Na Slíabhte a thrasnaíonn ár gCosáin sa saol

The Mountains that cross our Paths in life.

There are 100 ways to accomplish your goal. Chose one and attain your dream.” Sara McFadden, Irish Visually Impaired Rally Navigator.

Slíabh a haon.

Last year, I stopped at an area outside Kenmare just before the Cork/Kerry border at Cath’s Pass called ‘Druid’s View’ when I was travelling back from the Ardgroom stone circle. It’s a beautiful area nestled in the mountains on the other side of the ‘Pap’s of Anu’. Coming up to the area, I drove past a turn-off adverting ‘Banone Heritage Park’ and made a mental note to check it out when I got the chance. A year later, while on a week’s holidays from work, I made a family day out of it and we set off at 10am. This time, I was not using any route planned by ‘Google Maps’ and decided to go the main roads instead of travelling the “quickest route” along secondary roads (Google have never travelled these roads and are making it up as they go along, is my personal opinion from my experience of getting lost in the wilds of west Cork and Kerry using their service.)

The road trip was picturesque, travelling from Cork suburbia alongside the yawning trail of the Óllpheist Laoi, past the lone orthostat at the side of the road coming into Lissarda, seeing a graffiti artists impression of an Morrigú alongside a portal dolmen painted on the side of a white building in Macroom town, passing by the castle of Carrignapooka, through the Gaeltacht of Ballymacire and Ballyvourney, coming upon the ‘Paps of Anu’ as you enter the Kerry border and turn off for Kilgarvan. This road is beautiful. One minute you are travelling through wooded areas and then into limestone protruding green mountainous areas which are a reminder of the glacial movement of the last Ice Age. Then as you travel to ‘Druid’s View’, the mountains rise in front of you.  There you enter the Heritgae Park and pull up the car beside the reconstructed Crannóg sitting in a pond at the base of the trail (or trial as my partner put it).

The heritage part has several sites ranging from the neolithic, bronze age, medieval up to the time of An Gorta Mór.  We went up the mountain using the ‘Druid’s Walk’ (easier gradient) and came across the Dromgorteen Ringfort. It is very impressive for its size and depth of the surrounding ditch. When I tried to picture how it was like back in its time of use, I could see cattle-raiders thwarted alone by the natural defenceof the ringfort.  It was such a strategic location. The corbelled walls were still intact and exposed for inspection. The view of the surrounding area was amazing.

Further up, the stone circle comes into view and is very impressive. A large central stone (Bronze Age burial marker) inside a group of surrounding stones. You had the solstice entrance between the two portal stones and a unique astronomical feature where it marks out Imbolg/Samhain and also both equinoxes as well with two stones on either side of the axial stone (opposite the portal stones). It also catches the moon rise between two further mountain peaks. It has an adjoining fulacht fiadh and further nearer to the peak, there is an upright bullaun stone and a singular orthostat. There is also a path leading to the remnants of a 17th abandoned Gorta Mór homestead that serves as a reminder of mans inhumanity to man during times of hardship, The former blighted furrows are a stark reminder behind the remaining thick stoned walls of the small homestead. Then it was the downwards journey using ‘Fionn’s Hill’ which is the steeper gradient.

It is a 2km journey through time which I was grateful to be able to accomplish with my loved ones but that is not the whole tale.

Slíabh a dhó.

My partner is visually impaired and has achieved a lot in her lifetime. She is involved with the Irish organisation, Vision Sports, who are a voluntary body that make sports inclusive for the visually impaired. My partner has involved herself in walking groups, swimming, tennis, and soccer which has been made possible by Vision Sports. The body got in contact with Motorsports Ireland and something wonderful was made possible last year.

I bought my partner a ticket for Mondello Racing track where she could sit in the car alongside a rally driver and experience a race first hand as well as being able to drive the track for a few laps under the supervision of a driving instructor. The park was fairly packed with other visually impaired people from all over the country and I was amazed with such a good turnout. It was a mix of those who have been impaired from birth or from an incident that occurred later in life. The age group ranged from 13 to 81.

The first part was the driving of the track for a few laps under the guidance of the driving instructors who brought automatic dual control cars. This was a great opportunity for those who had never driven before or haven’t been able to get back behind the wheel since an incident (something a lot of us take for granted with our own sight). In the afternoon, they got to ride shotgun in rally cars with drivers who made sure their passengers got the full experience.  My partner loved it and she was very nervous at the start especially getting behind the wheel for the first time. She did it.

There was a speech held halfway through and it was there where Sara McFadden spoke as a guest speaker. She is an employee at Mondello Park and is a Rally navigator. Not only that, she is also visually impaired. She did not let that get in her way to achieve what was her dream. She found a way to be a navigator in the shotgun seat of a professional rally team. “There are 100 ways to accomplish your goal. Choose one and attain your dream.” That is a very inspiring quote from someone who did accomplish her goal even when the odds were firmly stacked against her. You can read a newspaper article on her journey here ‘Rallying is her passion’: Teen to become one of Ireland’s first visually impaired rally navigators (thejournal.ie)

In our lives, there are many mountains to climb. There are many paths to the summit. While there are some who take everything for granted and have the option of picking the easy way (‘Druid’s Walk’), there are others who have no choice but take ‘Fionn’s Hill’ and more often than not they put the moaners and begrudgers to shame. Another person who is a prime example is my partners younger sister who is also visually impaired since birth. She has a PhD in Irish Law and is the first Irish Visually Impaired woman to complete the ‘7 marathons, 7 continents,7 day’s’ challenge and is an ultra-athlete Cork lawyer Dr Sinead Kane shortlisted for Outstanding Young Persons of the World | Irish Legal News . Before anyone tries to point out something, none of these two ladies come from financially well-to-do families. They built themselves from the ground upwards against the odds and succeeded with a passion that very few people can build up within themselves. They pave the way for others who do not all have the same adversaries but the similar path. These are the people who we should take our inspirations from.

Bígí linn leis na daoine atá ag barr an tslíab agus bainigí sult as an radharc.

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

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