So, interesting journey – a hard one and a long one but not without its perks.
For one – I’ve met some really amazing people.
Two- I’ve actively fundraised like mad and had real nice encounters with sponsors and friends – new and old
and three – this journey has helped me really comes to terms with what the human spirit and body can achieve if you bother to test it to that level.
So, let me run down the progress for you briefly –
Today is Tuesday (AM) 30th June, 2015. I left nine days ago today…
First day was Sunday 21 June: left Belfast, headed towards Newtownabbey up through Ballynure and camped at the foot of Ballyboley Forest. Given my last post about its haunted nature that I found out, I thought the foot would do just fine! You know, i’m kidding, the forest is actually quite beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s creepy in its own sense, with Druid markings and dense foliage – but if you don’t see it that way – it’s quite enchanting in Ballyboley. That was a tough night, feet were blistered and I covered well over 21 miles or so by that night. It’s crazy getting used to the distance, sleeping outside in nature on your own and I think the worst part is the bag on my back, which is virtually 5 stone in weight.
I should have just carried my child on my back!
Next day: I shook off the first night and headed for Ballynure over the North Antrim hills. I was high in the mountains (passing Larne) and then down into Glenarm. I met some lovely people on my way including a great guy called Raymond and his friend Patricia. Ray was a homeless guy, lived a life of addictions and a bit troubled in the past. His story brought me peace and his kindness gave me hope. The things he told me spurred me on and also reminded me the lesson of non-judgement. It doesn’t matter where people have come from – just where they are going.
I then walked around the coast; Cushendall passing Glenariff and Cushendunn. An amazing couple put me up in a B and B for free, because I was wet and tired by that stage. That was Thursday night next to the Lurig Inn – next door actually – it was a particularly nice night by comparison and the North Coast boasted some of the most stunning scenery I’ve come across.
There I also met a very cool Buddhist – Brian – outside the Saffron bar and would you believe, he let me go back to his to have a shower! Sounds dodgy i know but I really needed it, felt filthy by that stage. He was a legend to be fair.
Feeling refreshed, I walked on through to Bally castle. 1000 ft hills over Tor head and that truly was a hard day – tested me to my limits both mentally and physically. Such a challenging walk and arduously up and down cliffs – my feet were erupted with blisters and my whole body felt numb with pain and weight. At least by this stage, i was getting used to the weight on my back. Again, strange how the body adjusts.
I camped on beach in Ballycastle that night. it was wet but the view and sound of the waves I can’t complain about – that was special.
Next morning – Ballycastle – Bushmills (had a whiskey – of course I did, it’s compulsory!!) and then pushed on towards Portrush, down through Portstewart and finished in Castle Rock – camped on beach again– met a guy named Gordon who lifted my spirits – and then on through Coleraine.
Starnge coincidence in Coleraine happened, I bumped into Bryan Tosh; played with him in the N.I Team when I was younger. He wanted to give me a lift but I refused, defeats the purpose eh?
When i finished up at Castlerock which was way ahead of schedule thankfully– I walked down on Saturday evening to Benone and sat thinking about the last time I was there. Totally different circumstances of course but lovely nonetheless – it had been 14 years since I’d been there on holiday with my uncle and friends. So that was a nice remiscent moment for me.
Friday night – Limavady. Not joking but it may just be the most pleasant town in Ireland.
I was having a real rubbish night, getting the feeling of giving up because by Saturday night, walking for a week non-stop with little food and a heavy bag, I ended up also getting soaked in the rain which was almost torrential. My clothes were about as heavy as my heart. I wanted my bottle filled and before I went in somewhere to ask, I decided to gather my spirits and sat in a shelter for 45 mins. Isn’t it funny how life puts these tests in your path in order to reward you? Because if i hadn’t have done so… i wouldn’t have experienced what happened next. Passing by were a few local guys doing a sponsored cycle by chance. Not only did they help me raise another £60 but they also put me up for the night because I was like a drowned rat.
It was the best night I’ve had to be honest – not for the heat of the house either – but for the warmth of the company – Barry McGuigan (not the boxer!) Willie, Shane Boyd… these guys are another level of ‘extra mile’ (pardon the pun).
I know I have made friends for life there.
So as I finish up here until the next post – it stands like this: 27 miles averaging each day, over 30 done that day I was in Torr head alone.
190 done by Monday night from i left. I am way above target and now imagining that if I stay focused, as I hope to, I’ll beat the alltime record compeltion time for the Ulsterway easily.
I am on my way today to Gortin, the sun is shining – I’m meeting a good friend Barry Brown, who no doubt (knowing his character) will be a great help and I’ll keep you all posted.
Thanks to all the people who have supported me, there’s not enough room on this page to reflect the gratitude I feel accurately – but there’ll always be enough room in this ol’head to fit all of you in.
Thanks for the help and the memories.