Sunday, June 2nd, was our last full day with our Wilderness Travel group. It is now Tuesday, June 4th, and, as always happens with me, the adrenaline rush of being engaged in an intense, shared experience is beginning to ebb and I am feeling a trifle melancholy. So, I must get this almost-last post done before complete collapse occurs.
Sunday was phenomenal!! I cannot stress enough the necessity of doing a trip like ours with guides like ours. At every turn, we have been treated to “bonus” events arranged only through the connections our guides have with the people of this area.
Sunday morning began with us driving to the Gallarus Oratory on the far western end of the Dingle Peninsula where Con had arranged to have an incredible musician, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, sing and play for us in this tiny, ancient, stone building. The seventeen of us filled the small space and, when she sang, her voice accompanied only by the sound of the wind outside, it was breathtaking. The song was in Gaelic and I didn’t understand a word but the emotion was clear and strong. Tunes on wooden flute and tin whistle followed; it was a perfect beginning for our last day.
Our final hike was out on Brandon Head and it was a corker (no pun intended). We dressed in full battle gear and headed up a small farm path that gradually deteriorated into a track into the wind and rain. We passed a pasture with Gypsy (Vanner) horses and saw a foal that had been born just that morning. Then up into the most spectacular scenery of the trip: Waterfalls everywhere, sometimes seeming to flow backwards when the force of the wind sent great plumes of spray skyward. The wind was strong and the rain was constant with vast sheets of it dancing magically across the mountain sides. The force of Irish weather combined with the landscape created a feeling of being . . . being in exactly the right place at precisely the right time. Soaking wet, it didn’t matter; you just had to grab the moment with both hands and hold on tight.
Every time we began to turn a corner into another gulley, climbing ever upward, I thought “oh, shoot, we are losing that waterfall.” And, then, two steps onwards, another cascade would appear. Just typing these words gives me a bit of a thrill. At the top is a saddle . . . a great, boggy expanse of a saddle. Imagine the force of the wind against your body, the sharp peppering of rain on your face, the sloppy, sucking sounds your boots make as they land on and pull out of this muddy, mucky, grassy area, nothing but beauty all around, air so fresh it shocks your lungs, and a heart full to brimming with joy. Do you have that in your head? If so, you have a beginning of what it felt like to be there. I wish I were there still instead of sitting here in the British Air Lounge at Dublin Airport.
Suffice it to say, that final hike couldn’t have been been more perfect.
Back at the hotel, after a chance to wring out our clothes and hair, a few of us went with Con on a drive along another part of the coastline. The light on the clouds and water was beautiful. We heard more of Con’s musings on the Irish diaspora and its continuing effect on the Irish and the world.
It was a magnificent and miserable day: Magnificent for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above plus many that I have not mentioned; miserable because it was the last day. But I choose to hold onto the magnificent.
No photos of that last hike. Camera stayed firmly nestled in pack. Only images are in my mind where they will be forever treasured.