Campervan trip Ireland29 March 2012
Below Is an extract from two Australians travellers curretnly touring the world. Dean & Ellen visited Ireland over Christmas and you can read all about their trip around Ireland below.
Hello avid followers,
We last left you leaving Africa and on our way to the land of the potatoes, or to me, somewhere I will fit in for a change! Our excitement started the moment we stepped off the plane and the good hearted nature of the Irish was evident even from our interaction with customs! The cheery lad asked us all about Africa and gave us tourist tips on where to go when in Ireland. As I breathed in the (very cold) air of Dublin city centre I took a look around at the many christmas lights, carols being blasted over speakers continously, the merry cheer of the pubs and instantly love the place. I could live here. Unfortunetly for us, Ireland isn’t a part of the UK so my visa doesn’t apply here.
Our plan is to look around Dublin for a couple of days, hire a campervan and drive around Ireland spending Christmas somwhere in or near Galway and then return to Dublin for New Year. As it turns out our time “looking around Dublin” translated into shopping for winter clothes as we each had one pair of jeans, thermals and matching trekking softshell jackets (yes, matching..). Dean was thrilled. As with anywhere else in the world at Christmas time people shop like the world is going to end. If Ireland was having a hard time with the recession before the festive period, it sure is out of it now! The crowds were huge, again, much to Dean’s delight.
After much internet searching, Dean and I decided on renting a campervan from Detour campervans http://www.detour.ie. We settled for the Voyager model, a zippy little van with head room to walk around, comfy, double bed and great little kitchen with gas cook tops. Tom met us at our hostel and gave us the lowdown on how to drive, maps of Ireland and the general do’s and don’ts.
Dean drove but said a few times it was an easy car to drive and park despite it’s siza-which helped given our last time we hired a car in France ended in tears. Getting to drive on the left [the correct] side of the road was a bonus and helped us to ease into driving in a new country. The signage was good when you got out out of the city, so good we didn’t get lost once, the same can’t be said about inside the cities-not so good at all. We made up for all the times we didn’t get lost. So in eager anticipation we drive out of Dublin towards the south of Ireland and aim for Co. Wexford.
After a short comfy drive we arrive at the bustling city of Wexford and admire the gorgeous Christmas lights and decorations that are in the town. The sun isn’t up for very long at the moment, daylight hours are 0830-1630 so we arrive in the dark, find a place to park the van and go for a walk in town, stopping by a pub on the way back of course. Due to the time of the year not many caravan parks are open so we were looking for a place to free camp for the night with no success. Across Ireland, there are a few parking lots with great scenery but quite often they have height bars on them so we couldn’t enter. We find one in Wexford for 20 Euros!, apparently the going rate, so we pull in and get set up, this really only involved Dean hooking up “Shore Power”.
Our campsite choice was rewarded with one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen, spectacular!
Our second night is not as romantic, more on that later. We arrive at Cork at midday and immediately love the place. There was such a buzz and a great atmosphere around the city. The traffic was horrendous but we manage to get a spot just on the outskirts of the city and walk in. A sign says “disk parking”. There were no parking meters and after a quick look at the surrounding cars who also have nothing on their dashboard we decide it will be fine. In town, the pubs are going off, there is a Christmas market and an ice rink that I am planning to give a crack but first we pop in to the tourist centre to suss out a place to camp. The friendly bloke tells us of a few places and then we happen to ask about disk parking. It is a system where you purchase disks from certain stores (no where near the actual car park) and display them on the dash or your vehicle will be clamped/towed. So we hurriedly head back to the van- which is still there- but so begins our journey to find a park. With all the christmas traffic we regrettably gave up on Cork in the end.
After a considerable length of driving, Dean and I arrive at large hotel carpark that we would be unnoticed in and decide to do the polite thing and ask the manager to stay and in the politest way was told “for insurance reasons” it was not possible. Dejected, cranky, tired and keen to settle in for the night we arrive at our final destaination: the back of a service station carpark. We’re not proud of it but the people were kind enough to pretend they didn’t notice and to not kick us out; we got out of there before the sunrise.
The next day we decided to drive to a place called Loop Head which is meant to have great views and we aim to squeeze in the Cliffs of Moher before the sun goes down. The drive is beautiful and even with the fog coming in it was still lovely.
My good Irish nursing friend from Darwin is back in her homeland for Christmas and was staying at her sisters in Co. Clare. which was close to us. Valorie’s sister Miriam kindly gave us a place to stay and a much needed shower-we hadn’t showered in over 2 days at that stage! I decided this seemed a momentous enough occassion to bring out the Amarula that we bought in Kenya and Val and I stayed up chatting about the good ol’ times until 4am, Dean called it night at 2. It was really good to see a familiar face and we appreciated that bed and shower more than you will ever know Val! A big thankyou to you and Miriam.
We had driven out to the cliffs before we arrived at Val’s but it was closed and the fog prevented us from seeing anything anyway so the next day we try again. The Irish luck was with us that day-it was the first day we had seen a speck of blue in the sky and there was no fog to be seen. I do have to mention this day was also by far the coldest I have been since our arrival hence why I am so rugged up in the photos. The Cliffs of Moher was a majestic sight, the force of the wind and water was so strong that we were getting wet at the very top of the cliff! We both absoultely loved the cliffs and at 4 euro a pop, wasn’t bad value at all.
It is now Christmas Eve eve and we decide to splurge and buy a room in Galway city so we can have a few drinks and not worry about driving anywhere. Galway is also beautiful and put on its own show of lights and festivity worthy of a postcard. As a true sign that we are getting old we go to dinner, feel full, have a few beers take a look around at everyone else who is much drunker than we are and piling out onto the streets and decide against joining in.
As the all important day of Christmas rolls around, we decide we need electricity and will stay at a nearby park in the tiny town of Cong in Co. Mayo. We drive into Cong and see a castle with a driveway and decide to have a look, thinking it is a tourist thing. It turns out the castle is a 5 star hotel overlooking a loch and looks amazing to say the least.
After a quick gander we find our park are instantly deflated. Opposite the park there is a graveyard, the grounds are dreary and depressing and there is nothing going for this park. Dean doesn’t want to get out of the van and I don’t want to get out of the van, we just sit there not saying a word. Eventually, we get out and decide to look at the facilities before making a decision. The manager comes out and asks if we are OK to get a quick reply from us that we are ‘just looking’. We have no option but to stay here given our finances. We have already spent more than we thought in Ireland and as much as I wanted to go back to the comforts of Galway we couldn’t justify it. When the manager comes out for the second time (probably sensing our reluctance) we bite the bullet and park up.
We decide to make the best of it and check out town a bit more. It is such a beautiful place with an old run down church, a river streaming through the town and several walkways available. We come across one gorgeous walkway and spend our Christmas morning exploring the track. It was a great way to spend the day before having a few quiet gin and tonic’s in our van.
Our Christmas meal didn’t turn out too bad either! Although the kitchen was small it had everything we needed to whip up a nice Chrissie Feed. We were stuffed from ham, turkey and our favourite, lamb chops!
Dean has slowly but surely convinced me to go to Northern Ireland and in particular Belfast. He is very keen to see the place where the famous ship Titanic was built and I am very keen not to get our van bombed. In the last few days there has been petrol bombs aimed at police cars and those not supporting Northern Ireland’s independance from the UK. However as Dean assures me, our van clearly says “I’m a tourist” so we shouldn’t be a target. I have to say I was very impressed with Belfast, what a funky and rich in history city it is! There are all the modern shops etc you would expect but also painted wall murals depicting Northern Ireland’s history and a general feel that you are in a working mans city. The Titanic musuem has only been recently constructed and a lot of money has gone into making it look the part, including a theme ride and vision of the discovery of the ship.
On our way to Belfast we make a visit to the Giant’s Causeway, formations of hexagonal shaped stones that look like giant steps leading across the seas. It is a 20 minute walk from the carpark to the main attraction and it was one of the best, if not the best, natural wonders we have seen to date. Just to imagine how the stones got to be that shape is mind boggling.
After the Gaint’sCauseway we pass by the Carrick rope bridge and the Dunlace castle but being St. Stephens Day (Boxing Day) it is not open so we make do with looking from afar.
We arrive back into Dublin after a long, but enjoyable week.However, with it being New Years and the fact we are in Dublin and haven’t had a massive night out yet I can’t resist. We head out to the Temple Bar district at a respectable time of 4pm and chose the Quay Bar as our home for the night. It had a great live band and good Irish criac, good times were held by all.
For us 2012 has been our dream come true, travelling to places that some people will never go in their lifetime and getting to know each other even more than we thought possible. I have spent every day with my best friend exploring, discovering and experiencing and we have become better people for it. A big shout out to those we have met along our travels and for those who have helped us in any way. We look forward to spending 2013 (hopefully) working in Scotland and traversing the beautiful South America. Happy New Year!