Hey ho let's go!
The Hubski Pubski roly-polies are getting rather quiet of late. They are funny creatures; I always feel like I have more to say than I actually do. Or that I have nothing to say at all, which is worse.
Things have been quiet for me too. I finished the Ten Peaks barefoot thing at the end of June; we raised about €4500 for Pieta House, which I'm rather chuffed with, though we haven't done a full total announcement yet because little bits keep rolling in. And the friend who drove me around is busy so we haven't had a chance to grab one of those big novelty cheques for a photo.
I should do a trip report on that soon. For now, a mini trip report: I finally went on a two-day hike through the Nephins that I've been meaning to do for nearly two years. They're a mountain range in northwest Mayo, which you can actually see from my town, so talk about being in my backyard. And yet I never made it out there, despite often gazing across at them from Croagh Patrick and saying to myself that I'd soon explore those mysterious blue hills. Because I don't drive, my plan was to get the train to Westport, walk the Greenway north to Newport and then walk the Bangor trail, which leads through the eastern portion of the mountains to Bangor Erris, a small town in the backarse of nowhere. Then I'd have to make my way to Ballina somehow to get the train back, either walking or hitchhiking. Either way it'd be a two or three day little jaunt. And yet last year I never got around to it, until it was too late in the year to be feasible (or at least reasonably enjoyable) - so last weekend I decided rather on the spur of the moment that I'd just go ahead and do it, before my dad went to the Philippines and left me minding his store for the month.
It's important to note that Ireland is very small, so you might laugh at what we call mountains - there are only a handful in the country over 1,000 metres - or what we'd describe as "remote". There are few places here from which a cottage or a farm can't be seen. But man, that place is remote. Probably the loneliest place I have ever been.
The first day went smoothly. The Greenway is quite pleasant, though the section I walked ran along a road for most of the way, interfering slightly with the whole "countryside" groove. Lots of cyclists - dudes in lycra, families out for the day, beardy fellas with bags hanging off their bikes. I treated myself to lunch in Newport and then headed down a boreen toward the Nephins, and then onto the Bangor trail. Eventually I arrived at the beginning of a loop walk that intersects with the trail, and met a small family - after that I didn't see a human until I arrived in Bangor Erris the following day. It's just empty out there. The mountains rear up on either side and boggy green plains stretch out between them. The land isn't useful for anything but sheep grazing.
I'd brought my tent, but I knew of a little shelter that had been built out there, so here's where I spent the night, after walking about 35km.
You can make it out in this photo near the tip of the "arrow" of trees.
My backpack was a devil; I haven't worn the full pack in sometime, and wasn't used to it; I also don't think I've ever really figured out how to adjust them properly. When I woke up I felt broken, like somehow had shattered my legs and hastily glued them back together, and my original plan was to go off the trail, climb Nephin Beg and Slieve Carr, and then rejoin the trail. Well, I made it to the top of Nephin Beg after much toil (that's 627 metres, go me).
A grand old view - north to Slieve Carr looming in the cloud, south back the way I came, and east toward the sun and the lurking form of Nephin Mór, big Nephin, the lonely mountain that sits apart from the rest, that I've been meaning to hike for ages. That bad boy in the middle:
But this looming wall of rain to the west dampened my spirits, and I decided not to tackle Slieve Carr (which would have meant descending and re-ascending, and doing the same for a couple of hills afterward). Back down to the trail I went.
A good decision. My legs were exhausted and I had ages yet to walk to Bangor Erris. Which, long story short, I did; and even managed to get there in time to hitchhike to Ballina for the 18:05 train home.
Another quick snap of the wastes:
And this rack of lamb I found:
It's funny, though, how when you're out in the hills both time and distance seem to stretch unimaginably. I felt that I was a thousand miles from civilisation, and that I'd set off from home weeks earlier. Yet I was drinking a beer in my kitchen less than 48 hours later. (And sitting down.)
Anyway, it's made me quite apprehensive about the Dodentocht next weekend - I'm flying over to Belgium for a 100km, 24hr walk, and I'm now terrified because really I haven't done any training worth talking about. So in two Pubskis time maybe I'll be talking about my abject failure and a holy oath never to return to Belgium.
I'm minding my dad's store while he's away, like I did last year. It doesn't have "opening hours" as such; he sells rolls of pipe and fittings and stuff for plumbing contractors, so they call you when they're looking for pieces. Unfortunately the store is 15 minutes walk from where I live and I don't drive, so I've had to cadge a few lifts here and there - it's not too bad, except when you get in the door of the house and someone else calls you looking for something.
One other thing. So, my current life is rather unconducive to interactions with female members of the opposite sex. Me and my sister stacked it up once: I work part-time in a pub in a small town, I don't drive, I live with my mother, and I lack any kind of ambition or direction in life. But the nail in the coffin is that I have bunk beds in my room. Yeah, bunk beds. I mean, that's just not very sexy. So far it hasn't been a problem, because no-one has visited my room. Sigh.
Last week I decided to dismantle the top bunk and store it in the attic, and spent the entire time wondering why I hadn't done it ages ago - no-one shares the room with me. It was an enormous improvement to the room - it feels much spacier and now I can actually sit on my bed. Then this morning I broke the bed trying to get out of it - one of the side timbers turned out to have a series of cracks in it that finally gave way. So I had to dismantle that and get the top bunk back down from the attic and reassemble it. Funny how things work out.