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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
…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.
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…
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.
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…