On Sunday, May 25th, I had the pleasure of walking some 25km in the Dublin Mountains for a fund-raiser organised by Barretstown, a charity which runs a specially designed camp that provides therapeutic recreation for children with serious illnesses and their families; (see their website http://www.barretstown.org). Importantly too, in these days, as well as the awesome work they do, they spend almost all their funds on the services they provide.
There was a choice of distances, the entire Way, some 42km, or a shorter distance of some 25km to Three Rocks Mountain. I had originally signed up for the 42km but with back problems for the last few weeks, opted instead for the shorter version. Was I glad when it came to 2.30 pm on Sunday afternoon that I had made that decision, another 17km would have been beyond me. To be honest, it was a dull misty morning when I woke up and I almost balked. I got out of bed and crawled back in a couple of times before I donned my walking gear, downed my porridge and headed off.
The Dublin Way starts in Tallaght, in west Dublin, we rendezvoused in the Maldron Hotel, and heads east along the Dublin Mountains, almost to the coast in Shankill.
A free cuppa and a bowl of granola set me up nicely for the start. The organisers, volunteers all, though you would think they were professionals they were so well organised and helpful, got us on our way by 9.30 am.
It took me about an hour to settle down, physically and mentally, into the walk. I spent the first half hour or so worrying that my back would object so strenuously at some stage that I would have to drop out. I tend to worry about things, and then worry about worrying about things – so it always takes me a while to settle down.
A beautiful stretch along the Boharnabreena Reservoir aided the establishment of my equanimity as we headed up into the mountains. I was travelling on my own, with about 399 others, which meant I got to meet a lot of people. Walking a Way, where others are doing the same walk and you have that in common, is like a microcosm of life. Because you are sharing something you have an automatic bond. You drop into peoples lives, or they drop into yours, you spend some time together, talking and laughing, or complaining is some cases, and then you part. It emphasizes the transient nature of our time here.
Climbing out of the valley, i heard the call of the cuckoo, echoing in the hills around me. I had not heard that song in many years and it brought my childhood days, growing up in the country in south Sligo, back in an instant – sometimes your journey can fulfill you in the very early stages.
Like life too, though, a walk has its ups and downs, physical ups and downs when you walk in the mountains. Tiredness hits, sooner or later, an urge to quit comes on you, but there is only one way to finish and that is to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
The first Check Point was a welcome sight, the orange tent emerging from the mists of the mountain.
Sustenance awaited us, in the form of water, dried fruit and nuts and bananas. I refueled and restarted. Some people, having sat down were finding it a little difficult to get up again- another metaphor for life and for the spiritual journeys that we undertake.
One of the pleasures of walking in hills or mountains is that you can see where you have come from. The mist cleared again and the sun shone through as i reached the higher levels. I looked back in joy, feeling a little sorry for the people still in the valley below.
Finally, the end was in sight.
Tea, Irish stew, congratulations, kindness and a goody bag awaited us. A Civil Defence bus generously left us back to Tallaght, our journey was complete, and we had received a tee-shirt and the badge to prove it.
Next year’s target is to walk the 42 km.
Enjoy your Way