By Sarah Canty
ON the first day of September, Hamish van der Merwe of Ballydehob and his faithful equine companion Belladehob will leave Kinsale for a 2500km trek along the Wild Atlantic Way to raise funds and awareness on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society.
The trek, believed to be the first attempt to make the journey by horseback, is expected to take 90 days to complete.
To ensure a successful completion of each stage of the official route, Hamish will have his Wild Atlantic Way Passport stamped at all 188 checkpoints from Kinsale to Muff in Co Donegal.
Hamish says the charity is close to his heart, especially after his sister was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer in 2015. Last October he dropped everything in South Africa to come and support her in her home in the UK.
On his sister’s recommendation, he decided to travel Ireland as a ‘woofer’ (working on organic farms), eventually finding himself in Ballydehob in February.
His need to get back up on horseback, having built a horse rescue farm in Cape Town in the noughties, led Hamish to Derry Collins of Rossbrin Pony Trekking.
While working in Collins’ stables and taking clients on pony treks, Hamish developed a strong bond with the mare, ‘Belladehob’.
‘This trek would not be possible without Derry’s horse. It is a big deal, huge. I don’t know anybody else who would do this,’ said Hamish, thanking Derry for his generous loan of the Irish cob mare for the momentous trek.
Hamish has dreamt of taking this kind of journey for 16 years.
When he moved to Ballydehob it all came together – he felt the Wild Atlantic Way was calling him.
‘Be careful what you wish for,’ laughed Hamish, thinking of the daunting trip ahead of him. ‘They do come true.’
Hamish is appealing for sponsorship for his journey. For more information, readers can contact him at [email protected], call 087 7695326, or on the Wild Atlantic Way Trek Facebook page.
You can also donate to this fundraising event via ‘Wild Atlantic Way Trek’ on give.everydayhero.ie