New Girl

My last few days on Achill were messy…

I feel like I didn’t sleep for a week, doing all the things I’ve been meaning to do all summer, such as going out on Kevin’s fishing boat and lifting the lobster pots.

Don’t ask me why I chose to do this particular task on a day when I was atrociously hungover, after returning from the beach at 6am and rising at 7.30 for the breakfast shift.

Must have been that ‘seize the day’ attitude.

Let me paint a picture:

Very choppy sea
Grey skies
The stench of day old fish in the bait bucket, festering in it’s own juices
Kevin, his dad, Anke the German, little Cecilia from Taiwan and myself wearing the chunkiest life jacket known to mankind
Slippery boat floor

My task was to reach into the bait bucket (without falling over head first or suffocating myself in my life jacket), pick up a dead rancid fish, shove it into the netting in the pots, smush it’s little face in real good, then pass the pot to Kevin. I think everyone else enjoyed my hungover state far too much….

‘That one smells nice!’
‘Think of Patricks sweaty brown socks sweltering in the sunshine!’ ‘Deeeeeeep breath in there’
‘Shove it in HARDER Rosie, don’t be such a fussy girl!’ (normally I would have made a joke here but I hadn’t the gusto)..

Needless to say I spent a good hour in the corner leaning over the side, gazing at my reflection in the water and avoiding Kevin’s gleeful face as he watched me nearly be sick many a time. I’m sure it’s super fun usually, but whooooeeeeeeee. Dat stench. Anke’s life jacket nearly strangled her when she accidentally inflated, we lost the rope hook over the side, we nearly lost Cecilia between the two boats, and I became vommy. Not ideal.

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That weekend we had a huge group of cyclists staying in the hostel, who had obviously been consuming too much fibre and were farting violently in the pub. I looked pointedly at the main culprit when he did it for the second time, and he just shrugged and said “old age and Guinness farts for ya love!”

Pretty sure getting old doesn’t excuse farting. At least TRY to conceal.

These cyclists were a bit mad and drank all of the alcohol in the pub. At 4 o’clock in the morning, when we thought we were the only ones left awake, we discovered a middle aged woman in the middle cubicle of the bathroom, pants off, slumped forward on the toilet with her face down in her knickers. We tried to stir her and she leapt to action, walking into the door which was actually the slot machine.

I think she overdid it. I felt very sensible and sober seeing that.

Now, working in the valley you do get used to the gaze of older men. But on my last night I received unwanted attention from an older woman, who is the sister of the valley regular. She must be approximately 65, and she “loves my way”. Also my bum, apparently.

A self esteem boost if nothing else.

So my last weekend on Achill was a strange old one, with minimal sleep, a tandem midnight cycle trip, beach parties, awesome weather, a Talking Heads revival, humorous hungover people, beach football, a hurling match, and a fair few tears.

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It was a slightly weepy drive to Westport then down to Killary in Connemara, where I will be spending the next 2 months working at Killary Adventure Centre.

Jeananne and I are living in a house with I don’t know how many males, but you just know they are boys from the state of the place. I shall apply a woman’s touch.

We get all the activities for free (kayaking, Killary cruise, rock climbing, windsurfing, wake boarding, bungee jumping, and plenty more), and we also get FREE SEAWEED BATHS which was a deal clincher for me. All food and accommodation is provided plus monthly pay, and we work 8 hours daily with two days off per week. It’s like the Valley House on speed, and my body is struggling to keep up after a few months of relaxed Achill lifestyle, but I will get there.

The Killary Centre is right in front of Killary Fjord which makes for awesome views. Last night we went to Westport to pick up our bikes and cycle them back – such a sexy sunset.

From one spectacular place to another! I seem to be drawn to the places that are in the middle of nowhere….

Now I’m the newbie again. Right now they all think I’m normal….. They’re in for a shocker.

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Shits and Giggles

It may be the worst thing in the world, getting sick when you are far far away from mummy and home comforts. Where is mumsie to make you hot water bottles and cold flannels for your brow?

It is, at least, a lesson in harden the f**k up. But it isn’t fun. Especially when you share a bathroom with 10 other travellers, many of whom also have the illness, and when said bathroom is a solid 30 metres away.

You know it’s bad when you wake up curled around the base of the dubiously cleaned toilet, and you don’t even have the strength to be scared of the spiders minxing about in the corners.

I was lucky enough to have my darling Irish friend take me into her home and feed me soup and electrolytes, and let me use her bathroom and sleep in her bed. You know they’re a good friend when they give up their bed for you, whilst they sleep in the tent in the backyard.

If I’m looking on the bright side (which I usually am), I suppose it was my body’s way of telling me it needed 5 days of sleeping, free of alcohol, coffee and pretty much all food. I shall view it as a detox, and promptly get back on the wine wagon.

Having recovered from a sprained ankle, a damaged wrist, a vommy bug and some nasty hangovers, I have a new found appreciation for my health. And my appetite. Food tastes so good.

So what have I even been doing this past month? Not writing blog posts, that’s for sure. I’m sliding off the face of the earth on this island. My day goes roughly like this:

Wake up at 10am. Perhaps do some yoga, perhaps go back to sleep for an hour.

Eat a strange assortment of breakfast foods from the Helpers kitchen. We’re a healthy bunch this year, so the foods in demand seem to be flaxseeds, oats, soy milk and honey. Get em while you can!

Make a variety of glutenous pastries that I cannot eat due to intolerance but I would like to smush my face into, such as lemon meringue pies and buttermilk scones.

Get flour all over my clothing, get flustered if I receive more than one order at a time in the cafe, basically make it up as I go.

Squeal with glee over tip money that equates to one drinkie.

Finish work at 6pm. Occasionally go for a walk, a run, or most likely a nap.

Shower myself, or at least dry shampoo my head.

Sit in pub talking shit with various people. Increase my bar tab. Stay up too late. Go to bed at 3am. Tell myself I will get up early tomorrow and do activities. Secretly know that I will sleep for as long as possible.

It’s a whirlwind of activity, and the days slide by far too quickly.

A couple of weeks ago my homegirl Jeananne and I took a trip to Clare Island, moseyed around, drank a lot of tea, did some naps in the ditch and got rained on far too many times.

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This weekend I’m running away for a few days to do a cycle trip, which will include party time in Galway and then cycling through Connemara, wild camping and cooking food on a tiny camper stove. I’m very excited, and hoping that the heavens will not unleash their rainy fury on me too regularly. I don’t think my Primark raincoat would be able to handle it.

We have sporks, so I think we are pretty prepared.

When I return I promise to write a marvellous post of all our adventures. There will probably be a lot of pictures of me, sodden and downtrodden, regretting the decision to go camping and cycling in Ireland.

I shall leave you with these images of me and my compadres, drinking to excess and having a tremendous time.

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Achill Love

Two months, one sprained ankle, half a munted wrist, 237 midgie bites and 6 unidentifiable bruises later….

I’m still alive. Just. Achill is doing it’s best to break me, or maybe I’m just a bit stupid.

Things I’ve learnt over the past two months, or rather, things I should have learnt but continue to ignore in the spirit of good craic.

1. Don’t wear flip flops to Achill Head, seediest and slipperiest nightclub I’ve visited in Ireland (that’s saying something). You will fall over. At least thrice.

2. A beverage titled ‘Green Poison’ is not for the consumption of little girls. The name fits.

3. Bicycling at 2am is not a good idea, even when sober.

4. It’s especially not good when there are as many potholes as there are on Achill.

5. You also should not choose a bike with no brakes. This is just a general life rule that we should all abide by.

6. Swimming on an Irish beach in the middle of the night is going to be cold. Fripply, even.

7. It’s going to be colder if you don’t wear any clothes.

8. When you live in a hostel, it’s impossible to escape people. They will be there when you try to dash from the shower to your room in only a towel. They will laugh and point. You will probably drop your knickers.

9. Showers are either very cold or they are satan water. It’s like roulette. There is no such thing as warm. Or maybe that’s just the Valley House..

10. Bedtime is 2am, no earlier. If you go to bed earlier, it will be an amazing night and you will have missed out.

11. Beach parties make your hair and clothes smell like fire for days. Baking soda does not remove this smell.

12. Holey clothes are okay so long as the holes are not in naughty places.

13. Yoga with a sprained ankle and bung wrist is a challenge, and one that I am willing to accept.

14. Old men like to watch young women do yoga.

14. French people don’t lock the toilet door when they are doing number twos. Even when in a hostel.

15. Kids smell and leave a lot of crumbs.

16. Midgies will follow you to bed and try to get in there with you. You do not want to sleep with midgies.

17. It’s perfectly acceptable to order vegetable soup everywhere you go, because it is always the cheapest thing on the menu.

18. Avocados and hummus are the holy grail of helpx. They will only last one day. Feast.

19. Despite best intentions, you will probably not get up at 7.30am to do yoga and drink green smoothies when you’re living on Achill.

20. It’s very alarming when you leave Achill and re enter normal society. People are loud and look at you like you’re homeless, especially when you pay for everything with tip money.

21. You probably DO need to shower. A sea swim probably doesn’t count.

22. Sun is rare. When it comes, take off most of your clothes and bask.

23. The island wakes at 11am.

24. Time really flies when you don’t wake until 11am.

25. Even really ugly Irish people are babes. I LOVE THEM ALL.

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Togs, Dogs, Not Many Jogs

One month in Achill and I’m not quite sure what I’ve achieved in that time… I’ve definitely put some new holes in my clothes. One large hole in my finger too, which will be a cute reminder of that time I was actually doing some work and I got all flustered and tore my index finger open on a door (don’t ask how).

This month has been a bit of a blur of dirty jokes, beaches, friendly faces, bonfires, parties, cheese with wine inside (I KNOW) and the occasional wander to the beach to reflect on all of the above. Mostly on the cheese.

I’m very balanced. ….

I drink red wine at night, and green tea in the morning.

I stay up late, and I sleep a bit later to compensate.

I go for walks…. To the pub.

I do yoga, then have a nap during savasana.

I eat a sausage, but I eat it with some vegetables.

I wash myself regularly, but not my hair…..

Achill island has a weird effect on most people that come here. Several people who have turned up to stay at the hostel have ended up staying for longer, because they love it so much and don’t want to go home. (Or maybe it’s because I am here, and I am like the sun).

At the moment we have a French language camp at the hostel, which comprises of 5 delightful Irish kids learning French in the morning then doing adventure activities in the afternoon. I tagged along on a kayaking excursion the other day, and enjoyed a tandem kayak session through the wilds of the bog and the never ending lake in Keel. We beached ourselves several times, which is obviously all part of the fun. You must thrust aggressively to shift the weight of the kayak, much to the delight of everyone around us.

Last week on my days off I cycled to the beach with a friend, went swimming, did yoga in the sand (easier said than done – I got sand EVERYWHERE), then went to The Cottage and ate some seafood which may have been some of the best I’ve ever tasted. All the seafood is local and we could not stop talking about dat mackerel, mmmhmmmmmm.

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Last Monday was bonfire night, which is an annual event involving everyone on the island hauling all of their rubbish and old furniture down to beach bonfires and setting them alight. Then we all stand around and drink things whilst watching shit burn. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and really brought out my inner cave woman. I sat on a couch that may or may not have been riddled with fleas, and witnessed some fisticuffs between a young boy and a drunkard who was insulted when told to “go home to his mammy”. Scandal at the bonfire. Things escalated when we began to drink whiskey from the bottle, and the next morning I found myself hanging out on the beach accompanied by several stray hounds and no toothbrush.

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I had the last two days off, so we took a trip to Westport to catch up with friends. I saw my friend Izzy who I HelpXed with in France (my naked yoga buddy) and we exchanged hair washing stories over a glass of red wine and some enthusiastic banjo playing. Her hair looks like Rapunzel’s, whereas mine looks more like “Rumpelstiltskin”, but I have resigned myself to this. Tuesday may have been the sunniest day I’ve ever experienced in Ireland, so we moved our beds outside and got a small bit naked in the sun, much to the delight of the male flatmates (both called Kevin, because that’s all that anyone is called here).

“Um, can we take photos?”

“……no.”

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Then we went to eat some salads and took a trip to the beach. Once in the water we decided to go topless and wear our brassieres over our shoulders as handbags. We frolicked for a while and it was remarkably warm amongst the seaweeds. We almost floated about on our backs then realised our flotation devices would emerge from the water, which might have been a shock for the small children nearby.

So I’ve gone a bit feral once more, and I very much enjoy it. Whilst talking to mother dearest the other week, we observed that both of her children have gone wild. All of the snapchats I receive from my brother are something along the lines of, “yo just slept in a container and ate carrots for dinner now I’m going into the mountains with my beard”, and I reply with “yo just poured vinegar on my hair now I’m off to the beach on my bike with no gears to do some yoga and swim naked with the tickly fish”.

Sorry mum.

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Craic.

I always feel like a bit of a knob saying the word “craic”, because I feel like it’s sort of reserved for actual Irish people. But I like to say it anyway, because there is no English equivalent.

Basically, there is some tremendous craic here at the Valley House. One night, I decided to be a good girl and go to bed prior to 12am, at which point I was pronounced ‘shit craic’, which is just the worst thing someone could call you. I went to bed and lay there, thinking about how shit my craic is, listening to everyone being fun in the pub. That may well be the hardest thing about being here – you cannot go to bed early without experiencing extreme FOMO, only exacerbated by the fact you live next to the pub, therefore you can hear everything from your bedroom. Saxophones, guitars and all.

There are many different different words for different levels of craic. You might say:

Savage craic!
Mighty craic!
Having the craic!
What’s the craic?
Where’s the craic?
That’s no craic…
Negative craic!
Minus craic!

My personal fave is savage. Savage craic. Apparently they also say ‘savage cabbage’, which I shall attempt to integrate into daily conversation.

I went a bit AWOL these past few weeks. This is the effect that Achill Island has on you.. You forget to communicate with people, you spend all of your time wandering around aimlessly, talking to people, eating strange combinations of food from the HelpXers fridge, taking photos of scenery, being spontaneous and ripping your clothing. (Not in a sexy way, really).

In my past couple of weeks we have had a wedding (still recovering), I’ve been snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, camping with strangers, sunbathing (believe it or not), sleeping, driving around….. We have taken a few trips to the nearby town of Westport, once with the innocent intention of getting groceries…. We never returned. The craic overpowered us.

All I seem to take photos of is the beautiful scenery, yet it somehow never quite captures the magnificence. (Is that a word?)

In terms of seeking balance, I am doing okay. The first week or so was a write-off. Too much party time, not enough nap. But in my mind, celebration is good for the soul. Now I’m trying to do some yoga everyday (even if it’s only for 15 minutes), going for plenty of beach walks, eating all the fruits and vegetables that no one else eats, drinking apple cider vinegar every morning….. And trying to catch up on sleep when I can. Also, I am managing to maintain the no shampooing situation. Occasionally people look at me like I am homeless, but that’s sort of acceptable on Achill. I wash with baking soda, rinse with ACV, and occasionally treat myself to some essential oils!

I think it’s best to enjoy the situation I’m in right now, not stress about the change in my routine (we can’t all live on yoga retreats 24/7), and just have as much fun as possible. Fun is very important for one’s wellbeing. A different kind of wellbeing. Stress is counterproductive. It’s impossible to be stressed in such a beautiful place.

Here are some photos… Feast your eyes.

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Seeking Balance (and Summertime)

Today is a great day.

I’ve just noticed that I have 100 followers on my sexy little blog!

Also, I have arrived back in Ireland, a place that makes my soul tremendously happy. I’m heading back to The Valley House for a summer of mighty, savage, marvellous craic (savage craic sounds a bit scary but people ACTUALLY SAY THAT. I know.)

The past week has been a quick catch up with family and friends, cups of tea and trips to garden centres, some excellent quality sausages at the birthday BBQ, and a trip up to London for some social activity. I was feeling a little over-healthed and under-partied, and was perhaps experiencing a sort of mid-youth crisis, hitting age 22 and having spent the past 6 months primarily doing yoga and eating nettles.

Which is very essential for ones spiritual, physical, and emotional development, but I also felt I needed to imbibe and party. It’s all about balance.

So we went out in Brick Lane, ate very cheap curry, scored some wine and then went off and found ourselves a party. It was great, but I couldn’t handle 2 nights in a row. Instead, we went to Hyde Park then I went on home to watch Sex and the City and eat some quinoa.

Hyde Park was lovely, the actual sun shined, and there were even some triathletes doing some world championship final thing. I mostly just noticed how wonderful their bums were.

 

 

 

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Braving flip flops
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Our picnic in Hyde Park
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Sunshine!
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A miraculous hound.

 

So now I’m off to Achill Island, writing from the rickety bus that arrived 30 minutes late at Knock Airport. I like Knock airport because it reminds me of Nelson airport back home – no security, one big room, old men discussing public transport.

I’m curious to see what becomes of the next 2 and a half months. I expect it to be different from last year, with some different people and some the same, but also I think I am quite different from how I was last year.

I sense it will be a test in balance- how to maintain daily yoga and meditation and consumption of greens, whilst working in a Backpackers and Pub where alcohol consumption and party time is a given.

Challenge accepted! I sure hope there’s sunshine, so I don’t have to do yoga in the pub. That would just be distracting, for all parties involved…

Chat soon old pals.

Gidday Mate!

Heyyyyyy everybody and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here, you are probably the only one so far….. This blog is mostly for me to document my travels and share them with everyone at home, and for people I meet along the way to follow my adventures.

I finished my BA degree in Wellington in 2012- I studied History and German- then worked as a history research assistant for a while, all the while thinking about travelling overseas..

The funny thing is, I don’t yet know what my next adventure will be. All I know is I am on the opposite side of the world from home, it cost me a lot to get here and I really want to make the most of it, rather than sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours a week, saving to get home again! The London underground makes me feel dirty, I want to escape it…

I arrived in the UK in May, the day after my 21st birthday. I had money in my pocket and I was rearing to go! I spent six weeks hanging out with family in Surrey, then took myself off to Ireland for my first HelpX experience. I will put up a link to HelpX but basically it’s a website for work exchange opportunities, all over the world, where you work a couple of hours a day in exchange for food, accommodation and a cultural exchange. The two months I spent on Achill Island at the Valley House were some of the best of my LIFE! If you’re looking for a way to travel on the cheap, this is it.

After that I hitchhiked my way around the West Coast of Ireland, much to the dismay of my mummy. (Sorry mum). After a few experiences of being dropped in the middle of a country road at dusk by various elderly couples and truck drivers who thought they were being helpful, I learned to get on the road earlier than you think is necessary…. I don’t know if I would hitchhike anywhere but Ireland, the people are the friendliest you will ever meet and they will generally go out of their way to be kind and helpful. And hitchhiking is an amazing way to get around the countryside where there’s little to no public transport.

Eventually I tired of the voice in my own head, just in time to meet up with some girls from NZ who I would be travelling around Europe with for the next 6 weeks. We met in Galway, took a rainy, green to the gills trip to the Aran Islands, then took our little hire car back to Dublin for a final meal of chicken wings and cider. The next day we flew to the South of France, and began our trip through Nice, Marseille, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Prague, Berlin and finally Munich for the world famous Oktoberfest. I can safely say I have never consumed so much beer in my whole life, and I probably looked like a pretzel by the end of it,but it was so worth it. After a 6 hour non-stop hungover bus ride to Frankfurt, a dodgy Ryan Air flight and some late night bus adventures through London,we arrived home to the reality of an impending English winter and the depleted state of our bank accounts.

Plenty of stories from our trip around Europe, but I will save that for another time.

Now I’m busy working in England, eating lots of vegetables and dreaming up my next adventure. Any suggestions are more than welcome, preferably including a strapping Irish lad, vast beaches, sunshine and yoga…

Rosie Posie

Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland
Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland