Sorry for the delay in my blog posts, I know I said I wouldn’t drag these out but these last couple of weeks have been just plain crazy hectic! Still trying to find the balance between working, socialising, blogging and I now have two new skills I want to learn but I will reveal these in another blog. Ooooo intrigued? So to continue with these Irish adventures…
Day 3: Lough Dan – Glenmalure
I awoke slightly groggy, cold and keen to get packed up and back on the road. I accidentally didn’t zip my sleeping bag up fully, so the chill woke me up during the wee hours of the morning. I also made the mistake of placing my backpack at the bottom of tent so I wasn’t able to stretch out fully. Something I duly noted for my next wild camp. Once up and packed away and with our tummies rumbling we decided we wanted some proper grub for brunch so we headed off in the direction of Laragh. After some food we would then continue onwards to Glenmalure. The flies returned with a vengeance and tormented us for the first hour of up hill climbing. It was safe to say that I wasn’t in the best of moods.
After the climb we steeply descended into a little forested area just outside Laragh. A quaint wooden bridge crossed a pretty little river and we decided to explore this beautiful spot and clambered over the rocks for a cheeky photo opportunity.
Laragh is a small picturesque village with only about 360 residents along with many Wicklow way hikers coming and going. Not far down the road we found a lovely little restaurant with outdoor seating so chucked off our bags, took a seat and ordered two pints of Guinness without even perusing the menu. Our first genuine Irish Guinnesses and my god did they taste good. I ordered lasagne, garlic bread and chips for lunch and it tasted like the best food I’d ever eaten. Screw you Nutrigrain bars!!! I sat there with a gigantic grin on my face as I enjoyed my gorgeous carbtastic meal.
Content in the moment, chatting away about the journey so far and enjoying each sip of the stouty goodness, we soon forgot where we were and our mission for the day. We still had 15 odd miles to cover before the sun went down. We begrudgingly downed the remainder of our pints, paid the bill and got back on the road.
I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, my achy legs or my belly full of Guinness but I struggled! It may have been all these things?! The Wicklow Way crosses the main valley floor in Glendalough and the gradual incline soon turns into a strenuous steep climb up large stone steps along side the Poulanass waterfall. I didn’t even have the strength to admire this view, which was such a shame. I just kept my head down, the sweat joining my tired tears as they dripped off my nose. I had to really push myself up to the top. Once past the waterfall the path continued to climb but not at such a dramatic gradient. Nick saw my tear-stained face and suggested we took a break. He asked me what was wrong and I literally just burst out crying. I had no energy, no drive and the number of miles we still had to cover over the next couple of days was really playing on my mind.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this. I’m so tired and my legs and feet are killing me”
After a cuddle and a nutrigrain bar I had calmed down enough to carry on. This was a tough day. The path just continued to climb, weaving back and forth, snaking up the mountain side. The gigantic trees seemed to home in on us, blocking any form of view and restricting any glimpse of a potential peak. I could see that Nick was starting to struggle too. We were so tired and the lack of view and conversation meant we only had one thing to think about and that was walking. One foot in front of the other. With the silence that surrounded us, our footsteps sounded like a marching beat. We tried to keep to this rhythm and pace to keep us going. Left, Right, Left, Right, Keep, Going, Keep, Going!
After what felt like a lifetime the trees started to thin and eventually gave way to the most refreshing chill and the breathtaking view of the valleys far below.
At the beginning of this climb, down in the valley, we were surrounded by hundreds of day walkers, bagless and carefree. As we ventured further and further up the numbers dwindled and people were replaced with sheep. Greeting us with their baaass and one even decided to follow us for a bit. This brought back memories of going to Wales when I was younger. My auntie and uncle lived in a small seaside town, but they lived further up a mountain track. After dinners we would often take walks up into the mountains to walk off the yummy food and feed the local sheep.
My silent prayers were answered and the path started to descend down these giant stone steps. I let gravity do its thing and let the weight of the day carry me to the bottom of the next valley. Suddenly we came across a road and that meant only one thing…we were close to Glenmalure, our stop for the day! We were meant to be wild camping that evening but we both had had such a strenuous day that we caved as soon as we saw the sign for the Glenmalure Lodge.
“I don’t care what it costs, I will put it on my credit card. I just need a shower and a nice comfy bed for the night” I said to Nick
It was the cutest little place and our room was actually rather large with a power shower and a bed so comfortable I almost forfeited going to dinner to just lie there. I’m glad I didn’t though. This image below was my burger…..how awesome is that?! Not just a normal burger, a burger with all the tasty trimmings piled on top. We spent the evening eating, drinking and celebrating finishing such a tough day.
Day 4: Glenmalure – Tinahely (The Big One)
I slept soooooo well and felt 100 times better about what lay ahead of us. After a lovely breakfast we headed out into the sunshine and made our way…UP! aw man you had to be kidding me!! Yep we headed up hill to our first peak of the day. This was also another scorcher of a day (I thought Ireland was supposed to be rainy and cold). There wasn’t much shade about so any we did come across we would take shelter and rehydrated.
This climb only lasted about 45 mins which was very short compared to yesterday. A breeze decided to join us and I felt in good spirits. I eyed up the path ahead and knew today would be a beautiful one.
I looked over to see Nick’s head down and pain on his face. His boots had caused many blisters from the previous days and even though they were bandaged up the pain was obvious. I tried to keep the conversation light to take his mind off it until I knew he just wanted some peace and quiet to push through. I popped my headphones in and just passed through the miles, walking in time with the tunes.
At around 1pm we came across a little patch of grass next to the road with little boulders to perch our bums on. We thought it was probably a good idea to get out of the sun and refuel for the second half of the day. Nick seemed to perk up as his feet gave up complaining so much, knowing they would not be getting any rest any time soon. After a little Irish jig in the road, no kidding, we thought best to carry on.
I love the homes they have around this area of Ireland. They are either these perfect, American looking houses with massive drives, show home style gardens and panoramic views or they are these cute cottages painted in cray cray colours. Look at the one below. Now I love the colour green but I would never think to myself…I’m going to paint my entire cottage and surrounding walls bright green. Hats off to this home owner though. So many different colours were dotted around the tiny villages, I loved it! It reminded me a bit of The Wizard of Oz.
After we hit the 20 mile mark I realised that this was the furthest I’ve ever walked in one go. The pain in my toes and my shins was getting worse but I continued to hobble along knowing I only had a couple more miles to go! I could just about lift my feet off the floor. When I saw the sign for Tinahely I almost cried. When I saw the pub I actually did cry. These were tears of joy and pain at the same time.
The barman in the pub was such a gem, he showed us to a table and brought us two big pints of water straight away along with 2 menus. I ordered Guinness and beef stew and Nick ordered fish and chips. It was GORGEOUS! It was so rich and filling. Really perked me up after completing this 22 mile day!
The barman asked if we already had somewhere booked for the night. When we told him we were looking to camp he very kindly informed us of a field near by that a lot of Wicklow Way hikers stayed in with no trouble at all. I’m still taken aback by the kindness and generosity of the Irish folk. I can’t imagine being able to wild camp so easily in England. As the sun started to descend we pitched our tents and got ourselves ready for bed. It was a little weird camping in a field where people could see us so easily. The sound of cars passing over the bridge reminded me a little of home and it wasn’t long before I curled my tired achy feet into my sleeping bag (backpack at the side of me this time :p) and drifted off into the land of nod.
Only 1 more day of walking to go…1 more day.
To be continued…