Day 3 & 4 – A Tough Old Slog

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.

Signs

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.

river3 river1

river2

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.

Lasagne
firstGuinness

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.

HighUp Sheep

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.

Burger?


Day 4: Glenmalure – Tinahely (The Big One)

Day4

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.

GoingDown

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.

lunchbreak lunchbreak2

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.

ColouredHouse

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.

Tinahely

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!

GuinnessAndAleStew

Camp

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…

-MooFace-

Day 2 – I see pride, I see power, I see a badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody

I woke up pretty much in the same position I fell asleep in, I was that tired. It took a while for my brain to re adjust and remember where I was and what went on the day before. As I stretched, my achy muscles soon jogged my memory of the 20 miles we’d completed previously. Instead of getting up straight away, I decided to just lie back and enjoy the feeling of being stationary and relaxed. I knew today was going to be tough with my already achy limbs.

The grey clouds soon dispersed and left us with a glorious sunny start to the day. With our bellies full and sunscreen applied we headed downhill to pick up the Wicklow Way where we’d left off. We were told that day 2 of the route was the most beautiful and this seemed to be true from the get go.

IMG_3603

Our route took us through a leafy forest path down a very welcoming hill. With the sun on our faces and a gentle breeze keeping us cool, we were both really excited about the day ahead. We knew it would get tough but with such a beautiful start it made us realise why we chose to take on this challenge.

IMG_3613
IMG_3615

As we took on our first winding up hill climb of the day, we paused to look back over where we had come from. Down in the valley we could see the Knockree Hostel below, planted in the hillside amongst the greenery. Even after only an hour of walking, we had come so far already. We rounded a corner and the path levelled out. The cliff edge slowly revealed a secret as we drew closer to the edge. An amazing waterfall lay in the valley. I could see people milling around it, having picnics and dipping their toes in the icy water. We were really hoping the path would take us down to it, would have been such a lovely stop for lunch. Sadly the path crept around it, keeping us high in the mountains.

DCIM100GOPRO
IMG_3623

We headed down our next rocky hill and came across this beautiful spot for a quick lunch break. If we had known the day before that this area was here we probably would have carried on a little bit further to reach it. It would have been the perfect wild camping spot, and there was evidence that people had had the same idea. It was a grassy area, flat enough for the tents and was right next to the Glencree river. It was really picturesque. With my bag off my back and my shoes off, I let my toes wriggle in the breeze. I leaned back, with a Nutrigrain bar in hand and my eyes closed. I was content in the world at that very moment.

Before we left, we took the opportunity to fill up our water bottles. Being such a warm day, we seemed to be racing through our supplies. It was lovely and cold and crystal clear. We did add a chlorine tablet though just to be on the safe side, didn’t want to risk any dodgy stomachs whilst out in the middle of no where, hehe. Feeling refreshed and stocked we continued on our path. Our next challenge: getting up through Powerscourt Paddock and up Djouce Mountain. Not quite to the 700m peak but close at about 650-655m.

IMG_3628

As we hiked, we chatted. We chatted about all kinds of things along the way: from future travels plans, to films we liked, food, friends and family…but we kind of got distracted. It wasn’t until we reached the bottom of a hill that we decided to check the guide book. Silly Sallys! Our surroundings didn’t seem to match what we were reading in front of us. Luckily we came across a couple who pointed back up…way up, where we had just come from. We had missed out turning and was forced to bow our heads and struggle back up the hillside. We had added 2 miles onto our day. This may not seem much but when the next part of the trek is up a 650m steep gradient, those 2 miles feel like 10 :p

We found that shouting out a bit of Cool Runnings helped us get to the top. We’re so weird sometimes ha ha.

I see pride, I see power, I see a badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody

We did make it though, we may have been over taken by mountain bikers (how did they do that?!) but we made it. We quickly dumped our bags and fell into a heap on the floor. My god was it beautiful up there! We could see for miles. The peak had been conquered. Errr or so we thought….

IMG_3647

IMG_5122

…we turned the corner of the mountain to see that the path was continuing to climb. Shit! We still had about 100m to climb. ha ha. This path was very thin and hugged the mountain side. Sheep stood on tiny rock platforms, hopping around making it look so effortless. We could hear the sound of water running and checked our depleting water bottles. We’d stumbled across the source of a stream, coming straight out from the rocks. Again it was crystal clear and so refreshing to drink, no need for a purifying tablet this time.

The path became a lot easier once it turned into wooden sleepers that carved our path ahead. They trailed off over the edge of the mountain and out of sight.

IMG_3119

These sleepers took us all the way to the other side of Djouce Mountain to a spectacular view overlooking Lough Tay. Perfect photo opportunity as you can see. Poses at the ready…

IMG_3127
IMG_3124

We took a short break here, the sun was warm but luckily we had the wind flowing up over the mountains to keep up cool. We took a seat and admired the gorgeous view. Peace and quiet, just the sound of the wind rustling our hair. Sadly this lough was a little out of our path but we were hoping to reach Lough Dan to pitch our tents beside that night. It had been a long day and we were looking forward to getting our shoes off and eating a ‘cooked’ meal.

It was surprising to see how much deforestation was going on within the Wicklow way. We were often passing acres of stumps, which was sad to see. The next description of our route instructed us to follow the sleepers down the hill and through a forest until we reached the road. We could see down the mountain side, see the sleepers, see the road but there wasn’t a single tree either side of this path. Even though new trees had been planted in the empty patches, it would take decades before the forest would be restored to its former glory and then I’m guessing these would be cut down as well. Just seems such a shame.

As we hit the road the tiredness started to kick in. My feet started to burn and my muscles were pleading for the end of the day. We had the chance to follow the road and head straight to a campsite in Roundwood, however we both agreed that we had come that far and we might as well stick to the route and wild camp as planned. I was rather nervous about my first experience wild camping. I was worried that we would get woken in the early hours of the morning by an angry farmer kicking us off their land (understandably of course). Nick pointed out possible locations along the way, but I was nervous by neighbouring houses so we carried on in the direction of Lough Dan.

As we passed through a field on the way to the lough we found ourselves in a large open space with what looked like faded patches of grass caused by tents. There was a water tap and even a pub style bench. This was a campsite…but with no one around. It wasn’t long before we realised we had stumbled across a campsite used by girl guides and boy scouts but was evidently closed for the week. With no one around we picked a spot near the back. Even though it was clear that nobody was going to come across us, I still found myself talking in a whispered tone.

Nick was keen to pitch the tents first but I was still nervous about being found so we agreed to wait a little longer for it to get a little darker. It was dinner time. A gourmet meal of super noodles. It may not look like much but my god it hit the spot. After a day of Nutrigrain bars, noodles was a welcoming dinner.

IMG_3132
IMG_3134

Now the only problem with this campsite was the midges. Loads of them, and flies…everywhere. I tried covering my face with my checkered shirt whilst I pitched my tent but I couldn’t take much more of it. As soon as our tents were pitched and our belongings were slung inside we dived in to escape the hordes.

Me and Nick decided (much to my dismay) that we would take a 1 man tent each. They were lighter to carry and evenly carried between the both of us. Luckily, pitched right next to each other, we could still easily chat. Not that the conversation carried on for long. We were both so exhausted from our brilliant day that our voices soon descended into silence.

BARK BARK BARK

“Nick do you think someone is coming?! What if they find us? What if they mug us?”

I woke Nick up. Whilst clutching my sleeping bag, I tried to listen out for footsteps approaching but I could only hear the sound of my heart beating fast in my chest.

“Don’t you worry, no one is coming, no one will find us here. Go to sleep, sweet dreams”

I soon relaxed and the tiredness swept over me. Before I knew it I was fast asleep. Nick on the other hand was then kept awake for the next 10 minutes by my snoring. Oops!!!

To Be Continued…

-MooFace-