Cities / Towns Visited: 76
Countries Visited: 20
Steps Taken Today: 18,553
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,556,489
With a big day ahead, we were up bright and early, downing a quick breakfast, and hopping into the car. Why were we bounding out of the warmth and comfort of our bed so soon, I hear you ask? We were going to drive the Ring of Kerry, of course. For those of you who have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m talking about, the Ring of Kerry is a 179km circular driving route in County Kerry. With a few stops planned on the way round, we had to get started if we wanted to fit it all in, thus off we drove.
Before too long we were out of Killarney and into the stunning landscape which skirts Lough Leane at the north of the route. We had been told that it is best to head counter-clockwise as to avoid meeting the plethora of tour buses head on, but to be honest, we didn’t see a single one until the close of our day, so it was smooth travels as we coasted around. Taking a turn off, we headed to out first pit stop for the tour; the Gap of Dunloe. Parking the car, and piling out, we passed the gauntlet of horse and carriage drivers vying for our business, offering rides to the viewpoint, and began the hike down the trail which snakes it’s way along the valley floor. Now to say its picturesque would be to do it a disservice. With a peaceful river trickling along, splitting the gap in two, and pooling into placid lakes; and livestock grazing lazily on the rocky slopes; there was something soul feeding about the crisp morning air, and the adrenaline of a brisk walk in calm surroundings.
We were amused by the bright splashes of colour splotted onto the wool of the sheep, in what I can only imagine is a rather whimsical addition to the common sheep drenches in these parts; either that or the youths out this way have run out of things to graffiti. Regardless of its purpose, it certainly adds quite the sight in such an undisturbed natural environment. It was at this point that we both agreed that seeing sheep with tails is unlikely to become any less strange for us, as all sheep in Australia have their tails docked as lambs to prevent fly strike (flies laying eggs in their wool around their excrement caked tails and the resulting maggots burrowing into the flesh of the sheep). Obviously blowflies are somewhat less of a hazard in these climes, but still, when you grow up with tailless sheep it’s a strangely unsettling sight.
As the horse and carriages trotted past, we began to wonder just how far the trail actually stretched; we had not bothered to look up the distance, and it was not signed, but we pushed ahead anyway. Eventually we reached the base of a steep incline, where the carriage passengers were alighting and walking up the hill, while most of the carriages stayed at the base (a few were slowly being walked up by their drivers though). Figuring this must be the hill which offers the view down over the gap, we were surprised to find that, at the top the incline, the trail continued. The view from this point was already pretty impressive, but after a few photos, and despite our better judgement, we decided to press on.
As we trekked on, we saw hikers on the distant ridge, and overhearing a carriage driver to his customers, that was the view point. We quickly took stock, as that far off goal was definitely still a couple of kilometres away at best, and we had to walk the entire length back before continuing with the ring drive, which we had barely scratched the surface of. You see the problem with being a completionist is that you will follow through with things, even if they’re a terrible idea, just because you know you would regret it if you didn’t. With ‘Well, we’re only here once!’ still ringing in our masochistic ears we trudged forwards.
Another 45 minutes passed, and a lot of heaving was done as we deep breathed our way up the steep ridge, but by Jove we made it. As we turned back around to see how far we had come it was hard not to be proud of ourselves. What we had thought would be perhaps a half hour walk, had become an almost 90 minute, and 6 kilometre epic. In fact, we had come so far that we could no longer actually see our start point beyond the misty mountains, and the middle ascent of the hike. The vibrancy of the lush green grass, and the deep cut of the gap reminded me fondly of our travels through the valley road to Milford Sound in the South Island of New Zealand. Having allowed ourselves a goodly amount of zen time to simply bask in the visual reward of our adventure, we, much more enthusiastically, made the descent back to the valley floor and trekked our way all the way back. The walking may have become tiresome, but I can assure you, at no point did the scenery.
Unsurprisingly, by the time we arrived back at the car park we were famished, and with it now being midday, we ducked into the small café nearby, grabbing a quick lunch, and some scones and tea of course, before we settled back in for the long drive; a feat which now seemed much less daunting after an impromptu 12km hike.
As we continued our drive, the scenery changed from lakeside to seaside, and with the coast popping in and out of our line of sight, and a few random pauses for photos, we were soon pulling down a tiny road for a quick stop at one of the many heritage buildings which are scattered across the country; Ballycarbery Castle. Although you unfortunately cannot approach the crumbling ruin of this medieval tower house, it sits rather serenely in the top of an impossibly green hill beside a small lake, and made for a rather stunning backdrop for a break.
Our next destination on the circuit was a breathtaking clifftop viewpoint, named Com An Chiste, which gives an unbeatable panorama over the Atlantic Ocean, and its white capped waves crashing against the shore. As if the break couldn’t get any better, we were excited to find an ice cream truck set up in the car park, and were soon perched on a bench, soft serve in hand, drinking in the view. There are just some moments in life that you really wish you could stop time and bask in it forever, and I’m telling you, if eating ice cream in the sun, looking out to sea on a clifftop in Ireland isn’t one of those, then I feel like the goalposts of life need changing.
Eventually we reached the half way point of the circuit and began the journey back inland. As we progressed, the weather changed from clear blue skies, to eerie mist settling on mountaintops, and lingering above the lakes. It was as though we had entered another world; another time; another universe. As the day drew to its close we had one last thing to see; Torc Waterfall. Pulling the car into the blip of roadside shoulder which seems to constitute the parking lot of this attraction, we followed the signs and soon found ourselves, once again, amongst the forest. There is something about the woods in these parts; the high levels of rain, and constant moist air means that every trunk, branch, and stone, is blanketed with a delicate layer of moss. The result, of course, is a scene akin to Lothlórien in Lord of the Rings, so much so that you begin to feel almost certain that if you walked far enough you would stumble upon an elf. Before long we were stood at the foot of the waterfall, it’s thrashing waters spraying a soft mist of crisp water into the air. We took a moment to be still, reveling in the soundtrack of nature which surrounded us.
With all points of interest reached, we made the short drive home; Ring of Kerry complete. After a home cooked meal, and some time to unwind, we were soon in bed. As I let my mind drift close to sleep, I couldn’t help think of our mornings hike, as distant in the past as it seemed by that point. With the weariness of my legs already dissipating, I was left with nothing but the sense of achievement of having pushed through the doubt and the exhaustion. I almost laughed at the fact we had proposed turning back, of taking the easy way out and calling it quits. Besides who would have known but us, and more importantly, who would have cared? The fact is, that much like integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking, success is obtained by pushing yourself to your limits even when no one else cares whether you do so or not; success is found in self fulfillment, and selflessness, and thus cannot be reliant on others; your success is just that, yours. We get so caught up in measuring our success against other people’s, that we forget to measure it against our own standards.
When I first learnt that my partner wanted to be a writer and publish a book, I asked him what success would be for him. His answer; ‘For people to buy his work, and for him to be able to make money off it’. When he said it, I couldn’t help but think, ‘If your dream is to be a writer and publish a book, then surely your success is attained the minute you publish said book, regardless of its sales’. We have made a sick society where our success is no longer measured by fulfilling our dreams or our level of happiness, but rather by our ability to make and retain money, or the amount of likes and follows we have. We are so worried about how others view our us and whether they approve of our choices and our achievements, that we forget to question whether we are actually happy with ourselves, whether we are proud of what we have done.
Every time you fulfill a dream, you are a success; every time to push your limits and find you are stronger than you thought, you are a success; every time you fail, but refuse to give up, you are a success; every time you take one more step, even when every inch of you is calling out stop, you are a success. So what do you do when you finally reach that success? Why you do what we did, of course; you stop and admire the view. Take a moment, if you will, to just pause and think of all you have achieved, everything that you have done that has made your heart swell with pride, every time you have impressed yourself with your actions and abilities, whether it bought you wealth or not. Money might buy you a nicer bed, but staying true to yourself is the only thing that will help you sleep at night.