The Aran Island of Inishmore, and the meaning of stone
July 4, 1999:
The Aran Islands are so much of a tourist attraction that there's four different ferry companies vying for business -- each with several sailings daily. We picked a combo that let us take our bikes and gave us almost eight hours on the island.
If the world had an edge, it would look like the Aran Islands.
From here one feels one is looking into oblivion. There are no people and no sounds other than a slow rhythmic boom as the ocean eats into the overhanging cliffs.
Every square inch of the island is spoken for by a fence made of piles of fractured limestone.
Water and labor are in short supply, so this stone trough collects the rain.
But don't believe the islands are completely without amenities. Here's a stone and stucco cottage complete with satellite dish.
The entire island is made of karstic (pronounced 'car-st' - fractured limestone) which you can see here under Henry's boots. (He's been befriended by a local dog who seemed concerned for our safety.)
Sometimes dirt sticks to the stones and then plants can survive on it. Every year the island residents would pull seaweed up from the shore and spread it on the stone to encourage soil to develop.
The karst breaks into chunks on its own and can be broken off with reasonable force and some simple tools. That's how the ancients built structures like the Black Fort seen to the right here.
As the day wore on we realized we'd gone a wee bit under prepared. We had only a half hour of studying our maps and only a liter of water in our packs.
We found ourselves tired and worn out by the weight we were carrying and the incessant sun and the bumpy ride along roads which were meant for people who have their whole lives to spend on the island.
The people of Aran seem understandably tired of tourists. Though it's their primary source of income, we got the feeling they don't like being constantly besieged by strangers wanting to 'get the shot.'
Primary mode of transportation is the bicycle. Some people have cars, but the horse and buggy are for tourists only.
All the signs for locals are in Irish (Gaelic). All the signs for tourists are in English.
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