Monday, September 12, 2011

Here comes the story of the Hurricane (Katia)

[WARNING: SUPER LONG AND DRAMATIC. Kind of like every story I tell.]
So this weekend, we all decided to adventure to the Aran Islands and adventure we did. Below is a timeline of events:

FRIDAY (the day before): Someone finds a "hostel package" deal for the Aran Islands, which includes roundtrip bus and ferry transport, overnight hostel accommodation, and breakfast in the morning. ALL ABOUT IT. Ten of us get ticket reservations over the phone. When Erin calls for us, the woman promises to call back. (Side note: it is now Monday and she has yet to return our call)

SATURDAY 8:20am: Erin and I wake up to meet the group at 8:45...who of course had decided to meet at 8:15. WOMP #1

9:00am: The group (minus Erin, Kelsey, and Danielle) gets to the ticket office to pick up our tickets. The lady is a huge bitch (sorry, she was) and the whole operation in general is a big mess. For example, you don't get individual tickets, just a stapled mass of slips that serve as a bus ticket, ferry ticket, hostel reservation, ferry ticket, and bus ticket. And she gives you ONE "package" for 4 of you. Craziness.

9:25am: The other three arrive...and Kelsey (who prepaid) doesn't have a ticket?? The woman apparently already gave her ticket away despite the fact that girlfriend paid over the phone. WOMP #2 But not to worry, the bus (which is scheduled to leave at 9:30) won't leave until she says so.

9:29am: The bus leaves. Without Erin, Dan, Kelsey, Megan D, or me. WOMP #3

9:30am - 11:45pm: We find a cafe for breakfast, Kelsey gets her ticket without double-paying, and we get sandwiches/lunch so we don't have to pay an arm and a leg for food on Inis Mor aka Inishmore aka the biggest Aran Island. I also find the Victoria Hotel where my parents and nana are staying when they visit (it's beautiful and quiet, p.s.). The concierge says "oh yeah, we're getting some of the aftermath from the hurricane that hit the states"...what??? Irene was weeks ago. These crazy Irish...

12:00pm: We get on the noon bus with no issues.

12:01pm: The bus starts playing opera music/concertos. For the next hour. But we drive through Connemara and the Gaeltacht region which is of course GORGEOUS and Irish-y.

1:00pm: The ferry ride from HELL. Somehow in my old age, I've begun getting motion sickness for the first time. And this ferry is BUMPIN. The wind is waking this little boat so hard and I almost ralph. Don't believe me?? WATCH:

 I finally fall asleep for the last 20 minutes and we arrive on Inis Mor!! Tyler, Katie, Megan H, and Molly are seemingly waiting for us when we arrive and it's nice to finally reconvene with everyone else.

(This is where time goes out the window.)
- We rent bikes to ride around Inis Mor for 15 euro (mine is leprechaun-sized and it takes me 3 hours and approximately 10 miles until Dan and Tyler fix my seat so it doesn't swivel/fall down). Regardless, I totally recommend renting a bike to tour around. It's cheap and the island's small so you can motor around it in a day. But beware, the roads are narrow and the drivers are FAST. But I'll get to that.

- We check in to our hostel and Meg, Erin, Kelsey, and I are in a private 4-bunk room that's REALLY small but nice and safe. Then we bike around and take pictures and marvel at the beautiful, barely touched landscape of the Aran Islands. But we notice the wind is starting to pick up and clouds are looming...what???

- The four of us venture off around the rest of the island and embark on a combination of a self-guided Aran Islands tour and a hardcore spinning class. Seriously. It was ROUGH.

- A red minivan practically RUNS ME OVER and I fall into a thorny bush. Literally had to jump off my bike to avoid tire marks on my forehead. WOMP #4. When Erin stops laughing, she takes a picture for me.

- We take a break and explore this teeny tiny ruin of a stone house and imagine what it was like to live there/in the time it was built. I have a philosophical moment where I realize that we think this house is old but it's only seen, like, 1/1000th of the island's history. Deep.

- We keep going. And the wind/rain pick up even more so we just keep motoring around. Whatever, we can come back tomorrow WOMP #5

- We FINALLY arrive back at the Kilronan Hostel where I realize I have bike grease ALL over my jeans. WOMP #6.
At least I packed my cropped yoga pants! We all pass out and wake up in time to run over to the grocery store (SPAR!) and get frozen pizzas/snacks/beer. Just some Americans stockin' up for a storm.

- ...and it's not just any storm. It's HURRICANE KATIA. And they're canceling the 5pm ferry tomorrow (y'know, the one we ALL HAVE TICKETS FOR.). We call Finn who advises us to catch the 8:30am ferry the next morning or else we're stuck in Inis Mor until Tuesday. We immediately all set our alarms for 6:45am.

- Instead of eating our pizzas, the 4 of us eat dinner with the rest of our group at the only restaurant on Inis Mor. AND IT'S NUTSO EXPENSIVE. But I have Sangria and apple crisp so you KNOW I'm in heaven. Somewhere along the line, I realize I look like a track star in my black NorthFace, black crop pants, and BRIGHT WHITE SNEAKERS. WOMP #7. I continue to whine about this the rest of the night.

- We go to The American Bar, feel uncomfortable, and leave. HELLO. If you don't want Americans, call it The "Ew GTFO Americans" Bar. Then we walk up to the Lucky Star Bar (closed) where LUCKILY I remember I left my wallet, hostel key, and cell phone in the "toilets" at The unAmerican Bar (sprint back like a track star, grab them without any issues, sprint back OH YEAH).

- Finally end up at an unknown bar that says "Ceol Anocht!" (MUSIC TONIGHT!) I'm stoked that I could use my Gaeilge...until I realize it's in English underneath. Of course the music starts at 10pm...and we get there at 8:30pm? WOMP #8. The majority of us proclaim that they're "not THAT drunk!" while getting that drunk (for the most part, they were and WHO CARES, WE'RE IN IRELAND). I don't order anything because I'm cheap and also because I'm CLEARLY training for a triathlon. But mostly just because I'm cheap and anticipating the ferry-sickness the next day.

- Little by little, we all trickle out of the pub where we feel more welcome than before but not entirely. I leave with Michaela and Cayla (yes, it gets a little confusing) and we go home and make the pizzas for everyone. We eat pizza, Oreos, digestives, and probably other food before finally falling asleep before midnight.

SUNDAY 7:00am: We wake up and scramble down to the kitchen for breakfast. We check the weather online (just a little bit windy....jk, 80 MPH WINDS ALL DAY) and decide to go return our bikes and camp out in line next to the ferry.

8:00am: Somehow we all manage to get on a ferry a full nine hours before the one we are ticketed/scheduled for. I take a Dramamine and pass out before we leave the port.

9:10am: I wake up as we're pulling into Connemara. I am barely awake long enough to stumble off the ferry and onto the bus (for which I have NO ticket for).

9:15am: I fall back asleep.

10:30am: We arrive safe and sound in Galway!!! Words cannot express how overjoyed I was to see Eyre Square again. We all walk back to our apartments in Gort na Coiribe while recounting our adventure and counting our blessings that we're not still on the island.

All in all, the Aran Islands are definitely a must see and I definitely intend to go back when the weather brightens up. The landscape is seriously beautiful and reminiscent of the Ireland I think we all imagined Galway would be. However, OUR trip to Inis Mor was almost the plot to a straight-to-DVD horror film.

"15 American students take a weekend trip to a remote island off the coast of Ireland. They were looking for adventure but they found more than they bargained for: hostile locals, feral livestock, haunted bicycles, and a hurricane looming in the distance. They have each other...for now. But when the power goes out, it's every man for himself. You never know what's waiting for you on THE SHORES OF INIS MOR. Washing up on DVD and Blu Ray on September 12th. You'll never forget to check the weather again." 

Seriously, I kept my ID on me in case I got swept out to sea and my body washed up on the shores of Connemara (just kidding Mom, I was totally safe!!!!!!!!!!). Either way, I'm happy to be home in Galway. And it's finally starting to feel like home here. Except I think biking ~18 miles in a hurricane gave me a cold. So I'm one hefty dose of DayQuil away from trekking across the bridge to the library. Hopefully I won't blow away (again, KIDDING MOM).

But seriously.

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