; I skipped it thinking the boys had been there long before me (plus I had been before) and hiked up the long and steep path to the narrow stone entryway, the only way in. The fort is situated far out on a cliff top, giving excellent protection from raiders and marauder. Because it's so high on the cliff, sentries would be able to observe attackers from afar, and sound an alarm, giving the inhabitants time to scurry back into the fort from their daily activities of farming, fishing, etc. The views are stunning. Not a few crazy tourists climb out onto the cliff to take a photo at yet another angle (see the photos and decide if my sons are among them). I passed beyond the barrier and hiked out some way along the cliff top where the vegetation was different; more flowers among the stones. Then I went back into the fort. The boys met me there, and relayed that Bren's bike chain had come undone, so they fixed it and went to the beach to clean the grease off, and saw me ride by on my way up the hill. We got some photos of each other on the cliffs; I got one of the boys leaving the sole entry way.
We spent a little while in the shops at the fort; I was able to get Kate a replacement knit cap from the very lady from whom she bought her beloved blue set in '01. I bought myself some silver earrings as well. We glided downhill to the tiny village of Kilmurray and did some additional shopping; I got Richie a sweater, and settled on one for myself. I wanted to stay longer but the boys were determined to find the wormhole and equally determined to drag me along. The B&B landlady had given us general directions, augmented by the bike rental guy; the knit shop lady advised me to check the tide from the visitors' center guys, which Brendan did. Basically, we had to head back towards Kilronan but take a right at the crossroads. So we did, and shortly after, the pavement turned to path. It was easier and safer to ride on the grass in the center of the path (see photo above- don't I look like I am having great fun?). The path eventually turned to track; unmanageable by bike. Bren locked the 3 bikes together and we set out on foot. The track eventually led to field upon field, walled with grey stone in neat rows. We headed in the direction we knew the wormhole was located in. After a bit, it was wilder going on the cliff top; it was safer and easier to walk on the long weathered blocks of limestone; stepping off meant sinking anywhere from ankle to knee deep in soft vegetation and peat. We walked quite a long way until we came to the ocean; we followed along the top of the cliff until eventually we did find it. The tide was very low, so we could see the square deep hole in the cliff. It looked like it was cut but according to the Aran Islands website, it's a natural phenomenon. When the tide rises, the waves rush down the deep hole and into the deep cave in the cliffside; it looks like a wormhole in space. We saw it as a pool of deep, dark water, but I could imagine how very dangerous it might be to approach it more closely. Of course, the boys angled in as close as they could. They were so excited, it made their whole day to find it. Once we got our photos, we realized how late it was and headed straight back to the bikes. It took a while to get that far, and then get back to the road. I was utterly spent, and we still had miles to bike to catch our ferry at 5pm. I was so tired, I lost my breath pretty quickly and despite albuterol, I was unable to manage even the slightest incline. So I walked the bike and coasted downhill when I could. Bren stayed with me because I think I scared the crap out of him- he's never seen me so out of breath. We made it back to the bike rental place with nine minutes to spare for the ferry. We ransomed our luggage and made it to the ferry exactly in time. A large group of French schoolchildren joined us on the ferry, so it was noisy and rowdy on the ride back. I felt better after a bottle of water and a chocolate bar.
We got back to Rossaveal and ransomed our car. Dan directed us toward Galway, but we skirted though the city without stopping so we could get close to the Burren, our next destination. Dan thought to take us to Ballyvaughan, but I was pretty spent, and when we drove through Kinvarra and saw a hotel, I pulled in. I had pushed myself about as far as I could for one day. The Merriman Hotel was full of local artwork, very colorful and attractive. Kinvarra was a pretty coastal town, so after checking in and washing up, we roved through looking for a place for dinner. We ended up walking all the way down to the harbor, where we took some nice pictures; my favourite was a group of three curraghs anchored together (a curragh is a boat made of cowhide; lightweight and buoyant, it's used all over the west of Ireland.).
I was so glad we had made the effort to go out to Inis Mor- it was a huge success with the boys and it made me very happy to see how excited they were about it all. It was a great adventure.

Check out the photos from the Aran website to see the wormhole in full glory.

I also like these paintings done by a Canadian artist: search for Gertrude Kearns

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