Last Tuesday (28 June) I went off by myself to do part of the looped walk to Tramore beach. I really love this walk through the dunes, and this time I spent about five hours meandering about.
Let me back up a bit. The week before my host’s partner had spent in London, visiting with her mother and sister, so I had more work to do than usual. She came back Monday afternoon, so I took Tuesday for my day off. I dawdled about all morning, getting up late and taking a shower, then playing on the internet for a while. About 2:45pm, Marina was heading to Dunfanaghy for an errand, so I jumped in the Jeep with her.
First stop was the Centra supermarket, where I bought some cream and a bottle of water. Then I headed to the Green Man to see Eileen. There I bought some duck liver pâté and a bar of dark chocolate with juniper berries and lime. We chatted a bit, then I set off for Horn Head Road.
I’ve been getting my feet tough since early March so I can be a full-time barefooter, so I walked sans shoes until the rough road finally made me slip on my flip-flops. Once at the bridge, however, I shook them off and put them in my backpack.
Walking out through the dunes is such a lovely outing, and the grass and sand feel really good on bare feet. As I started out, I met a woman from Belfast, her son, and 2 dogs, Sparky and Bertie (golden lab/retriever and Beagle). We chatted until we passed the wooden stile, then they set off down the grassy path, and I took the sandy path.
Back in March, when I first walked this route, I could barely drag myself up even short hills. I was that out of shape. This time, I was expecting that one big dune to climb, and when I found it, I just scrambled up it, breathing a little heavy, but it wasn’t too bad. Great! I can do it now, right? Wrong. At the top, I realized I’d climbed up the tallest dune out there, but NOT the one with the actual path! I went back down, and continued on my way. When I found the one I was looking for, I realized it was actually not very high (maybe 1/3 the size of the large dune I’d just climbed), and I just walked up it, not even breathing hard. Wow! That was the best indicator of how much I’ve progressed since March.
Past this milestone, I kept going. Only now I had to pee, so I veered off the path and headed through the dunes, looking for a spot that would be hidden from view. I was still barefoot, and the grass and cushy moss was delightful on my toes. I found out later that the moss that felt like walking on pillows is actually spaghnum moss. Along the way I saw early marsh orchids and wild thyme blooming. And then I found my spot and took care of business, then headed back to the trail.
At the first gate, instead of going straight to the beach, I headed up to the headland. I wanted to find the stone circle again and go into it. The path wound its way gently up and up, until, at the top, the path fell steeply down to the next gate. I’m not kidding about steep, either. I had to hang onto the fence to keep from tumbling down. The wires on the fence showed others had used it, too, as the squares were all tugged toward the downward slope.
Through the 2nd gate, I decided to follow the looped walk path, even though I knew from listening to Brendan that I’d miss the stone circle if I did. I knew where it was, and I wanted to see the headland from a new angle. There were signs posted, one of which told about the blowholes called McSwyne’s Gun and the Two Little Pistols. The view from up there is spectacular, and the light on the ocean in the late afternoon is breathtaking.
The two little pistols were obvious when I saw them: two black-rocked holes in the ground. I walked over and stood between them, trying to take a picture down into each one. The wind wasn’t too high that day, and the sun was shining, but listening to the sea down below, I could imagine what it must sound like on more intemperate days. The water hitting the edge of the cave below actually did sound something like a gunshot.
Once past the two little pistols, I left the path and cut back inland across the hill. I was searching for the stone circle. At first I thought I might have found it, but was curious because the low stones in the ground looked more like a triangle than a circle. That was when I realized it was a very old stone fence, and nothing was left but the outline. There’s a picture below of curious sheep; they were standing in the middle of this ‘enclosure.’
Finding the hill I’d climbed the time before, I discovered that I’d actually walked past the circle. I took several pics from the hill, then went down and entered the circle through the gate stones on the east side. Opposite the gate stones is a triangular shaped stone on the west, and looking through them, Tory Island is pointed out clearly. Was this meant when the circle was built, or just a happy coincidence?
Being the silly person that I am, I entered the circle and sat down smack in the middle of it, and ate some of my pâté and chocolate, and drank my water. I took a couple of pics from that lower vantage point. After about 15-20 minutes, I got up and headed back to the gate. Instead of climbing up that steep hill, I clambered down a dune to the beach, where, at high tide, I hadn’t much distance to cross to wade through the surf (one of my favorite pastimes). There were a few stones to pick up to bring home, then I walked through the dune back to the first gate and through it.
Found my spot and took another ‘break,’ then continued on to the big dune I’d tried to climb earlier. Brendan had told me this was the landmark to head off from to find the sous-terrain, an underground passage that’s about 22 meters long. I’d heard so much about it from Darian and Brendan and other guests, that I wanted to climb through it. It’s about a meter square, and goes for about 11 meters in one direction, then angles and goes another 11 meters in another. It was created in the 800s, I believe, but no one knows what it was actually for. Brendan tells guests that they might think of traversing it as a ‘rebirthing’ experience; they might shed there what they longer wanted to carry, emotionally.
With this in mind, I headed north from the big dune. Brendan had said to walk for ten minutes, until I saw a ridge with a lot of rocks along it. Not understanding that the sous-terrain is actually at the top of this ridge, I hunted for it halfway down both sides. I never found it, even after walking for about an hour and a half. I probably walked right by it; it’s not easy to find, and not sign-posted. This is what I was looking for: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=223552670996385&set=a.223552597663059.64118.117259614959025&type=1&theater
By this time, I was exhausted; my knees were hurting, and my feet were screaming at me. On the way back, I decided to walk through the wee forest path to the new carpark. My feet hurt so bad I put on my flip-flops and managed to stump my way back to town. At Centra, I picked up another bottle of cream, then walked out to the Catholic graveyard; at the edge of the gate, the house next to it has an egg box. You leave your money inside and take the eggs from their hens. Lovely free-range, local eggs!
No one would stop to give me a lift back, so I called Marina and asked her to call a cab for me. There was no way I could walk 5.5 kilometers back along the back road. She laughed and said she’d come collect me. I sat on the wall at the graveyard, next to the main road, and soon she arrived to get me home. I was so tired from my adventure, but I was heartened to realize that I could never have done all that 3-4 months ago.