Bombings, murders and terrorist activity for the last 30 years! This is what was echoing in my head for most of the bus trip north. Of course the beautiful rolling green hills, various rivers and the occasional random castle distracted me. But since I had boarded the bus in Kilarney, leaving my two best friends behind, in probably the most beautiful and friendly place I know, to travel north, alone, 13 hours to this place of supposed horror, Belfast, and for what? Nothing less then a girl! (No offence girls)
When I was in London, I met a girl within the first 2 weeks of getting there, Alexis an American girl, we met, we got to know each other and seemed to form a bond almost instantly, this is the girl I was going to Belfast for.
Traveling does strange things to the body and mind. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I think if you find someone you can get close to, you hold on tight as if the insecurity of not knowing many people makes relationships more intense. I found when I wasn’t with Lexi I felt a little more home sick, she felt the same too, this is why she is flying from London and I was busing from way down South Ireland to the North.
While it still bares the scars of a city torn apart, Belfast has a very new feel to it. The streets are empty by 7 pm, all the shops have big metal shutters out front and if you can see past the occasional bullet holes in the windows around, you can’t help but notice hope in the air, a city trying hard to look forward, not at the past. It’s awe inspiring and inspirational to talk to some of the people around looking to the future with hopes and dreams of a peaceful Northern Ireland, and if the last 6 years is anything to go buy, then they are on the way.
With so many negative reports of Belfast in the media, you almost forget that there is still a lot of Northern Ireland, unspoken of but so beautiful. Lexi and I took the opportunity to go on a bus tour around the coast line, walk across the ‘carrick-a-rede’ rope bridge, among cliffs that reminded me so much of the sandstone cliffs of the great ocean road in Victoria. We stopped off at a few cosy port towns and walked along the Giant’s Causeway, a huge coastal area covered in what I can only explain as hexagonal multilevel cobble stone pillared steps. Legend has it, there once was a giant that lived in that area and he had fallen in love with a young Scottish girl, he was so in love he built these steps all the way across to Scotland (just able to be seen from this point) so his princess could walk across to see him. It’s almost a shame to find out it was really just slow moving lava dripping into the ocean and cooling instantly to form this odd landscape of unnatural looking steps, but amazing to see none the less.
Northern Ireland has a lot to offer. Lexi and I spent the next few days looking around and generally having a good time – not so for the others whom I was on the phone to occasionally only to find out that the were having anything but an easy time of their trip north.
When they finally did make it to Belfast it was nearly time for Lexi to fly back to London, our time together was coming to an end. Trying to distract ourselves of the impending departure, the five of us (Jag, Mick, Taryn, Lexi, and Me) took a tour through the separated communities of Belfast in what is called a Black Taxi Tour. Coming from the other side of the world we had only seen the news worthy parts of Belfast, but this was going to be an impartial and informative tour through some of the worst parts of Belfast’s history and present. This is not a history lesson so ill spare you the details but it was well worth it and allowed us to get a better nights sleep.
The time has come to say good-bye, our backpackers crew were to be without female influence one again. An almost indecently long hug good-bye and Lexi leaves for the airport, and Taryn heads to eastern Europe. As we run out of money and decide what to do next, JAG is left with two “love-sick” penniless bums. Do we stay in Belfast or spend our final pounds on tickets for the ferry bound for Scotland to search for work?
One of the best things I have found with travel so far is meeting heaps of weird and wonderful people but the worst is saying good bye to those you get close to. Lexi is soon to finish her study in London and return to the U.S. I don’t know if I will see her again. We will definitely keep in touch, but now I will find out if my feelings for her were real or just a good distraction from homesickness.