Hiking & Northern Lights – Day 2

Some of you eagled eye readers may have noticed this post is long overdue. It has now been over 2 years since I last posted and visited Iceland. Its been a long time since then and I have been on so many adventures since so why not kick off right where we left it? The Iceland Adventures.

If you haven’t already read about the first day in Iceland then find out about it right here.

Day Two – 14th April 2016

After a well rested night its time to wake up early as we have had our first hike planned and also a golden circle tour booked with Artic Adventures . Now before I continue, this trip was mostly guided tours and was worth it for our time in Iceland and for the best views and hidden gems as you’re about to find out.

Getting picked up at 8am and driven about 45 minutes out of Reykjavic to a car park near a local town, Hveragerdi. We suited and booted up for this adventure already before leaving but as soon as we got out the van we found ourselves in the heart of a grand landscape with hills, caves, fields and more for as far as the eye could see. The hike took us through a beautiful valley and hills called the Rekjadalur Valley which is a geothermal area located in the Mt Hengill volcanic range. The start of the hike had a little bridge running over a stream, I couldn’t help but stop and grab a shot on my go pro. As we climbed higher into the range the grass changed to stone and in turn the stone became snow. It was at this point I truly found myself in love with the landscape each step offering a new view of the unravelling land around us. Geothermal features such as the gurgling hot pools and rivers rushing down the hillsides followed by the sounds of warm steam seeping through the cracks in the stone. Not to mention the smells as you gained altitude closer to the geothermal areas; this was all proof of the Hengill volcanic range’s activity being alive below ground.

 

If you thought that was it on this hike then you are mistaken; as we reached the “top” we ventured on to find small waterfalls and colourful pools of water before taking a dip in – one of the most peaceful times on this trip. As I write this I sit thinking back on my trip and realise how amazing it all was. Incredibly scenic and stunning areas that makes the whole trip worth it. This was a highlight of my trip and in my opinion is better than the Blue Lagoon.

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Later that afternoon we ventured around the city is self, which is a must do if you find yourself in Reykjavik, there is a whole host of quirky things to see from little murals of graffiti to quaint houses full of colour and if you really venture in you can find yourself looking out into the Atlantic Ocean with amazing views of mountain ranges. The city itself has some interesting architecture which I will go into more in the next post.

To round this blog post of I have saved something amazing in its own right, and one reason you must visit Iceland, it is of course The Aurora Borealis more commonly known as The Northern Lights. One thing people don’t tell you about when seeing the northern lights is how they actually come into view. Imagine a wisp of smoke streaking in the sky then vanishing. Then again another, white as anything, just dancing way up high above you. Before you know it you’ve spent 30 minutes looking into the sky to see this amazing natural beauty. Then all of a sudden GREENS, BLUES, PURPLES AND REDS the sky lights up glowing in colour. Cameras at the ready you try your best to take the right shot, I know I did, but I also stood back and just watched. Its entrancing to view the dancing patterns fade in and out. A night sky full of life all around you. Then as quick as it came it vanishes to no more. The sky fades to black and the phenomenon that you have witnessed returns to a tranquil state of calm. This was incredible and I’d do it all again.

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If there is one thing you should do it is this and I have a top tip for you right here is to book your northern lights tour early on in the trip as there is no guarantee that you will see them but many companies do offer you a second chance if thats the case.

Thats it, part two is done and as they say better late than never. I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this post and welcome any comments or questions. There will be more to follow as there are still a few days left and many exciting adventures more. So check back soon as in the next post we take a dip in freezing water between two tectonic plates.

Icelandic Adventures – Day 1

Welcome to the Icelandic Adventures series.

Welcome to the Icelandic Adventures series. When I travel I try my best to keep a book where I take notes of the trip. In most cases this fails and it turns into bullet points here and there but other times I write down where I’ve visited or what someone has said. This is so I can jog memories or to connect the numerous amount of photographs I’ve taken and remind me what they actually are.

With that said excuse me if I miss anything – not that you will know – but I will try my best to cover the highlights of each day in this SIX part series.

My Travel Companion

Before I start I feel like you need to get to know my travel companion a little bit as she was on this trip with me and I practically tagged along to her trip! So without further ado here is my mini interview to Ell! Say hello.

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TMJ – Question One: What made you decide to travel Iceland?

Ell: Mainly because my friend had been staying up North for a few months on a horse ranch and posting pictures of snow and the Northern lights every night and it made me jealous. She invited me to stay but I couldn’t rangle the money together in time before she left to go back to Malta. Then it was going to be a Christmas present for me and my other half but he couldn’t afford it either. So i thought hell no… I’ll go on my own then… And so the flight was booked hehe.

TMJ – Question Two: Where have you travelled to before?

Ell: Mainly Europe. 26 of 50 countries to be specific. Outside of Europe includes Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and New York. And so many more to see…..

TMJ – Question Three: Would you go back to Iceland?

Ell: Defiantly plan to return to Iceland. Only just scratched the surface of what I wanted to see! I will return when I can drive or with someone who can drive me haha.

TMJ – Question Four: What was your highlight of the trip?

Ell: Northern lights! Honestly the most spectacularly beautiful sights my eyes has set its sights on. I will always be wanting to see them again and I plan to!

TMJ – Question Five: On a scale of 1-10 how was travelling with me? 😉

Ell: 10 great travel buddy… Didn’t wake me up on coach journeys which is a plus, upbeat and up for anything.

That last one… well what can I say its a bit of a leading question but Ill take the 10!

Day One – 13th April 2016

The day begins the night before. Tuesday 12th April 2016. In order to get the airport I needed to head to Ells house and then get a train from there to Luton Airport. Pesky travel times meant for a night of travel via trains and coaches. Alas we made it to the airport and then onto the plane itself.
We arrived in Keflavík International Airport at around 10am local time and needed to book our transport to the city. However we had one stop before anything else and that was The Blue Lagoon which was really nice after a long morning of travel. With super friendly staff and a bar it was safe to say a bit of relaxation was just what the doctor ordered. Ell described it as “Super blue, super warm, super chilled.” and she wasn’t wrong it was exactly that.


This whole day was a rather short day for myself as once we left the Blue Lagoon and ran for the coach to get into the city centre we got dropped off relatively close to the hostel – Hlemmur Square – and checked in. Quickly deciding that we needed dinner we popped put for a little explore and found the shops. It was about 7:30pm that I must have crashed out so not long after dinner. From no sleep the night before to ALL of the sleep that evening.

 

 

 

 

Elephants, Diving and Adventure

One more trip to add to the list…

If you kept up with my recent posts then you’ll know that I flew out to Iceland for a week. But that is not all if you did read that post, Next stop: Reykjavik, Iceland., you will also know I have big news coming up. Well this is the big news.

I am going to THAILAND. 

Thailand! 3 weeks. Christmas & New Years. Lets just take a step back a second. If you haven’t already then please go read “THIS GUY IS GOING EVERYWHERE” and just catch up with the travel plans of this year. You will notice its already pretty full on but I think I can squeeze one more trip. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I will be travelling with a someone I have mentioned before, Jess, who I went to Berlin with! Long time friend and future companion for all things travel. Jess is embarking on a huge 5 month trip around Asia and I will be visiting in the middle of that trip to spend a month in Thailand with her. Lets be honest couldn’t ask for a better companion really and the timing away for both of us will be perfect. I love Christmas abroad – I’ve written about that so go check it out – and as this is the middle of her trip this will be an amazing time for a little piece of home to come out and visit.

BUT THAT IS NOT ALL.

It sounds so perfect doesn’t it. As the title suggests we have ideas on what to do such as an Elephant conservation in Chiang Mai and then I aim to do my diving course whilst in Koh Tao along with more exciting things all over Thailand. Bangkok. Chiang Mai. Phuket. Oh the excitement. Want some more great news? Another friend and his girlfriend are planning on joining us for part of the trip as well! Fingers crossed that they get it sorted and be able to come out!

Now need to start the fund for that trip. ANY DONATIONS WELCOME 😉

Thailand 2016. Its happening.

TMJ out.

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6 Facts You Didn’t Know About Iceland

I have returned from Iceland, see my planned itinerary here: Next stop: Reykjavik, Iceland., which means POST TRIP BLOGS.

Welcome to the 6 Facts You  Didn’t Know About Iceland. Here you may learn some facts that I picked up on my travel. These are only a few that stood out to me whilst out in Iceland that I had picked up from a couple locals.


FACT NUMBER 1.

Icelandic “ponies” are actually not ponies at all and as the locals like to remind the guests (an alternative to tourists that the Icelandic people also use) that they are in fact horses. The horses in Iceland are a unique breed who are hardened by the climate and have been has evolved/developed through selective breeding and natural selection over the centuries.

Little bonus fact. These horses have a similar resemblance to the Mongolian horses due to them foraging all year round.

FACT NUMBER 2.

There are two airports that can get you access to Iceland both close to the city. One of them is Keflavik International Airport which most people fly into then also there is the domestic airport inside the city called Reykjavík Airport which was built by the British during the World War 2.

FACT NUMBER 3.

Beer was legalised on the 1st March 1989. This effectively put a ban on ALL beers over 2.25% and even now there are specific stores that sell alcohol over 2.25% and then every day shops/super markets etc only sell weak (less than 2.24%) beer.

Also…. its mega expensive for pints in Iceland. Roughly around 1100 Icelandic Króna which equals to £6.10 ish. (€8 EUR. $9 USD).

FACT NUMBER 4.

There are 83,000  Icelandic Horses in Iceland. 1 horse for every 3 Icelanders.

FACT NUMBER 5.


This fact was by a local and may be wrong but I found it interesting none the less. Our friendly local Ian – who’s son lives in the next village over – told us that there are 136 people in jail. 10% of these inmates are in fact Icelandic then the remaining 90% are foreigners.

FACT NUMBER 6.

Iceland is mega friendly. After being told by many people whilst out in Iceland if you were to find yourself in the need of a ride or had trouble you will likely have a friendly local stop and offer help.
Everyone I met were amazing individuals with some from Scotland, Iceland, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, America, Australia, Hungry and more. Each with their own tale of why they are there and why they love it.

That’s a wrap.

So the more you know. Thanks for reading this post I hope you found out some interesting facts about Iceland! Expect more posts about Iceland soon.

 

 

Next stop: Reykjavik, Iceland.

Good evening curious readers long time no posts. I return and have exciting news as you may have guessed. The second trip of the year is here already. Reykjavik, Iceland! I am more than excited to head to Iceland as its a landscape I’ve never experienced before. So this week I will be away leaving early hours of the morning on Wednesday and returning on Monday! ADVENTURE.

Accommodation – Hlemmur Square

Ell, my travel companion, booked the accommodation and found the Hlemmur Square. As put on the website the concept is combining the luxury of a hotel and up scaling the hostel accommodation all under one roof. There’s not much to say on this accommodation for now as I can only go from reviews online.

Planning

I have to say this is a highly planned trip and the first of it I’ve ever done to this extent. Using Viator.com we looked for excursions to do whilst out in Iceland and we found them. There are things to do then things + things and all combinations you can think of for many locations. Where this originally looked great it came to our attention that some of the excursions were unavailable at different dates of the year whereas another combination of the same trip would be available.
After what felt like hours of searching and four booked trips later it was without a doubt exciting but the website NEEDS a way to type in the dates and see what’s available during that time. And if they already have it and I couldn’t find it then that’s my own fault.

The Itinerary

Day One:
Flying to Iceland & Blue Lagoon

Flight departure at 7:30am and arrival image5ahours later the first thing that, as I mentioned before in a previous post, that we felt was easiest to do right off the bat was The Blue Lagoon. SPA TIME. Simple as that jumping off the flight then into the oasis of relaxation. You’ve seen the pictures so I don’t need to go any further with that. It spe
aks for itself.
After the session at The Blue Lagoon we will head to the hostel and check out the accommodation and local area.

Over the past couple weeks I have kept an eye on the Aurora Borealis also known as the Northern Lights and we MAY fingers crossed have hopes of witnessing it during this evening! Fingers crossed.

Day Two:
Day Trip from  Reykjavik: Hiking and Hot Springs Adventure in Reykjadalur and Hveragerdi.

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So day two brings us on our first day trip. This is a 7 hour trip of some leisurely hiking and the hot springs. Lets just take a moment to appreciate that these are natural geothermal pools from the volcanic fields. SO MUCH SCENERY TO TAKE IN.

Guided through this area learning about the Reykjadalur Valley in the Mt Hengill volcanic range. I mean come on… volcanoes. The guide will teach us about Iceland’s past and underground volcanic systems during the hike and then also allow us the opportunity to dip into the hot springs.

Day Three:
Snorkelling between tectonic plates North Atlantic and European in Thingvellir National park.snorkeling-in-thingvellir-national-park-from-reykjavik-in-reykjavik-175469

Over the past few weeks I’ve become slightly obsessed with water related activities and you’ll see why in a future post. After researching the trip to Iceland this is an activity that stuck out and I felt like needed to be done. Although here’s the thing… I’ve never snorkelled before. Or at least not what I can remember from childhood holidays so this is definitely an experience to be had now! and of course who can say they have snorkelled between the continents of North America and Europe!
This will be a four hour overall experience but the snorkelling session itself only lasts approximately 40 minutes. The crystal clear waters allowing visibility of about 82 feet. Fear not I aim to get some footage on my GoPro Session and stills to show you after the trip.

Day Four:
South Island tour Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Glaciers. 

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Lets just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Iceland offers an incredible landscape that has Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Glaciers. Just wow, what a world.

This will be around an 11 hour day with an expert guide exploring some of the natural wonders of Iceland. We will be visiting the waterfalls at Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss – must remember to pack waterproofs – then also be able to see the black beaches and basalt cliffs at Reynisfjara. Then continuing the day hiking through the foothills of Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla volcanoes then move onto the Sólheimajökull glacier which is dated to around 700 years! INCREDIBLE. What a day to be had with all this I may run out of space on my SD cards.

Day Five:
Golden Circle Tour and Secret Lagoon visit

small-group-golden-circle-tour-and-secret-lagoon-visit-from-reykjavik-in-reykjavik-187500Now approaching the last day of the trip we have a golden circle tour in the most relaxing way. Revisiting the Thingvellir National Park and exploring the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir hot springs. Something I have seen friends do and was recommended as seeing the erupting Geysir in Strokkur in Haukadalur geothermal area.
So as you see we start the trip with a spa visit and hot springs and now ending the trip on high with hot springs again. I just like the idea of relaxing in the most beautiful scenic landscapes I will see this year.

Day Six:
Free Morning then Fly home.


With the departure of Ell that morning I leave later in the day -mainly due to cheaper flights – so I have a free day to explore or revisit whatever I want in Reykjavik such as exploring the area around The Sun Voyager a sculpture built as an ode to the sun by Jón Gunnar Árnason.

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Thank you for taking time again to either revisit the blog or if you are new then welcome and feel free to check out my other posts such as what I am up to this year: “THIS GUY IS GOING EVERYWHERE”. I welcome ANY and EVERY recommendations for my travels so if you have been to or want to go to Iceland’s then let me know! I love reading your thoughts. Till the next time readers. See you on the other side.

Just want to give credit to viator and www.sushi-suzuki.com for the photographs as these are not my own but allow visual aid for the written text.

 

 

 

A Weekend in Berlin

Welcome back, thanks to those who have been reading the other posts on my blog! Its nice to see a steady stream of readers. Here I have a very simple post about my weekend in Berlin.
For those who didn’t know I took a weekend earlier this month, 12th Feb-15th Feb, to spend some time with some friends – Miriam, Grace and Jess. Somewhat becoming a tradition amongst our group of friends but Valentines Weekend has proven to be the perfect time to get away for a break of every day life.

So without further ado here is some of the places that we visited and things we done in A Weekend in Berlin.

WALKING TOUR – SANDEMANS NEW BERLIN TOUR

Grace, the wonderful human being she is, had took the initiative and booked us all onto a walking tour of Berlin. This happened to be a personal highlight of the weekend with the tour starting early in the day and last around 2-3 hours long. A little fact for you on this day I walked 14.79 kilometres. The tour itself covered a range of places – listed below –  the tour was led by Rochale who did a fantastic job at explaining the places and its history. Not only that, she gave a presentation of 8 minutes on the past 800 years of Berlin history. (ended up being 9 minutes but still extremely impressive). We were also lucky enough to visit the Gendarmenmarkt during the installation of renowned artist Ai WeiWei’s latest exhibition of 14,000 life jackets to represent the refugees trying to flee war and hardship.

Hitler´s Bunker
Holocaust Memorial
The Berlin Wall
Checkpoint Charlie
Brandenburg Gate
SS Headquarters
Pariser Platz
Luftwaffe HQ
Gendarmenmarkt

DDR MUSEUM – Interactive Museum

Visiting the DDR Museum was also another nice activity that I did with Jess, whilst Miriam and Grace disappeared into the depths of Berlin’s Techno-vibe. This museum has to be one of the most interactive museums I’ve visited. Each part has little cabinets you can open showing what life was like in East Germany (1949 – 1990). A few show rooms, an old Trabant car also known as a Trabi, a prison cell and more.

I took the opportunity to play a little bit of a Facebook prank on friends back home when taking a quick photograph. I had only updated one post on Facebook saying I was leaving on the Friday morning then hadn’t posted until Sunday. Leaving it the perfect opportunity to have a laugh.
Posting, the photograph below, I led people to believe a horrible mistake had been made with my accommodation booking and just left it at that. Then the replies came in with a couple knowing exactly what it was and others being shocked and confused.

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A GDR (German Democratic Republic)  Prison Cell used by the Stasi.

Burgermeister – “Rest”-aurant-“room”.

We ate at a couple of places whilst away but as soon as we arrived we were told that we would love this place. So what’s special about Burgermeister? Well I think the fact that this is a burger joint that is made from an old public toilet block. Only a short distance away from the East Side Gallery it was a perfect place to get a bite to eat.
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East Side Gallery – Art on the Wall.

So like I said just around the corner or over Oberbaum Bridge which in itself is quite scenic. Probably something everyone has heard about before and without a doubt a nice thing to do. There are some bloody brilliant artists out there in this world of hours and some great pieces of history along this wall. We did this walk up and down the wall on the last day of the trip in the morning and felt like a good way to end the trip.

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These are just some of things that we got up to this time around in Berlin and I know there will be a reason to return to Berlin! Thanks to Jess for being a bit of a model in some of these photographs and thanks to the crew for a good time in Berlin. Until the next Valentine Trip 2017? 😉

My American Road Trip 2016 – TrekAmerica

I’m doing a road trip across America! Have a read of where and what I will be doing!

Yes. America 2016! It’s happening and the weeks are flying by already. Back in December of last year I “revealed” that I am going on a road trip to America. Read more here: Road Trip 2016: Where Am I Going?.

Well I’m now going to announce where exactly this road trip will take me! Of course I have several other trips this year but this is the one that requires the most saving and time. The biggest trip I’ve done since 2010 so my excitement for this American adventure is next level.

The Tour
america road trip map

As you can see by the map above this is a coast to coast trip! Known as the “Southern Sun” tour it will cover many cities all across America! Each state offering something different to experience!
The tour itself is 21 days but I will have a couple days in New York before the tour starts then a couple days in Los Angeles after the tour.

3 Days Pre Tour: New York City
Day 1-2: New York Area, Philadelphia & Washington DC
Day 3: Appalachian Mountains
Day 4: Ocoee, Tennessee
Day 5: Nashville
Day 6: Memphis
Day 7-8: New Orleans
Day 9: Louisiana, Texas
Day 10-11: Austin, Texas
Day 12: North Texas
Day 13: Santa Fe
Day 14: Monument Valley
Day 15-16: Grand Canyon National Park
Day 17-18: Lake Powell & Zion National Park
Day 19-20: Las Vegas
Day 21: Las Vegas & Los Angeles
2 Days Post Tour: Los Angeles

As you can see I’ve got a packed trip and will spend a lot of time on the road travelling a vast distance!
Totally random but did you know that Texas covers 696,241 km² of America! To put this is to perspective the United Kingdom covers 243,610 km². How insane is that.

Transportation
You may be wondering how exactly I will be travelling across America. Well to put it simply a mini van. I have attached a TrekAmerica mini van of a UK Trip I did with them back in 2014 but I’m fairly certain the actual van will be bigger and be newer with Wifi on board. I know fancy stuff right? (although I believe the Wifi not to last so long but I don’t mind as I quite enjoy a internet detox on road trips) Don’t worry, you can see out the windows of the van.

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The Trek America Tour Van for the mini uk adventure.

Accommodation
A big portion of accommodation is camping along the way. Yes, camping. I decided I wanted to see the night sky and scenery as much as possible. As well as spending time around a fire pit in America to get to know the people I will be travelling with quicker making the trip far better, in my opinion, than if we were restricted to hotel/motel rooms every night.

Activities
I have booked some extra special bits for the trip whilst Im in New York City but there’s so much that I can do on this trip that I don’t even know where to start! So to give you a brief glimpse of what I will potentially be up to:

Jazz Clubs in New Orleans, Gun ranges in Las Vegas, GAMBLING in Las Vegas, Helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, Tour of Graceland, White water rafting, trekking in the Zion National Park and so much more!

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So that’s an outline of what I’ll be up to on my travels this summer. Less than 200 days to go! If you’ve been before on a trekamerica trip or are going on one/ or a road trip of your own then let me know and mention your blog so I can give it a read!

Thanks for reading,
TheMichaelJoseph.