During a campaign to flush out the rebels after the uprising against the English in 1798, the Military Road, as it has come to be known, was constructed. It is now labeled on maps as R115 and it takes drivers through some of the starkest countryside in County Wicklow, a short distance south of Dublin.
The landscape is almost completely empty here, except for the occasional small flock of sheep or a wild deer or two. The Sally Gap is a remote pass surrounded by a massive blanket bog, outcroppings of rock and little else. The beauty of the scree and the utter sense of isolation is overpowering.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We approached this region from the south, travelling from the lush beauty of Glendalough, where one of the most famous ancient monasteries is located. I had read the descriptions of the scenery but was unprepared for how devoid of all signs of human habitation it would be. It was getting late; the sun had already set and the sky was darkening. I worried about being stranded for the night if we had any kind of car trouble, but then reminded myself that we had plenty of warm clothes with us, we had enough food and liquids (mostly wine, little water).
I was sitting in the car with the road maps and our iPad on my lap, so I decided to play some music to help dispel my sense of dread. When we were in New York visiting Puneet, Komal and Anya I had copied the Raffi CDs onto my computer and iPad, so I turned on the children’s songs and sang along with them while Anil drove. It’s surprising how those little songs can change your mood. I remember using them to cheer Adia and Raj on our long trips to Vancouver when they were little, and now they were entertaining me once again.
What was really surprising was how many of the songs seemed to conjure up memories of our travels around Ireland, a trip that was fast coming to a close. Songs like ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, ‘Down By The Bay’, ‘Robin In The Rain’ and ‘Mr. Sun, Sun’ could easily relate to our experiences as we drove all around the Emerald Isle. Then ‘Sing When The Spirit Says Sing’ came on, and I knew I didn’t have to worry about being stranded anymore.
We carried on, twisting and turning along the narrow road for what seemed like forever. Suddenly I saw something move near the side of the road and a large mule deer lifted his head and started right back at me. I managed to grab my camera and snap a photo of him as he started moving away. He was magnificent, and for a moment we were not entirely alone. I focused on the dramatic clouds lit up by the last light of the evening and thought good thoughts.
I had just commented to Anil that there were no signs of any kind at all, when we came over a slight rise and saw the sign indicating we had finally reached the summit of Sally Gap. The wooden signboard made me feel much better, we really were on the right road and before long we would be able to see the lights of Dublin below us. I was so happy that we had made the decision to take this route, but I would certainly advise others to come earlier in the day and make sure they carry provisions and a cell phone in case of trouble.
At last we could see Dublin’s lights in the distance and I was reminded of the night views of Vancouver from the north-shore mountains. I had to pinch myself to remember that we were still in Ireland, winding up our counter-clockwise tour around the country. In a couple of days, we would leave this magical land and head to dryer, warmer lands in Portugal. We had packed a lot of sightseeing into three weeks here, but it would take more than three months to see much of what we had missed.
I laughed as we descended from the mountains along a very dark road and a huge sign warning us of possible pedestrians ahead loomed large in our headlights. We had seen a similar sign at the start of our journey and Anil had remarked that the sign must refer to some of my Walker relatives. We had just spent the afternoon visiting the churchyard in Carnew, County Wicklow, where my maternal grandfather’s ancestors had once lived. Caution Walkers indeed!