…were spent in Galway, hanging out and getting ready for the trip to Italy. Laundry and pubs and packing… A friend requested that I bring her back Italian poppies, which might be a bit difficult…I don’t think they like it if you bring that sort of thing on the plane…
The walk back to Dingle along the coast road was filled with beehive huts and old stone walls, including those of a prehistoric fort. But the big news along the road was that part of the coast road had caved in. ‘We couldn’t see it clearly,’ the photographer and I had been told at the pub the night before, ‘but it fell into the ocean!’ Really, we discovered, it was a bit of the cliff that had fallen, potentially making the road itself unstable. It was closed to cars, but we hiked along it just fine.
After a stop in Ventry we hitched a lift with a lovely English couple, and found ourselves in Dingle in plenty of time to catch the bus and to grab a hot chocolate and a pint on the way out.
I was lucky enough to have met a fantastic photographer from Poland, now living near Cork, so I had company for the walk to Dunquin, a little town on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. Check out his website for some fantastic photos.
We took the hill path out, about a three hour walk, peaceful and beautiful. The views of the islands walking down toward Dunquin were not something to miss, and we were there in plenty of time to enjoy the sunset, and a lively session at the local pub.
I spent the first half of the day trying to get my laundry done, but nothing was open. Ah well, hand-washing and praying that it dries again.
Mostly just hung out around town, a sweet little place, with a nice centre. And Murphy’s Ice Cream Shop, a big plus… The hot chocolate is a religious experiance.
Taking the bus was strange…the road went by so fast! I had to hunker down in the seat so I couldn’t see out the window. Guess I’ve gotten used to the walking pace.
I am a bit sad to be giving up the whole walking up the coast plan…it would have been an accomplishment. But I’m enjoying myself more now, and I have the energy to go out to the pub at the end of the day. And if you haven’t been to the pub, have you really visited an Irish village?
Killarney seems like a nice town, but it’s not quite to my taste. A little too busy for a holiday, without being a real city. It seems like the major daytime activity is shopping…so I headed off to the National Park and Ross Castle, where I found Ross Castle and a German guy who’s not only staying at the same hostel as I am, but also heading to Dingle tomorrow by bus. We spent a lot of time debating over whether there is hope for American politics, and the rest talking about how great Terry Pratchet is. A good balance, to my mind.
Today I cheated. I walked from Black Valley out through the gap of Dunloe, but got a lift from Kate Kearney’s Cottage (the tourist base between Killarney and Black Valley) to Killarney. I have to confess, it was a relief.
But first, there was the walk out of the Valley, a pleasant, quiet climb. And then there was the Gap of Dunloe, a stunning walk with seemingly endless streams of tourists, cyclists, horse carts, and the occasional car. I couldn’t stop taking photos. It was beautiful.
First off, I have to confess that I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from the hike. The long days on busy roads are getting me down, so I’m planning to spend a few weeks in Italy visiting a dear friend. She even researched plane flights for me as soon as I emailed her that I might be coming, but I’ll wait till Killarney and a hostel with free internet access before I deal with the flight.
I had a bit of a difficult time getting out of Kenmare, as I couldn’t find a local to ask directions from! But eventually I found a lovely road out of town. Even the N71 was lovely, and stark, as all the fields were black and burnt. I’d heard both a notice on the radio asking people to beware of starting fires and that the farmers had been starting fires to clear out vegetation for the spring. Next, the road went through Moll’s Gap and over the mountains into Black Valley, one of the most secluded areas of Ireland I’ve been in yet. At night, under a full moon, the view from my bunk in the hostel was breathtaking.
I found Kenmare to be a lovely town, just the sort I would love to end up living in. But for now, just a day was a treat. I hung out with Paul Mack, who is on an either crazy and/or brilliant trek cycling through 42 countries to promote project blanket earth. Check out this article. I also bought myself that great indulgence for someone who has to carry everything on her back: a book. Namely, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen.
It wasn’t so far, and at the beginning it was just a stiff uphill – a good bit of work but worth it for the views. I even took the time to go off the route to see a stone circle, an indulgence I hadn’t had the energy to allow myself on other days. Then I headed over the mountain. Time after time I thought I was reaching the top of the mountain, only to see another dip and another peak. But the footing was good, so that was all right.
Then I started downhill. Now I’m not a spectacularly experienced backpacker, and I’m walking alone. So as I descended over boggy ground I couldn’t help but think how bad it would be if I twisted an ankle here, miles from a person and without mobile service. I went from tuft of grass to tuft of grass, paying all my attention to my feet with only an occasional glance up for the views. After some time the path changed into a muddy, fairly level smudge in a sea of dry golden grass, a welcome rest.
Then I came to a marshy bit. No stepping stones, only tufts of grass. And there was no way to reach the next path marker without going straight through. So I balanced from one wobbly tuft to another, thinking that this was it, this was where I fell on my ars* in the muck and had to walk the last five miles so covered in grime I looked like an orc. Then I thought, well, maybe I would make it, and luckily I did.
When I finally got into Kenmare I was so grateful to see shops and pubs and even payphones; I stopped at the first phone and called my boyfriend, who I hadn’t gotten to talk to in a week.