Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland By The Water
A Dip Into Irish Waters
Crossing Date - 16 September 2020
By Sharon Parker
Some things never change. Ren always wants to be up super early and arrive 3 hours before any event. I like to slide in at the last minute just as the doors close behind me with grumpy faces all staring at me. Done that on planes a few times.
But partnerships are about compromise and after the length of time we have been together we are slowly learning to meet in the middle. So we agree a time to be up and out that we are both happy with and all is happiness as we load the bikes up on a nice dry morning. I must say it is so much easier to load the bike with Tour-A-Plank in situ.
The only hiccup is I realise that I have forgotten to pack my anti-sickness tablets for the ferry. This could be a bit unsettling as I don't possess sea legs. However thanks to my forward planning and leaving in plenty of time, heee heeee, we have time to nip to a chemist and I get myself some tablets and all is happiness again. Ok Ren is looking a bit stressed as I go to the Chemist. Hmm maybe I should ask for some chill out tablets for him.
Once at the ferry it is my time to begin to flap. Maybe I should have bought some chill out tabs and took them myself. I still worry slightly about getting the bike onto the ferry but that is not the main reason anymore that causes me to stress. It is the checking in process, the checking of paperwork and possibly luggage that gets me to start sweating.
Why? Because I always fluff it. I always get stressed about the queue behind me. I get into such a rush to get my gloves and helmet off and on again and do so super quick so as not to delay anyone that I invariably mess up. Now this may sound strange because - how can I get stressed about being quick when I like to slide in at the last minute?
I ponder this myself as I write and it suddenly strikes me as to why. It is all about having someone behind me. I loathe it. Maybe I got knifed in the back in a previous life but one thing is for sure I feel great discomfort when someone is behind me.
On rides out with other people I like to be the back marker. I really struggled with nerves over my motorcycle tests not because of any real doubts in my ability but simply knowing I was being followed. I also don't like being observed. So put me in a queue with people behind me all watching me and, well, it's my own version of hell. No wonder I like to be the last on a plane etc. Last in the queue, no one behind, simples.
In previous endeavours to be super quick and get away from all those behind me I have dropped paperwork, gloves etc. I even once pulled my helmet back on in such haste I then tried to ride off with the flaps of my helmet covering my eyes. Yep blind panic at its very best.
Waiting to check-in. Be still my beating heart and remember to be able to see when riding Sharon, it really is helpful.
After check-in I move forward to the inspection shed, I am already beginning to feel nervous when low and behold I get asked to get off my bike for an inspection. In my panic to do so as quickly as possible I stop immediately when requested to do so... on a bloody speed hump.
Fortunately I notice and manage to keep enough wits about me to pull forward off the hump and not attempt to jump off in a panic and then watch my bike topple over. Maybe I am getting OK at this check in business after all but my heart is still pounding when I attempt to ride off and manage to stall the bike, twice.
Actually getting onboard the ferry goes without a hitch and we enjoy a smooth sailing. Well, as much as you can enjoy yourself whilst wearing a mask and watching people ignoring ferry staff as they try their best to keep people socially distanced. The barriers the staff set up to keep a one way system are just climbed over. The requests for only certain passengers to disembark in selected groups to avoid overcrowding on the stairs is completely ignored. I am glad I am wearing my full bike gear, including helmet with visor down as I enter the overcrowded stairwell.
We ride off the ferry onto the Emerald Isle. You know a place cannot be this green without a fair amount of watering but although the skies are grey and overcast it is thankfully dry. I always feel a bit disorientated when first arriving on a new land so I have to be honest and say the first few miles just pass in a blur of green fields without me being able to recall much detail. Sorry, rubbish travel writer I am.
My head begins to clear and we are riding a fantastic coastal road. It feels good not to be nose to tail in traffic like at home. We stop for a stretch at a little harbour only to find we have stepped into Braavos of Game of Thrones fame. As a fan of GOT (well I was a fan until the last series but lets not open a nest of dragon eggs here) it amused me much to recreate the Arya scene. Having never ever watched GOT Ren is somewhat bemused but fortunately for him I did not then insist we do the whole GOT tour. If we came across a site of filming fine, if not fine.
Beware the little ones as Shakespeare himself said "Though she be but little, she is fierce."
We ride a little more and then take a short stroll onto Waterfoot beach. With a name like that we have to go get our own feet wet albeit while still encased in bike boots. There is always something about the sea and sand that get you feeling you are on holiday.
By the dunes lie a towel and a bag. No one at all is in sight. I wonder if the owner is out at sea swimming but the sea is not that inviting on a cool grey day in September. I become a little morbid and begin to worry whoever their owner is has decided to go into the sea never to return. Although I like the sea it can at times leave me feeling a bit sad like just now. It is so vast, so cruel at times and so many have lost their life to it both intentionally and by accident. It has no feelings, no emotions, it just is. Sometimes inviting, sometimes threatening but always something to be respected and careful of. No one appears to claim their abandoned towel or bag so we leave them where they lay for it is getting time to go find our accommodation.
The sea always demands your respect.
The chalet is exactly as I expected it to be. It is situated on the outskirts of Belfast near Belfast Zoo. The two joined chalets are situated behind the owner's bungalow and we enter via an electric gate. The chalet is super clean, small but perfectly formed. I am very happy with it. We even have a sea view. Ok so it is a tiny bit of sea popping out between high rises but it is the sea and we can see it from our window.
Tonight we are the only guests so we are free to park the bikes right outside our window. I happily organise all my luggage into nice neat piles and relax. The temperature begins to drop as darkness descends and I am glad to put the heating on and snuggle into a comfy bed, even if it is rather tall and I need a running jump to get on it. It has been an excellent first day on our Northern Ireland adventure. It is good to be away again. No it is better than that, I will try again... it is very, very, very good to be away again.
If I had blonde hair I would feel like Goldilocks with this bed.
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Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue
The lead-up to this journey seems to have been a bewildered shambles. So how did The Dynamic Muppets manage to rescue their trip from the tangled mess of 2020?
It's A Bumpy Lumpy Ride
Sharon's life is never simple. While getting ready for maybe, possibly, perhaps going to Northern Ireland she takes a moment to explain why she's been so quiet on here.
An Easy Ride To Carlisle
It's an easy, lazy and relaxed start to this holiday with a handful of miles to cover and the weather behaving itself for once.
Sharon's luggage situation has improved but it's going to take a while for her to unwind, chill out and settle into today's journey. Aaaaaaand relax.
A Ferry And Hint Of Northern Ireland
Ren is doing what Ren does best - flapping.
A Dip Into Irish Waters
Today's lesson - don't place yourself behind angry small mythical critters.
Causeway And Coast
Getting into The Giant's Causeway poses a challenge for a miser like Ren, can he avoid his wallet seeing the light of day? The Causeway Coastal Route and Torr Head Scenic Route may ease the shock for him.
Giants And Hobbits
Sharon enjoys a rather wonderful day exploring more of the Causeway Coastal Route. Languishing in luxury on the back of Ren's bike while he does all the hard work. Sort of.
Ards Peninsula, Wonderfully Modest
Today it's the turn of Ards Peninsula to be explored. Throw in the regular dose of disorganised nonsense and some fair weather, it might be a good day!
A Bit Of Irish History
A history lesson and tomfoolery by The Queen Of Rain. Thing is, it's not raining. Something is wrong here, very wrong.
Lough Neagh And Money
The Dynamic Muppets circumnavigate the largest lake in the British Isles. Is this the sort of place where a prudent miser like Ren would fit in?
Another watery day in Northern Ireland and still no rain on the horizon. Sharon contemplates the many and varied lives we get to live.
Ferry, Friends And Mostly Scotland
In a remarkable twist Ren is not flapping! Nor is he ready to go home. But alas and alack 'tis time for this all-too-brief inspection of Northern Ireland to end. Take comfort in Scotland Ren.
North Pennines And Epilogue
It's the end of the journey for the dynamic muppets yet there's still time for a little detour, or two. What did Ren make of Northern Ireland?
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Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland By The Water