Growing up in Cape Town, I am very much an outdoors type of guy. I grew up going to the beach for Christmas, bodyboarding and surfing, hiking and cycling. Basically, it can all be condensed down to mountains and beaches. So, when my friend Chris asked me to go hiking in the Kerry landscape, with him and a couple of friends, I was all in.
I was already aware of the beautiful scenery in Kerry and around Killarney, mostly through casual cycling and cycling sportives (not strictly categorized as races). Well, despite the amazing landscapes, I was also aware of how steep and tall the mountains are. Luckily Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil, that we were attempting to ascend is no Mount Everest. But at 1,038m it’s still about the same height as my previous hometown’s Table Mountain. This iconic mountain is at the very centre of Cape Town and I’ve only been to top thanks to the cable car. Not impossible but challenging, nonetheless.
Chris used to be a hiking tour guide for tourists who wanted to hike up Carrauntoohil. He drilled into us that the Kerry weather is forever unpredictable and that we should take a lot of layers with us, even though that day was fairly mild yet overcast. He explained that a couple of times — in certain groups — there was the one odd person who ended up showing signs of hypothermia. This is because it can get surprisingly chilly the further the elevation rises.
I think in the end we were all so paranoid of hypothermia that, each and every one of us, forgot to pack sunscreen! You might guess that we were utterly destroyed by the harsh Irish sun. You’d be right. Surprisingly, my Brazilian friend, Albert, fared the worst out of all of us. The Irish sun is really something else. I personally have never been sunburnt so badly and frequently as here, in Ireland.
With Chris’ knowledge, we cleverly avoided the aptly named Devil’s Ladder, watching the other courageous hikers on that day climb this risky section from afar. Soon we were in the clouds. Handy on one side, as we couldn’t see how far the drops were on the perilously narrow paths (I myself suffer terribly from a fear of heights). On the other hand, it was a bummer to miss out on the views, especially once we reached the large, metal cross on the peak.
The wind was blowing incredibly hard, but with an endless supply of clouds coming in, we could never get a clear sight. We sat on the top in a circle eating snacks and passing a flask of hot matcha tea around with some fresh berries and a dash of whiskey. A surprisingly refreshing mix that seemed to fuel the legs for the way back down.
Just before we got to the car park again, we all took off our shoes and socks and dipped our feet in a stream and just sat there for about 15 minutes. Life is good.
My photography gear that day was a surprise. The trip had been more of a last-minute dash, so I just grabbed what was in my cupboard that day; an Olympus XA2 35mm pocket camera. It’s one of my favourite cameras ever that I often use for my own personal photography, as you can tell by all the scratches on it’s clam shell body design. This means that the body of the camera slides open to reveal the lens, a design that protects the lens much better than an ordinary lens cap. This makes it a perfect companion for when I go travelling, but it’s also very discreet for street photography and doesn’t look like much, despite having a superb lens.
Annoyingly on the day, the camera was preloaded with Fomapan 100 Classic black and white film. I remember being somewhat frustrated on the drive that the film was already in the camera and that I was going all this way to beautifully green Kerry to photograph the landscape in black and white!
With hindsight and seeing the photos, I am delighted that I had the Fomapan film in the camera. The photos are so striking to look at and really capture this other worldly landscape so well. I feel nothing was lost despite of the loss of colour. I have always been a massive fan of the Fomapan films and have used this brand extensively for travel and street photography in South Africa. That will definitely be another post in the future.
For now, I am looking forward to when the restrictions are lifted in Ireland, and I can return to Kerry once again!
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