Killary Adventure Weekend: May the odds be ever in your favor.
The last time I wrote, I was just about to embark on the second IFSA-Butler trip of the semester: the trip to the Killary Adventure Center out in County Galway. And, as the title promised, it was definitely a weekend full of adventure! You may or may not have noticed the Hunger Games reference in my title (my friends and I went and saw the movie the night before the trip. Absolutely loved it!) and I have to say, there were a few times I felt like I could have been a tribute! Not that I ever felt like I would have to fight to the death or anything, but there was definitely some swimming, climbing and various other forms of serious athleticism going on. I even got to channel my inner Katniss Everdeen with a bow and arrow! But I’ll try not to get ahead of myself!
On Friday morning, we got up at the crack of dawn to take a nice, long bus ride across the country to the Killary Adventure Center, which is located in the one of the only fjords in Ireland. In case you didn’t know, a fjord is a narrow body of water between cliffs or mountains that has been formed by glacial movement and, at least from what I’ve seen, they’re absolutely gorgeous! Since this was an all IFSA-Butler Ireland trip, they booked the place just for us, which meant that I got to meet a lot of people who are studying in other parts of the country! After the very long bus ride, we checked into our rooms and got to choose one activity for the evening. A few of my friends and I decided to hit the water for some kayaking and gorge walking. We weren’t really sure what they meant by gorge walking, but we were feeling optimistic and adventurous, so we figured why not check it out? I was a little nervous about the kayaking, at first. I’ve kayaked many times before, but my last few trips included an unplanned swim so I was really hoping not to embarrass myself on the very first night! I knew there would be plenty of time for that when it came to the climbing wall. Anyway, we got down to the boathouse, changed into wetsuits, helmets and some extra shoes and hit the water. Since it was fairly windy (and quite chilly), I was a little cautious at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. Just like riding a bike! We floated down the fjord a little ways and stopped to check out some mussel farms before we turned around. As we paddled back towards shore, our guide said to us, “Okay, so we’ll put the kayaks up, walk over and do the short cliff jump and then we’ll finish off with the gorge walk!” You might be able to imagine the looks of concern that passed between my friends and me. This was the first we had heard about a cliff jump. Now, I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of heights but I don’t tend to make a habit of jumping off tall things like cliffs. I was nervous, but I also figured that I would never again have to opportunity to jump off a cliff and go swimming in a fjord, so I was all for it! And it was totally worth it. The water was so cold that it was physically shocking, but it was exhilarating! The gorge walk was pretty incredible, too. We climbed up from the water through a stream running down the side of a gorge to get back to the road. I’ll probably never do anything like that again. Thank God they had extra shoes for us, though! We were soaked to the bone by the time we were finished.
Since we had the whole day, we got two activities on Saturday. In the morning, my friend Amy and I decided to give the zip line and high ropes course a shot. Both were really cool. I have always wanted to try a zipline, and I was not disappointed! It was almost relaxing to fly freely through the air. The high ropes course definitely required more strategic efforts. They had us do a challenge they called the Trapeze Jump. We each had a partner, and one at a time, we each had to climb up a pretty narrow pole onto a platform that looks like it’s meant to hold one person. Then the partner joined at the top. I climbed first and then Amy followed and by the time we were both on the platform, both of us and the pole were shaking like mad. Again, I’m not really afraid of heights but it was a very small platform, high above the ground. And it was shaking. We were wearing harnesses, so we were totally safe, but my heart was still pounding. But they don’t call it the Trapeze Jump for nothing. The next step was to jump from the platform and grab hold of a trapeze hanging a few feet away. It was definitely much easier than shimmying up the pole, but unfortunately, I missed the trapeze so I just had to hang out in midair for a minute before they lowered me back to Earth. Amy did much better though and she managed to hang on! Next, a few of us tried the moving climbing wall which was way harder than it looked. Especially considering my complete lack of upper body strength. They tell you that it’s all in the legs, but you still have to hold on pretty tightly. I was very proud of myself, though, because I almost made it to the top. Apparently, Amy and I had not gotten enough climbing in the morning because after lunch we decided to do the climbing wall and the giant swing. We were actually way more interested in the giant swing, but we had to do the climbing wall first. I tried, but my arms were pretty tuckered out from the morning’s activities (plus there was my complete lack of upper body strength). I didn’t make it too far. But, again, I was proud of myself for trying! The giant swing was fun, though. We were strapped into a two person swing, so I felt like a toddler being buckled into a swing at the park, waiting for Mom or Dad to underdog me! Once we were strapped in, we were lifted up a pretty hefty cord and when we got to the top, we had to release ourselves for the big swing. It was so much fun! It felt like being on a roller coaster. And since we had a very small group, we got to go a few times. It was a nice and relaxing way to end the day of activities, especially since it required so little effort on our parts after a strenuous day of climbing! On Saturday night, they threw a disco that featured a 70 year old DJ and a cash bar and felt like an awkward, but fun, middle school dance. It was definitely entertaining, to say the least.
Sunday was another half day, so we only had time for a morning activity and Amy and I opted for archery and clay pigeon shooting! The archery was super fun. Like I said, I got to channel my inner Katniss and pretend that I was hunting game rather than just aiming at a target. I wasn’t even as bad as I thought I would be! No bull’s-eyes, but I got the second innermost ring on my first shot! The clay pigeon shooting was another story. I never thought I’d handle a 20 gauge shotgun, but apparently this weekend was a time for many firsts! However, I was not very good with the gun. Plus, since I was still short one contact from my spring break mishap, I couldn’t see out of the eye that I was supposed to be aiming with. When mentioned this to the instructor, assuming he would let me off the hook after several failed attempts to take down the bright orange target, his simple solution was to switch to my left hand. Sure. Why not. Let the right-handed, half-blind girl handle a firearm with her left hand. No big deal. But, believe it or not, it actually worked! On my very last shot, I finally got a hit. Yet another moment of pride for my weekend. IFSA-Butler had been hyping up this trip from the application process, and it definitely lived up to expectations! I had been wary of what they exactly meant by “adventure” but I loved every minute of it, and everyone else I talked to felt the same! I would have loved to try some of the other activities like the hill walk (aka, mountain climb) or the turf challenge (5K through an obstacle course of muddy bogs) but there just wasn’t enough time. But I was so glad that I got to try some fun, new activities that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise. I only wish that I had been able to take more pictures, but I didn’t want to risk carrying my camera around the whole place.
Fortunately, Adventure Weekend was not the last exciting moment of the semester! My dad got to come and visit a few weeks ago. It was so great to see him and to show him around the city! I took him to revisit a few of my favorite places like Howth, Dun Laoghaire and the Guinness Storehouse and we checked out a few new places like St. Patrick’s and Kilmainham Gaol, which was incredible. It is so amazing to think about all the history and tragedy that was housed within those walls. On Easter Sunday, Dad and I took a bus tour out to the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped at a few ancient castles and other famous sites along the way, but the Cliffs were, with good reason, the highlight of the trip. Even with the wind and rain, it was hard not to be in awe of the sight. Five miles of cliffs overlooking the sea from immense heights. It was truly incredible, very deserving of being the most visited tourist spot in the country. Fortunately, I didn’t have too much class work to do over the long weekend, so I was able to treat it like another mini spring break! We got to spend some time listening to great music and drinking some great Guinness. It was the definition of great craic! I was so glad that he got to visit and experience the place where I’ve been lucky enough to live for the past three months!
Unfortunately, after Dad left it was back to reality for me. The semester is definitely winding down. I am officially finished with all my classes for the semester. Next week is revision week, followed by one week of exams. I already have one exam completed and on Wednesday, I submitted my final essay for another class, so I’m two classes down and three more to go! Just a few more weeks to go! It’s been a little difficult adjusting to the Irish style of classes and learning how to study for my exams, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it and I’ll be done before I know it. Less than a month and I’ll be back in Lawrenceburg! I’m excited to see all my friends and family, but I’m going to miss Dublin so much! I can’t believe how quickly time has passed. I feel like I have been able to do and see so much, but there are still things that I really want to do. Fortunately, I really lucked out with my exam schedule and I have an entire week between my last exam and my flight home, so I’ll be sure to fit in any last minute activities and have plenty of time to say good-bye to the city that I have come to love!