Friday, August 22, 2008

Svalbard - Greenland - Iceland

What an amazing trip! I could never have imagined it would all be so incredibly beautiful, immense, and awe inspiring. We certainly have wonderful scenery in New Zealand, but this was all on a larger scale, and seemed to be unending; it all had feeling of such grandeur than it felt eternal. The company on the boat was varied and very interesting. Mostly from Australia, with a couple of Americans, a couple of Kiwis, and a Norwegian. My cabin mate and I got on very well, which is a definite plus! The sailing all went well, athough the ones who got seasick probably wouldn't agree - I think they were lucky that the rocky sea didn't go on for too long. One of the highlights would have been slowly making our way through the pack ice, getting closer and closer to NE Greenland. We were lucky in that we managed to get further north than they have for a couple of years. So now I've had a couple of days in Iceland, visiting Lanmannagauer two days ago; a wild and wonderful part of the country, with solidified lava flows, amazing craggy peaks, red soil and bright green grass. The green grass here in Iceland is a very deep and bright green, and somehow looks overdone in the pics. Yesterday I flew up to Isafjordur in the Westfjords (google it), for a little kayaking, a most enjoyable seafood meal in a quaint little old restaurant, a drive through a 9km tunnel through the mountains, and a walk around a puffin nesting island called Vidur - only saw some puffins out on the water, black specks in the distance. Bother!
Off to London this morning. Better hurry and put some pics on - taxi due in 10 mins. Bye!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, northernmost Norway

Denmark and Sweden were such a breath of fresh air. I had this strange wafting feeling that I'd come home. Quite odd. They all spoke to me in Danish or Swedish too, thinking I was Scandinavian. Lovely being amongst so many blondes! It was such fun have days with Karin and Peter - nothing like being shown around by the locals!

After a huge chaotic schmozzle at the airport here I arrived relatively easily at the Basecamp Spitsbergen Hotel. Longyearbyen had been cut off for 3 days because of fog, so there were many people; 600 arriving and 700 wanting to leave. And of course all had luggage, heaped up everywhere. One lady who was on my flight arrived at Basecamp 3 hours after I did - wasn't I lucky!

I went on a day trip on a small ice ship called Polar Girl, to visit both the Esmarkbreen Glacier, and Barentsburg. All very fascinating.

I'm frustrated with this blog. The photos aren't appearing together with the posts and I can't find how to shift them. And the last photos are large, while the one of Mark in Genova is small. ?? Emily! I need some help here. Ah well. Life could be more frustrating than this. I'll keep trying.

We leave this afternoon for Greenland, aboard the Polar Pioneer. I've met quite few of the other passengers, and many of us are sitting here at the Basecamp hotel lobby, waiting to be picked up for our tour of Longyearbyen. I doubt I'll be able to post another blog until Iceland - on the 20th August. Bye for now!

Cinque Terre

Eight days of glorious Italian sunshine, with everything working out well with our accommodation, and wonderful food and wine! What more could we ask for. After our train trip from Genova to Riomaggiore, we walked for 20 minutes beside the sea, along the Lovers Walk, to Manarola. Our accommodation was way up the hill, but really that's pretty much the only option, as there's very little flat ground. We had a delightful little bedroom ad bathroom, and could have breakfast out on the terrace, listening to the church bells. We did go back to Riomaggiore the next day, dive - nice to dive, but it was fairly desolate underwater. We did see an enormous octopus!

From Riomaggiore we walked to Corniglia, then Vernazza, and Monterosso. The walks got progressively harder, but we were very lucky in that we went from southeast to northwest, and had the sun behind us in the mornings. The last day was the hardest, very steep going up and down, but the steps downwards into Monterosso went on and on, and were more like a ladder! I was very grateful for walking poles. And the knee was fine!! Such wonderful views along the coast, and I was continually enchanted by the colourful and quaint many-storied building stacked up the hillsides like dominoes. Some of the villages, and churches date back to 1000AD. Mark organized a rental car for us the last day, and we drove from La Spezia to Levante via the coast (sometimes a few 100 metres above the sea though), and back again inland, along narrow little country lanes, with blackberry vines trying to entangle our wee Fiat. That was such a superb day, and I was very lucky to have Mark as chauffeur excellente.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Italy - Denmark - Sweden

Such a long flight from Christchurch to Genova, 32 hours in all, but somehow it all went very smoothly, aided by 3 hours sleep at the Singapore Airport Hotel, and then a little white pill on the way to Frankfurt! Mark said I must have been a little jetlagged, but I can't believe how good I felt - probably that jetlag homeopathic helped too. The best sight of all was Mark arriving up the Passo Palestro with his bags, and I knew then that the Italian interval was really underway. Superbo!