It is the year anniversary of me going to Iceland as I write this and it is still one of my favourite countries for natural beauty. It truly is wild, rugged and stunning. My friend and I hired a camper van out of Reykjavik and because I had a luggage limit I bought about 20kg of noodles and tins of food with me from the Lidl Supermarket in London as I knew food was going to be expensive. We got our van, and equipped with a map and about 22 hours of daylight every single day we started driving north. Iceland still proves to be one of my favourite countries in the world for its’ sheer natural beauty. If ever you get a chance to go, you definitely should! Here is what my friend and I got up to in that week.
Day 1 – Reykjavik to Oxnadalur
After picking up the car in Reykjavik and getting equipped with some fuel for the stove, we drove north and despite getting semi lost on the way up, we eventually found our way out of the city, over the wrong bridge and on our way. We stopped in to see the Glymur waterfall and dropped in at Deildartunguhver, the worlds most powerful hotspring. We then drove via Reykholt and stopped in on a historical center before checking out the Barnafoss waterfall. These falls were impressive and we walked around for an hour or so taking pictures and checking them out.
Our last major stop for the day was at the Grabrok lava fields and craters, which were again, super cool. After there wasn’t too much in the way of things to see for the next couple of hours so we continued to drive towards Akureyri until we got tired.
As we came up over this hill, there were some amazing views of the mountains so we parked the van in a carpark, ate some dinner and crashed out for the night to the stunning views of Oxnadalur, which don’t of course disappear when the sun doesn’t go down.
Day 2 – Oxnadalur to Jokulsa a Dal
We made our way to the larger town of Akureyri in the north and stopped in for a while and had a drink in a coffee shop. We wandered the streets checking out the quaint fishing village before we drove on through to the Godafoss waterfalls, and on to Namafjell and Jardbodin where they had some awesome geothermal mud pits and springs.
We decided that since it was bath time we should stop in the springs and swim about for a bit. They were so nice and warm and had incredible views. It was such an amazing experience. And after the bath we continued to drive on. We arrived at this place called the Viti Crater which means hell in Icelandic. It was cold, but absolutely stunning, and oddly frozen over.
We tried to head north to see Detifoss waterfall however we got stuck in a fog and decided that this wasn’t the safest path to take so we turned around and continued our way east along the ring road. We parked the car somewhere around Jokulsa a Dal and had another sleep in the bright lights of constant sun.
Day 3 – Jokulsa a Dal to Hofn
We drove on through towards Seydisfjordur, down the stunning winding roads before the coast and spent some time hanging out in the port town. On the way back up, there was a really cool waterfall, Gufufoss and we stuffed around for a while taking pictures of ourselves in our Cinderella and Dora the Explorer masks that came along for the ride with us.
As we continued along the winding road we stopped in a town called Djupivogur where they had massive whale bones on display and some really cool things in one of the garden shops there. We explored these some more before making our way to Hofn where we camped on the side of the road for the night.
While we drove most of the north super quickly, I did really enjoy the time I spent up here. It was a really cool start to the journey…. but all of the things that we were both super excited about were in the south and we were yet to get there…
To see what we did in the south, check out Part 2 next time!
So to make it all the way to the western-most point of Canada just so I could say that I have been all the way overland from east to west, my across Canada trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Vancouver Island.
I took the local bus to the ferry and caught the ferry over to Victoria, the major city on Vancouver Island. It was a beautiful day so I went for a walk around the legislative building and sat upon the lawn listening to a free concert that they had playing for a festival. I also went to visit the Antarctic Exhibition at the museum. One of the biggest things that struck me about Victoria was the sheer number of homeless people that the government had literally shipped over to Vancouver Island during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It was so sad to see how many of these people were scattered about the streets with nowhere to go and it was in a way very heartbreaking.
I got my rideshare up to Nanaimo with Marika who was really lovely. Nanaimo was a dead town so it was on the bus to Tofino. It was beautiful in Tofino but quite cloudy. I went for a wander around the town and checked into the hostel. I didn’t book before arriving and this was again going to bite me in the butt when they tell me they have only two of the three nights I wanted and as such for the middle night I was going to have to find somewhere else to stay… an interesting feat given that the town appeared to be booked out with accommodation.
So I set off with my one man camouflage tent in search of somewhere to pitch a tent for the evening. I took the bus to Mackenzie Beach, decided that $40 a night to pitch a tent was ridiculous and then trotted over to the aptly named Mushroom Island to find somewhere to illegally pitch my tent and hope that the cops didn’t find me. I found a pretty good place, or so I thought, shaded by fallen trees and other bushes. I set up my camp, went back to the campground to use their facilities and stock up on water supplies and headed back to my campground to find that it had been discovered by some hippies from the commune Pools Lane down the road. They had started to build a fire no more than ten meters from where I had pitched my tent and were sitting around playing their ukulele and smoking. So I hung out with them for the rest of the night around the fire with the soothing sounds of others playing music next to their bonfires along the beach. Eventually they said goodbye and went back to Pools Lane and I went to bed.
I awoke to a dog sniffing around my tent. I poked my head out to discover that I had been yet again found out by a dog and a couple of kids wandering through the paths of the island. I decided it was time to get up, pack up my stuff and make tracks back to Tofino. I spent the afternoon sitting on the pier reading and it again turned foggy and the weather unbearable for outside activities. I bunkered inside for the evening, my last on the island.
In the morning I took the bus back to Nanaimo and caught the ferry back to Vancouver. It was over. A massive trip from east to west completed and now it was time to settle down and get to some work for a while. My Canadian adventures had ceased for a while…. but only for a short while! 🙂
After hours upon hours of driving we finally arrived at the L’anse Aux Meadows. When people say that Colombus was the first European to arrive, they are dead wrong. The vikings have history here from 1000AD and this is where you find it! I was super excited to kick of my learning session here with an evening storytelling session where people dress as viking characters and tell all of the tales about how the vikings lived and traveled here. All the while I sat sipping on appleberry cider which is just superb.
After the storytelling we left the traditional viking hut and walked outside to the sunset to be confronted with my first ever male moose with his giant horns poking up into the sky. Wandering around behind him was mumma moose and baby moose. I saw five moose that day so I was pretty excited!
The following day we returned to the L’anse Aux Meadows site for a more historical look at the area. It left me with a very fine respect for the Norse people in actually managing to cross the Atlantic Ocean with such basic boats. It also made me want to go to Iceland… but anyway, after this we went to the Norstead site as well and got to see Snorri the famous viking boat.
And so we were off again in shocking weather this time bound for the Gros Morne National Park. Upon arrival, we set out on the Green Gardens Trail for an overnight campsite. I must say that it at the time was one of the hardest hikes I had ever done, falling over three times into prickle bushes on unsteady ground. Upon arriving at the campsite, it was so windy that it was a challenge to get the tent to stay where it was let alone erect it in ridiculously high winds. Eventually we succeeded… barely, and ended up having to put heavy rocks inside the tent in each corner to try and stop it from blowing away while we were in it and even this didn’t work the best.
The following morning we packed out and made it across a couple of river crossings, minus a sock that I lost in the river and on to the Gros Morne Mountain trial to hike the big one. We started that and set up camp in the evening at the campsite ready to summit the mountain in the morning.
And so morning came, bringing with it more horrific rain. We got up, hurriedly summitted the 806m mountain and then proceeded to rapidly pack up camp and hike our way back to the carpark. People looked upon us strangely as we proceeded to take every single item of clothing off and get into the car in bra and undies with the heating jacked up to try and feel our bodies again.
That night after sitting at a laundromat for a couple of hours trying to dry everything, we caught the Newfoundland Ferry back to Cape Breton Island. Spent the day at the Louisbourg Fortification National Historical Site which was pretty interesting before getting our way to Halifax.
Halifax was an interesting time for me. While my significant other at the time was working, I had nothing much to do out in the sticks with the campground but I managed to make an agreement with the lady who ran the caravan park to do some gardening around the campground for our stay as her normal gardener had just had a hip replacement. One of the days after gardening I walked an hour each way to the Walmart and bought a set of knitting needles and a couple of balls of wool, thus beginning what would become my knitting obsession. Scarves, hats, I even attempted to make a blanket which eventually started falling apart because I am a horrendous sewer. I worked a promotions job for a couple of days also to make a little bit more money and on some of the days I got to go and visit different attractions around Halifax. And I also bought and cooked my first lobster over the campfire despite their protests!
One of the biggest drawcards for me was the Titanic history. I went to visit the Titanic Museum and learned about Halifax’s role in the rescue and recovery. I also went to the graveyard where they buried many of the victims bodies that they recovered. It was incredibly sad, but great to visit too. As a part of this they also had information on the Halifax Explosion which I didn’t know much about at the time, but found very interesting.
Time in Halifax came to a close and we drove on to Peggy’s Cove and watched the waves there crashing upon the rocks. We stopped in the quaint town of Lunenburg to camp. The last leg of the Eastern Canada trip was about to begin.
For the last leg of the eastern Canada trip, stay tuned…
Our first pit stop out of Eastport was through to Cape St. Mary’s where we went to the bird sanctuary and marveled at the myriads of gannets hanging about on the cliff face. Then it was on to the major town of St. John’s. Went to go and visit Mistaken point along the way but didn’t realize that we were too late for the fossil tours though I did find a fossil on the ground that I cheekily took home with me.
We spent the night down on the main street of St. John’s, George St. We danced through the Newfoundland pubs to traditional Newfie and Irish music before having a feast of street meat on the way home. During this evening we became aware of this thing that locals enforce upon tourists called getting ‘screeched in’. It involves singing some random Newfie song that nobody understands, kissing a cod and doing a shot of screech. We beared witness to quite a few people getting screeched in, however I was not up for the screech that day so I passed.
The next day was spent wandering around Signal Hill and playing pool in the Duke of Duckworth’s pub, recommended to us by a local for some special reason that we didn’t manage to figure out. And post this it was time to hit the road again.
Up to Conception Bay and then around to Trinity Bay, we stopped along at the most famous town of Newfoundland, the aptly named Dildo. I couldn’t stop giggling as I took photos of all things Dildo. I even wen and had my photo with the famous Captain Dildo with my hand inappropriately near his bits for shits and giggles. Went and drove through Cape Spear and then on to Charleton for the evening to camp.
Woke up the following morning surrounded by a moat as it had rained so heavily overnight that we were swimming in the tent. So after quickly packing up, we drove up to Cape Bonavista where John Cabot famously (and apparently) landed in 1497. There were stunning Inukshuk built across the entire landscape, a native Inuit symbol to point the way, and they were just beautiful. But given the weather being so horrid, we drove our way back to the farm for the evening.
I spent the next couple of days in the kitchen cutting zucchinis, cooking breakfasts and all meals for people. There were now 8 people staying on the farm and manning the kitchen had become somewhat of a full time job, but one that I really enjoyed. In the midst of this we took a well deserved day off to go and see the Terra Nova National Park and hiked along the Coastal Trail and the Blue Hill before it again started to rain.
One of the days decreed a no work day we headed up out onto the point and between us collected about 6 pounds of chanterelle mushrooms that were worth quite a bit in the shops if you are to buy them but are in massive abundance in this area and nobody seems to pay too much attention. The mushrooms were spread out on the table as we brushed all of the dirt off them and cleaned them and then after we cooked them all in a pan with butter and ate the lot of them between us! Utterly delicious!
This was my last night I spent at the farm before heading off. We played ‘fetch the stone in the ocean’ with the confused dogs and collected some blueberries for the road before heading off onto the road and beyond in again, a giant thundercloud of heavy rain.
Check out the last of the Newfoundland adventures in the next installment!
As we drove up the laneway to Eastport Organics there were people lounging about on the lawn after a hard days work. We met Jason, who owns and runs the farm and Meghan and Cuchulain who were staying on the farm and helping out. We went blueberry picking in the late afternoon in the abundant bushes down the road and cooked up an epic feast of local cod, fresh vegetables from the garden and cheesecake. Dinner was also served with good conversation which was awesome. I knew in the first couple of hours that I was going to enjoy staying here very much.
The next day was the first one getting to work. I planted two and a half rows of lettuce plants, picked some raspberries, and watered and weeded sections of the garden. Gardening is something that I have always enjoyed and I started to learn a few tricks of the trade here. Namely on the first day about compost tea that used compost and seaweed from the beach harvested and kept in a big drum of water that is used to water the garden so that it is full of nutrients. We ate kaplan fish sticks and scallops for dinner which was delicious. My back and hands hurt from the hard work but for the first time in a while my tiredness felt hard earned. I slept very well that night and was super relaxed.
On the farm lives quite a few animals that I quickly came to adore. There was Marley, the cheeky golden retriever, Kota, the black labrador, Zeus, the black and white cat and a couple of horses. We spent the morning hanging out with the animals and taking pictures with them. They are too cute. We had another new arrival on the farm in the form of a German girl, Wiebke. We weeded and watered for the afternoon, picked some blueberries and raspberries and then we cooked up and ate an epic feast of scallop and cod mornay with cheesecake for dessert.
In the afternoon I watered, harvested zucchini and served customers. There were so many zucchini going about the place that I made stuffed zucchini for dinner. We sat and watched the fireworks over the property outside that they had down the road and then headed off to our first ever Newfoundland kitchen party.
Now I had not really heard too much about these before arriving in Newfoundland but apparently they are an institution and one that should not be missed. So down the road we went to Chad and Thea’s house where we all sat around in the kitchen eating fish and brews (a local dish traditional at Newfie kitchen parties) and playing musical instruments and singing. It was a heap of fun. I don’t know why more people don’t have kitchen parties to be honest.
The following day led us even further to living off the land. We spent the morning planting lettuce and picking raspberries before going mussel diving. The unfortunate thing about this was that there were too many jellyfish and not enough large mussels to make it worthwhile for dinner so we decided to come home with sea urchins instead. After harvesting the roe, also known as uni and a Japanese delicacy, from the middle we decided to make a pasta sauce with the uni for dinner. Adventurous… it kind of has a taste like lobster but with a really buttery type of texture. While it was good, we didn’t have enough uni.
After working the morning the following day, we got a visit from Chad and Thea at the farm. Chad was building a makeshift pizza oven on the beach from the clay and sand in the area and was curing it for the evening so we could go and have a pizza party. They were to bring the dough, we were to bring the vegetables. And so we went down and sat on the beach with beers and a guitar eating vegetable, uni and blueberry pizzas (not all together of course) and singing some tunes as we went. It was the most glorious day and I was starting to feel really at home in Eastport.
In the coming days the zucchini continued to get out of control and I spent my days harvesting and chopping zucchini into small pieces and putting them into bags to be frozen. I took Marley to the beach in the afternoon to play fetch and the defiant puppy decided that when I was done he wasn’t and ran away on me. I spent most of the afternoon chasing after him and trying to get him to come home. What a pain in the butt! But I still adored him anyway.
My last day round one in Eastport was spent getting stung by a bee whilst hanging out washing and spending the rest of the day chopping zucchini. In the evening we drove down behind the new land that is being cleared to expand the farm and started up a giant bonfire with all of the scrap wood that was cleared. We sat around and cooked sausages on sticks and played guitar and sang songs. It was a lovely way to spend the evening and I was feeling more relaxed than ever. But it was again time to hit the road for a couple of days and see what the rest of Newfoundland had to offer in the south.
To see what I got up to on my southern Newfoundland road trip, check back in next week!
On little to no sleep after a shocking boat ride, we arrived in Newfoundland. My eyes widened as the beautifully stunning, rocky cliff faces and mountains appeared around us as we drove getting off the boat. We got as far as Corner Brook and spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun on the lawn with the locals and taking a nap.
We continued on driving from here to Pasadena where we were looking for our campground. We got a little lost but in turning around in an old guys lane way we were greeted local style with a guy yelling at us to get out of his drive way or he would kill us and he was going inside to get his gun. Just a touch scary….
We drove the next day through to a place called Leading Tickes and camped on the most spectacular beach . There was black rock sand and mountains jolting out of the water. We sat and took it all in as we ate raspberry and apple pie for dessert and watched the sunset. Life doesn’t get much better. Except for with a crossword puzzle by the fire.
The following day was off to Twillingate after a short hike up the mountain in the morning at Leading Tickles. We stopped in to see the giant whale skeleton and I was greeted by a man who had a lagerphone, a giant broom pole with bottle caps nailed to the side of it and a gumboot on the bottom. It is a makeshift musical instrument that they play by stomping the boot on the ground and hitting the broom stick with another smaller stick. We have them in Australia as well so the guy in the shop was super excited to pull one out and play it for me.
We bought a cod for dinner from a local store and set up at the campground for dinner. Then we went off to go and watch the local entertainment for the evening, The Split Peas. The band consisted of 7 Newfie women and they were incredible as they went through a whole bunch of traditional folk songs from the area and some they had written themselves. They fed us with traditional toutons and partridge berry jam. I was singing songs for the next week afterwards I loved it that much.
I spent the morning talking to our Aussie camping neighbours. They managed to entice me over the fence with the jar of Vegemite they were sporting and we chatted about home things. It was nice to have that familiarity for a while. From here it was on to check out the Long Point Lighthouse before driving down to Eastport where we had arranged a work for stay for a week or so. Of course stopping off to have a crack at eating my first moose burger.
I was excited as it was the first time I was going to be doing a work for stay and who knew what it would hold. Little did I know as I was driving up the laneway that it was going to be one of the most amazing adventures that I would have.
Check out my stay at Eastport Organics in the next installment!
After three weeks in Quebec we moved on into New Brunswick. After passing through the point in Caraquet we went to the Arcadian Historical Village for a visit. They had a set from the 1600’s with actors playing characters from the era. It was really cool to see how the place operated when it was in its original day.
On the way south from here we arrived in Miramichi to torrential downpours and decided that there was no point trying to pitch a tent in this kind of weather so we went to see a movie in the cinema, parked the car in McDonalds and slept in the car close to wifi access.
After another day of driving in huge torrential downpours through Moncton, we decided to continue on to Picton, Nova Scotia. We were kindly graced with a free campsite by a kind man who took pity on us pitching a tent in the ridiculous weather with all of the puddles about, so we crashed out for the night and continued driving until we got to Cape Breton Island.
Dunvegan was where we landed when the storm finally cleared. We set up camp in a stunning spot right on the beach that reminded me of home. I picked some wild raspberries from the bushes and we set up and ate dinner by the beach.
We continued driving north and made it to the the Cape Breton Highlands National Park where we did the Skyline hike out to the point. I ate wild raspberries and blueberries along the boardwalk all the way out to the point. From here there was more blueberries and raspberries eaten along the Neils Bay coastline hike along the beach. I got pretty bad sunstroke and spent most of the afternoon sleeping in the car on the way to Sydney, Nova Scotia.
North Sydney sucked as a town. There wasn’t much to do there. But in the glorious graces it turned out to be lobster season so we drove down to the lobster shop and ordered a lobster for them to cook for us. I sat on the pier and cracked the lobster claws with a multitool…. my first ever lobster. I have eaten Tasmanian rock lobster or as we call it ‘crayfish’ at home but they look nothing like these lobsters and as such I was excited.
After the lobster dinner by the water, we snuck in to watch Ted and The Watch at the movies with plenty of time to kill before catching the ferry to Newfoundland. After the movies we drove back to the ferry dock and found a stray dog running all over the road. He appeared to be lost and we were worried he was going to get hit by a car so we sat and stayed with him and called the RSPCA to come and get him to find out where he lived. After a couple of hours sitting with the pup, we said goodbye, and we went to catch the ferry to Newfoundland, the province I was most excited about seeing….
For the next installment of Canada by Car stay tuned…..
I barely slept. I rolled around exhausted and as much as my body was exhausted, it would not allow me to sleep. Before I knew it, I was waking up at 1:30am waiting for the moment to get out of bed and to go and summit this mountain top that everybody keeps on telling me is so difficult that it is ridiculous. Way harder than the previous days….
I started ‘breakfast’ with a hot tea and a couple of sugar cookies and packed a hydralyte for the way. At 2:30am I started out with Chris up the hill. The others were way faster than us and so they were set to start out later and meet us. The first part of the trek was on a massive incline crawling over rocks and sandy scree to try and get to the crater rim. After about an hour, it was over and we were making our way along the crater rim at a more moderate incline. It was windy, it was dark and even though I couldn’t see much, I could see that the trail either side of me lead to a massive fall either down the outside of the volcano or into the crater. I tried not to think about it and kept on going. As I kept going all I could think to myself was the song ‘ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah’ as I could see all of these tiny headlamp glows following one another up a hill like small ants.
We sat and ate some more sugar cookies before what was to be the final hour and a bit. The most difficult part. Straight up to the summit over black sand. It was three steps at a time, then two breaths, three steps, then two breaths. At one point the adrenaline kicked in through all of the hard work and my frustrations and I realized that I was going to make it. I started getting excited. I could see Chris up ahead and he was rounding the corner to where the last stretch of the summit was. Almost there…
And then I saw it… Three French guys and an Aussie in shorts and a singlet at the top of the mountain in a man huddle to try and stay warm and I knew I was there! The view was incredible. Chris and I stood at the top and had a few pictures with the sign at the top over the view of the lake and at that moment I was so elated that something I had wanted to give up after one hour of walking on day one I managed to achieve through sheer will power and mind control. It was one of my greatest achievements.
The sun didn’t rise properly as there were too many clouds in the distance obscuring the sun. But I could see Gunung Anung on Bali, the Gili Islands, all the way across the northern coast of Lombok and Sumbawa where I was taking a boat trip in two days from that moment. The time up there was fleeting and never enough, but we gradually started to make our way down, taking pictures of all of the things that we didn’t see in the dark on the way up. After a couple of hours we were back at camp, eating breakfast and packing up to start the trek back down to Sembulan.
It was a steep descent. My knees, ankles and feet were killing me. But I kept on plodding along. After ten hours of walking that day, I managed to get out the end of the rice and farming fields to the road where the truck was waiting to take us back to Senaru.
We sat in the back of the truck and waved to the kids through all of the villages screaming ‘Hello!’ at us along the way and eventually got to Senaru, picked up our luggage and headed to Senggigi where we were staying the night. The whole adventure at this point never felt like it actually happened. It felt like a dream…. except I had two giant swollen feet from the rapid change in altitude and a duck waddle when I walked for the next two days to remind me.
This is something I laughed about despite my discomfort. Because I took on Rinjani. And despite my own self doubt, I won!
From 600m to 3726m in less than 48 hours. It was going to be one of the most challenging feats I had ever encountered. Welcome to Mount Rinjani, Indonesia!
As I sat at the bar talking to a random guy in Gili Trawangan about trekking around the area and told him that I was going to hike Mount Rinjani he enlightens me that it is one hell of a tough trek. Forget the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Basecamp in Nepal, forget the tallest mountain in the region Kinabalu, Rinjani is way tougher. It is purely brutal. And so I started quaking in my pants worried about whether or not this is actually achievable. But the money was paid up and we were leaving in the morning so I was going to give it a decent go.
7am we headed down to the boat docks to try and find our boat. Confused about where we were supposed to be going, we eventually found our travel agent, Andy and he has shuffled us onto the local boat over to Bangsal. I sat at the end of the boat with my friend on one side and a local man asleep on my other shoulder for some unknown reason and we sailed on. As the only white people on the boat we were an easy spot for the men down the beach calling to us “Danni and Beccy!! Danni and Beccy!!” They helped us into a horse drawn carriage where we were taken to our breakfast point for our first meal of the day.
From here it was two hours in a car driving to Senaru to begin the hike. We madly threw things into our bag so that we could get started with our porter as the rest of the group we were with had already begun walking two hours before us.
As I started up the hill, it was brutally hot and quite steep. I remember thinking to myself in that first hour, if this is what the easy part is like, then kill me now because I will never make it. I was ready to throw in the towel, but at the same time I figured my body would become accustomed to it eventually and all I had to do was keep walking and to push through it. During the second hour I was really starting to feel the effects of not having had enough to eat before I started to hike and I am saying to my porter who doesn’t speak English the only thing I remembered in Indonesian from my market visit that I knew he had. “Pisang? Pisang? Terima Kasih!?” I said to him and he shook his head at me knowingly and pulled out a couple of bananas for me to eat. I sighed relief and kept walking.
Further relief came in the form of the torrential downpour of the wet season that could be trusted to begin at approximately 1pm every day. As the rain started teaming down, the trail became a river bed to walk up and the weather cooled down to the point where walking at this incline became more manageable for me. On the downside, my boots and a lot of what I owned had gotten wet, but that was bound to happen at some point anyway.
Along the way we stopped at the rest points Pos I and Pos II and met some really cool people who imparted advice and gave us left over cookies that were to be pivotal to my quest later. Eventually we made it to the lunch spot and the rest of our group and munched down on some well needed and deserved noodles. And then it was time to continue. At the lunch spot we’re at 1500m above sea level. We started at 600m, we were camping at approximately 2400m, so we were about half way up in the incline stakes. And so the plodding, one foot after another kept on, and I kept on even though I was well further back from the group than the others due to my breathing limitations.
Eventually we made it to the camping place for the first night. The porters had set up our tents in a line across the hill and we all got our drenched clothes off and attempted to get warm. My bag had gotten wet around the sides of my pack cover and my pyjamas had gotten wet also so I took to sleeping in a pair of rain pants…. funny I know considering I probably should have worn them in the rain. Dinner was quickly scoffed down and everybody retired to bed exhausted after a massive first day.
The next day was to offer a bit of relief in the form of downhill, for which I was excited. We were told that it was to be a pretty hairy ordeal though with very slippery and steep rock faces. We weren’t to be disappointed.
The day started with a 200m climb straight up from our camping spot to the crater rim where we glimpsed our first view over the incredible crater lake with Gunung Baru in the centre chuffing hot smoke.
From here it was down into the crater to the edge of the lake over the aforementioned steep and rocky track before arriving at the bottom. I took my shoes off and had a bit of a paddle in the lake to cool down the feet before we moved on to our lunch spot and on to swimming in the hot springs. The hot springs were the most amazingly warm hot bath at that time ever and a Godsend for sore muscles. We sat in and among the hot waterfalls and relaxed for half an hour while lunch cooked and then it was time to eat.
The saddest part about this whole area is the amount of trash lying around. The locals seem to have very little regard for the nature and very little understanding of the effects of pollution. It had drawn in a whole bunch of monkeys and flies around the area that were pests in trying to get at your food. One monkey waited until I wasn’t looking, came right up beside me and stole the chicken bone that I had set beside me when I was done with it. Another of the monkeys approached me while I had a chicken bone and was getting ready to charge me. I screamed and yelled at it, waving my arms about the place letting him know who’s boss for showing his teeth at me and charging at me. It is such a shame that it is getting this way. There is nothing that saddens me more than watching these monkeys ferret through left over plastic bags for food in a place that looks like a rubbish dump.
And so from here we continued. Another brutal climb up sheer rock face for the next three hours to reach our camping spot for the evening. And while it was difficult, the rain held off just enough so that we could get there without too much swimming uphill into gushing water as we had heard happened to others doing this trek before us.
We set up camp, we ate dinner, we prepared. Tomorrow was the big one. The summit. We were sitting at 2600m above sea level at the base camp for the summit. A gruelling 1100m ascent in 3 and a half hours that is to be climbed over volcanic ash and scree. We were to be up at 2am to start the climb by 2:30am to get there for sunrise.
For my summit climb and to see if I made it to the top, catch us next week!
Murphy’s 1st Law: “What can go wrong, will go wrong”.
Well I have to say that it appears that lately all good ideas start in Walmart…. sadly they also seem to end in Walmart. The original idea was to go there for cheap cereal and a $15 brie cheese wheel (850 grams, hell yeah, what a bargain!) Somehow, this wound up in the sporting isle staring up at a box on the top shelf containing the ‘Seahawk 2’, an ingenious vessel that was not only on sale for cheaper than you can hire a canoe for the weekend, but was destined to take us into the far reaches of the Algonquin Provincial Parks canoe routes for ‘the best and most adventurous weekend ever’. Or so we think……
Day one it starts hammering down with rain in the afternoon. So much for getting there early to set up, you can barely see the road in front of you trying to drive there and as such, we were delayed getting there until at least 8pm, just in time to set up right before dark.
So far, Nature 1, Woman 0.
Given that we were so late getting there, we did encounter some pretty spectacular things on the side of the road on the way. One of which was a turtle who had hiked his way up the side of the river bed and was starting to dig a hole in the sand in which to lay eggs. In the grand scheme of all things turtle/tortoise, he was named ‘Curtis the Turtoise’ (despite being a ‘she’ – as far as I am concerned, they are all named Curtis…. Jamie Lee Curtis is a girl…. anyway) and Curtis was just adorable.
We almost ran over another Curtis in the middle of the road. We literally scared the piss out of this little guy. He urinated the entire way off the road as we chased him away from the ‘squash zone’ and down the hill into friendlier territory.
After the Curtis hunt, we arrived at the park gate and tried to pick a campsites for the two nights we would be there. First night, easy. Second night on the paddling trip, we were like “yeah, we’re fit, we can row a blow up boat 10km down the stream to the Opulescent site out of the Barron Canyon! No problem!” It was the next day that this again proved to be a little optimistic, and the real ‘fun’ began.
Day Two of Dano vs Wild. We get up, pack the tent and all of the equipment we need into the blow up boat. It is at this point that things start to look dubious. To be honest, I don’t know how the hell we even decided that two people and a whole stack of food and camping gear for a night would fit comfortably in a blow up boat. Nonetheless, this is the outcome.
And after rowing no more than 2km down the way before realizing that not only is trying to row 10km in a Walmart blow up nearly impossible, but it is downright impossible when you have to portage through a stream of jagged rocks. In a kayak this would be possible. In a blow up Walmart boat, it is most certainly not. One may say this left me some what deflated…..
Nature 2, Woman 0.
And so it was decided that the night would be spent at the last spot along the river before the rapids started and we dragged the boat up and set up home. The campsite was really awesome, very pretty and everything was set up fine and dandy. Then the dusk sets in and this is where woman vs nature really begins.
Let me firstly address the insects. Not only did I have Australian grade 40% DEET bug spray on me, but this seemed to no avail for some of these bitches. Whether it is the deer fly, the spiders or whatever supernatural mosquitoes, I managed to wind up with two golf ball sized swollen bites behind my ear and on the back of my neck, and one tennis ball sized swollen lump with two red fang marks in the side of my body.
Nature 3, Woman 0.
And so then it starts getting on the dark side of life which then poses the question, what to do with the food and the scraps. It is bear country and I don’t particularly want to become bear food. So we took the tow line off the boat and tied a rock to one end in the hope of putting it over a tree to tie the food up. Then this happened……
Nature 4, Woman 0.
I am pretty sure that by this stage Murphy is out there somewhere laughing his arse off. I sure was. For those of you whose eyes aren’t good enough to see, that is our rope stuck in the tree with the rock on the end of it. Which now poses the problem of what it is we are actually going to do with the food so that the animals and the bears don’t get it. So I come up with this amazingly inventive idea of burying the food and rubbish under a pile of very heavy rocks, which we finished building right as it got dark.
The hope here was that there would be breakfast for tomorrow morning. But just in case a bear came, not that it would really have done anything much at all, we were equipped with bear fighting tools, ie. 1 big stick to poke him with, one biggish rock with which to throw at him, and one giant set of lungs with which to scream and yell and then run for your goddamn life.
The sticks came courtesy of a beaver dam that had washed its way down the shore and this had landed just down the way from where we were camping. It made excellent firewood and so we burned this to stay warm despite the at times torrential downpour that we thought would hinder the process of making a fire whatsoever.
Nature 4, Woman 1.
And so it was time for bed. In the morning when waking up it was kinda like Christmas. Time to go and unwrap your rock wrapped presents to see if you can have breakfast this morning and much to my happiness, I found that despite the minor bite marks of the chippies through the rock crevasses, that food and garbage was all still intact and I got to eat my beef stew ration, chocolate milkshake and chocolate pudding desert for breakfast.
Nature 4, Woman 2.
By this stage, despite Nature still having the upper hand in the situation, I felt like I was winning. How can you not be winning when you have food? So after a quick pack up it was back in the blow up boat and see you later to our home of a night as we let the current pretty much drift us half of the way back to the Achray lake entrance. It was a nice, workless float 🙂
Nature 4, Woman 3.
So we made it back finally in our blow up boat, vowing never, ever again to attempt such a stupid thing in a blow up Walmart boat but to be non-stingy and invest in hiring a canoe next time. I also vouch to bring ten million cans of permethrin to kill any living insect (I am a nature lover, can’t you tell), and to also wear sunscreen on the way home in the boat. Nature had the last laugh you see by giving me sunburned thighs in retribution for my lack of paddling efforts on the way home. Not only that, but when I got home and took an antihistamine to make all my swollen bites go down, and all this achieved was in sending me into a drug-induced coma in which all I could mutter was ‘huh, whaaa, waaateerrr’. So in the end I think the final count was Nature 6, Woman 3. And despite Nature and Murphy having the last laugh, I was still also laughing because if you don’t laugh you cry right? That and the whole thing was just outright funny. I can say for sure though, I most likely haven’t learned my lesson, and that at some point in time, most probably in the near future, I will again embark on yet another bout of ‘YEAH!! That sounds like an AWESOME idea!” And if the past is anything to go by, it will be yet another hilarious disaster.