7 days in Ireland: Death Ferry to the Aran Islands

I almost moved to the Aran Islands.

Let’s back up. A lot of people recommended that we visit them. Friends, friends of friends, people on the internet.

The Aran Islands are a set of 3 islands located in Galway Bay on the western coast of Ireland, with a total population of 1200 Irish-speaking residents. (Fun fact: Irish is a language, also referred to as Gaelic)

I’m all about a rustic island experience, so before I even touched down on Irish soil I knew that it was one thing we had to do. Because we had limited time, we signed up to do a combination day trip of the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher (the other must-do).

The day of the trip we awoke early, got caffeinated, then made our way to the coach.IMG_0482IMG_0493The weather forecast for the day was a bit iffy – rain was projected in the afternoon. But the scenic drive to the dock was clear and sunny, allowing us to stop for a photo-op before reaching our destination. Ireland really is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve seen.IMG_0792

On the drive up, the driver asked several times if anyone suffered from seasickness. There were a few murmured yeses. He gave some simple age-old advice for avoiding it: stand or sit outside on the deck and stare at something on the horizon.

I’ve been on many boats while traveling and my only experience of (mild) seasickness was on a cruise ship when I was 12. Otherwise, I’ve had no issues. There was a particularly traumatic speedboat ride from Belize to Guatemala. (Though It’s possible that I was too busy coming to terms with my own mortality to feel sick).  I figured that after that experience I was immune.

Mistake.

For our tour, we’d take a ferry to Inis Oirr (or, Inisheer) the smallest of the islands, and spend 2 hours doing whatever we liked. When we walked down to the dock, there was some confusion about which boat we were supposed to board. As we stood in the long line, I remarked, casually “Well at least it’s not raining”.

It immediately began raining.  No, downpouring. We were the cold, wet paired-up animals, and the ferry was Noah’s ark.  But disconcertingly much smaller. Suddenly the packable rain boots that I’d decided at the last-minute to remove from my bag didn’t seem so heavy. As we waited, shivering in the pelting rain, two of the girls from our bus began pointing at another boat and running towards it. We followed suit.

Once we made it on the correct boat, the potential to be drenched to the bone was enough of a deterrent that I went inside, along with the majority of the passengers.

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Every time I tried to take a picture I almost flew across the boat

Mistake.

Off we went. I stood confidently in the center of the cabin, gripping a pole while not so subtly gawking at one of the workers. As the boat surged forward into the churning sea, we made eye contact and he gave me a wistful smile. I later identified the look on his face.

It was pity.

Rain pounded the sea. The sea pounded the boat. The boat pounded the deepest caverns of my soul. I did not know I could turn a shade of green. I thought that was only in cartoons. The boat swayed violently, leaving me clinging to the pole while my stomach clung to that morning’s breakfast.

Then the retching began. All around us, people began to moan and puke.

“Hey could you grab me a sick bag, just in case”, I asked the worker, smiling through extreme nausea. I may have twirled my hair.  I had nothing to lose – I was definitely going to die.

Do not throw up in front of this beautiful man, I thought, repeatedly.

Is this green woman really flirting with me? he thought, probably.

I locked eyes with Jackie who looked like she’d seen a ghost. Which, it had become clear, we would all become very soon. I casually asked him if they’d ever decided not to run the ferry. You know to avoid tourist deaths and all.

“Oh yeah,” he smirked, “when it’s much worse than this.”

“IT GETS WORSE THAN THIS?!?  Casual had fled the building. There was that smile of his again. He assured us that this extreme turbulence would only last for another 20 minutes.  And he was right. We rode that terrifying ocean coaster for 20 more stomach plummeting minutes. Then it was over. The sea calmed and he recommended that anyone who was feeling ill go outside for the rest of the journey. I left my beloved and lurched toward the deck.  The blast of cool fresh air gave me a sense of relief.  It didn’t last.

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What I soon learned was that even when the boat has steadied and you’ve been returned to land, seasickness can stick with you like a barnacle on a ferry of death. I’ve thankfully never been pregnant but I imagine it’s what a combination of morning sickness and a post-wedding hangover would feel like. Hopefully not a feeling you’re familiar with.

 

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I’d had a vision of exploring this quaint island on a rented bike, waving at the smiling locals as Enya songs played.

Instead I immediately stumbled toward the nearest pub (260 residents, 3 pubs) to order that miracle elixir Ginger ale. We only had 2 hours allotted on the island and it took the first 30 to be able to order. Every person ahead of us seemed to order elaborate hot chocolate concoctions for their screaming children as I sat slumped over the bar groaning as my stomach churned with agitation.

Hell is real. I’ve eaten there.

I knew then that I would have to move to this island. I would learn Irish and marry the man selling fudge on the road. I would get really into horses and survive the cold rainy winters with pints of Guinness and my hot Irish husband to keep me warm. I would never get back on that boat. I would die there.

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After downing two ginger ales, a cider and some chicken fingers (known as chicken goujons in Ireland), I started to feel a little better. We spent the last hour wandering around the island, which was as I’d imagined: quaint and beautiful.

A labyrinth of time worn stone walls held together by nothing but ingenuity.  Deep green fields scattered with wildflowers. A pony dozing in a small meadow.IMG_0960IMG_0966IMG_0971IMG_0973IMG_0975IMG_0976IMG_0979

A sandy beach edged by large pieces of limestone. Sweeping views of the cobalt hued sea that had tried to destroy us.  A 15th century castle peeking out through grey skies.

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A  warning sign that still makes me scratch my head. Is there only one dolphin? He sounds pretty intense.IMG_1034

Inis Oirr is an enchanting place. I just wish time limitations and a near death experience hadn’t prevented me from fully enjoying it.

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Unfortunately our time was up. Turned out the Fudge man was already married and I was out of options.

We had to get back on the $%@& boat.

To be continued.

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