The home of Charles Darwin Antrim and Down, Northern Ireland.  SPARTAN RED SOX activities during the deadly strike of Foot and Mouth. 
The Spartans as might be expected from their reputation, were undeterred by the dreadful cattle pestilence and took up other things. Some remarkably fine weather in the Ulster Province this year (2001), induced many of us to seek out oil-can and bicycle pump and make for the roads. Seemingly flat when travelling by car to a ramblers rendezvous on the coast,  the Ulster roads had more ups and downs than any of us imagined. Hardened walking muscles were quite useless even on a modest circuit of Island Magee and showed up weaknesses in the anatomy that were never thought to exist. Fortunately the island is well equipped with ice-cream stores to re-supply flagging energy reserves on a hot afternoon.
For those who were not into biking, there was always the wonderfully scenic coasts of Antrim and Down. As on can observe, those Mountains of Mourne really do sweep down to the sea. New muscles were again put to the test when feet had to be repetitively dragged out of soft sand, wet or dry. But the prospect of visiting the new coffee shops opening in Newcastle and Dundrum was a strong source of motivation to finish before sundown.
"..Sweeping down to the sea!"

 
For myself, I headed to the Polish/Slovakia border, shown dramatically here as the ridge of the dividing mountain range. To the north, Poland under a blanket of mist and cloud. To the south, Slovakia bathed in sunlight. This is a wonderful ridge walk, famous in the Tatras and accessible by cable-car. Good quality low cost accommodation is available in the foothills (I would be happy to recommend), and on the Polish side, minibuses race around the suburbs of Zakopane solving all transport problems for foreigners.
The mountain ridge peaks provide climbing of all grades of difficulty, detailed maps are readily available and paths, trails and lines of ascent are marked in colour on both maps and the mountain side. But be prepared, its alpine country!

 
Crystal clear emerald-green lakes abound in the Tatras. This is a second-level lake known as the Black Lake (Czarny Staw pod Rysami, although quite clearly green); it is a short climb above the the famous Morskie Oko lake, 'The Eye of the Seal.' The Black Lake is surrounded on three sides by peaks and glaciers, including Mount Rysy, the highest peak of the Tatras, towering  over all with menacing presence . A truly wonderful point to arrive at!

 
The Spartans, a walking group catering for all ages, are still very much active and may contacted through Ronnie Carser,e-mail: ronniecarser@yahoo.com

THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THE NI COUNTRYSIDE IS NOW OPEN!


 
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