Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Tuesday 28th July
Much to my own disapproval, and despite the early night that heralded me, I slept past my alarm resulting in a late revile at 7.30am rather than the planned time for 6am. Furthermore, this meant that my departure was not until 9am by the time I was packed and ready to leave. The hiking types vary, and I fall into the sort that would prefer to wake early and finish early rather than wake late and finish late. Yet, the sight that greeted me when I emerged from my tent was something to behold. While the Glencree River rushed past behind me, in front of me was the valley of ferns, but now in the early morning sunshine, it had transformed into a lush sparkling green sea. As I packed, it was a blessing not to be agitated by the incessant swarms of midges that had assailed me the previous night. Crossing the footbridge of the Glencree River I sighted Rob’s tent. He had camped further upstream on the far bank but was not yet awake. I passed him silently.
I tackled the two kilometres through Crone’s Wood with ease, weaving in and out of the wood on the forest path but always it was a relief to be in the cool shade of the pines. Despite the tough gradient, I was rewarded when I came upon the lip of an escarpment that overlooked Powerscourt Waterfall. A pure sight with what appeared to be a desolate caravan park beneath. Perhaps once a thriving destination only a year previously now rendered abandoned by the grip of Covid-19. After a short distance, I left the woods behind me and my spirits sank as Djouce mountain grinned menacingly down at me. Already it was clear to me that I had underestimated the day ahead. With an elevation of 725m, Djouce was the peak of the Wicklow mountains. Perhaps better to encountered on my second day rather than further down the line, I thought grimly.
Not daring to look up at what loomed over me unless my high spirits betrayed me, I put one foot in front of the other and began a gradual ascent. I found that the more altitude I gained the more that I was besieged by the wind. At one point, my sun hat was blown clean off my head. Yet, the cool clean wind was a wind reminiscent of my home Mourne mountains. It made me hark back those earlier days on those barren rocky slopes.
After a grave and painstaking climb, I reached the bottom slopes of Djouce and was relieved to discover that the yellow way marker did not lead me up there. Perhaps on a day hike I would have welcomed the challenge, but to attempt the summit when my energy was on reserve could have proven foolhardy. As I paused to rest, a warm sensation in my chest consoled me into believing that that was the toughest elevation that I had to tackle today. It was an intuitive feeling, for I had not studied the map.
Ironically, the winds seemed more tortuous on my descent and battered me further as I walked this wooden path made specifically for walkers on the Way. Soon my stomach expressed discontentment as I walked on to the peak of White Hill. This was a peak of 630m and there was little elevation to be tackled as I had ascended the most of it on my way past Djouce. But with time my thirst became a constant companion and I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker for I had had little for breakfast in my haste to set off. As I sheltered from the unrelenting wind in a nearby wood the reality of my situation dawned upon me- I needed to resupply on both food and water and until I reached Roundwood, I needed to ration despite the lamenting groans of my stomach.
Pressing on, I eventually left the barren heights of Djouce and White Hill behind me and once more entered forested territory. By the time I re-emerged from the woodland, the wind had abated and once more the land was bathed in hot sunlight. I passed the J.B Malone Memorial and stopped to pay my respect for he was the founder of the Way. The further I walked the more my confidence began to return, and the Way grew more prettier with its flowers, however, my water supply was now running dangerously low. After walking along the R759 for a time before turning into Sleamaine, a nice pair of elderly women who were heading to Lough Dan for the day offered me a lift to Roundwood. Although this was tempting, I politely refused. I wanted to remain loyal to my goal of walking the entire distance of the Way. In a dreamlike and faded trance, I marched passed Sleamaine and Ballinafunshogue. The Way then took me through a couple of farmers’ fields before coming out onto a country road that promised to lead me into Roundwood which was now only 2.5k away. My mouth began to salivate at the thought of a salty fish and chips with a refreshing blast of apple juice.
Eventually, I entered Roundwood. A serene village with friendly faces and warm personalities. At a Centra I stocked up on water, purchasing two new two litre bottles of water for my rucksack and plenty of canned food. At the local chippy I tucked into my long-anticipated fish and chips with relish before I decided to head to the local campsite to see if they would take me in. The owner proved willing to accommodate me a pitch for 13 euro and opened a toilet facility for me to wash in. A generous offer considering he had closed the sight for campers because of Covid. That night I had the luxury of flat ground, no agitating forest creatures, unlimited water, and a shop close at hand for coffee. Having pitched around 5pm I had plenty of time to read before calling it a night. Perhaps, I thought, this was the easiest night I would have.