Caching Trip to Croagh Patrick May 08 · May 25, 10:28 AM by adminClick to enlarge
“Did you ever climb Croagh Patrick,” asks my sister Fran?
Two of my sisters are going to try it on the 17th May. So, It strikes me that I had never climbed it and there are a number of nice caches that I want to investigate in the Mayo area so a caching plan is hatched.
If Joanie and I leave early enough the day before (Friday) we can do some other caches in north Mayo and meet my sisters the next morning to do “The Reek”.
The usual negotiations take place between Joanie and I about what time to get up.
“None of your 6 am business! We can get up at 9 and gone by 10,” she says.
Thats Joanie language for leaving the house around 10.30.
So, next morning I have everything packed in the jeep hoping to squeeze her out about 10 with luck. The rucksack is in, along with the boots and all the caching tools, torches, pens, cache listings (still waiting on the Colorado!) and the GPS…...... where’s the GPS?
“Dorling, have you seen my 76”
“Whats a 76”
“My GPS! “
“Then why don’t you call it a GPS?”
“No time for that now, have you seen it?”
“Now what would I be doing with that thing, I wouldn’t know the back from the front. Where did you have it last?”
“I could have sworn it was in the glove compartment.”
“Did you look in the glove compartment?”
“OF COURSE I did!”
“No, did you LOOK properly in it? Did you take things out and look behind them?”
“I did all that.”
“Then you left it somewhere. Where did you use it last?”
“Last place I used it was Moone Co Kildare….oh Sshh…! Alan rang me at the cache and I left it on a wall to take the call. I don’t remember taking it back.”
(Mistake no 1, never give her that much mud to sling at you!).
“Oh flip dorling, you silly, silly man,” she says, or words a long, long way from those!
I utter a few focals meself that colour Castleknock’s pristine environment.
So, 10.30 we head for Mayo, via Moone Co Kildare. Quite a detour! Panicking on the way I ring everyone I know and some high powered pals in the Office of Public Works to see if it had been handed in (the cache site at Moone High Cross comes under their remit).
There are some heated discussions between herself and meself all the way down but all subsides when lo and behold the blessed article is still sitting on the “damned” ivy covered wall!
Relief all round!
“What do you think is the quickest way from here to the M4 Wesht dorling?”
“I reckon small roads to Kinnegad and on from there,” she says.
“Not at all, straight back up to Naas, through Sallins toward Maynooth and hit the M4, its much quicker,” says I with authority.
(Mistake no. 2, always take wife’s suggestion about directions even if they sound off the wall).
The road back into Naas is clogged with traffic and the reason is very clear when we eventually get through it and on to the Sallins road. It is completely closed for resurfacing so another 45 minutes back through Naas following the diversion signs which bring us in a lovely wide arc around the town and back to exactly the same spot with the diversion sign, in other words, nowhere!
Steam is rising in the jeep now and marriages are on very shaky ground! Hoping to start caching at lunchtime in Mayo and it is now 2.00 pm in a very frustrating Naas.
We find the motorway back towards Dublin and take that because I KNOW we could get on our way through Straffan from the Naas Road. We find the turn ok but so does every other motor vehicle registered in the Republic and various parts of Europe in the last five years, all cleverly avoiding Naas
(Mistake no. 3, when she is smiling wryly out the window beside you, just watch your ass, watch your ass!).
Another very frustrating hour later and we are just about to reach the M4. I have me size eight boot poised above the accelerator to give it wellie and Joanie says,
“I’m hungry, can we stop for something to eat?”
“There’s a roadside diner dorling, lets stop there,” says I patiently.
20 minutes sitting watching 3 young ladies racing around doing wonderful impressions of tri-location and studiously ignoring every attempt by us to gain attention later, we leave frustrated and starving.
(Mistake no. 4, never bring a starving woman to a frustrating service situation (especially when you are hungry yourself!! Lends itself to the occasional “cross” word).
Down the road is an “On The Run” service station so we pull in and consider ourselves very fortunate when we just pip a bus full of school kids on tour to the deli counter. Now Magda from Poland at the counter is not exactly in love with her job, or maybe she is just getting to grips with the Irish income tax system, or maybe she has an opinion on Brian Cowen as a frontman for her least favourite political party, but whatever it is she is seriously inconvenienced by our decision to interfere with her reverie this particular afternoon. And all we want is to pay for 2 coffees and 2 preprepared chicken wraps. She goes several whiter shades of Polish pale when she sees the kids coming in so we are very lucky to get our order sorted at all.
At 3.30 we wave “do widzenia” to a barely recovering Magda and eventually hit the road. The weather is fantastic and around 5.30 we arrive at “Lough Tailt” in a spectacularly beautiful part of North Mayo. We have the whole place to ourselves and the climb to the cache is a very welcome respite from sitting all day in the jeep. We take loads of pictures and Joanie rests halfway up the mountain while I go and get the cache.
On to “Lough Easkey” which is also very beautiful and then “Atlantic Wave” and after that we take in the Earth Cache at Downpatrick Head. This we find to be a fabulous educational exercise in a quite stunning scenic spot.While heading on to “Rossport” it begins to dawn on us quite how big this County is. Small roads seem to go on forever, but we are on a roll now so we pick that one up and carry on down to “Great Time” just before darkness arrives. A Strange cache along a really beautiful seascape but we get it and head for Wesport where Joan has booked us into a B&B for the night. On the way my sisters ring to meet them for a pint in Westport to plan the trek on “The Reek”.
(Mistake no. 5, never let your spouse book a B&B on a different side of town from the mountain, never one without a “Shamrock” designation, and never one without internet access!)
While showing us to the “room” (straight out of Noah’s Ark!) the Bean on Ti wants to know, are we married, have we kids, what are they, where were we today, where are we going tomorrow, what are we doing, why are we climbing the mountain…... internet? sure I know nottin about that!
She enters the room with us and I (like an eejit) think she is going to give us the key and put me hand out to take it. She holds it with a grip of steel and positions her rather large frame in the centre of the room (more like a Hosta than a host) and makes it abundantly clear that she is only getting started on “the chat.”
“My mother is 90 you know, a whippet of a woman and smokes like a chimleeah!”
You know the sort of rivetting stuff any respectable geocacher wants to hear. We are both patiently waiting to use the facilities and get washed up to go out. To me at this point she is just a droning distant mightmare that is interrupting the beckoning wink of Arthur’s finest which at this point has me thirst buds bursting.
“I suppose yee’ll be off to Matt Molloys now for a drink and the diddly idly music?”
Mercifully, Joanie eventually ushers her babbling toward the dining room and extricates the key.
I tell her that I may be gone early (with caches in mind) but I will be back for brekky.
(Mistake no 6, never try to explain Geocaching to any Bean on Ti, and particularly this one, at 11.00pm when you are dying for a pint!)
Remarkably Joanie and I complete the day just about on schedule in respect of the caches we intended to do so we enjoy a few pints in the town and on the way home I get the bright idea to check out stage 1 of the Croagh Patrick cache in order to have the final coordinates in the bag early the next day. That way we just have to meet my sisters in the morning and head off up the mountain.
(Mistake no.7, never get a taxi to a graveyard after midnight, after a few pints, in your good clothes (especially with your wife in her good clothes) and expect to scramble around headstones, old churches and scary hidey holes, in order to eek out a simple piece of info that can be got in seconds, and is got, the next morning!)
Blissful sleep! Or maybe she just hit me over the head!
6.30 day two, and I am barrelling off to Achill island, the scene of a wonderful youthful holiday with herself many moons previously. Joanie stays put in the leaba, dreaming of insurance policies and bottomless credit cards and whatever other wonderful things that dutiful spouses dream about.
Around 7.30 I am scrambling around a gaggle of sewerage containers at beautiful Dugort Bay signing the log (we won’t go into the obvious pun ok?) and then sitting on a rock under said sewerage containers, admiring the lovely countryside, I muse on the meaning of life and caching as we know it.
Back toward Westport, incidentally on a dreadful road surface, I pull into Burishoole Abbey to pick up a nice handy quick cache. “Hosta” referred to it as “Brushoooleh.”
“Oh, aren’t they gone awful grand with themselves now with their Burishoole. You wouldn’t hear anybody around here calling it that now!”
I get back to Wesport in time to do the little multi cache “Quay Points”. I arrive at the car park and a man is there already with 2 dogs. He sits in the car reading the paper while they defecate for Ireland all around them. I get out of the jeep and I am instantly set upon by the two dogs. Both are menacingly bearing their considerable teeth and my dog repellent large stick is in the back of the jeep.
(Mistake no 8, never think just because you are caching that you are safe from menacing dogs. Always carry the Bata Mor!)
Then the classic!
“Ah he wont bother you at all, he only barks,”
“And what about the other one?” says I.
“Oh, I don’t know anything about him, the golden one is mine.”
The black one is an uncomfortable distance from everything we hold dear growling fiercely and protecting his new best friend so I manage to sidle to the back of the jeep and I get out me hiking pole and wave it around. I reckon both dogs must have a previous history with a similar implement because suddenly they become very friendly and all is well.
I traipse off to do the cache and “Goldie” goes back to spreading silage while “Black Fang” decides he loves me and starts after me.
A few minutes later I am on high ground looking back at the scene. “Newspaper” is circling the car park in his VW Golf still reading the paper and barking commands at his canine companion at the top of his voice. “Goldie” completely ignores him and continues to do his bit for Mother Earth (what are they feeding him?). “Newspaper” has one arm resting on the open car window swilling a mug of something. Think about it, this is not easy to do! And people think I’M crazy!!
(Mistake no. 9, never take your eyes of a large black amorous, schitzophrenic animal for a second!)
While I am watching the proceedings below “Black Fang” decides he wants to become biblically acquainted with my leg. Now, far be it from me to be a party pooper (pardon the pun!) but what does he think I am?? I mean, we only just met!
The next matter on the agenda is how do you very quickly but delicately and in what tone, or language for God’s sake, let Hitler’s Hell Hound with the very large teeth know that NOW is the time for cannineus interruptus?
Anyone who knows the Westport Quays cache will be aware that a small wall has to be negotiated. I manage to scramble over this and “Black Fang” reckons that this isn’t the kind of exercise he envisages and slinks away with a downcast growl, thank God!
Mind you I could have empathised about 40 years ago but that’s quite another story, he still wasn’t getting the least bit of sympathy out of me!!
I then enjoy the little multi cache and get out of there quickly to pick up the coordinates for Croagh Patrick.Click to enlarge
I meet Joanie and my sisters and we start up The Reek. The climb is tough but exhilarating. The superb weather makes the mountain climb that bit easier and the views and pictures are great. Unusually we are able to see every bit of the mountain from every angle in glorious sunshine.Click to enlarge
We even had some craic with a local priest at the summit who tried to convince us that he goes up there every day to say Mass for the visitors. Then he breaks into howls of laughter at our disbelieving faces and tells us the truth. “More like once a year!!”Click to enlarge
The cache is secured and we start down. You might imagine that this is easier but anyone who knows anything about hillwalking will know that “down” is where all the mistakes or accidents happen. This particular mountain, in very dry conditions can be treacherous during the descent. There are sections of very steep rubble which just gives under you. A few bruised bums later and we are sitting in “The Sheebeen” waiting on the requisite seafood chowder and beautiful well deserved black pints.
Everything is well with the world until one of my sisters suggests that Joan and I should try to find the “Bawnduff” cache before heading back to Dublin.
(Mistake no 10, never listen to pints talking, especially second pint syndrome, especially when it includes something strenuous, and particularly especially when the person suggesting it is not going to take part!!)
Joan decides that we should go for it as this is the only cache left in the vicinity that we have not found and since she is driving she isn’t drinking. Not one to let the side down, I agree.
So, we bid farwell to my sisters and take that miserable road back to Newport and out into the mountain wilderness in the mid afternoon. We get to the start and the GPS says we have 4K to the cache so we start hiking. Just after that, for the first time this year, we hear the beautiful love call of a cuckoo echoing across the nearby forest. After 30 minutes we come to a bothy where a nice new Dublin registered car is parked on a forest road. Ignoring that, we head off toward the cache in the opposite direction to the forest road.
It winds through a small gorge and then out into open mountain tracks. The walk is lovely but after an hour the cache is still showing at two and a half kilometres to go. We meet the two Dublin couples walking back toward their car. One of them decides to be real chatty with us about their day’s experience. He offers us advice!
(Mistake no 11, never , never listen to “fish out of water” knowledgeable Dubs who give directional advice with great authority about places that they have probably only seen for the first time in their lives!!)
He asks which way we are going and points out the forest road in the distance and suggests that after we reach the top we should head for that and it will bring us directly back to the bothy without all the windy tracks and the gorge.
We wish them well and head off to get the cache which is found without difficulty. We remark about the echo of the cuckoo which continues to follow us.
“Either he wasn’t having much luck with his mating call where we heard him first or there are loads of them around here,” I said.
After a nice but tiring walk we decide to take the “advice” and head for the road as soon as we get within striking distance of it. The trek across to it is a nightmare. Joanie, who I only now realise decided to do this trek in her sandals, picks the wrong rock in one of the three rivers we have to cross and falls in. I am wearing shorts and we are trying to cross newly cut forests so you can play board games on my legs by the time we reach the road.
At least we have an easy road back…....you would think!
5K later we are still walking and not in the direction we want, and we have no water. The cuckoo is beginning to grate and the forest road goes off into Coillte wilderness and we go with it hoping all the while to reach a right turn that will bring us back. I am having this recurring “hate” dream that when we get back to the jeep, it is on this very road. Needless to say it eventually IS and we could have driven the whole blessed thing in the jeep to within 400 metres of the cache. I reckon we totalled about 15k during that “stroll” and by the time I drag me weary legs to the jeep I could cheerfully brain that damned hen foresaken lovesick cuckoo with me walking pole.
Joanie takes control of the old caching cruiser and gets us smartly on to the N4 and back to the Smoke.
We arrive in Dublin around midnight after “just another couple of caching days” and we sleep the sleep of the just, the sometimes silly and the exhilarated.
commenting closed for this article