Distance cycled: 6km
Number of days it took me to get to Skelligs: 4
Percentage of people sick on my boat: 18%
Lowlight: Overhearing a tourist say 'Oh, it's just more of the same.' When he saw a second 6th century beehive hut on the island.
Highlight: A real seaweed bath followed by home made Tom Yum soup with seaweed.
The best perk about being a solo female bicycle tourist is that people look after you. People like Joe Roddy, the 72 Year old Skelligs Boat captain, ballroom dance champ and first lad to have a surfboard in Ireland. Joe kindly drove me to the marina at Portmagee to catch the boat to Skellig Michael. He's landed there at least 10,000 times during the last 43 years so I asked him what it was like. This is what he told me:
"People ask me to describe Skelligs but it's useless. It's like me trying to explain this beautiful scenery to a blind man. How do you describe what beauty is when that person has never experienced it? You just have to wait, and feel and absorb it and then when people ask you what it's like, you'll struggle to find the words."
Four days of waiting for the weather meant anticipation was high, would I be as impressed with the island after all the hype I'd heard? I needn't have worried because Joe was right. There are no words that do justice to the rugged beauty and wonder of Skellig Michael but I can share some background on the history and human endeavour and persistence that went on there.
The Skellig islands are remote and inhospitable, jutting out of the ocean like razorblades about 16 miles off the west coast of Ireland.
In the 6th century a dozen monks landed there in small leather boats, carved a staircase out of solid rock and built beehive huts, walls and terraces with the one thing there was truckloads of… stone. It was the end of the earth as they knew it, sitting at the most westerly point before America and a true test of a young monk's stamina. The chosen few arrived at 17 years of age and life expectancy was only 40. You needed a trade or skill to win a place on the island because the monks needed to be self sufficient, sometimes unable to return to the mainland for months at a time. Kind of like an ancient, religious version of Survivor, but this was for life. We struck gold and had a smashing day of weather but the 600 steps up to the summit would have been one hell of a trek in the rain and wind that Ireland is renowned for.
Our three hours on the island went by in a flash and I was tempted to stow away for the evening, to soak up the vibrational bliss that seems to echo and bounce of every rock face. I learnt about Saint Michael, protector saint of high places and standing at nearly 6 foot myself, I wondered if I could recruit him as a guardian for my onward travels.
For the last hour I sat on a rock and watched. I happened to have a packet of popcorn in my bag and I felt like I was at an outdoor cinema. Kernel by kernel I devoured the popcorn and the scenery, mesmerised by the extremities of my surroundings and playing a 'monkbuster' action movie in my mind.
Joe shared another story on our return trip to Cahersiveen, about the great love he found late in life and the joy it brings. I'm always surprised at the things people share with me along the way. I then cycled to Ciaran the Couchsurfer's house at Renard Point and for the next few hours played with his kids and their never ending ring of cousins. I escaped the madness for half an hour by having a long soak in a skin-nourishing and purifying seaweed bath. Ciaran collects the seaweed from the ocean at the bottom of his yard, dries it out, rinses it and then throws it into a hot bath. The heat releases all the nourishing oils which you rub on your skin and the texture of the seaweed works as an exfoliator at the same time.
Continuing the seaweed theme we had Tom Yum soup with seaweed spaghetti and then a tasty invention of peach curry, the peaches picked fresh off the tree that day. For dessert the girls whipped up loads of pancakes which we decadently filled with delicious Rolo icecream.
This evening I'm catching a ferry from Valentia Island to Dingle and tomorrow I'll either be learning the tin whistle or swimming with a dolphin.
If you want to see more photos from today's pick-a-path adventure click here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150251834641580.326762.683496579#!/photo.php?fbid=10150255450951580&set=a.10150251834641580.326762.683496579&type=1&theater