Even the toughest of challenges can teach you more about yourself than you ever realised!
Last weekend, two of my lovely friends asked me to join them on a little cycle on the great western greenway which starts in Westport and finishes in Achill in Co. Mayo, not knowing too much about it, I eagerly replied Yes. They had told me it would be about 42km, (little did I know that was each way!) that was a lot for me as I hadn't cycled any real distance in a long time, walking yes, but sitting on a bike pedaling...not so much. But how hard could it be..right!?
The day started off with hiring the bikes and having a few laughs about the electric bike that Aisling decided she wanted for the journey, myself and Deirdre were going to take the good old fashioned bikes and do it the hard way, we were old school. I wouldn't mind the owner of the bike shop even suggested that we take the shuttle bus to Achill and cycle back from there, but Deirdre thought it would it be better to cycle there and back! She wasn't long changing her tune by the time we had nearly 24km done.
The route itself is absolutely breathtaking, the mountains, lakes and rugged landscape just keep you in awe, you almost forget you are pedaling like a mad thing, excited by every bridge we passed under, shouting out to hear our echoes returned to us in the distance. Cyclists and walkers of all ages and nationalities pass us coming and going, us three with our big smiley heads on us, waving and shouting hello to everyone. You'd swear we were never let outside on our own before. We were like little kids out on our very first adventure.
We reached Mulranney and we had to push the bikes up a huge hill, this is where we felt a little tired and there was talk of turning back. I just looked ahead and thought I may not get to do this for the first time ever again and I really wanted to see Achill, I had never been before and I was determined to get there, so we decided to just keep going for another while. Of course along the way we stopped off to take loads of photos and take in much needed fluids. Always wanting to get that extra photo, I would venture a little too far and get stuck in a big muddy bank by the river, so the remainder of my cycle was with very wet and muddy socks, I told myself they would dry quicker when cycling and who would be looking at me anyway.
So we get to Achill and it is a great feeling, we took refuge outside a local pub where they were all watching the Mayo v's Kerry match and they were roars galore every time Mayo scored, we had to mind our bikes and were glad just to stop moving for a little while. We didn't have time to explore the island as much as we would have liked to (next trip) as we knew we had to now cycle back and it may take us a bit longer! The hardest part about our cycle back was sitting on the saddles again, our bottoms were very sore and we laughed at each other so much as each one went to take off on our bikes, there was a lot of moaning!
Surprisingly our return journey wasn't too bad at all, we knew the route this time and we just had to manoeuvre ourselves each time we came to a cattle grid as the bumpy vibrations seemed to rattle every part of us that was sore, especially the bottoms. But the best of all was each taking turns on the electric bike that we had laughed at at the start of our journey. Oh by God were we glad to have it on the way home, it really did help save our energy. We had reached a point where we stopped off to refuel with food and water, it was getting late and we were tired. We had 18km to cycle to get to the next town where we had a chance of dropping off the bikes and that is what kept us going. We chatted along the way and patted ourselves on the back for going the whole distance, this was a first for us all and it proved to us that we can push past the limitations of our mind. Our bodies will keep going as long as we give it the intention to do so.
As with all adventures there are always laughs and things to remember, we were told to go to a certain place to drop off our bikes but seeing as Mayo won the match, every one had closed up shop and gone out to celebrate, so the only place left was the pub. We will always be grateful to Tom in the Grainne Uaile pub in Newport who seen our weary bodies and desperate faces, he took our bikes in for the night and fed and watered us with delicious food and a friendly smile. If he had told us that he couldn't take the bikes for the night we would have just slept on his pub benches outside, we were done. Everyone we spoke to in Newport that evening thought we were crazy, we know we are a little, but it was great fun and lovely experience to share with friends.
Along the way between being mindful of the beautiful scenery, the great conversations with my friends, I was also very grateful for having this opportunity to be able to get up on a bike and pedal as far as I wanted or could. I am so grateful that I have the mental and emotional strength to want to do new things that I once feared and would have said No to before even thinking about attempting them. I am grateful to my body for being able to move so well and taking me to new and exciting places.
I have the soul of a nomad and the heart of an adventurer. We only get one chance to do something for the first time, let your first time for everything be amazing. I am so looking forward to many more adventures to come. I hope you do too.
Aches will heal but the memories will last forever.