What’s That I Hear You Say? I’ve Been Back From Ireland For Ages and STILL Haven’t Finished These Blog Posts?! Yes I’m Rubbish!

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The Last Leg of The Wicklow Way

With our tents packed up we couldn’t quite believe that this would be our final day of hiking. By the evening we would have completed 100 miles, The Wicklow Way, in just 5 days! For two inexperienced hikers this would be a massive feat. I’m really glad we got to stay in this beautiful little town. It was so quaint with the bunting everywhere and the small local shops.

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We headed off in the direction of our final destination, Clonegal. Just 15 miles to go. The sun was shining and the path was mostly flat, which was lovely. However, even with such flat terrain, after 4 days of intense hiking our bodies were struggling. Every sign we passed we were counting down the miles and trying to predict how long we had left. After the first 5 miles we took cover from the midday sun and let our feet breathe. The thick socks and crazy heat had caused my feet to break out in heat rash. Grim! I let my feet enjoy the breeze and wriggle room for a while until the sun started its long decent. As much as I didn’t want to I had to put my poor feeties back in their boot cages ready for the next 10 miles. Just 10 miles to go!

We hit a long straight road, it was so long that we couldn’t even see where it would end. These past two road walking days were very different to the earlier days. Not only because of the terrain, but the effect that this terrain had on our motivation and our moods. The paths were easier on our bodies, but the views were not as breathtaking and distracting from the task of hiking. My feet were happy for the Tarmac below them, but my brain missed the valleys, the breeze whipping my hair across my face and the challenges of getting across to the next map marker.

About half way down this long old road a car passed us and pulled over just ahead. A very kind lady offered us a lift to the next town. We looked at each and then back at her, our heads slowly turned to the comfy empty seats that lay just behind her. It was so tempting but we had come too far to bail now. We thanked her but declined the offer. As she drove away we wondered whether we had made the right decision. I’m happy to say we did.

At the next junction we decided to have a little lunch break. Gas cooker, flavoured rice, water…done! I lay back on my bag, just listening to the sound of the world go by, staring at the sparse clouds that littered the sky. I was actually starting to enjoy this outdoor living. I kind of felt like I did when I was travelling round Asia. Nothing to worry about but getting to our next destination. I am really looking forward to planning our BIG travelling adventure. We still haven’t ironed out the details…but we will be very soon.

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After packing up our lunch things, we headed down the road and reached a cross roads. Were my eyes deceiving me?! Could it be? There was a sign for Clonegal and it actually said “1 mile to go”. If we could have sprinted there we would have. We did pick up the pace a little though…well as much as our legs would actually let us.

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Before we knew it, there it was “Welcome to Clonegal” We hugged the sign with such excitement! We’d only gone and bloody done it!! 100 miles in 5 days! We had completed The Wicklow Way!

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With no pubs open, what with it being in the middle of the afternoon in a tiny village we parked up on a bench next to this gorgeous river and admired our surroundings. Such a lovely little place to finish our hiking adventure in.

We were informed by some fellow Wicklow Way hikers that the only place where we would be able to catch a coach to Cork, was in a town 4 miles away! The thought of walking another 4 miles sent shivers through my body. The two hikers were staying over night in Clonegal and getting up early to head to Bunclody. We couldn’t face getting up super super early for another morning of walking and we just wanted to kind of get it out the way. So with our bags and boots back on we headed south. This time however we wouldn’t be turning down any lift offers and actually stuck our thumbs out to hitch a ride. I have never done this in my life and never thought I would!

After about 10 minutes of cars passing us by I gave up on the idea of this actually working. I kept sticking my thumb out though, just in case. As we struggled up a steep hill a small car passed us….and actually pulled over at the top. It had only gone and bloody worked. Irish people…you guys rock!!! This guy, probably around my age, was also heading to Bunclody and said he was happy to take us! YES! So we all got chatting…you know, the usual conversation questions. Where have you been? Names? Where have you come from? When I mentioned Essex he looked back at me in the review mirror:

“You don’t live near Bas Vegas do you?”

Now only people from Essex seem to know of and ever call Basildon Festival Leisure Park, Bas Vegas!

“Er…I actually don’t live that far from there. How do you know of Bas Vegas?”

It turns out he had lived in London and Kent for years and had often visited friends in Basildon. I mentioned I went to university in Kent and…small bloody world…we had both gone to the same art institute around the same time.

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He was a wicked guy and told us the best places to head to for dinner and areas to avoid when he dropped us off. Driver man, who ever you are, I thank you dearly!

After dinner the guy behind the bar told us of a park that we could camp in that wouldn’t be any trouble. This was my least favourite wild camp of them all. It wasn’t like a foresty park, it was a football/rugby park where a lot of people walked their dogs and carried out their evening jogs. I didn’t feel sheltered from prying eyes and felt very uneasy as I got into my tent. Nick kindly gave me some weapons to help me feel safer. A mini shovel and a swiss army knife that looked like it had come out of a Christmas cracker, I think it did actually come out of a cracker last year. It would have to do! I fell asleep hugging my defensive weapons of choice.

I felt much better in the morning once all my stuff was packed up and my wild camping days had come to an end. The next part of our holiday was much more traditional in the way of a city break. A coach to Cork to take in the sights, the food and the local booze!

Hiking mission – DONE!

-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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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…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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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“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-

Day 1 – Forests, Flies and Up Hill Climbs

“We are now approaching Dublin Port”

I felt like I’d only just closed my eyes when I heard the tannoy blare out above our heads. After a frosty four hour power nap we were up and ready, kind of, for the first big day ahead of us.

Dropped off in Dublin city centre we searched around for a source of nourishment. Something that would be open at 6am, that would help give us energy for the mountains that laid ahead and keep the hunger at bay. Of course the only thing open at this time in the morning was McDonalds. Ok not quite what we needed but it would have to do. With our bellies full and my heart warmed with a cup of tea, we set off in the direction of Marley Park. This was the official starting point of the Wicklow Way. Our start was just under 6 miles away. Just 6 miles.

With the excitement of what lay ahead of us, we had a spring in our step as we followed our guide book. We were so pleased with ourselves when we found the next part of the route that was noted down. The day was overcast but surprisingly warm and it wasn’t long before we had shed our coats and long sleeved tops.

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After about an hour we found a little park that had some toilet facilities that we could freshen up in. As we approached we parted ways. Myself into the side marked ‘Fir’ and Nick walked into the side marked ‘Mna’. It wasn’t until I saw (well I actually smelt them first) the urinals, that I realised why a passing woman had looked at us with such a bemused expression. Note: Fir and Mna isn’t as easy as male and female. Something we duely noted for the rest of our trip.

Before entering Marley Park, we stocked up at the local Lidl with extra bottles of water and a few cheeky snacks to pack into our pockets so we could pick at them along the way. This was it, around 10:00am and we were starting the Wicklow Way. 100 miles were stretched out ahead of us and we were ready to rock. Small snag…longitude festival was setting up, so the first mile of the trek was slightly detoured around the edge of the park rather than going through it. We hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come. We had been following a path with a gradual incline since we left Dublin centre but the gradient got visibley steeper. The people and busy roads fell away behind us.

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After another couple of hours we paused for a quick, but the first of many, nutrigrain bar breaks and to admire how far we had already come. It was weird thinking that only that morning we had stared at this mountain, slightly worried that it would take us forever to get up there. But here we were, looking down at our starting point, way in the distance. We beamed, proud of ourselves, even though our lack of experience hiking was apparent with our sweat sodden clothes and glistening faces. Many older walkers past us, beaming smiles and bone dry hiking ensembles. It was because we were carrying large heavy bags, that is what I kept telling myself anyway.

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Steeper and steeper this first Wicklow Way mountain grew. The giant stone steps protruding from the hillside seemed to be never ending. It felt like its summit was unreachable. But before we knew it, the ground levelled out and we had made it to Fairy Castle. I knew we had higher mountains to climb over the next week, even that day, and I started to doubt my abilities to complete this massive task I’d taken on. Luckily, for the first time that day, we had the joyous task of heading down hill. Now I was able to appreciate the views more, rather than looking down and willing my legs to keep going. As the route levelled out and our path lead us down a mountain hugging road, we watched as cars whizzed past us in a blur. The breathtaking scenery did not. It slowly met us, allowing us to admire it and take it all in. The colours, the smells, so fresh compared to every day London living. City living where even a bike ride is consumed with chaos, pollution and the need for speed.

The peak we had conquered before was just the beginning. We reach the start of Prince William’s Seat…a 550 metre up hill battle. Unlike our first climb, we didn’t have the same Dublin views. This winding path was thinner and lined with thick fir trees. Our only view was the sandy gravel as we bowed our heads and pushed through the thick heat. Now because we were in a forest area and we probably didn’t smell the best at that moment in time, we were being tormented and followed by hundreds of flies. It was like something out of a cartoon. Me and Nick continued to smile and chatted about the day so far. This also helped distract us from the dull ache in our legs and the buzzing in our ears.

We heard a rustling coming from the path up ahead of us. As we looked up we were faced with the beautiful sight of two large deers staring at us. They were as surprised to see us as we were them and they quickly carried on across the path and darted out of sight. As fleeting as our encounter was, it definitely made the day.

At the peak of this mountain I decided that a night of wild camping just wasn’t going to make tomorrow a good day for either of us. A fellow hiker we met informed us of a hostel in the tiny village of Knockree. This hostel was right on the Wicklow Way path and was a well known stop for hikers. This sounded perfect.

After 20 long miles we came across the Knockree Hostel, a “5 star” converted farmhouse overlooking the Glencree mountains. It had 5 star prices for sure but I wouldn’t say this was exactly 5 star accommodation. However the bunk beds and showers were a very welcome sight after our long day. We were also lucky that nobody else was booked in or turned up to share the room with us. We had our pick of the beds.

After a gourmet meal of a self catered rice dinner and packets of crisps for dessert we curled our achey legs into bed and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I was still slightly worried about whether we would actually manage the next 80 miles but I was sure proud of our achievements for that first day. The day of forests, flies and up hill climbs.

To Be Continued…

-MooFace-

 

I’m Back – Farmer Tan Included

Hey there,

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I literally got back from sunny Ireland this morning…and came straight from the bus station to work. Grim! Even after a shower, I just can’t seem to shake the 8 hour coach journey off me. Double Grim!

My current plan of action is to head home, unpack (by unpack I mean to just throw my clothes in the general direction of the wash basket) and snuggle up in my pjs with a cheeky dominos takeaway. However I will be blogging mine and my fella’s Irish adventures over the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned and you’ll get to read about fisty cuffs, forest trails and tribulations, wild camping and you’ll find out whether we actually did it…did we complete the Wicklow Way?

Oh check out my left over manicure from the holiday…ha ha! B. E. A. UTIFUL right? Get this girl some nail polish remover…stat!

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Until next time you lovely people.

-MooFace-

 

 

Can You Guinness Where I’m Heading To?

The last time me and the fella got post holiday blues we found ourselves in the door way of STA travel with our debit cards in our hands and adventure in our hearts. We spontaneously booked a pair of return flights for Bangkok with the plan to spend 6 1/2 weeks travelling through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and back to the Thai islands to finish of our whistle stop tour. This was actually before getting it approved at work. “Yes that’s approved, you two can book your flights now” Ermmm yeah sure, it’s not like we had already done that, that would be crazy, right?!

If you’d like to read all about those adventures you can find them on my fella’s blog that I used to share with him before I ventured out into the world of moo. His writing is hilarious and very clever, I’m sure you’ll enjoy sugartothebrain. You’ll have to venture back to late 2012 early 2013 for these shenanigans…but feel free to read through his other stuff as well.

So this week it wasn’t so much holiday blues but constant work blues. After a pretty stressful end/start to this year, only managing to find time for a short break in Paris before literally getting back and moving flat, we haven’t stopped working since. Our Asia adventure meant that upon returning early last year we were only left with 6 working days to last us 11 months!! 11 months!!!! In our industry even having bank holidays off is a rare gem of a treat. When the New Year bells tolled we were blessed once again with 20 whole glorious days to take. Flashes of white sandy beaches, cocktails by the pool and reading my kindle in the sunshine flashed before my eyes. I could already feel the sun on my skin. However because we are saving for our BIG adventure, our holidays this year would have to be small and budgeted. It is now July and it got to the point where we both just needed a week off, away from our dark office rooms and bright monitors to get some fresh air, recharge our batteries and clear our minds of particle caches, render farm errors and deadlines.

Let’s walk across Ireland”

Said my fella with such eagerness. He got so excited by this idea that he pretty much started planning it in his head before I even had a chance to process this challenge. He wasn’t surprised to have his idea met by a wide eyed vacant look.

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Walk across Ireland….as a holiday….for 7 days. Was he mad? He tried doing this a few years ago but decided to do it in October when the weather was atrocious. I still remember his daily texts about rain, blisters and cold nights in his tent. This was not really my idea of a holiday.

He knew it would take much persuading to get me to agree to do this, but he has some kind of special ability to sell ideas to me. 90% of the time I’m so glad he has as they have turned out to be brilliant ideas. At work I was bombarded with google map links, pictures of rolling green hills and idyllic locations that we could see on our way and many messages telling me how amazing it would be. He was slowly changing my mind. Mmm it could be quite nice to get out the city and go exploring. There he did it, before I knew it we had the week booked off and the coach tickets purchased.

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So…the plan of action. We will be catching a coach there on a Friday afternoon. My plan is to take many packets of sweets, some tunes and maybe a couple of travel sickness tablets to help me nod off. My friends will agree when I say I don’t really need these, I can sleep through anything and anywhere much to their annoyance, but just to be on the safe side. I need to be full of energy when we get there. We shall arrive in Dublin in the wee hours of the Saturday morning where, after a can of redbull, we shall venture south and head straight out of the city. Hopefully the sun would have just graced us with it’s presence so this should be a nice start to the adventure. Our route will hopefully take us 7 days, down past Wicklow Mountains National Park, through Waterford and with any luck end up in Cork the following Saturday. After a day of exploring this city, and a night in a hotel with an actual BED, we will be heading back to Dublin on the train for our last day of Irish antics before getting the coach back to foggy London town. Arriving at 8am Monday we will be going straight to work HA HA! Sounds crazy right?

I am beyond nervous though. When I was younger I never went on camping holidays and at festivals I am always one of the weirdos who is up at 6am with a terrible hangover just so I can get a warm shower. We will be wild camping, each having a solo tent (this bummed me out a little at first) so toilet facilities and showers will have to be au natural in the wilderness. I really need to locate my unused she-wee that I bought for travels.

The world is your toilet Steph!

– My fella

I’m annoyingly not one of those people that look good in the wilderness. I can’t seem to get away with having greasy hair and a baby wiped face. My barnett doesn’t go all wavy and beachy like and me trying to attempt a french braid is liking asking a dog to separate skittles. I may have to ask one of my talented friends at work to do it before I leave and try and keep it in for the whole 7 days, just layering on the dry shampoo each morning. Think this will work? Me neither ha ha.

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So I’ve purchased a few essentials: a pair of hiking boots, waterproof trousers (it’s Ireland, I’m bound to need these), a waterproof jacket, a nice warm fleece for those chillier evenings and a new sleeping bag as my current one is so old and thin that I might as well wrap myself in cling film, would probably work better. I’ve picked up my travelling backpack and have made a neat little hiking pile on the floor of our flat. I have to admit, as nervous as I am, I am rather excited. A whole week, just me and him and the friendly people of Ireland that we meet along the way.

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So what do you guys think? Any camping style advice? Any Irish sites we should visit along the way? Anybody actually done this before? All comments/advice are very welcome.

-MooFace-