Sunday, June 21, 2009

We keep losing track of days...

So we've finally reached Westport, towards the end of our walking tour of the Connemara, and I swear that as soon as we've found some place with wireless we'll upload some photos. I've completely glossed over the walking so far, so let me give you a proper update.

Day one was lovely, if long. Started up tar roads, steadily heading uphill amongst farmhouses and sheep tucked back behind the Maumturk Mountains, until suddenly we were off the road and onto the track, heading through the valley and up into the mountains proper. Near the top of the ridge, after much struggling (and encouraging mockery directed towards Zoe), we saw the Holy Well of St Patrick (or one of them anyways), took loads of pictures, laughed at sheep and kept on going downhill until we reached another tar road, 5 miles of walking and we reached Lough Inagh and the lovely B&B for the night.

Told you about Clifden already so we can skip that, moving on to the next day of walking, from Lough Inagh to Killary Harbor and Leenaun. The walk was pretty even, climbing gradually uphill around the western side of the Maumturks, filled with more sheep and little rivulets running down from the mountain and through the headlands, until we wound up in forest and fen. The second day was completely off road right up until the end, and you're walking through these rocky foothills surrounded by sheep and splendourous views, then suddenly you're surrounded by forests and walking along this dirt and rock track. The landscape shifts so suddenly at times, its amazing, that we were soon in the middle of fen (which is much like bog or marsh, I just like the other word), surrounded by brooding pine trees and up to our ankles in peat. Peat is kind of fun to walk on though, springy enough that it rises after you take your foot off, but you can sink fairly deep if you aren't careful.

After a ways, we crossed a beautiful stream surrounded by the largest rhubarb plants, something straight out of a fairy story, with these deep, mossy woods, very mystical-like. And as suddenly as we crossed into it, we crossed out and back into the headlands near Killary Harbor (Ireland's only fjord, as many brochures will tell you if you let them), and into the sleepy little inlet of Leenaun. The few miles were downhill, torturous for both Zoe and myself, and we ended up walking down a main road into Leenaun, very nerve wracking for me as cars hurtled by at 100kmph.

Leenaun itself was a one street village with a few pubs and a restaurant, and probably a dozen B&Bs (the story of every tiny village in Ireland, it would seem), and we were only there for a night. We ate at a lovely restaurant called the Blackberry Cafe, where we ate deep-fried Irish cheese and Chicken Gettysburg (chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese and smoked salmon, served with a garlic cream sauce), and I can't for the life of me firgure out why its called Chicken Gettysburg, but it was delicious. Followed it up with Irish Coffee Cheesecake, and enjoyed a half bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with the meal.

The next day, Zoe and I both felt beat up so we decided to skip a walk that involved lots of tar roads. A taxi service was supposed to drop us off at the next walking point and then take our packs on to the next B&B, so we convinced him to ferry us along to Liscarney with our luggage and take a lazy day of walks around Moher Lake. Zoe relaxed in the room and worked on her writing while I walked to investigate an archeological site (the Boheh stone) but couldn't find a way to get close without cutting across farmlands and cow pasture. That night we ate at our B&B, a lovely dinner of breaded, pan-fried chicken, garden vegetables and home-made mashed potatoes. Its very easy to forget how lovely a home-cooked meal can be, enough to warm the soul when you are so very far from home. And then after the meal, our host offered us a treat of liquor (Irish Coffee for me and Bailey's for Zoe), we watched a hurling match and retired to watch hilarious comedy.

Today's breakfast was fantastic though, smoked Irish salmon and scrambled eggs for me, with pressed coffee and homemade brown bread, fruit, cereal and yogurt for Zoe. Our host was kind enough to drop us off at the base of Crough Patrick (St Patrick's Holy Mountain), which was wreathed in mist and made it impossible to see more than 10 meters in front of you as we climbed slowly up to the top, only to still be wreathed in mist, so we could barely see anything. Up one side and down the other, we came down into Clew Bay, ate a bit of lunch and caught a taxi into Westport. Which is where we are now. Talking to you. And Zoe is next to me, posting herself, and it seems we nearly lost track of what day we've done which thing, which is fairly easy to do when you're travelling and away from cities.

We're in Westport through Tuesday, which will give us time to decide where we're heading next, though it looks like we'll be leaving the Republic and heading into Ulster (Northern Ireland), to see Derry and make our way along the Causeway Coast into Belfast and the Mountains of Mourne. Tonight's plans involve finding a nice light dinner and then relaxing in a pub owned by Matt Malloy of the Chieftains to take in some beer and some traditional music. Tomorrow, we'll be questing for wireless and exploring this awesome town.

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