For this week’s “A first time for everything” challenge, Geraldine Carton went hiking and camping up the Wicklow mountains with Dublin-based group, Galz Gone Wild.
Let it be known that I am not an “outdoorsy person”. I can’t stand being uncomfortable, cold or sleep-deprived, and I especially don’t enjoy experiencing all of the above sensations in one activity. Put simply, being outdoors often brings-out the inner diva demon in me.
Up until this point I have successfully avoided all camping opportunities, and I would have happily continued doing so had it not been for Galz Gone Wild founder, Mel McDermott, reaching out and inviting me to join a camping adventure. The prospect immediately filled me with dread, and so I knew I must do it.
This is what my weekly column is all about, after all; feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Not so fresh
When the day arrives, there’s no denying it; I am not feeling my freshest. Having been out foolishly late the night before, my body just wants to rest and my brain just wants to watch mindless TV. And yet, I have a three hour hike ahead of me, followed by a night “embracing” nature’s elements. Gulp.
The prospect of meeting a new group of fun-loving, adventure-seeking, open-minded individuals is the thing that lures me out of bed in the end. With only an hour to gather all my camping necessities, I do so with lightning-esque speed and manage to arrive at the meeting point with three minutes to spare.
There are 11 “galz” in total, and as the van is loaded and the introductions are carried out I can’t help but feel like I’m the odd one out. Taking a quick scan around the group, my multi coloured leggings and whimsical pink boots provide a stark contrast to the generally dark (and functional) hiking attire around me. I feel like Little Miss Sunshine going hiking with a group of Lara Crofts.
Nonetheless, off we go with our sights set on Wicklow’s wild landscape and a 3.5 hour ascent it’ll take to get to our makeshift campsite.
The hiking bit
The route is challenging but not overly strenuous, and it’s made all the more enjoyable by the multiple snack breaks and animated conversations that take place throughout. The weather is perfect; crisp and dry but with a cool breeze that wafts through my armpits at the precise moment I need it most. It’s almost too perfect, you might say.
Like the calm before the storm...
We made it
We squeal with delight when we arrive to the spot where we will be camping for the night; a grassy area has been filled with an assortment of tents alongside a dreamy campfire which comes complete with patchwork blankets and twinkling fairy lights in the surrounding trees – it’s like a scene out of a quirky Wes Anderson camping movie.
It’s the ultimate camping stereotype, as we warm our hands around the campfire and crack open beers while a dinner of homemade risotto is heated in skillets over the flames. The fireside feast is finished off with toasted marshmallows, which brown and blister and turn our mouths into caverns of sweet, sugary, molten lava. By midnight the fire starts to dim and, having enjoyed hours of fireside story-telling and laughs, we call it a night.
Now comes the moment of truth; the bit where we crouch down, clamber into the tents and attempt to go to sleep. It’s time for the *actual* camping bit.
Just as I anticipated, I do not sleep well.
This is largely because I realise that I need to go to the toilet at the exact point when it starts to rain apocalyptically outside. It feels like millions of pebbles are being furiously hurtled at my tent and I know better than to venture out; even a turbo-tinkle would leave me soaked to the skin. And so I am left to stare at the ceiling and face the discomfort of holding it in until the rain stops (which it doesn’t).
At 8am we all get up and start the packdown of tents and collection of rubbish around the area. The continuing torrential rain means that the plan for a fireside breakfast is scrapped, and we trudge back to the van which is waiting for us down the road. When we clamber into the van we are wet, tired and achy, but our hearts are full and our faces smiling. In the space of a day we had each ventured out of our comfort zone in some way; whether it was signing up to an activity in which we knew no one, or completing a camping adventure knowing full well that we were not cut out for camping (maybe that was just me, though).
The sense of achievement in that van is palpable, and it finishes the experience off on a wonderful note.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. At least, I’d do the hiking and campfire bit again, then when the time came to go to sleep I’d sneak away to a nearby B&B, returning the next morning like a well-slept camping ninja.
Told you I was a bit of a diva.
Galz Gone Wild was set-up a year ago by Mel McDermott with the aim of helping women feel more connected to nature, the outdoors and ultimately themselves through regular outdoor meet-ups and activities. Everything from hiking and camping to outdoor yoga and guided mediation is organised on a monthly basis.
Images via Mel McDermott