So the first day of our walking “holiday” was anything but. Call it a trial, call it tribulation, call it a fricking forced march. Okay, let me back up a bit. The first 10-12 km was actually very beautiful, full of the sweeping vistas we were promised, each view more stunning than the last as we continued to climb higher into the heath. Along the way we saw wild fuchsia, foxglove and gorse, among many other lovely flowers in bloom.
It also turns out that the Way from Tralee to Dingle is also the Kerry Camino. If you have an itch to walk the whole Compostela de Santiago, you can apparently catch a boat to carry you over to Spain to complete the route; but I digress too much. So we stopped at a lovely bench with a Kerry Camino stamping station, where one can stamp their passport with the Camino stamp. We ate lunch here, enjoying the scenery.
After about a 25 minute rest to eat and reflect, the packs got strapped back on and we continued the climb up into the Irish hillsides. But that’s where things got rough. There was a lot of rain runoff cascading down the mountainsides, causing the already boggy ground to become a quagmire, threatening our very existence unless you walked on the top of the sandstone rocks scattered everywhere like some giant child’s game of jacks. At one point, Angel fell down twice, getting very muddy, and stepped into a bog over the top of her shoes. So much for dry feet. I smugly hiked one, confident in the integrity of my high-topped waterproof hikers to keep my feet warm and dry. That is, until I stepped into a knee deep bog, well over the top of said boots. Angel had to come back and give me a hand to get out of there, the mud and water and sheep manure all conglomerating to cause my demise as they reluctantly gave my feet up with a huge sucking sound. At that point all I could do was sit on the ground for about 5 minutes, laughing maniacally. After (somewhat) regaining my composure, I returned to a bipedal stance and we soldiered on. Now, I know that when your feet get wet that you should change socks, and I did have a spare pair with me, but there was just no end to the goo in sight, so when you don’t know when you will stop risking further wet feet, it is hard to decide where to change. So there were both of us, squishing our way across the boggy heath. Somewhere around 15 km, Angel fell down again, but this time it was her turn to lay on the ground and laugh like a crazy person. I helped her up. We soldiered on. Again. After the walking got easier, we came to some ruins, including an oratory, which was an ancient Celtic church of sorts.
Finally, we came within 2 km of Camp, walking on tarmac once again, for which we were thankful, though by now while Angel was still walking fairly briskly I was dragging along like a snail with a brick shell sliding through molasses. But, we made it.
After meeting our lovely hostess Joanne at the Seaview Inn, we found out that dinner was back the way we had come at the local pub, Ashe’s, which was all uphill for what was proclaimed to be a three minute walk. I tried not to cry. But after a hot shower, a good cup of Irish tea and a generous slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (which I am dreaming about right now), we were then able to make the small walk back up the hill to Ashe’s, where they proclaimed, “Best hamburger in Kerry”. We had dinner, and I don’t doubt their claim. It was a very good hamburger, indeed.
More from the trail tomorrow. We have been assured that Camp to Annascaul won’t be quite as challenging as today. Here’s hoping they aren’t lying to us.
For your enjoyment, here are some more shots of some of the more rugged part of today’s trail.