N 51.98247°, W 10.13770°
The quayside overnighting spot was all right, but by about 6.00am lots of movement started, with crews noisily arriving and ships putting to sea. At least we had a good early start to get ready for the parkrun.
It was quite exciting as the Bear Island ferry pulled in and about 30 runners, who had been quietly arriving on the quay, made their way aboard. The trip to the island only took about 10 minutes and on our arrival we were suspiciously met by a couple of very dilapidated vans - an old VW transporter, and an even older Transit. The Transit had only half of its exhaust system left, the rear light clusters had been smashed out, and every single panel was bashed in. It slowly dawned that this was to be our 'bus' to the start.
The mystery of the 'critical link' bus driver was also solved when our ferry pilot, complete with running shoes, casually - and with a wry humour - uncomfortably crammed each and every runner into both of the vans and then hopped into the VW and set off up a twisting, steep and incredibly narrow road. Death seemed a certainty.
On the upside, as it turned out, our 'bus' - by Bear Island standards - was in pretty good shape. Not one car we saw had an intact set of panels or lights. Full exhausts seemed optional, and it seems it's compulsory to stop and chat through opened drivers' window to every vehicle that is met driving in the opposite direction as chunks of vegetation are casually gathered by any protruding nearside bodywork.
Incredibly, after about 10 minutes of sinuous hairpins we arrived at the parkrun start - and what a surprise we had. Waiting for us were about 60 of the Island's inhabitants at an immaculately maintained multi-use sports pitch, complete with full changing facilities, toilets and showers. The islanders are only about 200 in total number, but boy have they embraced the parkrun. All human life was here - and participating; from old blokes, through ladies in printed dresses, right down to about a dozen youngsters. Amongst the number were, of course, some pretty serious runners, but this event was clearly more about community than athletic prowess.
Nonetheless, at the get-go competition was fierce. The course itself offered beautiful vistas, running on a decaying single-track road around a rugged Atlantic-dominated headland up and down some pretty fearsome hills. It was tough, but superbly rewarding. It was also hot. By the time the starter had said 'go' at 9.46am (bearing in mind all parkruns the world over start at 9.00am sharp), it was something like 18°C.
Post run, the esoteric nature of the thing continued and all 'mainland' runners were urged to Murphy's cafe / post office / general store / wickerman manufacturers for tea, coffee and cake (pic). No one took any persuading and all sat about amongst the incongruous palm trees eating, drinking, and chatting until the 'busses' reappeared to begin the journey back to the ferry and then mainland.
The whole experience was slightly surreal but highly enjoyable. The parkrun phenomenon has gripped the island and must be responsible for 90% of its GDP in the simple form of ferry fares and Murphy's cake consumption.
A lifetime experience! Simple, bonkers, and infinitely memorable.
On getting back to the truck we cracked on and took on the much vaunted Ring of Kerry. Hmmm... I'll write more about this tomorrow when I've had more of a think.
Suffice to say for now that we're about half way round at the overnighting location shown, which is far from disappointing. We're amongst ancient peat bog listening to a babbling brook, and the nocturnal calls of a bird that I've never heard before, and can't even have a stab at. The full moon came up about an hour ago and the whole untrammelled scene is bathed in unfeasibly bright moonlight.
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