7 April 2010

Melanie's Weekend

Adventure Weekend in Killarney in March 2010

Saturday, March 27th we drove to Killarney via Limerick to enjoy our prize of an Adventure Weekend at Outdoors Ireland, staying at Scott’s Hotel. Jukka originally from Finland and myself, both fifty plus and fit, were looking forward very much to kayaking in the lakes and climbing Carrauntoohil.

Scott’s Hotel, located in the town centre, conveniently has underground parking. The two story reception with a stunning frieze of trees was light filled when we arrived around 5 to be greeted by a big welcoming smile. What a treat to stay in a luxurious, very spacious suite with balcony and panoramic view of the mountains. Later that evening we met Nathan, of Outdoors Ireland, to confirm arrangements for our adventure weekend. Nathan exudes enthusiasm and energy. He predicted perfect kayaking weather for the following day.

At 9am Nathan drove us to Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park. The mirror-like lakes reflected the islands and dramatic mountains. Ducks, swans and birds were busy. We were nine optimistic, inexperienced kayakers, aged from 12 to 57. Nathan had the best of gear ready for us. Our first time getting into the wet suits was tricky. The colourful canoes were waiting on the grassy banks. Nathan ensured we were all safely togged out and explained the right way to kayak. We gently slipped into the water and wobbled in the sunshine. It was like being in bumper cars, and we felt like kids on a great day out. And soon what seemed impossible became fun.

We paddled out to the lakes past the rushes and reeds. Each kayak had its own personality. Mine simply wanted to go backwards. Nathan shepherded us all, explaining, encouraging and advising. He taught us the right way to kayak, and we practised. Two guys were padding a sit up Indian canoe. We laughed, we chatted. Then oops, splash, and one of us fell in. Nathan was there immediately to sort this out, and soon the man overboard was back in his canoe.

We landed on a beach where copper mining dates back 4,000 years. Nathan told us about the history, geography and wildlife of the area. Most poignant for me, when Nathan told us about the swimming deer he had observed swimming across the lakes. This brought to mind another man who over 13,000 years ago, observed two swimming reindeer and carved them into the tip of a mammoth tusk by humans: http://tinyurl.com/yfqmvpv

On the beach I kept a pebble that was green with copper oxide. The beach was sunny, serene and surrounded by majestic mountains. I picked up a pebble that was green with copper oxide. With increasing confidence we kayaked to the caves. Limestone islands that we were to kayak through. Dappled sunshine bounced off the echo filled cool interiors. It was magical. We heard about Inisfallen being a 6th century university and monastery that the Vikings raided for gold. We heard about the monk who would be sent off to hide in these caves during the raids...

Kayaking was surprising easy to learn. At speed with ease we novices were now travelling across the lake. We laughed, and enjoyed the sunshine. We headed reluctantly back to the grassy banks we started from. More laughs when we tried to get out of our wetsuits. We had a brilliant morning kayaking with Outdoors Ireland. We started as strangers we ended as friends.

Buoyed up with our kayaking confidence we decided to spend the afternoon rock climbing, never having done it before. Driving past Kate Kearney’s cottage, Nathan stopped at a sheer rock wall of about 20 meters. On the other side of the valley the Kerry Rescue Team were practising on a very challenging rock face.

Nathan quickly had all the professional harnesses, helmets, ropes and shoe ready for us 7 enthusiasts. He secured the ropes on top. We then learnt precise instructions about crabs, by-lines and the importance of keeping the ropes free of grit and muck. For me just looking at Tim, climbing up the vertical rock face was exhilarating. We all had a job to do, we worked as a team. The climber had to trust the rope holders. Such determination was shown by the climbers. I was extremely proud of how well Jukka climbed, despite being the oldest and possibly the heaviest.

Unfortunately climbing is not my forte. I did try but simply could not manage to get going more that a few metres. But I never laughed so much. And know that I really need to get fitter.

Nathan dropped us off the Scotts hotel, muddy but very happy. We had a delicious 3 course dinner in Scott’s Hotel. The smiling staff were so welcoming. We went to bed early, very much looking forward to climbing Caurrantoohil on the Monday. Overnight the weather turned ferocious. It rained, it snowed, and the wind blew. Nathan contacted us, and we agreed to cancel the ascent of Carrauntoohil.

Instead we enjoyed the luxury of another leisurely, tasty breakfast. As we had raingear and hill walking boots we decided to walk locally. We visited Muckross House. The deserted grounds were autumnal in atmosphere and the misty views richly coloured. We came across spectacular Yellow Waterlilies similar to what you find in Thailand. Con Brosnan, who worked in the grounds, went to a lot of trouble to find out they are called Skunk Cabbage. Con, a local man told us the best viewing places and where the azaleas were starting to flower. The tour of the inside of Muckross house was lead by Brid a local guide, with a very clear Kerry brogue and insightful stories about the houses history, characters and interior.

We then went to Torc waterfall and walked up the many steps behind it to the bridge. Every turn brought another breathtaking view. Though still raining we drove up to Ladies View. The browns, russets, and tinges of spring green made the mountainous views luscious. We had forgotten how magnificent the views and nature are in Kerry.

Our visit to Kerry was brilliant. Thank you, Nathan of Outdoors Ireland for your professionalism and enthusiasm. Thank you, Patricia of Scotts Hotel for the luxurious accommodation and smiling welcome. And we will be back as we still want to climb Carrauntoohil.

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