Sunday, December 15, 2013

TWO OMANIS IN: Climbing Knocknarea Mountain, Co. Sligo, Ireland

What sunshine that we had disapeared halfway to the summit, along with, apparently, some Swiss tourist group's tent (which had been stolen). It was very cold by Omani standards, while warm by Irish. The sky was an amazing colour of blue and grey,  and the purple shrubs gave the landscape an almost alien hue, with horned sheep grazing on swathes of green.

We were climbing Knocknarea mountain in County Sligo, and I was wearing abaya, and riding boots, as my other cheap outdoorsey shoes had fallen apart. I had left, a pair of slipper ballet flats, and platform wedges. Riding boots were the most practical shoe, however unpractical they were, by the thumbs up I got from the Swiss tourists in their goretex hiking gear. Whatever.

Just goes to show you, a woman can do anything she sets her mind to, and that in heels and abaya. My husband was wearing dishdasha and runners, so you can imagine, the set of thumbs up he got.

The lack of practical shoes kind of decided us. We were torn whether we should climb Benbulben or Knocknarea. Benbulben was slippery and windier and actually was real climbing, and Knocknarea was more like a very steep hike, so Knocknarea it was, as the views were mostly the same in quality while the effort was easier on Knocknarea.
The way up was not too terrible. I've climbed harder-hike-your-way-up mountains, but it was slippery and muddy. I got quite winded by the top, but I hadn't even really walked in two years living in Muscat so yeah... I figure it would be easy for anyone who hadn't just had a baby and gotten really out of shape lung-wise.

Clothing-wise, beyond my heeled boots, any other practical shoe with some grip would be fine. My husband and his runners held up as good as those in hiking boots.
 Reaching the summit of Knocknarea you will see the archeological site of  "Queen Meabh's Cairn" of Irish legend. I've always had a soft spot for Queen Meabh myself. I like powerful female figures in ancient literature. I wonder at what poets and historians changed of their tales.

Facing the Atlantic side is pretty freezing in terms of wind, and just walking around the cairn itself you will feel like there are two kinds of weather.

I don't know if it was just me, but going back down from Knocknarea the whole day later I felt really sick. My husband was fine, so I don't know if it was the altitude and low blood sugar plus the exertion of being out of shape, lol, but I felt in sore need of a crash.

I had no patience for the yippy little Yorkshire terrier dog that kept trying to kill itself under the wheels of our car as my husband tried to photograph it while driving.

Despite that, all in all, I'd do it again, and take more time at the top. If I'd brought a warmer sweater to layer on as I went up I think we would have, but that Atlantic wind was frightening cold to my Muscat-skin.

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