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Category Archives: Iceland

Being alive comes naturally but feeling alive isn’t always quite as simple or as easy.

When days can so easily churn in to weeks; where breaths become merely fuel for a machine and monotony is the norm.

It is perhaps the case that the moments when I have felt truly alive are almost countable; like standing on top of an Icelandic mountain range, soaking in the thousands of years worth of volcanic sculpture and still having to catch my breath behind a rucksack. Or the time when I was head first in a ‘mosh pit’ surrounded by bodies erupting from live music and dancing; just dancing. Or conversations with strangers; realising the faces you pass every day are not so strange but human and similar; with similar laughs and lives and loves.

In a world full of life, it seems almost ironic that many of us don’t always find ourselves living.

But perhaps the wisest words I can share at this moment are to never never never fool yourself into thinking you can eat spaghetti in a romantic, or even slightly appealing, manner.

I dare say I learn from experience.

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(Here’s me training to become Grumpy Cat’s stunt double.)

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As my body continues to be bound by the ailments of the ill, my mind is left to drift amongst the more despairing of possible thoughts.

For example, have you ever thought that you were going to die?

I have!

In fact, I was so sure that I wasn’t going to survive my Iceland trek last summer I even wrote a woeful will and hid it somewhere in my bedroom before my departure. Presumably, for my heartbroken family to stumble upon after the news of my decease and somehow be less sad, or at least more content at the realisation that their Anna was a complete idiot anyway for leaving them such a thing!

The worst part is that I can’t actually remember where I put it.

So I figure that either I will find it in around ten years and the whole scenario will feel like one of those films where the protagonist realises -due to attending their own funeral etc- that they are no longer alive and have become a ghost. This of course will be followed by me alarmingly asking the next person in sight if they can see me and if I’m alive– which will inevitably lead to them concluding that I have completely lost it.

Or someone else will find it, see that I am perfectly alive, and will think that I have completely lost it.

Perhaps, therefore, I should start writing the will of my sanity.

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And there’s me looking more alive than expected in Iceland!


‘Those who can soar to the highest heights…

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…can also plunge to the deepest depths’…

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As quoted from the many words of L. M. Montgomery;  she has, in only a single and short sentence, described my year of 2012 which, in the dwindling of days, is slowly unravelling its inevitable end.

A year…

I trekked for miles over Icelandic mountains, pushed myself in every way imaginable and survived the lot, yet I was also forced to realise that friendship- no matter how old and seemingly cherished- can mean so little when faced with the depths of despair.

I kissed the man of whom three years ago I would have given my right arm to marry and consequently unveiled that things aren’t -at least not always- as good as we may imagine them to be.

I have lived a great deal of wonderful moments and so carry a hand full of memories but I’ve also had to say goodbye.

I’ve fallen in to the arms of ‘love’ but then gripped by the torment of heartache.

It’s been a year and yet it seems like so much more.

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I can’t help but feel as though I look like a villain in this photograph! Haha.


In an attempt to share my experiences of my expedition in Iceland as fully as possible I have decided to publish a slightly abridged version of my journal which I wrote throughout the trip. So here goes;

 

18th July 2012 (Day six!)

This morning we got up at 6.30. Time has become so irrelevant here as it’s always light so it always feels like the same time of day. My fears for the day were far from comforted with my bowl of manky porridge which I couldn’t stomach. Getting up and ready is the worst feeling as you’re cold, tired and feeling unprepared but still having to pack which is such an effort! We all had to be ready to set off for our trek for out decided time of 8.30 but I think it ended up being more like 9. It was pouring down with rain and very cold. Finally we all gathered at the soggy kitchen area and Mandy gave us all a bag check which took awhile although I think my re-adjusted pack that was much tighter around my hips was a little easier to carry.

And so we set off!

The first abrupt obstacle of our trek were the huge rocks made of solid lava that we had to climb. It was spine-chilling to imagine the rock that towered over our heads once flowed like a steaming hot river. We carried on up very steep hills but I was so focussed I was able to manage with my heavy pack as well as my other team mates and perhaps I finally realised that I can do this. This confidence was very new to me.

It did, like most good things, not last however. It wasn’t long before we were high up in the mountains surrounded by views for miles of beautiful, if daunting landscapes. We had already travelled up fairly steep mountain sides that were terrifying for me and with such heavy packs pulling you backwards and slippery, uncertain terrain my mind panicked with fright.

Going up one particular steep side where the drop below was horrifically daunting I simply panicked. I had, from the very bottom the support from my team but it got too much. My mind was racing with fear and I daren’t look any other way but forward. I was shaking, struck with utter fear and panic and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Mandy tried her best to quickly calm me down and told me to breath. I felt stupid!

I finally plucked up the courage to get up with a final praise from my team of whom also apparently appreciated the small break that came from my attack of panic! I couldn’t have found the will to overcome such a fear without their support and I was tremendously grateful!

With my shattered confidence we continued! It felt like a lifetime before it was finally time for lunch. It felt so weird taking our packs off! For lunch we had banana sandwiches! They were okay but I was so hungry I would have eaten anything! (Almost). Nearing the end of our trek it began to get icy until we were walking on snow! We came across a sign that said how a man had died here in a blizzard in 2004 and who was tragically only a short while from the camp site. This was quite depressing to learn. The harsh terrain and long day had left me exhausted but I still had to push on even as the weather worsened. I was literally pushing myself further than I had ever before.

Seeing the huts in the distance was one of the best feelings in the world! The whole team cheered as we ran to put up our tents in the cold, pouring rain at our destination of 1070 metres high!

It was only around 3 or 4 but we were all so tired that we just wanted to sleep. Christina and I got so warm in our tent that we didn’t want to leave for our tea the boys had kindly cooked. This tea of salami, bean feast and spaghetti was nothing less than revolting and even Mandy agreed! But, it was warm and I needed fuel for tomorrow and so ate as much as my mind would let me.

This camp site with the rough weather, hole for a toilet and broken sinks with no hot water was forever known by the team as ‘hell’.

G Seeing the huts in the distance!


In an attempt to share my experiences of my expedition in Iceland as fully as possible I have decided to publish a slightly abridged version of my journal which I wrote throughout the trip. So here goes;

 

17th July 2012 (Day five!)

This morning we awoke fairly early in order to catch our 10 a.m. bus. Packing everything up and into my rucksack once again was a nightmare and I’m not looking forward to doing it everyday whilst trekking! This morning was my first meeting with porridge (this day was going to have to happen sooner or later!) but we had the pre-flavoured stuff today so it wasn’t that bad! I have seem to have lost my appetite here as I got full quite quickly.

The bus journey first took us to the geezers which smelt a great deal but were fairly spectacular! We also met the other team there and I went around with Lauren; it was great to hear from her!

 

Our next stop was the waterfall which was huge and so beautiful.

 

The rest of the journey took around three hours. The change from flat to mountainous land was a speedy one and soon snowy mountains were the only thing in sight! Although spectacular to look at I couldn’t help being hit with a sudden fear that I, myself, will be climbing those. Some of the journey was like travelling through Mordor with black barren stone fields surrounded by mountains and consequently the bus ride got incredibly bumpy with all the stones- it was nothing like I’d ever experienced before! It was with all the screaming from our bus that the driver suddenly turned to Mandy and spoke the following words, ‘I’ll take you somewhere where I’m not supposed to’. This, of course, was a fairly exciting prospect although a little scary. He drove the bus up one particularly steep mountain where he continued until he got to the top and didn’t brake until the very edge! At this point I think we were all praying for our lives! We had actually landed at a place called the ‘Ugly Lake’, however incorrectly titled.

the ‘Ugly Lake’

Cautiously we all re-entered the bus and took off to our intended destination. When we arrived at our fairly spacious (if in the middle of nowhere!) camp site and it was raining fairly heavily! This made setting up the tent difficult which was only worsened by the hard ground that almost refused the pegs.

We started tea fairly sharpish in the almost well-sheltered kitchen area. Tonight we had sausages and smash accompanied by two cans of Heinz beans that Dan bought at the camp’s shop that were 500 krona each! That means together the two cans cost five English pounds! It was pretty good though.  As usual it was seasoned with grit and grass but I’m getting fairly used to this camping-living.

This was the camp site with the infamous natural geothermal pool and I was gutted I hadn’t brought my swimming stuff. But as it turned out that mattered little as Mandy was determined to get me in that pool and so she fashioned a swimming costume out of binliners! I must have looked like a fool and I certainly wasn’t lacking in stares but it was so worth it! The pool was divine! Made even more so by a fine group of French men with long hair and beards who were also there! Although the pools were relaxing we were surrounded by mountains that were a constant reminder of the challenges ahead so my nerves were never completely at ease. The whole team and I spent around three hours in it and we even had the group meeting there! Mandy asked if we had any worries about the next day and when it came to me I didn’t know where to start! I managed to clear my mind a little with reassurance.

After getting dried off and changed we all went to bed.


In an attempt to share my experiences of my expedition in Iceland as fully as possible I have decided to publish a slightly abridged version of my journal which I wrote throughout the trip. So here goes;

 

16th July 2012 (Day Four)

Today was the day of the first (almost) trek;  it was a practise trek that began close to our camp site. The sounds of our fellow campers has become our alarm clock. We were up fairly sharpish as we’d planned to set off at 10. For breakfast we had bacon butties, it was actually my first ever one and it was shamefully quite nice! Certainly what we all needed. Before we left we were given a short walking pole tutorial, it was then I realised that the poles Dan had been kind enough to lend me before we had set off from England were broken! I couldn’t believe the bad luck I have had with two of mine also breaking beforehand. Mr.Gwilliam was kind enough to lend me his though, and he did for the entire trek! I was very grateful. The weather was SO HOT! I had to put sun-cream on loads throughout the day and wear my sun hat. I couldn’t believe it but I certainly wasn’t complaining, especially as I was sure it wouldn’t last.

As a group we left the cosy camp site and headed for the hills. I say hills but I’m sure they were mountains! We soon came to what would be the first major obstacle of our trek. ‘Scrambling’ is what I think it’s called in mountainy terms. We had to walk across, and on, a harsh path of giant rocks overlapping which frequently left black, empty gaps which I think drilled within me the most fear. It wasn’t long before I was discovered as the terrified one but I was given a great deal of support and guidance from the team. It was one of the scariest things in my life. The real panic struck when I fell at the beginingish and I screamed!! Which obviously struck a sudden (if shortlived) shock within my team. It was then the danger and fear truly hit me. Eventually  jumping over darkness on unsteady rocks just got too much and it brought me to tears! Nevertheless, I was so relieved and felt quite accomplished after taking the final leap onto ground once more and I was soon back to normal. I am so grateful to everyone that helped me.

It was then a fairly lengthy walk afterwards where we came across a small spring from which we were able to fill our water bottles! It was tasty and straight from a volcano. After we had all filled our bottles and had a small rest we set off once more. It was still really hot! As we walked I began to imagine and fear doing this with a full and fair heavier pack. Other people were worried too but I knew they had nothing to fear.

It was when we walked over boggy marshes I found out that my boots are in fact not waterproof! My socks were soaked! Mandy was always wary about us stepping on the vegetation as it it quite delicate and apparently takes ’10,ooo years’ to grow back! This was to become her signature catchphrase!

We eventually came to a river and hence a tutorial for river crossing. The river itself was extremely shallow but regardless of this we needed to learn the technique for crossing rivers safely as there are apparently quite a few large and dangerous glacial rivers on our trek. Something else to look forward to I know! We were taught how to cross in teams of five and practised stepping together in sync holding each other tightly against the hypothetical rushing stream . The water was painfully cold on my bare feet although quite refreshing in contrast to the hot weather.

We were soon back on our feet, well if only for a short while as I managed to slip and fall on my bum as we were coming down a steep, gravely hill! I wasn’t, however, the first of our team to befall such state. I quickly laughed it off and soon gained my stride.

The road back was a long one and I was quite tired at the end yet I think today has given me a little confidence although I begin to slowly dread the future obstacles of our trek. As soon as we got back to camp we got tea going. Tonight we had ‘beef stroganoff’ with pasta. As Dan put the beef in the pan blood came out too! Oddly it was more funny than anything else but yeah that was pretty grim.

Today we were told that if we sent the trangias back to ‘World Challenge’ dirty then we’d have to pay a fine! It was because of this we (Christina, Dan, Cameron and I) thought it’d be hilarious if we sent them back filthy with a small sentiment of ‘enjoy’ attached and a five pound note! How this made us laugh! During tonight’s game of Cheat it quickly became apparent that Dan has no idea (despite his 17 years of being alive!) what the order of cards is as he kept putting down tens after kings and queens. We therefore decided to write the order down for him so he could refer to it as we played, this document was titles ‘How cards work’ and was used throughout the trek! Looking forward to tomorrow’s 6 hour bus journey! That wasn’t even sarcastic. :3


In an attempt to share my experiences of my expedition in Iceland as fully as possible I have decided to publish a slightly abridged version of my journal which I wrote throughout the trip. So here goes;

15th July 2012 (Day Three)

This morning we had to pack for our trek; I only packed the bare essentials yet my pack was absurdly heavy. We left the cosy hostel and on the way we stopped at a huge shop to buy the rest of our food and hopefully find either powdered milk or coffee whitener. After a mad rush around we found everything although we nearly bought self raising flour instead of powdered milk because the packet had ‘mjolk’ on it which we have come to realise means milk! But Dan- thank goodness- wanted to make sure so he asked a fellow shopper who looked mildly puzzled but replied how the powder was for cakes!

Lizzie and I were the team leaders today so when we arrivied at our first campsite we had to get our heads around the budgets and accounts. It felt like we were on ‘the Apprentice!’ We also had to ask the bus driver if he would stop at a fuel station as we needed to buy fuel. Of course, following the quickly accumulating trend of things never going quite to plan, he forgot! Without fuel we wouldn’t be able to eat for nine days so this was quite stressful especially as I was leading and solving the problem was partly in my hands. But in a turn of luck the camp-site’s shop sold it!

We then set up camp. It was at this time Christina, I fear, realised that when I said I hadn’t the foggiest about tents I wasn’t just being modest! Afterwards Mandy talked to us all about tent and trangia safety. We also went for short evening walk which lead us to the edge of the European tectonic plate and we saw (I touched!) the American one! It was awesome!

In between the plates!

Back at the camp we had tea which tonight was pasta, mince and vegetables in a tomato sauce all cooked on our trangias! Whilst we were cooking it some bits of grass fell into the pan (this would later just become every meal’s ritual) but Dan didn’t care at all, he even said it would just add flavouring! That made me laugh a lot! Yum! Later that evening we did a team building exercise involving a rope. The group was split in two and the other group went first. They had to grab the rope with one hand and couldn’t let go. The rope had knots in it that- together- the team had to undo. Our group then gave feedback before it was our turn! We had to accomplish the same outcome (I.e. no knots in a long rope) but a few of us were given disadvantages. For example, Cameron, Ben and I were blindfolded and Dan and Ash couldn’t speak so the majority of the task was put onto the shoulders of Ollie and Christina. It was really fun! I also think it was- as intended- very beneficial for the group to find our weaknesses and strengths as a team and perhaps even as individuals.

working together!

The rest of the evening was spent playing cards! So far these have been my favourite moments whilst being here. We played ‘Bullshit’ (or more commonly known as ‘cheat’). It always ends up with us in hysterics! One of the funniest moments was when Dan put down (in full seriousness) two ones! Oh how we balled with laughter! Dan was not only discovered a bullshitter but also a complete doof for thinking packs of cards contain ones!

Living without darkness is starting to hit me, I miss it!

My exquisitely artistic ‘mug shot’ 😉 taken at the camp site.



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