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.
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.