I am taking part in Hostelbookers 7 super shots thread, because they’ve started lots of travel bloggers scouring their digital photo archives on dark winter evenings (if you live in the northern hemisphere, that is) with this winning idea to inspire those with itchy feet.
Here’s my two penn’orth:
1) A photo that…takes my breath away
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Iceland. It was an October afternoon, a couple of degrees above zero and blowing in a force 4-5 gale off the sea. But still it’s so beautiful that a couple of friends and I spent nearly two hours here taking photos. Just as we though we’d captured the sunset, someone set the sky on fire…
2) A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
A baby Orangutan flicking a crafty ‘v’ sign on his cheek at me. This youngster and his parents oozed character, and make for some fabulous photos.
3) A photo that…makes me dream
Back to dear, lovely Iceland again. This time to Grundarfjörður, on the north side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west of Iceland. Out hiking in a rainstorm west of the Kirkjufell, a small glacier-carved mountain now forming a peninsula at the edge of the fjord, I stumbled upon some lovely wooden cottages. Maybe one day I will own my own cabin around here…
4) A photo that…makes me think
My trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau remains one of the most moving days of my life. I spent most of the day in tears at the awful things that humans can do to other humans, and the sheer scale of the loss of life. These small stones, lovingly inscribed with names and dates of those lost by their dependents and placed on the railway tracks at Birkenau, stun me every time I look back at the photo.
5) A photo that…makes my mouth water
In stark contrast to the above, a very simple shot of my friend Jamie thinking just how much he would love a Pieminister pie at that moment in time. The added bonus is that this was taken at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, one of my favourite places in the world, at the stall next to the also-legendary Brothers Cider Bar in the West Holts.
6) A photo that…tells a story
These two young novice monks, at Wangdue Phodrang monastery, Bhutan, look all sweetness and light. But until about three seconds before I took this photo, they were having the most violent and un-monklike fight in the monastery’s courtyard!
A secondary story is that this was one of my Grandma’s favourite photos from my travels. I spent several hours at her house with the laptop talking her through my photos, but she was captivated by these monks above almost anything else (even the Great Wall Of China, which she had always wanted to visit but never did). I hear she told my Dad and many friends who visited her about “those two little lads who were growing up to be monks”.
7) A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)
This ‘accolade’ simply has to go to my photo of the stunning Yamdrok-tso lake, in Tibet. I often have this photo as my desktop background on my work computer, and people cannot believe it was taken with a compact camera, and has not been digitally enhanced (or even cropped) in any way. I was just lucky, and in a supremely beautiful place.
This photo tag game has been going for a couple of weeks now, so I’m going to nominate 5 posts I’ve seen that I really like (and that inspired me to blog my own – thank you!):
The day started with a trip to the tiniest petrol station (particularly one on the busiest road of an entire country!) to fill up.
I decided to go a little further east before heading back west, so my first port of call (sorry!) was the south Höfn (pronounced somewhere between “hep” and “hup”, with a glottal stop) and pick up a picnic.
There was very little to see beyond the harbour and tiny museum, but it could easily be a good base for an explore of the south east corner if you were that way inclined. I always am of the exploring inclination so soon decide to head back west, stopping off for a bit of rally driving practice (left foot braking and drifting the corners!) on the dirt tracks towards another glacier, which I think is called Hoffelsjokull (it was too remote for signage!).
As I had to drive back past Jökulsárlón (which, along with the Breidarmerkurlon glacier which flows into it, were locations for ‘A View To A Kill’ and ‘Die Another Day’, Bond fans), it seemed rude not to stop and take more photos in the glorious late morning sunshine:
I stopped off at most glaciers and smaller glacier lagoons along the road, taking lots of walks and having immense fun doing ice scrambling (hey, you can’t do this sitting at your desk in central London!). The longest walk of the day was to and on the Skaftafellsjökull:
It was about halfway across the remote expanse of the Skeiðarársandur when I realise that, despite filling up that morning, I was running very low. Running out somewhere across Skeiðará as Katla and Grimsvotn erupted simultaneously and the resulting flood swept me out to sea in the tiny Hyundai crossed my mind, but made it back to Klaustur on fumes.
Driving across the lava fields back across to Vik it was clear to see where the troll rumours come from… just screw your eyes up a bit and look at this:
I spent the late afternoon taking photos of waves crashing onto the rocks at Dyrhólaey:
…followed by some more rock scrambling, a beautiful sunset and wave chasing (with a busload of tourists who turned up out of nowhere) on the Reynisfjara peninsular just west of Vik.
There was beautiful early morning sunshine whilst I had breakfast, but the weather turned nasty approximately two minutes after I started a walk on the beach in Vik, and stayed ridiculously (Icelandically!) changeable all day.
I received an element-battering whilst I took a few photos of the Reynisdrangar rock stacks (legend has it that three trolls out causing mischief one night were turned to stone once dawn broke), before continuing my drive east across the Mýrdalssandur (below).
The next stop on my journey along the south shore was the 120-person village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur (meaning something like ‘church farm cloister’, but more commonly known as “Klaustur” to its friends!). I walked up the steep path on the west side of Systrafoss waterfall (seen below from the top, looking over the glacial run-off plain below), around the Systravatn (Sisters’ Lake) that it flows from, and round the rest of a steep and boggy loop back down into the village.
Continuing east, I took a quick stop at Foss á Siðu, as it looked like a great waterfall for a scramble over rocks at the left hand side. Of course, the combination of wet rocks and a clumsy ginger kid led to the clumsy ginger kid almost falling in, but it was fun!
The Skeiðarársandur glacial outwash plain is much larger and more spectacular than the Myrdalssandur (apparently covering a massive 320,000 acres), with long, narrow bridges to carry Route 1 across the many drainage channels.
Halfway across I stopped to look at the photo boards of the worst flooding, caused by the jökulhlaup after the 1996 eruption of Grímsvötn (the volcano which caused the smaller ash cloud in May 2011). There’s also a twisted girder of the Skeiðará old bridge by the information signs, giving just a little indication of the destructive power of nature.
Further east, beyond the Skaftafell National Park visitor centre, I decided to go it alone on a glacier hike (I’ve done organised ones on past trips), and spent a merry hour sliding and scrambling around in the moraine at the end of the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue.
The last big driving stretch of the day – from Svínafellsjökull to Jökulsárlón – was the best of an amazing amount of beautiful scenery. I had phenomenal views of glaciers and mountains both in front of me and behind, and felt extremely lucky both to be there and that the road was almost deserted so I could keep stopping for photos.
Jökulsárlón (the glacier lagoon) is simply as stunning as I was expecting it to be, and a whole lot more. Despite the bitter cold my friends and I spent a good couple of hours taking photos and watching the seals
…also looking for the Great Skua (not the British Sea Power record!). And then someone set the sky on fire.
I can cram a lot into these days.
After I’d found my hostel and had dinner it got even better, as the clear night and open skies, I finally got to see some bright flashing greens and purples of the northern lights. Only a little “show”, but absolutely stunning and leaving me wanting to make another trip to see the Aurora in its wider beauty again soon.