Monday, August 15, 2011

Trip to Ireland

The Emerald Isle.

Hiking along the shore of Dun Laoghaire by the homes of Bono and the Edge from U2, I understood how U2 could write lyrics to songs like "Beautiful Day." Feeling the strong breeze on my face and rocks under my feet, smelling grass, trees and flowers and watching the sunshine beat down through the trees, I felt so alive. Miraculously, the higher I hiked, the stronger I felt. I think the views empowered me.

Although the activities we took part in were strenuous, I did not feel tired. I only felt more awake, more ready to take on...anything? While boating, I could not be angry at our friends for tilting their boat to splash us with the freezing saltwater. I could only laugh, and lift up my head to the sun, asking for the rays to dry me. When we walked for miles, well, kilometers there, without proper shoes, I could not complain. I could only smile at the blisters I received later because they reminded me of the hike. Trekking up Devil's Bit Mountain was worth every moment for the views, and the experience. I found a sense of accomplishment in pushing my level of endurance. It was exciting to find a rock to latch on to in order to pull myself up. At the top, several counties throughout Ireland were visible. The land was broken up by different colored farming plots, not highways or urban sprawl. I would have liked to sit at the top under the cross and stare out at the mountains and farms that seemed to go on forever.

In the Burren, you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. But really, you're in north west County Clare by Galaway Bay. The region has a "karst" landscape, which involves lots and lots of limestone rocks. When we hiked out to our activity sites, we would have to be careful to avoid cracks. One day, we went hill-walking, which was challenging not because of the elevation or anything, but because of the tricky terrain. When we were about 3/4 up the hill, we stopped to look at the county lines. The two counties were divided by a stack of rocks, rocks that we were sitting on. When we reached the top, the typical green Irish landscape was complimented by gray from the limestone. A day later, we rock climbed! I was so excited to be scaling up the side of an actual mountain, not gripping onto molds on a wall in the mall. It was thrilling, and extremely rewarding, to reach the top. The next morning in the cave, we squeezed between the walls, climbed down little waterfalls, and balanced on the slippery rocks to avoid deep water. Towards the end, our guide asked us if we would like to take a more difficult route. carpe diem right? I volunteered. I hiked myself up onto a ledge, pushed off the wall, and slowly slid on my stomach, with my caving helmet hitting the top. I pushed through, and turned around to climb out into the open, and followed our group back out into the forest.

I made blisters and scratches that will last a week, but the sense of accomplishment will last much longer. Rock climbing, caving, or hiking, may not sound fulfilling to some. But for me, the entire Irish experience gave me another layer that I hope to explore again soon.

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