Portmagee, Ireland – Sheep Mystery, Solved!

We began our tour of county Kerry at Portmagee.  Portmagee is a small fishing village with a few roads, one or two hotels, a couple pubs, and a pier. Very peaceful, very beautiful, and very remote.

While in Portmagee we took the Big Red Van around Valentia Island to view more awesome scenery and check out a rock with the oldest tetrapod footprints every found. The rock is mounted at the bottom hill at the end of a gravel path. As my dad and I huffed and puffed our way back up the trail, I mentioned that I am surprised such an important artifact was left exposed to the elements. He reminded me that it had lasted for 385 million years without any special care, so it would probably be OK for a while. Good point.

Valencia island’s claim to fame in the 20th century is that it is where the first transatlantic telegraph cable was tethered to Europe. I couldn’t get the kids too excited about that one.

While in Portmagee we also solved one of the mysteries that had been haunting us for days. I call it the mystery of sheep painting. We had noticed during the hours of driving over and around the remote hills of southwestern Ireland, that the sheep were often painted with colored stripes.  Red, Blue, Green, and some with a combination of colors and stripes. This became a topic of discussion and debate among the passengers in the Big Red Van. Since it would be suicidal to take my eyes off the oncoming traffic for a single moment, I listened.  It is incredible how creative some of the explanations became – especially when one considers that the only factual input was that sheep are painted with colored stripes.  It is also a testament to how the passengers in the Big Red Van (my family) needed to focus on anything outside the car – to draw their attention away from the incessant near-miss collisions and the low-level curses coming from the driver’s seat.  Anyway, that night at dinner, an Irish couple satisfied our curiosity when they revealed that sheep are marked with colors to indicate which farmers own them – which reduces the fist fights between owners.  Mystery solved!

Unfortunately the wind was blowing too hard for us to visit the Skellig Islands.  I got a couple hazy pictures of the Skelligs which stick up out of the sea like something from a fairy tale. Skellig Michael, the biggest of the Skelligs, is the location of a monastery founded between the 6th and 8th century, and abandoned in the 13 century. The promotional pictures look awesome, and it would have been a blast to go out, but the wind was up and it looked like getting on the island involved jumping from a boat onto slippery rocks over the foamy sea.  Then it is a long hike up a narrow path, along a windblown cliff that drops directly back into the same foamy brine. I pictured a scene from Lord of the Rings. This inconvenient entrance is why the monks were able to protect the monastery from viking raiders for hundreds of years. I’m sorry that I missed the opportunity to get some pictures of the place,…  Well, maybe the next time I’m in Portmagee the weather will be better.

After Portmagee we were ready to head back populated lands.

3 thoughts on “Portmagee, Ireland – Sheep Mystery, Solved!

  1. Hello Les, Suzanne, Patrick & Alex,

    WOW…looks as though you guys are having an amazing time. I still can’t believe that you’re traveling the world for a year…all I can say is that you guys are absolutely amazing (all my friends think so too). Thank you for sharing your trip with us, it makes me smile every time I read a Blog or see a new photo. Everyone looks happy & healthy, eventhough I heard Alex & Les had the Flu from Hell. Well, I guess it’s better that Alex only take down her Dad and not the rest of the family and all of Croacia. 🙂 Please tell the kids Happy Birthday & that we will celebrate when you come to visit us in Floirda. We love you very much and wish you the best in your travels.
    Uncle Tom, Aunt Kim, Thomas & Camarin

  2. Hi Les, short note. I just returned from Tanzania yesterday afternoon. The sarfari is a lifetime and memorable experience. I have thousands of pictures, but will send the link to share in a few days. However, you can get your visas at the airport when landing in Arusha. Make sure you have your sarfari set up before you get to Tanzania. The area is pretty rural and you want your travel plans in place. Send me an email if you have any further questions. Enjoy the next leg of your trip. Karen

    • Thanks Karen, I’m relieved that the information we received from the Tanzanian embassy in Berlin about visas is correct. We have our safari and accommodations all arranged – so we should be OK on that account. I look forward to seeing your pictures.

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