2014 – Day Eighteen

It’s the honey chil’s birthday. Sylvia’s 40th. As I write in her card, it
really does only seem like yesterday that she was brought home to
complete our family. It seems I am to be away for her birthday each
year, but this year she is celebrating in style, as a fabulous resort in
Thailand, so being on the other side of the planet is ok I guess.

We have a little adventure planned today. We are going to visit the
island of Valentia, just of the coast of Kerry. The island has a history
going back to the Viking times with pre Christian and Christian
remains. We get there by a short car ferry – it’s a bit scary getting on
and off as it’s really steep and we scrape the ground both times.
Once there, we realise the roads are tiny, with only limited turn out
areas, but still, we are nothing if not determined and off we set, up
the first hill to see the famous grotto, set in the slate quarry.

The quarry is the first place we have seen that quarries the purple
stone we see everywhere. It’s slate apparently. Since it’s operation
in the 1860s the quarry has supplied stone to roof the Paris Opera
House, Westminster, the London Records Office (26 miles of
shelving) and a whole series of London train stations. The grotto is
huge, cut into the mountain, about 75 feet high and a bit wider at
the base. A shrine to the Virgin Mary is set at the top of it. We have
seen these shrines all over Ireland, most on ground level, with a
statue of the Virgin Mary, usually set off roadways. Whoever put this
one up at the top of the grotto had no fear of heights, that’s for
sure.

Our next stop is the most exciting one (to me anyway). The island
boasts the in situ footsteps of a Terapod. It’s the earliest record of a
four limbed creature leaving the sea to live on dry land. The
footsteps are 385 million years old. That’s staggering. Another
narrow road to navigate, then a long steep path down, and there
they are. There are distinct tracks set into mud, which have then set
into rock over time. Such a simple footstep, no more than flippers
turned into feet really. There’s meant to be a tail drag mark too, but
I have to do three trips to the pictures and a then down the climb to
spot it properly. Our lizardy ancestor was about a metre long and
lived at the water’s edge, eventually evolving to breath air, into
mammals, and eventually, into us. These tracks were discovered in
1992 and are the oldest in situ anywhere. It infuriates me to see
people ignoring the rope and walking around the site. Poor form
and the height of ignorance. This is one of the coolest things I have
seen and I can’t believe that people don’t respect it.

Our last stop is the look out from the the Geokaun Mountain. We
miss the turn off and there is no place to turn around, so we hike up.
It’s pretty steep, but the views are worth it. Almost a 360 degree
view of the island – it’s pretty spectacular. No sign of the Irish hares
who apparently live here, but we do spot evidence of them, and
some great bird life, including a pheasant that Chris sees with his
binoculars, and a garnet I see when we were crossing. The garnet
was huge – a 2 metre wing span and he was putting it to good use
catching his lunch.

We get stuck down a small road trying to get to the last attraction,
St Brendan’s well, and a squall comes over. In the end Chris
executes a 20 point turn on a dime an we head home, over the
causeway this time instead of the ferry. Looks like the rain is here to
stay.

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