To find new horizons

A long run (anticlockwise)

Challenges are part of life, even self inflicted ones. I think I may have mentioned my goal to reach the mountain Lobawn running from home (and I admit some walking) barefoot of course. I tried to hide the goal from myself in case I didn't make it, but went there anyway and having got there of course I had to come back, and I had to come back a different way (a rule, also self inflicted).

The map shows my GPS track with statistics:
. Total distance 19.44 miles
. Average speed moving 4.64 mph
. Maximum elevation 637m, minimum 181m

The route was along what we call Goatman's lane to the Wicklow Gap road, then take the road that is part of St. Kevin's way and up to the pass between Hollywood and Donard with Church Mnt on the right. At the summit I turned left towards Corriebracks but kept on the peaty track towards Lobawn.

The descent was initially cross county and rather hard going in places to descent into Corragh to meet the track that fords the stream there. These mountain tracks are well enough made to survive the years and I wonder who made them and why?  From Corragh it was paved road all the way home.

This is my longest run yet and my body didn't like the last few miles. It wasn't that keen on the first few either, but the bit on the top of the mountain was epic. And possibly worth all the strain.

Forty shades of green - my mum would have loved this

The path, where I disappeared up to my waste in sticky peat

Looking back, that path on left, our lake in distance

That's Church Mtn left centre, Corriebracks to right

The summit stone, or summit like that

That's why I like Irish mountain tops, OK? 

Look carefully and you'll see our lake by that tree

Delightful gully at start of my descent

Which later turned into a stream

Here I washed my lower, somewhat peaty half

Corragh, looking back, Lobawn central on horizon

My favourite flower (after daffodils, dandelions, gorse, buttercups...)


Saturday morning

Cliff walk, Wicklow

An early start taking Ali to the airport: she is attending her mum's 93rd birthday party whilst the rest of the world is glued to the Royal Wedding. Once back home I went for a 5 mile run along the lake shore then, once Saturday community duties were done, I left at about 11:30 on my trusty velocipede armed with sandwiches, etc.

Outward route
My destination Wicklow town, yes I know this is a frequent destination of mine but I like the coast and it is the nearest. Although my outward journey was slightly circuitous via Moneystown to explore new vistas.

As usual I walked along the cliff to Lime Kiln Bay, put my feet in the water but did not swim (too cold, and anyway I like to swim naked and there were People there).

My return route, having visited Lidl in Wicklow (two bars of chocolate and one litre of orange juice for a mere €2.17) was the most direct thus via Devil's Glen where I admin I walked the steepest incline, and of course back via Laragh and the Wicklow Gap.

Total distance (cycling) 65.14 miles
Maximum speed 42 mph
Average speed moving 11 mph

I finally made it back, rear end sore and suffering cramp, just after 19:00.

I took this video at Brides Head (nothing to do with the novel), just by Lime Kiln Bay: it shows the very strong current that habitually sweeps past here, so that you would be ill-advised to swim far from the shore. Not that I would - I keep to my depth generally. At the end you can see the People desecrating the shore. I suppose they have as much right to it as me, mind you, possibly more as they might live locally.


Who dat man?

Before getting to my subject, and in case you were wondering (and one of you at least was), the reason for no posts recently is... well a certain amount of lack of muse, but also being busy with teaching maths, physics, electronics and statistics to a student here. Which is kind of all-consuming, because teaching reveals how little one actually understands the subject that one's life has been largely built around. In a teacher - student relationship I wonder does the teacher actually learn more than the student does?

Back to the subject. In odd moments in between lesson preparation, and for brain relief, I occasionally flip through some comedy on youtube and more often than not end up choosing the Marx brothers. Because their humour is the best and has stood the test of time. And of the Marx brothers without doubt IMHO Harpo was the most talented. Interestingly, outside of acting he seems to have been the most stable of the brothers, witness a lifelong marriage and four adopted children.

My introduction to the Marx brothers was through my best friend N at school and, once discovered, my first proper viewing was clandestine on an ancient 405-line TV hidden away in my parent's guest-room. Clandestine because my parents did not at that time want a TV in the house. Ancient because when given to me to mess with the TV did not of course work - when plugged in it would blow the mains fuse. I discovered the offending component by increasing the fuse wire gauge until the component blew rather than the fuse. A rather coarse method of diagnosis but it worked well in this particular occasion. And yes I did know, even at that tender age, that TV's back then were not isolated from the mains and also had about 20,000V flying around inside, so they were not exactly safe for a kid to be messing with. But then I was no ordinary kid. Which accolade I still maintain.

And it just so happened that, at the time, the BBC was airing a series of Marx brothers films. May the BBC be eternally bless├Ęd. In this and other ways the BBC has moulded my career.

Of the various scenes in which Harpo is the primary actor my favourite has long been his Gabriel scene. Not that this scene is humorous but it is endearing, full of humanity, love and all things good.

And whilst we are on the subject of Harpo, here is a good compilation of his more humorous skits for those of you that will not or cannot take the time to watch the full movies.

Adolph, I salute you.  And I thank you for in some small way moulding my character for the good. I suppose some might say he was a bad influence but I cannot agree.


Out of Africa - the Kenyan way of doing things

After a few days of acclimatising to life in Kenya I got to sort of liking (some of) it. Certainly the people are very friendly, always helpful. But the ways of getting things done (or not as the case may be) were alien to me. Here are some of my photos, and few stock photos at the end, to illustrate.

Typical Kenyan market - note no pavement!

Jon's car was and still is continually breaking down

A local repair shop

Heading into another repair shop in Kisumu

Plenty of effort, some good mechanics, all for a few $

To get to this workshop (hardly a shop - all the work was down outside) we travelled over unpaved roads and finally a steep and rutted track up to the work area itself. Soon after our successful arrival a matatu tried to drive in but the undercarriage kept grounding. I took a video but it is long and very repetitive and it was only after I grew tired of videoing that the driver finally made it. You'd think it would be worthwhile the car repair business doing something about their drive, but I guess they cannot afford it.

Meanwhile the women folk prepare food. 
These woman were preparing and cooking food for the army of car mechanics. Note there is not a single table, or sink, or anything we would call a cooking appliance. The women are therefore hunched over double doing their work, and various containers strewn around on the dirt. Women folk in Kenyan typically have the job of carrying water on their heads, maybe 20kg without hands! Where these particular women got their water from I know not but I didn't see any taps there.

The next two pictures are from the internet, but are typical of what I saw. The outhouse below is leaning over in an alarming fashion but is none the less doubtless still in use. Inside each cubicle will be a hole in the ground. There will be no lock or even catch on the door. The "hole" might be a couple of metres deep and, I suppose, when full they simply re-build the outhouse somewhere else. Meanwhile the sewage leaches out to who knows where?

An "outhouse" aka hole in the ground, most probably in use

Typical "shops" by the side of every road

When working those many years ago for the BBC there was one department of which it used to be said (half jokingly) that their motto was the following travesty "if a job's worth doing it's only just worth doing". It almost seems like that is the way with the building trade in Kenya, albeit in this case doubtless driven by poverty and lack of decent materials.


Church Mountain again

14.37 miles, 166m to 544m height

For whatever reason, but mainly because of the wonderful weather and because I could (although I am not so sure about the latter now I am aching afterwards), I started out on what must become the first climb of the year of Church Mountain. It is also a sort of precursor for Lobawn should I ever make it there and back in one piece.  See here for my first barefoot run across Church Mountain.

I discovered a new and improved descent route. It is new because I did not previously know of its existence even though doubtless it had existed, and improved because it is shorter and kinder to bare feet than the alternatives. Since few of my readers will find themselves at the top of Church Mountain wanting a better way of getting down, I present instead a description of how to ascend using this improved method.

Coming from Blessington along the N81 towards Baltinglass, take the first left after the Hollywood crossroads. Refer to my last image below which is an aerial view of this area. After a mile or so this road bears left and then, after the next bear right, enters Hollywood Glen. Immediately on your left is the entrance to a forestry track with the usual one-bar gate. It is possible for a couple of cars to park here without obstructing the gate. Walk up the track a little over 100m to the point where the main track does a hairpin bend to the right, and a lesser track branches off to the left. Just to the right of that lesser track you will see a small stream - which stream is the path you must take. Follow this path for about 200m where it enters a wooded area. The path you want branches to the right (straight on is more open country with gorse bushes).

You now simply continue on this path (crossing another forestry track after a quarter mile or so), going steadily up hill all the while, until you get near to the top of the mountain where you will need to bear left to reach the summit.

Gorse along Goat Man's lane

As with all my blog posts you can click on an image to view it in full resolution, and having done so (in Chrome at least) you can from there navigate through all the images in the post.

Possibly part of Noah's ark, along the way

At the gap, looking towards Donard

The ascent proper - I love this part of the route

Our lake framed - from near the top

From the triangulation pillar, snow on the slopes of Lugnaquilla

Our lake from the triangulation pillar

The church ruins and the way down

Me, on triangulation pillar

Part of the new and improved route down

Which weaves its way through this plantation

And meets another path

Before turning into a stream

Is it a path or is it a stream? Good thing I'm bare foot

Where the spring meets the forestry track

St Kevin's Way near Hollywood

Interesting sign along St Kevin's way!

Interesting because St Kevin's Way is a way-marked public foot-path, admittedly it goes across private land but the instruction "unauthorised entry is prohibited" is a bit rich.  Doubtless it is the usual Irish insurance deal - landowners scared stiff of being sued by stupid members of the public scraping their knee and demanding huge compensation, and the even more stupid members of the legal profession condoning such claims. Indeed, on my ascent I noticed a similar sign at a gate and various others declaring "Private Property: Keep Out" where last year there were none, other than polite requests to please shut the gate. I ignored such signs and prepared myself for confrontation, but all I met were a couple of fellow hikers (though shod) coming from the opposite direction.

Sheep near Hollywood

A big house near the end of my ordeal

Showing the lower reaches of the new improved route


First long run 2018

Ali is away in Kenya of all places, leading a seminar for teachers of all activities. Having no other call on my time I ran away (and back) yesterday and exercised my bike today.

Just over 13 miles

The route evolved as I went along and followed much that I have traversed in former years. The jiggle on the left, at Ballymore Eustace, is my checking up on the Old Woollen Mill the renovation of which is coming along although I do not what the objective is.

Shepherding somewhere near Broadleas

River Liffey crossing at Ballymore Eustace

The old woollen mill under renovation
The next off-road segment is on the way to Russborough where one climbs over a broken bit of wall. I feel sort of entitled to do this because Russborough is open to the public. And any way I like running across grassy meadows.

Russborough from behind

The final off road segment is my habitual use of the Blessington Greenway. One has to support any attempts to increase the number of public footpaths in Ireland, few as there are.

Misty trees along Blessington Greenway
The last 4 miles or so was hard work. The only way to survive it was to try not to think about one's legs, just keep going and going and going. Thinking about the goal - turning into our drive, undressing and a hot shower, a cup of tea - any detraction from the thud, thud of bare feet on tarmac.

Why do I do it? Really enjoyable runs are the long ones, but not without working up to them. Four or five miles (my default) just are not long enough to get past the initial hard work. And remember I had quite a few weeks "off" with the broken rib and then two weeks in Kenya.  So 13 miles is a precursor. I have a sort of goal of getting to Lobawn but it would be a long round trip.

And then today I didn't bother with tracking as the route was not in any way special. I cycled around the Lake Drive through Lacken to Manor Kilbride and then back home via Blessington. It was drizzling most of the time with very occasional sunny bits, and cold. But it was exercise, and one that I would prefer hands down to this activity called "working out" carried out in unnatural gyms.

Then fish and chips, home made, followed by choc brownie left over from last night, washed down with a can of cider.