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Posts tagged ‘kerry way’

Tie me kangaroo down

On Thursday, my father and I launched an expedition on Carauntoohil. We didn’t quite make the top. Can I blame it on my father? No wait – it was the weather. Yes, that’s more loyal. Also, potentially more true.

Thick cloud rested on the top of all the Reeks, although it lifted marginally as the morning wore on. A fairly serious track has been cleared from the farmhouse at the head of the Black Valley and we followed it to Curraghmore Lake. We turned back halfway up the slope to the saddle ridge linking Carrauntoohil with Cnoc na Péiste. You might say we were vanquished by dangerously violent sheep.

Also I fell off a stile.

Dad gets ready

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Hello? Is that the horoscope hotline? I'd like to check my horoscope for today, specifically as related to heights. Oh, you don't- hey, is this a recording?

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Big boulder

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Deadlyjelly negotiates the rockery

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Resting up at Curraghmore Lake

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Dad leaning against Rock Art

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Looking down into the Bridia Valley

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Rolf Harris

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Lesson 1: how to slice with a ski pole

Intrepid explorer (don’t be fooled by the beanie)

After days of rain in Kenmare, and snow up country resulting in the daring rescue of a busload of tourists from the Wicklow mountains, this morning was a surprise.

The day was lovely and bright and crispy. Dad and I decided to walk up the Lack Road from the Bridha Valley. Looking north from the Ballaghbeama Gap to the Valley, the Magilicuddy Reeks were framed against a perfect blue sky.

The Magilicuddy Reeks. The mountains frosted with snow are Caher (left) and Cumeenmore (right)

The wind could have scraped the arse off you, but at the pace my father set we warmed up quickly. In short, he walked the arse of me before the wind could get it.

Dad is a menace with a pair of ski poles (although technically, the man doesn’t need a pair of ski poles). I was lucky to escape with both eyeballs. The thrilling accuracy with which he flicked the pole up at the end of a stride cannot be accidental.

At the top of the Lack Road, we had some Nice biscuits and mint crisp. Then we turned east towards Curraghmore Mountain. After slodging through a bog, we scrambled up a jumble of rock towards the cairn marking the summit of Curraghmore.

Morning tea

The route ahead: Curraghmore Mountain is the highest peak in this photo, although admittedly it is more a trick of perspective

Picture by dad; me and Lough Acoose. Dingle Peninsula in the background. Also, my thighs aren’t really that big; it’s the wind, I swear to god, it’s the wind. Husband tell them, please.

Clouds collected and struck poses and looked threatening, but they didn’t venture below peak level. It was like watching a slide show.

Caher seemed but a short uphill sprint to our left, but my father hasn’t been on a walk this technical since his last hip operation and has a keen appreciation of his limits – although, this was not entirely clear as he descended to Curraghmore Lake.

There is no track apart from the odd set of sheep prints, with steep cliffs on either side of the descent. After the recent rain, much of the terrain was boggy and hanging halfheartedly to the underlying rock. Dad has two artificial hips and a fall runs the risk of dislodging one or both. We took it slowly, but every now and then the sound of dad’s ski pole skittering across damp rock made my heart skitter too.

Had he fallen, I was going to tell mum it happened on the Lack Road and dad used his arms to pull himself over to Curraghmore Lake.

Dad features cloud cover

Sunshine threatens Black Valley. Broaghnabinnia’s shadow also features, centre left

Picture by dad: me and Curraghmore Lake

Picture by dad: the reason there are few photos of me

Heather, possibly

Dad kicks rock

Multipurpose bridge/trailer

Dusk in the valley

Time to go home

My country

Of all the countries I’ve lived or visited, I love Ireland best. Perhaps I always will.

Of course, I am shamelessly biased. Partly I find comfort in the familiar; or it may have something to do with the smell. That is what first hit me fresh off the plane at Kerry Airport; specifically, the bucolic bouquet of sheep shit.

I have always likened New Zealand to Ireland (or the other way round, according to your allegiance), but the Kiwi landscape, although similar to Ireland, has more style and glamour. It has a better frame: the mountains are higher; the valleys are lower; the lakes are deeper; the sea a keener blue.

Yet Ireland has a shabby charm that will always endear me. There are still roads the Ordnance Survey classifies as B-grade, which are barely tarmacadamed tracks fortified with grass. You expect to round a corner and find a pipe-smoking countrywoman churning butter. Farms are commonly delineated by hedgerows.

But it is the interplay of weather and light that casts a unique spell. The good days are beautiful, but the changeable days are magic. If you don’t believe in leprechauns, banshees and fairies, you can understand the origins of the mythology. When the elements can’t decide what to do, they just throw the whole lot at you.

Apparently, the Irish summer has been terrible. The weather brings out a touch of the obsessive compulsive in the Irish, so every time they’ve spoken to me over the last few months, my parents have bemoaned it at length.

“The weather is pure bitter,” my mother would say in grief-stricken tones. “Feckin rain. We had a day there – Tuesday – or, it could have been Sunday – and the sun came out for three hours in the morning. No, now that I think about it – wait – it was the afternoon. And I think it was Monday. That was it; that was our summer. Three feckin hours long.”

When I arrived in Ireland last week, I refused to believe them.

“You brought the sunshine with you,” said my mother, darkly. “It won’t last, mark my words.”

Well, given the country’s reputation, her prediction was safe enough. After three days of stuttering sunshine, it has been inclement.

Shortly after I arrived, Danny and I walked up to Curraghmore Lake from the Black Valley. The Black Valley lakes were still underneath a moody sky. It remained grim until we reached the lake, when the sun illuminated great tracts of surrounding landscape. We watched the scudding clouds buffet the sun, but it never quite managed to reach us.

Two days ago, I stood on top of a hill in a sun shower, looking out on billowing veils of rain to the north and bright sunshine to the west, bound by a full rainbow.

If these photos don’t speak a thousand words, I apologise for the photographer’s incompetence.

Blackberries

24 September – blackberry pickers stalk their prey

Star blackberry eater

25 September – gatepost near Bunane Bridge

Church at Bunane. Composition inspired by The Incredible Di Mackey

B-grade road: the pass between Lackabane and Castle Rock

26 September – as we drove into the Black Valley, Danny said: “Look! What’s that?” And there on top of a ridge, a horse was silhouetted against the sky. We expected it to rear up on its hind legs and let forth a terrible neigh that would spread terror into the hearts of horse and human alike. But it just nibbled on some rock and then wandered off to stand on another

The Black Valley, Lough Cumeenduff from the south road

Danny foraging for doughnuts at Curraghmore

Curraghmore Mountain hogs the sun

1 October – Old Kenmare Road after rainfall; coming out of Torc Forest

Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, from the Old Kenmare Road

On the Kerry Way looking north, to the east of Windy Gap

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