The first Waterford Camino
After months of planning, it was time to set out on our adventure towards horizons new. No matter how meticulously you prepare, it is only in the doing that you really come to know the worth of something. Only then do you begin to see if the pathway you have mapped out leads to where you want to be. We welcomed our visitors from Kildare on the steps of Athenaeum House Hotel, collected our packed lunches and were ready to take our first tentative steps on the Waterford Camino.
The Waterford Greenway opens up our beautiful county like never before. We couldn’t get over the multitudes availing of this stunning natural amenity in our midst. The vision behind the Greenway and the investment that has gone into it over the past few years provides a gateway to the Waterford countryside that will enrich the lives of so many for generations to come. We’re privileged to have it on our doorstep here in Waterford.
There is something so refreshingly positive about the Greenway experience. Our visitors loved it! The buzz of excitement in Kilmeaden as children feverishly boarded the train onto the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway, the infectious smiles from passers-by you had never met before, the relaxed chatter of cyclists as they meandered their way en route to their next coffee break… people move to a different rhythm on the Greenway. You feel liberated just to be part of it all.
You see the aesthetic wonders of nature need to be experienced up close and personal not through the cold, obscure eye of a laptop or phone. It is estimated that most of us check our mobile phones at least 46 times a day and with the ever-expanding market for connected watches and wristbands, this trend looks set to continue. Whilst it’s hard to resist the lure of digital advancements, (mea ‘big-time’ culpa!), I can’t help but wonder has civilisation morphed into something it was never meant to be?
We do not need new landscapes, just new eyes to see what is already there. The Greenway and the many majestic trails that lead off it draw us back to where we belong. Seeing the eclectic colours of the skyline at sunrise over the River Suir, sensing the life force rolling through the Mahon River as it cascades downstream through Crough Woods, hearing the soothing sounds of the waves as they roll to the shore at Clonea Beach, adjusting to the beautiful shades of light as we leave the dimmed enchantment of Durrow Tunnel behind – all awaken something deep within us and attune us to a new frequency.
“Whenever problems seem to get the better of me, whenever I feel them closing in on me,
I go to a quiet place that lies somewhere in my soul. I do not reason, analyse or think.
Those will come later. I simply go.
From this place of silence, I garner strength and inspiration to stand firm in the face of fire, to be calm in the midst of thunder.
When I emerge, the world has not changed, but I have. And in changing, a whole new world is born.” (John Harricharan)
We arrived at Mahon Falls high up the Comeragh Mountains in the early afternoon. Here, you feel you’re on hallowed ground, a cathedral of stillness carved out of rock that dates back over 300 million years. The Falls have an enchanting allure, like an oasis in a cauldron of stone that appears teasingly beyond our reach no matter how fast the pace. In life, just as in this walk, it is easy to become so preoccupied with the destination that we forget the journey. We slowed down to soak in the vast kaleidoscope of contour and colour that opened up before us from the Falls to the sea beyond. We had become miniscule spectators to something timeless in this mystical amphitheatre beneath the skies. Moments like this remind us that we are not alone.
It is in the journey we find meaning not just in the dimmed hues on the distant horizon. The steps in between matter! In the rush to arrive at where we want to be, we can easily whiz by the smaller, often incidental, moments that make life worth living. We glide in perpetual motion and miss out on the ‘bits n’ pieces’ that make sense of it all in the process. Stillness is the stepping stone to peace. All this running needs to stop on occasion so that we can simply standstill. The Greek poet Constantine reminds us that as we pursue our dreams and goals in life and aspire to reach the utopian island of ‘Ithaca’, we must be sure to enjoy all that we encounter along the way.
“When you set out for Ithaca ask that your way may be long, full of adventure and full of instruction. Have Ithaca always in your mind. Your arrival there is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the voyage at all. It is better to let it last for years; and even to anchor at the isle when you are old, rich with all that you have gained on the way, not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches. Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage. Without her you would never have taken the road.” (Constantine)
Here’s what some of our visitors had to say about their experience of the Waterford Camino: “We had a wonderful time and feel privileged to be part of your first Camino. The sights were breathtaking. Everyone should put it on their bucket list… 3 wonderful days of reflective walks, cycling and fishing. I would highly recommend for mind, body and soul – memorable on so many levels… The highlight for me was fishing in Brendan’s boat off Dunmore East, the thrill of catching mackerel and seeing the lobster in the pots as we raised them from the sea… The hotel was so homely, friendly staff to match the exquisite food. The ‘catch and cook’ experience from the lobster pots in the bay to the table in Athenaeum House Hotel was unreal. Another unique ingredient to what was an already magical Camino.”
To finish, a thought struck me as we wondered though Crough Woods at the base of the Mahon Falls on the first afternoon. Here we experienced the powerful contrast between the roaring waters of the gorge and the woodland tranquility that surrounds it. The very waters that we’d left behind at the top of the Falls were possibly rolling on by as we sat in quiet reflection. Nature moves with an unswerving calm. The streams continue to flow, resolute, unbowed.
We need to return to the well, replenish ourselves, open our pores to the mystical that is all around us and kick on in life. In such moments of awakening, our souls are laid bare. We are made to face our shortcomings and our strengths, those very aspects of ourselves that we have yet to fully accept. The journey of life is ultimately a journey of finding our true selves and accepting ourselves as we are.
“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson)