Camino is a very strange place, lemme tell you. Of course, if you’re out here, or have walked afore, you know this already. But if you haven’t walked the Way yet, let me a’splain the situation to you.
For many people, the Way is little more than a walk through northern Spain with some nice photo ops here and there, some fuckold churches (can I say that?), and sharing a big room with a bunch of drunken assholes that need to wake up at 5AM to walk 20km to the next big room full of drunken assholes.
For me, it is (mostly) that, but there are a great many things that go unappreciated and undocumented in the copious amount of (unnecessary) guides people lug around.
Yes, it’s true, your erstwhile wanderer has made it to the fabulous city of Burgos, somewhat officially marking the beginning of the Mesata on Camino. I had originally planned to walk on through this bloated industrial habitation, but upon glimpsing the cathedral spires through the trees, I was compelled to stop for the day. And lawdy am I glad I did.
If Burgos tickles your fancy, then by all means, comrade, read on.
I was planning on writing a longer post but I’m absolutely knackered from pimp slappin’ the Pyrenees today so you’ll just have to make do with pictures and bullet points. Quit your bitchin’ – this is trail wisdom. You’ll go far, kid, with these observations about Life on the Way.
Bruno’s Trail Wisdom; or, Here’s to Enjoying Life
– If you’re on the fence about bringing an item, leave it behind. – Exactly what it says on the tin, folks. Today, it being the first day for many pilgrims, you see bags filled to the brim with absolutely every pocket stuffed with gods knows what; the give-and-take table at the albergue is completely covered in such items. If you are hiking for any amount of time, be mindful of what you bring because you have to carry every ounce upon your back.
– Every mountain has a peak. – Don’t get discouraged because the trail keeps going up; it has to end somewhere. You just keep chugging along, one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, hell, you just climbed a mountain! It doesn’t matter how long it takes, or if you take a break, or if you want to quit and go home. The important thing is to remember that everything that might seem difficult to you now will be inconsequential so long as you keep going. Reach the peak, then shout from the top.
– Turn around now and then. – Not to see who’s following you or whom you’ve left behind, but to take in your accomplishments and see the world you just passed by. Look how far you’ve come already! Just by keeping your head on a swivel, you can really improve your mood. That mountain behind you? Yeah, you hiked that fucker. The city eating your dust? Left it behind like an orphan baby. People are capable of incredible things, and sometimes you just need that friendly reminder. Turn around and take in those sights.
– Be friendly to everyone, yes, everyone you meet on the trail. – For starters, being a dickhead is rarely acceptable behavior (unless you’re from the North), and a smile goes a very long way. Even if you don’t speak the lingo, a simple nod, smile, wave, or anything, really can do wonders for other people. Maybe homeboy’s having a shitty day, and you just brightened his mood by being polite. Yes, being polite to everyone – including those goddamned wop daigos and their insufferable audible levels – can work wonders. Be nice on the trail.
– You’re never alone. – Look at those two! Fuck, I walked behind them for a few hundred meters waiting to get a good shot of them holding hands as they hiked; it was beautiful. Just two loving pilgrims walking along together, paying no mind to the howling wind or stinging rain; simply walking as one. Always remember, no matter where you are, you aren’t alone. You are always in someone’s thoughts, prayers, hopes, and dreams. When you stop and realize that, well, it makes all the hardships more bearable.
Disclaimer – This post contains graphic images of animal processing. If you aren’t too keen on that, I advise you skip this read.
Hey there folks,
It’s been a hell of a birthday here in France, lemme tell you.
See what I mean?
This little fellow decided to be my birthday present to myself for he absentmindedly wandered into my snare and got himself butchered in the process. My lovely hosts (more on them in a bit) allowed me to skin and clean the kill for a future meal. Not much meat on him, but, hey! Got me a rabbit stew on the horizon.
So this voyage has taken a bit of a delightful detour, if you will, for I’ve committed myself to Wwoofing in France for the next two weeks.
“What in blazes is Wwoofing,” you might ask aloud to no one in particular, to which I would reply (to no one in particular), “Why, tis a veritable hoot and a half of a volunteer organization I tell you!” So sit back, get on your dungarees, and prepare to be engulfed in my Camino Detour.
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.