Day 10: Let's Make It To The Top
Trip Start Jun 06, 2013
9Trip End Jun 18, 2013
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What I did
The bus journey from Galway to Letterfrack was actually quite awesome! It followed through lots of Connemara roads so I got to see the landscape once more. Letterfrack is a tiny village that probably has more Hostels and restaurants than citizens - probably not true of course, but it definitely seems that way. I am staying at the 'Letterfrack Lodge' and I discovered I actually have my own real bed! No bunk-beds this time :D and since not much is happening here, I didn't have to share my room with anyone. It feels as though I was staying in a hotel, to be honest.
I arrived there at lunch time and decided to got to the national park for a quick stroll. My plan was to do the whole loop to the top of the Diamond Hill the next day as I figured I would be too tired today. First you get into the visitor's centre where you can have coffee and cake, as well as a toilet stop. From there, you enter the national park and there are three recommended walking loops you can take (see here). My intention was to only do the yellow one, as I felt my legs being very tired from the lack of sleep I had. The trail followed the upper road first. I reached the first crossroads, dividing the yellow and blue route, rather quickly and I decided to do the blue one instead. While doing that, the thought of doing the whole route started to slowly form in my mind. Suddenly, I was thinking that it would be quite cool if I actually did that a day earlier. The weather wasn't too good today, lots of clouds a bit of drizzling rain that went on and off. Once I reached the next crossroads dividing the red and blue route, I still wasn't entirely sure of what to do. There were some people standing there, and after we talked some weather stuff (which is what basically everyone does here), they asked me where I was from. After outing myself as Swiss, they laughed and said "this is your world then, huh?" - I just smiled and replied "except for the ocean, and lack of snow". In my head, though, I just thought that they probably expect me to be well-versed in mountain climbing and stuff, and I wonder what they'd think if I had told them that I never really hike at all... so anyway, the then encouraged me to do the whole loop despite the weather and that's when I decided to actually go for it.
As I made my way towards the mountain (or hill. People call it both) I got kinda scared when I looked up and saw how far I had to go! Maybe a little backstory is needed here: see, I first heard of the Diamond Hill when I read about a highly recommended guided walk online. However, their webpage said that before signing up, we had to be sure that we are actually able to hike all the way to the top. The walk is considered of 'moderate difficulty'. Some even label ist as 'hard' as I have seen online. I didn't really trust myself to join the guided walk because I just wasn't sure if I could keep up with the group. Nonetheless, I heard so many good things about this area, this hill specifically and the breathtaking view you get once you get on top (it is called 'diamond hill' for more reasons than just its shape!). So I decided to just do it myself so I could adapt to my own needs. However, despite looking forward to this hike very much, I always had this nagging voice in my head that said that I may not actually make it up to the top. I mean, I never hike. I never walk too much. Nor do I do any other activity that would suggest I could do such a walk without dropping dead somewhere in-between. On top of that, before actually entering the national park, I went to the town's grocery store to buy some food for the evening and I also forgot to bring some water.
So this is how it was: I was walking towards the red loop, with groceries in my backpack, only half a bottle of water (!) after just having had a coffee, and freaking Jeans. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that I had only slept 3.5 hours at most the previous night... all the while doubts were creeping up, and yet I grew more and more excited by the thought of reaching the top.
To be honest, it wasn't easy at all. Especially once there were no straight trails anymore but everything went upwards. Somewhere in the middle I had to have a break because I felt my face get so hot that I thought it would catch fire any minute and I felt a slight side stitch starting to act up (and I obviously had to force myself to breathe properly). When I sat there having my break, a very red-faced, panting woman and a little boy came by and the boy kept asking his mum "Mum, are you even gonna make it to the top?!" with such an incredulous tone of voice that it totally made me laugh inwardly. At some point I saw another woman sitting by the side of the road and I asked her if she had been up, but she said that she turned around while her friends made the top. "It's a long way up, y'know?" she said. "Cool", I thought, "that's just what I need". My stupid jeans were terribly uncomfortable as well as I always had to adjust them. And you always feel as though you're sweating like crazy even though you're not.
Thankfully I had my camera with me so I always had the 'taking pictures' excuse to delay and catch a mini-break. What was interesting was the fact that I felt both sides acting up within myself. One part of me wanted to just give up, turn around ("like that woman", it said) and just do the top tomorrow once I slept enough, etc. The other side was determined to make it all the way, if only to feel the sense of accomplishment and wonder at myself and also to not have to experience the disappointment of giving up - plus, proving to myself that I could do it. Interestingly, the second part was so much stronger than the first that there was absolutely no way I would have turned back. I did feel that giving-up part of course, but it was just a slight nagging somewhere at the back of my head. I was so very determined to keep going that I felt very powerful. Thinking back, it was a very enjoyable state of mind. I'm familiar with having two opposite sides fighting to take lead, but usually it's much harder to stay on the 'keep going' side - and that's mostly because I don't usually believe in my abilities. This time my desire to reach the goal was way higher than my self-doubt so that was really nice!
Once I realized that there's only once last steep part ahead, I suddenly felt light-footed and practically ran the rest of the way. And - oh my god - suddenly the other side of the landscape came into view and I had to stop for a second to make myself realize that I had actually DONE IT! And the view was a lot to take in, so very beautiful and amazing. All of Connemara stretching out around me. Other hills and mountains around, the ocean on the other side, and so much green in different shades. All I could think was "THIS was worth it!"
I found this perfect spot to sit where the stones built a sort of stool like thingy. So I sat there, rested a bit and took in the atmosphere around me. I also took out my iPhone to listen to the song "The Greatest Story Never Told" from the Dr Who soundtrack. That song sounds so very majestic that I swore myself back when I planned my trip to listen to it once I was standing on the top of Diamond Hill. And when I did it actually made me cry a bit - as embarrassing as it may sound ;) I literally got goosebumps.
After I had gotten really cold, I decided to climb down again. Once I was back in the village and looked back up I kept thinking that there was no way in hell I had been up there... but I had! :D and I felt so proud the whole time, like you wouldn't believe. And the next day the weater was supposed to be better, sunny even so I was excited to go up there again and have pictures in good weather as well!