My Ireland adventure began in Belfast outside Queen’s University where Ordovich and I met Rob, a host recommended to us by a couchsurfer who had stayed with Ordovich weeks earlier. We soon discovered why she’d talked so highly of Rob. He immediately treated us like old friends, took us to the best pub in town, told us we were crazy for planning to hike and camp throughout the countryside in April, helped us with our crazy plans, and even let us borrow a pair of sleeping bags to decrease our chances of dying in the cold, wet, windy Irish countryside. Incidentally, he was right about us being crazy and the sleeping bags saved our sorry hides the one and only night we camped out! In hindsight a bit more planning wouldn’t have hurt and I’ll remember it the next time I do something like this, but we still have all our fingers and toes so there’s no harm done.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The next morning we took our leave of Rob and set off for Ballynure by bus. That was easy enough except that the bus let us off at a stop just outside of town and we became completely disoriented as to which way we should walk. Even with my map we got turned around once at the beginning, where we started walking in the wrong direction, and then once more at each intersection where we could have possibly taken a wrong turn. In total we had to turn back three times, if memory serves me correctly. Needless to say we, did not get terribly far that first day, but we did get some nice pictures.
At last we made our way into Ballyboley Forest, the wooded area just north of Ballynure. Inside this forest we got caught in a downpour that thoroughly soaked us and managed to get us turned around once more. At this point we began using Ordovich’s compass to make sure we were going in the right direction. I didn’t take any pictures at the beginning of the forest because it didn’t seem particularly interesting. It appears to be an artificially planted forest and a very aggressively harvested one too. Enormous tracts of land were laid bare but for tree stumps. Not terribly attractive.
We had made it through the forest by 5 in the afternoon, but without any other place to stop for the night we decided to camp at the forest’s northern edge. We hadn’t gotten far, but it had been a tiring day. I had never put up my hammock before – I think I mentioned already how unprepared we were heading into this – and we had unfamiliar sleeping bags as well. And the breeze was picking up. And we didn’t know how long the rain would hold off. Yes, it was time to stop for the day.
Setting up camp was relatively uneventful, but we never managed to dry off and hadn’t brought much extra clothing with us. I decided that night as I lay shivering and rubbing my extremities that I’d buy proper gear when I got back to the US and that I’d learn how to use it first in my own backyard before going camping halfway around the world with it. We were rewarded for surviving the night with an eerily beautiful morning full of mist and an odd, dim light that suffused the atmosphere from no point in particular. That story is continued in the next gallery: Antrim Hills.