What to Do, What to Do (Itinerary, continued)

Which begs the question, what to do on our free day in Iceland?

The third week of March, our short stint in Iceland, Bjork gigs in NYC. Jonsi and the rest of Sigur Ros have no tour dates set for 2015…  (reading this, guys? Disappointed fanboy and fangirl here!). Maybe we’ll run into them on Reykjavik’s streets, or in Starbucks (if Iceland had a Starbucks, which it doesn’t)?!?

Still, it’s “The Land of Fire and Ice” we want, and we should get plenty of it on the first three days of our trip (you can check our itinerary on the previous post, if you’re curious), if mostly from a bus window. So it’d be nice to actually get out and do something our last day in-country, especially since all we’ll have to look forward to at the end of our four-day trip is an eleven-hour return flight, Reykjavik to Tokyo via Copenhagen in economy-class seats.

Sea kayaking is one option. We looked into a daytrip on the calm waters — suitable for beginners — of Ísafjörður on the west coast, but that involves yet another flight – too much travel! There might also be a chance of a day trip on the water near Reykjavik, so I haven’t given up hope of dipping a paddle in the Greenland Sea… Inland, there’s glacier hiking to be had, but from what I’ve seen so far summer is the season for that.

Apparently, you can take tours of TV and film locations around the island. The “north-of-the-Wall” scenes from Game of Thrones were shot at northern Iceland’s Lake Myvatn. Likewise, Life of Walter Mitty locations to the west, south, and east of Reykjavik are now on the tourist map.

I dunno… A “super-jeep” off-road tour across the troll and faerie lands? Iceland horse rides? A trip to the Tolkienesque coastline around Vik?

Too much too much for four days! We’re already talking about a second trip…

Originally posted on tokyoaaron's blog:

Sigur Ros, Varuo (from Valtari Mystery Film Experiment (This is kinda how I expect Iceland to look in mid-March…)

Get with the Group: Iceland as a Package Tour

This trip to Iceland will be the first time I travel as part of a tour. I gotta say, the idea of travelling in a group doesn’t really appeal to me. Maybe that’s just a knee-jerk reaction, coming out of some pretensions on my part, but I’ve traveled a lot and always independently, and the other travellers I’ve met that way are often interesting people. Since un-interesting people must also travel, I just assume they must be the ones who travel on tours. And cruises. Besides, I’ve found that the few times I have taken a day-long bus tour, that I tend to wander off and do my own thing; I get wrapped up in thoughts or focused on taking pictures of…

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Sigur Ros, Glosoli Official Music Video

Iceland Pre-Departure Part One

Each spring, R. and I take a long weekend trip to some photogenic part of Japan. To hike the ancient cedar rain forests of Yakushima, for example, or tour the rural island/open-concept art gallery of Naoshima Island in the Inland Sea. This year, since our Christmas had a winter theme (a Patagonia Nano Air jacket for me; base layers and an Outdoor Research Primaloft jacket for her), we were leaning towards a weekend in snow country: to the powder-filled river valleys of Niseko, perhaps, or Yuzawa (setting for Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country) or the Japan Alps. After all, parts of Hokkaido and the Sea of Japan side of Honshu are among the snowiest places on earth…

So I was a little surprised when R. told me the other day, at 4am, where she wants to go this March: Iceland.

Iceland! “Land of Fire and Ice,” they call it. A place so beautiful that Gunnarr – one of the heroes of the Icelandic tale Njal’s Saga – faces death rather than leave his homeland. Birthplace of Bjork. And home base to the post-rock band Sigur Ros. WHO. ARE. GODS. Just saying…

Iceland is also a beautiful, if photogenic in an understated way, place. Check out the landscapes by Michael Reichmann, who calls it “a photographer’s paradise.”

In fact, Iceland has been on our short-list of adventures for the past few years – especially since Sigur Ros hasn’t played a gig in Tokyo recently (are you reading this, Jonsi?). And I was planning to surprise R. with a trip next summer when, for my 50th birthday, we would take a five hour, 44 minute flight to Rejkyavik after visiting friends and family in Toronto.

But, R. does her homework, and among other things she told me that March is prime aurora spotting season. And the tour she found is considerably cheaper than others to this most expensive of destinations. Plus, she assured me, despite the name, Iceland is not really that cold in winter (I remember something like this from when I was a kid; the Vikings put the “ice” in Iceland to scare away other settlers; the “green” in Greenland was, I guess, a practical joke.).

Cool. We’re Iceland bound!

Lauterbrunnen-12

Lauterbrunnen, Bernese Oberland Switzerland

Recently I’ve been posting images from a trip I made in 2010 to the Swiss (and French) Alps. Temperamental weather (snow! in July!) in Murren, a village at 1,650 meters (5,413 feet) elevation on the green flank of the Schilthorn,   brought on a bad case of hotel-room fever. When I couldn’t take being cooped up inside any more, I would ride the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen, a village on the valley floor. As you can see, the houses and valley walls were just as photogenic as Murren itself…

I’d love to go back, and take R. with me. Between the recent yen devaluation, however, and the spike in the value of the Swiss franc, the chances of a return trip are looking less and less likely…

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The Trail to Rotstockhutte

Murren and Gimmelwald from the trail to Rotstockhutte, Switzerland

(Part of an ongoing series of galleries created from photos taken in and around Murren and Gimmelwald in the Lauterbrunnen Velley of the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. Follow these links to visit Gallery OneGallery Two, and Gallery Three).

As I’ve written previously, in the summer of 2010 I returned to the most memorable spot from my first trip to Europe more than twenty years earlier: the villages of Murren and Gimmelwald above Lauterbrunnen Valley. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very well with the weather: it rained most of the week I was there, and one morning I walked to the post office through falling  snow. This was early August. On the plus side, a young alpaca watched me pass, eyeing my Gore-Tex longingly. Or hungrily…

On fair weather days I did manage to get out for a few hikes in and around town, including the trail (most of the way) to Rotstockhuette. This gallery, Gallery Four, is mostly pictures from that day trip. I made it most of the way to Rotstockhutte, through alpine meadows and a small herd of cows, but a late afternoon thunderstorm was rolling up the valley from the direction of the hut, and I decided to turn back rather than risk a lightening storm on an exposed mountainside.

I carried two cameras on this trip: The Canon G9 and the original Olympus E-P1. The first PEN model was slow to clear the buffer, had no optional viewfinder and dim LCD, and the settings were easily changed with a bump of the various rear controls. As a consequence, I lost a lot of good pictures. Here are the survivors. For lenses I carried the Lumix 20mm 1.7, and the coveted Lumix 7-14 4.0 wide-angle zoom. Note that the images in this gallery have been processed in DxO Pro X using the HDR Realistic setting and a touch of ClearView to remove haze. The effects look stunning – especially on the screen of my new iMac Retina! Just saying…

The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte The Trail to Rotstockhutte

Gimmelwald, Swiss Alps

Murren and Gimmelwald, Switzerland

(Part of an ongoing series of galleries created from photos taken in and around Murren and Gimmelwald in the Lauterbrunnen Velley of the Bernese Oberland, Swistzerland. Follow these links to visit Gallery One and Gallery Two).

In the summer of 2010 I returned to the most memorable spot from my first trip to Europe more than twenty years earlier: the villages of Murren and Gimmelwald above Lauterbrunnen Valley. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very well with the weather: it rained most of the week I was there, and one morning I walked to the post office through falling  snow. This was early August. On the plus side, a young alpaca watched me pass, eyeing my Gore-Tex longingly. Or hungrily…

On fair weather days I did manage to get out for a few hikes in and around town, including the trail (most of the way) to Rotstockhuette.

I carried two cameras on this trip: The Canon G9 and the original Olympus E-P1. The first PEN model was slow to clear the buffer, had no optional viewfinder and dim LCD, and the settings were easily changed with a bump of the various rear controls. As a consequence, I lost a lot of good pictures. Here are the survivors. For lenses I carried the Lumix 20mm 1.7, and the coveted Lumix 7-14 4.0 wide-angle zoom.

Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps-8 Murren, Swiss Alps-9 Murren, Swiss Alps-10 Gimmelwald, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps-12 Murren, Swiss Alps-13 Murren, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps-15 Gimmelwald, Swiss Alps Murren, Swiss Alps-14 Murren, Swiss Alps

Murren, Swiss Alps

Murren & Gimmelwald, Luaterbrunnen Valley Swiss Alps

In the summer of 2010 I returned to the villages of Murren and Gimmelwald in the Swiss Alps, high above Lauterbrunnen Valley, where I’d first visited some twenty years before, Unfortunately, this return trip, I didn’t have much luck with the weather: it rained most of the week I was there, and one morning I walked to the post office through falling  snow. This was early August. On the plus side, a young alpaca watched me pass, eyeing my Gore-Tex longingly. Or hungrily…

On fair weather days I did manage to get out for a few hikes in and around town, including the trail (most of the way) to Rotstockhuette.

Read the rest of this entry »

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