Northern Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 183


Thursday 11th September

You’d think that a relatively simple matter like getting the exhaust repaired would be straightforward. If only that were so. We drove to the Kwikfit garage that was supposed to be able to accommodate the brick this morning but, upon arrival, it became clear that we would not fit through their garage door either. A ‘discussion’ soon ensued regarding the run-around that we’ve been given by four different Kwikfit garages about their ability to service our vehicle. In the end, the manager of this latest garage called around in search of a place, any place, which would take us. It was so frustrating to know that they had the part (I’d actually seen it myself) yet they could not install it. The manager did eventually find a garage that had a pit. This was encouraging as it meant that it would not be necessary to get the brick up onto the ramp but it still left the question of getting the thing through the front door. As a bonus, the manager of the place with the pit told me over the phone that he could have the part ready today and could have it installed for just £60 - almost £20 cheaper than Kwikfit. To cut a long story short, and because I’m tired of writing about the ongoing saga, we drove across town to the other place, just managed to squeeze through the main garage entrance and drove out again thirty minutes later with the new exhaust part fitted.

With all the driving around that we’ve done over the past couple of days, we now have a pretty good feel for what the Belfast road system looks like but have still yet to explore the city proper. We still wanted to travel farther up North to visit the Giant’s Causeway and we knew that we were going to return to Belfast to take the ferry crossing to Scotland. So, instead of heading back into the city, again, we decided to take off and head North and to re-visit Belfast at a later date when we come back to catch the ferry to Scotland.

As we were heading out of the city, Sandy was looking at the guidebook and started to ask about Londonderry. After a brief chat, we decided to alter our plan again and so we headed in its direction to see what was there. After seeing Londonderry, we would then travel east along the northern coastline to the Giant’s Causeway before turning back South to Belfast. This way, we would get to see a good chunk of Northern Ireland after all.

The usual problem of where to park a large vehicle in a city already battling traffic congestion problems once again awaited us after the hour or so journey against the fierce, oncoming wind. We eventually found refuse in the tourist information office staff car park. The young lady that gave us all the information on what to do and see here told us that they often get camper-vans with the same problem and offer them the use of their car park.

We strolled around on top of the ancient, fortified city wall and admired the various wall murals that have been painted by Catholics and Protestants alike over the past several decades. The area in which they reside can be inferred from the political statements depicted by the murals, and both sides of the political conflict are equally represented. Perhaps the most ominous ‘feature’ that is clearly evident in several sections of the city and surrounding housing estates are the huge barriers that have been erected to segregate the two religious and political feuding factions. Huge guard towers wrapped in protective steel wire mesh fencing and laced with security cameras pointing in all directions are dotted around the place. Whatever the air of calm and serenity that now encompasses this place, the violent and relatively recent past still echoes around the streets and alleyways.

Since we will be staying overnight and returning to the city tomorrow morning to take in the local museum and perhaps a cathedral or some other site of interest, we went in search of a place to hide away. A large supermarket with an even larger car park just on the outskirts of town seemed like a good bet and so here we are. With the exception of some playful youths out enjoying themselves a little too close for comfort, we are otherwise quite comfortable here.

Yesterday evening, after the realisation that there was no more Star Trek to watch set in, I broke out the powered antenna in a vain attempt to try to see if we might get any TV reception – we never have to date. To my surprise, I was able to pick up four channels and we watched TV all evening. I tried my luck again here in Derry and was able to capture no less than a dozen channels and so an evening in front of the tube was again on the cards.

For some reason, I failed to remember to top off the water tank when we were at the camp-site in Anahilt a couple of days ago and we’ve now exhausted our supply. We will need to make sure to find a camp-site for tomorrow evening.