I’m not quite sure where to start with this post. The past three days have just been such an amazing experience for me. I guess I shall start with some context. Back in fifth year I was working on my Silver Gaisce Medal. I had the appropriate number of weeks completed for my physical, personal and voluntary skills in my pocket (can’t remember what I even did for them now!) and all that was left was the 50-79km adventure journey over three days and two nights. Unfortunately halfway through day one I hurt my leg and couldn’t finish. I never received my medal.
The Leaving Cert happened and then college started and before I knew it four years had passed. But one day I woke up and decided I still wanted to complete the Gaisce challenge. I got in contact with a former teacher who had supervised our bronze and silver awards and she agreed to be my PAL again (that’s Gaisce for supervisor). It took a long time to sort out my hike because I was on Co-Op and then I went to Denmark for Erasmus.
While in Denmark I met my awesome friend Julie and she mentioned that her Dad and she visit Ireland every Summer to hike through the Wicklow Way and mentioned me joining them (I say that now, but I may have invited myself along…). Anyhoo, Friday morning last I got on a train to meet them in Dublin! I was really excited to see them at the bus station because I had missed Julie and her Dad is great! Once we got through translating some Dublin accents with a group effort we were off to Marley Park and that was it, no turning back. We hiked over 20km the first day in the most beautiful weather possible! The city behind us, the mountains, the hills, the fields, everything just had this amazing glow about it.
The next day, not so much. It lashed rain all. Day. Long. But that just made a hot shower, comfy bed and hot meal that much more enjoyable! I found day two very difficult. It was tough to catch my breath against the howling wind but I kept on going. I’m still not sure if it’s because I was determined to finally finish or if I just didn’t want to slow anyone down. Once at the top of a very steep peak though the terrain became very boggy and ponds had formed along the flat-ish peak, so planks with metal pins for grip had been put in place. I, and my feet in particular, were so glad for the temporary relief because the rain and wind made it tough enough. At the end of the day though, I felt so accomplished and ready to take on the final day.
The final day was great because it wasn’t too hot or cold and didn’t rain much either. My hiking buddies were so nice. In order to ensure I was definitely above the mark for kilometres and could finish my challenge successfully they took me beyond where their hostel for that night was and we went to Glendalough. There we took the most beautiful walk through the national park to see the lakes and the old monastery there. It was breathtaking.
After that we headed back to their hostel; it was a short journey but up a really steep hill. Somehow this was the worst bit because having come down it already I knew what was ahead and wasn’t looking forward to going back up. But I got there. B-) And that, ladies and gentleman, was my finish line!
Phew! Seventy kilometres later I was sore and my joints were stiff, being the pale Irish girl I was also a little bit sunburned (yes, even through rain clouds) and yet I felt like I could take on the world. This trip had been four years in the making. While it’s a physically challenging thing to do, for me it was more mentally daunting in the beginning. I have suffered from depression since I was 16 so if I failed at something I always convinced myself that I simply couldn’t do it instead of getting up and trying again. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am now but I couldn’t be happier that I overcame that negativity in my mind! I came away thinking ‘if after four years I can do this, I can do anything.’ And I really think that feeling will stick. Even today I should have been stuck to the bed in pain but I’m not, I got up and I’m just back from a long walk with the dog, I’ve been cleaning like crazy and doing chores just because I’m restless, I don’t want to sit. I want to take on the next challenge!
Some of the other things I took from this experience included an appreciation for Ireland. Like all Irish people, I love to complain about it; the weather, the government, this, that and the other. But on this trip I saw just some of the beauty Ireland has to offer to those willing to look for it.
And best of all, I got to share this experience with two amazing people. Julie and Michel Marchand, I probably could not have kept going without them. They were so encouraging and so much fun to be with. They say I didn’t complain much, but i don’t believe them so I’m glad they put up with me too, haha! They kept going to finish the Wicklow Way over the following two days so I’m wishing them both the best of luck and hoping this ‘heat wave’ the forecast is talking about is real and stays with them. 🙂
So that’s it. I will not be crossing the Silver Medal off my Bucket List until I have the medal in my hand but I still feel fantastic for having finally completed it. 😀
See some more of my crappy camera phone pictures below.