I had been nervous about Day 4 since the start solely because a boat was involved. Having a very weak stomach, I’m not one that thrives on the open water, so as I got ready that morning, I took care in breathing in and drugging up (a.k.a the opposite of what D.A.R.E taught me). I popped Dramamine like nobody’s business, and when we got to the dock I rolled up my sleeves, prepared to throw elbows to get ensure I got a window seat.
As it turned out, my thorough preparation would prove key, as there were uncommonly high winds at the time of boarding, causing the 45 minute ferry ride to be somewhat of a nightmare for a number of passengers. And even though I felt no signs of seasickness, I can honestly tell you that I hated every minute of that damn ride. When we docked I had to resist the urge to kiss the ground, and I wondered if I should try to find a house to buy on the island so that I’d never have to ferry back.
That morning on the coach, as we made the hour drive to the dock, Tim told us our options for exploring the Aran Islands were walking, biking, or a horse drawn carriage, you know, casual stuff. And while the prospect of Seabiscuit trotting us around was enticing, Natalee and I opted for bikes, as we were feeling slightly more confident in our abilities after Kilkenny.
Now, note how I said, “were feeling.” I don’t use this phrasing to express an opinion I had in a previous moment, but an opinion that is no longer physically present in my body, as about 10 minutes after we started biking, I remembered why I don’t ride bikes: IT’S HARD. The moment the road took on even the slightest hint of incline my quads practically started laughing. And by the time we reached the top of the first hill I was fuming mad, considering amputation and practically screaming at Natalee to “pull over” so I could “take a picture” (a.k.a breathe and reconsider everything I’d eaten in the last 4 months).
Here is one picture I took on said break, note how happy and adorable Natalee is (#ThighsOfSteel):
After the initial hill, the remaining bike ride proved to be quite enjoyable, save for, you know, a few other hills which also made me want to die. But each one proved worth it as they continued to give us incredible views:
Back on the ferry—which proved far better the second time—our group was one big beaming mess of exhaustion. We were all in agreement that we’d have a great day, and even more so that it was bedtime. Before we crashed out however, once our boat docked we drove straight into Galway for a buffet dinner at Crows. We shuffled in, sunburned and starving, and found a table of food which consisted of (drumroll) Irish stew with lamb and potatoes, chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, baked potatoes, and profiteroles (a.k.a heaven in a pastry).
After dinner Natalee and I, along with many others, opted for showers and an early bedtime rather than a night out. And while I appreciated it then for the opportunity to get some extra sleep, I can appreciate it even more now. For as I lay there, hair wet, and eyes heavy, I was able to look back at the day we’d just had; each moment taking ample time to settle in my memory.
When I think of it now, I can’t help but go back to one moment when we were biking down a flat patch of road. We were up pretty high in the hills, giving us a 360 view of grass, sky and ocean, when suddenly it started to rain. At first, we didn’t know what to do. We looked up at the stormy sky that had once been so blue and we groaned, wondering if we should quit and find shelter. But then, as the rain started to run down the lenses of our sunglasses and wet the skin on our cheeks, we both got the same feeling. Natalee looked at me with a smile on her face and I smiled back because it was clear that this rain felt different than the average drizzle, cleansing rather than bothersome. We were on bikes on an island in Ireland, free as ever, and the rainwater was washing us clean of all the problems we might have been holding onto when we boarded the ferry that morning. And so we kept going, our pedaling on beat with the rhythm of the rain, and I shook my hair out feeling unmistakably happily, undeniably alive.