Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I~ is for Ireland!

Climbing Mount Brandon

It would be our first trip to Europe. A long awaited adventure that my husband and I had prepared for many months in advance. Our “trip of a life time” to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary and the completion of my treatment for Stage IV breast cancer. This would be my third battle with cancer in the past 12 years. It was time for a much needed vacation!
We read the travel books, booked all the flights and made reservations at several Bed and Breakfasts. With just a backpack each, we were headed off on our three week trip to Europe.
The second stop on our trip was to Dingle, Ireland. We chose Dingle mainly because we were looking for a bike ride experience that was promised to be an incredible ride along the coast of Ireland, and I am sure it would have been. However, as Americans never having experienced driving on the opposite side of the road, and being from Texas where most drives are flat, we decided this beautiful bike ride we had planned was better seen from the rental car which was, in and of itself, an experience.
We arrived in the late afternoon and stayed at a Bed & Breakfast for the next three nights. This was our first time at a B&B and we found it to be a wonderful option. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know the owners, Barbara and Michael, as well as the other guests.

Their home was close enough to walk into “town”, so we headed out for a night on Dingle town to attended a concert being performed by the local musicians that was held in a small, old Catholic church.
When the concert was over we decided to indulge with an ice cream cone. A local man pulled up beside us on his bike, and with his thick Irish accent asked us “Why are you eating ice cream and not visiting the pubs”? He had been riding home to get his flute to join in with some of the local musicians at one of the pubs, when apparently we struck him as “odd”.
We thought, this was a fair question he has asked us. The streets were lined with pubs. Music and laughter flowing out the doors, and after all, we were in Ireland! We chose Murphy’s, the loudest pub with the most laughter heard from the street.
As we entered there was standing room only. The two musicians, one playing an accordion the other a guitar, did a great job of keeping everyone well entertained. Going to a pub in Ireland is everything we imagined it would be. Happy people singing along and swaying their beer mugs back and forth with big smiles and lots of laughter!
At one point the musician asked if anyone was celebrating an anniversary? We raised our hands and quickly became the center of attention. He cracked a few jokes about being married for so long and then asked what song we would like him to sing for us. I replied with “something fun”. He took this to mean something “funny” and on went the anniversary song that everyone in the pub seemed to know except us. The pub was filled with people singing us an anniversary song. One we will never forget nor ever know what it was, other than “funny”!
The next question asked was “Has anyone climbed Mount Brandon”? A table full of Norwegians raised their mugs with joy and pride as they told how they had conquered the mountain earlier that day.
Now, this caught our attention as we intently listened to the tales from their climb up this mountain. Since we did not do our planned bike ride this sounded like a great challenge! We decided it would be our next adventure to take place in the morning.
Not having planned to climb a mountain we had our regular street clothes, running shoes and light jackets. Barbara from our B&B offered us hiking boots, socks and a blanket to take with us. We were told it would be cold and rainy when we reached the summit. Our hosts also informed us of Mount Brandon’s history. They said each year there is a holy pilgrimage up the mountain. The path to the peak is marked by small white crosses (the Saints road) and the peak itself is topped by a large metal cross and the remains of a small stone building that was believed to have been used by Saint Brendan, whom the mountain is named after.
We began our journey up the mountain. The terrain was different all the way up. Sometimes, soft grass that felt sponge like and at other points we had to use our hands and feet to climb rocks. We did see a few other people making the trek, however goats marked with pink, blue and green colors (so the farmers knew whose goats belonged to who) were what we saw the most.
As we ascended up the mountain we stopped at each marked cross to take in the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula and the Blasket Islands. Each time we hit a plateau we would see another part of the mountain and think “that must be the summit”. Usually, we were wrong and we climbed and climbed.
Finally, we arrived at the top and we were in the clouds! It happened to be a clear day and the views from the summit were spectacular! Mount Brandon is 3,127 ft. at the summit, the second highest peak in Ireland.
We stood in awe, as clouds would roll up one side of the mountain covering us and then move on so we could see the Islands and an ocean so blue you could not take your eyes off it.
After eating our packed lunch and taking a nap on the top of a mountain we began our descent down. Our legs a bit wobbly at the bottom but our souls filled with  joy!
Before we left, we noticed a sign at the foot of the mountain. It had names of people who had made the climb to fund raise, honor and remember those who battle cancer. This is a yearly climb called “walk for a cure” that many people participate in from all parts of the world.
At that moment I felt so incredibly fortunate to be making this same pilgrimage up this mountain as a cancer survivor. Following in the footsteps of so many before me, who have all for many different reasons, climbed Mount Brandon.
Cure of cancer sign

Reaching the summit!

The Saints road marked by white crosses


Grace Dwyer said...

I is for INCREDIBLE! We so want to go to Ireland one day and try to find some of John's long lost O'Dwyer relatives. So enjoyed the descriptions of your trip! So happy you got to celebrate your Anniversary in such a special way. Very proud of your trek up the mountain! Prayers are lifted up for you and your recovery. love Grace

Elayne said...

Thank you Grace! It was an amazing trip..one you should take if possible :)
Hope you and yours are doing well.


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