Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day Two in Ireland: Belfast to Derry

Diddly Dee Potatoes everyone,

So it was day two of my six day tour and we were off on the bus to cruise along the beautiful north coast of Ireland on our way to Derry. The whole way through the trip I was looking out the window at the beautiful landscapes of Ireland. There were so many grassy green paddocks which were separated by grass covered penny bridges made of stone. I loved looking at the stone houses which looked like small castles and again we saw lots of sheep and cows on our way along the coastal causeway route.
Amazing coastlines travelling through the coastal causeway

Amazing coastlines travelling through the coastal causeway
The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge:
Our first stop was at the Carrick-a-rede (is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning rock in the road) rope bridge where we paid a small optional charitable donation to the National Trust, the registered UK charity that maintains the Bridge, before we crossed. For over 350 years fisherman have strung a rope bridge 30m above the sea to allow them access to catch migrating salmon. This bridge is still crossed by regular fisherman and is also crossed by thousands of tourists each year. I wasn't scared crossing the bridge and to make it a bit more exciting I started shaking it just like I do on the bridge that crosses over from Wellington's main park to Pioneer, the man in front of me didn't seem to impressed though ha
Me crossing the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Our walk down to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge
Me about to walk over the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

Amazing coastlines of the causeway coast
The Giants Causeway:
We continued to drive along to our next site and on the way I saw lots of open shearing stations in the middle of paddocks and the yellow coloured 'goze' flower which was difficult to miss. We stopped at an Irish pub along the way and I got my first real taste of Irish food- a delicious steak and Guinness pie!I was worried that it might taste a little too much like beer, which I hate, but it didn't at all. It was made of pastry which was on top of a juicy and tasty meat stew mmm so good. Then it was time to visit the Giants Causeway and trace footprints of the legendary Celtic giants. The Giants Causeway is Ulsters number one attraction since 2 million BC! It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and the proud location of an estimated 60,000 hexagonal columns of basalt rock formed by cataclysmically violent volcanic eruptions a long long time ago. Some of the hexagonal columns are almost 12m high! 

There are many forms of the Legend but this legend has it that Fionn MacCool had spent many days and nights trying to create a bridge to Scotland because he was challenged by another giant. A fellow boats man told him that the opponent was much larger than he. Fionn told his wife and she came up with an ingenious plan to dress Fionn like a baby. They spent many nights creating a costume and bed. When the opponent came to Fionn's house; Fionn's wife told him that Fionn was out woodcutting and the opponent would have to wait for him to return. Then Fionn's wife showed him her baby and when the opponent saw him he was terrified at the thought of how huge Fionn would be. He ran back to Scotland and threw random stones from the causeway into the waters below.

The "causeway" legend corresponds with geological history because there are similar basalt formations (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at the site of Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa in Scotland which I found pretty cool! I loved walking down to the Giants causeway and seeing so many different shaped rocks. They were quite easy to walk on and it was such a beautiful day which made it even better.
Me on top of the Giants Causeway!

the Giants Causeway

Jarren, Me and Anna at the Giants Causeway
We drove on and saw the Dunluce Castle which was once the ancestral home of the McDonnell clan, until its kitchen collapsed into the sea during a great feast in 1639, killing many staff, who's ghosts are said to still linger in the ruins even to this day. We drove onto Derry where we had a walking tour around the city.

Derry or Londonderry? While the city is more usually known as Derry, Londonderry is also used and remains the legal name. Derry is the only city in Europe with a double decker bus and has a population of 110 thousand people. In the city 75 000 Catholics surround 10 000 Protestants which is interesting. The name "Derry" is preferred by nationalists and it is broadly used throughout Northern Ireland's Catholic community, as well as that of the Republic of Ireland, whereas many unionists prefer "Londonderry" however in everyday conversation Derry is used by most Protestant residents of the city.

We had a fluent Gaelic speaking tour guide that day in Derry but of course he spoke English to our group. There was so much information passed onto us that day that again it was quite overwhelming but the information was very interesting! As we walked along Derry's city walls which were built between 1613-1618 were the last to be constructed in Europe. They are Irelands only city walls to survive almost intact. From the top of the city walls we were able to see the Bogside and the people's gallery which is a series of murals which coat the gable houses along Rosevill St. The murals were painted between 1997-2001 by the Boside artists and commemorate key events in the 'Troubles' including the battle of Bogside, Sunday Bloody Sunday (which is the song U2 sing about) and the 1981 hunger strike. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the Sunday Bloody Sunday battle as I have been to a U2 concert years ago and loved that song but never knew the story behind it. Sunday Bloody Sunday talks about when passions exploded in 1972 and 13 unarmed Catholics were shot dead by British troops in Derry on the 30th of January. It was quite emotional as we stood at the memorial site and listened to the guide talk about what happened on that awful day. There is so much to Ireland's history and I have since bought a book with information about Irish history and but am yet to read it.
Gaelic speaking tour guide of Derry

Murals by the Bogside

Buildings in Derry

View of the Bogside from the top of the City Walls

Sunday Bloody Sunday Memorial

Cannons on the city walls

Political statements on the walls of Derry

Bogside murals

Church in Derry
That night I stayed in a room with Anna, Ryan, Chris, Jarren and Jodie. Apparently the hostel was haunted by an old Governor who shot his wife dead which is pretty creepy! When we first got in we all just lazed around because we had such a huge day of sight seeing and were exhausted. After we had all showered and got ready we walked down to a restaurant called Ice wharf where we had cheap food and cocktail jugs. The cocktails were so yummy and icy and we had loads of different flavours that night. It was good getting to know everyone more but Jody and Jarren were doing the 10 day tour and this was their last night with us before joining a new group :( After dinner Kelly, Luke and Justine joined us and we started drinking lots more. Chris was crazy on shots and she was making me do skittle and yager shots with her at the bar lol After we had finished at Ice Wharf we walked up to a pub/club called the Metro in Derry.

We were all pretty drunk and continued to dance and have shots. The band played 'I come from a land down under' that night and we all were singing at the top of our lungs which was fun. I was probably the drunkest I've been that night in Derry since arriving in the UK and Europe!I apparently got a kebab with Kelly, Jeremy and Vicky and then walked off on them and got a taxi home while they were still eating....(Kelly spilling Kebab juice all over her dress the whole time she was eating baahaaa) After getting a cab back I then rang the doorbell at the wrong side of the hostel and Lee our tour guide came out and helped me to my door ha Then this Irish girl was swearing at her boyfriend in the window above me and I thought she was swearing directly at me. Apparently Lee said I threw my kebab down on the concrete and was ready to fight her before he threw me into the hostel and saved me from decking her lol He was telling me this all the next morning on the bus and he couldn't stop laughing. Anna also said she heard me come home and attempt to climb up to the top bunk, failing miserably. She said I was shaking it so much trying to get up and she copped a good eye full up my dress that night before I passed out fully clothed on the top bunk. OMG too many shots!!!lol
Jenna, Alice and Emma from Adelaide

Me shotting drinks with Chris and Jeremy

Me sculling beer from the tap (NOT!It was fake lol)

Me with my cheap cocktail and pasta!

Me, Anna and Ryan

Vicky and Jeremy
What the???

Me and Sue from Germany

Vicky and Jeremy getting into the cocktails :)

Beautiful fun people Jodie, Chris and Jarren
Love The Drunken Ass Backpacker

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