Ok, I can finally admit it… The UK has experienced the best weather on record since 2006. I was reluctant to report that the weather has been 25 degrees and sunny for the past three weeks, for fear of jinxing it.
So far, here are the stats:
25 days on the road
10 different accommodations
9 mountains climbed
countless castles, ruins, and ancient stone “arrangements” visited
24.5 days of blissful weather
3,000 km driven
9,000,000,000 calories consumed
8 fish caught
2 near death instances
7 cows grazing in the adjacent field as I write this… (I am currently in a 17th century castle in the country)
I wish I could record this trip with one of those helmut cameras that bike riders wear… it would be a wild documentation of narrow passes, steep ascents, things of historical significance and other strange occurrences. I would also be a running record of beautiful landscapes, interesting people and delicious meals. However, for lack of a helmut camera, these words will have to suffice.
I’ve always been privy to the myth that there is a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow. In Ireland, there are also alleged Leprechauns with promises of gold… However, without any rain… there are no rainbows… and, without any rainbows… well you get the hang of it.
I haven’t stumbled upon any pots of gold so far. Though, as I am climbing the Glendelough mountain, the white quartz and sedimentary rocks shimmer with striations of different metals.
The copper-laden streams run down Glendelough Mountain like bright orange scars through the lush emerald green and burnt purple flora. It is a superlative representation of Ireland’s flag: orange, white and green. These mountains were the source of inspiration for Lewis’ Narnia. There is something magical about them.
The air does not just breeze or whisper: it buzzes. The unseasonable heat has been conducive to many unwanted flies. They rise up from the bushes in annoying doppler-affect-like swarms. It certainly rids me of any Robert-Frost-complex I may have about taking the path less traveled… When the path diverges, I will take the path less buggy.
And, when the path (less buggy) thins out and the wind picks up at the top of the mountain, all that you hear is the soft hiss of the tall grass waving in the wind. The only traces of movement are the bits of sheep hair that cling to the sparse branches like streamers of white clouds in the blue sky.
I think the hardest part of climbing a mountain is just getting there. Once you arrive at the base of a mountain, it takes another 5 minutes to get your head around actually climbing up its steep precipice. Then, another 5 minutes after that to convince your legs that they are no longer atrophied from the car ride. Muscles need blood, oxygen and a reason to activate. Once this “activation” has occurred, you may proceed to enjoy your surroundings.
Liquid gold is sourced at the Smithwicks Brewery in Kilkenny. At this moment, I am only interested in appealing to two senses: sight and taste. See it, then drink it.
I strike gold again at a converted barn in Kildare. The owner, Tony, takes me to meet his horses. They are upset. The young mare that has been newly acquired has created a love triangle. The magnificent stallion is in the corner with his head in the shrubs in protest. We leave them to sort
out their differences and pick an assortment of leaves from the garden for tonight’s salad. Tony tells me all about his experiences in the army and about his life as a photographer. He tells me how he nearly drowned when his boots filled with air forcing his body underwater in the Atlantic Ocean; and how he subsequently quit the army and settled on this farm.
He is happy to indulge me with his stories. I am glad to listen.
Tony grew up on The Isle of White. When his grandfather was a boy, he was caught up in a bootlegging raid. He was told to stash a bag of gold in the chalk cliffs. He apparently hid the gold so well that no one could find it. As a boy, Tony and his cousins would dig in the cliffs in search of the treasure. There may still be some undiscovered treasure yet.
But, from what I’ve learned so far… If you are in Ireland searching for that illusive pot of gold you don’t have to look too hard. The gold is in the people, the landscape and the experience.