I eyed the small plane with trepidation, bordering on anxiety. My weekend escape to the west coast had got off to a wet start, having stepped off the bus in Galway city to the teeming deluge, typical of the June bank holiday. The flimsy umbrella I had brought with me crumpled under the sheer force of the summer torrents.
Soaked and sodden, I procured the keys to my friend’s “shack” in Newcastle and attempted to dry my belongings in the igloo-like house in preparation for my island break the next day. I not-so silently cursed the City of Tribes and its inclement weather as I wrung my underwear in the bathroom sink.
The following morning brought further downpour as I boarded the shuttle to Connemara from Eyre Square. The van hurtled along the winding roads to Connnemara airport. I use that word loosely as it was really a grey building with a weighing scales, a desk and a bit of landing strip attached to it. There was also a small heap of metal, cobbled together in the form of a rickety old plane.
I cursed myself for not opting for the ferry to Inis Mór instead. What good was an 8 minute flight if the plane went down above the water?
It inspired less confidence still when the lady at the “check-in” desk asked me to step on to the weighing scales.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“We just need to weigh all the passengers boarding the plane”, she replied smiling. “To ensure the distribution is correct.”
“Oh right”, I answered.
I’m going to die.
The rain had, thankfully, ceased by the time it came to board the plane and all 8 passengers were seated carefully so as to optimise weight distribution.
I am definitely going to die, I thought. They will find my watery remains floating off the coast of Connemara with 4 American tourists and 3 islanders.
The propellers chugged into action slowly and I could smell the fumes which rose up from the engine as we jostled along the “runway”. I gripped tightly to the edge of my tattered leather seat – as if it would help. The woman behind me was desperately muttering a few Hail Marys and clutching her rosary beads tightly to her chest as the plane took off.
Had the rain still been pelting down, I’m sure we would have all been tossed into the Atlantic Ocean in that little tin can. By some miracle, we somehow survived the jolts and bumps and landed at the “airport” on Inis Mór, this time a shed with a narrow strip of concrete in a field. The low-lying island seemed to be bathed in glorious sunshine, though perhaps I was just grateful to be alive!
I laughed and rejoiced at my lucky escape finally ready to enjoy my island break when a horrible thought struck me.
Feck! I’ve got to fly back on Monday.