Words from the Road: Larne in Quest. Wayfarers: Quest for the Cure
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Words from the Road: Larne

   Posted by: admin   in Quest

This post is being posted on October 1st, but was written on September 29th from Larne, Northern Ireland, and that’s why it is dated as such. Check out our “Journal” page to get all the latest updates!

Belfast was an amazingly beautiful city, full of great sights, wonderful people, and exactly the weather they describe in travel books. I’m not kidding, folks, and I’m not being paid by the insidious travel industry* to say this, but Belfast’s weather – indeed, the whole of Northern Ireland, as I’m told – is absolutely unpredictable. Rain will turn to too-hot sun in a matter of minutes. A cool morning will turn hot at 9am and cold by 10, only to rain and be sunny again before lunch.

We started off late Saturday morning, getting a bit of extra sleep with the help of our friends David and Kim, two SCA players from just outside Belfast who were unbelievably generous to us. Their children, Andrew and Zach, helped them serve breakfast (a traditional Ulster Fry, which, let me tell you, was exactly what one needs before going on the road – full of energy and everything’s fried, so if you die, you die happy) while teaching us about the Skylanders. I’ll tell you sometime. Really.

At 9am we arrived at Belfast Castle, a modern castle offering a beautiful view of the city. We didn’t leave the castle ‘til 10; re-packing our bags and getting everything on took what could generously be described as a ridiculous amount of time. Throughout it all, David and Kim waited. Kim took a picture of us pretending to be horses:

Ridiculous, right? Just wait.

About five minutes after the fine folks who had been so patient with us drove away, my leg armour shifted and started pinching and bruising in entirely unpleasant ways. Two minutes of shifting around later and I knew there was no way I could wear them: I would have to take the offer to ship them to us in Edinburgh that our other Belfast friend Marleen, who had shown us around the city Friday afternoon, had given. I took the legs off, readjusted and, with a hearty groan, we were off. Again.

It didn’t take long for the schizophrenic weather to catch up wth us, and we alternated between shivering and sweating like crazy. Less than an hour later and my gorget slipped when I adjusted my pack, cutting off my air supply.

I’m a large man, almost six feet and with a hundred pounds on most guys. I have a great deal of upper body strength and I’m not used to being unable to physically do something that involves brute force. Which is why, when I tried to re-adjust my gorget so that I could breathe, it freaked me out a bit when I found myself unable.

Drew, thankfully, noticed and came quickly. He helped unstrap the gorget and we removed the pack as smoothly as possible… which wasn’t really very smoothly. It was very clear very soon that the pauldrons that I love so dearly would have to go.

Leaving bracers, and chainmail that is the heaviest thing – pack included – that I had with me. The 30 pounds of steel, combined with the extra-thick gambeson beneath it that allowed me to walk in chainmail with a backpack digging into my shoulders without hating life, was causing serious issues with heat regulation that I had hoped would remedy itself in the cooler climes of the United Kingdom. They did not, and so I have come to eat my hat.

Or Paul’s hat, as it were.

No, we’re not giving up. But I am leaving my armour to be shipped to me in Edinburgh. All of it but the (pleasantly visible) bracers are already safely back in Belfast, ready to go. An expensive mistake, but less than if I had tried to continue and, as Paul prophecied, left my armour “piece by piece, scattered throughout the trip.**”

With Marleen’s help we had a very nice lunch, and then – very sore and after a terrifying rolled-ankle incident caused by the armour I’d hung from my pack – got a drive to Larne, where we will start afresh in the morning with a ferry ride across to Scotland. It means that our entire mileage, other than the ferry trip itself, will come from Scottish walking; we’ll be adding some during our stay in Edinburgh, and including some of the wandering we were otherwise intending to do in Ireland. We will still be travelling 500 miles, from Larne Harbour instead of Belfast Castle, but because of the injury (still sore, but entirely walkable, don’t worry – I’ve been exercising it carefully!) and some other problems (like my backpack breaking ten minutes after the trip began) requiring a visit to a store nowhere near our route, we decided that this was worth doing to make sure that we made it the rest of the way.

Don’t worry, folks: we’re still alive, and we’re ready and rarin’ to go. I am more excited than ever to start our trip properly tomorrow, and very ready to step off that ferry in Scotland and do a 25-kilometre hike with a much lighter load on my back.

Next ‘blog will be on Monday evening from Glasgow. See you all then!

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