Hitching For Hope’ Around Ireland

Selected Blog from the Returning to Wonder Series – 2012 to 2017

This is one of my personal favourite blog from the archives posted on the 22nd July 2013. Ruairí finally published his book ‘Hitching for Hope’ last year to critical acclaim and it is a most interesting, readable, thought provoking commentary on modern Ireland.

They say that fortune favours the brave and so it was that my good friend Ruairí McKiernan chose one of the best Julys in almost twenty years to embark on his mad cap journey around Ireland to gauge the hearts and minds of her people. I think Ruairi’s road trip may well have been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi who spent much of his life walking through India and listening to her people. Gandhi is also attributed with the wise quote, “we all have two ears and one mouth to listen twice as much as we talk.“

I collected Ruairi at Drumlonagher Roundabout, Donegal Town, and greeted him with a “Céad míle fáilte go Dún na nGall mo chara.“ I had spent the morning researching a new book project and was on my way to St. John‘s Point to reccie a walk for a weekly community preventative health walk I was running.

Ruairi had done a radio interview earlier that morning on Ocean FM and was waiting on a call from Highland Radio. The highlands would have to wait as Donegal’s spectacular southwest coastline beckoned. St John’s Point is a narrow peninsula jutting 7 miles out into Donegal Bay. On a sunny, clear day, it must surely be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Today was such a day. It was inspiring to hear some of Ruairi’s stories from his journey so far, and the concerns, hopes and natural generosity of those who stopped to give him a lift along the way.

The views down along St John’s Point were simply breathtaking. The mountains of Leitrim stretched all along the southern horizon before culminating in the striking monolithic mountain of Ben Bulben. A surface level sea mist floated like dragon’s breath upon the waters round distant Mullaghmore, a sign of settled weather. To the far northwest, Slieve League rose like a giant whale’s back, while the wee town of Killybegs lay nestled above its picturesque harbour. The sea was so calm, it took on the appearance of glass, perfectly reflecting the azure blue sky above.

Ruairi did another radio interview with BBC Radio Foyle in the car as we drove before turning the audio recorder on me! I started with my concerns for Ireland today that ‘consumerism’ is still seen as a positive economic ideology, even though what we are ultimately consuming is the planet’s finite resources, unique biodiversity, and our spirit of co-operative humanity. There is a growing sense of powerlessness and hopelessness among people as faceless global economic markets seem able to determine our fate at a whim. As for my hopes; I shared my belief that strengthening communy resilience could at least create a buffer zone against the more destructive elements of globalisation and empower people positively. Communities across Ireland could take a much more active role in sustainable energy production, recycling, food production, preventative healthcare projects and wisdom education – aided by new technological developments and global links.

Our next stop was Blissberry Farm to meet Larry Masterson. Larry recently set up a new Social Farming initiative to help reconnect people and local communities with healthier organic food production – as a natural way of promoting physical and mental good health. I had recently brought our Green Exercise Group to Blissberry Farm and many walkers seemed genuinely moved by what they saw that day and the heartfelt talk that Larry gave. Our weekly walks are also about reconnecting with the outdoors while walking, talking and listening.

We were treated upon arrival to a delicious salad and fruit dessert, made with fresh, organic produce picked that very day at Blissberry!! Larry then brought us for a tour of the farm. We met two fine Connemara ponies in a nearby field, before we passed through an area of native woodlands – home to a very ancient and rare Irish oak tree. The hazel wood‘s canopy provided cool shade from the hot July sun as we walked down to the shore. This is where Larry harvests his seaweed each year to use as a sustainable and organic fertilizer for his plants. We sat together on some shoreline rocks and a brief but natural silence enveloped us, as we each surveyed the breathtaking scenery of inner Donegal Bay. We then thanked Larry for the inspiring afternoon visit before setting off again.

I dropped RuairI back at Drumlonagher Roundabout for he was heading on for Letterkenny and Derry on the next leg of his trip.

Ruairís latest book ‘Hitching for Hope’ is available to buy at www.hitchingforhope.com