Since Friday..

Let me apologise! The intention was to keep you updated a little bit more than this but I was busy over the weekend. Here goes…

The Camino Society held their first monthly walk of 2019 in Glencullen. There are tonnes of trails there and the Dublin Mountains Way runs through it. I won’t go into it in too much detail as I wrote a piece about it on their newsletter here. Go check it out, the photos are excellent.

Anyway, the day started well with the sun shining in Donabate. I had a good feeling about the day. I brought the rain gear ‘just in case’. However the further south I went, the darker the sky got and the first drops could be felt at Johnnie Fox’s pub, our meeting point. Not to worry. We marched on regardless.

With a full pack and thirty-something other pilgrims, it was close enough to being on Camino. It was just what I needed with my May Camino quickly approaching. After the walk, we returned to base (Johnnie Fox’s) for some food and music.

Kilmashogue megalithic wedge tomb – 4000 years old

The following day, Sunday, marked 100 days before my brother and I travel to Ferrol to start our Camino Ingles / Celtic Camino. From now on, it’s all double-digits and even though I have done this many times before, it feels new this time. Maybe because it is a new route? May 7th we leave for Ferrol and we hope to be in Santiago by May 14th. We have flights booked for May 19th which gives us room to decide to walk to Finisterre or stay in Santiago.

Bray Head with Camino Society Ireland

Hike #2
Bray town, around and over Bray head and back to the town.

Another weekend and now just 100 days (eek!) before I fly back to Spain and into Madrid. Time flies, doesn’t it? And speaking of time flying, this day 4 years ago I had completed my third day on my third stint on the Camino Frances. My 2013 Camino was easily my favourite and one I will cherish for a long time. I met so many good people and I hope, one day, to see some of them again.

This weekend was shaping up to be something special. During the week, temperatures were in the 20s and the sun was out most days. I had 2 walks planned and was eagerly looking forward to them. Today (Saturday) was in Bray with Camino Society Ireland, and Sunday with the Camino prep / training meet-up group. There were rumours of rain coming up from the South to hit Dublin today but I quietly had my fingers crossed. The last thing I wanted was to be mid-hike in the middle of a downpour. So I packed my rain gear in the hope that there would be just a few showers and that would be the end of that. I left the house in the midst of light rain but nothing that would bother me.

After an hour trip by train, myself and my brother arrived at Bray and was welcomed by quite a few fellow walkers. There were more at the first outing in Howth a month previous but I would put that down to the weather. I brought my Osprey 33 litre backpack with Helly Hansen rain jacket and Berghaus rain trousers. I had my pacerpoles with me this time as we were advised to bring poles with us. They proved to be a great help.

So 10 am came and went and we started to move out. The walk involved using the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones but rather than continuing to Greystones, we would climb up and over Bray Head and loop back to Bray. Looking from Bray, it seemed daunting, but we were assured that the climb was gradual and not as steep as it looked. Onwards we went along the promenade which was bustling with joggers, walkers and a solitary accordionist. The clouds were dark but I wasn’t dressed for rain at this stage.

10 minutes in, as we were walking along the cliff walk, we felt the first drop. One drop became two until a steady shower started. “This is down for the day”..I said to myself. I pulled on the rain jacket and continued in the hope that it was a solitary shower and it would clear sharpish. At the very least, it would be a good time to test the rain gear! A half an hour and it hadn’t relented. The zip-offs were soaked so I thought that now would be a good time to don the rain trousers. The backpack was a lost cause at this stage and soaked through. I should have brought a cover! After a little while, we stopped for a bit so I could put on the rain trousers. They were a massive help! I would recommend them to anyone interested. Most there had ponchos but I prefer rain jacket and trousers.

The climb up the hill was tough in places but nothing too challenging. It was pretty funny seeing a sign warning us of the presence of a bull and totally disregarding it. Yes, we are that crazy!! There were a few awkward obstacles to negotiate but all in all the climb is anything you would see while walking from Rabanal del Camino to Foncebadon. At times, we were walking through flowing streams but the rain started to subside while we were making the descent back to Bray. It was pretty misty also, and it was a shame that we didn’t see the one thing that we came to see…Bray Head cross. Visibility was very poor being so high. The descent was gradual but the rain made walking difficult and it was very easy to slip. After another hour, we made it back to base safely and in one piece.

Despite the conditions, it is a beautiful walk and I would love to give it another go in better weather. During the week, the Camino Society left me a message on Instagram (after I expressed concerns about the forecast)..”It will be like a new adventure”..and it most certainly was. It gave me a great chance to test my rain gear and find any faults..which there were many. I have a few months to find a more effective rain jacket as my Helly Hansen just didn’t cut it. It was also great meeting society members again and talking about future plans. Bernard and Jim can’t be praised highly enough. I can’t wait for the next outing.

Unfortunately, with the poor weather conditions, I felt it wise to cancel the Camino prep / training meet up in Howth tomorrow. I have been on the Howth cliff path while it is raining and it can be difficult to negotiate some sections.

More photos can be found on Camino Society Ireland’s facebook page.

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A Long Flat Walk…

Boom! I’ve gotten my first training walk done and dusted. I am going in the right direction now. I had many a cobweb to shake off after my stay in hospital but it was good to take part in this one and with many great people. As I have mentioned before, I am part of the “Free Camino prep / training” group on Meetup.com. It is a group based in Dublin for those who are preparing for a trip to the Camino or who have been in the past. I really enjoy being around folks who have been or are in the midst of planning. While I was in hospital, the group has grown dramatically and there have been numerous walks around Dublin. The organiser of the group is walking his own Camino in late April and is eager to take on as many practise walks before he goes.

This walk was 15 km in length and started just outside Clontarf Train station. The sun was shining from the off and the whole of Dublin were out either walking, running or cycling. Over the course of the day, we walked northbound along the coast, taking in a detour through the sand dunes of Bull Island and out again at Sutton. After 4 hours, we ended up in the harbour town of Howth, where we had coffee and snacks. This was a perfect flat walk with little or no incline, but that said, it was very enjoyable.

There are events planned for the next two weeks; next Saturday sees us in Glendalough taking on the White Spinc trail, and the following Saturday (22nd) the Camino Society of Ireland are walking the Box of Frogs trail on Howth Head. More of those in the coming weeks.

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Being Camino fit (or Camino unfit in my case)

Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I could walk 25 kms-30 kms a day and feel fine. Of course, I would stop for cafe con leches or cervezas, and a little snack. Walking these distances didn’t cause too much trouble for me save for a few strains in my legs or the occasional back pain. In particular, I would relish the meseta (between Burgos and Astorga) and I suppose I still do! I have walked from the large city of Burgos to the tiny insignificant hamlet of Hontanas on two occasions; 2013 and 2015. That particular etapa (stage) is 31 kms in length which may be too far for some people, however I couldn’t get out the door of the albergue in Burgos fast enough! I thrived on it. I had music in my ears, and a spring in my step and I had a choice of beds when I arrived at my destination. People may ask me to slow down, but that’s the way I like to walk, I guess. I know of people who have walked longer, so it does depend on the person.

wicklow-way9
The Wicklow Way

However, I have always wanted to bring that attitude back home. Since 2011. Walking for 25 kms a day in a beautiful country is one thing, but once I return home I drift back to the usual habits of resolutions and promises. As you know, I walked the Camino Finisterre at the start of September. It is an extension of the Camino Frances from Santiago to the coast and weighs in a 90 kms. I found this incredibly tough in stages, no matter how beautiful it is. I managed to make it to coast but I do wonder would it have been more enjoyable if I had been more Camino fit / ready. Possibly?

At present, I walk, give or take a few kms,  10 kms per week. It is recommended that if you are going to walk a Camino in the future, that you prepare. That’s not just with kit. You should be able to walk close to what you are aiming to walk on a daily basis on the Camino. Not straight away of course! But build the distance so you can manage it in Spain. It is also recommended that you carry your kit to get used to the weight.

So where does this leave me?

Well first off, I have joined a hiking group called The Challenge Hikers, a group who organise hikes in Ireland for all levels. This will be a great chance to meet people who have a love of the outdoors like myself. And maybe a few of them have walked the Camino! The more kms I walk at home, the easier it will be while in Spain!