Ireland - north
Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
80Trip End Dec 05, 2005
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The next morning was the start of my 6 day north Ireland tour. You should've seen me - red swollen eyes, coughing, stuffy nose and plugged ears so I could barely hear....I was a mess. My eyes started feeling better by the end of the day. They're still a little red today, but not irritating. The tour group to start with was big - 25 people so we were in a big 'ol bus with "Big Joe" as the driver. He was kind of no-nonsense and gave us lots of information and history about things we passed. Since the cease-fire peace agreement from a few years ago, there's no longer border checks between Northern and the Republic. From the stories, it sounds like every car used to get stopped and searched. We went to Belfast and had the afternoon to wander around. The city centre is pretty much like any relatively large city's...but you still feel a little weary.
The next morning we went on a black cab tour of the Protestant and Catholic sides. Black cabs are sort of considered neutral by both sides so you're safe. We saw the murals and the big wall in one area separating two districts. It can't really be explained in words...but it's a really messed up situation. They keep talking of how there's been peace the last few years, but you also know it's a powderkeg ready to blow and just needs a spark to get it started. "Marching season" begins later in April and that's kind of the start of possible problems (one march has the Protestants wanting to march through a Catholic neighborhood celebrating how Sir William Orange won a battle defeating the Irish many years ago...needless to say, this kind of pisses off the Irish Catholics).
Tuesday we went to the Giant's Causeway (cool rock formations) and to Derry. Derry is another city divided by Catholics and Protestants (a river divides the two sides). We had a walking tour of Derry from a guy who was there for many of the "troubles" from years past and the "bloody Sunday" march in 1972. That night the group went out for drinks and to a dance club.
part of group at earth club in Derry
On Wednesday the group split up since it was actually made of a few different groups (6 day N Ireland, 3 day N Ireland, 6 day all Ireland). There were only 5 of us on the 6 day north tour (Blake [big Aussie], Andrea [Canadian], Ben [Aussie], Renee [Aussie]) and we got a new driver, Joey. Yes, the crazy one I mentioned in the last update. He liked to mumble to himself over the van's microphone and sing songs. He'd tease us by starting a music CD then cutting in after a song or two and saying something, mumble then start singing. It was torture at times and funny at others. Our first drive out of Derry we got a bit lost and ended up in some old guy's driveway. His dogs were barking so he came out to see what was going on (Joey was trying to turn the van around). He started talking to us for a bit and it was pretty funny. As we crossed over the border, Joey told us of when he was younger and he and his mates would go out to pubs and get stopped at the border and completely searched. We didn't do much that day but see a ring fort and go to the northernmost point in Ireland.
me at northernmost point (it was windy)
April 1 we started heading west and south. Joey tricked us with an April Fool's by pulling that van to the side of the road and saying all our bags had fallen out the back. He also explained some of his terms to us. One of those being "sauce" used to point out to other guys he's spied an attractive woman (girls aren't supposed to know what it means). So we'd be driving through towns and he'd say "saaaauuuuce". Blake was bad at pointing out girls that were too young. Joey gave us some add-ons for sauce - "sauceometer", "retractable sauce" (e.g., seeing what looks like an attractive woman from behind only to find out she's too young, old or not really attractive) and having your sauceometer overwhelmed. We saw an ancient burial chamber that day and stopped in Sligo for a seaweed bath - my cold felt better when in the steam room and bath but came back soon after.
Thursday we made the drive to Galway stopping at a couple points. Joey made sure we all engaged our sauceometers once we got to Galway. That night we met for drinks at a pub and joined up with another Paddywagon group that had lots of sauce. ;) Unfortunately, my digital camera decided to stop working that afternoon so I have no pics (the lens won't go out when powered on). I'm hoping to get a couple from one of the girls from the other group. We went to the King's Head after the first pub then we were going to meet at a dance club called Cuba, but the cover was too high (€10). I went back to the original pub with a few of the girls and another one that was really drunk that we were trying to sober up. Ros (cute Aussie girl) was having water drinking contests with Beth (the drunk Aussie). It didn't seem to help much. It was a fun evening overall but bummed about the camera...
Today was just the drive back to Dublin with a stop at Clonmacnoise (I already been there) and for lunch.
I'm in Dublin until Tuesday when I fly to Liverpool. I called the place for my camera warranty here in Dublin and they told me to bring it by on Monday. I'm hoping they'll just replace it 'cuz I don't know where to have them send it to if it's repaired (and takes a while). I've been bloody sick for 3 *%$! weeks now and am REALLY SICK OF IT!!! I have a cough that just won't go away. A few people told me to drink Guinness since it's "good for you"...didn't help. I tried the locals remedy of a hot toddy (whiskey, hot water, lemon, cloves)...that made my throat feel good going down but no healing powers. So I plan on taking it easy the next few days (again) and will hope I get better. Maybe I have to sacrifice some sheep or something. I'm going to continue my search for a lovely red-headed Irish lass now...
"I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away
How long must we sing this song?
How long? how long...
'cause tonight...we can be as one
Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall
Sunday, bloody sunday"