Having woken up and gone through our morning routine, security intact and all belongings accounted for (it was our first wildcamp, so we were admittedly a little nervous), it was time to start the journey towards Belfast, for an art therapy short course Katherine had booked months in advance, when all this seemed a lifetime away.
Our first stop was Wexford, all business: Stock up on supplies, fill our water tank (hooray, showers!), find the quayside free wifi I’d seen mentioned, settle on a mobile Internet carrier and hopefully buy a SIM card and unlock the USB modem dongle thing so we could use it. Not all went according to plan: The wifi was busted, and we had to wander around looking for an alternative, which we found at the Wexford opera house, within convenient range of a café; I spent the next frustrating hour or so desperately trying to find a convenient way to unlock the Huawei E156G modem, which I previously through would be easy, but is in fact quite tricky and possible costly; and, the local Meteor telco didn’t have the product I was looking for, so we continued to be cut off from Internet-land, a very stressful experience for yours truly!
Anyway, having had enough of errands, we set off in the direction of the Wicklow mountains, which we had both heard from separate sources was worth a visit.
Wow, was that an understatement!
We found ourselves driving along twisty mountain roads with spectacular views over beautiful forested valleys, weaving through quaint little towns (which reminded me of Olinda near where I grew up in the hills in Melbourne), through deep woods and over tea-coloured creeks.
Arriving at a junction in the little village of Laragh, we made the decision to take the less direct-looking road, claiming to be unsuitable for ‘horse-drawn caravans’ and impassible during winter. Sounds good.
And sure enough, just a few turns down the windy little road perched on the side of a grassy valley, dramatically steep sides dotted with precariously balancing sheep, we pulled into a nook a little away from the road and beside one of those beautiful tea-coloured creeks to get a better view at a spectacular waterfall in the distance, and realised we’d found our wild camp stop.
So, we heated up dinner, converted the dining table into a bed and lounged around watching an episode of Alias, while the rain pattered on the roof.
The next morning, having woken up and rolled over to this view:
…We showered, had breakfast, and set off with great anticipation up the little road, a very appropriate-sounding track from BSG playing. A few minutes later, the road had wound up to the head of the valley, and we had to pull over and gape for a little while at the soaring view beneath us: A precipitous, vast sheep-dotted slope from the left, down into the river valley with the creek winding through it fed by a tumbling waterfall; a thousand shades of green.
The remainder of our journey through the Wicklow mountains was a series of short hops, necessitated by our need to get out and stare frequently at the scenery:
This is where the independence Nettle gave us made all the difference: Being able to go our own way, away from throngs of peace-disturbing tour groups and bus terminals, and to discover the world for ourselves. Still, I never really expected anything like this: It was truly magical.
Anyway, all too soon we emerged from the mountains into suburbia, and it was a long drive north, out of the Republic of Ireland and into Northern Ireland (again, with nothing so much as a ‘speed limits in miles per hour’, and a sudden arrival of email in my now no-longer-roaming iPhone), and to a CL site in Larne, just a little north of Belfast. Actually, it’s a village just outside of Larne called, fantastically, Islandmagee (try saying it with an Irish accent). We were greeted by a welcoming party of ducks who know just how to play us for bread, and we settled in.