Northern Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 181
Tuesday 9th September
We wanted to be awake early this morning to make sure we would be first in line to get he attentions of an engineer to check out our engine problems. As it happened, there was more than enough activity in the garage at around eight o’clock to wake us up. The foreman came in shortly before nine and pretty much immediately put someone to work on the brick. I had no idea what the problem was going to be but I just knew it was going to be expensive. Finding replacement parts for a twenty four year old vehicle might also be a problem. After about thirty minutes of waiting, the foreman came back with good news. A minor adjustment to the ignition points was all that was needed to cure the ailing engine. No spare parts were needed at all. The brick was once again running smoothly. The exhaust, on the other hand, was another problem. As I had feared, a backfire had ruptured the exhaust but there was no replacement part in stock. In fact, the foreman told me that he had never even seen the part before. I did some phoning around and eventually found a Kwikfit exhaust centre in Belfast that would be able to have the part within a day. Since we were heading in that general direction anyway, this was also good news. The only thing we needed to do was to stop at another Kwikfit exhaust centre in Dundalk to have them verify the correct part number and to phone that information through. Dundalk is also on the way to Belfast and so a brief stop there was also not a problem.
Shortly after leaving Dundalk, we left the Republic of Ireland also and crossed over into Northern Ireland. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Northern Ireland. All through my childhood, I saw continuing and ongoing news reports regarding ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. My own preconception of ‘the North’ was one of a place that might look torn and shattered by decades of unrest and war. The reality was somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Northern Ireland is a very green and pretty place and not too dissimilar from the republic in many ways. The only evidence that we’ve come across so far of the violent history of this section of the island has been the odd political slogan scribbled on bridge overpasses and road signs. Even so, the ‘Brits go home’ slogan is still a little unnerving.
One difference between the South and the North that was almost immediately evident was the cost of fuel. Almost the same figures in sterling pence per litre as in Euros cents per litre in the South are posted at the filling stations. This makes fuel something like fifty percent more expensive here. At least my UK mobile phone would now work without the nuisance of having to be billed for International calls each time.
Since all the literature and brochures that we have on-board are for the South, we had little idea of what we were going to do or where we were going to go in Northern Ireland so we stopped at the first place that had a tourist information office to collect some information on what not to miss. The eager young lady behind the counter was pleased to give us a plethora of options with how to spend the few days that we have remaining before we set off for Scotland and we now have a rough plan of which direction we will be taking. The café located in the same building served more than adequate for lunch.
This part of the country is apparently pretty rich in pre-historic monuments and so it seemed appropriate that we made one of these our first port of call after lunch. A megalithic burial structure composed of three, huge, upright stones of differing heights and topped off with an even larger slab to form a primitive roof was just a few kilometres from the tourist information office. Our capacity for getting lost even with a dozen or more different maps of the country at our disposal never ceases to amaze me but we eventually found the site and marvelled at the structure accordingly.
After leaving the burial structure, we promptly got lost again and spent the next thirty minutes or so following what we thought was the route to our next destination, but somehow managed to wind up just a few hundred yards from where we started. All this driving around raised the stress levels a bit so I decided that we had had enough for the day and we drove to the nearest camp-site – getting lost, twice, in the process.
Shortly after we arrived at the camp-site, I received an unexpected phone call from the BBC. Whilst on the Internet the other day, I read something about the BBC wanting to hear from people who are leaving their former lives behind to go travelling around the world. They are apparently in the process of producing a documentary on the subject with the aim of sending a TV camera crew to follow people as they travel around the world. There was an e-mail address for anyone interested so I wrote in with our story and thought nothing more of it but it seemed that someone on the other end took an interest and wanted to follow up. After a brief chat with one of the documentary producers, it seemed that our situation did not lend itself to their needs. They wanted to follow the process from start to finish and we are already in the middle having already sold our house and everything else and having already travelled some. The idea was nice while it lasted but I guess we’ll have to settle with watching the program as opposed to being part of it.