Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Top o' the Island

Malin Head is the most northerly point on the island of Ireland and relatively remote/desolate as you can see from the pics. The rugged bare rocks remind me a bit of Newfoundland but with a tad more green. 

After leaving Belfast and passing Londonderry (although the Irish prefer to leave off the London and call it Derry) we headed up the Inishowen peninsula. The roads became narrower as the number of cows and sheep increased. The road you see below was pretty typical and it is NOT one way. Backing up for oncoming traffic is quite common. 

We've had a few detours and u-turns but mostly due to navigation issues, not Ross's driving. I’m sure I’ll get better with practice. 

Our BnB was perched overlooking the ocean and this view is from the kitchen window before it got really windy and rainy. The sun set at 10:06 but we didn't see it with all those clouds. A good reason to return some day. 

A short distance from our BnB is Ballyhillin Beach, known for its semi precious stones. Pinks, oranges, bright whites, purples - the colours are quite astounding. We headed down after high tide when they tend to sparkle more (according to Charles our host). 

Just down a bit the beach is covered in dark volcanic rock. Quite a contrast. 

Lots of picturesque rock buildings but I can’t convince Ross to stop for pictures each time. 

This is a stop along the road full of, well you can only call them curiosities. Ross bought 2 pigs (ceramic)!

The rain had stopped by morning and we were greeted with this lovely view from our breakfast table. 

Of course we were served the full Irish breakfast likely our first of many. Not a fan of the blood pudding even with Charles' extra slice of apple on top. 

And just out the front door this view of our neighbours. 

Driving here is definitely an adventure but the views are stunning. Well worth the effort. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Belfast Bonfires

We’re fortunate to be staying in Belfast for a few days with Bonnie, a friend from schooldays, and Mary. Unfortunately we’ve hit some soggy weather which tends to put the damper on outdoor activities. 

Bonnie lives in the middle of the city in a 'house', which we might call a townhouse or row house. The entire block is one building but divided into narrow, but tall, houses. Much of the housing here seems to be similar.

Of course Bonnie’s “front yard” comes complete with an array of plants and miscellanies. 

 We took the bikes out for a short ride, along a path on the River Lagan which runs right through the city. 

Along the way, and later on our city tour, we saw evidence of preparations for bonfires which will be lit in conjunction with July 12 celebrations. Some of them are 30-40 feet high. 

Some info about July 12: “It celebrates the Glorious Revolution and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1609), which began the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland.” (Wikipedia)
There are marches which often lead to problems (to say the least). Because of this Bonnie and Mary always plan to be out of town during these 'festivities '. 

Since we were last in Belfast the Titanic Experience was built and is now a large draw for tourists. It’s an impressive looking building and takes a couple of hours to explore. It begins with Belfast at the beginning of the 1900s and the importance of the ship building industry through to the launch and subsequent sinking of the Titanic. 

One of the walls from above down to the lobby. 

View of the shipyard where the Titanic was launched. 

And then a stop for a beverage while a couple of singers entertained us. 

 Belfast has lots of interesting old buildings and alleyways. 

And inside The Crown pub:

A sign in one of the pubs:

In the evening Bonnie took me to her neighbourhood pub where a trad session (traditional music) was playing with a fiddle, flute, pipes, concertina, guitar. It’s not really a performance but they just kind of play over in the corner and anyone can join in. 

The pub is a maze of rooms and hallways and fortunately within walking distance of Bonnie’s house so we had a couple of pints and enjoyed the music and made it home by midnight. 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Unique + Diverse

There are surprises around every corner on the Galapagos. One morning we climbed the hill above the red sand beach. 

A few meters away was a brackish pond where we spotted a rarely seen (in this location) flamingo. 

A Pelican dove head first into the ocean then floated along while we snorkelled close by. 

Besides the giant land tortoises there are some very large sea turtles that seem to want to swim right up to me. Thanks to Rob for this photo as I was too busy getting out of its way. 

There are beaches with greenish sand caused by little bits of the mineral olivine in the sand.  Hard to tell from the photo. 

And then this lone flamingo walked right up to us on the beach. It’s a juvenile so quite pale coloured. Not even the slightest concern for humans. 

Every day we do a short hike, then a snorkel; then after lunch the same. It can be quite exhausting and there haven’t  been too many nights we’ve stayed up past nine! And not just us old folks. 

Ross snorkeling with a turtle (again thanks to Rob for the photo). 

You really had to watch your step for these red marine iguanas. 

Albatrosses mate for life but if something happens to one of them they’ll find another mate. We saw several mating dances going on where they click clack their beaks together. 

Some of the beaches are absolutely pristine white fine sand - contrasting with the turquoise water, punctuated by sunbathing sea lions. 

The diversity in the Galapagos is astounding and each island has something new to explore. Not just the animals but the landscape as well. We’ve been fortunate to see so many different things - I won’t even try to list all the types of animals we saw. It’s a very special unique place. We’ve had a pretty steady pace for the past few weeks and I think we’re both ready for a rest!

Nothing but tortoises

The day I’ve been waiting for. Giant Land Tortoises. Lots and lots of tortoises. The photos tell the story. 

We started at the breeding center on Santa Cruz Island where they’ve collected several species and will breed them to release them into the wild. It’s an extensive and long term project that hopefully will prevent the extinction of these ancient looking animals. 

They collect the eggs and incubate them, then track the babies until they’re ready to be released. 

In a large enclosed area the giants were being fed. This one is a saddleback, the long neck allows it to eat vegetation higher up. 

The others are domed tortoises and eat the lower growing vegetation. 

In their natural habitat these tortoises live in the highlands, up in the hills. Farmers are allowed to keep them on their land where they roam freely. We visited a farm where there were literally tortoises EVERYWHERE. 

Be careful driving!

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