Fair amount of water has flowed in the river closest to you, dear reader, since the Iceland part III was published. Nevertheless, time has arrived to guide the good guys of the story finally home from the long lasted travel. To summarize past events, three friends made a hike in the breathtaking sceneries of Iceland. Experiences and views were beyond what words can explain or pictures can show. To allow your unlimited imagination to create glimpse of what it could have been, take a deep breath, aim to sense what could have been felt in the presented moments
Burning physical sensations given by steep ascends were occasionally swept away as greatness was witnessed. Overwhelmingly stunning moments made us wonder how on Earth did we end up to witness this, right here, right now. Can be that the story begins a long time ago, and is far more incredible than ever could have been imagined to be in the first place.
The realization that the greatest adventure can actually be your own life might plant the deep seated wish to keep exploring. What brings the joyful and alert glimmer to your eyes?
Life can be a dance with the change, yet it is a lot how you set your markers. Direction can be chosen so you feel that you are actually living your life. If not satisfied with it, face it and it already changes. Make a better plan rather than just wait. Walk is done step by step, so it is better to pay attention how you place your feet.
Yesterday, I started to wonder what I should take with me this time since I have one way ticket to Spain in one week. Every time I face the same eternal questions, what to bring and what not to. When you are heading to any level of unknown, there is a scary feeling inside you called confusion. What am I going to go through? How can I prepare? Maybe I need one more extra pair of jeans, just in case. What if this, what if that? It can even ruin your motivation to travel all together. It shouldn’t be this way. I thought to open up my tick-list a little, here’s how I figure out what necessities I will be needing on my travels.
1. Know where you are going
Most of the times when you depart for your journey, you have a pretty good idea where you are heading to, at least you ought to have. Geographical features of the journey, physical demand of the trip, season and weather patterns, amount of infrastructure around and so on. For this, you should keep your eyes and ears open for any kind of hints you might get of the places you are going to visit. Internet provides a lot of information about anything around the Globe and there is no reason you shouldn’t use this as advantage. Of course you can skip this, if you are looking for an extreme surprise factor, but this is a whole another deal.
2. Choose appropriate gear
This might be even harder than finding the cheapest flights. Regardless of the nature of your travel, this is always one of the core questions, what to bring. For this you need to analyse what you might be going through and not always you can do that. For this reason I have few guide lines I like to use choosing my gear. Firstly I like to turn it around from “What do I need?” to “What can I live without?” Nothing is as frustrating as noticing on the way home you’ve carried the heavy jacket all the way from home, through your trip and you haven’t used it once. A lot of times if there is something that a human cannot live without, you normally find them at the spot since others need them too.
Second key point I try to apply is to have as many multifunctional items as possible. Its pointless to bring a beach towel, blanket and a scarf if you can replace this with one single, quality shawl. Use wool apparel if you are bound to face varying temperatures, since it is super good in both warm and cold weather. If there is still something that you’d really like to bring with you, which is not a necessity, consider the possibility that you have to leave it behind as a gift or sell it forward during the trip in case you are running out of space/money. With long trips its better to have things you can afford to lose. One time I had my hiking boots stolen, luckily my friend from New Zealand taught me the pristine mode of bare footedness and I wasn’t too keen on using my shoes anyway. So I felt more relieved than troubled getting them off my back. Less is more when you live out of your bags.
3. Prepare to fix things
Traveling is not a synonym for a holiday. Normally when you are traveling, you have a low budget, when you are on a holiday you buy souvenirs. It can alter the whole trip if you have to buy a whole new backpack, just because an essential strap got cut in half. To be prepared means being able to adapt, carrying a fix kit with you can save you a whole lot of trouble. Half an hour with a needle can save you hundreds of euros. Glue and duct tape can save your life.
4. Straighten up your priorities
Are you going for a trip to Maledives to dive with the fish? Bring your snorkel. Planning to do a 2 week trek in the Himalayas? Prepare to sleep in a tent. Maybe you prefer (I hope not) golfing 7 days in a row on a same course. Better take your whole kit of bats. Anyhow to be clear with what you want to achieve is as important as doing it. A lot of times, specially when I go to Europe, I have urge to take snow, skate and surf gear with me, but this tends to be a bit of a pain in the rectum as soon as you actually try to get off your front yard. If you are about to spend a lot of time out of the range of food distribution, I suggest you bring your travel cooker. If you tend to hike a lot, bring good shoes. But if you are planning a few days of surf in the while you’re at it I don’t recon you want to carry the surfboard bag with you the remaining of the month. As stated above, if something is an absolute necessity, most likely locals have acknowledged it too and its relatively easy to borrow or buy it from the destination.
5. Food is important
How are you going to get yourself fed is a major subject where ever you are. To make sure you can have a decent meal every day is something to highly consider. I always pack some extra high energy/weight ratio food into my backpack, relatively easy anger management. Your brain takes 20% of your energy intake to function, keep your head clear and carry the freaking snack. Hydration and minerals are fatal things to forget as well. A handful of magnesium additives and enough water to meet your dehydration can guarantee that you can execute a glorious finish for your hitch hiking trip and not have cramps all over your body.
6. What you don’t have, you don’t need
There’s no point in what-ifs nor I-should-haves if you left to have good time in general. At its best, traveling can teach you to learn. Learn how to adapt, to innovate and to apply common sense in tough situations. A shoelace can hold up your pants while you are applying your belt as a temporary sling. If you feel like a heat stroke in the middle of Las Ramblas, a flannel shirt dipped in icy water and wrapped around your head can save your day. Once again, the less you have single function or irreplaceable items with you the better you are. Not only this works while traveling, its sad to see people complaining about cold weather and snow wearing miniskirts or sneakers. Don’t make yourself dumb, survival skills – even in urban areas – are not bad skills to have.
Now that I think of it, I actually have two packing operations to do. One for a month in Spain and another for next week since our good old Antton and a dear friend Luigi have been hitch hiking from Hungary and are arriving to Äkäslompolo tomorrow. We thought to have a nice little hiking trip to the wilderness before heading down south. Maybe you’ll soon read from that too. So folks whatever you stuff in your backpack next time, remember, running escalators to catch a train with 30kg backpack on you is a helluva good workout too!
If you are not so much into this minimalistic traveling, below George Carlin cunningly explains the deeper purpose off mater, items or as he puts it: stuff.
Have a meaningful existence! Adios!
Thanks to my brother Tuomas, Jani, Jenni, Elina, Janne, Josh, Thomas, Marc, Nicholas, Antton and all the others for helping me realise these things!
Right so here comes a set of pictures from a trip to Iceland. My friend moved there last spring and at the time I was writing an article as a spin off from my masters thesis and after one meeting with the boss I happened to wonder out loud if the writing itself required actual physical presence at the office or could one write an article lets say in Reykjavik or so.. To my surprise he said pretty much that he couldn’t care less of my whereabouts so I stood up, stormed to my office and booked the tickets for the next day and drove to the railway station.
We hired a car and drove around the island stopping every five minutes to take pictures to just admire the incredible views. Some places where just way too monumental to even attempt to capture it into a picture so we were just watching in an amazement. Iceland can be described only in one word, epic that is.
You can click the smaller images to pop up bigger!
Path behind the beautiful Seljalandsfoss.
Just random endless lava fields.
Shipwrecked at the shore of my life.
Vatnajökull melting in sunset at Jökulsárlón.
Waking up into the explosion-like noices of icebergs collapsingDouchebag witnessing glacier meltdown. Eerie and desolated mountain pass somewhere in the north, on the way to Mývatn.
Its time to relax, not so much physically, since we are about to cover some distance, but mentally as nothing could make you stressed out here. A few things could keep me worried but they are now bound to wait for another week. From now on, only things like mosquitoes could be a reason for a swear word or two. We are about to enter Pöyliöjärven Erämaa, the Wilderness of Pöyliö Lake. It is a vast plateau of flat upper fells 250 km north from arctic circle. Here, trees grow only 2-3m in their whole lifetime and temperature varies 70 decrees celsius through out the yearly cycle.
There is something in watching vast lands stretching further than the eye can possibly tell a difference and knowing if you picked a direction and started walking, there would be only a very slight possibility to run into another living human. Although this time we were about to stay on fairly common river Pöyrisjoki, and make it down stream steadily and with ease.
Even still in places like this, the cohesion of you, your surroundings and everything you can sense, and as a matter of fact all beyond that as well, can be recalled in the most simple ways. The popping sound when hundreds of knats are trying aimlessly penetrate your clothes, luckily without any progress and the serenade of tens of different birds that bursts out louder than anything close by every time you move more than two steps. These birds are almost impossible to see in their natural habitat. They are perfectly adapted and don’t want you to eat their eggs for dinner. In this emptiness unyielding in front of you you could feel lonely and alone, but if you tune yourself a bit and listen to nature, it will definitely remind you, we are never alone!
We are on a land that is yet to be claimed to be owned by anyone. These are my lands. So are they yours. There is still hope in us, as part of everything, not as owners of everything.
We made it trough the misty tops and glaciers to continue towards Þórsmörk. Weather was far more placid, but not quite hot yet. Easily bearable, even enjoyable. Still a descent few more kilometers to reach the bottom of the valley where we would set our tent and rest our feet. Path leading down was photography-wise truly a dream come true, as most of the Iceland sceneries. Definitely we could have done the route significantly faster if camera had stayed in the backpack. But as in life, it’s not all about the speed or the goal. More about the path.
Parts of the path motivated to keep your focus solely on your step, still no actual danger exists as long as eyes are kept open and steps placed with care. Other parts of the route allowed all the stress to vanish and become diluted to the stunningly beautiful spacious sceneries. Breathing becomes light as all the senses are filled with feeling of freedom. Somehow it appeared to exist and to blossom here…
Luigi and Lucas preferred to have few layers less as the sun began to shine on us in it’s full splendor. Fleeting clouds occasionally covered the light, but after hours spent in the harsh winds at the misty tops the warming beams of sun made us feel as if summer was about to return.
In a place where even trees can be exceptional attractions we were lucky enough to have a close encounter with a willow grouse. This little fellow was running around in a dwarf birch forests with his red eye browns. Actually he or she might have been a rock ptarmigan as well. Someone with more knowledge over the matter could perhaps enlighten us over the matter of which is which. When a place which doesn’t support large quantities of life offers the possibility to meet even just one individual, that moment, is a remarkable experience.
Yeehaw! It finally snowed here in Helsinki, and oh boy it snowed well! We woke up to white winter wonderland on last Sunday. I wish I had woken up earlier, since it was so nice to walk around the city. Peaceful and quiet. All the people outside were enjoying the white magic delivered during the night. I just walked around and took photos, which I haven’t done lately at all. Helsinki showed it best of winter and I was totally enjoying the new hoods of my. I went around and about in the city centre, mainly the older blocks with cool streets and old buildings. Especially Kruunuhaka -area is such an idyllic place, lots of cool side alleys and hills. The icing was the dog waiting calmly his/her owner outside the kiosk. After such an awesome day, I made my second New Year’s resolution: “take more photos than last year and carry camera around twice as much”. Shouldn’t be too difficult, since my photography journeys last year were almost non-existent. Let’s see how it goes!
The waterfall of Skógafoss greeted us with tremble and tumble as we ascended the very first meters towards Landmannalaugar. Between Greenland and Europe, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, or actually separate a centimeter per year, Iceland began to rise from the Atlantic ocean about 60 million years ago. Volcanic activity has been shaping and shocking the relatively young and evidently crude scenery over the years. The notorious Volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 seizing a fair share of the global aviation activities, would be something we’ll be walking past. Knowing the before mentioned and having heard praising comments from fellow hikers was enough to wake up an authentic interest for what is laying in front. Upcoming 80km would hopefully allow us to witness and be impressed by beauty and roughness, tranquility and might of the natural processes.
“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes..” is phrase heard both from locals and travelers. Only later I we learned that it would occasionally concern, not only the weather, but pretty much all of the scenery. Skógafoss was left behind and as we began to move north in the misty and moss covered landscapes.
Yet we did not know that crossing rivers and streams would become a daily routine. Some easily by skipping from a stone to another, some by fording knee-deep in the ice-cold meltwaters streaming down from the glaciers. Here is Lucas placing his step with care as the path kept rising higher.
Waterfalls appeared one after another and the edge of the glacier came nearer. Already at this point it was becoming clear that all the overwhelmingly stunning scenery would be impossible to capture on camera in its full and profound essence. A glimpse of 1/100 or 1/200 of a second frozen as a still imagine could not possibly explain all, not even a picture by picture. As altitude increased the temperature decreased to near zero celsius, wind blew stronger and mist grew thicker. Thats when the wave of gratefulness hits you for having a wind and waterproof clothing. In a way happiness is the moment when preparation meets the opportunity.
The post apocalyptic sceneries offered by mother nature consist of poor visibility and glaciers covered by volcanic ash. It was like another world, a bubble where you cannot really hear your friend unless he is shouting. A place where the rain falls sideways forcing your eyes to be halfway shut most of the time. The scenery is just the same no matter where you look. So sucky that the tipping point of comfort zone had been well exceeded, turning plain being into pure fun.
After enough steps had been taken we began to descend once again. Light grew brighter, sun grew stronger and the mist kept fading away, even the wind was giving up a bit. After the gray-black-brown-white passage the rich colors down in the valley implied of a brave new world. And it was waiting for us.