The following is a talk I gave today at the First Presbyterian Church in Lovington, New Mexico. It’s a long wall of text, so power through it, eh?
Ellen told me that I have to keep this short, that I could not ramble on for an hour like I did last time. So hopefully I’ll stick to this document and not stray too far from the message I’m trying to impart. I’ve had about two months to pen this – naturally, I waited until the last minute.
Earlier this year, after what seemed less than a month of planning and forethought, I embarked upon my second international solo journey. Yes, I had certainly kicked the idea around many a time afore, but it wasn’t until late January that I decided – impulsively – that I needed to once more take to the road and see the world as only a lonesome pilgrim can.
There’s nothing quite like blazing through a busy street, blaring Finnish metal and trying your best to sing along, the plumes of smoke billowing forth from your open window shrouding your ignoble advance into Destiny.
There, upon the horizon, quartz-capped mountains lay in the distance, beckoning you to master them. One day, Sandias, one day I shall conquer you all.
Little moments like these are when I feel most alive.
If you’re in the mood for reflections upon wandering, writing, and everything in between, by all means, dear reader, progress! For I’ve got news!
As promised, a complete write-up of the Wicklow Way with a full bit of information and tips should you find yourself on the east side of the Emerald Isle. This is a long post so, uh, deal wid it.
The Trail Itself
According to my guidebook, the trail takes about 5 to 7 days in either direction and runs approximately 132km. I began in Marlay Park, Dublin, and hit Clonegal (official start/end town) by the middle of the sixth day, averaging about 25km a day give or take. The longest I walked in one day was 32km and the shortest was 20km. This makes the Wicklow Way a decent way to spend a week of vacation without being too concerned about time. It also forms part of the E8 Walking Trails throughout Europe, bleeding into the South Leinster Way which takes you further southwest into Ireland.
If you begin in Dublin proper, prepare yourself for you immediately begin hiking upwards on mostly forested trails and rocky paths. You begin at sea level and before you know it, you’re almost 600m in the air. It doesn’t sound like much, especially to my American readers, but this is in the course of a single day – the constant ascending and descending in the first few days are taxing. Especially if you’re a fatbody like me who hasn’t hiked proper in several years. Continue reading “Walking the Wicklow Way”
There is far more than a nugget of truth in that statement, folks, lemme tell you.
Tomorrow marks my last day on the Wicklow Way (and I’ll have a review/write up later) and each day has been a wonderful blessing. The first day, though my fatbody wasn’t quite ready for the strains, was still an enjoyable success. Throughout the week, I have seen a great many sights Ireland has to offer and I’m floored by such a pristine country. Here’s a few shots (more to come):
But that isn’t the point of this post, to inundate you with photos of the Wicklow Way, no, far from it. The purpose of this post is to sing the praises of that lovable scamp Gavin of Butlers Byrne B&B in Aughrim and his incredible penchant for Irish hospitality.
Aughrim is about 8km off the Way so it’s a bit of a walk after a long day. No matter, for Gavin offered to pick me up and drive me to his joint. Immediately upon entering his beautiful B&B pad, he set out cookies biscuits and coffee for me whilst giving me the skinny on the local sporting teams, horsemanship, and the Way. We were chatting as if we were old chums; the conversation immediately picked up as soon as I had finished my hot shower and changed into my less smelly clothing. And before I knew it, Gavin was taking me to the pub!
Oh, Irish pubs! If there’s such a thing as Heaven on Earth, I do believe I found it. The Guinness was cold and constant – it is good for you, after all – and the locals were genuinely kind and intrigued. He introduced me to damn near everyone and they all asked how I was finding Ireland. Really kind people, these Irish. Helping to explain local sports to the ignorant American.
But Guinness, let’s go there for a moment. I was told a typical night meant around 10 pints of Guinness, which is a) quite expensive back home and b) the way I want to die. As my brother has famously declared, “Every beer is a sandwich,” to which I must add, “but a pint of Guinness is a hero.” I had 5 or 6 pints (quiet night) because I had to walk in the morning, but let me tell you, I was neither hungover nor hungry when I awoke today.
You see, I drank so much Guinness and laughed till my sides hurt that by the time I awoke for a full Irish breakfast (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried this; Gavin makes a mean black pudding) my body had almost completely rejuvenated from the grueling day before. The black liquid gave strength to my stiff legs, filled my belly for the entire day, and was the proverbial carrot dangling from the stick, guiding me towards the next pub town. If you’re ever going on a long haul walk, get yourself a pint.
After Gavin’s famous full Irish, he dropped me off where he originally picked me up, and, after many well-wishes and thank yous, I set once more upon the trail. But I will never forget the kindness I found at Butlers Byrne B&B courtesy of Gavin. If you’re ever in the area, look him up. You won’t be disappointed.
Now then, this monkey is off to find a pint!
*At the time of writing, their link was delivering a 403 message but check back on the reg*
The Gathering of Pilgrims has come to a rousing conclusion with many a tearful farewell and promises to keep in touch. This blog will hopefully allow me to maintain some connections because I am actually pretty terrible at writing emails reliably. Letters, however, are another story and I can (and will) write those on the reg for some special Roses. Maybe even call once in a while too.
Well, I’ve been in lovely Ireland for approximately three hours now and the rain has yet to stop. Oh sure, it might slow down for a bit, maybe even suspend itself mid-drop to give the illusion of stopping, but this lovely country is either blessed or cursed by the machinations of the Rain God(s). Through the constant gray mist and perpetual showers, I have seen some rather green (and soaked) fields and interesting (yet soaked) architecture. Just on my block (Quay Street), I can see the steeples of at least four churches. And we’re talkin’ steeples here, mind, not the jibber jabber us Americans are used to – these are churches!
I’ve shacked up in the Four Courts Hostel now for the next two nights: one to recover from jet lag and excessive airplane travel and one to play tourist in the city of Dublin itself. After all, I want to look inside all of those steeples I can glimpse here and there through the downpour. It’s a lovely city, Dublin, and I really do look forward to exploring it, camera in tow, Guinness on draft.
Now then, I need to sleep and recuperate. I am a very tired monkey, after all. Cheers for now.
There are two things I think I love far more than anything else I’ve encountered on this globe: travel and writing. And that’s what the purpose of this blog serves – to document and comment upon my travels for the next few months.
My mother once described me (in front of her class, no less) as impetuous, brash, and off-color. She certainly isn’t wrong in that regard for this journey to Europe and South America was planned and purchased in less than a fortnight with little regard given to logistics, the effects of my absence from home, or any other thought really. I tend to follow my heart, and if I wish to do something, by Jove I’ll do it.
Which brings us here, to Brunomad, and the ensuing adventures we’re to have together as I traverse Europe to once again visit that holy city of Santiago de Compostella. Ah, yes, glorious Camino.
After a brief rendezvous in Illinois to attend the Gathering of Pilgrims, I will sojourn to Dublin, Ireland to make my offerings to the patron saint of Ireland, Lord Guinness. In a convenient stroke of luck, some bloke decided to put the cathedral to Saint James right across the street from the Guinness brewery! After making my devotions along the Wicklow Way, it’s a short ferry ride over to my beloved France where, gods willing, I will reunite with some old comrades, walk her beautiful coastline, and embrace life the way man was meant to: by living it.
Following this, I’ll walk the Camino del Norte route to Santiago, get my credencial, then book it to Muxia (Finisterra is highly overrated) before catching a bus to Lisbon and flying to Miami. In Miami, I’ll rendezvous with my FOCUS group before completing my mission trip in Santiago de Chile for several weeks.
And after that, sheesh, I will get over to Cancun, Mexico for my sister’s long-awaited wedding. Gods willing, I will get to visit Cuba too – big plans, big plans.
And the entire time? Why, I hope to be documenting the sights, the people, the emotions, the whole shebang along the Way.
If this sounds like your mug of mead, then follow along as this digital nomad tackles the world once more.