Off The Beaten Track – Iceland Adventure (and a Half..) 2018

Alriiiighty then.. this blog post could actually be useful for any perspective Iceland tourists, so turn down the no doubt banging tunes, pop down the telegraph (or whatever newspaper floats your boat) and listen up!

About two months ago I was sat in a cafe eating a rather splendid cheese, sausage and salad toastie in Plymouth (in Cafe Americano… but any way, back to the story) when my dear friend and fellow student Shynn came to join me for a coffee (she decided to order a toastie too, but I won’t go there..). As a natural break in conversation arose (as we both took a bite from our rather delicious toas… oh never mind) Shynn turned to me and rather out of the blue and completely casually said “wanna go Iceland in a month with Alfred and I?” I paused. “Yeah alright” I replied and that was that. Alfred is Shynn’s partner who also studies at the same university as Shynn and me and is half Icelandic so pops back to see his mum once a year. After Shynn’s casual invite I didn’t think much of it as exams and deadlines started to bunch; but before I knew it we were stood in some weird airline checking in queue and having those cheeky issues that you realise are the price to pay when you fly with a cheap airline that you’ve literally never heard of in your life…

Shynn, Alfred and myself arrived in Iceland on the 6th June and Alfred’s Mum was extraordinarily welcoming and lovely. First thoughts of Iceland? It wasn’t that cold! Not surprising as it’s currently summer there, but a rather depressing yet fascinating talk with Alfred’s Mum lead to me learning that the summer temperatures have been steadily increasing over recent years parallel to global warming. In fact, in just 150 years it is expected that all of Iceland’s beautiful and majestic glaciers will be completely gone, having melted. This will cause severe impacts to the wildlife and ecosystems, not to mention the tourism and enjoyment the glaciers bring to visitors and locals alike.

On our first day we did a lot of hard core sleeping, all of us completely shattered from having just finished university (literally two days previous to boarding the plane!) When we eventually did come around, Shynn and I caught the local bus into Reykjavik and once we had helped some poor, very lost, old American tourist find her destination, we cracked on with exploring this interesting and cosy capital. Reykjavík is absolutely beautiful. Mountains frame your every view and the shops are all quite modern and ‘quirky’. The highlight though I must say was finding this cracking bakery which sold cinnamon buns fit for a god (honestly, just one singular bite sent me somewhere I’ve never been..) You can find this bakery off one of the side roads from the cathedral (insert name) which sits proud on the very top of the hill (you can’t miss it). There’s also a penis museum. Enough said.

Above: me looking like a knob outside the Harper Building (built for concerts and exhibitions).

Alfred very kindly drove us around during our trip and as a local himself, he was able to show us some of the amazing areas that are off the beaten ‘tourist associated’ track. We were based in the South of Iceland and I have to say the scenery is quite something (a bit like a supped up Dartmoor, with the similar rocky and mossy ground). If you’re into a cheeky smidge of twitching (bird watching) then a trip to Iceland should definitely go on your bucket list (we saw puffins!!). I’ll pause here while you go and add it. Go on!

Now a few touristy areas we did check out included Thingvellir which is where the two continental plates are present (Europe and America). From here there is an obvious path you can follow to see some of the fabulous views of the biggest lake in Iceland (the walk can be as long or as short as you like and it’s well sign posted). You can also check out the old little church in the valley. We had a great walk through the canyons which supposedly separate the plates. One thing that did make me sad during this hike was seeing the enormous visitor center they are currently building due to the massive recent influx of annual tourists. But hey ho… Oh and also… unless you want to spend £3 on going for a piss, I hope you like a wild bush wee. Might be worth keeping a few bob on you anyway though… just in case your bowels promote a different and more complicated substance… Het hem..

Above: a rather interesting rock formation……. Come on now..

After visiting Thingvellir; we carried on driving to the geysers (a hot spring in the ground where the water is at boiling temperature and occasionally spits out when the pressure builds up beneath). These were cool. I advise seeing them if possible.

On a another day we visited Gullfoss Falls. A ginormous waterfall also on the golden circle (a popular tourist route). Stunning views of this vast water mass are possible from a easily accessible path that goes right up close to it (you get wet so wear a rain coat, unless you need a shower). On the drive back from Gullfoss we stopped off at Kerid Crater (an extinct volcano after erupting 6500 years ago) and walked around the perimeter. Fab views and a fairly easy hike, this is definitely one for photos! A slightly dodgy path leads you down to the pond which now sits in the middle of the crater. You do have to pay to do this walk but it really wasn’t much at all (about £5 I think).

Now onto my favourite day (this really was the most fun!) We visited Heimaey (by ferry) in the Westman Islands (a beautiful small archipelago off the South Iceland coast). Here, there is just so much to see and do. The hiking is out of this world (plenty for the adrenaline junky). Lots of incredible volcanos to see, lava fields and wildlife. The Aquarium is well worth a stop off too because you can get face to face with a rescue puffin and also learn about the tradition of local children collecting lost baby puffins and releasing them at sea (daaaw!) Whilst on Heimaey you can also try out the local tradition of cliff swinging (grab a rope, jump and hope for the best) called ‘Spranga’.

Just to finish off this essay of a post (if you haven’t already fallen asleep); Whilst in Reykjavik I highly recommend the Perlan Museum where they have a man made ice cave you can explore. The temperatures in the cave drop to -15 degrees and it’s a lot of fun (no… really!)

In summary; visit Iceland. It’s fun. Not sure how to finish this post really, but I’m gagging for a cup of tea, so I’m going to (needs must). Bye!

TT Xx

© Eve Sanders

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

I’m home everyone! Yes, I’m covered in chill blains and I have minor frost bite on my toes, a few scuffs here and there, but I’m alive! And what a bloody amazing adventure I have been on. I got back on Friday 2nd of September after traveling for nearly 24 hours. Nightmare. I was greeted at the station by my parents, who never have I been so happy to see, and I was going back to my Home! …And cats. Stop judging me…

I signed up for this expedition to Kilimanjaro not knowing anyone else who was on the team. ‘Sod it’ I thought, so I signed the paper. I had to raise £2990 for the Meningitis Research Foundation, which is an excellent charity. With a lot of hard work, dedication and the kindness of my family and friends I raised an amazing £3213.92 or £3462.98 with gift aid. I’m very happy with this achievement.

Anyway! Now to the cool stuff about the climb itself. Upon reaching Tanzania I couldn’t help but feel proud to be back in the same country I was in when at just eleven years old, I first saw Kilimanjaro. Now to be stood on the same ground, knowing that this time I was going to attempt to conquer the worlds tallest free-standing mountain felt ‘totes amaze balls’ to say the least!

We were climbing and trekking the Machame route. The second hardest route on the mountain (there are seven routes altogether I believe.) Not only were we climbing the second hardest route, but we were also doing it in six days, when it should normally take you seven apparently… yup.

Day 1) We started by trekking through the lower regions of the mountain, which was a steep incline through jungle. Due to the altitude increasing with every step; we became more and more out of breath the higher we climbed into oblivion. We didn’t set off until mid-morning, so it wasn’t long before we needed lunch and a toilet stop. (So far this all sounds plain and simple, it wasn’t…)

Sure enough we stopped and munched away at our pre-packed lunches, that was the simple part, however if you needed to disperse of your urine (or little Tony’s), that was a different matter altogether. Emily (a lovely fellow climber who I had befriended) and I headed off into the bushes. There right in front of us on the path, was a human poo, just sitting there, chilling. This became a running theme and I soon realised that it was more hygienic to crap in a bush than it was in the pre-dug hole in the ground – which were often too smelly to even contemplate. But hey! What can you expect up a mountain? It also made using my lovely ceramic, flushable bowl at home feel fit for a king. Honestly, pure magic!

We continued our trek until we reached our first camp -Machame camp, which sits at 2865m above sea level. The incredible porters had gone on ahead to set up our tents for us. The camp terrain was dusty and hard. Not great if you brought a self inflating roll mat to sleep on… that doesn’t inflate anymore. Lesson learnt. Moving on. I tried to eat as much as I could. It was day one and already the altitude had stolen my appetite from me. But knowing the calories were crucial, (for once in my life!) I shoveled down what I could.

Day 2) After what can only be described as an interesting nights sleep; We left our camp at roughly 6am after a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs. The trek became steeper and steeper and took us far above the clouds. The views were breathtaking, as was the altitude! Kilimanjaro has strange weather, it was hot, yes, but never too hot that I felt uncomfortable in a fleece and beanie hat (cool story, bro..) Also due to the air being so thin on the mountain, it’s still important to slap on the old suncream .

That evening, at ‘Shira camp’ (3810m above sea) I became emotional and cried myself to sleep. I literally don’t even know why? I blame the altitude. No, really!

Day 3) I had accepted the fact that my time on the mountain would include: communal bush poo-ing, (picture this, three of us squatted in a row, taking it in turns to hold the torch while we all squeezed one out.. You’re welcome.) Plus struggling to eat tiny bowls of chocolate porridge in the mornings. By tiny I mean tiny, a mouse could have eaten it and still have been hungry after. It really is such an effort to eat when you’re just not hungry! We headed to ‘lava tower’ which took us to a new level of altitude for acclimatisation, before heading back down to a lower camp.

This was the first day I truly started to struggle. My heart rhythm was doing something odd and someone had commented that my lips were looking blue, even though it wasn’t particularly cold yet.. This worried me and I started getting concerned. We were taking breaks every half hour. Everyone looked tired, but you just had to keep going, one foot in front of another. Just as I thought I was going to chunder, a couple of team mates started singing ‘fuck her gently’ by Tenacious D. This incredibly lifted my spirits. I joined in and suddenly we had a little chorus going. The song reminded me of my good friend Vicky from back home; after a cheeky pint or two at our local, we almost always end up playing it and singing along. I felt better after our sing-song and it gave me new found energy to keep going! Amazing what can save your arse up a mountain. The views from lava tower were spectacular. Ginormous boulders everywhere, and a good view of the snow capped summit, looking intimidating. After stopping for lunch, we left to head down to ‘Barranco camp’ 3962.2m above sea level.

Day 4/5) After a good nights sleep (by which I mean about half an hour all in all.) I felt better. The dreaded day had come. The day we would attempt to climb the ‘Barranco wall’. Dun, dun DUUUUUUUN. This was basically scaling a cliff. Enough said. I whacked my knee whilst jumping over a crevice. It was ok, not that there was much I could do if it wasn’t. I was so proud of everyone in the team this day. We all did amazingly and actually when we were discussing it after, we decided it had been a fun and adrenaline filled morning. There really is no way of describing it.

Once we had reached the top of the wall, we kept going until we reached ‘Karanga camp’ where we stopped for lunch and to be checked over by the medics, to ensure we were fit and safe for the nights bid to reach the summit. By now, a few of the team were really suffering and it was horrible to witness. The medics gave us a talk to tell us what to expect on the night. They put it rather brutally and looking around the mess tent, everyone had worried expressions. “Its likely you will vomit and its likely you will hallucinate. Be prepared, its hard, hard work. You will be freezing! Put on every layer you brought and a pair of socks on top of your outer gloves. You’ll need it!” Great. Superb. Smashing. Cheers for that I thought.

 

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After our ‘lovely’ little chat with the medics, we continued our journey to our final camp on the ascent. ‘Barafu camp’ is situated at 4664m above sea level. After what had been a seriously long day of hard trekking and climbing we arrived at camp. There were many tears rolling down cheeks when we got to Barafu. Everyone was nervous about what lay ahead that night and when you haven’t eaten or slept properly in days, emotions do kick in. We were already exhausted from the day and knowing that we still had a long old night of climbing ahead of us, in temperatures likely reaching the minus twenties, it really did seem like we faced a hard old task. We flopped our sleeping bags out and tried to get a quick nap in. We had just two hours to prepare ourselves both mentally and physically not to mention trying to get a nap in before we had to be up again for a quick bite to eat and then get cracking to the summit. I didn’t sleep at all. I was so cold. No amount of layers were warming me up. I tried trapping my head under the sleeping bag. That didn’t work either.

We were all up by 10pm. We had a hot drink in the mess tent before setting off. Our head guide ‘Shanana’ made sure we were all prepped, warmly clothed and mentally ready. We left camp at 11pm. The temperature had reached a ridiculous -25 degrees Celsius. In the pitch black with only a head torch to check your footing, you could not see a thing. The stars however, were absolutely incredible. Just stunning. I started off feeling ok. Most of the team were listening to their iPods. Walking up a consistent steep incline, at ridiculous

altitude, without substitute oxygen, in -25 degrees does have an effect on your body. After a while I started flagging. Thinking my uplifting playlist would help, I plugged myself in. I was listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. It helped for a short while. I remember looking up and seeing a row of stars, perfectly inline. The row of stars started to move and I soon realised that these were the head torches of people near the summit. This was extremely hard to see, already feeling exhausted with every step and yet knowing that we still had so many meters to climb.

At about 2.30am I slumped down on a rock. It was like my body was giving up. Mentally I still felt strong and was in no mood to give up. My lips had gone blue and I was uncontrollably shivering. My guide ‘Attley’, noticed I was struggling. He was my hero, stopping every twenty minutes to violently rub my hands together so that the blood would come back and also giving me hugs, to get my body temperature back up. It was the strangest sensation- being so exhausted and cold that I was falling asleep whilst walking, and you REALLY don’t want to be doing that whilst you are climbing up a 6000m mountain in the dark! Every tiny step we were taking took such an enormous amount of effort. I could hear the rest of the team below me projectile vomiting, it became the soundtrack of the night. I was just so desperate to get to the summit, we all were. At every rest stop, people were falling asleep, propping themselves up with their climbing poles. “NO SLEEP, KEEP WALKING, KEEP WALKING!!” the guides shouted to us constantly. “YOU SLEEP, YOU DIE!”…Great, thanks for that!

At about 6am the sunrise came. After struggling for so long in the dark, the sun was such a welcomed sight, and with it also came some much needed warmth! This really did boost everyone’s moods and gave us the courage to carry on to the summit. The climb to Stella Point, is made up of shingle, so you slide back with each step you take, meaning even more energy is being used. Eventually, we made it to Stella Point. From there, it’s only another rough hour to the summit. Here, I saw hundreds of cartoon mice running towards me. I blinked and they were gone. About five minutes after this first hallucination, Bambi appeared and started running around in front of me. I blinked and Bambi had gone. Bloody altitude. My gums also started to bleed at this point, along with blood clots coming from my nose. Yuuummaay!

After a brief stop at Stella point; I stood up, brushed myself off and prepared myself for the last hour of going uphill. The last push! It was me, Rowen and our guide Attley now, all trying to make it together. I strutted off, feeling confident. About two minutes into this strut, my knees started to buckle and I

was having to stop every few minutes. My strut became more of a foot drag. Everyone was just knackered. In the end, Attley swung both Rowen and mines’ arms around his neck, so that we had to keep walking. We needed to get there as soon as possible as it’s not good to stay in that altitude for long, if you are feeling tired. Finally he got us there! We were so happy to see the summit and what a view! Just the most incredible scenery you could ever wish to see, glaciers sitting on the mountain, hundreds of feet tall and wide. Amazing. Everyone was hugging and smiling. We had made it!!!

This is going to be the anti-climax paragraph I’m afraid. There’s not a lot I can write about the descent. It hurt my knees a lot. It felt good when we were back at the Machame route gate and we started to see civilisation again. Just to wash our hands with water was incredible. Mountaineering certainly makes you appreciate the little things in life, such as a tap, flat ground, and of course a toilet.

Next stop: Mount Everest….

Yeah ok, ok. Maybe not quite yet. But that might certainly be on the cards in the future.. So watch this space!

Special thanks to:

Attley Benson, the man who got me to the summit.

Our head guide Shanana and all the amazing guides and porters on Kilimanjaro who make the climb possible. Thank you.

All my family and friends for putting up with my strange existence.

My cats…

Bear Grylls… *het hem*.

© Eve Sanders

And I’m Off!

Today I leave for London so that I’m ready at the airport for my flight that leaves tomorrow morning. If all goes well, we should be summiting Mount Kilimanjaro on Sunday/Monday (and i’ll be looking like a total penis in all my climbing gear..) I just want to say an enormous thank you for all the support shown to me over the past year. My family and friends have been amazing. Thank you, I couldn’t be more grateful. Through my planned events and the kindness of family, friends and total strangers, I am pleased to announce that I have raised £3366 (including gift aid) and it feels bloody amazing. Right, lets go climb this little lady. Chow for now!

Let the Training… Commence!!

 

For my Kilimanjaro climb, I have been mainly training on Dartmoor National Park.. and yes.. yes there is an escaped lynx currently running around on Dartmoor.. moving on..

I’m so lucky to only live twenty minutes away from the moor and with its high tors, hills and regular cup of tea vans, it makes it the perfect place for getting fit and training for kilimanjaro. I have been regularly going for long walks, listening to ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder on repeat and pretending I’m a bond girl on the run *cough*…  I would recommend Dartmoor to anyone wishing to have a cheeky little adventure in the great outdoors, or for hippies who simply want to become ‘at one with nature’. Anyway.. Dartmoor is fantastic and thankfully never becomes too horrifically busy even in the summer holidays, rarely do you come across lobster red families, with too short pink shorts on. However, I can promise you a glimpse of ‘carpark picnic people!’

Some beautiful spots on Dartmoor I highly recommend:

  1. Widdecombe-on-the-moor – Gorgeous little village with beautiful moorland walks surrounding it (also the ‘Cafe on the Green’ has awesome hot chocolates, so you can replace the calories you lost on the walk..)
  2. Hound tor – near Manaton.
  3. Hay tor – Near Newton Abbot. Great tor for climbing!
  4. Warren House Inn – Fantastic pub for drinks. Set right in the middle of nowhere and with beautiful surroundings. Plenty of walks lead from this area, if you manage to leave the pub!

Enjoy the outdoors!

ToobysTravels x

It all adds up!

A friend of my mum had offered to put on a card party at her house and then donate the money made from cakes, alcohol and the raffle to my fundraising target. I was so grateful for this. A lovely representative from Phoenix Cards came along and donated a percentage of their profit made too. Overall this small yet lovely little open evening helped raise another £100 towards my fundraising goal of £3000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation. It just goes to show that a small event can end up being a big help! I would highly recommend this idea to anyone out there looking for their next fundraising project.

Huge thanks to Val for organising and Jo at Phoenix Cards.

Eve (ToobysTravels)

Fundraising Through Music!

‘The Big Live Music Event, Totnes’ was my most recent fundraising event that I’ve organised – Don’t leave! I promise I’m not going to whittle on about how it went and be boring..

As an aspiring adventurer, my latest project is to climb nearly 6000m to the summit of mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania (the worlds tallest free-standing mountain!) in order to raise money and awareness for the Meningitis Research Foundation. My fundraising goal is £3000 and If I’m successful at raising this, then I will go ahead and ‘crack on’ with the climb.

Having a dad who is big in the music business; I decided to put on a fundraising gig. I managed to get a fantastic local venue (The Dartmouth Inn, Totnes), along with a band who I spotted at an open mic night at uni (The Busketeers. Check them out on Youtube). I also asked my dad to send out an email to all his musician contacts, asking them to come along and perform for charity. We had such an overwhelming, positive response from individual musicians and bands expressing their wish to come and perform, and we were so grateful for the support shown. Incredible musicians such as ‘Maggie Reeday’ and ‘Chris Gibbons’ kindly gave up their evenings to come along and perform for us, which was just totally fantastic! A local business kindly offered to sponsor the event too, for which I was also grateful.

The evening was a total success, raising over £500 towards my overall £3000 fundraising goal. Here are some pictures from the event.

Huge thanks to everyone who came along and supported ‘The BIG Live Music Event, Totnes’.

All the best,

Eve (ToobysTravels)