Daytrip to Damascus

So as I write I’m taking a walk, trying to work yesterday’s mountain out of my bones. That was… something. An eye-opener. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re a lot more fit than you really are. When you have to lie on the rocks every ten minutes just to get oxygen back into your brain, while boisterous schoolgirls, families with children, and sprightly old gentlemen in brown suits are ploughing on past, you eventually come to accept that you’re not in peak condition.

But is it so surprising, when up until a few years ago I was a heavy smoker, until a year ago this week I was a heavy drinker, and even now live an almost heroically sedentary lifestyle? That I am alive at all is really the puzzle here. But it is time to be nicer to my body. And there’s no better way to start being nice to your body than with the meatgrinder of a six-hour trek up a pile of loose rubble. Or so my girlfriend believes.

I don’t know, she might be right. As I walk here – typing as I go, thanks to my curious phone – I begin to feel a lot better. The knots are coming out, and I have a sense of somatic integrity I haven’t felt in a long time.

You begin to understand the pilgrimage, and why it was so vital to go up such a difficult and dangerous hill. It reminds you to appreciate the little things in life. Standing. Breathing. Moving around. Being without pain. These are things I value much more today.

Mountain Tension

You can actually see it quite well without the telescope

A break from all the phone stuff, for today my girlfriend and I are climbing a mountain! That’s the bugger in the first pic there. In truth it is not so high. It’s really just a walk. But a punishing walk. Or I should say, penitential. For this is Croagh Patrick, one of Ireland’s most venerated places of pilgrimage.

You can imagine why. Though not so big, the reek (as it’s called) is strikingly pyramidical. Despite being among mountains of similar size, it dominates the landscape. Clearly it’s the one you are supposed to go to the top of.

But my God, it’s not easy. Virtually all the way up you are scrabbling and sliding and stumbling on loose stones. It’s insane. I didn’t think I’d make it. Sometimes I didn’t think I’d survive.

Too tired now. I’ll finish this later. If I don’t die of exhaustion in my sleep.