There I was, lying in my tent awake in the middle of the night and freezing like hell. I could hear heavy rain pounding on the tent. What on earth had made me think that wild camping and hiking in Ireland was a good idea in early March? It certainly wasn’t. I crawled deeper into my sleeping bag and put on my beanie. After a while I fell asleep again to the monotonous sound of the rain.
I woke up to the sound of a barking dog again. The rain had stopped for now, but set in shortly after I hit the road. Yes, I was hiking on a road. Simply because there were not many hiking trails in County Meath and Louth. There were lots of small country roads with not too much traffic though. The scenery wasn’t too spectacular, some nice views, nothing outstanding. Yeah, I did get why hiking in Ireland is popular on the west coast, but less so in the inner counties.
While I was getting more and more damp, a nasty cough made its way up my throat. I stopped for lunch under a big tree and got out my camping cooker at the roadside. It was a pain to get the flames going in the wind. And then I deeply regretted not investing into a camping pot, taking a normal one with me instead. The weak flame didn’t remotely manage to boil water, so I ate instant noodles which weren’t even cooked. What a great meal.
My cough got worse and the rain got stronger, while I was passing small villages and big fields. It felt like my backpack was getting heavier with every step and I was wheezing. I made it to Ballyjamesduff and decided to take a break in a local diner. A tea would certainly warm me up a little and I could dry as much as possible. While I sat there, I started to feel hot and then cold again, I was shivering and my head felt like it would explode. I had to admit, there was no chance for me to hike on like that and spend another night in the cold.
That was when I experienced the incredible Irish hospitality. The girls working in the diner mentioned a B&B in the village, but that was closed unfortunately. I knew there was a B&B about 35km away as I was planning to stay there for one night a few days later. Not knowing what else to do, I decided that I wanted to go there. However, there were no bus services on a Sunday and the taxi driver of the region (yes, one taxi driver for the whole region) was on a tour somewhere else and wouldn’t be back for another 1.5 hours. Well, I could wait in the diner and have some more tea, I thought.
I called the owner of the B&B I wanted to go to, explained the situation and asked for a room. Not only did she agree to have me, she also offered to pick me up with her car and even got some medicine for me on the way. I couldn’t have been more grateful for this. I stayed three nights in the Hollow Stream B&B Kingscourt with Sheila to recover, before I hiked on to Dundalk and into the Cooley mountains.
The nights were still cold and finding a spot to put up the tent wasn’t easy due to all the houses spread over the countryside, but it was dry at least. I finally got some beautiful views in the mountains, just interrupted by some clouds passing by and cloaking me in a blanket of fog.
I was happy, sitting there and having a sandwich. Ireland wasn’t so bad after all.
But most importantly, I had learned a few valuable lessons:
1) Don’t trust the comfort temperatures on your sleeping bag.
2) A camping pot is definitely better than a normal pot.
3) Hiking on trails is more fun than walking along roads.
4) People are good. Complete strangers will help you, when you are in need.