Glasgow to Dublin

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Glasgow to Dublin

Staying with Bruce and Katy was a blast.  Mostly a blast of staying up far too late, watching lots of TV and eating lots of vegemite on toast, but a blast none-the-less.  I also now consider myself quite the master at Wii Sports Resort Table Tennis (sorry Bruce)

All good things must come to an end, and while my time amongst friends was over, the journey had really only just begun.  I was acutely aware that having taken almost two months to almost conquer Scotland, I was going to have to pick up the pace if I was ever going to fulfil the dream.  I left Glasgow, finally, at around 9pm.  I enjoy leaving cities at night.  There’s less traffic, and if anything I’m more visible to cars owing to the reflective surfaces all over my bags and tyres and the ridiculously bright lights front and rear.  An hour after my departure while sheltering under a tree to avoid the rain, I’m reminded how friendly the Scots are – with both a passing cyclist and police patrol turning around to make sure I was OK.

The rain seemed to stop for a time – I pocketed my swanky replacement bicycle stand and set off again.  Within 30 seconds, rain poured from the sky again and I made a mad dash back to my protective tree.  Buying *something* waterproof was one of the things I should have done while in Glasgow.  I would like to be able to blame a lack of time, but really it was just my deep-seated forgetfulness.

My hydrophobia was rewarded briefly with a glimpse of a badger.  To brief to obtain a photographic record of the event, and sadly there was only one badger and no accompanying mushroom.

The rain.  I have developed a system to categorise how wet I am.  This helps me to gauge how miserable I should be feeling, but conversely how much worse things could be.

  1. Oh bother, my clothes are a bit damp
  2. Ugh my trousers are sticking to my thighs.
  3. Oh god there is literally water sloshing around in my boots

It wasn’t long before I abandoned the badger den and by about 11:30pm I was well and truly in category 3 terroritory.

I should be been miserable but I wasn’t.  I was making surprisingly good progress considering the non-flatness of the terrain, the pouring rain and the 20mph headwinds.  I had done some maintenance on the bicycle in Glasgow.  I wasn’t sure if it was the oil change I’d performed on the rohloff hub, the fresh well-inflated rubber, having toe-clips on both pedals instead of just one or the 4.5KG of motorised tripod that I’d hocked on eBay.  Probably a combination of all of them.

Rohloff hubs are known to be a bit noisy in gears 1-7.  Even in a noisy environment, you can still feel the noise through the drive train.  After the oil change that seemed to be improved.  Yay!

The motorised tripod simply wasn’t getting enough use for me to justify keeping it, especially in light of my intervalometers perpetually failing.

The fresh rubber is a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, the best road touring tyre in the world.

With the death of my global roaming sim from ekit, I took the opportunity to sell my old nokia phone through mazuma and buy a new phone with just the features I need:

  1. Make and receive calls
  2. Quad-band – works everywhere
  3. has a torch
  4. Real-life standby life of >1 week
  5. Water proof

The swap ended up costing me 5 pounds and it arrived at one of my last stops in Scotland.  Sadly it arrived with broken clips on the back cover and the torch didn’t work.  I didn’t feel too badly about it, I imagine the poor sod who assembles the things for 50 cents/week was probably just having an off day.  Still, annoying.

The last stretch of Scottish road on my journey led me to a splendid forest-clad downhill run.  Then some uphill.  Then some more downhill.  You get the idea.

Finally, the road hugged the ocean and was for the most part flat.  I approached Stranraer, the final destination in the beautiful but hilly endeavour that was Scotland.  The ferry was massive, the biggest I’d seen.  The next departure was at 2:30pm – less than half an hour away.  I handed over the 27 pound fare and dashed towards the passenger check in building, a few hundred metres away.

I pushed the bike in to the departure lounge and up to the luggage X-Ray machine.  I asked the man if he would like me to remove all the bags from my bicycle (there are six of them)  He scratched his head.  “Which bags will you be taking with you in to the passenger area?”  I pointed to my handlebar bag and the Ortlieb Shuttle case attached up on the rear rack.  “Just put that one through” he said, indicating at the handlebar bag.

I experienced a moment of hesitation as I plopped it on the machine’s rollers, as it was the bag that contained the Improvised Electric Device.  I imagined that a plastic box covered in electric switches, filled with a jumble of wires circuit boards and a battery pack would look suspicious on an x-ray scan and might warrant further investigation – but nobody stopped me as I reattached it to my bicycle and boarded the ferry.

It seemed, at least to me, more like a cruise ship than a ferry.  A bar, lounge, quiet lounge, restaurant, hoity-toity restaurant, cinema, games arcade, all for a two hour journey… It seemed excessive, but that didn’t stop me having a coffee, enjoying some of the movie and ordering a pizza.

I hurriedly scoffed the pizza – they’d only barely agreed to make it for me as we were about to dock in Belfast.  I was half finished when a staff member already beginning to clean up encouraged me to eat faster or take the pizza with me.  When I made it to the car deck, I untied the ropes holding my bike and reattached my luggage.  With cars and trucks still streaming off the ferry I was somewhat politely motioned to hurry up.

Belfast greeted me with fog and fairly dismal but unrelenting rain.  I was happy that I at least had somewhere warm and dry to stay for the next few nights – Phil from CouchSurfing had agreed to host me at fairly short notice.  It was only 15 miles or so from the ferry, but Northern Ireland is no more flat than Scotland and so it took me a good few hours to get there.  The first order of business was a shower – the first I’d had since Glasgow.  Some clothes in the wash, a drive to the next town, Mcdonalds for dinner and my first pint of Guiness in a genuine Irish pub.  A perfect introduction to Northern Ireland.

The next day Phil picked up his son Jack and drove us to the North coast of Ireland.  The Giants Causeway was in the back of my mind as something I’d like to see and this meant I didn’t have to cycle all the way up there.  It is a remarkable natural formation – and while somewhat underwhelming for the supposed eighth natural wonder of the world it was something I’m glad I had the chance to see.

We filled out the day with a side trip to the ruined Dunluce Castle and a walk through a town, the name of which escapes me now.  I was like a little boy who’d had too much excitement for one day and nodded off several times on the car journey back.

The timing of my arrival in Northern Ireland was fortuitous – right before the 12th July Battle of the Boyne.  It’s traditionally celebrated by the throwing of rocks and bottles but things aren’t what they used to be.  Flags upon flags upon flags hung from every house, light post, balcony and other structure imaginable.  It seemed like every town was in competition to have the most flags – and they were all winning.  I decided to move on the next day, try to see some of the march and hopefully pick up a sexy poncho I’d found on the ASDA web site.  Finally, I would have something to keep me relatively dry in the great but wet outdoors.  Phil reminded me as I was about to go that it was a public holiday and ASDA in all likelyhood wouldn’t be open.  I decided to take my chances and was rewarded, arriving 10 minutes before they closed.

The city was full of people.  The march route was studded with police officers and as I travelled closer to the starting point the crowds grew bigger and drunker.  I retreated back to a spot with calmer spectators.  The march is kind of like the Christmas Pageant except there’s no floats, Santa Claus never comes to town and by around 4pm daddy can’t walk in a straight line. 

Once it started, it seemed to go on forever – literally thousands of people streamed past.  One of the first marchers surreptitiously kicked my bicycle.  This was the first indication that I wasn’t welcome here.  The three marchers who spat at the ground in front of me and eyed me with furrowed brows confirmed it.  I wasn’t quite sure if it was my long hair, the fact I was photographing them or my being, quite obviously, a tourist.  My best guess was ‘all of the above.’  When the march was over it was 7 or 8 o’clock.  I cycled around town for a while but soon decided that, given I didn’t know where I was sleeping that night, leaving was a good idea.

I was still frustrated with technological issues.  The amazon vendor who’d sold the new mobile phone that arrived broken wasn’t responding to my email, nor was the German ebay seller who I’d returned the broken intervalometer to.  I’d ordered a different intervalometer from Hong Kong which could take anywhere from 5-25 days to arrive.  Now that I’d decided to skip the north coast of Ireland, the warmshowers host who’d agreed to receive this mail was only a day or two away.  In all likelyhood the parcel from Hong Kong wouldn’t be there, let alone the one from Germany.  It was Tuesday and I was expecting to be in the area the next day.  I called and discovered that neither parcel had arrived and he was going away that evening for the rest of the week.

Ugh.

I decided to go for it any way, possibly wait in the area for a day or two and if it still hadn’t arrived I could always have it sent on to an address further along my intended route.  I was rewarded with a parcel adorned with chinese writing.  Yay!  This spanking new intervalometer was from a different manufacturer than the last three that had failed, and seemed to be new on the market.  I briefly tested it to make sure it worked, I was a little worried that there was something wrong with my camera.  Success!

The next few days of my journey cut a meanding pass through the countryside in the general direction of Dublin.  My wild camping was becoming less and less surreptitious.  One night close to dark, I passed an open and overgrown fence revealing a small orchard of Granny Smith apple trees.  Some investigation revealed a house a few hundred metres away, but I found a spot and was happily unbothered.  The next night I camped near Newgrange, a historic monument predating the pyramids of Giza.  A few locals at the pub (surely an infallible source of information) assured me that I could camp “behind the fence where that car park is over there” and nobody would bother me.  It turned out to be behind the town Church, and about 20 metres away from the cemetary, but they were right – nobody bothered me.  Even the locals arriving for church services the next morning (it was a Sunday) smiled and said hello as I applied coffee to my groggy morningness.

I visited the Newgrange and Knowth monuments and while enjoyable, the day was marked by rain and having my Joby tripod and ballhead stolen from my bicycle.  Quite infuriating – the ballhead is useless without the quick release attached to my camera and I suspect it’s probably sitting in a bin somewhere.  It was a good reminder that tourist attractions are no place to leave your possessions out in the open.

It was somewhere around here that I started having issues with my knee.  The pain wasn’t anywhere near unbearable, but just bad enough to know that I should be careful not to push it too hard.  I spent a few nights in a camp site just north of Dublin before heading for the city.  Dublin was bustling, as I’d imagined, despite taking probably the biggest hit of any city in Europe as a result of the financial crisis.  Unemployment has jumped from around 4.5% to over 12% in Ireland and even that figures are reduced by large numbers of people leaving Ireland and heading back to their home countries in mainland Europe.

I’d arranged to stay with Mark and his girlfriend in their inner city apartment.  I was their first CouchSurfing guest so I hope I left a good impression.  Mark had spent the good part of five years travelling and left me with some dire warnings about the roads (and food) in India.  I spent a few afternoons wandering the city – the only real touristy attraction I attended was the Guinness Storehouse, a self guided tour of the history of the Guinness. 

I decided to leave Dublin by night, just like I’d done from Edinburgh and Glasgow.  I cycled around familiar streets for a while before checking my GPS.  There was no streets showing, just major highways… Strange… I turned off the GPS and turned it back on… Same problem…?  I removed the micro-SD card that had all the maps stored on it, cleaned it, and reinserted it.  No change.  I tried not to panic.  I swore a few times instead.  I retreated to a pub I knew had outdoor seating, ordered a pint and sat down determined to fix the problem.  I connected the card to my laptop – unreadable.  Crap.  A few moments later I realised my phone had a micro-SD card.  I harvested it, and before my pint was finished I’d managed to load maps on it for Ireland and the south-west of England.  Phew.

I’m afraid the video for this entry is a bit boring and plays like the banal tourist slideshow that it is.  Not sure if I will be able to keep up making these – they take a long time to put together.  Perhaps less often and when I have something more interesting to show…

Map for this leg:

Glasgow to Dublin


One Response to “Glasgow to Dublin”

  1. andrew says:

    jordanofoz for PM !!!! Together we can make it happen on 21/08/2010.


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