If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here

Let me tell you something that I hope you never find out for yourself. When you get cancer it does all sorts of things to you; but one particularly horrible thing it does, for months or year…

Source: If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here

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What do long distance walkers do on their day off?

 

Thank you so much for sticking with the blog this week – I hope you have enjoyed reading about our journey and that you liked the images of the places we have seen along the way. We finished the walk on Friday evening and had decided to stay in Clifden for a couple of days to get over the walk and to spend a little time exploring the area where Rosie’s dad had spent much of his childhood. In effect we became tourists and one thing that tourists do when they are in Clifden is visit the site of the Marconi Telegraph Station that transmitted the first transAtlantic wireless messages a hundred years ago. The site is in a truly isolated part of the Connemara bogland and  at one time was home to hundreds of  people. And what do you think we found there when we explored the site in detail – a railway track!

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It was only a short section that connected the old buildings to a harbour used to bring in the construction materials for the site. These images show how desolate the land was around the Telegraph Station but what a rare beauty of a situation!

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We passed some pretty desolate bog roads on our way to the site and you just knew that one false step along them and your chances of survival would have been pretty slim.

 

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A man can get pretty lonely up here and it was good to see that there were plenty of sheep to talk to.

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And after leaving this quite remarkable site all that remained was to go and dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean (figuratively speaking) on one of the fabulous deserted beaches found on this part of the coast. So the journey ended in sunshine at a really memorable spot.

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I don’t know where we’re going next – it’ll have to be pretty good to beat this trip and I hope you will come with us on that journey wherever it might take us. So from Rosie and Rebecca thank you and goodbye. This is David McNamara, News at Ten, standing on a beach on the edge of the world, sore feet, feeling his age, wishing he was back in the pub, signing off for a little while. Good bye and thank you.

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Rebecca

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Rosie and Dave

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The train now leaving …

 

Let’s get the clichés out of the way first. It was the best of days and it was the worst of days; it was a game of two halves; Rosie was as sick as a parrot …. that’s enough for now, you’ll see where this is going shortly.

Last day and the sun was shining! The air was clear and the views were magnificent and it was hard to believe that it was still February. We had been staying in Clifden and I drove Rosie and Rebecca to where the walk had ended yesterday and then drove back to Clifden with the intention of walking towards them and meeting half way. We would then finish the walk together. Good plan? Actually, it turned out to be a rotten plan because (remember) this was a game of two halves. For my part, I got on the railway track in Clifden and headed off into the wilderness without a care in the world. Along the way I was confronted with brilliant views and my journey was accompanied by bird-song,  the sweet smell of turf burning and the tinkling waters of bogland rivers. I searched for Daniel O’Donnell on my iPod and the day got even better when I remembered I had no songs of his to cheer me on my way.

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Along the way I passed an isolated reminder that people have had a foothold in this environment, albeit a precarious one.

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Now, remember where Rosie and Rebecca were whilst I was wandering through the landscape? They were in the small village of Ballynahinch which had originally been the last stop on the Galway to Clifden Line. It boasts a very large hotel with some really interesting historical connections and so, naturally, the ladies called in for morning coffee. They were met at the door with the typically Irish welcome “We’re closed, come in!”

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Coffee break over they then set off for what promised to be a brilliant day’s walking into the Connemara wilderness. The railway station has been renovated and is now a private house and the route finding seemed really easy – you just followed the line of the old platform .

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…and, sure enough the track just enfolded before you. The writer of the guide book was forgiven for his lies of yesterday and all that had to be done was meet up with the old man halfway to Clifden – job done!

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Well, not quite! But then, what’s a bit of danger after the exploits of yesterday?

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What would you do? Seek an easier option? Ford the stream under the bridge? Give up?

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They probably took the wrong option which was to plough on regardless.

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Several hours later they finally emerged from the jungle swamp to meet the track once more. Meanwhile, having no idea of the problems the ladies had faced I had gone well past the rendezvous point and was getting a bit fed up because every step forward meant a longer journey back!  So I was faced with the prospect of ploughing into the forest to rescue them or turning round and starting my homeward journey. It was a no-brainer. I turned round!

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It must have been galling for them both to have come through The Darien Gap and still have miles of bogland track to plodge through. Oh yes, I forgot to add that whilst they had been floundering in the jungle the sun had packed up for the day.

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But, eventually, the track improved, the mud got less clingy and  the wilderness was defeated. A final mile or two into Clifden and a long day, and a long journey, came to an end. Galway to Clifden finished, and in the greater sphere of things Rosie completed her cross-Ireland walk. It had started on St Patrick’s Day 2011 and in ended close to the Atlantic Ocean just before dusk on February 24th 2012. Job done! Well, nearly done – we had to walk the few yards to the nearest pub and toast our success – and believe me, this was a success very hard earned. So hard earned they got the band out for us.

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River deep and mountain high

 

You will not need a weather report today – you should be able to write the script yourself. However, nature did relent a little and much of the day was spent in drizzle that came from guilty clouds. Ireland had a monochrome day today and it was only with difficulty that we managed to find any colour to brighten your evening. We also spent much of the day wondering how guide book writers can get it so dreadfully wrong. For example, the guide book might say that a bridge across a river is missing but advise you that it won’t be a problem because there are skilfully placed stepping stones. If the guide book had been written in the height of a summer drought, perhaps that would explain why being confronted by a rapidly flowing river twenty feet wide, two feet deep and without a stepping stone in sight focuses the mind somewhat. Another interesting mind game to pass a damp Thursday might be to consider when a “boggy patch” becomes a lake. Today these interesting questions were researched at first hand.

But first; the day started a bit badly. The route was impassable and it was necessary to leave the railway track option for most of the morning and follow the old road towards Clifden. The scenery along this section our walk is utterly stunning and if you have never been to this part of Ireland you are in for a treat when you finally manage to get here. By lunchtime we were able to re-join the track and enjoy some of the most exhilarating walking of the trip so far. Unfortunately the quality cannot be sustained after so much rain and the excellent sections needed to be balanced against the muddy bits. There was excitement aplenty during the course of the day. Many of the bridges that originally allowed the trains to cross rivers are still intact, but some aren’t. So what would you do if you were walking along an embankment thirty feet above a raging torrent and you discover that the bridge has been removed?

Let’s look at the day’s images and you may begin to see just what problems had to be overcome.

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If you look hard enough you will find a riot of colour even in unpromising situations

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At times the path was pretty well impassable ….

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And then it got worse!

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But, generally the path was good

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Sometimes, though, you hit a problem that needs solving. Do you fancy this; just a fifteen foot drop into a river?

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Usually the bridges were intact …

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but not always…

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and then you’re pretty well knackered!

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Some rivers are fast flowing and wide …

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     … but one aspect they all share is that they are very wet!   

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Of course there are compensations around every corner

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A local muppet

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We should finish our walk tomorrow and the forecast is for sunny intervals. The guide book – which has been spectacularly useless for much of the journey – advises us that soon after we start tomorrow we will be traversing one of the most desolate areas in Europe and that for five or six miles we will not come into contact with any evidence of human occupancy; a bit like Sedbergh then!

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Another blog from the bog

 

This morning was quite remarkable! I mentioned in an earlier blog that the weather today was absolutely horrible. It rained horizontally and the wind was at least Force 8. It looked like a wasted day and we spent the morning in Galway doing the sort of things that tourists do. And then … a miracle! The wind decreased and the rain relented. We even saw some sun so we decided to make the most of it and start the next section of the walk even though it was to take us into the heart of the Connemara bog. Even Indiana Jones would have thought twice about this, but not Rosie!

Our start was just outside the town of Oughterard at “The Quiet Man” bridge made famous by John Wayne. If you’ve never heard of the film, think yourself lucky that you are probably younger than 60 years of age.

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For a long section of today’s walk we were on a good track which enabled us to make good time. Just when you think you’ve cracked it, the whole situation changes and you find that the path disappears into the bog and the only way to proceed is to go for a paddle. Its such a shame when this happens. This old railway track is an asset that Ireland should be looking to improve. Along the journey today we passed several places where the technology that had led to this quite remarkable railway was in evidence. Railway cuttings, embankments, bridges and buildings.

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OK so you expect girders and metal bits on railways, but in the middle of the largest bog in Europe, would you expect to find a post box?

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God alone knows who actually posts letters here, but what about the poor postman who has to empty it! Another thing that had me puzzled is why do people put gates in fences that nobody ever uses?

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Its odd that even in this total desolation people choose to live and I have to say that it is very rare to find houses in such isolated spots as these. In my last blog I promised you “atmospheric” so what do you make of these images?

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The day ended at the old railway station at Maam Cross where some of the original buildings still exist. Some things in life are spooky, but nothing matches poking your head into an old building and disturbing the ghosts. These are the ghosts of Rosie’s family, her mum and dad and their mums and dads travelled this line. They got off at these stations and looked at the hills and lakes and bogs that we looked at today. One day our children will walk these paths and lanes and the circle will be complete and they will have drunk from the springs of adventure that their grandparents tasted.

Tomorrow, we will be edging towards the end of Europe and will travel through the greatest wilderness of the British Isles. Do you know what? We have been up to our knees in cold bog water and had rain and wind in our faces and yet some of you still haven’t visited the Genesis site like I asked you to do. No excuses now!

http://www.genesisuk.org/events/million-miles

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Day Two : The rust is beginning to show

 

Today was the day that promised to be the most difficult of the trip. We had taken advice from local walking clubs before setting off and the general opinion was that any attempt to follow the old railway track was doomed to failure. Do you think that would stop Rosie? The day actually started off well. The sun was shining and a stiff breeze was pushing the clouds along.

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The image above was taken just before eight o’clock on Tuesday morning and the good weather continued until mid morning. And then it began to rain in Biblical style! Before the rain there had been encouraging signs that the doom-merchants might have been wrong. It had been easy to locate the old track and the walking was fairly easy. But then things began to go a little pear-shaped. It wasn’t the obstacles placed along the track to stop people driving 4 x 4s …

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… or the muddy nature of the path

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It wasn’t the fact that the railway track actually disappeared under the waters of Ross lake. What really clinched it and persuaded the pioneers to retreat and find a better path was the fact that the track became overgrown by gorse and brambles at least six feet high – and Rosie is only five feet high.

An alternative route was selected that followed some fabulous back roads that took us through some tiny hamlets and had the advantage of being raised up from the surrounding countryside so that we had good views even though the mist and rain were pretty relentless by now.

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One advantage of all the rain is that the rivers are full of water and the cataracts and waterfalls are impressive.

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This one is near Oughterard and is known locally as Salmon Leap. You will notice that there are no salmon actually leaping and this is because salmon do not leap on rainy days because thet don’t like getting wet,

The day ending back in Galway in front of a turf fire where we sampled the local brew. It could have caused a slight problem asking for this beer, but I got away withIMG_1673

 

And finally one for the family album to prove to my children that we are still alive.

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The ladies at Genesis are still eagerly awaiting your visits to their fundraising site incidentally – it will only take a few seconds of your time and it may well save your life one day.     http://www.genesisuk.org/events/million-miles

Today (Wednesday) is a bit challenging. The rain is coming at you horizontally and the wind is reaching Gale Force 8. Don’t expect miracles this evening. The images may be a bit poor (unless you’re an artist in which case they will be atmospheric) because our route takes us in to the bog – let’s hope it also takes us out of the bog.

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Images from Day One

Just finished watching the Irish weather forecast for the next few days and it looks like the rain of today will be slow to move away. However, as promised, here are some images taken during the day as the walk proceeded from a wet Galway to a wetter Moycullen.

There is a sub-plot to this walk. There used to be a railway from Galway to Clifden but it was closed down many years ago. The line of the track remains and it is possible to walk along a few sections. Unfortunately there are many sections where the route is no longer obvious and many places where the land has been taken over by farmers or by builders and incorporated into gardens, golf courses or industrial buildings. That isn’t enough to stop Rosie though although even she had to make a few detours.

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The image above shows the modern railway in Galway and the point where the track to Clifden branched off. A good start and for the next three or four miles the line of the railway was incorporated into a cycle path that connects the City Centre to the University of Galway Campus along the banks of the River Corrib.

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Unfortunately the good progress didn’t last all day. The cycle path disappeared and the line of the railway became a little more difficult to find. It also became very boggy underfoot and in places there were obstacles along the route that were to provide some excitement!

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Along the way we came across a nice touch in the grounds of the Glenlo Hotel. They have renovated a couple of the original railway carriages used on the Clifden to Galway line and they are now used as a restaurant by the Hotel.

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The last section of the day took us into the town of Moycullen. We entered the geographical area known as Connemara and there were sections of the line which had been turned into minor roads, making the final section a little easier than some of the earlier ones. It was also good to see that some of the original railway buildings had been converted into modern accommodation, such as the cottage below that was originally sited at the point where the railway crossed a road and level crossing gates needed to be operated.

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After Moycullen we drove back to Galway Bay along a bog road that ended at the village of Spiddal. There is a fabulous beach at Spiddal, but there wasn’t much chance of a paddle today as the sea was a bit rough and the waves were crashing against the sea-wall.

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Tomorrow we will walk from Moycullen to Oughterard and will finish on the shores of Ireland’s second biggest lake. Lets hope the rain keeps off.

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