I managed to get through the whole of 2013 without succumbing to the many invites from Young Malcolm to join one of his IHBC hikes. The memories of that day on Normafa still haunted me and I had little problem with saying ‘No! Hell no! I’m not doing that again.’
It’s not that I hold a grudge – I don’t usually. But I have the memory of an elephant when it comes to remembering pain and irritation and angst. Run all three together in the same sentence and you might come close to describing how I felt back in December 2013.
But as time passes, my resolve usually weakens. So in the buzz that came after the Gift of the Gab final in March, he caught me on a high and asked for as a second chance to show me how great these hikes actually are. Against my better judgement, I signed up. I’m a glutton for punishment.
I’d arrived back from a hectic week in Malta the night before. The clocks went forward so I’d lost an hour of sleep. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk to anyone, let alone hike 10 k in the Pilis hills. But I’d said I would and once I commit, I commit.
I joined 28 others on a sunny Sunday morning. I was in a foul mood. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to be there. Yet as the day progressed, I lost sight of all that and succumbed to the great outdoors.
When the map came out just 22 minutes into the hike, I was less than amused but there was little I could do as I knew I couldn’t find my way back to the starting point unaided. My sense of direction is about 100 times worse than Malcolm’s, so I’d little option but to put up and shut up.
The weather was gorgeous. The flies simply loved my South African anti-bug cream and had a feeding frenzy. I plodded along, eyes to the ground, dropping in and dropping out of conversations as we wended our way through the Pilis hills. We were taking it easy. We had about 18-22 mins to cover each klick. (I’d have been in a right mess had we been doing anything other than taking it easy as I was already feeling the pain.)
Some of the paths were navigable in single file only. Others were so steep that the descent could have easily turned into a ski run. What streams we had to forge were trickles rather than torrents. The silence, such as it was, was comforting. The stillness, recuperative. I could literally feel the tension dissolve as the angst and stress I’d come with gave way to physical pain. But a good pain.
I’m far from fit. So far in fact that I wouldn’t put the words ‘fit’ and ‘Mary Murphy’ on the same page, let alone in the same paragraph. (Oops… I just did.) But I’d figured that if I stayed out front, I’d have some hope of finishing. Last time I’d brought up the rear. It was time for a change in tactic.
The last kilometre was the hardest. I held an image of a sweating pint in my mind. I’m not a beer drinker so that in itself says something for my state of mind. I’d a bad case of the shin splints and was rediscovering muscles whose names I can’t pronounce. But I did it. I got to the top, winded but in one piece.
Add the physical tiredness to the mental exhaustion that I’m battling and you can imagine the state I was in. And that was Sunday. Today, two days later, I’m still hobbling around like an ould wan of 90, feeling every step I take. But it was worth it. Yes, Young Malcolm, you’ve had your reprieve. No foolin’.
So many expats come to Budapest and never make it out of the city. And yet there is so much to see. Just an hour by public transport and you can be in the hills, far from the masses, enjoying fresh air and sunshine, losing a battle with the horseflies, and appreciating nature for what it is. A reprieve.
The IHBC has become a focal point of sorts not just for the Irish community but for anyone with an inkling to socialise and enjoy a bit of craic. We had a great day out in Mohács last month, and an excellent St Patrick’s celebration. There’s plenty more in the offing so check the website. And while you’re online, you might ‘like’ the Embassy’s page, too. You never know, if you sign up for the next hike, we might even cross paths …