Beara Peninsula

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View from Stephen’s place

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 28, we struck our tents and moved the camp to a new location: Aghadoe Heights Hotel in Killarney.  But, on the way, we took a detour and visited Stephen Collins, a friend of Con’s, who has a farm in west Cork.  But Stephen isn’t just your run of the mill Stephen and his farm isn’t just your run of the mill farm.

Stephen is a physician who specializes in famine/starvation medicine.  He has spent many decades doing work in those places on the planet where war and strife have cause mass dislocations of people and mass family.  We see the photographs of those caught up in these crises and shudder. He goes in and tries to save people.  He has worked to develop a nutrient paste that is now used commonly to combat severe starvation.  Really quite humbling.

About 15 years ago, he decided he needed a refuge from what he sees in his work and came to Ireland (he is English) and found a piece of ground, high in the hills, that he decided was just such a refuge.  Now, 15 years later, he is turning it into an organic farm where he raises and breeds Dexter cattle, grows blueberries and fruit, and makes a good life for his family and himself.  After taking us around his farm explaining what he is trying to accomplish, he welcomed us into his home for tea and treats.  The views from his home are unbelievable.

On to Kenmare for an hour of exploration before we were dropped onto the Kerry Way for our hike. Five of us chose the long (9+miles) route and some of chose the shorter (5+ miles) route. Colin, Megan and I, along with two others, chose the longer route. I’m happy we did but was exhausted by the end of it.

Scenery completely different from our previous two days. We had lunch at Windy Gap, which wasn’t windy but was a gap. Masses of purple rhododendrons cover the hillsides.  They look spectacular but are, in fact, an environmental disaster.  The plants were brought in by exotic plant mad folks for their gardens; now, it has escaped and has turned into a form of ground cover that is so dense that nothing else can grow.  Imagine English ivy with purple flowers and you begin to have an idea. (I’m not certain what has happened to my formatting in this paragraph but I can’t seem to undo it.)

Our hotel looks quite unprepossessing from the outside . . . very 1970’s or 80’s? But is beautiful inside, the views across Loch Lein are spectacular.

Con had arranged a special musical evening for us with two local musicians (Niamh Varian-Barry* on violin and her husband, Peter, on button accordion) and it was another very special Wilderness Travel experience. Jigs, polkas, reels and waltzes had our feet tapping and sad sad songs had some of us in tears.

Dinner was late and lavish.

To bed.

*At one point, they were talking about the funny names for some Irish songs (they were just about to do one called “Before Larry Was Stretched). Niamh said her all time favorite is: “Mommy give me a hammer, there’s a fly on baby’s nose.”

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