A Brief Recap: From Larne To Galway
Another week gone by and I am in awe of how time bends and twists. It could have been a month for all the experiences, it was the blink of an eye reminiscing on it. Considering my mood tracking on my moon journal, I had quite a steady emotional balance throughout, with two very distinctive aberrations. And of course, here I am writing about all of it, so you may learn from my stupidity…, strong worded, let me soften that up, miscalculations!
I’ll start off by being honest: without my journal and agenda I would not even know where I spend Monday. As some of you might know, my memory has its weaknesses, more often than not this relates to numbers, birthdays or loosing count of my own age. It is quite an adventure on a big scale for me to drive all alone in left-sided traffic in a foreign country while keeping myself and Marjorie in good spirits, well fed, watered, sheltered, and then also shove into the mix quite some exploring, freelance work and obviously documenting as much of it as possible for my vlog and blog. With that, I probably tend to have so much sensory input all day that even just three days become blurry at some point. Hats off to my diligent virgo influence then, as this gives me a chance to recount our destinations, favourite places, events as well as challenges and tribulations!
So let me briefly recount our route: Starting off on the Isle of Lewis, we rode down to the isle of Harris, entered our first ferry in Tarbert. This one took us to the Isle of Skye, Uig, where we went on to drive onto the mainland: From Glenshiels to Fort William, Glencoe Village to Ballantrae (not to confuse with Ballintrae, to which I’ll come in a second!), and onwards with our second and final ferry from Cairnryan to Larne, Northern Ireland.
This is where I started my official count of days, as this was the point when we first set foot (or wheels) onto Irish land.
At this point we already had been hardened by constant (and only one day and a couple hours at a time without) rain- so while we set off from Larne to our first stop to charge up (Portstewart), we were welcomed by fog and gusts and more, what a surprise, rain. This did not dampen our spirits, merely (at that point) all of my three jackets, two towels for Marjorie and the inside of the back of the car, along with the blankets and basically everything out of fabric that I used to keep warm or dry in. Fearless, without hesitation or reservations, we threw ourselves onto the beach at Portstewart while BuBu, the van, feasted on an electric vehicle charging point. At this stage, I had not had a shower or washed my hair since Portree (in Scotland!), which is why I started phoning around to campsites in the area if they had an open spot. None had, because of some festival happening that exact weekend. I decided to find a spot for the night, by a harbour or beach, as those more often than not have toilet facilities with a cold outdoor shower (mainly for surfers to wash off some sand). I got lucky and landed in Portballintrae (with an ‘I’ and a ‘port’ do be distinguished from the Scottish one!). A kind and warm shop-owner there explained how the ‘no camping overnight’ signs are meant for the huge caravan campers that used to do that during the warm season, how he would leave the female toilet open all night so I could use the hand blowdryer for my hair after my shower, and by which phone number I could reach him if I encountered any trouble at all. First of all: Never have I ever had such gorgeous hair! Highly recommend blowdrying with one that is intended for drying hands, pure power, 80’s mane! Second of all: Forever indebted to this soul that was open, informative and assisting in every way he could. It was him, and a couple of other dog caretakers that I met the next morning, that made it possible to have the most brilliant morning loop walk with the Giant’s causeway as part of it.
Walking among the dunes of the beach at Portballintrae, along a pathway made out of wood, right to a train crossing (that I assume is either a tourist-y attraction during the season or not in use in general anymore), leading up a hill, and there we were at our first tourist attraction. Possibly our last (so far at least). I did not know that the Giant’s Causeway was part of the world heritage, which explained the security guards literally everywhere, with bright coloured jackets and halting everyone who looked out of order or lost in some way. Presumably Marjorie and I did look like both ways, having come from an uphill walk and quite overwhelmed to the contrary of what I expected to find, that being ‘just’ cliffs and wilderness. The visitor centre looked like it was a high-security headquarters of something like the MI-6, the access to the causeway was through a very black, and somewhat strangely square, tunnel. The tourists though were absolutely lovely, Marjorie obviously melted hearts wherever she went, and our excursion down to the formation of the cliffs took double the estimate as we had to halt multiple times for her to get her petting and cuddles and love from strangers.
On our way back we made this a loop by following a very good preserved pathway along the cliffs, enjoying strong winds and warming sunshine, the kind of rocky outskirts that make my soul soar, ending right at the beach of Portballintrae again, where I was sent off by my nice shop-keeper friend with gorgeous hair, all of my water tanks filled up and a coffee on the house!
I had visited Moville in my first summer of travelling, back in July 2021, which is why I thought I’d visit again. Magilligan Point, and its ferry, was a reasonable next destination as it connects the other side of Lough Foyle (where Moville is situated) with this side of the pond. Having spent two glorious days here, once alone on a hot summer day and once when my host took Marjorie and me out on his boat, I knew there was a restaurant there and a sheer endless beach that makes it possible to walk right back to Castlerock during a low tide. So we went and because my hair was glossy and flowing again, I put on some ‘city’ outfit and sheltered from the fog and rain in front of an open fire, Marjorie allowed to lie down by my feet.
I treated her and myself to chips (or fries, as the majority of the world decided to call them, against the wishes of British people) and a muffin for later. I worked away, Marjorie warmed up and I, drawing closer to the fire, toasted happily away. We spent the rest of the day there, at the beach and spontaneously decided to also stay for the night. The ferry was closed for the winter, Moville thus could not be visited (due to no charging point access and a 100 miles detour would have made that impossible), enabling me to have a slow day, restructuring my route.
DAY 3 & 4
In 2021, as a backpacker with a dog, the west coast of Ireland was closed away from experiencing- most of the west side, especially the coastal areas, are not accessible by train, only by bus, on which dogs are strictly prohibited (except maybe small ones in a box). So the whole point this time around was to explore the west, mainly if not only, coast. Hence, westwards it was where we drove next. First stop Letterkenny to charge up, do some work while the slow charger station did its bidding, then on to Glencolumbkille before it got dark. Fog and rain prevented us to see a lot from the supposedly majestic land- and mountains cape we passed by. Slowly but surely I was craving some dry weather spell, mainly to thoroughly dry the bathmats (that serve as my carpet on top of the rubber mat on the floor in the back where we have our salon and sleeping quarters), and to dry my jackets and raincoats again. We did have another very rainy and foggy night and morning, still once I am up and dressed, explorer mode kicks in and it really was not that terribly cold yet. I needed cliffs and my dear Oceana again, a sniff of vastness and gust playing with my hair, signalling freedom for the heart and soul.
To Malin Beg and the Silver Strand we went and were greeted with a fog that crept along the far end of the mountain chain, giving the whole area and beach a touch of mystical, whimsical, 17th century, pirate bay, lost love on sea, dancing fairies and witch trials feel (no idea if I have my history right, yet I hope you get the gist of what I am trying to portray here). Marjorie did not want to get out of the car but I did not want to leave yet. And because of the luxury that I do have my kitchen with me at all times, I decided this was a perfect setting and time to brew myself a hot, strong, invigorating pot of coffee. And that was when Donna, Marylin and David arrived. Donna, a kindred spirit in being a dedicated gatherer of plastic, flotsam and jetsam on beaches, Marylin the happy dog, and David, the everyday wild ocean swimmer. It so happened that David persuaded me to take the plunge and swim in the wild Atlantic (that wasn’t that wild that very morning), while Donna offered me a hot, regenerating shower afterwards. So I did, and for me that was quite extraordinary. Because even though I am deeply in love with the ocean (and every other huge body of water, or river… or waterfall, like, you know, just water), I am no fan of being in it. There always is a chance to suffocate, drown and die a horrific death! But I did, and I actually had fun, did not die (not from the kraken nor from hypothermia), and will have this ‘say yes’ moment forever in my heart! Needless to say that the shower afterwards was just the absolute cherry on top of it all, apart from having met Donna and David that is!
Refreshed, with a smile that was not able to disappear from my face, we continued on our west coast adventure and landed at our next charging stop in Killybegs. Suddenly the clouds had been blown inland and on the drive there I was treated to the astonishing beauty of the landscape for the very first time on the whole trip: It was stunning and awe-inspiring. Everyone who has every experienced days or weeks without sun, you know how it feels when suddenly there it is again; bright and warm, sky the bluest blue, view as fas as the eye can see. And with every sunny and warm day, nothing goes better than an iced coffee. Luxury, I discovered, that dies hard for me: a coffee every day (mostly warm, but in Killybegs cold). Upon full charge we set out to find ‘the spot’ for the night and found it by a beach, nestled into the cove of a lighthouse area that is called St. John’s Point. Heavenly! A whole secluded area with a beach, a gate restricting vehicles (but not legs) to go further because of private ownership, a tarmac road that leads directly to the lighthouse, surrounded by cliffs and rough terrain. A piece of heaven. We spent the afternoon, night and next morning here. We were lucky with the weather- the breeze, the sunshine and the warmth carried us through another day and night.
Sligo to me was associated with a town that people from the city would visit when the summer heat was getting too much. A town to relax and enjoy beaches, sun and fun. For me it was too much of everything- mainly traffic, roads and buckets of rain again. Initially I contemplated spending a night here, visiting a bistro that friends of me had recommended, but I did not feel compelled to do so after finding my fast charger. Two hours later we were back on the road, back to the coast, back to the sea: Belmullet, especially Mullet Peninsula.
The distance made me a little nervous, especially attempting to cross a pass of mountains- would I make it with my charged 150 miles on the meter? I did, and although I had planned to charge up that very day, we arrived quite late, meaning that finding a spot for the night had priority. Nearby of course, to charge up the next day. I was fed up with bustling traffic, rain and fog had come back and I guess ‘hangriness’ drove me to find the farthest possible I could get away from noise. What I found was the northwesternmost point on the Mullet peninsula.
Quiet, peace, no people. Instead my vision and senses were filled by spraying ocean waves unto falling, sharp cliffs, cows and sheep and birds, gusts of wind and this mystical, fairy-fog again that veiled everything into a story out of any Irish legend. I loved it, decided to ditch my plans of recharging the next day and we just stayed where we were.
I wasn’t idle, working as one of my deadlines drew closer. And of course we had a three hour walk the next morning that filled my heart and being with bliss and tears of gratitude. There was a connection to this place, albeit Irish ground, it reminded me of my oh so familiar Outer Hebrides, were the wild and raw Atlantic Ocean and winds, vegetation and fauna fill up your senses and whole state of being. By the late afternoon I got ants in my pants again- what more does this beauty of a peninsula have to offer, what might be on the most southern point?
With 78 miles left, I buckled up and dashed with 25mph toward Fál Mór. I missed one turn right to my original destination, some beach, because I always get a little anxious when I hinder someone else from going the allowed speed limit (which was about double of what I drove). And I ended up on a hill, with an art installation imitating Standing Stones, and a view that made my legs weak. I found probably the third or fourth heaven since starting this road trip.
It was spectacular. And it showed me mountains on the other side that seemed to be calling my name.
It was morning, during our walk, that the mountains opposite of our camp changed into sirens, luring me into a sense of longing and craving: If I did not see them up close, or the beach, or anything that I was able to see from this side of the huge bay that divided the land, this trip was not complete. Dangerous reflections as the mountains and beaches I saw were part of Achill island. Even if I charged fully, the distance from here to there and then back onto the next charging point was 80 miles. Still, 15 miles have been melted off quite easily from having to go up one single hill, would I really dare it? With no charging points on Achill island, the next one in Westport, could I dare it?
I was internally struggling although, looking back now, I already deep down knew, I had to try, even if I needed to drive with 20mph.
To ease the pressure I decided to drive to Ballycroy National Park which was right on the way anyway, see how much miles I could save, and decide what to do then. However, Ballycroy turned out to be a mere 40 minute loop around one hill, with one viewpoint on top of said hill, containing mostly bog… and a huge visitor centre. With the afternoon tickling away into dawn, I needed to make a decision. I emboldened myself and decided to say yes- all the yes’s so far have definitely made my confidence grow enormously. Also, this was a road trip, a chance to see all the fabulous fringes where the land meets the sea. What a question, I needed to do this!
Upon driving off I smiled to myself and thought: ‘This is going to be pure adrenalin!’
Well, it was.
The most mental challenged I have felt since leaving the Isle of Lewis actually.
The good news is, I made it there and back to my more than needed next charging point: Westport. The other good news is, I learned so much about the relationship with my brain that I can wholeheartedly embrace this experience even more. Maybe it was not about the mountains, or the beaches, or Achill island. Maybe it was my inner search for discomfort indicating another opportunity to grow beyond what I was. Because indeed, we literally drove there, arrived by dawn, slept, walked in the morning and drove off.
I could not handle the stress of not knowing if I’d make it. I could not set it aside for a hike or anything. Yes, I snapped myself out of it a few times to marvel, and be in awe, and film and photograph, and admire some more. Yes, I was able to wash my hair and dishes again in a wild river (bonus point, all worth it just for that, I tell you!). Yes, I can say I was there. But the limitations of my miles and charging locations transformed this excursion into a short therapy session with the positive being, I can say I was there and definitely NEED to come back. This island is huge, I was not able to take any left or right streets, nor was I able to hike the mountain that I saw from the other side Fal Mor.
Bucket list, for sure!
I think all energy had been blocked in my brain and washing my hair in that icy water of the river did elevate some of the pressure in some way. An apple for cheerfulness, a lot of self soothing self talk to my (very intrusive and negative) brain, cooperating with my chest to tighten up and make airflow hard, and the reassuring (?) knowledge that this was on me, my decision. If I don’t find a way, no one would (similar to Frodo and the burden of destroying the ring in the face of all evil and the knowledge that the world will burn if he fails). There was no choice, no room to harbour doubts, I needed to make it to Westport, so I would. 20mph, going strong!
Needless to tell you, without any suspension really, I made it.
And in Westport I felt so relieved that parking into a small space (between someone else already charging and someone behind the only other spot left), on a very busy main street, after asking for help being guided into the space, did not even feel like a challenge at all. I had a coffee. And a panini for my internal struggles, the pat on the shoulder in form of a ready prepared, well-deserved, you are a hero and I am proud of myself, meal. We walked around Westport and I did sort of really enjoy it, like it even. There is a special energy to places where people love their town, take care of it. Tidy streets, flower beds, smiling faces. Traffic was a lot but not pressured or stressed, nature seemed also incorporated into the fabric of the town. We walked around the Westport House grounds as well, although a local told us that the walking the loop was not possible as construction work was going on for a few years now. We talked to an absolute wonder of a soul, working in a charity shop, and falling for Marjorie’s charms right away. We had our first night in a parking lot, by the Leisure Park in Westport, as the Quay did not allow overnight parking and the huge area of emptiness that was the parking space for Westport House was guarded by security and closed overnight (private property and such things). I was able to come up with a plan for the upcoming next couple of weeks and how to incorporate my friends in Boyle and Newry before I was to go back to Scotland.
All in all, the relief and restoration that Westport brought to me was reenergising, so that when we left early in the morning, there was no doubt in my head that by now we both surely are seasoned and experienced van-life-rs, if that word even exists!
The night’s have gotten colder. I know it because the tip of my nose started to be icy, so have my feet, whenever we prep for the night. Time had come to have a hot water bottle in addition to a bottle of hot water for two mugs of tea at night. It has become similar to a jump into cold water whenever I change from night clothes to day clothes, or the other way round. And whenever there is even a spec of sun, the warmth it produces makes my whole body respond with goosebumps, as it so craves warmth. The drive from Westport to Rinvyle, through the most beautiful mountainscape I have seen so far on this road trip, was epic. And celebrations were in order: therefore we indulged for the first time and put on the heating in the car: 26 degrees, full force unto the feet and the windshield screen. I needed toastiness, level 5 (sidenote and spoiler alert: did you know that the numbers on the toaster do NOT indicate the toastiness they will produce within your toast, but merely the minutes it will take for your toast to be toasted?!).
Anyway, we arrived at Rinvyl beach, explored another beach full of scattered boulders a stone’s throw away that is part of a Hotel (and therefore private) area, which led us to return to the first beach to spend the night.
All day showers came, but mostly we were able to soak up the sun, produce this blog, and be bothered by only one small anxiety: My main phone fell into a puddle of seawater on one of our cliff tours, only 10 seconds, but now it won’t charge. And because I have another phone to which I could technically transfer the eSim to, I am only mildly fearful. The problem is the other phone needs internet access and it will not transfer sim cards when one phone is connected through this very sim card to the hotspot of the other. I have it upside in a bowl with some saved silica gel packets and I have my finger’s crossed it will recover and be able to charge again. If not, I’ll have to find some WiFi for the other phone to be able to transfer the sim. It is sort of due to GoogleMaps that I have been able to navigate charging points, towns and cities alike, with a bit of relaxation and ease. And it is due to my data roaming package that I am able to work from anywhere. With a looming deadline ahead, having a phone that won’t charge, thus not giving me access to navigation or internet, is sort of a bit of a major inconvenience. I’ll keep my finger’s crossed. It’ll be fine, I think.
And it was fine.
Silica gel patches be thanked for that!
Today we explored the Connemara National Park, Letterfrack - and we had a proper hike doing that because the park offers three different trails, the red one being the steepest right to the top of a mountain. It was quite nice being out with Marjorie again, able to really use our muscles and challenge ourselves a bit.
There were a lot of people but everyone was very friendly, especially, you might have guessed, when it came to cuddling Marjorie. By two o’clock I had done no work and had yet to charge up, so we set off to Clifden, our only charger between our last stop Westport and our next stop Galway. I was so relaxed, knowing we will easily make it, I almost got a little bold and drove the expected speed of 50mph. This high of being absolutely careless and balanced ended upon our arrival at the charging point.
Initially I planned to charge up and while doing that find a nice coffee shop to work and afterwards find a hardware store to buy some camping gas. Now there was a charging point and it was doing its job, it just so happened that it used one of the three most common plugs that I do not have. See I can charge CHademo and AC, this one was something different. With 77 miles on my car, mountainous terrain of 74km between me and Galway, there was no choice but to be bold. Bold meaning going with maximum 30mph and letting BuBu charge up whenever the street went straight or downhill. Spoiler alert, we made it. Albeit that this time one driver actually honked excessively upon overtaking us.
If people read this and remember this strange white van with a UK number plate going 40km/h on a 100km/h road- forgive me, I had no choice!
We are here a day earlier than expected but as it so happened I met a couple from the US on the hike, explaining how very beautiful Galway is. So I might just ease into this and explore a city for once, why not, YOLO and stuff.
This was not as brief of a description of the events so far as I announced, I know. But you know me too, so this is on you. If you made it this far though, thank you for being with me on this adventure!
From our little corner of the world, to all of you wherever you are, and with all my heart,
Love and Light, beloved souls