Well, I've said in the last few odd Pubski posts that I still need to write a post about my journey around Ireland last year. Recently I found waiting until I got the record certificate a good excuse to put it off, but unfortunately it just arrived.
I suppose, to make it easier on myself, I'll just begin at the beginning. A few different strands came together to result in this journey.
In early 2013, while I was still in university, I got a phone call from a friend whom I hadn't spoken to in some time. I was surprised already, and then he told me to sit down. A mutual friend of ours had committed suicide. Naturally, after the phone call, I went to Tesco to buy a six-pack of beer.
She was the kind of bubbly, always-smiling girl who instantly lights up the party, and also the kind I've discovered tend to be hiding crippling depression behind that same smile. I hadn't actually spoken to her in months, and discovered that no-one had - or rather, that she hadn't spoken to any of us, and was withdrawing herself from people.
It fucked me up a bit.
Time passed. The next summer I was climbing Croagh Patrick - the holy mountain in Mayo, visible on clear days from where I am now - with my friend Killian. It was the last Sunday in July, known as Reek Sunday locally, and a day on which thousands of people climb the Reek, some of them barefoot. As we were making our way back down, I started to think it'd be an interesting challenge to climb the highest peak in each of Ireland's four provinces barefoot. That's as far as I got, because I immediately forgot about it.
Some more time passed, and I was with my then-girlfriend (and some new friends) on the Camino in Spain. I did some of it barefoot - roughly 350km - but I was too slow to keep up, and did the majority in shoes. Still, when I returned I figured it'd be even cooler not just to climb the mountains barefoot, but also to walk from one to the other in one huge trek. A quick bit of Google Maps told me it'd be just a bit over a thousand kilometres. Like most things, I said "someday" and forgot about it.
A little more time went by - don't worry, this is the end of the inspiration story - and I was flicking through the new Guinness World Records book while sheltering from the rain in a bookshop. I flicked through the "Great Journeys" section, always my favourite, and saw it: the longest barefoot journey. 1488 kilometres, by Michael Essing, in his native Germany, and I thought, "I can beat that."
The rest was me deciding to do it the next year (i.e. last year), applying for the record, saving some money, buying equipment, and biding my time in TEFL, which I was already starting to hate a bit. I didn't go back afterward, either, but sadly also didn't manage to pick up any sage-like life wisdom or decide what to do with myself. Still working on that!
Around this time I also decided to raise money for Pieta House - an Irish organisation that counsels people at risk of suicide or self-harm for free. They have ten centres around Ireland now and are frighteningly busy. They have a good reputation because they've been very transparent about where the money goes (no scandals!) and because suicide is a very salient issue right now in Ireland.
I've just addressed the why and not given any actual indication of the what. Maybe I'll just use the old "narrate using pictures" escape. Here's the route:
After my walk, I merged all of the GPS files together and loaded it in Google Earth. It deviated a bit from my planned route, but that's not important. Apologies for the low resolution - it's just a screencap. I'd love to make a really nice cartographic map to hang on the wall with my route on it, but don't really have the knowhow.
[Edit: I just realised there's no indication of where I started. If you go due north of Galway, my hometown and starting point of Claremorris is about where you hit the white line of the route. The yellow line is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I walked counterclockwise around the island.]
Anyway! Yeah, that was the route. Over 2,000 kilometres, every step barefoot, and no transportation used at any point (though sometimes people took my backpack ahead for me).
It would take too long to really describe the journey, and anyway if I ever write the book if the book ever gets published, you can all read about it there. ;) So here are some choice elements.
Yellow paint is your friend! Its smoothness got me through many a hard time. Really, though, the best place to walk is where cars' tires rub off the ground, but this is not always an option for obvious reasons.
Sorry to disappoint, but I didn't actually climb the mountains (yet). In this photo you can see Croagh Patrick in the background. This was on the morning of day three, when I was rapidly discovering how difficult it was, and had more-or-less decided to walk around the mountains instead.
I got to see some absolutely stunning places. This is Doo Lough Valley in Mayo, really out in the boondocks, for Ireland. I was really happy that I got to see such a huge amount of my own country, because so many people never see much at all of theirs, and travel elsewhere instead.
Resting my feet next to Killary Harbour just the next day.
Don't ask me.
What felt like the loneliest road in Ireland, and where I lost my mind for the first time. The surface was very rough, my feet were in a lot of pain, and it felt like I spent weeks walking through (it was hours).
My tent on the seventh night. I camped three times in three and a half months. That's insane.
Walking through one of the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland. The entire population is pictured.
So for the Guinness World Records I had to provide a fair amount of evidence. There were photos, videos, GPS files, a log book and a witness book... I took many photos like this next to a sign to prove I was where I was. Still in the Gaeltacht here; note that someone had removed "Galway". In Ireland, signs are usually in both English and Irish.
An obligatory shot of the Cliffs of Moher. I was too lazy to walk along the cliffs - the path was gravelly and I'd have to loop back anyway.
I've realised that so far this post is completely missing what for me was the best part of the walk - the people I met. People stopped me to talk to me or to donate, or to give me food. People brought me into their homes and fed me and gave me a place to sleep. I was left with a completely altered view of humanity - most people are really nice.
It's a shame that my richest memories of the walk are those shared with the people I met, because I can't post many of those photos. I lost my phone just after the walk, and with it all of the photos I'd taken with people (most of the photos here are from my camera, and I used my phone (for selfies with people). I have some photos with people, but they were taken from Facebook and the quality is atrocious. (I was taking photos on a Samsung Galaxy 1 and sending them to my sister via FB messenger, and then she uploaded them to my Facebook page). I've cheated here and just posted a photo of my friend Donal and I having a pint in Sligo toward the end.
I stayed in people's houses about half of the time, and the other half was a mix of B&Bs and hotels and so on (most of which did not charge me).
Down in Kerry. It's green! In the distance are the MacGillicuddy's Reeks, which I also did not climb.
These are both in Killarney, where I was joined for a couple of days by my housemate, Lucas. He was recovering from a knee surgery. This was also the day I miscalculated the distance and we ended up walking an extra ten kilometres. It was the longest day of the entire journey.
Possibly one of my favourite places on the entire journey. The Beara peninsula has a waymarked trail, which meant I had a respite from contending with traffic. The weather was being extremely un-Irish and lovely.
A sight that brought tears of joy to me eyes. I had a minor obsession with road surfaces by the end.
Eyeries, the original technicolour dream town.
This was at the top of an old road over the mountain that was used to access the now disused copper mines. The photo really doesn't do it justice; I sat here for twenty minutes looking out over the sea.
I am not a photographer.
Appreciating the view with my new sheep buddy.
Joined for a day by my friends Eoin and Jess! This turned out to be a long and difficult day for everyone owing to crappy backroads and a poor decision to have a midday pint.
I have very few photos of cities and towns because I usually used my ill-fated phone, and few photos of rainy days as well (they very much happened). Here are some more cliffs, this time way over in the southeast (I've skipped ahead a bit).
Approaching Tramore. In Irish, it's Trá Mór, which means "big beach". Yeah.
There's a rather strange little park filled with weird Hindu statues down in Wicklow. The owner was a bit pretentious and condescending, but the statues were... interesting.
My sheep friend. Approaching Dublin at this point, and well over halfway.
With my main man Killian at our alma mater; this tower is on the south campus in Maynooth.
The exact point in Ballynahinch where I broke the world record. Yep, right next to some wheelie bins.
Roads in Northern Ireland have (small) pavements!
Cows on the beach. You know you're in Ireland... At this point I was up on the northeastern coast, walking on a trail that ends up at the Giant's Causeway.
And at the causeway, it was busy.
Spotted in Derry/Londonderry. There was a lot of sectarian violence here back in the day. The gable paintings are quite famous.
Glenveagh National Park was beautiful, but the road was a nightmare for my feet. Mount Errigal is here hiding in the clouds on the right - another mountain I had originally intended to climb.
Entering Sligo, and getting very close to the end of my journey.
My sisters put this up for me as I was re-entering my hometown. There was quite a gathering in the square to welcome me back; if I was a weaker man, I might've cried. Then I had a load of pints.
I'm sorry the picture quality isn't greater and that it's just a few disconnected photos. It's really hard to choose out of so many moments, and to properly describe my journey.
So I'll take the lazy way out and give you a bunch of statistics!
Total distance: 2080.14km (1292.54 miles)
Duration: 104 days (from 1st May to 12th Aug)
Funds raised: €29,562.13
Avg. distance per day: 20km
Avg. not including rest days: 23.11km (longest was 37.75km)
Cost: ~€2000 (this doesn't include the equipment I bought beforehand, and is extrapolated from my bank statements) (it's also very little money, considering)
Nights camped: 3
Nights in private accommodation: 51
Nights in people's houses: 50
Pieces of glass removed from foot: 7
Thorns removed from foot: ~20 (does not include thorns that only got halfway, of which there were hundreds)
Number of sheep seen: Several billion
Cigarettes smoked: ~2000
Beers drunk: ~140
Number of ice creams received while walking: 7
Number of dogshits stood in: 0 (Yeah! Lots of sheepshit, though)
Apologies for how disorganised this post is. There's a whole lot more that I haven't touched on here at all. If you're interested, hopefully someday you'll be able to read my book about it. (If it ever gets anywhere, I'll definitely be sending some Hubski's way.)
Here are some bonus shots of my feet!
I'm a clean guy.
From a piece of glass.
The day after I finished.