“EEK! EEK! EEK!” I woke up with a start on a crisp, clear summer morning in Galway, Ireland. The alarm was blaring, telling me to wake up. “It’s too early.” I said, as I muffled my face into my pillow. It was 7:15 in the morning. I was really groggy from only getting a few hours of sleep. I looked over to my roommate, Jenna— she was knocked out cold and snoring softly. I rolled over to check the time. The creamy coloured sheets crinkled and crackled underneath me as I moved. I turned around in the bed, and looked back at the clock. 7:30?! Crap! How did fifteen minutes go by so quickly?! We're gonna be late! I rolled back over to wake up Jenna, but she wasn't there anymore. I sat up in bed, and searched the room for her. I found her in the corner of the room, putting on a pair of jeans. “Mornin’ roomy.” She said, with her toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. Her hair was all over the place, and she had a Jelly Baby candy stuck to her Pink Floyd t-shirt. “Good morning. We're late, and probably gonna have to skip breakfast.” I said. “That's fine with me. I'm kinda tired of the same old sunny side up eggs and blood sausage.” I nodded my head in agreement and got up to check our itinerary on the desk. I was hoping for a day to relax and just go sightseeing but, no— that was the day when we were going to Doolin Cave.
Jenna Shockley walking through a garden. Taken by Taryn Stuart.
When it was time to go into the cave, I got excited. I thought it would be a cool experience, but I also didn’t know what to expect. I figured we would walk for about fifteen minutes on some pretty flat ground, look at some rocks, and then leave. But, I was so wrong. Next thing I knew, our group was being lead down about two hundred wet stairs, into a cold, damp tunnel. After spending all morning bathing in the gentle Irish sun, suddenly dropping the air temperature to forty degrees had me feeling dreadful. And, I almost slipped on those wet stairs a million times. I was gripping onto the railing for dear life— my knuckles were probably pale and red, but I couldn’t tell because it was so dark! Our tour guide, whose name I can’t remember, looked like he was my age-- he had pudgy, pink cheeks, and copper coloured hair. I was right behind him as he lead us deeper into the cave. I was trying to listen to what the tour guide was saying about the history of the cave, but I couldn't help but wonder ‘Did anyone die in this cave?’ It was a pretty creepy cave. The walls were wet and super dirty, the floor was kinda slippery in certain places and quite uneven. Our guide led us to an area with hard hats and told everyone to grab one. After we all had our hats on and everyone was definitely secure, he gave us a long speech about being safe in the cave. It was super boring, like most times when someone talks about safety. Then, we started our journey through the cave.
Our journey through the cave was long, cold, dark and wet. There was only one flashlight for our whole group, and our tour guide had it. I think I tripped about a thousand times during the walk to get to where we were going. But when we did get there, I was shocked. The little tunnel we had been walking through for what felt like hours, (although it was probably only like fifteen minutes) had opened up into a big room, and in the center of the room, a huge stalactite was hanging from the ceiling. “Ooooh.” “Wow.“ “Oh my God.” Everyone stared in awe at the massive piece of limestone. “This is Europe’s largest stalactite.” The tour guide said enthusiastically. Underneath the stalactite was a small reflecting pool. Little droplets of water would drip from the tip of the rock every once in awhile. As he continued to speak about the history, size, and science behind how it was formed, I marveled in it’s beauty. It was huge— twenty four feet to be exact. One of the coolest things about the stalactite is that it continues to grow, everyday. One part of the rock is dead (the darker side of the rock), while the other part grows everyday. Everyone made sure to get plenty of pictures.