Family Trip: Aillwee Caves Ireland

Last September, my sister, my mother and I went to Ireland. We booked a self-drive tour down the West Coast. My sister and I had never been. We planned for months; where we wanted to go, how long we wanted to stay in each town, where our relatives might be. It wasn’t until we landed and got in our rental car that we realized it was going to be a vacation that included the three of us together in a car for hours at a time in Ireland, driving on the other side of the road trying to find stuff. Too late to turn back now.

My mother took up permanent residency in the back seat behind the passenger’s seat. She’s a well coifed lady with a little head, so the driver would turn and see her majesty dressed with her make up done looking like “What are you looking at me for? Eyes on the road.”

One of our first adventures was the Aillwee Cave. We just missed a tour so we had to wait a bit for the next one. We bought our tickets and sat around outside getting fresh air. What we didn’t do is learn more about the Aillwee Cave while we waited.
The group finally came back with a college kid as their guide. I don’t remember what her name was but she was there getting credits for college. I wish I had done something cool like that. I worked for a blind child psychologist when I was an undergrad at University of Miami. It was just me and her, no dealing with the public. I wasn’t even there on days when she had sessions so I didn’t get to see what kids where coming in to see the blind psychologist. Can you imagine being 5 years old and having no eye contact with your therapist? She was very nice to me but we never became friends outside the office.

The tour ended up being a punk rock couple and us three. It started with the six of us descending 250 stairs into the ground. I was already not enjoying myself. We get to the “bottom” and we all put on hats with lights on them like miners. We were not in the cave yet. Now we had to go through tight passages where you could barely see in front of you. I was definitely not having fun.Neither were the other members of my family.Why did we continue? Pride I supposed, I think if the tour guide had said, “Does anybody want to turn back?” We would have. But we didn’t want to be the ones to mention it. We played it cool.

She explained to us that two students found the cave by coming in through a crack in the rock formation that was filled with water and they could have drowned if the tide had risen while they were in there. My family began to panic and swear and grab onto one another. The guide then asked us to follow her through another tiny passageway that went on for a good twenty feet. That was it, I started laughing uncontrollably. We were in the hands of a college kid 250 staircases underground in a space that may or may not be at risk of filling up with water if the tide rises unexpectedly.
We entered a huge “room” with a waterfall and all this cool stuff.
As visually appealing as it all was, I was emotionally uncomfortable.
Me: excuse me, how much longer is the tour?
Guide: this is the last cave.
Me: then is there a regular exit or…?
Guide: we go out the way we came in.
I think that was the only question I asked while in the cave. I don’t remember my sister or mother asking any questions either. All I remember is a lot of "Holy Shit" and "This seems dangerous" and "How much emergency training do you think this college student has had?" The awe of natural beauty has no impact on the suspicious nature of the Irish.

The "guide" went on to tell us about blind albino crabs that live in the cave. You could kind of see them in the water but not really.
We headed back laughing and screaming and banging our heads on rocks the whole way.
When we “surfaced” I got more conversational. I asked a few questions like:
“What is the life span of the albino crabs?”
“How big do the blind albino frogs get?”
“Do you know the biggest blind albino frog on record?
I can’t remember what the answers were. Then I asked about the two students who discovered the cave.
Me: So that is pretty amazing that some college kids found this. I mean where do you go from there?
Guide: It’s really quite spectacular.
Her accent made it sound like she was being dramatic. I played along.
Me: What did they end up doing after discovering one of the most well known caves in Ireland?
Guide: Well, I know one died in a car accident shortly after.
Sounded suspicious to me but I was on vacation.
I didn’t want to get involved.

Thanks for listening!
Kendra is a stand up comic living in Brooklyn where she owns a super comfortable bed. She spends most of her time wondering where the hell her sugar daddy is and hoping he didn’t settle.
twitter @theotherkendra

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