A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: andrewemma

NORWAY - TROMSØ

DOG SLEDDING!

snow -5 °C
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TROMSØ

Tromsø is a bustling little city deep within the arctic circle and one of the most northern cities in the world so we felt very lucky to be able to experience this area for three days. We had originally planned to head to the fjord region in the south near Stavanger to visit the famous Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and also Trolltunga (Devil’s Tongue) near Bergen; however, we found out that the national parks are closed during the winter months and do not open until May which was disappointing but as a result we decided to head as far north as we could – Tromsø it was, and it did not disappoint!

After our late evening flight from Oslo we arrived at the top of the world, well within in the artic circle by 350km’s to be precise. You definitely know you are far, far north of the artic circle when you have the unpleasant experience of the plane landing on an icy runway slipping and sliding all over the place and then the extreme weather hitting you immediately upon disembarking the plane - very much a new experience for us both. As it was super late we jumped onto the airport bus and headed straight for our accommodation in town where we would get straight to bed ready for our first day in the artic circle. Our bus ride was an interesting one, as soon as we left the airport we entered a tunnel that turned out not to be just a tunnel from A to B but a whole road network under a mountain where 15 minutes later we popped out right in the middle of town – welcome to Norway engineering at its finest. The further we travelled through this amazing country we discovered that Norway is also known for its tunnel building genius, as they say, if there is a rock they can dig through they will!

On our first day we woke up to a serious amount of snow that had fallen over night but there was an issue, it was now also raining so all the snow would slowly turn into wet, slushy snow and that is not good for shoes. We both had bought some winter boots to get us through the European winter but it turned out the boots we had bought (being limited to not spending a lot due to our backpacking budget) would not be good enough within the artic circle. So with a whole day outside exploring the city of Tromsø trudging through the slushy wet snow, our feet were soon completely saturated in cold wet dampness. Aside from that issue, we had a great day out meandering through the streets, where our first stop was a free photography museum called the Perspektivet Museum that documented some of the history and importance of Tromsø through the years. From the Perspektivet Museum we headed up the road for a lunch break where we found an amazing café that sold incredible salad baguette’s Norwegian style and due to the prices being super high we decided to share one which was fine as the size of it was enormous. After fuelling up on our over priced baguette we headed for the Polar Museum which was filled with information about the artic ventures of famous Norwegian explorers and also life in the artic. We loved this museum especially as we didn’t know a lot about this type of history since Australia’s history books aren’t really filled with artic adventures or artic life in general. We really enjoyed learning about what life was like back in the day deep within the artic circle and also about all the explorers’ expeditions to the artic. What made this museum even better was that it was all housed in a very traditional wharf house from 1830 – very cool being in a timber house that old.

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After the Polar Museum we continued to wander through some more of the streets of Tromsø (a favourite activity of ours throughout our travels), which included the cool waterfront wharf areas. Also in this area were the offices of several companies that did tours for the Northern Lights so we thought we would enquire about the cost and chances of seeing the Northern Lights during our stay. As we had just seen them in Iceland we were not really fussed about them, which turned out to be a good thing, as the weather was not looking good at all for the next few days so the chances were low and the tour prices were quite obscene! So instead of doing a Northern Lights tour we decided to do something completely different and unique for us – dog sledding in the deep wild landscapes of northern Norway! We headed to the Information Centre to investigate some dog sledding tours and the lady there told us that the cheapest tours were all fully booked for the next two days and the only available option was the most expensive tour – of course. Even though this tour cost more than we ever thought of paying we knew there was really never any other option, we had to do it when would we ever be back in Tromsø! Our decision to do the tour was further justified when the lady told us we would head two hours further inland into a mountain range near the Finnish border that was completely uninhabited and also spend a longer time sledding than any of the other tours. So in the end it cost us more money but it turned out to be one of the best days on our trip so far. Full day dog sledding in the Lyngen Alpes BOOKED!

The next morning we awoke to a foot of fresh snow on the ground but no rain (phew) so with our dried out winter boots we jumped on the tour bus where we were taken to our rendezvous point in the Lyngen Alpes and suited up in our gigantic oversized artic circle onesies (one piece suit for those playing at home). Em got a classy black number and I of course got a bright blue one so basically I looked like a huge blueberry but at least I stood out in the Norwegian winter wilderness. We were then introduced to our huskies who would pull our sled for the next couple of hours through the magical winter wonderland of northern Norway. As we both love dogs we were immediately taken by these beautiful huskies, they were an awesome mix, all with very different personalities and all so friendly and not aggressive at all. With a brief introduction of how to use the sled we were off and we will never forget that first pull from the dogs, we shot off with such speed that I almost fell off. We honestly had no idea how fast a pack of five dogs would be able to pull a sled, we were literally flying over the fresh snow! Over the next couple of hours we were taken through some of the most amazing scenery we had seen during our travels. The dog sledding was a completely new and different experience which is what we both are all about – doing something that little different from the normal tourist activities even when it might cost a little more to us. Our travel advice to anyone is don’t hold back on a new, exciting experience when travelling just because of money… you can always earn more money but experiences only happen once. Spending the extra bit on this tour was by far worth it as the landscapes we were taken through were just magical and to be honest, I personally have never felt so relaxed in my life. I have always loved the snow through skiing and snowboarding up on the mountains but this was a different experience and being pulled along through this wilderness by a pack of huskies was incredible! The great thing about this experience was that the dogs were fast but not so fast that you couldn’t take in the scenery as it passed by. We soon stopped for a break where Em took charge of the sled and drove me through some more magnificent landscapes which was a bonus as I could sit down and take more photos & GoPro footage – a win for me! The hairiest moment on the dog sledding was when Em was guiding the dogs over a frozen lake and we started to hear loud cracking under the sled; naturally being completely inexperienced in this field we may have lost it a little but when you have a very driven German tour guide you just follow no questions asked. Just after we finished sledding over this enormous frozen lake we stopped and the German guide went on to tell us that she doesn’t trust driving over the frozen lakes at all but her boss said it was ok so that, of course, gave us a huge amount of confidence – thanks Boss! We soon changed drivers again as we started to scale a huge hill where you actually needed to assist the dogs in getting up so…. Em Out, Drew In. After the rapid driver change, I got going and helped these dogs up the hill and it didn’t take long to build up some serious heat up within my artic onesie. We stopped for our mid point stop where we got a chance to thank our huskie dogs before we made for base camp to finish up our dog sledding expedition. We loved this time to give the dogs a good cuddle and pat - they were just awesome!

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After a huge day enjoying ourselves in the Norwegian wilderness we got back to Tromsø and bought ourselves another pricey basic dinner and then went for a walk in the ice-cold night air to take some night photography. We headed straight for the bridge that links the Tromsø Island to the mainland where we got a great view of the city. Of course just to make it colder the weather turned it on for us and started to snow but as it was light it made it quite magical seeing it all fall down upon its beautiful city below. On the other side of the bridge lay the incredible church called the Artic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen) one of the main tourist sights in Tromsø. We had heard it gets lit up at night with all different colours but when we were there it was just lit in a basic white light - luckily it still made for a great photo. Once again, I made Em freeze thanks for my photo exploits so we quickly retreated back to our accommodation for the night.

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On our final day in Tromsø we walked back over the bridge we scaled the night before to check out the Artic Cathedral in the day light and also get the cable car up the nearby mountain for a panoramic view of the surrounding region and also the city. Our long wait in the line to get the cable car did not disappoint as the reward was 10 fold. Upon walking out of the cable car and out of the receiving building we soon realised why this was such a hit with tourists, the view was down right spectacular. With the last couple of days being overcast, raining and snowing we were finally provided with some good weather – sun and bright blue skies! This meant our view was completely clear right to the horizon line and so we spent a bit of time taking it all in but as it was still super cold and we had a plane to catch back to Oslo we had to get going and head to the airport.

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Thank you Tromsø for an incredible time and one of the best experiences on our trip, you were well worth a visit!

Next stop FLÅM and BERGEN including the famous Oslo – Bergen railway.

Posted by andrewemma 05:36 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

NORWAY - OSLO

EIGHT DOLLAR COFFEES

sunny 4 °C
View NORWAY -TROMSØ & NORWAY - OSLO on andrewemma's travel map.

Norway was next on our travel hit list and as it is one of the most expensive countries in the world it required us to thoroughly research and book all cost saving solutions. This involved the obvious answers such as choosing the cheapest accommodation options and booking all flights and internal transport as early as possible but we still had the problem of food one of Norway’s biggest expenses. In the end our food solution was to fill an entire medium sized backpack full of Berlin's finest muesli bars and nuts to eliminate the one meal of the day we could do without - lunch… sorry lunch. Food smuggling and mission Norway on a budget had commenced first stop Oslo.

Oslo

We arrived in the Norwegian capital quite late at night and our first experience with exorbitant prices was the menu at the airport that was offering a hamburger for the bargain price of $40 AUD - holy moly what have we got ourselves in for. Next up were our transport options from the airport to the centre which included a 19 minute fast train for $34 AUD per person or the 30 minute slow train for $20 AUD per person hmm tough choice. Hello Oslo the second most expensive city in the world, please don’t take all our money.

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We had booked a hostel in the centre and to our great relief it offered free breakfast, which we had found in our research was not a common thing for Norwegian hostels. Our plan with the free breakfast was of course to make some sandwiches to take for our lunches throughout our three-day stay. The hostel had obviously cottoned onto this idea though and had plastered signs everywhere warning you that this behaviour is strictly forbidden and that you should instead buy their lunch pack for $20 AUD - bargain. Signs are obviously not a huge deterrence but unfortunately for us the hostel had ALSO realised this and thus had put in place a secondary measure of staff member “security guards” strategically placed at the exit to the breakfast room to shoot the evil eye over everyone exciting; ok you win hostel our scrumptious lunch of muesli bars and nuts will have to suffice.

Our first visit in Oslo was to the Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park (FrogenPark) that is filled with about 200 stone /granite and bronze sculptures made by one artisit- Gustav Vigeland. Upon walking into the park Drew quickly lost me as I got distracted by a gorgeous puppy that looked so much like my dog at home, I think the owner was quietly nervous that I was going to steal her dog but once we got past this she proceeded to tell us all about the park and pointed us in the direction of all the must see statues including the hidden Angry Boy. The most intriguing sculpture for us was the Monolith a 14 metre tall column consisting of 121 human figures carved out of a single piece of stone– quite amazing and a little bit disturbing with its human lifelikeness. After marvelling at all the sculptures we decided to pose with the ones that suited us the best…

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Once we had finished posing we headed to the National Museum to view some more amazing art this time in the form of Edvard Munch and his paintings. Having studied Munch’s work at high school it was quite an experience to view his art up close especially one of his most famous pieces The Scream. During our visit we also grew quite fond of the paintings of J.C Dahl and his view of the Norwegian landscapes and scenery – quite spectacular.

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After our art filled morning it was time for lunch and as the idea of a single muesli bar did not seem so appetising we thought it was our lucky day when we spotted a sign in front of a café that stated we could get a coffee and sandwich for $10 AUD. However, after a few minutes of us trying to buy this amazing deal from a confused staff member the manager came out and told us that this offer was just a “suggestion” and didn’t actual exist… to this day we still do not know what that meant but all we knew is that our lunch of muesli bars would have to do. Not a good sign that on day one we were already disinterested with our cost-saving lunch.

Post “lunch” we headed down to the old habour area to visit the architecturally stunning Olso Opera House. What is most extraordinary about this building is that you are able to walk on the white marble roof that slopes up at quite an angle from the Oslofjord to offer panoramic views of Oslo city and its surrounds – Norwegian architecture at its best. The interior made up of wood, stone and glass was also pretty special and we found ourselves spending the rest of the afternoon exploring and marvelling at the design of this building…

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The rest of our days in Oslo were spent wandering the streets and exploring more beautiful designed buildings including the Oslo Cathedral, Parliament and City Hall. We were also lucky enough to visit the interior of the Oslo City Hall and its elaborate mural rooms and grand hall where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held – it was an amazing building. During our street exploration we got drawn into a café that had cool furniture and beautiful people in its interior and may have been sucked into buying $8 cappuccinos… twice… whoops! After our necessary coffee purchases we had to use all our will power to stop ourselves buying furniture, household items and clothes in the AH-mazing Norwegian stores we kept (stupidly) walking into – it breaks our hearts to think about it.

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And of course it would be absolutely sacrilegious to visit Norway and not explore the barbaric world of the Vikings. Drew was the prime driver of this due to his love of all things Víkings and so we found ourselves at the Viking Museum which among other treasures houses the best preserved wooden Viking ships in the world, two way back from the 9th century – they were extraordinary. We spent a good hour here admiring these monster ships and then headed down to the Bygdōy Peninsula where we walked along the foreshore and tossed up whether to pay the high admission fee to visit the Fram museum. After spending about 10 minutes in the entrance hall where we got a good view of the famous Polar Ship Fram we decided to save our money and use it to visit a similar museum in our next Norway location Tromsø. We then used our free time to make friends with the ducks near the fjord and enjoy the views across the bay to Oslo.

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We wrapped up our Oslo adventure with an exploration of the historic Akershus Fortress and the new Tjuvholmen area, which was an architecture wonderland full of amazing buildings and outdoor areas consisting of wooden pontoons and decking all around the fjord. The design and set out made it so tempting to jump into the water but due to the freezing cold temperatures and icy winds we thought it best we just stuck to dry land.

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We loved our three days in Oslo minus the mind-blowing food/drink prices and surprisingly high number of beggars around all the main centre streets. It was architecturally stunning, full of amazing museums, and a great city just to wander- the perfect start to our Norway adventure. Next stop TROMSØ - the top of the world!

Posted by andrewemma 00:50 Archived in Norway Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains art buildings architecture oslo sculptures culture museum design fjord Comments (0)

ICELAND Day Sex

GEOMETRIC CLIFFS

sunny 0 °C
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Day Six

Firstly I think we have to address the fact that the title of our blog entry is Iceland Day Sex. A few things to note: this is still a travel blog, there will be no mention of sex, and probably most importantly the Icelandic word for six is sex – awkward. Ok glad we cleared that up, parents you can now read on freely.

We woke up on day six wondering if the previous night was a dream. Did we really see the Northern Lights? Was that magical light show for real? Did the camera really smash into the ground? Luckily the pure joy at witnessing one of the best natural wonders in the world was enough to trump the sadness over the camera. After all it would have been a way, way worse situation if the camera had broken and we hadn’t have seen the Northern Lights. As day six was our last day in Iceland we allowed ourselves a lazy start with a bit of a sleep in, a longer breakfast and a morning walk around the beautiful fields surrounding our log cabin.

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Our last accommodation spot was not too far away from our log cabin which meant a day of little driving. This short drive was very much welcomed by us both but more so Drew as all those kilometres had started to take a toll. We also had ticked off most of the sites we had listed down as must sees in Iceland and only had two stops to make that morning before we headed to the town of Hveragerði.

Our first stop was the last waterfall we would see in Iceland the gigantic Skógafoss that has a width of 25 metres and drop of 60. We think during our time in Iceland we nearly managed to visit a waterfall a day, not a bad strike rate. As our accommodation was only about 10 minutes down the road from this famous site we were able to get there early enough to beat all the tourist buses and thus had the opportunity to take beautiful shots of the waterfall completely free of people. We were also lucky enough to witness the major photographic draw card of the waterfall- the rainbow that appears on the cliffs beside Skógafoss when there is enough water flowing and the sun is shining. Despite the brutal winds and freezing temperatures we had been very lucky with certain elements of the weather during our time in Iceland with more sun than rain on most of our days. After taking many photos at the foot of the waterfall we headed up the steep path beside Skógafoss which gave us the opportunity to view the falls from the top down and also walk through the valley it originates from.

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Our next major stop was the Reynishverfi black volcanic ash beach and its famous basalt creations. At one end of the beach you have an extraordinary cliff made up of basalt columns of all shapes and sizes and then out to sea you have the basalt sea stacks (Reynisdranger), which, according to Icelandic legend, are the remains of two trolls and a ship that were heading to shore but became frozen when sunlight broke. We loved the Reynishverfi beach and spent about an hour here taking photos with our constant Iceland travel companion the gale force wind. Another memorable moment of our beach trip was watching a lady kill herself with laughter as she stood taking a photo of her male companion on the basalt column cliff who unbeknown to him was about to become absolutely soaked by a huge wave – good relationship there.

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Before starting our journey towards Hveragerði we stopped at a few places just outside Vík to take photos of some amazing houses that had been built into the Icelandic mountains and also some cheeky horses in Barns – we love the Icelandic horses.

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Our final stop in Iceland: Hveragerði is a major geothermal area famous for the huge number of naturally occurring hot springs that can seen steaming from just about any vantage point in town. It was due to the above description that we decided to splurge slightly for our last night’s accommodation in Hveragerði and stay in a hotel that had hot spring “hot pots” dotted along the riverbank. Upon arriving at our hotel we decided that before we jumped into the hot pots we better go for a walk along one of the many hiking trails and so we choose a shortish path that led us over the Varmá river and up into the mountains past the major geothermal areas and hot springs. We only lasted about 30 minutes before we quickly bolted back to our hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hot spring tubs – the perfect end to our crazy Iceland adventure.

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Day Six Night Seven

Since it was our last night we treated ourselves to a dinner at the on site restaurant that had, amongst its numerous culinary delights, mouth-watering delicious bread that had been cooked in an ancient hot spring beside the hotel – mmm. Despite our amazing night of viewing the Northern Lights the night before we decided that if the night was clear we would head out into the mountains to see if we would be lucky enough to view them again- how greedy of us. It turned out that it was extremely lucky that we had seen them the night before as night seven was the worst night of weather we had had in Iceland to date – cloudy and pelting rain which equalled no chance of seeing the Northern Lights. With that taken care of we spent the night packing and watching another form of light show (lightning) lighting up the Hveragerði valleys and mountains.

Thank you Iceland for giving us the best, never to be beaten, experience of a lifetime. This is a week we will never forget… ever.

Top 5 Observations of Iceland

1. In one word WINDY!!!!!!! And an extension of that were the extreme variants of weather we experienced every day
2. The most incredible varying landscapes that made us feel as though we were on another planet
3. Massive waterfalls…everywhere!
4. The local inhabitants were all so lovely from the people to those gorgeous Icelandic horses
5. The best place to experience the Northern Lights!! If you are lucky enough of course…

Backpack Complaints

Poor old Albert didn’t even make the cut for Iceland with his mate Ronald taking over mule duties and carrying all luggage for the trip – well done Ronald and bad luck Albert.
Em: 
0 (best trip of my life without Albert, no complaints here)

Drew: 0

Espresso Count

We couldn’t afford coffee in Iceland!
Em: 0

Drew: 0

Photo Count

Em: 888
Drew: 1418

Posted by andrewemma 12:42 Archived in Iceland Tagged waterfalls mountains beaches hot_springs geothermal iceland reynishverfi reynisdranger hveragerði basalt_columns black_sand_beach hot_tub Comments (0)

ICELAND Day Fimm

NORTHERN LIGHTS

sunny 1 °C
View ICELAND Day Fimm on andrewemma's travel map.

Day Five

Just to sound like broken records we were up early again as we had a long day of driving ahead of us- just for something different! Although we knew that this drive would be the longest one we would do in Iceland we also knew that the end point of Jökulsárlón the Glacier Lagoon would be well worth the drive. On our drive Drew was very controlled, stopping only a handful of times to take photos on the side of the road - a first for him in Iceland. Continuing not to stop was a hard task though as the scenery was amazing and at one point we even spotted the gorgeous Icelandic sheep, which we desperately wanted to get out and photograph but we just drove on past hoping we would see them again. This turned out to be a huge mistake, as we never spotted those wooly sheep again much to our great disappointment.

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Three hours later we arrived at Jökulsárlón and to our great surprise when we hopped out of the car it was sunny and NOT windy another first on our Iceland adventure. This weather made exploring the glacier lagoon so much more pleasurable and as a result we were outside for the longest period in Iceland so far. Scaring the bejesus out of me however were the huge amount of seals playing amongst the glaciers. Having bent down to take a photo on the edge of the lagoon I let out a huge scream when a huge black blob (seal) came darting towards me. Drew in his research knew that the lagoon was filled with seals but I had no idea so they really were a huge surprise. On a side note I had no idea seals could move so quickly it really was fascinating watching them fly through the water once I knew what they were. Jökulsárlón really is an amazing natural wonder. It is Iceland’s deepest lake and filled with icebergs of all different shapes and sizes that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and drifted down to form the lagoon. We spent two hours here and were like big kids in a glacier playground following the lagoon around on foot, picking up giant pieces of ice and finding spots where we could walk out onto the glaciers themselves- it was a lot of fun.

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After visiting the glacier lagoon itself we went across the highway to explore the place where the icebergs drift out to sea and also sit washed up on the volcanic black sand beach – another amazing photo point.

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We then jumped back in the Hyundai and drove back towards the visitor’s centre of Vatnajökull National Park. This enormous park is the largest national park of Europe and covers almost 13% of Iceland. As we couldn’t possibly explore all the grounds we decided to concentrate on the area known as Skaftafell National Park. We knew this park was full of hiking trails that led to a magnificent waterfall (surprise, surprise) and also one of Iceland’s largest glaciers so we were pretty excited to start exploring. The lady at the information centre was really lovely and helpful and one of the things she told us was that the track down towards the Svartifoss waterfall was quite steep, covered in ice and also slippery as the sun had caused some defrosting of the ice. She then went on to say that officially the final descent to the waterfall was closed due to the above reasons but that there was good viewing platform above the waterfall where we would be able to get some pictures from. After that useful information we set off on our journey with our faithful, top-of-the-line hiking stick as per the other tourists around us…

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Once we got to the viewing platform as expected Mr. Photography was not at all happy with the view and so after a lively discussion we headed down the prohibited icy, wet path towards the waterfall one of us freaking out and the other excited (I think you can guess who was who). Anyway we made it down to the little wooden bridge safely and yes the view of Svartifoss was much better down there (as Drew made me say about five times). This waterfall was impressive mainly due to the huge number of hexagonal basalt columns which provided a very cool geometric background to the falls- well worth the scary, slippery journey down to it.

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After making our way back to the car park another Iceland first happened Drew was ready to go and I wanted to walk over to view the Skaftafell glacier (Skaftafellsjökull) up close. I think the only reason Drew agreed to go is because he made me walk that treacherous waterfall path and so we set off on the 4km round-trip towards the huge glacier. This walk turned into a very long one as the Iceland wind decided to rear its ugly head again and quite often we found ourselves frozen to the path unable to move with dust flying everywhere - fun times. As always when you are the one who has suggested something and it has gone wrong I felt extremely guilty but we soldiered on took a few quick snaps of the glacier and headed back towards the car. We were the last ones to leave the National Park that day even the staff had packed up and headed home.

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Day Five Night Six

At the start of our drive we were still about 140km from our dinner stop and by the time we rolled into Vik it was about 7:00pm. Upon getting out of the car we noticed how clear the sky was, you could see stars for miles and so our tiredness instantly vanished as tonight could be the night! We raced through dinner and by 8:00pm we out in the car park again and this time we didn’t need the radar to tell us that those streaks of green in the sky right outside the front door of the restaurant were the Northern Lights! We quickly hopped in the car, drove up a hill and parked the car on the side of the road at the perfect spot - completely dark with an unobstructed view of the sky. There we stood in amazement as the mountains and valleys provided a magical backdrop to the glowing green lights lining the sky. At this moment we were in no doubt that we had finally managed to view the elusive Northern Lights and we can’t explain the feeling we had at that moment – we just felt so damn lucky and excited. Drew set up his camera and spent a while changing all his settings and experimenting with capturing the magical Aurora Borealis and as the camera sat snapping away we stood behind it taking in every moment of this natural wonder.

After spending about one hour at this spot we got into the car and drove a bit further around the hill to a safer stone road where we could leave the car without worry. It was at this spot that the Northern Lights put on the most amazing show. The lines of bright green all of a sudden started streaking brightly across the sky converging into each other and then separating out – it really was like watching a light show. Then the most amazing moment came - the lights started spiraling and twirling up into the star filled sky- it really was magical and absolutely indescribable. Some of the lights stayed in the sky for long periods of time and others put on their best show for about 10 seconds and then vanished you really could not afford to look away.

Just as we had reached the highest of highs we came to a crashing low as a huge gust of wind came through sending Drew’s tripod and camera flying backwards towards the huge rocks. Even with our best attempts we were unable to stop the horrifying result… one severely smashed screen and a destroyed camera. It was almost like Mother Nature telling us yes you can witness this amazing Northern Light show but as a result I am going to take something away from you. Poor Drew, the man who takes the best care of everything he owns, he was absolutely shattered as was I. Not the best way to end our Northern Lights experience but at least Drew was able to capture some of the night’s glory on his camera before the huge smash occurred.

We can’t even describe the experience of seeing the Northern Lights words do it no justice. For the many, many hours we stood watching the green lights in absolute awe we just felt like the luckiest people especially with knowing how many people travel to view this very event without success. Witnessing the Aurora Borealis is just pure luck and something you have no control over, it cannot be planned or bought, it just comes down to fate and that is what makes it so very special. This experience will go down as the best moment of our trip, not just so far but in entirety, nothing will ever beat this travel moment. Thank you Iceland.

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Night Six Down

Result: SPECTACULAR NORTHERN LIGHTS!

Posted by andrewemma 10:45 Archived in Iceland Tagged landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises beaches glaciers iceland icebergs northern_lights jökulsarlon aurora_borealis glacier_lagoon natural_wonder Comments (0)

ICELAND Day Fjórir

LOG CABINS

all seasons in one day -2 °C
View ICELAND Day Fjórir on andrewemma's travel map.

DAY FOUR

Day four was the day we made our way down towards the small village of Vík about halfway between Reykjavik and Höfn on the eastern/south eastern coast of Iceland. It was a fair drive (just under 200 kilometres) so we were up early to get going as there would no doubt be a few stops along the way to take some photos. We had found some amazing accommodation in Eyvindarhólar which is about 30kms from Vík in an amazing gigantic log cabin set at the foothills of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. It really was an ideal place to base ourselves for the two nights as it was not in a village or near anything really which meant should there be any chance of the northern lights we would not have to drive far at all as it was already super dark in the immediate area with an amazing backdrop of the towering mountains behind the log cabin. As we could only afford the super economy room, we would be sleeping in the attic with huge log rafters sitting just above our noses but this didn't bother us as after all we weren't aiming to spend much time there - we were there to hunt for the northern lights!

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This drive is where the Hyundai redeemed itself slightly in my eyes. Trying to get the USB connection to work for our phones I started playing around with all the buttons and dials and then about 10 minutes later both Em and I felt like our bottoms were on fire. What was this, the crap little Hyundai had seat warmers! What a win for us to counteract the brutal Iceland cold - I wouldn’t be surprised if we broke the heaters considering we had them on every time we were driving from this point forward. Well played Hyundai, well played indeed!

As we were driving along Route 1 towards our accommodation (toasty warm I might add), we saw a waterfall in the distance as the road was bending around so we pulled the car over so we could take some shots. As the skies were stormy it made a great backdrop to the photos along with the giant waterfall in the background. After our photo session we jumped back into the car and about 1km further down the highway we saw a huge amount of tourist buses parked in front of the waterfall and a rare sign that told us we had reached Seljalandsfoss another one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls so of course we pulled in to join the hoards of tourists. The great thing about this waterfall was that you got to walk right in behind it and it really just blew us away with how big it was and also how elegant it was falling off the cliff shelf above. The only way of showing you how beautiful this waterfall was is through photos - I may have taken quite a few over the course of maybe two hours.... my bad! Time flies when you’re having fun hey? But look, it's so much better and easier to take it all in once all the hoards of tourist buses had left and that way you don't get them in all your photos and you can really enjoy the sight you are seeing before your eyes.

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Upon arrival at our accommodation we quickly dropped off our luggage and got back into the car to explore a few sights close by. En route to the local sights of Reynisfjara beach, Dyrhólaey Archway and the lighthouse above the Reynisfjall Cliffs we passed by Skógarfoss ANOTHER famous Iceland waterfall and although we were impressed with our view of it from the car we decided to visit it another day as after two hours at the previous waterfall we were “waterfalled” out. Just as we made it to the lower car park below the lighthouse on the Reynisfjara cliffs and got ready to face the wild winds of Iceland again we were immediately confronted by an odd Bulgarian couple who had just happened to lock the keys of their hire car on the front seat. To this day we still don't know how that happened as whilst we were getting ourselves ready with our cameras and jackets we had been watching them get in and out of their car numerous times enjoying cigarettes before eventually locking themselves out of it. This lead up was quite funny to watch but actually turned out to be really annoying for us as they were so useless I had to coordinate their whole rescue mission while they stood 10 metres away continuing to smoke cigarettes. What was even more annoying was that they had both left their phones in the car so they didn't have a means of calling the hire company or an emergency service so they asked us to call for help on our phone hence dissolving all our credit. After sorting out their situation I told them to wait as help would be there soon to resolve their locked car fiasco. He was a bit nervous but after I had spent almost an hour sorting out his problem my patience was wearing thin and as we were running out of day light and needed to get on with seeing the area we had originally driven down to see we left the two chain smoking Bulgarians and got on with our touristing. With that ordeal behind us we proceeded to climb up the nearby cliffs to get to the amazing view of the Dyrholaey Archway from a distance. Even from this distance the archway was an impressive sight especially with the wild ocean smashing up into the shear cliffs. We also clambered down the cliffs to a lower, more sheltered section to get some other shots of the coast and enjoy the view in a bit more peaceful weather.

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About 30 minutes later we returned to our car to move up to the upper car park right near the light house that sits adjacent the Dyrholaey Archway but before we did that we made sure the police had turned up to assist the Bulgarians in retrieving their keys. Once we saw they were in safe hands we left with the hope we would get some good karma in return down the track. Fingers crossed! Our second view of the archway down from the lighthouse was even more impressive and really gave scale to how big it was. The archway was just massive and how it survives the continuous barrage of waves smashing into it is beyond me. We spent a good chunk of time up here as it was a high point along the southern coast and therefore gave some perspective on the nearby lands, beaches and also mountains behind it.

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After driving down from the lighthouse we came across an amazing field that was glowing in the late afternoon sun – a true Golden Hour moment for all those Photographers out there. I again put Emma through a long long wait in the Hyundai whilst I was running, climbing, rolling, lying around in this incredible field off the main highway. Lucky we found the seat warmers as she had them on full speed to keep her warm from the blasting winds outside.

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Once another epic photography session was finished we passed the turn off to the famous Reynisfjall Cliffs. We had planned on visiting the cliffs after the lighthouse but thanks to our Bulgarian friends we would have to leave that to another day. No big loss as we were both pretty hungry by then so after a little wait for me to finish up with my photos we jumped back into our car and headed to Vík (the only town within hundreds of kilometres that had a restaurant) to grab ourselves a feed.

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DAY FOUR, NIGHT FIVE

The restaurant we went to in Vík was small and very busy as it was the cheaper of the two restaurants in the village. The menu was pretty simple so I settled for a hamburger and Emma had an Icelandic lamb sandwich, both were great Iceland hearty sized portions. As the skies were relatively clear we hurried through dinner and headed back to our log cabin to scope out our trusty radar. As we logged on we were quite surprised and excited to see a rating of 4 which meant ACTIVE northern lights so we quickly raced into the backyard of our cabin. We saw another couple standing up on the ridgeline out in the paddock with a tripod set up so we thought something had to be going on. We ran up to the ridgeline and we saw two VERY faint green lines in the sky looking out towards the ocean. As we had no idea what we were looking at we asked the other couple but as it turned out they were very much in the same boat as us and had no idea either but we all agreed they were very faint northern lights in the sky. After only a couple minutes the lights disappeared but that didn't stop us looking into the sky for over an hour with our new northern light friends just in case they came back. As like previous nights your mind starts to play tricks on you thinking you have seen something when you haven't which was quite amusing for all four of us. As it was getting very late and we had to be up early again we headed back inside and up to our attic to sleep with our log rafters sitting atop our heads. Thankfully the beds were super comfy which was a huge bonus as sleep in Iceland was becoming a rare thing for us as we were spending so much time exploring during the day and then staying out late at night in an attempt to see the lights. We really had won in our accommodation for these two nights; gorgeous room, great beds and already a super faint viewing of the northern lights... we think.

Night Five Down

Result: FAINT Northern Lights!

Posted by andrewemma 13:11 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

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