Finding Hidden Gems: A Kayaking Expedition



The morning is brisk and the stress of getting ready to travel outside of Dublin is once again welling up inside of me, especially because this is my first time traveling solo. I request a taxi and wait outside of Centra, the on-campus grocery store. I had planned my kayaking trip to a T – how I was going to get to Dalkey, where I needed to be dropped off and how long it was going to take to get there. My plans, however, fell through the second I slid into the car. 


“Mornin’,” the driver exclaims. “You’re headed to Pearse Station, yeah?”

“Yes sir,” I say.

“Where are you going?”

“Dalkey.”

“Dalkey? I’ll drop you off at a DART nearby. It’s closer to here. No point in going into the city just to come right back out.”


I oblige. Little did I know I would be spending the next half hour with the taxi driver. Despite my recognition of transportation hours operating later on Sundays, I only associated this change with the buses and not the DART as well. So, when we pull into the empty DART station and I run back to the taxi within seconds to catch a ride south, a kind smile sprawls across the driver’s face because he already knew he would be taking me to my destination. And, it is only 15 euro more. In that moment, I realize that my scheduled kayaking trip is going to be much more of an adventure than just the activity itself.


Dalkey, a town just south of Dublin, is a quiet place on early Sunday mornings. Shop owners set up tables outside as the town slowly stirs to life. Individuals stroll along the roads and bikers quickly peddle through town to beat the growing heat from the rising sun. Nothing is open except for a small grocery store, so I pop in for a cup of coffee and head towards the coast. After all, my travel time to Bulloch Harbour had been reduced significantly. I have all the time in the world.


I find a row of benches facing the low-tide harbor. I pull out my copy of J.K. Rowling’s, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” sip my coffee and continue reading where I left off. A cool breeze is in the air, seagull conversation can be heard from above and the sound of dog paws patter across the quay as owners walk behind them in the distance.


A couple of hours pass, and the harbor slowly begins to bustle. Finally, there are other people. As half past nine approaches, I walk up to a building I think is the little kayak shop. I am wrong. An elderly man in tattered clothing gently greets me and points me in the direction of where I am actually supposed to be.


I approach the storage truck the kayaking company is operating out of and suddenly, a man emerges from behind the suspended life vests and piled kayaks with a hearty grin. He has sandy hair and tanned skin. Calluses stand out on his hands and his arms are defined from physical activity. He is sporting reflective sunglasses perched on top of his nose. After introducing himself, he immediately throws me into the work of helping him set up for the day: laying out wetsuits, relocating kayaks closer to the water and instructing people where to lay their stuff. Although I am nervous about being the only one to sign up, groups of two’s and four’s slowly arrive as the start time of the tour approaches. After quick, polite conversation with our group of eight, I learn that some were there for playful recreation and others return monthly because they believe being on the water is a lovely way to spend their time. Then, Tom Judge, the man behind the life vests and the tour guide for our morning trip, leads us to the water after we suit up, so we can begin our tour.


Judge quickly teaches us the basics of kayaking – how to enter the boat, to position our legs and to maneuver the water. After a few minutes of orienting ourselves, we set out for Dalkey Island. Casual conversation is held among the group when we are within reach of one another. Otherwise, most of the trip is spent in silence as we paddle through the clear water