Inishbofin

The rain started as soon as we neared the ferry. Almost as if it knew we were heading for an island in the Atlantic. As if it knew we wanted to go camping. It poured down.
The boat itself was hilarious. Shopping bags sat on the seats, while the islanders stood, happy with their purchases from Lidl. There are no Lidls on Inishbofin. They peered out at the rain. Eyes up to heaven as they contemplated a familiar foe. They were well-prepared; all sporting heavy duty rain jackets, unlike Jenny who had forgotten hers in Tralee that morning. For some reason the islanders all huddled together at the back of the boat, just under the overhang, as if afraid to disturb the bags of shopping inside.
Two dogs were also on board: a freaky Alsatian with different coloured eyes, and a small white little fella who had the misfortune of being stood on every so often. He stood surrounded by islanders with his short little legs stretched out for balance as the boat rocked over the waves, a glum look on his face. A yelp every five minutes or so betrayed another trodding by a clumsy Inishbofiner. The rain meanwhile, kept pouring, and the wind was picking up...

We had planned on just flinging the tent up somewhere when we landed but the reaction of two islanders on hearing our plans convinced us to go to the hostel . A feckin' storm was developing. The hostel was full however, but the owner, Kieran, took pity on us and threw a couple of mattresses under the stairs beside the fire. "You'd be crazy to go out in that," he warned us. "There's no way you could camp out there."

Later the rain subsided enough for us to make it down to Day's pub near the pier. The creamy pints were only bettered by the music. Jesus, it was great! I was captivated. "How long do you think it would take to learn to play the fiddle?" I asked Jenny the next day. "Three years before it even sounds right," she replied. I wasn't inspired for long.

Just 164 people call Inis Bó Finne (Island of the White Cow) home. There are no gardaí so basically there's no law. Cars go untaxed, uninsured, unNCTed, (much like my own). Pubs stay open as long as they want. Sunday's session went on until 6 a.m. but they've been known to go on much later. This was only a quiet night.

You can do whatever the hell you want and so nobody bothered getting up too early. Most ate breakfast around 10.30 a.m. Very un-German. Afterwards we set off for a walk around the island. The sun made a rare appearance on what I was to learn later was the "nicest day in weeks". It bathed the island in an otherworldly light. We walked and walked and walked; over emerald hills, along grassy bodhreens, across ridges, heather-clad rocks, overhanging cliffs, sandy beaches. We skimmed stones across a mirror-topped lake. It was glorious.

Using "maaaaaa" as a warning call on toilet breaks on Inishbofin can lead to a lot of confusion. Everywhere can be heard the bleats of the island's most populous four-legged animals. It's actually quite noisy. Noisy quiet. If it's not the bleating of sheep, it's the tearing, munching and chomping of grass. The odd "mooo" or "hee-haw" break the maaaa-notony.

A ram stood high on an outcrop above us. He surveyed all before him, looking out to sea majestically. As if taking in the beauty of a magnificent peaceful evening.
Like in the Comeraghs, flocks of sheep are free to wander wherever they will. They scampered casually before us, stopping to graze when they felt they were far enough, moving on again when we approached.
"Let's catch one!" I suggested.
"Which one?" Jenny asked.
"That one there," as I identified the least threatening one closest to us.
They scattered in panic before us, bleating in consternation as we pegged after them, fanning out in all directions as they sought to escape. Towards the cliffs they fled, turning left, right, always looking back as if they couldn't believe we were actually chasing them.
We stopped to gasp for breath. The woolly feckers were just too fast. They bleated their disapproval from a safe distance.
Suddenly, we noticed something moving on the outcrop behind us. Something very fast. The ram! He tore down the side of the hill, scurrying between rocks as he charged down towards us. Galloping like bejaysus. Shit! What do we do?!
Waaaaaa!!! I ran back up towards him. I figured attack was the best form of defence. WAAAAAAAA!!!!! He wasn't expecting that. He quickly changed direction, joining his brethren who had gathered for safety in numbers. They bleated in unison. Maaa! Maaa! Maaaaaa!!!! as they scampered down the hill in panic again. Your ma won't save you now. So much for the ram.
Jenny ran from the other side, as if to hedge them off. Jaysus, it was mad! We stopped for breath again, gasping between laughs. Again the woolly feckers were just too fast. I was surprised how much Jenny enjoyed it. I guess there are few sheep-chasing opportunities in Berlin. Hopefully no one saw us.

We wandered on and found a colony of rabbits. They didn't hang around long enough to be chased however, instead darting back into the safety of their burrows. Sheep, of course, don't have burrows, although I'd say the Inishbofin sheep might now be thinking of digging a few.

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