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

Cold, wet and windy…

Soooo today I made the decision to embark on a 7 1/2 mile walk up on cold, wet and windy Dartmoor. We started at Princetown and followed the Victorian leat in a loop. Rather pleasent – even if I could ring-out the water from my socks and pants just 5 minutes into the trek…. Here’s a picture of me looking miserable – enjoy!…

Bloody Beetles aye? The Daily Nature fix

We all love beetles (and Beatles…) and this ‘Bloody-nosed beetle’ (Timarcha tenebricosa) is no exception. So called because if you shake them (yup…) they produce a red ‘bloody’ liquid as a way to distract predators. Pretty cooooool stuff aaaaye? P.s I suggest, kids, you don’t try this at home…. or anywhere for that matter. Leave the poor beetle alone. Step away from the beetle. Please.

The blues

Gorgeous ‘Blue Jellyfish’ Cyanea lamarckii found at Wembury beach Devon on Saturday at the National Trust and South Devon AONB family fun day! 

Caribbean holy fu%*$k moments..

As a ten year old girl, the prospect of going to a Caribbean island for three weeks was naturally very exciting. My parents settled on the island of Tobago and sure enough in October 2006 we flew there. We were staying in this beautiful, privately owned villa, which was precariously balanced on a cliff edge… (Excellent start..) Marine iguanas roamed the stunning gardens which surrounded the place. Ok, so this all sounds like a holiday of dreams and to be fair (sorry to use that term..) it really was! A holiday packed full of snorkelling, sun bathing and freshly sliced open coconuts. You may recall that I have referred to my parents as pretty eccentric characters (to say the least..) and that our holidays were never just simple ‘holidays’. Well… Tobago was no exception and several so called ‘near death experiences’ soon followed. The first occurred when my parents announced we going jungle trekking with a bloke called Darlington Chance… (oh lord..) Yep. SO off we went trekking through the steamy and beautiful tropical rain forest. Now the first incident occurred when ten-year-old me got tired and asked for a rest. Darlington kindly offered me this large, hollow tree trunk to sit on. I sat myself down and had some water. Darlington was stood up in front of me and chuckling away to himself. When my parents asked him what he was laughing at, he replied with “python. Biiiiiig python live in there” (pointing at the rather comfortable tree trunk I was resting on).As you can imagine I quickly jumped up and never re-situated myself on that god damn tree trunk again.

The second buttock clenching experience happened just after we had taken a lunch stop. Darlington was explaining the shear strength of the thick vines that were hung and twisted around the ancient trees. “Very very strong. You try. Try.” he said, pointing to me… So, I grabbed hold of the apparently ‘oh so strong’ vine, which appeared to be just hanging amongst some thick bushes and pushed off from the ground, taking a Chance on Mr Chance’s word. I swung out being bashed and scraped as I went through the bushes.. I looked down. Big mistake. HUGE mistake. I didn’t take me long to realise that I was swinging over a gorge which happened to be at least 100m in depth (literally!)…. and I was grabbing to a vine… As I swung back through the bushes (white as a sheet and unable to talk), Darlington quickly guided my poor naive father to the vine and said “now you try”. So dad took a flying jump and swung out, only to return with the same bewildered/terrified/sick/pale/angry face that I had returned with not 20 seconds earlier.

After introducing us to his parents pigs (I don’t even…) Darlington Chance kindly took us back to the relative safety of our villa. What a bloke.

Below: Darlington Chance’s parent’s pigs…   Me as a foetus with ‘Pirate’ the parrot on my arm.

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Always check one’s surroundings!

Having recently returned from Tanzania; I was reminded of a situation I somehow got myself into during my first trip to Tanzania (2008) when I was just eleven. We were on safari in the Serengeti and I was in urgent need to disperse of my urine… Yes, I was in desperate need for the loo. The nice man driving the Land rover pulled over next to a hippo pool, so I could hop out and scamper behind a bush. Now, going for a wee behind a bush is hard enough when you’re a female – let alone trying it in Africa’s wilderness.. Trying to avoid all the African thorns, I went for wee. Half way through this much needed wee, I heard a loud gasp coming from the Land rover which was parked in the near distance. “Girls hurry up!! Quickly, quickly!!” Running back to the truck, still pulling up my trousers, I turned around to realise that I was peeing a few meters away from a rough 4m long crocodile!! Yup.. a flipping 500kg animal that could kill in one smooth, swing of a bite. I’ve since learnt to check my surroundings when peeing in the great outdoors.. You know, just in case!