PADDLING your own canoe has taken on a whole new meaning for Pallaskenry’s Brendan Bradley who has spent the last fortnight paddling his way from Dublin to Limerick. Brendan, and his fellow canoeist and friend Mark McGrath arrived at Ringmoylan pier near Pallaskenry this Tuesday evening after what they both agree was a challenging journey.
But, said Brendan whose day-job is in IT and software, it was also a never to be forgotten and magical trip. “The experience was incredible,” he told the Limerick Leader after he made his final land-fall.
The idea of the trip emerged over a pint or two, Mark McGrath, who is a trained canoe instructor, explained. “We just said we would do it. We wanted a break from Dublin. I had the canoe and we had all the equipment and free time. And we wanted to do it in this kind of weather as a challenge,” he continued. Their route, a journey of some 250 kilometres, took them from Rialto on the Grand Canal, travelling west through Sallins and on to Shannon Bridge, before turning south along the Shannon and Lough Derg to Limerick.
For both men, the weather itself proved to be the hardest aspect of the trip –and memories of waking up in a tent, in freezing minus 5 temp-eratures, in the middle of the night had not dissipated, even after warm baths and a cosy night’s sleep in Brendan’s parents’ home in Pallaskenry.
“The days were fine. We had all nice days but the nights were freezing,” Mark recalled.
But one of Brendan’s darkest memories is when they found themselves, at nightfall and with ice on the canal, with more than two kilometres to paddle before they could rest.
Paddling along the frozen Grand Canal, fighting the ice, also made progress a lot slower than they had anticipated. And in the first stages, setting out from Dublin, they had to physically lift the canoe and all their equipment over the locks. Further down the canal, the locks were manned, with opportunities to stop and have a chat.
And both men thoroughly enjoyed the experience of canoeing through the calm waters of Lough Derg.
For Brendan, there was the additional challenge that he was a rookie – and had never been in a canoe before. “I learned on the job,” he laughed.
For all the hardships however, the duo’s most abiding memories are of wonderful silence, of bird-calls, of seeing nature up close – and of the warmth of the welcome they met on the way.
Coming into the very many small towns and villages en route was fantastic, Mark enthused.
“People were delighted to see us coming through,” Brendan recalled. “Many had no idea you could do the journey all the way by water. People were so helpful to us along the way.”
And they had no hesitation in recommending the trip to others. Already, they are turning their thoughts to the Royal Canal.
Hardy souls indeed.