I stared at the tiny gap between the fearsome edges of the limestone rock and the water of the lake.
The task was simple enough – lie prone in our kayaks and drift through the crevasse to the other side. But, adding numb extremities, an icy breeze, a kayak paddle and a mild fear of enclosed spaces and the task became much more of a personal challenge.
The birds that had been perched atop the rock in the middle of the lake had left, but failed to take with them the potent stench of their droppings. I held my breath.
As we inched closer to the cove, the gap appeared to get smaller and more jagged edges of the limestone came into view. Sliding down into a horizontal position, I did my best to manoeuvre carefully and seamlessly through the cave.
The sound of my paddle scraping against the rocks suggested otherwise.
I took another breath, careful not to inflate my lungs too much in case the extra centimetre of height in my chest caught an edge and tipped me out. A sudden movement to the right or left would have certainly left me with a bloody nose, so I slunk deeper into the well of the kayak and closed my eyes for a second to allow the wave of fear pass over.
As I opened my eyes, I noticed a sliver of rock above me which seemed to have been sliced out, specifically for helping us achieve this passing.
The waves were gentle, but strong enough to push our kayak back into the side of the rock. Our guide was on the other side to help steer us through; my kayak partner and I relieved to have some assistance.
Finally, my world was filled with daylight once more.
KAYAKING AROUND A 15TH CENTURY IRISH CASTLE
The idea of kayaking around a castle in Ireland enchanted me from the moment I heard about it. A 15th-century castle in Killarney National Park, to be more specific.
As a New Zealander, I’ve grown up with buildings maybe only 100 years old, not several hundred. So when the opportunity arose as part of my trip to Ireland for the TBEX conference to kayak around Killarney’s Ross Castle, I jumped at the chance.
What I didn’t expect is that not only would we pass around the castle, we’d also be facing wind and rain, head out into the middle of the lake and under bridges and rocks so low, the only way to pass under was to lie back and stay perfectly still until you came out on the other side.
Oh adventure, I have missed you.
I couldn’t help think how proud John would be. Here I was, in Ireland, over 18,000 kilometres away from my home base in New Zealand – and away from my husband, the chief adventurer.
John’s forever trying to get me into caves and crevasses – on land and underwater – and most of the time I blatantly refuse.
But, this time, I was up for the adventure. Leaving poor John behind back in New Zealand, this was my first solo trip since he and I had got together.
I was a woman on a mission and prepared to break my scaredy-cat mould. I’m a comfortable and reasonably strong kayaker – just not so good with small, enclosed spaces with a high risk of slicing one’s nose off on rocks.
I had little choice – I was hardly going to be the only one in the group of around 20 who chickened out. So I put on my big girl pants – and the sense of achievement of navigating through a tiny spot in the rocks, in the middle of a lake in Ireland, gave me quite the buzz.
THE RACE FOR IRISH COFFEE
Once everyone had passed through, our leader at Wild ‘N’ Happy decided there was more action to be had – a race to the rocks.
“The winner gets an Irish coffee,” he said.
I’m not one to pass up a little competitive activity and my kayaking partner was as keen as I was.
We positioned our kayaks in a row and BOOM we were off to a flying start.
The kayak next to us steered right into us.
A kayak knocked us from behind.
We were off-course. We got stuck between everyone else’s kayaks.
With rain like icicles pricking us in the face, we mustered up every inch of strength to try and power forward.
The wind pushed us to one side and we had to paddle twice as hard on the left to steer us back in the right direction.
We passed a few others, beginning to gain precious ground (or water, as the case was), edging up to the paddlers in front.
The kayaker in front saw us advance. Resorting to dirty tactics, he deliberately splashed water with his paddle into my face.
A couple of kayak lengths ahead, the winners crossed the line.
The race was all in good fun, of course, although I was bitterly disappointed not to get an Irish coffee out of all my efforts. My feet were starting to freeze as I had decided to go barefoot in the kayak, rather than get my hiking shoes soaked.
We slowly drifted back through the canal, back under the bridge and around Ross Castle once more.
Soaked, frozen and hip flexors as tight as a guitar string, I felt alive.
What do you think about kayaking around a castle in Ireland? How would you have coped manoeuvring through those tight spots in the lake?
Special thanks to Wild ‘N’ Happy for hosting me and the rest of the TBEX crew!Tweet