A Day of Rocks and Rain (Ireland 2016)

A Day of Rocks and Rain (Ireland 2016)

Hahaha okay. In my last post I said I would be back “probably tomorrow” with more tales of my trip to Ireland… and that was three weeks ago. I had some technical trouble, then I was without WiFi for ten days, and then I was lacking in physical and mental strength to blog. Sorry about that. But here it is, long-awaited and possibly entirely forgotten about: part two.

After our unexpectdly epic trek to Kilfenora, we decided to take it easy the following day, and spent it wandering around the town. We popped into Lisdoonvarna’s adorable and tiny library, which is only open on Thursdays:

It’s a tiny castle!

And in the evening, we headed out to a hotel in town that had advertised live music. It turned out this was the same place I’d called in with my parents three years ago — I could even point Charley to the exact table where we’d sat, although we didn’t sit there this time. There was nothing on the menu that I could really eat, what with the coeliac and the fussiness, but Charley was able to order, and we settled down to enjoy the music.

It was clearly for the benefit of tourists — the fact that the band explained different types of dances (jigs, reels etc) before they played them was a dead giveaway — but I still loved the fact that here we were, in Ireland, and a band was playing traditional music right there in front of us. The whistle player in particular caught my eye, both in the sense that she was a good player, and because I developed a mild crush on her throughout the evening.

So although it had been a quiet day, we’d still managed to do a few things and see the town. It’s pretty small — there’s not a lot to see — but it was nice to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. And we made our plans for the next day. Our feet having mostly recovered from the previous day’s walk, we decided to walk to Poulnabrone Dolmen, a megalithic tomb I visited in 2013. Again, it was going to be a substantial walk, but without a bus that went there we didn’t have a lot of choice, since we were travelling without a car. We estimated that it would be twelve or thirteen kilometres to the dolmen itself, and then a similar amount back again.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

We made an early start, because the weather forecast told us it was going to rain in the afternoon, and made sure to pack our raincoats. The early part of the journey was a little muddled as, again, we left town in the wrong direction, this time because we’d followed the road signs which were taking cars around a longer route. With the help of our new, detailed map and the compass we borrowed from my dad, we managed to rejoin the route we’d intended to take so that we didn’t end up going around the road and adding 10km to the journey.

It was actually quite a nice morning — the sun was even shining for some of it, and we ended up taking off layers until we were just in our shirtsleeves, which was unexpected. I was having some issues with my right leg in particular — my ankle was playing up, and as a result throwing my knee off balance, so we had to stop a couple of times to allow me to readjust my support bandages. But on the whole, we were coping. Even my pathetic joints were holding up, which was a pleasant surprise.

Unfortunately, our detour early in the journey meant that we added a couple of kilometres to the total, and I was suffering from some significant blisters and hating how hilly the journey was by the time we eventually reached the dolmen, which was reasonably crowded with tourists who hadn’t walked fifteen kilometres to be there. But we made it. We’d got there. We found a nice flat bit of limestone to sit on, and I took my boots off, delighting in the sensation of not wearing them — it turned out my feet hurt a lot less when they were bare. I even made Charley film me running around the dolmen without shoes on, because I’m weird like that.

We made it to the dolmen :)
We made it to the dolmen :)

It was pretty windy up by the dolmen, and getting chillier. We both began pulling some of our layers back on, and I soon found that my bare feet weren’t as comfortable as they had been, so I put my shoes back on. We’d decided before we set off that morning that on the way home, we would call by the nearby Caherconnell Fort and visitor centre, where there was a tearoom (hopefully, one that was actually open).

The gathering clouds should have tipped us off earlier tbh
The gathering clouds should have tipped us off earlier tbh

In a moment of good luck, the visitor centre turned out to be nearer than we’d initially thought, and it not only had a tearoom, but one with WiFi and comfortable sofas. I could honestly have stayed there a lot longer than we did, as my feet were beginning to suffer from all the walking. Happily caffeinated, I felt like I was prepared for the walk home, even though it was due to be wetter than what we’d done so far. Come at me, rain, I thought. We can do this.

Spoiler alert: I was not ready for that rain.

You see, there’s rain that’s particularly heavy but doesn’t last long. Or the type of rain that’s intermittent, coming and going, so that you have moments of respite, you know? This was not that kind of rain. This rain was ceaseless. Relentless. For the three hours it took us to walk home, it did not stop raining. We found ourselves trudging through mud, weighing considerably more than we had when we started because our clothes were saturated. Our supposedly weatherproof boots proved to be nothing of the sort. My raincoat and rucksack also turned out not to be waterproof, certainly not after the first two hours of rain.

Aren't raincoats meant to ensure the rain stays OUTSIDE?
Aren’t raincoats meant to ensure the rain stays OUTSIDE?

We were so wet, sloshing along in shoes full of water, that we honestly couldn’t spare a thought for how much our feet hurt. Which is probably the only reason I didn’t implode on that journey.

In the end, it was singing that saved us. We knew we had to keep our spirits up because, dude, it was pouring with rain and we were in the middle of nowhere, just us, with no shelter whatsoever, and no way of getting home other than to keep walking despite the weather. There was not going to be any escape from that rain. We could only make the best of it. Aaaand… it turns out we don’t know the words to many songs, which is how we ended up yelling the lyrics to “Love Ire & Song” while walking up a particularly exposed hill, yelling them into the wind and the rain as though our defiance would scare the weather off.

It didn’t, but there’s something uplifting about telling the sky that WE’LL STRAIGHTEN OUR BACKS AND WE WON’T BE AFRAID, AND THEY’LL CELEBRATE OUR DEATHS WITH A NATIONAL PARADE, tunelessly and at top volume (which wasn’t very loud, because we were somewhat out of breath). Before long, we were out of Frank Turner songs to sing, and were making up our own to the tune of “The Holly and the Ivy”. The chorus went like this:

The rising of the damp!
And the descending of the da-aaamp…
The squishing of our left and right,
That’s what you get in Ireland.

It was truly a masterpiece.

By the time we arrived back in Lisdoonvarna, we were wetter than I think I’ve ever been (barring deliberate immersion like swimming) — soaked through and pretty cold with it. We paused despite the continuing rain to take a selfie with the town map, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and then squelched our way into the hostel to dry off. According to my fake FitBit, we’d walked around 32km, something I never believed myself capable of. And I was damn proud of it. Just… in a lot of pain, too.

A selfie with the 'Welcome to Lisdoonvarna' sign
A selfie with the ‘Welcome to Lisdoonvarna’ sign

It was at that point I realised that my only pair of jeans and my only hoodie were now soaked through. Having not counted on every day being wet, my other cardigan was considerably thinner, and my dungarees are best suited to warm days. I was stuck inside the hostel in warm-weather clothing until those dried off, and who knew how long that would take? At least the radiators were reasonably powerful, and we were able to put our sodden boots by the fire in the lounge, but it seemed a sensible course of action to crawl into bed and stay there as long as possible.

Which for me meant the entire next day, because a couple of hours after being released from the endless walking, my knee realised the full horror of what it had endured and gave out on me. It was extremely painful to put any weight whatsoever on my right leg, so I stayed in my pyjamas the entire day. Charley made a brief expedition into town in search of some more food, but on the whole, the Poulnabrone walk required substantial recovery time, and I couldn’t leave the hostel with all my warm clothes still soggy and drying out on the radiator.

At least I made a dent in the list of review copies I needed to read, though.

And… that’s what you waited three weeks to hear about. WHOOPS. Less intermittent blogging will resume soon, I hope.

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