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A great craic for Sima
Artist and cyclist-explorer Sima Gonsai was inspired by Irish friends in Birmingham to map out an alternative Ireland travelling to places recommended by them and local people she met along the way.
Artist and cyclist-explorer Sima Gonsai has just returned home to Birmingham following an extraordinary 900 mile trip of coastal Ireland - on her bike.
Sima mapped an alternative Ireland inspired by stories and recommendations from Irish friends in Birmingham and those she met on route.
Sima plotting her next route
A reminder of my own roots in India
Sima told us: "The whole project was inspired by my Irish friends in Birmingham who always share their memories and stories about living in Ireland. Their memories about growing up in Ireland remind me of my parents stories about growing up in India.
"I love storytelling and decided to find out more and spoke to members of the Irish Welfare club in Kingstanding and Erdington. We marked all the places they came from on a map, which gave me the idea to cycle coast-to-coast in Ireland and see for myself where their stories came from."
Dublin to Belfast in 6 weeks
Starting from Dublin and finishing in Belfast six weeks later, she pedalled 40 miles a day passing through many cities, towns and villages, asking local people where to travel to next. Sima met an array of enthusiastic strangers.
Sima on her travels
"I started the cycle ride on 15th August and finished 6 weeks later on 31st October. Each day was hard because I never knew what was round the corner.
"I passed through many villages and especially liked Sneem and Lisdonvarna. The people were really friendly and hard grafters who really respected the hard graft of cycling.
"They gave me a guided tour and introduced me to the locals who got involved in my journey and we would spend many hours sinking into a few drinks and sharing stories. I was treated like a celebrity!
Hitting the pubs
"My daily routine was to cycle 4 hours a day, find a place to stay, go out for some food and then hit the pubs to find stories.
Sima on her travels
"Pubs are like community centres and I found after a few hours people would be queuing up to tell me their recommendations and stories."
Among those she met were an Irish Elvis, The Best Barmen in Wicklow, Conrouche's very own John Wayne, the quarrymen from Sneem, ‘Billy the Pro’ in Lisdonvarna, ‘Mayo Man’ from Galway, the Donegal Carpenters, Terry from Derry and the show dogs from Larne.
"As a filmmaker, I think there are a lot of opportunities to work with communities and make films about cultural diversity. I filmed as much of the journey as I could."
The final phase
Sima's adventures will now be written into a book and made into a film outlining an alternative map of Ireland with the anecdotes and stories from the Birmingham and Ireland communities, and then distributed to people who contributed to the project.
You can see more of her travels via her Myspace page.
And the final word goes to Sima: "I truly experienced the craic!"
last updated: 06/11/07