Archive for the 'road-trip' Category

An Ocean and a Rock – Part 3

Woke very hot and sweaty in the tent. The sun had been shining strongly since 5am and last night’s bacon had left me with a dreadful thirst.

Otherwise a wonderful night’s sleep.

But farewell to rosse’s point and it’s overly expensive (but very pretty) campsite where the showers were one euro extra.

I had to be in greystones for 6pm, some 180 miles away. But I had time. Time I though to lie by a lough on the Shannon water way and doze off in the sun reading the Irish times.

Hunger got the better of me and I ended up eating fish and chips in a retail park car park in Carrick on Shannon wishing I had a canoe with me.

(Me and wee phil have great plans to canoe from Fermanagh to Limerick in September. We originally planned a week but some basic initial research makes me think two might be more appropriate. Or that a motor cruiser might be even more appropriate)

The difference between the roads in NZ and Ireland is the views. In NZ you were bowled over by spectacular scenery at every corner and there were endless view points to pull in and take photos.

It’s just that in Ireland they built all the decent roads through the flat boring bits of the country and you’re continually given glimpses of stunning vistas just round the corner or over the hedge. But they’re always just out of reach and require actual effort to see.

None of that was convenient for today’s trip. So I drove cross country listening to whatever was loud and raucous and losing my voice in the high notes getting my right arm burned as it sat out the window – the hazards of driving south west in the afternoon in the northern hemisphere.

I did make an ill advised detour round the Wicklow hills, geting horribly and wonderfully lost up shady country lanes filled with nothing but flashy looking SUVs.

I stopped briefly at the sally gap to admire the quite spectacular view and the weather. On a sunny day I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere nicer than Ireland.

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And so I pulled into Greystones about 5 pm and promptly paid 50 cent for the priviledge of almost getting locked in the public toilet at the beach. I have still no idea why the exit button was at ground level. Answers on a postcard please.

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Sat in the shade trying to avoid more uv on the already crispy right forearm and waited for transfarmer to come pick me up.

After a night of volleyball, singing, pub and cigars with lots of lovely people such as soapbox and smallcorner (and lots of other people who are just as lovely but don’t have blogs), I’ve managed to score a free room with ensuite. As fun as sleeping on the beach is I’ll not complain.

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An Ocean and a Rock – part 2

This is, as the saying goes almost as good as it gets. Back against the Volvo facing the sun, full belly, mumford and sons and a setting sun.

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But more of that when we get to it.

Rained most of the night. Not that I noticed it. The tent did me proud. Woke to a grey but at least a dry day.

Packed up and waved goodbye to the duke of edinburgh group with their house sized packs on their backs.

I had planned originally to scale the heights of slieve league (the sixth highest sea cliffs in Europe wouldn’t you know) but the weather seemed to have other ideas.

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Half a mile up the track the track ended completely and all that was visible was the mist at the end of your nose. You could hear the sea some several hundred metres below but you couldn’t see it.

To be perfectly frank (though only if I can still be garth) I hadn’t a notion where I was or which direction to walk in. I ended up with a view like this:

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Caution and the voice of wee liz in my head turned me back.

I found the car park full of malcontented Frenchmen bemoaning the dreary Irish weather preventing their attempt at the summit. Though all this is assumption. They may have been talking about garlic and onions or talking about detonating bombs in the south pacific for all I know. I’m pretty sure they didn’t mention the youth hostel – beyond that is conjecture.

[brief interlude.  There’s a guy on a ride on a ride on lawnmower driving in increasingly smaller concentric circles round my tent. I’m not entirely sure I want my toenails cut at this juncture]

from there I took the long and windy road (they’re all long and windy round here) back to Killybegs and beyond stopping only to lie on the beach for a while reading cloud atlas in Fintragh bay. The sun threatened an appearance.

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Through Donegal town and on to Murvagh beach where I simply fell asleep with the seat back listening to whatever Sigur Ros had to offer.

I had already by this stage decided on the camp site I’m now in. By the usual method of looking at the end of the road in the map and seeing what’s there.

Google Maps

So at 4pm I rolled into Rosse’s point. Which may just he the definition of sleepy Irish village. The island across the bay from the camp site is for sale. I know this because there’s a big sign on it saying  ‘for sale – oyster island’. I’d love to know much. Imagine starting on the property ladder with your very own island. Beats a semi in suburbia.

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There is also another Coney island just across from the oyster island. That brings my total to 4 Coney Islands now.

I opted for a camp site – the need for a functioning toilet and personal hygiene becoming of greater significance as the day wore on.

And after a quick dander round the night life (there is none) and a quick pint and the paper I’m back at the site with my back against the volvo, full belly, mumford and sons and a setting sun.

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Oh yes that’s where we started wasn’t it.

An Ocean and a Rock – Part 1

I am somewhat addicted to the road trip. I am also somewhat addicted to my Volvo. I am yet to get round to sleeping in it but plan to make every effort on this trip.

But first some background.

It’s not like I have any idea where I head to. I lay the map out on the table the day before and look for the bits with the fewest roads and go there.

Turns out there are an exceptional number of places in Ireland with little bays and little beaches and not very many roads.

But I have to picture what all of these look like in my head. And in my head they’re always sunny – which is always hopeful in Ireland. Either that or look them up on google and inevitably there will be lots of photos from flickr or videos on YouTube by some german guy. It gives you the gist of the place.

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So anyhow. I’ve now ended up in Malin Beg. Somewhere west of the west of Ireland. West donegal to be precise. I don’t think there’s much between me and the Americas. Except the Atlantic ocean of course.
I drove 3 hours solid to get here through mist and fog – just to get here and find that it’s, well misty and foggy…

I still think it looks pretty sweet.

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At the car park a duke of Edinburgh group were pitching their tents, a slightly concerned but impatient school teacher in attendance – “have you put the water on to boil yet, what are you two planning to have for tea?”. All that kind if thing.

The two blokes seemed to be loving it. I’m not sure the same good be said of the girls. Though I can’t really blame them if I had to walk Slieve League in the fog and rain I’d be pissed off too.

Funnily enough that’s what I have planned for tomorrow.

The beach is about a 100 yds below the car park (it may only be 50 but I’m kind of crap with vertical distances and 100 yds sounds like the kind of thing someone might say) and was thankfully deserted apart from the dying embers of a camp fire that I presumed someone had left.

So I pitched the tent. The nice new one I treated myself to for the birthday. The one I’ve only put up the once when me and skeeno tried it out in the living room.

So of course I put it up wrong to start with. It was to be expected.

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Stoked the fire has best I could with the conveniently stacked fire wood and lit the mini grill and got the burgers going.

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Only to find a rather sheepish young polish woman walking towards me wondering if she could maybe have some of the firewood that her and her boyfriend had collected for their camp fire this evening.

Oh dear. I appeared to have stolen not only their lit fire but also their firewood and ideal camp site on the beach.

I felt immensely bad about this. Not that they had left anything to suggest that it was their camp fire. It was just a fire and a pile of wood.

I decided against an ill advised rant about possession being nine tenths of the law – being somewhat uncertain as to how the law stands in relation to ownership of a fire already in progress.

After recent events in Belfast I could just picture the news headlines – Norn Irish prick steals vital heat source from homeless immigrant.

Turns out she’s polish and the boyfriend is Irish so all round I think I’m in the clear.

I did feel bad enough to go round the beach and collect them some new fire wood. It salved the conscience somewhat.

So with tent erected and burgers cooked and fire blazing – well maybe not blazing, more ‘smoking intensely’ – I can finally settle down to read the book in peace. Though it does seem like an awful lit of effort just for that.

Postcards from far away part 7

Right. Last one you’ll be glad to hear.

Woke in Glenbrittle for the last glorious time and tried to pack up the tent in the howling gale. It didn’t go well. Will have to re-pack the whole thing when I get home.

You can get off (or indeed on) Skye via the bridge or the ferry. Coming from the north of Scotland we’d come across on the bridge. For the sake of completion we figures the ferry off would be good.

At 30 mins it’s hardly an odyssey but worth it for the photos I think. I think if it wasn’t for the tourists it would be hard to see it as viable.

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We bypassed Mallaig for the scenic route to Fort William. Which was all camp-sites and little beaches.

The weather held off long enough for a decent view of Nevis as we drove in to fort William. Just enough time for us to decided that “yes of course… just not enough time left to climb it old chap, otherwise we’d be up it like a rat up a spout old boy. Yes spiffing, pass the brandy…”

Physical activity avoided we dandered round fort William and found that they’ve finally closed down the really dodgy cinema that we used to go to. To be honest that was all we were in Fort William for.

Farther down the road we stopped at the Bridge of Orchy for the night. Despite the rather odd name it’s set in spectacular countryside and on the path of the west highland way – the track that runs through the highlands and seems popular with the ageing slightly overweight walker. Which is rich coming from the young skinny kid who drove there and didn’t even walk…

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Two nights of “sleeping” in the tent had caught up with me and I was asleep shortly after Chelsea finally put Liverpool to rest for the evening.

Despite having effectively all day to get from the bridge of orchy we still got into Stranraer just 30 mins before the boat sailed.

I’m almost looking forward to going to work tomorrow. And it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to say that. Maybe I needed the distance, the time away from the place, the sunshine and the altitude and the craic. Maybe I just needed the holiday.

Not that I’m quite that naive. Me feeling generally miserable about life is not so easily blamed on work (as much as I would like to), nor even on dad dying (which was most inconsiderate of him).

There are no sound byte answers. There is no “know it all”, slightly self righteous and arrogant so and so (like me for instance) just round the corner who will say “you know what your problem is…”

The only single common denominator that I can find in it all is me. What a surprise that all this narcissistic naval gazing would come up with such an answer.

Back to the real world I think.

Postcards from far away part 5

Woke to the view of the harbour in Portree and a quality brekkie and a sit on the pier reading Volf.

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Drove to the north west of the island (yesterday was the north east) stopping for photos of the sweeping moors and old churches while listening to page cxvi.

Skye is a pretty big place, geographically anyhow, despite the fact that all the people seem to live in Broadford or Portree.

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The north west seems to be one of the more deserted areas and more than anywhere seems to remind me of NZ – and let’s face it all this is an attempt to get back there.

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We stopped at Dunvegan where the Mcleods had murdered the Macdonalds in huge numbers in 1550. They attacked by surprise while they were all in church. Not that one group were heathen and the other Christian. Both were Christian be they still murdered each other. Maybe there’s a common denominator that’s not religion running through all these. We seem to be able to do horrible things to each other no matter what our creed.

There are memorials to all this on the penninsula. A reminder that whole communities once inhabited this place before it became the dominion of the sheep.

People lived and died here on the western most parts of civilisation. They lived and brought up their kids overlooking the western isles knowing that the clan divisions may bring their downfall at any point.

What would they think of us?

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Me and sparky sat in the ruins of one of their houses and held our own communion service. Here at the end of the world we broke bread and wine (or biscuit and whisky) and had a few readings from the gospels and declared the joy and hope of the resurrection. CHRIST is risen, hallelujah.

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Here at the end of the world I recommit myself to the faith, the hope and the glory. To the great story that I find myself in but yet do no comprehend. I do not often know why I stick with it. I keep thinking of the quote from the disciples that “where else o lord would we go”.

Here at the end of the world I acknowledge my brokenness and struggles, the immense sense of loss that accompanies everything I do these days.

Here at the end of the world I find the tears and the laughter that will take me home.

Anyhow.

By this stage the sun was out and determined to make up for it’s absence over the past few days. The windows were wound down. The sun roof was open, the sunny tunes (unsurprisingly I only have about an hour or so of these on the iPod) were on. I was stopping every 5 mind or so for photos of the rapidly approaching mountains.

The Cuillins are truly spectacular. Huge, ridged, stony mountains that seen to explode from the earth.

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They fill me with me with awe and fear in equal measure.

At the base of the mountains beside a gravelly beach lies Glenbrittle camp-site. Which has jumped to number one in my all time favourite camp site list.

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Huge soaring mountains in the background, a sweeping sun lit bay in the foreground. Camp Volvo was established. We didn’t even need the awning I’d designed for the car. When I planned this trip this type of campsite was what I had in mind.

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I finally got to try the portable BBQ that Morsies had bought me for Christmas. Despite needing 4 firelighters to get it started (the consequence of leaving my charcoal sitting out the back of at john’s all winter) it cooked up a storm accompanied by some coffee, some red and the chorizo sausage I bought in Inverness.

By now it was only 7pm and I hadn’t even started the Sunday times.

The sun sets and leaves us campers surviving by the glow of propane and the shelter of the nylon. This may be British summer time but I am currently wearing a hat and 7 layers on top and 3 pair of trousers. I am exceptionally cosy it must be said. That in itself is kind of satisfying.

The Cuillins raise their intimidating profile in the background. Weather permitting we’ll have a go.

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Postcards from far away part 4

Most of what you do on an island like this is largely weather dependant.

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And the weather has not exactly been great. The west of Scotland is famous for rain and it is not prone to disappoint.

We woke to a wet, rainy day. With a bit of cold thrown in for good measure.

I left Spuddy down to the port to catch a ferry over to Mallaig. In order to reach home he has a 13 hour journey ahead. First I leave him to the ferry for a 25 min journey to the mainland. From here he gets a 5 hour train that runs from Mallaig to Glasgow. He texted and told us it was like Northern Ireland railway back in the bad old days.

At present he should be in Glasgow waiting for a bus to the airport for a flight to Belfast. He has a full iPod and a laptop and a few books. He’ll be fine I’m sure.

You could get to Capetown in less time but to get the the short distance between west Scotland and Ireland takes 13 hours.

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Anyhow. That leaves be and sparky up to our own devices with a Volvo and a full tank.

We drove north east through countryside that was virtually identical to Donegal with weather to match. Some quality driving. And to be fair to Skye it finally stopped raining long enough for us to get out of the car an explore a bit.

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The wind did it’s best to deter us but we weren’t to be tired. I figure if Mcdowell got blown over the cliff then I could just live off the insurance money.

We even climbed a mountain. 500 meters of mud and heather and wind. Great bant. Good photos.

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Skye continues to amaze me. If I was a Celt in the 5th century I’d move back to the Mediterranean and open a casino in a principality, not move to Skye.

But it seems that they did. And they built houses and castles and farmed and subsisted and survived.

Like most things before the 18th century I’m not really sure it happened. Stranger things happen though eh?

History aside it’s a pretty place when covered in microfleece and gortex.

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Now I’m in portree in a pub with no reception for the phone and every word of the Saturday Guardian. It’s the type of pub where the hairy wanderer in the corner can bring his dog too.

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All good.

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Postcards from far away part 3

Sitting in a hotel on the isle of Skye with a working wi-fi connection. Catching up on the whole blogging thing.

Lots of driving today. From Perth to Inverness in one run through some of the most pleasant and unpleasant weather I’ve ever seen in one day. Good scenery. Good tunes. Good times.

In Inverness we were in t-shirts in the sun. 20 mins up the road alongside Loch Ness we were fully wrapped up. The joys of Scottish weather.

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The Loch Ness monster is an odd kind of myth. Though it seems to make a lot of money from the looks of things.

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One of the great joys of road trip is the actual driving. I have always loved driving for the sake of driving. Not the speed or anything just the bant and the tunes and the scenery.

The standard iPod rules are as follows. Everyone gets to choose 3 songs at a time. No same day repeats.

Humerous place names of note
– Wick
– and a B&B ran by a guy called William Dick. Just imagine the nicknames.

Ended up on Skye. Which was the whole point of the trip in the first place. Skye is just as fantastic as I thought it would be. This is somewhere I have always wanted to come.

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The weather on the way in was a bit dubious and scared us out of camping so we ended up in a lovely wee b&b overlooking the Scottish coastline. It’s kind of like Donegal on a good day.

Good feed. Good ale. A cornetto sitting on the pier watching the sun set. This is about as good as it gets. Apart from the cold. Having driven 500 slightly zig zagged miles across Scotland I think we’ll probably find ourselves ensconsed here for the rest of the trip. Bring it on.

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