What an experience!
Our reconnaissance trip a couple of months hence proved to be quite handy. After all, we’d met a remarkable and charismatic woman with a family run bakery in Sneem, who, when we enquired about a passage to Skellig Michael, told us about a man with a boat in Caherdaniel.
And the man with the boat, when we eventually made contact, after driving all over a stunningly scenic Kerry peninsula to find him, told us just to book on his website!
Which we did.
As the weekend approached, the weather was deemed favourable, we booked a hostel to stay in the night before. And the well-prepared Miss O'Connor even purchased two rainproof ponchos with a weather forecast in mind which had also promised rain!
But nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for being a city boy, well, a kid from the suburbs of the big city, on a small 15-seater boat, chugging away just a few miles out to sea off the coast of Kerry, in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rocking from side to side in the midst of big swell after big swell, and holding on with grim determination to the nearest metal bar, whilst wishing to fuck that the captain would hurry on towards our designated arrival point so he could get his feet back on steady land!
Two dogs accompanied us on our voyage. Watson, a black lab, and Luna, a collie cross. If it wasn’t for these guys, I’d have been a lot sicker than I was, since they lifted my spirits in spite of the rock and sway to which I was so patently unaccustomed.
Every now and again, the captain would look back at me, note the discomfort on my face, nod and continue. There was a couple near us, from Italy, another older couple, from America, and a younger English couple, the poor lady constantly sick into a bucket.
Apparently, there had been a third dog in the cabin with John and his mate, a Jack Russell terrier with three legs, but I have to admit, I saw nothing of this little fella.
Before long we happened upon the first of the Skelligs, a huge rock covered in gannets. Fierce looking birds, with scythe-like beaks, white coats and a splash of gold on their crest and nape.
As we approached, and despite the spectacular scenery, I finally got sick. Feeling unwell for most of the outbound journey, I had nonetheless managed not to vomit, but once the boat had slowed down, and the swell of the sea had really kicked in, that all too familiar sensation, of the water rushing towards my gills, signalled the arrival of the contents of my stomach a few moments later. And a couple more times. Overboard!
But never mind.
This was fairly straightforward compared to my earlier struggle!
It had been admittedly hilarious, to find myself challenged by the toilet visit, on this small boat. I had needed to go sooner, but held off for as long as possible, before running for cover and grabbing whatever I could on the way before heading into a tiny hutch which nobody else on the trip had ventured towards.
The awareness of my utterly absurd situation, as I manoeuvred my hands under my poncho, then under my hoodie, trying to keep wet overgarments and damp clothes up and yet pull my dry pants down, so that I could relieve the contents of my bowels, without said contents going anywhere other than in the bowl of the toilet, whilst the boat rocked from side to side, whilst I felt sick, and extremely claustrophobic!
They hadn’t mentioned this on the website!
And even if they had, it was not something I could ever have been prepared for!
I wonder what the other passengers were thinking, as they heard me laughing out loud at the gross absurdity of my situation, as I took my first ever dump out to sea, locked in a small wooden box, making deep, long breaths.
Curiously, as my toilet trip wore on, since I was in no rush once the difficulties of manoeuvring had been performed, the sea-sickness I had been experiencing, abated, as I gathered my thoughts, and controlled my breathing.
It was ludicrous, but that was the situation.
Deal with it. Or as Rosie says, “Suck it up Dad.” Hehe.
Thus after some time, I emerged from the toilet, like a man who had just successfully reached the summit of Everest, with a grim determination that I would overcome my hardship.
Conqueror of the seasick voyage to the tiny toilet hut on the boat!
After all, my backside was now clean, my hands washed, my pants still dry, and my spirits higher than they had been.
Leaving the smaller of the islands in our wake, after a few photo opportunities, we moved on towards the bigger looking island. All sense of time was warped, but we’d apparently been on the boat for about two hours already, and our destination was about another ten minutes away.
What an amazing place to behold.
Landing was easy on a day like today, but we had heard from others that it could be perilous. A mate of mine told me his trip had been spoiled by an aborted landing because the waves had been too high and strong for the boats to get in and tie up without being damaged.
Upon reflection, we were lucky. Although it hadn’t felt like that when I was being sick or trying to go to the toilet! Once we landed, it was quite dangerous and slippy on the rocks, and one of our party nosedived, smashing her knee off the rock. Ouch!
Then we were guided round a pathway and given a health and safety talk, before being allowed to ascend the six hundred or so narrow steps, carved out of stone, and so steep you could only see fog and cloudy mist up above.
Ascending into the fog, it was occasionally treacherous. But nonetheless beautiful.
Following the narrow path of steps hewn among scattered stones and rocks, until we reached the summit, we eventually reached the famous stone huts for which Skellig Michael is known.
After taking the opportunity to pose for some more obligatory photos, listen to a man doing a historical talk, and explore the little area we browsed within, I found myself alone in the largest of the three stone huts.
Then the awareness that I wanted to actually stay. Shoo away the other tourists and remain on the island. Obviously, being a world heritage site, the place was patrolled for rogue visitors looking for spiritual sanctuary. It would not be possible. I wondered how I would survive. How did the monks who lived there, survive? You would get sick of eating fish, for sure. But for now, for the moment, it would suffice to remain here for a few minutes at least. Ah so peaceful …
In this hut.
On Skellig Michael.