Kenmare – Carrigagulla (Millstreet)

kaart-4

 Stage no. 84
Date Sunday 28 August 2016
Distance stage        81,5 km
Distance acum. 3.096,0 km
Quality of signs good
Quality of the hike B (very nice): hills and wide views, compensated by a lot of boring local roads

At 06.45am I leave the hostel and hike along the big street of Kenmare to the starting point of today’s excitement, using the Kerry Way. The knee still hurts but thanks to my slow pace the pain becomes more a local pain in stead of a pain that paralises the entire joint. The weather is again great, do they ever have other types of weather than blue skies in Ireland? The trail goes straight north up the hill, leaving Kenmare, crossing fields with great views along a local road. The section where the road crosses the hill shoulder, illusively named Windy Hole, is lovely and pleasant to cross on this bright Sunday morning.

On my way to Windy Hole

On my way to Windy Hole

 Descending in the valley behind Windy Hole the field road leads along some small sections that tend to be marshy but I have had a lot worse in the past stages. After some horizontal kilometers, just after passing the announcement of the Killarney National Park, the trail goes up the hill to the northeast. The hill is drenched with marshy sections but, unlike the Beara Way, these are covered with comfortable boards. Altogether these boards cover more than one kilometer, and they enable hikers to maintain a decent pace, keep dry feet and enjoy the surroundings in stead of focussing on their feet. Going down the hill, I bump into the first fellow hikers/walkers of today.

lovely Killarney National Park

lovely Killarney National Park

On the small sections of the trail in this valley hikers have to make way for hikers from the other direction. The biggest group that I had to step aside for included 30 people. The final kilometers in the National Park are using a field road, which leads to the area with the famous Torc Waterfall. It is really crowded over here, the parking lots are completely filled. The waterfall turns out to be a lovely sight and I stop for the inevitable pictures.

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

After crossing the national road the trail leads further in the direction of city of Killarney. At Muckross Park I leave the Kerry Way and go east, crossing the park to the main road. The next twenty-some kilometers or unmarked and lead from the Kerry Way to the starting point of the Duhallow Way, where the E8 continues. Since it is not signed or mapped I have planned my own way. With the priority on safety I have chosen local roads that avoid as much as possible fast driving traffic (details are at the bottom of this post). The N22 motorway is used by many drivers who believe that the maximum speed is a bare minimum for them to get to their destination. For every car that I hear approacing (from the front and from the back) I step aside on the side of the road and stand still untill the car(s) have passed.

N22, not designed for hikers

N22, not designed for hikers

Fortunately the N22-section is short and I continue my way on the silent loacl roads in rural Ireland on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Arriving after 37 kilometers in the small village of Headfort (one bar) I hoped to find a B&B or anything of the kind, but the people that I meet, in the bar, know for sure that there is no lodging facility along the trail in the next kilometers. It is 16.45, the weather is still great and I feel okay, hardly any problem in the knee as long as I don’t stop for more than five minutes. I decide to continue my way to the starting point of the Duhallow Way, in the tiny village of Shrone. In the next couple of hours I take it easy, I drink a lot and have my bottle refilled by friendly people that I meet along the way, At 19.30 I arrive in Shrone, 46 kilometers from this mornings starting point. I take a short break, get informed by a the owner of the fields that I will be crossing about the direction of the signs in the beginning of the Duhallow Way and I use the inevitable steps to cross the fence. No break for me! The first few hundred meters through the fields, walking from one sign pole to the next, are very, very marshy and I am glad I am wearing my rubber croqs.

First section of the Duhallow Way

First section of the Duhallow Way

After crossing a north-south field road the trail goes up the hill. The day has come to an end and the surroundings are preparing for the night. Even during the twilight and afterwards I can follow the signs easily with my Petzl (the signs also have a reflector on each side) but the terrain gets worse: there is no path or trail there are just signs that indicate the direction, leading through very wet sections, with holes and mud. Where the signs cross two parallel fences the sign indicates the wrong direction and I decide to follow the last sign and to continue my way down the hill to the local road, which I will follow and where the E8 bumps into in a few kilometers. The extra kilometers that I cover this way are to be preferred over taking the chance of slipping and sliding or falling in the rough terrain where the trail leads through. After reaching the local road I am still full of adrenaline and I continue my way eastbound. After two kilometers or so the E8 signs join me again on this road. This local road is very quiet, the quality of its surface is superb and it goes more or less straight east in the direction of the village of Millstreet. At a tiny crossing called Croonig’s Cross Roads, the signs go right up the hill. Shortly after they leave the road and lead through the terrain over the hill to Millstreet. The first 50 meters of this section look extremely muddy and I decide to keep my legs and feet safe by following the road, around the hill. Again: more kilometers than the signs indicate but safer to get to my destination in one piece. In the long descent down the hill towards Millstreet I pass many farms where dogs and cows start making noise when I pass. Just before the outskirts of Millstreet the E8 signs join me again. At the beginning of Millstreet (one hotel, two B&B’s, several restaurants and snackbars, many shops), where I arrive at 01.35, the trail goes straight south on another local road, gently up a hill. I continue my way without delay but I feel that my pace is suffering from fatigue. Halfway up the hill I find a great spot for a startrail picture, which gives me a nice excuse for a 30 minute break.

Startrails over Millstreet

Startrails over Millstreet

After the pictures have been taken I collect my lugage and continue my way slowly along the local roads. Just before Sunrise, at 06.00, I arrive at the foot of the hill Musheramore. I take a powernap of fifteen minutes after which the daylight is enough to continue my way along the signs through the field. In the first kilometer there are many muddy sections that are difficult to avoid, but I manage. After this the forrest road leads to a sort of terrace path where the view to the north gets more and more impressive with every step I take. Hiking at 500 meters altitude gives a magnificent view over the lowlands in the north on yet another bright and Sunny day.

Overlooking the lower land covered by clouds

Overlooking the lower land covered by clouds

After a breakfast break enjoying the view I continue to the east, where the signs lead into the local road that goes from Millstreet to the southeast. I follow the road down the hill in a steady pace but I am exhausted after being on the trail for more than 24 hours. Where the trail leaves the local road to go left/north onto a field road that leads up the hill Carrigagulla I decide to call it a day and I finish my hike for this trip. Hitchhiking I get easily to Millstreet where I stay in the local hotel. A fantastic day (two days!) have come to an end.

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Lauragh – Kenmare

kaart-3

 Stage no. 83 
Date Friday 26 August 2016
Distance stage       25,0 km
Distance acum. 3.014,5 km
Quality of signs good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and great ocean views

At 05.15am I am ready to start the long day that I have ahead of me. The lady of the B&B had arranged an early breakfast and she has also informed me of the expected conditions of today’s hike.

After leaving the B&B in the dark I walk back to the trail (approx. 800 meters) and I continue my way northbound. The first couple of kilometers are following the local road, easily, but they go steep uphill. By the time I arrive at the point where the trail goes into the fields the sun is up but hidden behind the clouds. The trail uses more fields than what is drawn on the map (it goes parallel to the road a few hundred meters) and this section turns out to be pretty wet marshland. After this parallel section, some 10 minutes, the signs stop existing and I decide to go to the right, northeast, straight in the direction of the hill where I am heading for. After one kilometer I see the  signs again, indicating the direction that I am going. The weather is not great; cloudy and a chilly wind. I arrive at the top of the slope without problems or delays. For the first time this week I feel cold and after an inevitable selfie I continue my way quickly. Before going down the hill there is first a horizontal section that needs to crossed. The soil is very wet and slippery. Due to my rush to get warm and comfortable I don’t put my feet carefully on the slippery rocks and then it happens: my left foot slips away, my right leg tries to hold me up right but with no avail. I fall while turning my right knee sideways. Before I hit the soil I hear a crack in my right knee like a tearing knee ligament and I hit the mud. While I get back on my feet again I realize immediately that this could be the end of this hiking trip. The knee hurts pretty bad but I force myself to continue to move, to keep the knee agile. Making very small and safe steps I manage to make it to the end of the horizontal section (only some 100 meters). After carefully using the steps that cross the ever present fence I start going down the hill. This turns out to be a dry section of fields and not as steep as I had feared beforehand. Following the signs I arrive halfway down the hill at the farm where the trail leads to the comfortable local road. Still moving very slowly I continue my way down and at the foot of the hill, between two lakes, I take the first break of this morning. It is exactly the point where I have hiked 3 000 kilometers along the E8. I had hoped to be in better spirit that what I am right now. My knee hurts a lot, the sun has started to shine, the sky gets clearer and I sit down to consider my options.

keep on moving

keep on moving

I would jepordize my health if I would continue following the signsl with going up and down the next hill (of which the lady at the B&B assured me that there where many marshy sections). I decide to skip the crossing of the hill and to go around the hill by going to the coastal road. This way will give me four or five extra kilometers but at least these will be comfortble to do: flat surface and hopefully also no steep up and downhill sections. On the other side of the hill the trail leads to this same coastal road where I can pick the trail up again.  The local road that leads to the coast is easy and quiet. The coastal road is a much bigger challenge: it is narrow, considering the amount of traffic that passes by, and there are very few places where a pedestrian can make way for the other traffic to pass. I was hoping for nice ocean views from this road but most of the view to the left is blocked by bushes and trees. It is not advisable to use this road any more than strictily necessary. Fortunately after eight kilometers I can go into a parrallel road where the E8-trail joins me again. This easy road turns out to be pretty endless passing impressive examples of Irish real estate. After a few kilometers the trail leads back to the coastal road, to a very busy section with many unclear curves. Be very carefull while passing these 1.5 kilometers! At the end there is the bridge that crosses the ocean, called Kenmare River at this point, and consequently the city of Kenmare (many hotels, B&B’s and one hostel, many shops and restaurants) on the north bank is reached.

the bridge from Beara to Kerry

the bridge from Beara to Kerry

By crossing the bridge the E8 leaves the Beara peninsula and continues on the Kerry peninsula. I decide to stay here for two nights, allowing myself a day off tomorrow to give the knee a break. In the hostel where I stay there is a wonderful international mixture of active tourists: many hikers and cyclists who visit the Kerry peninsula and that are doing the Kerry Way, or a part of it, stay for one or two night in the city.

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Eyeries – Lauragh

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 Stage no. 82 
Date Thursday 25 August 2016
Distance stage       26,0 km
 Distance acum. 2.989,5 km
Quality of signs very good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and great ocean views

At 8.30 the local post office in Eyeries opens up and I am their very first customer of the day. I hand over a big box with 5 kg of lugage that I have decided not to use anymore during this trip. The lady takes 20 minutes to make sure that the parcel is wrapped in so much tape that it will arrive home safely even when it would fall of the plane. I start today’s hike with a great feeling of relieve; I estimate that I still carry some 12 kg’s on my back but it’s a huge improvement.

I leave Eyeries northbound and after some gentle up and downhill km’s, during which I pass some local speedwalkers, the trail leads to the local coastal road directly next to the Atlantic. The weather is again very good, with a few clouds here and there, a lot of blue sky and temperatures of around 20 degrees. After 6 km’s the trail leads to the northeast, into the fields. Shortly after it leads parallel to the Lake Fedda.

Along Lake Fedda

Along Lake Fedda

Along the lake the trail is very well marked but it leads through 1.5 km of marshland: here and there the water that stays on the soil is up to 30 cm’s deep. I manage to keep my hiking boots dry by putting on my rubber croqs! After the marshlands to road to the village of Ardgroom (one shop, several B&B’s) is easy, but narrow. The trail continues to use the regular road for a few more km’s and then crosses the fence and goes through the fields eastbound, straight up the hill.

Crossing the fence

Crossing the fence

By the time I arrive up the hill, at the isolated section of today’s hike, the weather has changed and the increasing wind announces that it will raining within shortly. In the fields in the next km’s the signs are not so easy to be found, and it starts to rain pretty bad. After half an hour I reach the section where it goes down the hill, using an easy fieldroad. After one hour of rain it becomes dry again, but it remains cloudy. Before I arrive down the hill there is another marshy section that needs to be covered. The trail leads fortunately through some rocks to guarentee dry feet to the hikers. Directly after this section I cross the first (very low) trees during my hike in Ireland. When I arrive on the regular local road the trail traverses a few more km’s (pretty endless) untill it reaches the wide spread village of Lauragh (one B&B, one church).

I stay for the night in the B&B Mountain View. The ladyhost is very interested in the trail on the Beara peninsula, the E8 in general, and she also knows the trails to and from Lauragh from her own experiences, which is valuable.

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Dursey Island – Eyeries

kaart-1

 Stage no. 81
Date Wednesday 24 August 2016
Distance stage        31,5 km
 Distance acum. 2.963,5 km
Quality of signs very good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and great ocean views

After a long day of travelling I arrive at 18.00 at the island. I hike to the top of the highest hill by following the mountain way. The weather is great and the forecast for tonight is very good. When darkness has settled over the west of Europe I have my photogear ready and I make a startrail picture of the old tower at the top of the hill.

Magic above Dursey Island

Magic above Dursey Island

The next morning I collect all of my lugage (that’s a lot!) and I hike towards the southwest end of the Island, to the wale watching point. There is no wale in sight and I turn around and start my way to the east. After crossing the Island and the spectacular ride with the cablecar I start my hike on the mainland of Ireland at 10.15. The trail is very well marked with sign poles of approx. 1.5 meters high which are situated strategically: from one pole you can usually easily see the next one which you need to walk to. After climbing up and down the hill north of the cablecar the trail passes the small beach in the bay of Garinish. The weather is Sunny but not too warm and there are few people outside.

Garinish Bay

Garinish Bay

The trail continous up and along the hills towards the village of Allihies (one shop, several B&B’s). Close to the beach before the village there is a camping site which is mainly populated by camper vans. There are only a few people on the beach, this part of Ireland is really remote from any population of any significance. It is tempting to stop here for the day and enjoy the Atlantic beach.  However, Allihies is too early for me to stop, I have planned to stop in the next village, Eyeries, or even one further, Ardgroom. After Allihies the trail goes up the hill, which is tough for me carrying the huge backpack that I have with me (including bivouacking gear, photo gear, water, etc.). After passing the top of the hillrange north of Allihies the trail goes wonderfully straight gently down the hill, towards Eyeries. At the end of the day it is still a long way to get there, but the weather continous to be great, the views are really nice, and I can’t resist the big dark blackberries that grow on the side of the road. 

I spend the night in a B&B just outside the village of Eyeries (two shops, post office, several B&B’s, one restaurant). I really have to reduce the weight that I am carrying: continuing like this will make the next couple of days an ordeal.

 

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Stage 0: Dursey Island

kaart-0

   
Date Thursday 31 March 2016
Distance stage         7,0 km
   
Quality of signs very good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and spectacular ocean views

After a thorough preparation my E8-hike continous in Ireland, at Ireland’s most remote location from Dublin: Dursey Pond. My wife joined me for this once-in-a-lifetime experience: It was superb!

Early in the morning we leave the B&B in Castletownbeare and drive to Dursey Pond, the only location in Ireland where a cablecar is operating, which is also the only cablecar in Europe that crosses the sea. At this hour of the morning at this time of the year we are the first visitors to the Island. We hike along the road on the Island towards the southwest cape, enjoying the spectacular views on this Sunny day. A few of the houses on the Island are still being used by farmers who look after their sheep. From the cape, Dursey Head, we start the E8 by going back to the cablecar. The colours of the ocean change continously by the changing angle of the Sunshine in the water: from dark blue to light blue to turqoise. Close to the harbour, near the cablecar, we can even see Dolphins jumping out the water! We arrive a bit too early for the afternoon service of the cablecar and we wait near the old church on the Island. At a quater to three we are back on the Mainland, and I am ready for my crossing of Ireland!

Spectacular views

Spectacular views

Cablecar to Dursey Island

Cablecar to Dursey Island

Spectacular views!

Spectacular views!

At Dursey Head: surrounded by the Atlantic!

At Dursey Head: surrounded by the Atlantic!

Ready for the Irish section of the E8!

Ready for the Irish section of the E8!

Excellent signs

Excellent signs

not state of the art, but functional

not state of the art, but functional

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Ustrzyki Gorne – Wolosate

e8 kaart ustrzyki

Stage no. 80
Date Sunday 27 April 2014
Distance stage      26,5 km
Distance acum. 2932,0 km
Quality of signs very good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and great views

At 05.00 I am back on the Trail again, for my final day to the Ukrainian border.

I pass the bus stop and go right to the big parking lot. There the path goes up the hill through the forrest, again very well prepared: boards are covering muddy sections, steep parts are supported with railings and stayed steps, it is all very impressively taken care of. Some will say that this makes it very artificial to walk here, but I am happy that I am able to look around me and enjoy the scenery while walking in stead of looking at my feet only to make sure I put them down safely. Again at approximately 1000 meters altitude I leave the tree line and it gets very cold due to the fierce wind. The sky is blue, the views from the ridge are great and Wolosate is far in the deep on the right hand side. On the pass Tarnicka I decide not to climb the Tarnica hill, which is a supplement just off the E8-Trail and it must provide a fantastic view on the valley. I continue my way down to the bivouac shelter, where I have a break. In the valley that is crossed consequently to the east the temperate gets comfortable again.

View from the shelter to the Halicz hill

View from the shelter to the Halicz hill

After reaching the ridge again the Halicz hill needs to be climbed. From a distance this looked very tough but it is well to do. Also here there are many supports on the path for those who could need it. The views from the top are superb, also to the lower hills in the east. After a steep descent and a short ascent I start the final descent to the Ukrainian border. At the end of the descent there is again a bivouac shelter. Just 50 meters from here is the Ukrainian border, clearly marked by a Polish and a Ukrainian landmark. I take the inevitable pictures, also when some Polish hikers join me on this location. After picking up some souvenirs (little rocks with paint from the landmarks) I go back to the bivouac shelter and continue my way down. Close to the bivouac shelter there is a huge lavatory building, which indicates that it can be pretty busy around here. I follow the road down the hill and every few minutes there are hikers coming up the hill to enjoy a great day up in the hills. After reaching the valley the road continues towards the village of Wolosate. Just before the end there is a road to the left/south that crosses the creek and leads to the Beskiden Pass. The signs say that that the road is closed and not to be used, and that is also what the officer of the borderpolice tells me after I did cross the bridge. I manage to visit the Beskidenpass, together with him, and he takes a picture of me and we walk back to the bridge again.

Ukrainian border at the Beskiden Pass

Ukrainian border at the Beskiden Pass

The rest of the road to Wolosate is easy; many tourists are by now swarming around the tiny village, enjoying the scenery. In Wolosate, oposite the parking lot there is the last E8-sign. It is for the first time in 21 years that I finish my trip without seeing the sign that indicates where I should be going the next time.

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Smerek – Ustrzyki Gorne

e8 kaart smerek

Stage no. 79
Date Saturday 26 April 2014
Distance stage     28,0 km
Distance acum. 2905,5 km
Quality of signs very good
Quality of the hike A (excellent): hills and great views

During the night there was a huge rain shower during 20 minutes. I expect the path to be soaken wet and I put on my gaiters and tape the front of my shoes.

I leave the inn at 05.02, half an hour before sunrise. The signs follow the main raod for almost 2 kilometers and then cross a bridge and lead into the forrest, up the hill. After passing the big sign of the national park that I am about to enter there is a big bivouac shelter. At approximately 1000 meters altitude the trees fade and soon I pass the tree line. The top of the Smerek hill, with a big cross, is visible from quit a distance, but it is a steep climb to get there. On the ridge to the Smerek hill the wind blowing fiercely and cold. The sky is still blue but it’s getting partly clouded. The view from the top of the Smerek hill is magnificent, and there are many benches to sit and enjoy it, but it is too cold for me to stop. Ten minutes later I pass the Orlowicza Pass, also loaded with benches, and I continue to follow the ridge.

Great view & dark clouds

Great view & dark clouds

From the top of the Osadzki hill you see the mountain cabin Chatka Puchatka clearly in front of you: the three pointed roofs of its buildings clearly stand out on the hill at the horizon. In exactly four hours after leaving the inn in the valley I reach the cabin. I appears to be open, but there are no visitors yet.

Chatka Puchatka

Chatka Puchatka

I continue my way by descending to the pass at Berehy Gorne. The path in this section is very well taken care of: steep parts are covered with railing supports for the hikers, and the steps are stayed to provide a safe and comfortable passing and to prevent erosion. The temperature increases, while being out of the wind. Down in the valley at Berehy Gorne there are no facilities open: there are some small cabins where, during the summer time (?) souvenirs and snacks are being sold but it’s all closed now. There are many other hikers arounds here, enjoying the lovely weather. After a short break I continue my way by going up the next hill. During the last hour, while descending, it looked high and mean. This appears to be not the case. The climb is long but very well prepared with railings and stayed steps. Nevertheless there are some steep sections to be covered before you reach the ridge again. On top of the Polonina Carynska hill the wind is blowing fiercely again. The view is great, again, and it attracts many other hikers from all directions. During the descent the temperature gets back to comfortable again, and when I arrive in the village of Ustrzyki Gorne the sun is shining pleasantly.

Ustrzyki Gorne appears to be small, but completely designed to host hikers. Almost everyone I see on the streets here is carrying big backpacks. I stay the night in the hostel that is on the right from where the path leaves the forrest.

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