Hey there, Hubski people!
Here's some preamble. So, a while back I remembered that the Camino de Santiago - the walk along the north coast of Spain to St James's Cathedral, is a thing. I was immediately in love with the idea, but the regular trek starting just over the French border seemed too boring and normal. I got the wonderful idea of a super-Camino - walking all the way there from somewhere really far away, like Kiev in Ukraine. I mentioned it to my friend Agata, who said she's been wanting to do the Camino for years, and she thought it'd be cooler to go from somewhere like Sweden.
So, long story short, in a few years we plan on embarking on just such a mad journey, which'll probably take us a good year to do. But before that, we need to get used to long walks. We may actually do the normal, short Camino at some point - but first, we decided to do something closer to home. I had invited her to my home back in Mayo in the west of Ireland, and she suggested we walk there.
After some deliberation, we settled on this route.
So, at six in the morning on the 22nd of July, we set off on our bold adventure!
In the end, both of us would have sore feet anyway.
We made good time at first, reaching Kilcock (6km away) after an hour.
We were walking along the Royal Canal, which goes all the way from Dublin up to a town in Co. Longford. We were to follow it from Maynooth to Mullingar, and then walk by road.
After snapping a few pictures of the canal lock in Kilcock, we pressed on, expecting it to take about two hours before we reached then next town, Enfield. This estimate proved optimistic; we kept expecting to see it just up ahead, and it kept eluding us... We stopped at a bridge for a little rest.
We bought a bottle of water and some ice cream and hung around for a bit. It was still early and the weather was lovely and warm. In fact, we'd been having quite the heatwave. Sadly, it would turn out that our journey had commenced just when the weather was deciding to turn foul...
We saw a young bird with a broken wing trying to escape us; had to run past it, or it probably would've kept running ahead of us forever.
We eventually reached the bridge near a town called Moyvalley, but didn't bother going there. At a pub nearby we filled up with water and walked on down the line. Agata was feeling tired so we settled down to nap in a quiet area off the canal.
We were incessantly disturbed by tiny flies, however. So the nap didn't really work out.
My feet had started to hurt from all this walking already, and pointy rocks didn't help. At different points I had put on my Vibram Fivefingers to cope with it. Agata's boots, meanwhile, were chafing one of her big toes pretty badly. Next time, we're getting proper boots. This was the first sign of our unpreparedness.
We came across this bridge-gate,
which commanded a great view of the canal.
We also spotted a cool dragonfly here.
Eventually we came across a place with a lot of narrowboats and a pub with a little shop attached. We ate on some benches nearby before pressing on. By this point we were very both tired and sore in the legs - it was easily the most walking I'd ever done in a day. By the end, we'd walked nearly 45km. Anyway, we went off the canal and walked toward a place called Killucan. We were now looking for a place to pitch a tent. We asked three different guys and got a no each time; the fourth house we asked at had a lovely Irish mammy who told us we could set up in the field next door. She also gave us (funny-tasting) water and directions into Killucan proper.
We set up camp and fell asleep.
And then we woke up and my legs were still killing me. Oh well.
Anyway we set off and quickly reached Killucan.
There were penguins on the road, and a nice woman took a photo of us under a tree.
We passed through Killucan (not much to see) and continued down the road. This was on a road, not along a canal, so a fair amount of cars and trucks would go past - Agata getting very annoyed by how close and fast the trucks would pass by. We saw a sign for the next town, The Downs.
For some reason, we have almost no photos from the next stretch of the journey, other than these delicious raspberries we found.
Eventually we reached The Downs. A strange place, with one shop (called 'The Shop'), but with a really big football pitch. Shrug. The woman working in The Shop was very nice, though. We ate some food and pushed on, noticing that some heavy rainclouds were starting to build.
It was back to the canal for us. We met Prince.
It had started to rain gently at this point, as we walked along the canal. There was a motorway parallel to it, so it was rather noisy but otherwise pleasant. We walked barefoot on some loamy earth. The motorway moved away from the canal, and there were trees on either side. We were getting close to Mullingar.
Unfortunately, it was at this point that the heavens decided to unleash their fury upon us. The rain came down and we were soaked within minutes. I was fine with my rain jacket, but my bottom half was drenched; Agata was unluckier, as her jacket didn't keep out the rain. We sheltered under a bridge until the rain abated, feeling dismayed. My legs hurt something awful. I think it was around this time that Agata suggested we try to stay somewhere in Mullingar. It was only day two, and we'd only made it 14km that day, but we were in poor spirits.
We made it into Mullingar, of which we have no photos at all. It was raining most of the time. Eventually we found a B&B for a decent enough price, got some Chinese takeaway, and went to bed in a lovely double bed. Despite only being two days on the road, it felt like weeks, as we took a shower and dried out all of our stuff.
We set off bright and early the next day.
Passing by an old graveyard.
We were in a very beautiful area. Easily the nicest we'd seen so far.
There were a lot of anti-windmill signs around. NIMBY, I guess.
We came across some dogs.
The smallest one kept running back and forth, going crazy, and rolling on its back. A bigger one, a golden retriever, was friendly too, but couldn't get past the gate of the driveway. A third, a collie, kept its distance.
Finally, we came to the magnificent town of Rathconrath! It consisted of nothing but a tiny and ancient shop-slash-pub.
I swear to God, outside there was an old sign pointing in that said "telegraph office".
We ate outside of the shop just as rain began to pour down. This was the second depressing part of the journey. A long walk through pouring rain until we reached Moyvore.
It's really nice, walking through rural Ireland. You go through all sorts of middle-of-nowhere towns.
We stayed at the pub in Moyvore for a good while.
A kind old woman offered us tea, and we had a pint.
Our stuff got mostly dry again. It was just the recharging we needed after the rain.
We set off, and reached Longford just before our camera battery died.
No more photos after this.
Eventually we reached a bigger town called Ballymahon and ate in the sunshine in a grassy area near the canal. At this point, we knew we should start looking for somewhere to sleep soon; we were tired and it was getting dark. We ended up walking another 5km before finding a fairly suitable field - one where we thought we wouldn't be bothered by animals or farmers. We camped underneath some trees in an enclosed space with some old sheds. So tired! 35km, that day.
The next day we didn't pass through any towns at all, until we reached Lanesborough at the top of Lake Ree in the middle of Ireland, another 15km away. The countryside was very scenic; it's a shame we have no photos.
Still, at this point we were truly wrecked. Mine and Agata's feet were in bits, and our stuff was wet again - the rain hadn't let up. We knew we could carry on, but thought it'd pretty much just be miserable. I had mentioned that we could always go down to Roscommon and get the train down to Claremorris. Agata suggested we do exactly that.
Getting in to Lanesborough proper, we first headed to a cafe and had an Irish breakfast! Man, that was great. I called my dad asking if he could come pick us up, but it's a bit out of the way - Lanesborough is sort of in the middle of nowhere.
We stayed there for a bunch of days recuperating. We had plans to go and do stuff, but were hampered either by the rain or lack of transportation (we had wanted to climb Croagh Patrick, having arrived just in time for the annual pilgrim climb).
In the end, while we were there another of my sisters bleached my hair.
It was to be dyed pink.
We also solved a 1000-piece puzzle.
And I did show Agata around some of my home town.
We have more photos from stuff we did around Claremorris. I'll upload them shortly and finish this post, but that's the story of our most-of-the-way Mayo walk.
The journey was a lot of fun, even if it had its bad points. It was very much a learning experience. We need better equipment - proper trekking boots, and waterproof clothing and bags. As Agata commented, rain isn't so bad when you know you'll be home later and can dry off, but when you're soaked through and your backpack is too, you're just miserable. We also need to get a lot more experience walking long distances. We have a lot of other trips in mind!