These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
The prior weekend was the first long excursion weekend of my study abroad. It took me to Glenstal Abby, Dingle, and Killarney. It was without a doubt one of the most impressive experiences I have had.
Glenstal Abby is a Benedictine order of monks. One of my professors is a member of this community. The trip to Glenstal consisted of an impressive tour of the castle like structure. Inscribed on the main gate was the word PAX, meaning peace in Latin. After our tour of this impressive castle some of us had the chance to celebrate mass with the monks. It was an unique experience has they still use Gregorian chant music. I must say it was incredibly beautiful.
Once we had said our good byes to the monks of Glenstal my group and I departed for Dingle. It is a small town that is located on the scenic Dingle peninsula. On our arrival the group got lost trying to find our hostel, despite the small size of the town. Our living situation was a little cramped as we had four people in a room that was about 6x8 feet.
Our next day consisted of an unusual opportunity; we had a free day to explore Dingle. This consisted of our group herding around the town looking around shops, going to aquariums, walking to the shore, and an amusing hurricane simulator. The evening finished strong as our group received the news of the Jonnies beating the Tommies. For those who do not know St. Johns and St. Thomas are rivals. On hearing the news our group began chanting down the streets of dingle drawing stares of clueless locals.
Once our stay at Dingle was completed we boarded the bus once again and began our drive to Killarney. Killarney is one of my favorite cities to date. It presents an unique feel. Additionally the tallest peak in Ireland is not far. This of course enticed many of our group to go climb this. We had already climbed one mountain (Crough Patrick) a week before. Crough Patrick was about 2,500 tall. The mountain we climbed was named Carrauntoohil. It is a little over 3,400 feet tall. This mountain creates and impressive shadow on the landscape. I distinctly remember our initial descent still in disbelief at what we were about to climb.
We were lucky on the day we decided to climb as it was the clearest day of the week. Once our group was together we began our walk to the base of the mountain. After a decent walk one of my fellow students asked own of our guides about how far we were and the guide replied, “Oh we have not even started.” Not long after that comment he pointed at a jagged wall and said “alright we are going to climb up right here, this is the first level of three.” At this point many of us became giddy with excitement, and anxious about what was in store for us. It took about three hours to complete the hike up to the top, six hours round trip. Our descent down took us to a path known as the devils ladder. It was aptly named as it consisted of sheer drops with jagged rocks jutting out. In addition a small stream poured into the path making it wet and slippery. Luckily for our group there were no major issues on our way down and we all made it back safely.
At this point the group and I were exhausted and ready for the long bus ride back, hoping to grab some shut eye. The bus ride back must have been the quietest bus as a good 80 percent of us were fast asleep. It was a fitting end note to an excursion of new heights.
This weekend I embarked on one of the loftiest hikes of my life; the location was Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is a 2,507 mountain found in County Mayo not far from Westport. When our group was originally asked if we would be interested in going many of us did not know what we were getting into. We did not understand why people standing at the beginning of the path were wishing us good luck. It did not take long however for us to find out the meaning behind their remarks as the path quickly became steep and rocky. The path was wide at first, but narrowed as we made progress towards the top. There were other hikers who were joining us on our way up and some who had made it to the top already and were coming down. This caused problems as the path became so bottle-necked that no more then 2-3 people could pass at a time without being on the edge of a several hundred feet drop. To make this scenario more precarious the incline was close to 70 degree slant.
Once we made it to the top the view was a letdown. This was because we were so high that we were actually in a cloud. We decided to wait to see if the cloud would pass and it did, rendering the most spectacular views I have ever seen. One could look out for hundreds of miles. The town where we started was all but a dot in the distant landscape. After some time we reluctantly made our way down the rocky slants and arrived at our hostel for a much needed rest.
The next day we went to Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine order of nuns. It is more known for the castle which was built by a man named Mitchell Henry. He built the castle for his wife who fell in love with the land. It is a story not too different with that of the Taj Mahal. It is a spectacular piece of architecture with a view straight from a fairytale.
Once our time was done at the abbey we went to Connemara National Park. This region of land is known for impressive winds and extensive bogs. We hiked around the base of a mountain and again were rewarded with great views of not only landscape, but unique flowers as well. One in particular is known as the Sundew. It is a plant that eats insects as the bog land is not nutrient rich. This visit to Connemara National Park ended our weekend and we began our way home, many of us passing out on the bus ride back.
The Burren, a colossal limestone landscape found in the County Clare, is where my most recent jaunt has taken me. The endeavor started long before my group and I arrived at the Burren as the roads were not generous. Imagine a standard road that is a single lane; now draw a line down the middle and presto it is now a two way road! This created several a circumstances of close calls as our sizable bus would skim the edges of the road and the oncoming car. Needless to say the drive consisted of sudden braking and swerving, which in turn caused those prone to motion sickness not happy.
The next day we hiked back out to view Dún Eochla. It is yet another fort on this island used as a watch tower for invading ships. Again the spectacle was amazing as we were blessed with another clear day, despite a strong wind giving many of us wind burn. Soon we found ourselves walking back to the ferry as we were exhausted from the past days of adventure. We had to say farewell to the Aran Islands, but welcomed our warm beds waiting at our cottages.
I have arrived in Ireland, and thus far it has already been an adventure, from plane delays to getting lost. To any potential travelers to Ireland be sure to know how you are getting to your destination from the airport. We (my fellow students and I) were under the impression it would be easy to get a ticket for a bus that would take us to Galway. It turns out that “easy” turned into a hour-and-a-half of walking around trying to find some sort of booth that sells tickets. Finally we broke and decided actually to ask for help and our dilemma was answered quickly. Turns out you simply buy the tickets on the bus, it is brilliant! If only there was a sign to tell us this information.
That is right folks I am heading to Ireland, Spiddal to be more precise. It is an exciting notion, as well as frightening. This will be the first time I have truly been cut off from home, and by cut off I mean the entire Atlantic Ocean. Despite this separation I am invigorated with this extraordinary adventure put forth in front of me. Where will it lead? There is one way to find out, one ticket to Ireland please!
“Why Ireland?” Is usually the first question people ask me when they discover I am traveling there for a little over three months. My answer is simple really; it worked and heat is not my friend. Further persuading was found with the possibilities of this trip; such as an overnight stay at Inishmore (Aran Islands), seminars at the Hill of Tara, visiting the Rock of Cashel, etc. In addition to these excursions I also wish to further my understanding of people and various cultures, while Ireland is not exotic, it is certainly different then Minnesota.
With only a few days till my departure it has finally become apparent to me that I will indeed be living in a different country for several months. My days consist of check lists and last minute errands to ensure I have all that I need. Before I know, it I will be waving good bye to family and friends and boarding a plane. Let the adventure begin…
|Gardening and landscaping (1)||Alternative (1)|
|Leisure and recreation (1)||Recreation (2)|
|Food and drink (3)||Politics (1)|
|Transportation (2)||Culture (3)|
|Wine country (1)||People (26)|
|Bridges (1)||Flowers (1)|
|Locally-produced food (2)||Bird travels (1)|
|Weird (1)||Adventure travel (29)|
|Backpacking (1)||Climbing (1)|
|Consumer travel (2)||Environmental travel (2)|
|Europe (7)||Hiking (1)|
|International travel (34)||Regional travel (2)|
|Road trips (1)||Travel deals (1)|
|Bears (2)||Lions (2)|
|Packers (1)||Super Bowl (1)|
|On the road (2)||Minnesota colleges (4)|
|Values and morals (1)||Elk River (4)|
|Family Fun (1)||Outdoors Women (1)|
|Under the radar (1)||Travel (54)|
|Workshops and conferences (1)||Food, beer, wine events (2)|
|Wine (1)||Parks and recreation (2)|
|Urban living (1)|