Quote of the Moment
"All really great things happen in slow and inconspicuous ways." Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, 23 March 2014

E8: Day one; Dursey Head to Ardgroom

A good map of the route. I took the northern path.
More photos, less rambling... I hear you! ;-)
The first days walking started with a Taxi. Essentially there is no way to get to the start of the hike via public transport. But before I start, here are some facts about the Beara Peninsula.
  • It is beautiful.
  • It is very remote.
  • The 236 bus route from Cork to Castletownbere is the most expensive to run in Europe. It is subsidised 85% by the council.
  • The reason that the Beara Peninsula has not gone the touristic way of the Iveragh Peninsula and Killarney is because the roads are so narrow that coaches can't go all the way around.
  • After the walk I read The Edge of Ireland, a book which highlights the rich spiritual and artistic heritage and people of the Beara Peninsula. Including a Buddhist retreat called Dzogchen Beara, the enduring traditions of Seanachi (keepers of oral history) and a plethora of artists, musicians and craft producers. (Most of which I missed out on with my demanding hike.)
The above and so much more, I will say now, means that I have promised to myself that I will go back there. It is just a magical place. 

A dilapidated sign for the 'Last Light Ceremony' that was conducted at the end of the Millennium. 
My Diary reads...
"Hot shower! Yes!"
...As the first line from the 1st March. With the Lodge being - at least officially - closed no hot water or heating had been in action for weeks and despite my three day bus journey I wasn't able to have a shower until the morning, which seemed doubtful when I went to be. Oh, what levels of appreciation you achieve for the small things when you embark on adventures!

It is then followed by..
"Well, today's hike was harder than expected."
The reality of the hike hit me pretty hard. I was suffering from a cold, which didn't help, and my pack was much too heavy for the sort of walking I had planned.

The day started well. The taxi was on time and when I arrived at the start of the Beara Way I was in good spirits, the sight of the water surging though Dursey Sound was very powerful alongside the craggy coastline (which reminded me of the very best of the North Cornish coast), and it wasn't raining (yet!). I started the walk. It felt amazing! I was actually doing it. Elation filled me to the brim and I couldn't believe I had actually arrived. It was quite emotional really.

Me, feeling pretty chuffed to actually be at the start of something that was months in the planning.

This, I was soon to find out, was a DRY path!
The path began with a good incline on alternating damp/slippy vegitation and rocky terrain. Some scrambling was required in places which was a little precarious with the wind. Also something which I was going to have to get used to was the nature of the path itself, often it was badly signposted and had no visible signs of it's existence. Which isn't necessarily a problem, but it became tricky once it rose into the cloud cover and visibility dropped dramatically.

 On the way I met Michael - a Tipperary man - who started just before me and I caught up with him soon after the first hill. With two hiking poles and two gps trackers he was remarkably more kitted out than me and was infinitely more experienced in the sorts of walking I was going to have to do; Bog Walking! We stayed together up until Allihies, with a promise that we were not able to fulfil, to meet up again further along the hike when I was closer to his home. I learnt quite a bit from this encounter (thank you Michael!), but it was also a real boost to my spirits to walk with someone else. My plan for the hike was always to do it alone, little did I know how draining solo-hiking can be on the spirit and how much the chatter and companionship of someone, even a total stranger, on a long hike such as this is so important.
The weather got worse and worse as the day progressed. Most of the hike was in the clouds and visibility was poor. Around Allihies the walk is along country roads which lead up to the old mine workings of Anhillies mine workings and the Slieve Miskish Mountians. This disused mine workings were in various states of disrepair but very interesting to see. That said I wasn't really in a position to appreciate them...
"Alone I climbed. And climbed. And cursed my heavy bag, the weather and my lack of training. The distraction of good conversation had gone. I motivated myself with a Cream Egg."
I was pretty grumpy at this point, but then I spent the next couple of hours negotiating the turf, bogs and hills that led towards Ardgroom. This was a point which almost broke me. The walk was treacherous, going up the mud clinged to and infested your boots. Going down every step could see you fall and slide into puddles of mud and sheep droppings. It was a continual trial that sapped the strength, it was not a day to be out on a walk.

"I fell, slipped, skidded, tumbled and was generally consumed by the bog. The highlights of this section - the Mass Rock, the Mines, the sea and soothing roar of the waves - were eclipsed by the wet, the mud and the rotting vegetation. The hillside had effectively erupted with little streams of rainwater and micro-waterfalls that filled the land."
 I eventually arrived at Eyeries. I sat, in a slight lull in the rain, steeling myself for the final 10 kilometres. About 3km along the country road someone pulled over, offered me a lift and I accepted. I was done in. But luckily I had the Panorama B&B to look help me recover that night, and what a wonderful salvation it is for a tired and demoralised hiker! More on this next time.


Thanks once again for reading this blog. Turned out to have more words in it than I expected! OOPS! Oh and the walk wasn't all bad, just this section was a shock. Things perk up much more further along. ;-)

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