5.5 Miles Down and a Sea to Cross

5.5 Miles Down and a Sea to Cross

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Today we’re leaving Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. After five days, a ton of sightseeing, both in the city of Belfast and on the Antrim coast, we’re ready to move on. Although, we’re sad to leave Ireland. Over the 3 weeks we’ve really enjoyed our time in Ireland. The sights here were absolutely gorgeous!

Even The Luck Of The Irish Runs Out

We’re bound to enjoy many of the places we visit. But if we never leave, we’ll never have the chance to see the next wonderful place. So, we make our way now to England, via Scotland, for our first house sit. It's a two-day journey, with all sorts of transportation methods along the way.

The Walk

Yup, that's everything we own...

We woke up early this morning on the third story of our Airbnb (use our link and save up to $40 off your first stay!), two miles outside of city center Belfast. Most of our stuff had been securely packed into our bags last night, so this morning was a matter of dressing, getting our faces ready, and preparing a couple of hard boiled eggs for the day. The morning was frosty, with a bit of ice on the ground. We’re warm and toasty with our gloves, hats and newly purchased thermals. With our bags strapped on, we left our home for the last four days and made our way to the ferry terminal.

The first leg of our journey is a five-and-a-half-mile walk to the ports in Belfast. To many, this may seem unrealistic, but we’re used to walks like this. However, we’re used to walks like this with a maximum of four or five pounds on our back or over our shoulder. A five-and-a-half-mile walk with a 20-ish pound (we have yet to actually weigh our bags since our pare down over two weeks ago) backpack is another story. Sergio takes occasions, such as this walk, as a challenge that he’ll, without any doubt, not only overcome but crush. This pumps him up and gets him going. Shannon on the other hand, sees it realistically. She starts preparing herself mentally the day before, getting her mind ready to take on the feat. This means that Sergio is excited for the walk, and Shannon isn't so sure about it.

Thankfully, we have packs that are well designed, with a great suspension system and compression straps. A sturdy hipbelt helps take the weight off of our shoulders and put it more evenly on our hips. If you read Our First Test Run, you may be familiar with the outcome of that first 3-mile walk. Shannon was struggling to make it home and had a sore neck for a few days. A three-mile walk is measly compared to this one. So, this walk, five-and-a-half-miles across Belfast, was a test to see how her conditioning and strength training had been going.

We started out with a very fast pace. A pace that when taken in the United States will leave everyone else on the street in the dust. However, in Ireland, pedestrians tend to keep a faster pace than we’re used to, and even we occasionally got passed up. This morning, we kept up with the crowd and were only passed by a couple of people. Not a bad start at all when we have 20ish-pounds strapped on our backs!

We made our way into downtown to the local inexpensive grocery store. In Ireland, Lidl has become our go to place for food. As we’re traveling for the next two days, we don’t want to spend money on eating out and we don’t want to carry the weight of vegetables, canned beans, etc. Our go to in situations like this is dry oats. A simple, lightweight, food that can be eaten with hot water or dry. This stop was about two miles into our walk. We weren’t even breaking a sweat yet.

As we made our way closer to our destination, the ports, we walked through downtown and into an industrial area of Belfast. In the cities we grew up in (coastal Southern California) areas like these would never be pedestrian friendly. We were pleasantly surprised this morning though, because the entire way to the port was lined with a bike path and a pedestrian walk way. We had to be careful of ice, but we were doing well. It wasn’t until about halfway through the third mile that Shannon started to get quiet.  She recognized pretty quickly that her pace was slowing and her body was tiring. One thing that was different than the test run however, was that she didn’t have sharp pain in her neck, just sore muscles. This was a great sign!

At about mile four, Shannon knew this was the point where she had to push. We've talked many times about this trip and how much of it will be filled with great experiences. However, some of those experiences will be ones that require digging deep and pushing through. These will be the times we understand what we're made of. In the end, these times are the ones we’ll treasure, maybe even more than the moments that were great, but we came upon with ease.

After getting through mile four, Shannon perked up and felt better. It was just that point that she had to push through and then it was just a matter of one foot in front of the other. Now, if you are curious how Sergio did, don’t be. He was pretty good the entire way. About 75% of the way through he cinched his hipbelt to take a bit more weight off of his sore shoulders, and then he was fine and carried on.

The tougher the journey, the sweeter the finish line.

We made it to the port. Although, in good conscious we must make a confession. A few blocks before arriving at our destination, a car pulled up beside us and offered us a ride to the ferry we were taking. We declined, but they insisted and showed us their uniform with the ferry company name on it. They were loading dock men for the company, Stena Line. We went ahead and accepted. So all in all, we were two to three blocks short of our five-and-a-half mile walk. We did though, really enjoy the ride and the discussion we had with the two men who were kind enough to give us a lift.

Considering the test run walk we did back home, this five-and-a-half-mile journey was a great success. It was a barometer to what we can achieve. Shannon’s neck and shoulders are a bit sore from the walk, but overall it’s nothing that a Tylenol won’t ease. Sergio is doing pretty well considering. He’s even talking about being confident now in doing hikes with our packs. That’s a bit much for Shannon at this point. We’ll get back to you on that one.

The Ferry

The next leg of our trip is a two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride. And this isn’t your average commuter ferry. Instead, we’re talking about a mini cruise ship. There are 10 levels on the ship, a free cinema theater, an arcade room, restaurant, and much, much more. Operated by Stena Lines, we paid about $62 US dollars apiece to get from Belfast, Ireland to Cairnryan, United Kingdom in Scotland.

We’re sitting in the café, lounge area of the ship, with our laptops in front of us relaxing and getting a little work in, courtesy of the free unlimited satellite internet access (and using a reliable VPN for security!). We can look out the large windows of the vessel and see an endless sea. This… this is what it’s all about.

And The Journey Continues…

From here, we’ll have a four hour ‘layover’ between the ferry and the bus we’ll be taking to the next city. The bus will land us in Carlisle, United Kingdom around 9 PM. With a day of our travels down, and a day ahead of us, we’ll lay our heads in an Airbnb for the night (a one-and-a-half mile walk from the bus stop). Tomorrow will see us on yet another bus to our final destination, a small town outside of Wigton, Co. Cumbria, England. We’ll be house sitting for just under a week and we look forward to the time with their two dogs and two kittens.

A walk, a short car ride, a ferry, two buses, and an Airbnb … What a journey!

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