Bicycling the Aran Islands

Life has this way of reminding you just how small you are on this earth. You’re lucky if you get a glimpse of this reality frequently in your short time here. Maybe you will have this understanding while standing on top of a snow-capped mountain in New Hampshire or looking out onto the city while at the top of the Empire State Building, or maybe you will see this while looking over the edge of cliff down at the crashing waves 50 meters below you on an Island thousands of miles away from the place you call home.

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We took a ferry to the small Island of Inis Mór, just off the coast of Galway early on Saturday morning. It was a cloudy day, typical Irish weather. The boat was busy with excitement. Ireland’s RTÉ radio was playing on the speakers, the sounds of crashing waves, varied accents and different languages filled my ears.

The ocean was in a particular mood this day. The ferry became a seesaw in the expansive sea, and as people braved the walk from their seat to look over the railing, the sounds of yelps and laughter was loud. It was almost impossible to keep your balance on the rocking ship. It was like an amusement park ride and everyone was smiling. Who knew the dreaded hour long ferry ride would become such a time of entertainment?

It was windy and cold when we finally arrived onto the island and the first decision was whether to take bikes, a bus or to walk? We decided on bikes.

Now, I don’t remember the last time I rode a bike or if I could even still remember how to. They say you never forget. Fortunately for my sake, they (whoever “they” are) were right.

The island was not incredibly large. It is a 7,635 acre, sparsely populated little chunk of land in the Atlantic Ocean, but its beauty is immeasurable.

We biked a good amount of the island, passing sheep, goats, cows, horses and seals. There was a small basket in the front of the bike, perfect to keep my bag and water bottle in (which was very important considering my excessive panting during most of the bike ride); I truly felt like I was in some sort of rom com though, like a mix between Safe Haven and P.S. I Love You, based on nothing more than the facts that I was in Ireland and was riding a bike with a basket.

About two hours in, we stopped at a small cafe. Tired and hungry, we grabbed lattes and cappuccinos, soups and sandwiches. The break was much needed and a perfect opportunity to refuel before our ride back. As we were finishing up, In a miracle from God Himself, the sun came out from behind the gloomy Irish skies. We soaked in this rare occurrence and got back on the road.

Just a short ride from the cafe was the Cliffs of Aran. We walked into a small building, gave a lady three Euros. She told me to “be safe.” I had no idea where I was heading, why I had to pay three Euros (actually I still don’t know why we had to pay), or why there was possible danger ahead, but I was going with it.

We stepped outside the building and there was a hill, like a steep hill. As I alluded to earlier with my lack of biking experience, I am not the most active girl and hiking is really not my idea of a fun time. Nevertheless, I persisted and man did it pay off.

About 20 minutes of dramatic complaining, we reached the top of the hill and found ourselves on this cliff towering 50 meters above the ocean. All at once, every petty problem or little worry I have ever had were drowned out by the miles of rolling hills, by the ocean’s extent.

In a fit of bravery, I decided to make my way over to the edge. I got on my stomach and inched myself to the very end of a rock that jutted out a bit more than all the others. As my head hung off the edge of this cliff, the power of the waves crashing into its side reminded me of the power of nature, the fleetingness of life. These moments of beauty and inexplicable emotions remind us of our smallness and sometimes the words “be safe,” are only a mere suggestion, a caution for those who don’t have the understanding that they are just one small human, who don’t understand their limits in an unforgiving world.

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We bicycled back to where the ferry had docked. Six Germans, two Americans, a French girl and a Mexican returned back to shore humbled in the fact that we are all just  one small part of this earth, and it was in moments like these when we can truly appreciate this truth.

Looking Over the Edge of a Cliff

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