Apologies for no updates - I was taking some time away from social media, pressures and all that jazz. Just giving myself time to reflect on why I decided to do this journey! Something I pine on about all the time to kids I work with, how important it is... I should have really took my own advice a week ago ha!
For a few days I was just feeling completely lonely... my dad visited will I was stuck in Hook head waiting for winds to calm and we had a great time visiting wee spots and then I had to go paddle again - camp - meet new people - be taken in by generous people! But ultimately I felt alone...
(Finally seeing hook head from the sea, after 3 days of seeing it on land)
I made it to Tramore on Wednesday, which was a tough enough paddle, conditions getting bigger the further I got away from Dunmore East. I stayed the night with 3 lovely girls and was looked after so well by Eamon and his wife Cathy, getting a home for my boat and sending me off in the morning! This was all thanks to Jeanne in Arklow who has been going out of her way to contact friends around the coast.
I paddled myself only a short distance from Tramore on Thursday before I decided I needed to work my head out- conditions were amazing and it was beautiful coastline but if your heads not in it then you need to do something right?
I found myself on a beach at 12 o'clock washing some clothes, chatting to my Auntie, Mammy and Da about my head game... texting my good oul mate Stevie! Had a nap and lay on the beach just enjoying that moment! People walking dogs and families going for picnics - it was lovely!
I went for a walk and got some good food from a wee place in Fenor - I haven't been eating great, struggling with food but that food was amazing, thanks to Eugen at the Copper Hen!! I got back to the beach and decided to bivvy for the night as it was such a cool evening and I wanted to be up at 5am for a good oul paddle.
(My bivvy beach)
My mate Kris phoned me and asked how everything was, I told him the truth... I'd had a shit few days and couldn't get my act together - but at the same time could not believe I'd got this far. He said the usual, youre doing great, giving lots of positive support... but then said 'well, you can always throw the towel in!' That's when I realised I really wanted to keep going, I just needed some heads space and time to remember why I was doing this trip!
Well, if that wasn't enough, just as I'm about to settle into my bed for the night, I hear 'Caoimhe... Is that you?!?'. I lifted my head out of my bivvy bag, and firstly felt embarrassed, to see it was Mick O'Meara. He knew I'd only gone a few kilometres, after meeting me the night before in Tramore. But he put me at ease asking why I hadn't contacted him, he would have had me out to his house. I explained what had happened and he chatted about some of his shitty experiences on his trip. He asked me why I was doing it. I told him - I've never done anything on my own, I've always depended on the top coaches and more experienced friends to sort out stuff. I wanted to see if I could do it, if I had the skills. I explained about not even having any qualifications in sea kayaking apart from a 3 star.
He told me just keep knocking out the days and sure it doesn't matter if I take a few days off because of weather or even go home for a few days until weather settles. Weather makes everyone's trip hard.
It was nice to just have someone who smashed the trip, tell you it's ok to feel like this and that! He offered me lots of advice for my paddle ahead and then it was time for bed!
I woke up in the morning after a pretty broken nights sleep, a little cold but ready for the task ahead. My head felt focused. I made tea, ate a cereal bar - still struggling with food! I was on the water for 7.
I got over half way to Helvick head before I got any wind, glassy water until that. I thought about all my class friends and how they all have struggles but still great things. Then I though about the amazing people doing Ireland this year. All smashing it in their own ways, flying along, doing massive days and then I thought about me. I realised I've only been paddling for 5 years with almost a 2 year break in between because I had no use of a sea kayak, so did a wee bit of canoeing with work. If someone had have told me 10 years ago I'd be paddling around Ireland, or even 5 years ago I would have laughed in their face. A wee secret, I used to be scared of Strangford Lough because so many outdoor instructors had groups rescued, just from not reading weather conditions and tides. And now I'm out here paddling around Ireland haha - it's beyond crazy!
Ive made it so far, and yes I'm not flying around the coast. But does it matter? I'm making my own decisions, doing my own planning, going out in stuff by myself I'd never have thought I'd take on. And yes, I have shit myself moments but overall I'm happy - I'm stretching myself. To the limit at times, but that means I'll get better at those decisions. I can aspire to be like the Mick O'Meara's of this world but let's face it I'm a bit lazy so didn't train very hard and I am just enjoying looking at the land from the sea and exploring my country.
After reading my friend Katie's letter, where she made two terrible jokes - one about a shark. It doesn't help that I have the reading speed of an 8 year old but even so. I came to the realisation, I'd made something I wanted to be fun, enjoyable and yes there was always going to be hard days, hard work and pain but I had made it very serious! This was never my intention and I'm not sure how it got this way - perhaps nerves and stress make things more serious. So I decided to think of a list of reasons not to go solo in my head (or to go solo if you like that sort of thing)... I laughed while paddling, thinking of all my shitty moments and how they actually weren't that bad, quite funny on reflection.
If you know me, you'll know I'm not the serious type, unless there is good need to be. Life should be fun and sometimes I find seriousness takes that away for me. There's a time and a place, and it's helped me realise a lot about myself. Perhaps I needed to be serious about this expedition in order to actually get to where I am now.
Anyway, those people paddling around Ireland or about to - fair dues!! I'm impressed by every single one of yous and in some ways I wish I had a bit more of style, speed, experience like them. Maybe in a few years I'll come back to do Ireland again, most definitely with a friend and we will smash it too. Until then I am just going to take it a day at a time and remember I've got until the end of June and take those moments to look at my beautiful country and as they say... 'Sure it'll be grand!'
I got to Ardmore on Friday and I've made it to Co. Cork just past Youghal and wind is being a right wee pain in the face. Paddled for two hours making none, to very little progress yesterday out of stubbornness, before turning into a beach.
I've also made a list of things I'm going to get coached on when I finish:
1. Paddling into wind efficiency haha
A lovely fella called Charles sorted me with a great camping spot, close to my boat and helped me carry everything up the beach. People are brilliant, helping and giving more donations - many random acts of kindness, so many I'd be here for a week writing!
Thanks again to everyone for the support and encouragement. It means a lot!
(Excuse the hairy legs. Bruises hurt so much at the time, but with time they fade and the pain was worth the struggle or you learn not to fight a sea kayak because it always wins! My little philosophical thought for the day haha)