Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thistle & Dying Muscles

Since I last posted, not that much time at all has passed. But where we were, and what I was feeling and thinking about, has changed so much I can hardly remember now where I was when I last posted. So, I'm just going to talk about yesterday. Never mind that the rest of our time in Galway was delightful, and that Matt was indeed blissfully satisfied with his first taste of a home-cooked full Irish breakfast. Forget the bus ride to Maam Cross, which was short and our first real taste of the cooler, not midlands style Irish landscape.

Let's talk about day 1 of our walking tour.

First: Holy crap. It was 7 miles, which Matt insists on measuring in "clicks," if that's how you spell that, and it's fine, but doesn't help me visualize things. I looked at a map beforehand, but it didn't really prepare me. I'm used to a map like that equaling a nice walk through, say, a forest preserve. Meaning there is no change in elevation at all. Yesterday, we walked on a proper road for a bit, past lots of SHEEP--they were there, with us, absolutely every step of the way, spray painted with the owner's mark like some weird graffiti tagging gone wrong--and stopped for a snack of banana and Aero chocolate bar, then it got sparser. There was more up and down, and before I knew it, we were in this sort of valley thing, and then this other valley thing which may or may not have been the same one, except from the other side. And then we had our second snack, same thing.

And then we really started... hiking. I was enjoying all of the views up till that point, tired and kind of achy, but not not-enjoying myself, taking in the views, comparing them to other views I've seen, and kind of wanting to meander. I had a great laugh at the sudden downpour that caused us to all but leap into our ponchos; of course, the second we were in, the rain and the wind pretty much stopped right away. But then: that first ridge.

Kill me.

I mean, seriously, I'm out of shape and not used to hiking, and my shoes were great and it was windy and cool enough to keep my body at a nice level, but... kill me. There were moments where in my head I was so melodramatic, and then Matt would mock me or get me going, and we would make fun of sheep, and then we'd stop and the view would be so breathtaking that I could pant a little and take some pictures. So many little rivers to cross, so many rocks protruding all over the place, so many sheep, all these lovely listing trees and all of this insane greenery, these fluffy clouds where every few had a somewhat ominous gray-ish bottom. In between that, the skies were so blue and after a couple of hours, we couldn't really see houses or any signs of man but the fences and the sheep's markings, and later, the pack of French tourists back a mile or so behind us. And yet, in spite of all these lovely things, I sort of thought I was going to stroke out, or burst into tears, or get to the bottom on the other side and plant my feet and put my hands on my hip and yell, "I'm quitting! I'm not doing this again--are you INSANE? This isn't FUN."

But then we were at the top, and all of a sudden I was calm and happy again. Still sore and a bit winded, though. The descent, if possible, sucked more than that. There were rocks and gravel, scree, apparently, it's called, and it was very hard to pick my footing while worrying about wrenching an ankle and still use the natural downward momentum I could've been gaining. Matt went a lot faster, but the arrhymthic gait required made his knee hurt a little too, so at least in that I wasn't alone. All the same, I was glad to hit the bottom.

Only, I thought we were like a 1/2 mile from the B&B at that point. But... we were like halfway done. Oh JESUS. So, we walked... and walked... and I actually had to friggin' pee in the Irish countryside, which is NOT THE SAME as peeing in the woods where there's shelter. I wanted to faint. But we made it and the woman was nice and our room is small, the bed's hard, and there's no water pressure, but they're nice people and it's in the middle of nowhere with views that all those Hudson River school guys would die to paint. We walked down towards the lake, Lough Inagh, to a hotel for dinner in their bar, next to the French tourists, and almost died laughing at the two old Irish guys--total stereotypes!--sitting in there drinking their Guiness, and we mocked / were mocked by the bartender. We had a great meal, though.

And right now, instead of going on the optional walk today, we're in Clifden, where our B&B lady works, and it's a sleepy little place. We'd thought to come here later, actually, but after today, we won't need to come back really. Not much to do. The tourist office is closed for inventory (haha), we saw the water, we saw the castle-now-hotel, we sat in the library and read the paper, we got coffee. Still, it's charming and all that. And this internet cafe has nothing but Macs, so hilarious and glorious. So we'll have lunch, maybe back to the library or something, then grocery shop, then back to the B&B at 4:30.

Tomorrow: to Leenane. Matt promises it'll be less... up and down, though just as long.

1 comment:

  1. Your thoughts on the walking tour sound identical to what I was thinking when my family insisted we hike up some silly "hill" (I've never seen such a big hill in my life) in Wyoming. Yes, the views were spectacular, yes, I don't know when I'll ever get a chance to do it again, and yes, I feel good about myself after having finished it....but I really did think I was going to die! I feel your pain!!