Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Whole New Adenture...

Here goes to four years at Dundee University on my way to becoming a real person.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

17th August

Our early night must have been a good omen as we thought we were on the first shuttle run to the airport as so got up at 6, however at breakfast we were told otherwise... The morning seemed very strange as were all packing up and we all knew it was the last day but we didn't quite realise it, maybe subconciously we didn't want too. Tthe morning was speant in the TV room waiting to be shuttled off to the airport and as the numbers declined, realisation set in and the topic of home sprung up. We began to feel reluctant to leave as we had become such a close knit family. We chose to be on the last shuttle as once we got to the airport there was no going back.

Checking in our baggage was amusing and Alta airport does not believe in baggage weight limits as nobody had to pay for overweight baggage. At the gate we saw the first bit of TV which was Prince on some chatshow, we were blissfully unaware of his upcoming tour in London at this point. Alex and tasha realised that they had no emergency contacts in their passports leading them to fill in each others. Aboard the plane I sat next to two women who spoke to me. One had realised I was scottish and so spoke about Edinburgh and the other one was a Swedish women who was a nurse. We spoke about how I would love to do medicine but also love the arts. She used to have the same problem and but managed to find a medium by working abroad in disadvantaged areas. I loved having such an influential conversation with a stranger, but at the same time I was sickened by her ability to speak English compared to my nion exsistant Swedish/Norwegian. Thats just another thing I love about aviation, its a little bit romantic in that you can meet an influential stranger.

We landed in Oslo and were let loose in the airport until boarding, this meant one thing: SOUVENIER SHOP! There was no luck in the main airport so we had to go into international departures, the no going back zone. Thankfully through the mists of perfume there was a gift shop. Souvenier shopping for me is just buying a hoodie with Norway/Norge written all over it, I managed to stretch to a T-shirt too as I had more money than I thought, I suppose there is only so far you can get with a Visa in Arctic Norway... We headed up for food and it was between Pizza Hut and Upper Crust, the later of the two had the "upper" hand as I could have my first milkshake in four weeks.

Time flew by and before we knew it we were through passport control and the gate and on to the plane, which was practically empty. After a bit of seat switching and reuniting a family Gabby and I managed sit together for the final flight. We attempted reading a folk tale but managed to pick the longest one so gave up quite quickly, moreso because the food was coming. We used up the rest of our Kroner on Norgian food and drink and made some paper planes. Otherwise our time was spent saying how much we dind't want to go home underneath it all and we hoped Gabby's parents would forget my bad with my hotel reservations in it. Once we had landed there was an instant wierdness as we all headed to baggage reclaim as once they had their bags they all just seemed to disappear, but not until they were hugged at least twice by everyone (I even hugged Alistair and Callum...).

At Arrivals everyone disappeared into the arms of their parents, except me. But this didn't actually bother me one bit as I had my two adoptive parents there, Tasha's armed with a cheese and ham bagette and Gabby's who did not have my hotel reservation so I had to head back to theirs and decided it was probably easiest if I just stayed there. However at the airport something hit me and I just burst into tears, I was the only one aswell and probably not one of the expected bawlers of the group. I want to think it was because I realised I wasn't going to see these guys every day again.

Back at Gabby's I met her twin Holly who had run us a bath and gave us razors and chocolate. Gabby and I spent ages updating her family and I spent even more time catching up Facebook. Getting to sleep in a real bed was surprisingly difficult and the darkness didn't help but it was nice to see the stars again.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

16th August

We woke up to the blinding light of the YL's dressed for "Rave Day" and we crawled straight into the showers to test out Tim's theory of a free hot shower. It didn't work, so we had to pay they whole 10NKR for the 5 minutes of hot water, which was bliss. The smell of herbal essences followed us through the campsite and my secret stock of shampoo was harder to hide than I thought as the boys started to ask to borrow it.

The day officially began with a meeting at 10am to assign us jobs to sort out and clean the kit for taking home. Gabby and I didn't actually get assigned to anything but to pull our weight we went into Mark and Stevie G's group to sort tents. This lasted until 12 when we decided to have lunch and then we were going on a bus to visit the Alta Dam. Before we left we got a group photo taken as this would be the last time the whole group would be together as a few were leaving today. Mark's goodbye was especially emotional as he had managed to inspire each of us during the trip somehow.

We attempted to get some of our reflective journals done but ended up falling asleep before picking up our informative guide. there weren't enough helmets for us all walk into the plant so we were forced to drive the bus through the mountain and onto the dam. Nobody had told us what we were actually there for so there was just lots of revelry and crude photos taken on the dam and it wasn't until we followed the labyrinth staircase to the cinema did we realise that this was the site of a cultural protest by the Sami. The cinema itself was the darkest place we had been during the four weeks and it was beginning to feel like a school trip as we all messed about at the dam and on the bus.

We were heading back to the campsite for a BBQ but on the journey back Steve and Tim overheard Tasha, Gabby and I's about the chick-o-meter and joined in, but as soon as the process of "laying" got introduced it all went a bit too far...

Back at camp Tasha and I got on the Rave paint, just as we were about to be evaluated for out Duke of Edinburgh Gold, it didn't seem to make a difference as they decided to give me the residential and expedition sections. I was more than happy with that.

Meanwhile we painted everybody else with rave paint as it was a long time before any food was served but when it was, my were we excited. I usually avoid hot dogs at all costs but it was the most beautiful and was gone in a flash as we had not had "meat" in so long. There was a little boy who knew Mike or something had tagged along and was called Ru, there were mixed feelings about him.

The last night had not major big farewell feeling or group reminisce. I got my antlers signed before attempting to pack in the dark but it was helped by me finding my glow sticks and head torches for Rave day. We attempted to get everyone to stay up but it didn't work as we got to the tent at 12. The mood was lightened as I turned my phone on and realised I had a voicemail from mum asking if I had landed in Gatwick safely... We were reluctant to go to sleep as we knew this was the last night as a trio in our tent.

Monday, August 02, 2010

15th August

Steve came to wake us up at 6:22am as we had snored past our 5:45 alarm... We weren't to pleased to be on the first shuttle considering we were the last to get back to the campsite and to bed. Plus poor Tasha had to get up too although she was on the last shuttle. We had an hour to get completely packed up, tents and all. Mark tried his tactic to get us to the fluffy stage by making our hot chocolates and hot cereal starts which we ate on the mini bus(which didn't leak this time). Helen put on a random Norwegian CD which was very amusing but it was very quiet under Steve the Sami fact Machine as we were heading to Kautokeino which is one of the largest Sami settlements, in Norway at least.

We arrived in Kautokeino at 8:30 but nothing opened until 9am and the tourist office we were leaving our packs in wasn't open until ten... It appeared out modern western culture is effecting the young Sami people as they face a dichotomy between sticking to tradition or moving on with the rest of the world as many young men stumbled past swigging alcohol at 9 in the morning. As we waited outside the tourist office we made several toilet runs before heading down to the "Coop" in time for it opening. We were in awe. Suddenly we were surrounded by all the foods we had craved throughout the whole trip. In the end we went for the simple foods of "Super Brøt" and "Ballerina Muffins." After letting the boys go in got a look we headed over to somewhere that looked like a bank in search for a cash machine. It was weird going straight from 4 weeks of wilderness to being back into civilisation so quickly. Here we saw some people in traditional Sami dress and it was inspiring to see that not everybody was infected by western culture, although it was apparent this was still mainly the older generations.

Back at the coop a man stumbled past us and perched himself next to Gabby and flung his arm around her and nuzzled his nose into her cheek while telling her to come up to his tent on Finnmark's highest point to see his reindeer... Steve then jumped to the rescue but the man misunderstood and said "oh, you like this girl too?" but Steve replied sternly, "No, I am the group leader." The man backed off and eventually disappeared into the Coop. After that encounter with an overly friendly local we were told there had been a large wedding in the town last night and so most residents were probably still drunk. We headed to back to the tourist office to finally get rid of our rucksacks but the "surfer dude" who Steve spoke to wasn't there and the tourist office was apparently closed for the rest of the summer. The tourist office was also a hostel and a cafe so the ind woman running the place let us keep our bags in the cellar anyway. With that finally sorted we headed down to the Sami museum to learn everything else about the Sami that Steve or Sam had left out. Kautokeino was particularly busy today as there was a unique festival on called "Vaandrag" which involved competitors racing skidoos on water. The museum had a great view of the river where it was held so we tried to grab a spot. The museum was small but packed full of traditions dresses, stuffed reindeer and equipment used by the sami over the years. Outside there were authentic huts and one was a sauna and had a good view of the river. Unfortunately people in fluorescent yellow jackets with "Billeten" on them came past and informed us it would be 100NKR (about £10) to watch so we had to move on.

We met the group from the next shuttle and warned them about the tickets and so we headed back up to the tourist office and there was actually a good view from their, until the rain started. After several more trips to the coop the final shuttle arrived and we headed up to the Sami university for a talk at 1:30. The university building was far from any of the traditional huts and tipees from the museum but very futuristic. The building wasn't actually complete yet and we had to take our shoes off at the door be it for hyqiene reasons or tradition, it wasn't pleasant for anyone as we exposed our four week old socks, especially to our lecturer who greeted us. Although the doors stopped working and half us the group had to go in the side entrance the uni building was very impressive as we headed up a walkway that was partially a staircase but just at a very low angle.

Our lecturer was called Svein D. Mathiesen and was a lecturer of vetinary sciences at Oslo university as well as Biology at the Sami University. He is also and active member of EALÁT and the Arctic Council which raises awareness of the effect of climate change on the Sami lifestyle and how they have to adapt to these changes. The speech was interesting and very useful to most of us but you could tell some people were drifting off elsewhere...

After the talk it was back to waiting as their was a bus coming for us in either half an hour or at half five. Our group went to the coop for one last spree before gathering around the picnic table for more tales of Askalladin, jelly sweets and marzipan animals.
The bus eventually arrived and we were heading all the way back to Alta. I got my nose stuck into my bedtime reading, the first aid book.

The Alta campsite greeted us with dry weather despite the angry stuff we went through to get there. All the other groups had set up camp by the time we arrived and they distracted us from putting up our own tents as we caught up with them. It was weird how much we had missed them after only 5 days, imagine wahyt 5 months will be like...

We got our tent up but stayed in the TV room, even though the TV didn't work, and investigated the other facilties ie, the hot shower. We all congregated there and spoke about the past week . It was great to all be back together but a shame that we had all grown so close on the last days.

14th August

We were all feeling the aches and pains of yesterday but none of us as bad as Tasha who was forced to walk with Deirdrie the doctor with "bjorn" as she probably wouldn't be able to do our trek today. Gabby and I had a few aches and pains but our "lie in" helped a bit. Mark even made us breakfast which was sweet but we learnt this was a tactic to get us up... However he was forgiven when he helped me pack my stupid roll mat and fixed my gaiters with duct tape.

Gabby and I were in charge of the map today briefly until Alistair "wanted a look." Probably for the best really, although I am exceptional at knowing places I am rubbish at navigation. However, none of us were as due to a non-existent river we went the wrong way down a peak and the wrong way down a road. As we plodded, in the wrong direction, Mark and I discussed travels and bread, he told me of the amazing flavours of bread he made. Tim then told us of some chili jam his friend made. It got to the point where we really missed home comforts, like bread. Two berry pickers passed us on quad bikes and a man who worked on a salmon farm. It was nice to see the locals and their level of English was impressive, it always makes me feel terrible about how ignorant we are to their language.

After getting lost several times we passed a reindeer farm that led to the main road and we knew "Bjorn", and camp, was nearby. The reindeer farm was abandoned as we assumed they were out on the plateau but it was discouraging that there were reindeer legs sprawled about the place looking disturbingly fresh. As we were observing such sights a freak hailstorm started and thankfully we headed to a bus shelter where Helen and her "trusty" minibus picked us up from the roadside.Turns out we had just walked the wrong way again as the bus took us straight back from where we came from. Again Bjorn had our stoves going and we got food but there was no constant water source so there wasn't hot chocolates all round. Gabby and I were devastated to find out that we were on the first bus to Kauteokeino at 7am. Therefore we took our veg bolognaise to the tent, to the disgust of Tasha, went to bed and crashed.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

13th August

We had a 10am start today and at least 24km ahead of us. We were woken up by an alien noise of two quad bikes and two sami men came over to speak to us. It was nice to see that not everybody was angry to see us there. The walk from our camp was long and tedious as the weather turned and we had to eat our lunch in the emergency shelters. We passed many different landscapes over the trek which must have been more than 24km. This included a river and so we had our first river crossing. Tasha was almost run over by a man in a quad bike, understandably as it was the guy from the huts we broke into. during lunch we were joined by a dragon fly which everyone else was excited to see but me, it was massive and I hate flying insects.

Even though Steve kept us fuelled with "Sweeties time" all of us were beginning to die as it hit 10pm, not just Tasha. Muscle pain, dehydration and the mosquito's were dire and when we discovered camp was further than we first thought we almost cried. However we eventually landed, literally "landed" at camp and "Bjorn" were already there and lit our stoves and got water boiled for us.It was a shame the mosquito's got so bad that we got some extra protein in our rat packs...

Tasha felt so ill that she was put on relaxants and for half an hour to get to bed before she would collapse. After a short story about Askalladin we crashed into bed before another super long trek tomorrow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

12th August

After waking up at various points through the night due to rain and daylight but having very restriced movement, it was nice to finally get up at 6:30am. There was a mad rush in the booth to pack away even thought we had an out and a half before we had to head out to. It probably seemed more hectic as we were all trying to say out of the proper-full-hog-drenched-kinda-rain, which we were not used to. We left at ten to eight to head to the ferry/bus terminal were everybody embraced the lavatories. The bus was on time and bright yellow(as described by the YLs)and Tasha and I cranked up the faff by dragging our rucksacks onto the bus only to drag them off again to put them in the hold...

Back on the bus there was an attempt to do our journals but the fact it was only just nine o' clock caught up with us and we got some shut eye. Along the way Tim sprung another surprise on us, in that each group of five were to be doing different things. Javri(meaning Lake in Sami) were going to be doing a (approx.) 45km walk and navigation work and Bjorn (meaning Bear) were doing a gentler 30km trek and learning about edible plants. All of us wanted to be in Bjorn obviously so to stop our bickering we flipped a coin and my five ended up in the lake group. Tasha's eyes lit up when she realised she would be doing a 45km trek with her super dodgy knees.

We found city life really weird as we drove through Alta as we hadn't seen so many cars and people in a long time, baring in mind that Alta only has a population of about 17,000. We screeched into the airport and were given ration packs before being shuttled into the mini bus. As we piled in and found a seat they warned us that one of the windows is leaking and I looked up to find it was the one above my head.

We attempted to drift off to sleep but it wasn't easy as Helen's driving, or Norway's infrastructure, was not top notch. After an hour or so of driving in the rain we arrived to Tim and Steve and some more rain. They had been sitting outside this derelict hut for six hours now and were eager to get started on the trek. They told us that there was a hut that we could shelter in about an hour of or so away so before we had time to catch our breath we gathered our walking poles and hit the road.

When they said "hut" we expected no more than four wooden pallets tied together but instead we seemed to arrive at a whole estate with guard husky dogs. The Norwegian government must be investing a lot of money into their trekking routes. The young leaders explained that these were like the huts Rob visited in Sweden in that anyone can just go in and help themselves to food as long as they leave some money. When we entered the hut we were met by a small Sami woman who couldn't speak much English. She waffled on and Steve seemed to get the impression she was saying we could stay, but obviously not as after she scuttled off a man, with a knowledge of English stormed in and said "Excuse me, what are you doing?" It appeared we misunderstood and this was actually a guest house which had just been cleaned by the small Sami woman... He thought we actually understood Sami and just decided to make ourselves at home anyway and then he played the guilt card saying it would have to be cleaned all over again. I was well scared and we all rushed out as soon as possible leaving the floor soaking wet and muddy... Steve went to find out where we should have gone and it seemed the man had had time to reconcile with Steve as he said we might as well stay there as long as we clean up and much as we could before we left. Something tells me money might have been involved there.

The rest of the trek was accompanied by jokes about what had just happened as well as learning about edible plants, ie cloudberries which are AMAZING but you are not allowed to take them out of the area as they are so important to the Sami, you can eat as many as you like though. Eventually we found ourselves a campsite but it was very exposed and it was very boggy(lots of cloudberries though) especially at the water point. I also managed to get the tent inner wet during the trek but thankfully the dry wind sorted that out quickly. Steve then sat us down for a bedtime story about Askaladin who is a character in Norwegian folklore, and the various attempts to make it around the world in a day.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

11th August - "Is there somewhere to put the loo roll?"

" 7 girls, 2 boys and one lesbian means a party right? No just spontaneous biving in Arctic Norway.

We began today thinking we were leaving tomorrow at 7am as the mountaineering group did this morning, so we spent the day packing and carrying stuff down to the bus. Alistair also got apples and almost forced us to pay for them if we wanted one and even worse I lost my lucky Switzerland buff. However all was shook up at 4pm when we were told we were actually leaving at 6pm TONIGHT. There was great pandemonium packing the tents away which was fuelled by the massive tin of rice pudding.

Leaving base camp for the last time was emotional but it hadn't hit me that we probably won't ever go back, therefore we had our last moment on reflection rock before we headed down the hill with our heavy packs. It was really bizarre, we had got to know the land so well, we even knew each rock!

At the bottom of the hill we waited for the bus and Mike let us raid the left over food supplies. We waved goodbye to the kayakers and the steep climb to what was base camp and hopped on the bus where civilisation began to kick in as we say on out first real chair and felt the stuffy sensation that is air conditioning, which was actually a god send since certain hygiene problems became noticeable. Civilisation also kicked in again at the ferry terminal where there was the first real toilet we had seen and used, but Tasha was obviously still back at base camp:
"Is there loo roll?"
"Is there somewhere to put the loo roll?"
"Yes, in the toilet..."
"Oh yeah..."
The central heating made us overheat and the mirrors were just too much to handle. I felt particularly disgusting when we saw real people and how clean and made up they were. This was accentuated by the fact we seemed to be the main attraction. As we went to board the boat we were all dumbfounded by a door, but thankfully we managed to spur Sam to do it. The passenger lounge was the first time we had been under entirely artificial light as well as the constant noise from the engine and the lack of doors or open space made us feel trapped. As well as the distressed conversation I read the first aid book and learnt how to use the platypus as an enema.

Fifteen minutes later we arrived in Oksfjord and we headed left as that was where the campsite was, apparently. We passed many pretty houses and I had to convince Tasha to let me use her camera to take pictures to feed my fetish. We also passed playing fields which made me nostalgic about hockey. We came to a dead end which took us to a reservoir and we found a little viewing booth and before we knew it this would become our spontaneous biving site. We were followed up by these very little Norwegian boys who must have thought we were some kind of amusement as they started throwing coins at us. This also lead us to believe that someone might actually own this thing, so Tim and I headed up to the nearest house armed with my phrase book. The house was empty so we decided to assume this thing was public. Out came the stoves and we had tea before having "Circle Time" where everybody but Gribbs was a 9-10 on the mood scale. What the leaders said next would have taken our ratings way down as they said our group would be split into two groups of five. At first it was perfect, it was Gabby, Natasha, Rachael, Clem and I(Gribbs would have made it ultra perfect). It seemed too good to be true, no Alistair and no Emma, and we were right. Katie brought up that she wanted to spend a portion of the trip without any Dunblaners and so we had to swap Rachael and Clem for Alistair and Sam, there was no splitting up of the power three although it was suggested. It was sad because Clem didn't want to be with Emma as much as Katie didn't want to be with Alistair but after our emergency toilet talk to ensure everyone was happy we began to set up our sleeping arrangements which went as follows:

e Sam
l Rachael
C Katie
a Alistair
h Emma
s Gabby
a Rose
T Gribbs

That but a lot more cramped, the leaders Bivied outside by the way...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

10th August (Only 7 days left!)

Today was the second and last R & R so we got a nice lie in until 10:30 but nobody but me seemed to have a clue what the time was... For breakfast, we decided to open the massive tin of rice pudding and have it for breakfast, and lunch, and tea. I mixed it with hot chocolate powder and made something that resembled mushy coco pops.

Everybody was meeting at the tring at 11:30 to discuss what we were doing on the 3rd phase of the expedition and Mark attempted to emphisise the importance of Reflective Journals, a bit late now though. It was between mountaineering, kayaking and a cultural phase. The cultural phase involved a trek over the Finnmarks Vidda which is a flat plateau before reaching Kautokeino, which is one of the biggest Sami settlements in Norway. We were handed a sheet of paper with our names on it and we were to put our preferences for each phase. By the time it got to me it seemed that everyone wanted to do cultural but there were only ten spaces, the likely hood of Gabby, Natasha and I staying together was very unlikely, even more so that Gabby and I put mountaineering second but Tasha put kayaking...

We were meant to be meeting back at the tring at 2pm as if we were doing mountaineering we would have to pack up and be ready to leave basecamp forever at 7am tomorrow. However this was delayed until 2:30 as they were still deciding, great we had tome to wash our hair! Going back to the Tring was very nervewracking, Gabby, Tasha and I walked down together arms linked as a force. Mark wasted no time in naming exactly who was in each group. He began with mountaineering. Neither me or Gabby were named. Then Kayaking. Tasha was not mentioned. Somehow we still couldn't believe that we had actually managed to ALL get into cultural, AND GRIBBS?! Unfortuneatly we had to settle for Alistair(minus Callum) but I couldn't really care as I was on cultural and all four of us got on it!

We had a short and sweet meeting about the trip, but they didn't actually know much about what we were doing yet. The rest of the day was spent as an R&R day as we weren't leaving until Wednesday.

Everynight since "the flood" Tasha had been getting up at 2am after dreaming it was happening again. We devised an elaborate plan to make her dream a reality, but with a sarcastic twist: Gribbs and I kept Tasha distracted by writing the weekly blog while Gabby went to get the props for the attack, life jackets. As Gabby reappeared over the hill as a lifejacket tree the leaders were giving her a funny look as by now Tasha had crawled back into the tent with a sore head. This may have foiled the plan and so we smuggled them into Gribbs' tent. After tea of veg chili, Tasha still looked dazed so we decided to wait for another day. We spent the evening whittling wood and Nahom made me a keepsake wooden penis and Gabby made an impressive dolphin.

August 9th

IT was our last morning of kayaking and it was an early morning as we aimed to leave at 9:30, evveryone had packed up and were ready to go at nine, except ffor Mike and Reg who only began packing up at 9:15 so we only got away an hour later. Everyday we have had a daily leader and today it was my turn, I had planned to do today as today there was only a 1.5 hour dreach paddle back to camp, so there wasn't much to lead. We were all very excited to get back to camp and see everyone again from the other fires and the other leaders. Because of the mixed up tides recently it was a very, very low tide so we actually reached our destination much earlier than expected, but it also meant we had to carry our boats in further. The most sensible option in Alistair land was to put the two boys in the group of three and make all the girlls carry the boat in twos, Tasha had already been banished to collect fire wood. Fit Chris came to help carry the boats which was appreciated when carrying my hiefer of a boat. Reg made us take a cheesy group photo and an even more cringeworthy video of a forced group hug.

We still had two boats to carry in when the other fire came powering in like an invading army and the boys happily carried boats in between twos while the girls took the kits. Where is the justice?!The spray decks and life jackets were washed in the stream and taken to the van before we ate the pollack Alistair caught last night, the only thing he is actually useful for. After refueling we had to ferry the kayaks back up and the "strongest" people had to go in the middle of the line. Our "strongest" however thought he would be more use if he took all the featherlight paddles up to the van. He could nto be more useless if he tried, plonker. He also stole my shepards pie FOR NO REASON! Guh. Well, after that fiasco we gave the kayaks a sponge bath and began the firsst run of kit back to camp. The kayaking had obviously bulked up my arms as carrying my bivi bag full of crap was less of an annoyance, unfortunately the hill hadn't changed much. It began to rain on the second run and to the surprise of everyone we could see Callum carrying the stuff Gribbs had left for the next stage, whats the bets Alistair told him to pick it up...

We got camp set up in the rain and moved into the tipi where we were reunited with our hold alls and got changed out of our wetsuits. This instantly turned to tipi into a tip. After Ratpack dinner, Nahom came round and the amount of innuendo's increased dramatically. Gribbs then offered Gabby and I a bite of her mars bar, little did we know it tasted like petrol. The fuel for the stoves must have spilt on it, if I get cancer i know who to sue... The combination of Nahom and petrol must have had an effect on us as Gabby, Gribbs and I were very hyper and ended up being covered in crude slang in permenant marker.

Friday, June 25, 2010

August 8th - " Your burps are very Homer Simpson esc, they are beautiful but have a rough edge like a diamond."

The familiar stuffiest of the tent was actually a relief compared to the chill of last night. We threw our clothes on and went to meat on the beach to discuss today's plans, which was to head 12k back to Nuvsvagsfjord and spend a night there before doing the midnight paddle back home. For once, we were actually packed up and ready to leave on time however the rain also started to fall for the first time on the whole trip. Thankfully the paddle was lightened by cags, pogies and singing. We made one science stop but it was not kind to Laura and I's stomach's as we began to feel nauseous.

It wasn't long before the next campsite but the other fire had steamed ahead and actually pitched up and the campsite the leaders said we should have as it was easier to reach. Also, as a funny addition, in this final stretch a milk carton bobbed past us and I happened to notice that is had Alexander Rybak's beautiful face on it. Therefore it is fate and I must keep it as a souvenir. It was hard to get the boats ashore against the slippery rocks and lack of flat land. Camp was set up in the persistent rain and tea consisted of very watery veg casserole. We spoke to Nahom and Emma from the other fire briefly as we collected water but but was still greatly frowned upon. We then had to seek shelter in the tents for the rest of the night as it was decided that the midnight paddle would not be worth it in this weather, we had practically paddled at midnight anyway!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

7th August

Instead of the pleasant beep of Tasha's alarm, we were woken this morning by the freezing cold and Laura and Gribbs shouting, "Guys, the tents are flooded!". Naturally, this was followed by a procession of blasphemy as we saw our stuff floating about in the porch and our thermarest's were being used as lilos as I opened the porch door. We all frantically moved everything further in shore, we were not the worst off as our sleeping bags were still dry. Gribbs, Laura and Katies's tent on the other hand was ankle deep in water by the time they had moved most of their things. The tide was still rising so we took all of our gear and tents to a river terrace which was situated well above what seemed to be a delta.I should have realised that the presence of river terraces meant that the river rejuvenates itself under a high tide meaning water is flowing in from the sea and out from the river. We opened our tents up to air them out and once our kit was safe we thought we should check on the kayaks which also needed to be hauled up the shore, thankfully not at such an extent as the rest of the campsite. Next we had to decide how we were going to sleep. One theory was to use the remaining dry thermarests and sleeping bags fro 8 people by doubling up but then most decided to bivi as we had brought them all along just in case, now being the case, and suddenly the -22 degrees sleeping bag was a great idea!

We got to bed at 4am only to get up again at 10:30 when we were meant to get up today and Tasha headed over to tell Mike and Reg what happened as they had camped in a different area, which we were suspicious over after yesterday's antics in case they were seeking some sort of revenge... Turns out they were genuinely shocked and had no idea so after breakfast we were allowed to go back to sleep until one o'clock when we were woken by rain so we ran into the inners of the tents and literally just through the outers over and collapsed.

At 2pm, just like twelve hours earlier Laura woke us up, at least this time we weren't accompanied by icy cold water. We began to pack up camp as we had to make some kind of movement today and aimed to head out at 3:30m, but that wasn't going to happen. Katie seemed very dosy and was also feeling very homesick so we were allowed to take as long as we needed to make sure we were all fit enough. We finally left the floody fjord at 4:30 and were heading to at least bergsfjord. Gabby and I passed the time by talking about important issues such as religion, abotrion, family histories relationships, cheating and school, it sure made the 11k go fast as before we knew it we were at the headland we passed at the beginning. On the last leg we all lost our adrenaline and it was approaching 9pm but we had to find a suitable camp.

We camped in the same area as the other fire but had to "stay away" again even though they tried to help us pull in the heavy boats. The original plan was to bivi to save time and just set up one tent for those without bivi bags but that was only Gabby and Alistair and for her safety I was not letting that happen. It would be against the expedition rules anyway, so the tents went up. Unfortunately we pitched our tent on the bumpiest stretch of the coast possible... I had lamb pilaf for tea and chocolate porridge for pudding and found tasha an antler on a walk from the toilet, which was much more productive and safer than the usual ones... Inspired by one of our leaders, Reg who was planning to cook an omlette in several places before a certain landmark birthday that was approaching, Tasha Gabby and I discussed several things we could do...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

6th August

"Woke up around 8am and headed straight for the loo before attempting to move anything."
This is the first thing in my journal for today, I must have really needed the toilet. Then again with Tasha around, it was always a mountain to climb...

We were all fed and everything was packed away - but not necessarily in the kayaks- by half nine and so the deadline of a 10:30 set off was in our reach. The plan for today was to go to Langsfjordham and walk up the mountain to inspect the glacier for the third phase of the expedition. The walk looked like it could have been amazing but I had done the good deed of lending Danielle my Scarpa's meaning I couldn't go up as my trainers were not suitable. Thankfully the mighty cripples that are Tasha and Gribbs also couldn't go up.

As we arrived in Langsfjordham it seemed very derelict but there was the occasional passer by that looked intriegued. We were given the job of looking for any camping areas, ferry times, public toilets and any for of medical help while the rest went up the hill. To begin with I stayed in the kayak and did some temperature readings to map out the bay and attempt some fishing, which was unsuccessful, while the other two wrote their postcards.

Suddenly we began to notice the tide getting higher and higher and we started moving the kayaks further up the beach Being the three original cripples the likely hood of one of us getting hurt was very high. Of course the one who actually did hurt themselves was Tasha who actually managed to dislocate and relocate her knee, AGAIN! It must have hurt being the second time in two weeks so she was banned from kayak hauling duty. After that "faff" and the ever advancing sea, we decided to raft the boats up together and tying them to a rock involved the least risk of a further injury. Using our mountaineering knowledge, Gribbs tied a thread while Tasha threaded the kayaks together using a figure of eight and a double stopper (on the bite) to keep them sequre. Wouldn't Howard be proud! I just stood and watched by the looks of things...

Once we were sure they were secure we carried on with our original task, good job we didn't start earlier! I had spotted the post office symbol from the beach but the closer we got to it the less it looked like a post office and more like someone's porch.we also found a school meaning this must be a permenant residence rather than the "ghost town" it appeared to be. Considering the ratio of children to adullts that we had seen in the town(2:1), a school was necessary...

Further along from the school there were more houses that seemed a bit more active and some kind of fishery. However we could not find any of the things we were told to find, even with the help of my phrase book... So without any luck we headed back to check on the kayaks and I neatened up the science results and added to my reflective journal before everyone headed back half-an-hour later than expected. immediately Mike got mad at us for not having the stove on ready for them when they came back with some tea on and then got even worse when we said we hadn't found any services. It wasn't our fault they were late and this village has nothing(thats all it has when you are not fluent in Norwegian...). As we went to put water on he kept making sly comments about us doing nothing but little did he know about the dislocation and didn't seem to notice or appreciate the fact we had saved the whole fleet of kayaks from drifting back to base camp. This is our leader, infact the whole expedition leader, a "brew" should not have been more important that appreciating someones innitiative?

All of us pretty sour, thankfully everyone else appreciated our help, we headed out of Langsfjordham at 4:30. None of us were in the mood to comply with Mike so we went the full 10k to the next campsite. The time flew by as we were all singing but Alistair began to lack lustre(more so) as the jelly beans ran out. We saw a river at the bottom of Bergsfjord and decided to try paddling upstream to reach what looked like the perfect campsite. As soon as we landed camp was set up incredibly fast as we were all starving. Reg and Mike began cooking fish but the Gribbs' empty stomach had obviously effected her drugs as she was acting like a drunk 5 year old by stealing chocolate...

The highs and lows of the day were discussed and Tasha was the only one to put Mike in his place and the reconciliation led to another hour around the camp fire with a leisurely chat before bed.

5th August

One thing was on my mind when I sprang up at 5:26am this morning:"results today." When Tasha's alarm went off at 7:15 I was already out of the sleeping bag and tent attempting to light the stove. I tried to disract myself by going for a wee wash and packed away our tents and gear. The half hour countdown to 9am was spent eating breakfast. My phone buzzed at 9:03am and it was a dichotomy between wanting to know but too scared to find out. In the end I plucked up the courage and opened it and was pretty damn chuffed with 3A's and 2 B's. I got distracted and started texting people and phoning mum. Soon enough though I had to get back into BSES mode by helping take down the kayaks and pack them up before setting out to do some science work.

We paddled down to the other end of Silda and did a camera drop where we saw our first sea urchins which was very exciting. WE then paddles east to an smaller unknown island and did another test, but more excitingly, when we looked up, we saw a white-tailed sea eagle. it was amazing being so upclose to it and to appreciate it's greatness. We were across from the town on Bergsfjord which was quite bustling despite its rural location. Around the corner there was a small beach and we all decided to stop for lunch. Lunch consisted of a cuppa soup and a dairy milk, which had to be eaten with a spoon as it was so melted. Remember, this was a trip to the Arctic.

At 2pm we headed back out on the road, eh I mean, sea and as we did Katie managed to catch a fish. However she managed to sufficate it as she didn't want to bash it over the head but it took too long for Reg to come and do it for her. Should have just put it out of its misery Katie...

We paddled on down Langsfjord which provided some of the most spectacular scenery and thankfully the weather complimented it. There were a few drifting problems but soon the currents stopped and paddling became a lot more enjoyable as we came into the sheltered end of Langsfjord. We saw the opposite side of Oksfjordjokelen which looked much more spectacular than the side we had climbed up.

The town of Langsfjordham was at the bottom of the fjord and was meant to be "derelict" but as we paddled up we passed two passenger ferries and several small personal motor boats heading that way. To keep the "isolated" nature of these expeditions we stopped at a small coastal area about 100m from Langsfjordham. The other kayaking fire had landed in the same bit but Mike gave the impression it was forbidden to interact with them. So they stayed at the hill so we were going to camp on the bottom of the hill on the otherside of a glacial stream, just to make it difficult to speak to them. After disembarking at one side of the stream someone decided it would be a better idea to take them up a kind of natural slip pier. This was not a good plan,, Tasha attempted to walk over but didn't think it would get that deep and got soaked and I had to tow her in the end. Although the slip pier was a good idea for the first three boats it wasn't prepared to facilitate ten kayaks.

The evening began by setting up camp and washing our kit before cooking Katies fish over a fire and discussing today and tomorrow. I also let katie use my phone to find out her results where she did a clean sweep with the ones. Today I really enjoyed myself at points that I would have previously pushed me over and it was probably due to the good start I got at the beginning of the day and the fact that the one thing that was worrying me was over. I could now solely spend my time on enjoying the ride.

4th August

Today was the first official day of kayaking non-stop and the weather was still pristine so was going to make this an enjoyable experience. After Breakfast and a short chat about where we were heading Gabby and I were already saddled up and out taking temperature measurements at 10. This also got us out of clearing away camp and hauling down the canoes... As professional as we thought we were it turned out the thermometer wasn't working so we had to start again but Mike's patience didn't let us finish. So much for the extra science element...

As we headed out of Ullsfjord we, amazingly, met a local who told us about a German gun emplacement from WWII further around the headland, only I managed to spot it since Orkney is surrounded by the frigging things. Nature also provided some sights as dolphins or porpoises were jumping in the distance reminding us we are in the open sea.

We stopped for lunch at a small beach and I spent my time reading the Shore and Pond Life guide in the Science pack Angelica had given us. I now know about different crustaceans as well as the habitats and ecology of the monkfish. Another thing I noticed on this remote beach was the amount of rubbish that had been washed up on the beach. There were some settlements nearby that might explain it but surely there should be no litter washed up at all to preserve this area?

Until now we had forgotten to do a camera drop, or Mike couldn't be bothered to wait about while we did it, so we had our first drop after lunch. Gabby was given the main job of holding the camera and looking in, I did the paperwork, plungline and GPS and everyone else helped set up a sturdy raft. We then carried on round the headland to try and find somewhere to refill our water bottles but the waterfall seemed further than expected before not actually exsisting. There was talk about crossing straight across to the island of Silda and the dehydration and sunstroke had obviously kicked in since I agreed that this was a good plan. I must say I felt better as this crossing provided one of the most spectacular views of the whole trip, south into Langsfjord, I suppose Gabby(and Callums) singing helped a bit...

As we approached Silda we headed towards a patch of snow on the hill and then a house, which actually looked very lived in which concerned everyone, but Mike. According to Norwegian law we are allowed to camp anywhere for a night as long as it is about 150m from any residential areas, but Mike told us it was 50m. Since he was the leader we headed into the shore after a final camera drop. Just as we got the tents up and changed a speedboat came roaring into the shore which obviously belonged to the people who where staying in the house we were camping outside. When they all got to the shore the adults came and spoke to Reg and Mike and must have formed some sort of deal, but later on they did not seem to pleased that we were there.

Reg had managed to catch a fish for tea and as we got a fire started we discussed the highs and lows of the day, mine were pretty obvious, and the plans for tomorrow. Mike gave us a fish gutting lesson and the freshest tea we had had in a long time followed. The rocks managed to kill Tasha again but this time not on the way from the toilet. However when she did go to the toilet her and Gabby managed to bring back parts of a reindeer skeleton including the pelvis, head, jaw and spine. Gabby only actually wanted the teeth and antler which was probably the least gruesome parts since the skull itself actually still had hair on it. I decided to use this as a chance to use several of the parts of my Swiss army knife. First i played doctor, amputating the antlers off with the saw and then playing dentist by pulling the teeth out with the pliers. It was terribly satisfying.

As we headed to bed I had just enough time to realise the amount of sunburn on my arms and applying a sea of cocoa butter before passing out for the night.

Monday, June 07, 2010

3rd August

Today we were actually going somewhere and leaving base camp and we began packing as soon as we were up putting everything into dry bags. The rice pudding, mushroom soup and pitta bread for breakfast suggested we weren't going to be eating for a long time, we were right. Before we left Angelica gave us a talk on the science work for this part and we all stared in awe and fear at the expensive underwater camera. Gabby and I got a special thermometer to measure air and sea temperatures in the fjords.

Everyone was 45 mins late packing up and it was a horrible walk down as I had such awkward bags to carry but the stars that are Will and Mark helped me. Another thing that cheered me up was a collie that walked past which looked just like Bonnie who I was missing severly (Notice how the "isolated" theme of expeditions did not apply to this one...).

There were more problems with lazy boys when the "strongest" "male" in our fire decided carrying the kayaks was too much for him so he would take some paddle. GRRR. The other fire had lunch an we didn't. That was a particularly unfair half hour of the trip for us girls.

Packing took forever considering we started at about 11am and only headed out at the back of four. Even still we managed to be short of enough rat packs for everyone. Gabby and I went in search of a place to change and found a convinient spot in a bunch of trees, next to the main road. At 4:30 we set off in our boats in a half-hour dash to the shop but still managed to miss it. Instead some people wandered further to the petrol station in search of real food. The rest of us stayed bobbing on our kayaks with a mars bar spotting starfish. We bonded with the other fire but soon we were going to go in opposite directions, i quote my journal: " WE HAD TO SAY GOODBYE. IT WAS SO SAD BECAUSE OF THE DREAD OF 24/7 CALLISTAIR."

A steady pace was set as we went along the headland but once round it Reg and Mike upped the pace and soon him and the boys were far off in the distance. Much worse than the "hard shoulder of the M25." What happened to the teamwork of the mountaineering team? We only landed in a fjord at about half nine and we were all tired and hungry. gabby put on the stove and Natasha and I took the boats in. This probably wasn't a good idea since we are both cripples. This proved true when I slipped while pulling CALLUM's stupidly heavy kayak making me turn on the waterworks becasue I was so tired and frustrated and they were hard to stop for various reasons. Thankfully I have made some really good friends on this trip who comforted me making feeling shit not too bad. Reg made me some hot chocolate and then we all had tea. Mike spoke for a long time and even then, let alone now, I had no idea what he said. However, Mike picked up on Callistairs uselessness and told us that "If Will was here he would sort him out because he actually does things we ask him to do!" Maybe this guy has an inch or sense.

2nd August

Two new leaders were coming for the kayaking phse, Bill and Reg. We had met Reg at the briefing weekend in April but we had no idea who this Bill bloke was. They were arriving at 11 so we got up at 8:30 to get ready to be paddling when they arrived. We met at staff camp at 9:30 only to be told that their boat was at 4 so we had a whole day to pretend to to kit checks and practice pack. Claire even offered to take (two?) people to the shop in the van and so they took orders. Unfortunately one of them was Alistair, at least it got rid of him for a while. We only headed down to the kayaks at 4:30 and that is all my journal says for today...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

1st August (16 DAYS LEFT!)

The sun was a very efficiant alarm clock again and forced us not only out of bed but out of the tent. we had base camp porridge for breakfast that was actually worse than the ratpack cereals dur to the authentic camping stove flavour.

Today we were starting phase two of the expedition. Those who spent the past week mountaineering were now going to spend the next week kayaking and visa versa. therefore we were kayaking this week and so today was a training day telling us the basics. We were to meet at the staff camp at 9:30 to be briefed and then head down to the bus at 10:15. We got divvied out life jackets, spray decks and paddles and passed the kayaks down to the beach in an assembly line which was meant to be an easy way of doing it but sand wasn't the grippiest of all surfaces and the lack of male help wasn't great either.

For the kayaking part of the trip we were going to be seperated into our fires completely. Tasha, Gabby, Gribbs and I were not quite ready for this. It started early when we were split into our fires to begin kayaking, thankfully we got Mark as a leader so it wouldn't be dire. We also talked about Michael Jackson and mark came out with more facts in that it has been said that MJ may have had more memory neurons that normal which meant he could copy people perfectly, hence the dance moves.

First we were stripped of our paddles and told to use our hands to steer the boat, I think this was to show how important it is to use the rest of your body along with the paddles. Once they thought we were competent enough paddlers we got to kayak to the beach and jetty we were at yesterday but using the layout having a person at the front(point), at the end(Sweep) and at the side(flank):


The other fire suggested a kayaking race but since our fire was all girls I don't think we could hack the humilation and instead our fire finished very early at 3:30pm and gave us plenty time to wash ourselves and our gear in the stream before it got crowded.

Tasha, Gabby and I all went to our new "me time" spot we had christened "Reflection Rock" and has a wee snooze in the sun, which was probably because me and gabby had just spent the past half hour pretending to be superheros using towels as capes. Must be something in the water...

Tea tonight was a fancy affair as I still had some real food left from my trip to the shop yesterday. All of a sudden I had a lot of friends. For starters we had mushroom soup with croutons followed by pasta and bolognaise with real cheese. That evening Ruth was given cocodamine so she was more excitable than usual...

Friday, June 04, 2010

31st July

Today was a "R&R" day(being Rest and Relaxation" ) however the lie in that was on offer was interrupted by the intense Arctic heat. It was so warm we actually chose to cool ourselves down in the glacial stream which was followed by a relaxing morning sunbathing in our sports bras. Rob left at 12:30 to go back to the UK for a family event which was a shame as he was one of the favourite leaders which could be seen as everyone wanted a hug and a photo before he left.

Since we had all signed up to go to the arctic, I think the last thing we thought would be on our itinerary would be going to the beach. However, this is what the leaders had in store for the afternoon. Now, it wasn't the tropical beaches we are used to on holiday but a bit more grainy, still there was a nice cold sea and plenty of sun and no wind to spoil our fun.

After they had disappeared earlier that morning, the boys came strolling along to the beach clutching what looked like steak. Meat had been a rare site on this trip and the sound of it sizzling was just too much to bare, so Izzy, Ruth, Clem and I donned the scarpas and decided to go in search of this magical shop. It was so warm we ended walking along in our sports bra's and thermals, this understandably attracted a good bit of attention from the locals of this rural fishing village: a man driving a van that was not afraid to take his eye of the wheel, the Norwegian equivalent of a cruiser who was on a quad bike and of course the classic "Hello Sweetheart" from an elderly man on his porch.

After using our limited Norwegian to realise a restaurant was in fact not open and was not where the boys got steak we found a more convincing shop. The words "Coop" had never excited me more. The shopkeeper must have thought we had been deprived of everything as we stood in awe for much longer than normal. We were buying the basic staple foods that we took for granted at home: bread, cheese, apples, lettuce and some kind of meat(we were hoping it was going to be reindeer). We wanted to get a few more things like watermelons, and more importantly; razors, but we couldn't quite work out how much everything was going to cost. Before we headed back to the beach we stopped on a bench and had a cheese and lettuce sandwich. I have never liked lettuce much but this lettuce was the best thing in the world. It was crunchy, fresh, cold and didn't involve adding boiling water into a bag.

Back at the beach everyone tucked in straight away but amazingly there was still some left for later to sell on the black market within the camp. The "steak" was to be cooked on the BBQ later, when I say BBQ it was more a portable pizza oven as the plan was to make some arctic pizza. We all went for a well needed splash in the sea, which was pretty damn cold, but once you got past estuary of the glacial streams you entered a still patch of sea that was surprisingly warm. Howard then helped us catch some mussels that were growing all over the place. Shellfish are practically growing in my blood so I enjoyed this part as I showed my natural skill at picking mussels. I got bored however and tried to catch a fish with my bare hands as they were all over the place. Having failed, Will had made a makeshift fishing rod and a group of us headed over to a quiet jetty and attempted to get some fish. Nahom had the first catch and although he may argue, it was a tiddler. The whole time I was just dying to jump off the jetty...

Back on the beach stomachs were rumbling again and pizza's were being prepared, mussels were frying, Frisbee's were flying and the sun was still high in the sky(and probably be for a long time since this is the land of the midnight sun, still it fits the scene). The leaders had brought the laptops down and we were able to write our first blog to our parents. This was taken more seriously than others,*cough* Nahom. The word that comes to mind at our day at the beach is revelry and I don't think anyone will disagree.

After a final Frisbee match with Tim, which i epically lost, we tidied up and headed back to base camp to get back to the normal routine and rice pudding. To make us feel even more at home, Howard had whapped out the full body mozzie suit. It was probably one of the lasting images of the trip, for the boys as much as the girls. The girls toilet was also being emptied (I think) so we girls had to use the boys toilet. It was less than pleasant since it actually faced the path into base camp so you had to be as quick as you could without the risk of sprayback...

Anyway the other notes I have for today are:

- My head torch, I think this was to do with me saying I could having it "erect" or "flacid" and that Gabosha(notice what i did there) love a good innuendo. Why I had my head torch out though I do not know.

- Spilling Jelly beans. Now I am pretty sure I spilt jelly beans and they were Callistairs pride and joy so there was great hilarity in the fact I spilt them and put them back in the bag. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Maan, its sad that I can't remember some of this...

Friday, April 23, 2010

30th July

As with every other day we had a bit of a lie in but this time Rob woke us up as the plan was to head back down the mountain to base camp. We all packed up in record time and did a classic Rob "sweep search" all as the sun creeped up to give us another Arctic scorcher. Unfortunately, Mary deemed my bag to heavy so I had to do two runs down the hill, as did Tasha and Gribbs.

Back at base camp we caught up with the kayakers and were briefly reunited with our hold-alls, and our dairy milks. Before long it was time for Tasha, Gribbs and I to head back up for the rest of our luggage, and the poo barrel... However Tasha had yet another injury and so Gribbs and I took her bag and let her rot for by the side of the road until the boys from the other group headed back to help. There was a bit of controversy about our "boys" in our group as they did not offer to go up on the second run and get our poo barrel, unfortunately we were getting used to this. But sending Tasha back up was just a bit too far, in fact sending all three cripples back up was a step too far. Gribbs and I collected our bags and went on a search for the poo barrel, it turned out the men from the other group had taken it down for us. Take note callister. To top it off, my mars bar I had left in my bag had melted beautifully in the Arctic sun.

2 hours or so after leaving her, Tasha decided to wait for us instead of heading down with the men as she enjoyed a "chill" in the sun. It was amazing how fast the walk up and down the valley had become compared to the first day. Eventually we might end up like Mary who had just gone for a stroll but ended up on a mission to get a rubbish bag, twice.

We got back to Base Camp at about five and although we had thought tea on the stove might be possibility, we had obviously been too optimistic. Thankfully Gabby, Katie and Laura had put up our tents for us and sorted out our stuff. Eventually the water boiled. During our clothes washing session I discovered a permanent spot where i looked like a washer woman perched on a little rock. That evening I "Accidentally" went into the river for a wash. It was VERY refreshing.

The other mountaineering fire had a fire going(Haha) and a few of us decided to go over and investigate after our evening toilet trip. Someone thought it would be a good idea to try to cook rice pudding on the fire but as James put it, it tasted "cancerous" but this wasn't everyones cup of tea. Nahom lightened the mood by talking about a dirty "pop-up" poster he had when he was 12. Classic Nahom.

We got to bed at 2:30am and although the sun was beginning to set, beautifully may I add, but it could have easily been only 6pm.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

29th July

Again the plan was to get up at 6am but when we did we surrounded by fog and I could barely see Gabby next to me let alone the mountain we were meant to be climbing. The fog was very mystical and got Gabby all inspired as she talked about "the cloud" and although being refreshing it was not the ideal conditions for climbing a pyramidal peak. We got another lie in which was a bonus but it will be a greater disappointment if we won't get to climb and miss out altogether.

Before Gabby and I physically got up we spent a good ten minutes listing the pro's and con's of actually getting up. Soon enough though my stomach and Gabby's bladder took control. After my first muesli of the trip, which was surprisingly refreshing from the stodgy cereal start I was used to, we were told we had to pack away as it was too dangerous to head up the mountain due to the fog and rain higher up. We packed away our temporary rooms for the last time, I had to take the rubbish too, which wasn't great as when I got to unpacking it at the bottom, it had leaked a bit and there is nothing worse than garbage juice everywhere.

The walk down was a slippery one but I was more concerned about the tents. We were told we could leave our tents up with things we wouldn't need up the mountain in them. I thought, "Hey, I won't need my passport up there!" However I forgot that you should always keep such a thing in a safe place. The increased velocity of the river and the camouflaged tents made me think they had made there way down the mountain, passport and all. Alex reminding me that the nearest British embassy was in Tromso didn't help. Thankfully the tents were in sight and as soon as I could I ran into the tent to find my passport exactly where I left it.

The day turned out to be a lazy day with lots of clothes washing and sorting ourselves going on. Tim spoke to us about sorting our Duke of Edinburgh Gold and what we had to do and that we would be told if we deserved it on the last day. There must have been something in our tea that night as we got hyper and shouted "Night Boys!" (shame the wrong "boys" replied) and I think I refered to the tent as sweetcorn due to its yellow centre and green outer layer(see what I did?)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tag Sieben

Althoguh I got up several times that morning becuase I had gone to bed so late I was very confused about what time it actually was. However I was up at 8 and ready for breakfast at half past eight. Our breakfast was buffet and so I had all the different types of bread as well as some nesquick to feel at home. Before we knew it we were checking out of our hotel, it was sad as I think we felt we had grown to love this hearty woman and the owner spoke to us in German, although he knew we were english speakers, which I loved. Like he knew we wanted to practice our German. Once out of our homely Hotel Post, the heavens opened and it was blowing a gale. Hopefully it will clear up before hungary. We followed the signs with the H for Hungary and after more vineyards and boarder towns we reached the boarder, which was derelict. There wasn't even anybody to ask for a stamp. Thats the only reason why I hate the EU, I can't get my stamps easily nowadays. We hoped out of the car just before we crossed for a typically touristy photo and then we were through.

It was bizarre how obvious it was we were in a different country, there was instantly a more eastern European feel. The infastructure just wasn't the same as Austria, the main roads were full of pot holes and the houses seemed more run down, however this just added to its charm in my eyes. I was glad not to see the same thing, I wanted there to be a difference in the two countries. After some mistakes from Frieda we eventually found our way to Sopron which on the outskirts was like any other city with an industrial estate and tesco, about the only thing I could actually understand, but near the centre it became more and more like a picturesque old town. There were plenty of parking spaces and we got one right in the centre, so it should be easy to find when we come back. We went a short walk around to find a ATM but when we got there the hungarian currency baffled us, since we weren't too sure how much 1000 forint was, as in could we get coffee and cake with this? So we took out 5000, turns out it is about €20 so we could definately get one. As we wandered we walked past a famous casion in Sopron by accident. The weather was a bit too much for us after these weeks of sunshine and so we seeked shelter in a cafe which was like a smaller version of all the viennese cafes but it had just a little bit more charm. The cakes looked pretty impressive too.

We decided to complete our circuit of central Sopron before heading back to the car. It was a shame the weather had decided to ruin our trip to Hungary but the fact it was Easter Monday didn't help much either. On the way out we tried old school navigation by using a map and road signs while Frieda warmed up. We failed miserably at this as we drove towards marshland but with the autobahn ahead, in the distance. Frieda got us back on the A5 again and northbound back into Austria, again nobody was guarding the boarder, and my phone said "Viszontlátásra" to T-mobile H and "Guten Tag" to T-mobile A. It was oh so very exciting. We headed along the west coast of the Neuseidler See and stopped off at the small town of Rust which is reknown for its stork population so we were bound to see some storks. We saw about 6 nests in a row of chimneys all filled with Storks. Aunt Var showed me a rundown building that she was planning to turn into a restaurant, with the way they are going they will have a chain of restaurants from renovated ruins. She then showed me the town square and the basket shop, which there is an injoke that she will comeback someday and buy a basket, and what better time to do it than now! Rust was another Austrian version of Stromness that is becoming a tourist town, weather permitting. Back in the car we got back on the road and followed the familiar route back to Wien. I must be bored of the scenery on that journey from the airport to Goldegggasse since I fell asleep.

Back in the apartment it was very quiet as now Meg had gone away too it was just the three of us(and the cats). It then dawned on me that I will probably have to pack. I did this after I had uploaded all my photos from our little adventure and finished telling everyone about it. It didn't feel like my last night in Vienna at all.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Tag Sechs

Today, Easter Sunday, provided us with a leisurely breakfast.We discussed politics: a thing that I dread back home thanks to my marxist sister and a father nicknamed Stalin... Also probably because you can't escape it in the UK whereas some Austrian residents don't actually know the current president, which I like since, its good to have a break from important things. However the discussion was about international poitics(to an extent and probably had something to do with Maria's recent MUN trip...) which I find marginally more interesting. Anyway, it made us feel very civillised and spurred us on to go on a walk around the Beledere gardens in the sun. It was surprsingly busy for easter Sunday but we began to notice most were tourists who couldn't interperate the "keep off the grass signs."

At one o' clock it was a mad rush to get Esti and Maria on the half one train to Warszawa. We arrived with about ten minutes to spare and after Esti's failed attempt at a vending machine, spending about €2 on a bottle of water which turned out to be about the tenth of a normal bottle, they decided to risk it and run to a shop. Just as they were out of sight of the platform the train turned into the station. Thankfully it was early so they had a good ten minutes before the train left. However we still felt the need to chase after them in panic. Aunt Var and I secured a compartment for them which was unreserved and then flung their bags on before flinging the two girls on. We were early so there was some awkward standing around until the train left and when it dif, it was so bizarre to be seeing them off from Vienna, rather than the otherway around.

So back to an Esti and Maria-less apartment, the silence w as bizarre. Meg was well and truely into her homework and I thought I woulf follow suit. Really didn't get much done. Aunt Var and I then tried to decide what to do with ourselves for the next two days before I left on Tuesday. After investigation the Semmering Railway opening time and realising that its not open until May we decided a road trip. The plan was to drive east out of Vienna to drive around the eastern side of the Neuseidlersee, which is also known as the Viennese Sea since they don't have the real thing ;) Most of the lake lies in Austria but a small section lies in Hungary and so we thought a good idea would be to go all the way around it and stop off at Sopron in Hungary. Before we left Aviott helped us find and book a room in a Gasthaus in a little town before the Hungarian/Austrian boarder called Illmitz. Before we knew it we had packed out overnight bags and in the car on our way(Frieda keeping us in control, obviously).

This was very exciting for me as there is no way you can do this in Orkney. You have to get on a boat or pay for a ridiculously expensive flight to get off Orkney only to get onto another island and pay for another boat trip or ridiculously expensive flight. However in Austria you can get in the car and an hour later you could be anywhere. NOT FAIR. As we drove east I was shown Pandorf which Maria was always saying the must take me to. It is basically a village of designer shops and actually looks like a quaint little village and the stuff is usually at a discounted rate. For the drive out there, I think I might just prefer a bargain nextdoor... Soon the Autobahn began to seperate out as we drove along the lake. It was bizarre as there were hundereds of vines and being as ignorant as I am I had not considered that wine could be grown in Europe outside Italy and Spain :S So that was pretty cool to see, the countryside was atypical of Austrian scenery as I thought we could be in Holland but you could see tell-tale mountains in the distance. To get right on the side of the lake we stopped off at Podersdorf am See which often holds wind surfing championships and is usually filled with tourists. However on this blustery April evening it was quiet. Infact the wind and sea was much like home but it was strange not to have the usual smell of the sea from the salt and sea weed considering that the only expanses of water I have seen this big before as been the sea (there I go playing the sheltered island life card again...). Aunt var and I walked down the pier and sat by the lighthouse and appreciated the view, and the show of a kitesurfer attempting to lift is kite out of the water.

Back on the road again it was not long until we arrived in Illmitz, but it was a long time before we found the entrance to our Gasthaus. Mainly because it was being renovated and so everything was all over the place. We were greeted by one of these hearty women who are needed to run a Gasthaus. Her German was really easy to understand (or maybe she just covered the topics of the higher course...) which I liked. We were taken up to our room but were then told the heating didn't work so then we had to be moved, however we were offered a free glass of wine in the bar while we waited. The wine was actually the first red wine I have enjoyed drinking, I should have got a bottle since you know I could legally! The bar was full of drunk men and it didn't take us long to realise they were on a stag do and we were the only women in the room. I was just hoping they didn't think we were hired or something...

Once we had settled into our second room we decided to have a walk around Illmitz since it was a nice night. We discoved Illmitz is home to a wine world champion but unfortunately it didn't look like anyone was in. I had never heard of a weingut before but I think I will be going more as its nice being offered lots of free glasses of wine followed by nice company and a comfortable sleep. We headed out the edge of town and walked along a vineyard to a small lake in search of storks. However we came across something more exciting, deer. At first they were on the lake and then sprinted to the other side but we also found ourselves ridiculously close to a group of deer before they noticed to and sprinted to the other side of the lake. The sunset, mountains, lake and deer provided some very lovely photos and soon our stomachs got the better of us and we headed back to our gasthaus for some tea. With all of the food I have had here I was not disappointed. I had some wonderful soup and my third schnizel in about three days followed by a pancake with vanilla ice cream and the most amazing chocolate and hazelnut sauce which was just the perfect size. All I can say is that the UK has a lot to live up to when I go home!With our stomachs satisfied and aunty to neice bond suitibly rekindled we headed back up to our room for bed. I was pleased to see a Wunderschon, a programme I used to watch in German for practice, was actually on but I still had no idea where they were or what they were doing.

It took me forever to get to sleep, probably because this was the earliest I had gone to bed in about four years but also the stag night and their families seemed to be staying next door, and outside and the drunk shouting and singing kept me up a while. My auntie got up at 12 and turned on the light and I genuinely thought it was 7am and we had to get up now I could not understand why I was so tired. Turns out I had only been asleep for an hour. From then on I slept like a log.

Tag Funf

Esti was a little bit worse for wear this morning, especially as we had a wake up call of 8am as today we were heading west out of Vienna to a small town called Melk which was home to a spectacular Abbey where the film "The Name of The Rose" was filmed(how fitting ;) ). The journey there was spent sleeping or listening to Maria and Meg's delightful singing. We arrived and there were several fancy building to treat the eyes but the one we wanted to see turned out to be colossally more fancy than the others as it's "schonbrunn yellow" walls stetched for miles(well or so it seemed). The free part involved a walk through some gardens and into a courtyard and then the official tour started ( we actually missed the english tour but eventually did catch up with it at the end). It began with museums of artifacts from the earlier days of the abbey, favourites being the shin bone chalice and tiny travel prayer book, and then there were the grand rooms with illusions painted on to the ceiling and gold plated window sills. Between the library and another fancy room was a balcony which had a magnificent view of mountains to the left and small towns and villages sprawlling along to the right. The several photos of the same view shows what I thought of it. Following the balcony was the "piece de resistance" according to my Auntie and it was the library and it did live up to her expectations as it was very grand and massive in all forms. However the staircase the followed infactuated me more and then there was the church itself and those who know me know I am not a religious person and being in churches is bizarre for me. It still was but I appreciated the architechture at least even if I didn't see the light this time.

Esti couldn't skip through the gift shop at a faster speed as her bladder and stomach took the reigns. Unfortnately for her we were getting food in town. Melk looked much like the Austrian version of Stromness, that is designed for tourists but with roads not suitied for cars and sunshine. We found a nice little gasthaus which had a small courtyard which cancelled out the (limited) traffic outside and concentrated the heat of the midday sun. I chose the sunniest seat in the place in an attempt to recharge the vitamin D but this almost landed me with some sunstroke so the hoody had to stay on, oh the joys. However the food was brilliant, another how basic Austrian food is at the same level as 5 star british food! I have been craving that cream of pepper soup ever since I had it. After being suitible stuffed to the brim we headed back to the car. Again the trip home was accompanied by Meg and Maria's beautiful singing but it was interrupted my stops at more tourists towns enroute home. It was nice staying awake on the way back as he scenery was lovely and spotting the many castles on the hilltops was a great workout for the camera. Turns out I was the only one who could stay awake this time as Esti, Maria and Meg had all konked out, in a variety of positions which I found hilarious due to my sleep deprived state. Esti's constant battle with her elbow and her armrest as it kept slipping was definately side splitter.

Back in the apartment, the rest of the sleepy heads were up for a quiet night in whereas I had had a sudden burst of energy. As my name suggests, I am a bit like a plant and intially the sun drains me out but then gives me a burst of energy. I decided to wander around Schwedenplatz lookiing in all the touristy shops to get gifts and my all important hoody since the shops will soon be shut for Easter. I forgot that Vienna is quite a classy place and I forgot, unlike Orkney, that wandering around in a hoody and trackies isn't that normal. Well or so it seemed to me. Anyhoo I got over that soon enough and had another enjoyable wander around in the sun not really having a plan.

However epic monopoly had to be done in the evening, unfortunately Esti won.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Tag Vier

Today we did something new, we went a bit outside of vienna called Kahlenburg which is the hill behind vienna which offers a view of the city and some fresh air. We headed out quite late and there was a bit of agro about this but i would prefer everyone came with us and be late rather than only some of us go really early. Anyhoo we drove up past some very posh houses to a small place Baumkreis am Himmel with as it sounds has a ring of trees which represented a time of year. My birthday was coverned by the Esche (aka Ash) Baum, as was Maria's. We wandered into a nearby forest after investigating each tree, I see a theme coming on here. The woods were exciting for me, as is everything, since we don't really have them in Orkney, i mean you can't really count Binscarth in comparison. I didn't see any woodland creatures though :(

We headed further up the hill to Kahlenburg to the polish church which was nice to wonder in and always healthy for the architect in me. Then was the piece de resistance, the view itself. It was bizarre seeing the full thing in full daylight since i had only seen it from a plane, or from a ride at the Prater, at night. It was stunning anyway not easily described anyway. A topfenstrudel und Vanillensauce was in order along with the panoramic view and the sun. It was lovely.

Now we were planning to get ready for Katies and for some reason Esti trusts me a lot and asked me to cut her hair. Fair enough I do mine myself all the time and I think it turns out alright... But I have never done it on another person but it shouldn't be that different right? Well it wasn't really, the bad thing was; Esti asked me to dye her hair too. Now he handed me a kit of Blond hair dye so I don't really know what she was expecting... So it went a bit lighter. Well quite a bit lighter but it looked really nice but she HATED IT! No matter how much Maria and I tried to convince her she would not have any of it. Thankfully she was still planning to go outside with it and out to Dicks. Thats not the end of the hairdressing though. I thought "Hmm my hair's feeling a bit stragley, maybe i should cut it too. Shame Mum's not here to do the back of it in a straight line. Oh I'll just get Esti to do this." BIG MISTAKE! I forget that mum knows how much I usually like to chop off. Esti does not. Mum knows its one inch Esti thinks its 5 inches. Initially I was properly devesated because my hair has not been short since I was about 5 years old. However in hindsight it did cut off all the straggley bits and is in much better condition plus it gets very curly. So in a way I thank you Esti, even though I have realised there is a massive chunch longer than the rest that I have only noticed now.

Tonight it was Katie's birthday and leaving party at Dick's and all the usuals were there and all the usual things happened really. Had kopparberg, got happy, esti and Owen did their thing, spoke to stangers, chatted up by asian men and listened to live acoustic music. Fun times had by all. We even got a free lift home from Stuart. Success for all of us I think.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Tag Drei

Today there was no plan whatsoever and it took us a long time to get on our feet. Eventually Maria and I decided to just go a wander and I tried to convince her that we don't need a plan. She agreed even if it was rather reluctantly. It was a nice day so there was no reason not to just go a walk. We hoped on the U-bahn, not actually knowing where we wanted to get off at but decided Stephansplatz was a good starting point. From there we headed through streets and into quiet little backstreets and always ended up going in some sort of circle which was helpful. Maria managed to go places she had never been which is always a bonus! We ended up wandering down to Schwedenplatz and buying ice creams and sitting on a wall in the sun for ages talking about school and life and all that jazz. One highlight was a woman coming up and handing us roses each, asking for money, taking all my change, asking for a rose back and leaving. It was bizarre. But it was a lovely way to spend my afternoon and it was very relaxing.

We then headed up some nice old looking streets and ended up seeing the Holocaust memorial which I had read about in Higher art as i had studied Rachael Whiteread and so understood the concept and explained it too Maria. She seemed interested at the time. We were then more serendipidous as we stumbled across three sets of Ostern Markts and one had freshly baked cheese bread which was gorgeous! More going wherever our feet took us landed us outside the Universitat and the ringstrasse. We didn't really know which way to get home but we were pretty sure it wasn't in the direction of the rathaus, so we headed in the opposite direction. Now here is where we play the role of stupid tourists. We saw a cathedral and it looked like stephansdom, so therefore, we thought, it must be Stephansdom. Nah it wasn't an we walked all the way round it thinking " Woah its so quiet compared to the otherside!" Only to realise that there was no other side. After that epic fail we decided we better just give up and go on the U-bahn and get home.

That night we went to see "The Blind Side" and it was really good, the right mixture of happy bits and sad bits and we were all surprised to see it was a true story! The way there was very hectic as Esti was determind not to miss the beginning and so we had to rush and did miss a bit but it was a flashback so was repeated convienetly throughout the film.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tag Zwei

Orkney had arrived in Vienna in all it's glory; wind and rain, the lot. Esti and I had to try and decide what to do, and I thought meh shops are indoors and I need some new shoes. Bad plan. Turns out I am quite picky when it comes to trainers. So dampened spirts and dampened shoes and hair we headed back to the house with the plan to make Stuart a birthday cake, a rainbow cake. Unfortunately its hard to find food colouring in Austria and we thought the dye used to dye eggs at Easter would do the same job. Not quite since you have to add vinegar(although i did say lemon juice was a suitible, tastier, alternative) and it is actually inedible.

Back home we were greeted by friends of the family and their young, very brave little boy. Esti and I had to keep and eye on him as he pulled a ladder into the living room and dangled of it. Turns out he is pretty good at it and had a lot of natural instinct so his parents weren't too worried.

We waited for Maria to get home before making the cake since she had a clearer know-how. In the end though Esti piled in the ingredients to make a mass of curdling slop. While it "cooked" Esti dyed some eggs So in the end it was a classic Macinnes flat cake with some odd sprinkles in it turning it skin colour... We poured the melted chocolate on, not really noticing how much was going on, and then esti worked her magic witht the rainbow sprinkles.

We got ready and headed out to Flanaghans but it was packed out as their was a football match on and so we passed the message on and the group had a change of plans and went to crossfields. The reaction to the birthday cake was not unanimous but it wasn't warming and this left Esti less than cheerful... In the end we headed back with Alex as she was leaving for Limerick in the morning. We headed back to the apartment and were going to have a chat and watch a film, but that didn't really happen, instead we just conked out in bed. How exciting are we!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tag Ein

So you know how holidays are meant to be time spent away from school? Well not in my books! I spent most of my time in Vienna International School doing a variety of strange things. We'll come to that later and do this properly. My day technically started at 4am when I got up, turned on my light and thought it was a school day and had o go to school. A kind of semi-conscious sleepwalk. Anyway then I got up a few hours later when Maria was woken up by her mum, even though her mum had actually forgotten to waker her up in the first place, as she replied with continual groan of "Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum.......................Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum" After about 15 minutes I was out of it again until she began rumaging in her room, well I didn't know this at the time since it was 9:15 and I assumed that she would be in school and so I thought it was the cat or something. Finally, I actually got up at 11ish and attemped a shower. Their shower is well broken and to actually have a shower you have to sit in the bath and have one, its an odd sensation anyway. However, all i did was touch the shower and BANG everything fell down and I had broken the shower, two years ago it was the tap and now it was the shower. Thankfully it was easy to fix and happens all the time. Well there was the ridiculously long and pointless lowdown on the shower.

Eventually, Esti got in gear to head out and go outside for her first time in the daytime since Friday... Apparently the rest of the household wasn't as keen for us topping up on vitamin D as the had locked us in and hadn't left us a key. Cue a manic search for keys in coat pockets and in every drawer in the house. Thankfully someone else agreed that i need some vitamin D as we got a key and went on our way, to where though, we weren't sure. It is now when we ended up at school, we seemed to have timed our trip to be during lunch break and so we met Aunt Var for lunch and chilled at what is known as the ampitheatre in the sun for lunch. Then in some moment of insanity I suggested we help her in the Drama department. Then we were handed two boxes of textbooks and scripts to organise. Bad choice Rose. Soon after wards we escaped to the DZ but were just not in a shopping mood. It was bizarre, we tired but we just werent feeling it. The plan was to meet Alex at the school since she was helping to set up Bingo, which Esti had suggested we go to. The prizers were bangin' THE FLYER WAS AN IPOD TOUCH! :O Next we had to find Maria so we at least had one person with us who actually still went to the school but she is a pretty hard lady to find. We managed to convince her to abort homework plans and come and play bingo, if we went to the DZ first for a frappichino . Sounds like a fair deal.

We went for the full nine games but our bingo cards dwindled quickly as Andreas and Filip obviously realised bingo was the place to be and we then spread the fun around. We had our eyes on the basket of baking mixes since every year when I come we have a bake-a-thon of at least seven cakes. As soon as some little kid won this all enthusiasm was lost. It took a while for Maria to get into Bingo, probably becuase we were the oldest people there, and I know to you britons out there are thinking "WHAT? YOU WERE THE OLDEST? ARE YOU SURE THAT WAS BINGO?" Yes we were. It seems that little kids love bingo here and its also really loud there is no silence and so hearing a bingo call was ridiculously hard. But I think I prefered it this way, there was more time for mid-game banter. Anyhoo. By the final round for the ipod touch we all had at least 3 tickets and the hall was actually silent and by the end each of us were SO CLOSE. Then some little kid had to ruin our fun and win. LAME. It was one of the most tense situations of my life, mainly because an Ipod was involved not just a free trip on Northlink(oh how materialistic of me).

Back home Esti tried to convince me to go to Flanaghans, which i eventually agreed to do just to stop the moaning but we came back immediately since Man U vs Bayern Munich was on and it was packed. Well as we said it was a nice walk, made us and Alex smile, saved our lungs and livers and saved our clothes from another wash. So overall, a success.

Now Esti is asleep on the floor(photo Op) and Maria is typing like a mad woman, not doing her spanish though. Tut tut.

BTW - Max temp today was 20 degrees C :D

Also for Esti : Summary Song of Today - Love Story - Taylor Swift ( Ask her...)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Destination Vienna

Esti seems to think I write blogs all the time from Vienna, but I am pretty sure I don't but hey, might as well start! So far I have made it through Aberdeen even with my personal vendetta against it, and made it to Amsterdam. I thought I would take a wee gander( short walk) into the city centre. Now well before I had set foot off the plane I had decided to go on a quest to get some real authentic Dutch tijgerbrood. I thought a good place to go would be the well known Albert Cuypt Markt, so I hoped onboard tram 16 and managed to hitch a free ride. Now I walked all the way down this rather long market in the vain hope there would be some kind of bakery stall. None. There was no way I was leaving Holland without getting some of my favourite bread! So instead of getting the train I decided to walk back and intricately searched the streets for a bakery. Eventually I found one and ordered two rolls. Here was another example why the Dutch are the nicest people in Europe at least, its in the simple things they do like in shop transactions. Instead of the plain old "Ok" as in Britain they reply with "it's a pleasure" and "of course I can." It was a nice simple touch that goes along way with me. I headed back to Dam where it began to honk of marijauna and stag do's. It was weird, most people I walked past seemed to be English or American. After a good old wander about in awe of the houses, canals and bread I headed back to central station to get back to Schipol for 6. The best thing about growing up on an island is that when you leave everything becomes exciting, for example sitting on the top of a double decker intercity trains was like going to the moon.

The flight to Vienna was smooth and I just read my book for most of it. Again though I was surrounded by English people, the two stewards were proper english and it seemed like they couldn't speak a word of German or Dutch, there is hope for me getting my childhood dream job as a KLM stewardess yet! It was only when they dimmed the lights for landing and I could see out my window did I begin to get a smile on my face that wasn't going to be rubbed off easily. The view out the window was something else, the city was lit up and so miniture that the moon looked like a giant car headlight. My camera was pretty shoddy at capturing it unfortunately. As soon as the steward said "Welcome to Vienna" ( even if in a in a midlands accent) I got ridiculously excited, I was here again WOOOKMODSKDOKSNoksjinls. My bag was even pretty much first off the belt and so I was out pretty early. I scanned the arrivals hall and Aunt Var and Aviott were nowhere to be seen and I thought, oh god, she has actually done it. Aunt Var is going to make me order my own taxi and get there myself. I scanned all the men with signs looking for a bizarrely spelt version of my own name. But there was none. I waited a bit longer, just incase they came. And they did, sorry for the anticlimax there guys.

The rest of the night is kinda predictable, catch up with the cousins, watch Venus Willams play tennis is a ridiculous dress and commenting on the players legs. You know, the norm.

Friday, March 26, 2010

28th July

We had a leisurely start to the day today only rising at about half ten to eleven o'clock after our climb yesterday. Today was mainly a training day practicing out ice belays, bucket seats and ballards. We also tried new ways of travelling on the ice in particular the newly exposed blue ice on the surface. This included the French way: flat footed, the American way: one flat foot and one pointed foot and the German way: both feet pointed and you run straight up. The German way was obviously the most daunting but actually when you bit the bullet and did it, it was really easy and fun!

Some people did some abseiling but after the explanations and the majority of people having a shot it began to get to cold to have people sitting around. I decided to cook tea and I think everyone appreciated it being cooked on time and all at the same time... As a thank you from Gabby I got my first hot chocolate of the trip by borrowing her mug. Oh my god the hot chocolate was like a party on my taste buds compared to the usual foot. Especially because we put about 3 sachets in one cup...
There was a group meeting to discuss whether to go up the mountain tomorrow again to climb to the highest rock point in Finnmark. The general consensus was yes but a few would prefer to stay down due to injury. We drifted off to the leaders chatting away and getting rowdy, in particular Rob warning us girls to look away as there is going to be a naked man...

Oh Rob.

27th July (Dad and Clem's Birthday)

After a wonderful night biving, well except for the sudden midnight rain putting out bivi-bags to good use, and a lie in from everyone in camp(even the leaders) it was the day of the big ascent up Oksfjordjokelen. The wind had picked up so packing everything up for the day was very difficult, as was lighting the stove and preparing breakfast in general. Therefore I ended up with very watery porridge. There was another eventful toilet stop for Tasha, she managed to let a massive rock crush her thumb. We just can't let her go anywhere alone, well anywhere for that matter.

Half an hour later than planned everyone was down at Crampon Cove sorting their gear and we began to tie ropes to each other. Ropes were made up of about four or five people. i was on Markie Mark's rope at the end with Laura and Callum in the middle. Each leader did their job and took us up the glacier to the "coffee shop", why it was called that, I don't know! As we ascended the wind grew stronger and strong her to at least force 7 and would keep increasing the closer we got to the summit. We waited a while until the leaders came to the decision to take us to the summit, as by the time they had decided the wind had died down.

For the first time on the trip I felt I was truely pusing myself as it was really tough on my knees and ankles and I had to travel very slowly but ever time we stopped my knees would buckle and this added to the danger of crampons slipping. However in the end of all the muscles I could pull I pulled the pecks muscle... We sat on a on a nun attack at the top of the snout for an energy boost and come ice cold non-gritty water. 2km on and a 100m ascent later we had reached the summit of Oksfjordjoklen, the highest ice point in Finnmark. The view at the top made the whole walk Worth it. It can't be described in words, maybe a photograph, but not entirely as the view went on forever as did the clouds. It was something I had never seen before, the pure untouched white snow, blue skies, tumbling sheets of clouds and mountains skimming the horizon. My journal says it all really, it just says BEAUTIFUL, underlined many times.

There was another toilet stop over by moraine for the girls to pee but because of some meandering boys, most of us didn't get a chance. I spent the journey towards the descent finding red algae. Ignoring the obvious difference between the ascent and descent, the main difference for us, th YE's, was that we had to lead everyone down, well those who were at the ends of the ropes, including me. It actually wasn't as scary as i thought since I only had a minor slip, but even minor slips made your heart skip a beat. I don't think those on my rope felt in safe hands as I seemed to be more occupied in taking photos! Many found this first challenge difficult for a variety of reasons but we also so we saw each other really working together for the first time.

Back at crampon cover, I finally got to the toilet and we got tea on the go, well Alistair got his tea on the go but not anyone elses. Instead we made him go up the glacier for water. The swine. I had a good tea of chili con carne and chocolate chip dessert. During the ascent I had noticed something in my eye, like grit. Mary sorted it by iving me eye drops, well more of an eye paste, it was pretty hardcore touching eyeball stuff. We all settled into another night under the stars/sun in our cosy little bivi site.