28 in the bed and the little one said, roll over…

We awake early, enjoy breakfast and gather our stuff and find our seats on the bus.  The days have become routine, though the scenery constantly changes. We set off for Landmannalauger deep in the highlands.

We stop at waterfalls leaking from the hills surrounding.  The landscape in Iceland is unique.  It is a country that is constantly changing, its surfaces rough and wild with a beauty that continues to evolve. It is difficult to stop taking photos.  At every turn something demands attention, a closer look, a record.   At home, our landscapes have a more polished look, touched by man and decorated to suit, beautiful in a been there seen that sort of way.

The road quickly changes to a path where the curves have us trusting the process without seeing the whole picture.

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Soon the road deteriorates and we travel on a path where a volcano spewed itsIMG_3497.jpeg contents. The flow hardened and became the road. We off road over pot holed roads with boulders and rivers to cross at every turn. I look out the window straining to see where we are going though there is no discernible route. It is a rodeo ride that gets tiring as we bounce along. I sit up alert believing on some level my focus is helping Eric drive.

We arrive to sparse development.  We are away from the crowd and this place is the only place we have seen since our motel this morning. It would be impossible to have a typical hotel here as the logistics of bringing everything needed across the road we just drove is not possible. It is a minor miracle there are any structures here at all.

The mountain hut is new fitted and well built.  We are told we will stay here. The place is locked, and I take the time to walk around the building, looking in the windows to see what is available.  My expectations high, they begin to become more realistic. There are a few separate rooms, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

We enter the structure and are instructed as in all Iceland dwellings to remove our footwear.  We oblige and are further directed to a room. We walk in and see group bunk beds on each side. There are 8 thin, narrow mattresses on each top and each bottom, making this a hopeful space for 32 people. I think about tents with their pie in the sky pronouncement–sleep 6, when 3 is more realistic. There are wooden hooks on the walls where we can hang our packs and small shelves above the mattress for gear that needs to be more accessible. We learn that all 28 of us will sleep in this room.  It is a lot to take in at once.  Now I understand why Kommi felt a need to advise us to lower our expectations.  I claim an upper bunk by the edge of the structure.  John takes the space next to me, so I will have a familiar body next to me. We all know each other through hiking and travelling, though sleeping together is not something we have done before. How fun something like this would have been when we were all several decades younger.  Still, our age has us knowing that we can survive this, it is one night and will add to the richness of the experience and memory.

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We share this mountain hut with several groups. There is a central cooking space complete with a long table for sharing. There is no washroom in this building though it’s a short walk away. There is a natural hot spring another short walk away. Behind the mountain hut, the hiking trails beckon.

There are a variety of trails to choose. It will all be new to us as we set off. The terrain is rough in places, at times narrow. Soon we arrive in another world. The hills are green, not covered in moss or foliage but rather the stone is green. Soon we spy a purple one and inspect. It seems other worldly. Eric tells us its obsidian or dragon’s glass. It seems as though we have walked through the pages of a fantasy book.

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I love looking at shapes in rock. Here, everywhere I see trolls. It is believed that Trolls only work at night and must hide before light. If they do not they become immortalized in stone. I can see several examples of dawdling by trolls.

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We climb to see hot springs and bubbling cauldrons, of rocks that beckon us forward. We summit to the top and I can not believe my eyes. Everywhere I look is beauty, the mountains appear painted, 360 degree body slamming beauty. I take photos, though also take time to imprint the memory and to see.

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We descend, the weather slightly colder, the ground wet. It is tricky getting down, we wait for everyone, no man left behind. We trudge along, the scenery pretty though the bar is raised considerably after what we just saw.

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We arrive and shiver as we pass people in tents, our warm hut beckons. We enjoy a dinner cooked by our guides, then a relaxing soak in the natural hot springs complete with natural jets as the water pulses through an opening just at the level of my lower back. I settle. John and I lean back and look at the night sky dotted with stars. We imagine Northern lights completing the picture, though the moment is perfect without this cherry on top.  Landmannalaugar

We dress for bed and brace ourselves for the night to come. A hopeful young girl in our group cheerfully says, “well as long as no one snores”. I decide she will find out soon enough and let her enjoy hope for a little longer.

Lights out and the next moment it seems I’m awake to the light of day. I’m surprisingly well rested. Around me people are stirring, some look like sleep passed them by last night. John tells me the snoring was a symphony, and that I joined in the fray. Perhaps this is the key?

 

Hurry Hurry Wait

Our group of  28 wakes early to begin our trek to hunt the Northern Lights.  There is much excitement at the Foss hotel as we view our rides with their larger than life tires.  People pass by and gawk, at our too large carbon footprint.

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I still have not wrapped my head around what is expected of us for this leg of our journey.  The vehicles have me puzzling as I had thought we were trekking from place to place. Still this country is vast with not much in between places. We have been told to pare down our gear and over half is separated and will be placed in storage.  Now  begins the all too familiar game of trying to figure out where item A is and if its in the stuff to go or the stuff that is now in a warehouse.  I sigh, perhaps it won’t be needed? Our small backpack holds the essentials for the day, I hope, and we are off. Eric expertly navigates and soon we leave the big city of Reykjavik for vastness. I look behind at where we were, knowing we will be changed when we return.

The vehicle has plugs for our phones and I dig like a dog for my charger that I sadly discover is in one of two places, the warehouse where I will see it again in a week or piled at the back of the bus inaccessible for the foreseeable future.

Eric, our driver draws our attention to an odd button and says it is for lattes, then laughs, everyone else laughs too, though I remain hopeful waiting until no one is looking and press.  Nothing happens, I look out the window, wondering when our hike will begin and hoping I am up for the challenge.

We arrive at a waterfall. I hoist my pack, secure it to my back and sigh as I disembark.   John is close behind.  We are told we will have 30 minutes here. It should be enough to climb to the top, look around and come back. We are off, though not alone as we queue to ascend. Some folks are making a day of the climb, we scamper around them, the time tick ticking. We arrive to the top and are treated to view the top of a beautiful waterfall complete with rainbow. I happily snap pics though also take in the view. We quickly descend as my eye is on the picture prize of the waterfall from below.

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We scamper down the stairs and rush over to stand in queue. I breathe in and out loudly as the long queue snaps one selfie after another, the time tock tocking until finally our moment arrives. I snap a few pictures, then we rush back to the bus on time though we cool our heels while the stragglers catch up.

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We make a plan to stay in the moment and will see what is possible as opposed to everything available. This plan we believe will have us much more relaxed with chances to see and experience the scenery in real time instead of at home when we scan through the pictures, removed from the place, at our leisure.

 

Punch Buggy Green

 

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I saw the movie, Herbie the Love bug when it debuted in 1968.  I was very young and though I don’t remember the plot of the movie and have not seen it since, it remains etched in my history for one reason.

A Herbie replica was in the parking lot of the theatre and was being auctioned off for the price of a raffle ticket.  I wanted to win the car. My Dad explained that it would be many years before I could drive the car. It mattered little to me as I liked the idea of a car waiting for me until I would be old enough to drive.  I never won the car, but thought about it many times.

Eventually I would be old enough to drive, My first car was a 1980 Roadrunner, brand new with the same number of kilometres on the odometer as years I had been alive.  It was beautiful, the colour changing depending on the light.  Still, I would see many Beetles around, my daughters punching each other, playing the Beetle game and I would remember my first love.  It wasn’t practical I would think, as I loaded carseats, children and their items into larger vehicles.

A friend had an old Beetle, not running, and one day I happily sat inside the car while he pushed it.  For a moment I felt the wind in my hair, the dream realized.

The girls grew up, moved away and I found myself with the ability to choose whatever vehicle I wanted.  I would dream of the car as I worked endless hours on my house, watching the house rise from the ground to be a reality where once it had been a dream. The Beetle had been relaunched and no longer did I need to be a mechanic or handy at body work to own one.  Still,  I decided it would be a Jetta or a Golf, practical, and would spend hours thinking of the colour, the moment when it too would become a reality.

My eldest daughter was hit by a car that summer. It was a Jetta and just like that I didn’t want one.  I bought a Pontiac, and received a great bargain by having a friend that worked for GM.  Still, I would see the new Beetles around town and look at them with longing for what might have been.

The newest Beetle was launched, looking more like the original.  I spent much time on the internet building my dream car, tucking it into a folder on my desktop for “one day.” The day came and together my husband and I went into the dealership transferring the years of dreaming into a reality.  We would need to wait while it was built in Germany and then sent on its long journey to our dealership.  I could wait, could delay gratification, had been doing this for most of my life.

Five months later the moment arrived when we would pick up my car at the dealership.  In the time waiting, I built a lego model of a Volkswagen, surfed the net for accessories and dreamed of that moment.  I dressed that morning in a 60’s style shirt in celebration. The Beetle was  beautiful, the colour perfect, it exceeded my high expectations.  As I drove off the lot, the first song I heard on the radio was a song from the 60’s, it was perfect.

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Everyone it seems has a dream car, this one is mine.

The other day I was at a store and a young Mom and her daughters pointed at the car as I drove by.  In my rearview mirror, I watched the Mother playfully punch her children in the arm, and so it continues.  Punch buggy, green, no returns indeed!

 

 

My Sister

I remember the day that you were born.  Dad came into the room where we were playing and told us that we had a baby sister.  There was a sadness to Dad’s words, that only with the clarity of time I understand.  You were born early, 28 weeks,  at a time when babies did not survive.  You were kept warm, fed. You were born in a remote area of Northern Alberta and the physician that cared for you had just completed his training at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Edmonton, his expertise and knowledge saved you.   There was no ventilatory support, no oxygen, still you thrived and survived.  You were a miracle.

They let me see you, sneaking me into the hospital, as siblings were not allowed to come into the hospital, unless they were at least twelve years old.   I screamed that there was a pin in your stomach.  It was the umbilical cord tied off and my six year old self without a frame of reference did not understand.  They ushered me out of the room quickly, telling me to be quiet, to stop screaming, that you were all right.  I didn’t believe their words of reassurance.

We moved away from Northern Alberta to Edmonton and I thought you had died and no one wanted to tell me.  I didn’t ask, too afraid to hear the words.  Joyfully, you came home to us three months later and I would sit beside your crib,  reading to you   I wanted you to be a professional reader.  I wanted to help in the only way that I knew.  You love reading, so perhaps

I grew up and worked in a world of babies born too early.  I don’t think that there is an accident to my career choice.  I wanted to make a difference, to help.  I wanted to understand more and move beyond the screaming six year old that I was.   The world of premature infants has changed drastically since you were born.  I like to think that babies like you paved the way for all the babies to come. We learned more and saved even more babies born too soon.

Six years apart seems like nothing now, though as children, it was a gulf impossible to bridge.  I left home when you were nine.  We went our separate ways and yet there was a link to each other through the years.  We both struggled with our children, trying to find the answers to questions that never seemed to have answers.  We are more alike than different, our experiences link us greater than our family connection.

Today you came to my office and we chatted about life, marriage, children and family. You will always be the link to the past, the road to the future.

 

Backpacking luxury item

In response to WordPress prompt luxury

a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/luxury/”>Luxury</a&gt;

The plan was a week long backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains. The preparation and  planning consumed many days and sleepless nights. Each item carefully considered for its necessity and double if not triple function. 

 I read countless books on the subject and considered,  albeit briefly hollowing out my toothbrush to save weight. 

I took all food items out of their original packaging to save space and weight, marvelling at the volume of packaging rendered redundant. 

The pack weighed in at 45 lbs and only one last item remained, my personal luxury item. I chose my Olympus camera to record the journey.  I’ll never forget the freeing feeling of strapping my pack on my back and knowing that every item was necessary and I truly had all I needed. It’s odd, I felt light at that moment.  

During the trip I fantasized about any number of items that would have been nice to have, a luxury at the time. A glass of wine after a long hike, a warmer coat when it started to snow, a hamburger when I tired completely of dehydrated food and good old raisins and peanuts. 

Still, as I look at photos from that trip I know my choice was right. How blessed to hike in the back country surrounded by mountains, wildflowers, and cool mountain streams. What a luxury to be able to record the moment and freeze it in time where years later,  I am transported by those photographs and remember a cool breeze, the weight of my pack and how soothing the cool mountain stream was on my sore feet.  I remember the pine bough structure we built to keep busy during a cold, wet day, the alternative was feeling bitter and cold. How lovely our home was, warm, inviting complete with socks drying by the fire. At that moment I felt as though all my needs were met, luxury indeed!

Stone Town, last look

We have been informed that Stone Town is a great place to purchase Tanzanite, a perfect souvenir to commemorate our Kilimanjaro climb. Tanzanite is a beautiful gemstone. Its colour changes from blue to violet in different light.  It was discovered in Northern Tanzania in 1967 by the city of Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was named by Tiffany and Company in 2002 for Tanzania where it originated.

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We wake early to peruse the many shops selling this stone.  In Canada and Hawaii I have seen a few examples of the stone, though here in Stone Town the options are more plentiful, the deep colours more prevalent.  John remarks that they aren’t giving them away and the price is dear.  We are worried about what we are buying as we have been told to purchase from the government where we can be certain of the quality.  It is a gamble and we decide we aren’t Gamblers.

We walk down to the water and see a group of cats waiting patiently.  They are waiting for the Fishermen to bring their breakfast.  Its comical to watch them, their fear of water overriding their hunger.  There are many cats in Stone town roaming the streets.  I suspect they keep the vermin under control and are fed collectively for their efforts by the people of Stone Town as they are not scraggly or thin.  Still, they look more street wise than our pampered cats in Canada.

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We stop at our favourite coffee shop for our final latte.  There are no chain coffee shops here and we are thankful for the reprieve.  This shop is located in a bookstore, adding to its ambience.  We peruse the dusty tomes and over priced bric-a-brac and settle into the comfortable chairs and enjoy a most excellent latte.

Too soon its time to gather our too many bags and haul them down the too many stairs.  We have enjoyed our time in Stone Town a great deal.  We wish we had more time in this magical place.  We cast a look behind, hoping to return this way another day, then set our sights on what comes next.

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Enchanted Evening in Zanzibar

We dress excited about our dinner reservation. We have booked Hurumzi, a rooftop restaurant in the heart of Stone Town and on top of the elegant Emerson Hotel.

Out of respect for the many Muslims that call Stone Town home, I’m careful to cover my arms and knees and choose a dress and shawl. I twirl in front of the mirror, loving the feeling of being dressed for dinner.

We arrive at the Emerson and marvel at the stairs, each with a different rise and run. We walk slowly, carefully and concentrate on each step as we ascend.

The restaurant is small and divided. One side has proper tables and chairs, the other features a large rectangular space with floor seating. We opt for the experience, remove our shoes and stake out our pillow for the evening. Our senses absorb the surroundings. The space has Persian rugs and richly coloured pillows of varying fabrics and textures on the carpet and backrest. There are short tables throughout the space. Above our heads a canopy of silk billows in the breeze, the air perfumed. We look over the short walls and are treated to a 360 degree view of the city and ocean.

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Our waiter arrives, dressed in a white robe and a gold hat. He washes our hands with rose water and teaches us this lovely custom. The meal is set, we only need to choose between three main courses. We sip our beverage as we await our meal. The dishes are exquisite each perfectly spiced, flavourful and beautifully presented. Our hands are washed again with rose water at the end of our dining experience.

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The call to prayer is announced. In years past, the Muzim, or leader would climb to the Minaret, a slender tower with a balcony where he would announce the call to prayer. Today this task is accomplished by a loudspeaker and occurs five times a day at specific times that change with sunrise, sunset and latitude and longitude. We listen to the last prayer of the day, the sounds melodic adding to this enchanted night.

We lean back on our pillows, shifting to find comfort and watch the live entertainment. The music is called, Taarab. It is a mixture of Indian, Arab and Swahili, the result unique. The dancer is spell binding as she elegantly moves, seemingly floating, her bare feet hardly touch the ground. She effectively draws us into her exotic world.  Bongo drums play softly in the background, the silk flutters above, stars peak on either side. Beneath, the city moves and life mundane rolls onward. Up here in the stars, magic exists on this night. I close my eyes not wanting this evening to end and commit this night to memory.

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Thanks to Gilles Chartrand for the photos of this night