As I *might* have mentioned before; the Irish weather isn't really the sunniest ever, but since I knew that before I booked my plane ticket I was well prepared when I left the picturesque village of Glengarriff on Wednesday. I don't mind hiking in the rain that much, the first minute is usually the worst: it's only water, I won't melt. Deal with it & keep walking!
I got a ride from mr. Holland (really) from the lovely Island View B&B to the beginning of the Beara Way so I could skip the first asphalt hike and start at the 'real' Beara path. Both he and Imelda (the hilarious B&B lady), asked me several times if I really-REALLY wanted to do this- hike hours in the pouring rain; they were both offering to just drive me to Adrigole, my destination for the day. I kindly refused, I came here to hike and if I'm letting 'some rain' interfere with my plans I should've stayed home in the first place! But when I looked outside and the sky turned an even darker grey, it seemed like a tempting offer- but no! Not convinced of my capabilities, Mr. Holland worriedly waved goodbye until I climbed over the first fence (into sheep territory) and then drove away, shaking his head...
I know it may sound like a miserable experience but I was actually rather enjoying myself, thinking that if I successfully completed this hike, I could do *anything*. This sudden sense of freedom was overwhelming, my focus shifted for a second and I accidentally stepped in the middle of a huge puddle: within seconds I sank to my waist in thick mud, seeping into my shoes, pants and pretty much everything else attached to me. I (very dramatically) yelled 'oh COME ON!', covered my face with my hands in a reflex- and forgot they were covered in mud. I looked like I fell head first in a swamp. Like an Ogre. On a spa day. Suddenly I heard a sound in front of me and when I looked up, there was a sheep looking down on me (literally and figuratively I think) and I'm 99% sure she was mocking me with her 'mèhèhèhè'. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I started laughing, pulled myself onto 'main land', 'cleaned' my face and moved on.
After 3 hours I started talking to sheep ('morning miss Sheep, lovely weather, eh?') and a little while later, unavoidably, the singing commenced. The soundtrack of the day was The Sound of Music and I must've sang 'I Have Confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in RAAAAAIN' about twenty times. And everytime I had to walk through a herd I started with 'The Lonely Goatherd' but it just wasn't the same without my mom next to me, messing up the lyrics as I tried to yodel.
There was no shelter along the way and since I couldn't enjoy the scenery because of the fog, I only took 1-minute-breaks every hour to drink water and eat some dried fruits or nuts. I had to keep moving, it was cold and my wet clothes didn't keep in any warmth. Downhill was a very steep slippery slide, with most of the pathways turned into waterways by the ongoing downpour. Little streams turned into unruly rivers and twice I had to make the decision to either turn back and give up for the day or very, very carefully walk into the wild water to the opposite shore. I chose the latter both times and think I 'invented' quit some new curse words in the process. But hey, all is fair in rain and..eh..mud?
After 4 hours I couldn't stop thinking about Pride & Prejudice- a book I always take with me while traveling- and imagined when I'd arrive at the B&B they'd look at me in disgust and say 'you walked? Look at your pants- the hem is inches deep in mud!'. This would be the understatement of the year since there was mud up in my eyebrows (but I didn't notice that until AFTER I checked in). Luckily no such thing happened, when I arrived in Adrigole (population 400) after 5 hours & found out my B&B was NOT where I hoped it would be (like on the route), a nice local gave me a ride and I was welcomed with open arms (and a washing machine) by the couple in charge of the Mount View B&B. A shower and a lovely home cooked meal later, the clouds moved away and THE SUN STARTED SHINING! Fingers crossed it will be like this tomorrow!
What can I say...today was perfect! I started the Beara Way where I left it yesterday and again the first hour was the hardest. I needed time to get in the mood for yet another muddy hike & be mentally prepared for 7+ hours of it, so I decided to make 'just do it' my motto and to stop checking my watch! The sun was shining and once I found the right pace I really started to enjoy myself and the view: I could actually see where I was going! I saw Bere Island, Castletownbere, I even got to see the Iveragh Peninsula (Ring of Kerry) and I think I even got a glimpse of the Dingle Peninsula. And let's not forget the shiny blue Atlantic. Amazing- this day showed me everything I was hoping to see while hiking in Ireland.
My only 'social' interactions the first 4 hours were with sheep- again. I'm not complaining, it was nice to not have to worry about someone walking behind/in front of me. It was just me, a map, the mountain & mud. Stuck in my head: a remix of Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees): happy thoughts, positive thinking, just keep walking and HA/HA/HA/HA STAYIN' ALIIIIVE.
After 5 hours I walked past a girl my age, dressed similarly and with the exact same facial expression I had, the 'where am I/who am I/why is my backpack so heavy'-look. She, Simone, was going the opposite direction and battling her very heavy looking backpack- I could see a tent stick out. We started talking and it turned out she was Dutch! Apart from some families and couples, I hadn't met any other Dutch solo travellers the last two weeks so we exchanged some tips and wished each other good luck- a fun encounter in the middle of nowhere!
After 6 hours I had to admit my map-reading-skills were a bit rusty, I was convinced I took a wrong turn so that caused some stress- luckily I eventually found out that I was on the right track, I just failed to find where I was on the map. Let's just say I was having a very blonde day. It happens to the best of us- right?
After ±7 hours I reached the Summer Hill B&B in Castletownbere (also known as Castletown-Bearhaven), it's a 10-minute walk from the mainstreet (can't complain about walking 10 more minutes after 7 hours), I had a lovely room with a hot shower and was greeted with a cup of tea and biscuits- I felt very welcome!
To wrap it up: I feel very blessed to be here, hiking by myself and getting to see the most incredible views. My knees (tore a small muscle while hiking in Switzerland last year) are doing great, I only have 1 tiny blister so far and NO SUNBURN! Ha!! See, I told you, I'm really going places ;)
Tomorrow: Bere Island! And after that: Eyeries, Allihies, Garnish and Dursey Island.