I know it has been a while since I last wrote. Things have definitely picked up the pace here! I want so much to take advantage of all the opportunities, and its rather fatiguing. Yet, I’ve had some of the most amazing experiences of my life, so I don’t regret the whirl of activity in which I find myself.
This past week, I had my usual three classes as well as three one time online courses. Additionally, there was a church get together, club meeting and club chair training. Needless to say, I was tired by Wednesday. That evening, I was chatting with our international student experience coordinator, Caroline, about our club (its new name is GLOBAL – short for Globetrotters’ Alliance.) We were sipping tea, when Krystyn walked in. It was perfect timing because an idea had been developing in my head. You may remember that I had the Glasgow trip planned for this weekend. I knew I would go to Belfast early on Friday and see some things there before connecting with my Grove City friends Kelsa and Cara. However, I heard from some of the German girls about a mountain they had climbed that was relatively near Belfast. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to climb it on Friday…and I knew that if anyone would be game, Krystyn would be. So, I asked her and she was! Caroline was so funny, calling us “mad” to try and climb it in a day trip. We just laughed and told her we more more than up for it.
As we planned to catch the 5:45 am bus from Derry, I spent the night in Krystyn’s flat. After two long bus rides, snoozing, some coffee, and good chats, we made it to the quaint seaside town of Newcastle by 9:30.
We were amazed that in a relatively small circumference, there was beach, city, forest and rugged mountain. In fact, I think that is what I like the most about Northern Ireland – the juxtaposition of geographical features. Furthermore, the weather was stunning. This is not the Ireland that most people think of. I don’t want to jinx it, but we’ve hardly had any rain! Praise the Lord, though, because if it had been raining, the mountain would have been treacherous. As it was, the hike was breathtaking and probably one of the most memorable and amazing experiences of my lifetime. Krystyn and I get on so well together and sharing that time in such a beautiful place was magnificent.
Slieve Donard is the highest peak in Northern Ireland, but the 19th highest on the island of Ireland! The trail up the mountain continuously follows a stream. At the base, the stream winds through deciduous forest, then gurgles through a ravine separating meadow from coniferous forest. Finally, near the peak, it gets steep and stony. As we approached it, we felt just a wee bit like Frodo and Sam – it was so barren and rocky! The view at the top was breathtaking, overlooking the sea on one side and the jagged peaks of the Mournes (the mountain range) on the other. We ate lunch at the top and met some “Scotch on the rocks” – two men from Glasgow and Edinburgh! It was quite chilly at the peak, but otherwise, the sun was out, the flowers were blooming, the mountain sheep were grazing and the day was bliss.
We reached the base of the mountain around 3 pm and headed back to Belfast, where Krystyn returned to Derry and I walked to Queens University. There, I was reunited with Kelsa and Cara. What fun we had! Kelsa’s Welsh friend Kate, whom she knows from Queens’ Christian Union, joined us for a homemade dinner of chicken curry. We laughed long and hard into the night.
Kelsa, Cara and I woke up (again at 5 am) to get a taxi to the ferry dock. For a £15 return day trip, we had low expectations for the boat, but my goodness. It reminded me of a small cruise ship!
After arriving in Scotland, we took a scenic bus ride from the port through the Scottish countryside and arrived in Glasgow around noon. God was watching our backs. It rained while we drove, but stopped when we arrived! We knew we wouldn’t have time for much, but we enjoyed stopping in the No. 1 chocolate factory for a quick treat.
Then, we proceeded to walk through Kelvingrove Park to the museum & art gallery there. It was a beautiful park! It was a picturesque scene, with many families out amidst the paths and trees, sitting near the bubbling fountain and walking dogs against the spires of Glasgow University in the distance. At a particularly majestic gate, I stopped a man about to go through it and asked if he would take our photo in front of it. It quickly became apparent that he was not from the UK. He seemed confused for a moment and then took my camera to snap our photo, remaining where he was (to our left.) We tried to get him to understand we wanted him to stand in front of us, so the gate could be seen at our back…but he was too quick for us. See below:
We were quite fatigued and getting a bit loopy. Generally, when this happens to me, I get ferry punny. But, in terms of exhaustion, we were all in the same boat…so the girls didn’t mind that I went overboard with the humor 🙂
When we arrived back at Kelsa’s flat, the girls were hungry, so I made them apple, cinnamon & honey porridge. Then, in a stroke of genius, we figured out a bedding situation that would accommodate all of us. Instead of sleeping vertically in the bed, we slept horizontally! It was so much fun, but as you can imagine, I’m dead as a dog tired.
I hope you enjoy the pictures – keep in mind that there are more under the “Photos” tab and on Facebook. Cheers!