The City that Never Sleeps

12 hour stopover in New York City; arrive at 7pm for 2 hours of customs and baggage collection, navigating the subway, walking along the High-line, Times Square, 1am Empire State Building visit, back at the airport 2 hours wait for check-in.

I instantly felt a familiarity in this city that I’d never been to before. From the road signs to the police sirens, the accents and advertising, it’s yellow cabs and street lights which I’d seen all before at the movies and on TV. Wandering the streets of an unknown city from 10pm to 3am on a Sunday night would normally be pretty intimidating but this false sense of familiarity allowed us to enjoy the few hours we had there.

There was a heat wave which we welcomed after the Icelandic summer we were not feeling and had not felt this sort of humidity and warmth since our first week in Thailand. The High line walk was a recommendation from a friend, it was refreshingly pretty and a great place to be on a hot summers night along with the locals who had the same idea. The highline walk is an old above ground railway converted into a parkway walk above the streets with plants, trees and water features light up for us until 11pm.

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We then went walking to a Pizza place we were recommended but after getting there at midnight it was closed. We were pretty hot and thirsty at this stage and welcomed the ice tea we were offered that was leftover from a tea shop.

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Rehydrated and stoked about it we went to Times Square. Huge commercials plastered the buildings which made it feel like daylight as they flashed lighting up the street. I’m not really sure why this place is a tourist attraction, but it undeniably is a cool one. We bought dinner and sat on table and chairs in the streets watching everything go by. We were here till 1am and the streets were still crowded with people shops open and everything going on in full swing.

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The Empire State Building was deserted as we walked all the way to the ticket booth and lifts without a wait. The view at night seeing all the city lights, including the Statue of Liberty was pretty special.

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We were falling asleep on the subway to the airport and had to wait around till 7am for our flight but the visit was definitely worth it. What other city can you spend all night in without sleep?

Laugavegur Hike

The hike was absolutely amazing. The scenery was up there with the best we’ve ever seen. The dramatic volcanic mountainside with steam vents alongside snow was incredible and the views surreal. But it was also very high up on the list of the hardest things I’ve ever done too!

Our first mission was getting to Landmannalaugar, which is where the hike starts, 180km out of Reykavik. The only way to get directly there from Reykjavik is the 8am bus which we missed due to incorrect advice from some staff. We could get a bus 40km out of Reykjavik but needed to hitch-hike the rest in order to meet Luke that evening in Landmannalaugar.

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This went great for the first 100km, Ben and I had never properly hitched before and we found it quite fun knowing its very safe in Iceland and without having to fear it getting dark as the sun is up all day and night at this time of year. We got picked up 4-5 different times without having to wait more then 10 minutes but when we got to the 4WD road 30km out of Landmannalaugar it was getting late with no cars passing. We decided to camp the night after walking for about an hour. We set up and slept through the light of night until the morning when we started to hear cars again.
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Unfortunately the cars werent stopping and we were still 25km away so we started walking, we were supposed to start the hike today but realised if we didn’t get a lift we really would have to walk the whole way and then the 55km hike! We were getting a bit depressed because the road was desolate as was the landscape, and all the cars passing were full.
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Until one passed, stopped ahead and turned around back to us. They only had one spare seat but said one of us could squish in the boot if we didn’t mind! Of course we didn’t, Ben sat in the back with the bags and we got to Landmannalaugar by about 11am. We spent an hour in the natural hot springs here which were deliciously warm, almost too warm near where the hot waterfalls enter.
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We got going after lunch at about 3pm and just as we were heading off we got stopped by staff who basically told us we wouldn’t make it through the snow patched trail in the gear we were wearing. This wasn’t the most encouraging start to our hike. The boys had hiking boots that were apparently not snow-proof enough and I was only wearing my trusty Dr. Martens. We knew what it was like to be unprepared in snow since our Slovakia hike so we almost pulled out on the hike altogether. Luckily we’re young and stupid enough not to listen to advice because we did it anyway and had no problems with the snow at all!

Luke in Shorts, Ben in Jeans (apparently a big "no" in the hiking community) me in docs...

Luke in Shorts, Ben in Jeans (apparently a big “no” in the hiking community) me in docs…

The start of the hike was the most interesting and the steepest. We climbed up and through beautiful steaming lava fields as we ascended up about 500m for the first 12km. It was just so surreal the beautiful and contrasting sights the different coloured rocks with steam popping up with snow still unmelted from the long winter.
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We were so exhilarated by the mountains surrounding us that the snow didn’t bother us at all once we started walking through the snow fields.
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We arrived at the first hut all too soon. I couldn’t believe we’d come so far in four hours. We had been warned of the possibility of setting our tents up on snow and when we arrived we saw it was inevitable with all the dirt spaces already pitched.
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We finished our 2-minute noodle dinner around 8pm and with the sun still out we could see it shining on the path out of the valley where we could continue walking or stay at these huts in the shade, on the snow. It was an easy decision we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and head to the next hut 12km away. We all ended up being so glad we decided to tackle the second leg of the trip that night because the next 12km were even more stunning then the first and even more impressive with the sun and blue skies.

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We’d reached the top of the view point by around 10:30pm with this surreal pre-historic backdrop. It is one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen.
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As we descended with this view it became even more beautiful with each turn. This place is just absolutely magical.
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It was a bit of a killer seeing the campsite such a long way off still not reaching them till midnight. The last 3kms felt longer then the entire 21 before it and after carrying my 10kg bag all day I wasn’t sure if I could keep walking. But the sun is helpfully deceiving making it feel a lot earlier then it was. The official sunset here is 12.30pm with the sunrise at 3am meaning that it literally does not get dark here at all at this time of year. We gratefully set up our tents and slept through till the morning.

The next day brought some light rain, 2 icy river crossings and a change in scenery. The start was much the same as we’d seen, and so far the streams were bridged or narrow enough to jump and we stopped for lunch 5km in.
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There were some amazing waterfalls amongst the rugged mountains. But the icy glacial streams we had to cross were absolutely painful. I almost cried the second time from the pain in my legs but as soon as they’re dry again you can almost forget that you never want to do that again.
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The last few kms looked devastated, vast expands of grey rock which was only interrupted by some herded Icelandic horses at one point.
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It started raining lightly and this time when the huts were in sight below the glacier I was delighted. We had instant bolognaise spaghetti dinner and went straight to bed.
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Our last day was terribly wet and cold. The scenery improved from the day before but the change in temperature and the rain brought our spirits down. We hiked around a massive canyon and crossed over a river on a bridge that has a warning for anyone with Vertigo. The last river crossing was the worst for me I think I did actually cry this time.
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It was amazing to finish the 55km hike and in only 3 days. The sense of achievement was almost as incredible as the views although it was a relief to catch the bus out of Thorsmork at the end.
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This hike was the first proper one Ben and I have done carrying everything with us making me want to do more but I’m not sure if any in the world would be as good as this.

Late update

I tried to blog this before we arrived in Iceland but WordPress kept crashing. Here it is anyway although a bit delayed…I’ll update on Iceland soon!

Since we last blogged we’ve been hanging in England and sightseeing in Paris. In London we watched the Lion King musical, the rigged Origin game, saw dinosaur skeletons and finally got our new our passports.

Ringing church bells

Ringing church bells

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

Lion King!

Lion King!

Saying goodbye to English speaking, friend-filled and fun England was hard. We had gotten used to being able to speak to anyone we met, drive on the left-hand side of the road and having familiar faces around us. We loved being there and really would like to visit again.

Meeting up with Jared, Heidi and Netty in Paris was our next adventure where we rode around the city, checked out the Eiffel tower at night and feasted on Parisian delicacies as well as meeting more new friends including a few from Australia.

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We realised Paris was the one city we’d spent the most time in, 3 weeks all up, we got to do the tourist thing each of the three times we visited but yesterday we finally saw the catacombs. After our 2.5 hour wait in line we wandered below the streets of Paris in the 13th Century tunnels lined with the bones of past Parisians. With morbid fascination we viewed human bones of those who had lived and died in that city before the 17th Century. The bones had been methodically placed in ordered segments; fema bones piled high decoratively displayed with skulls. It seemed such an undignified manner for human bones to be arranged, disembodied and on display for the millions of visitors to walk by for hundreds of years as they rest in pieces.

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We are now flying to Iceland where we attempt a four day hike on one of Iceland’s most popular treks. We’re meeting up with Luke at the start of the hike tomorrow where we carry our tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mats, cooking gear and food across 60km of Iceland. Although majorly doubting our abilities having never done a hike like this before, we are looking forward to the beautiful scenery and hot springs we hope to experience along the way. So next time you hear from us we will be letting you know how we actually went.

The land of the queen

Soooo haven’t blogged in a while, yes we are still alive ;) have been in the UK the past 2.5weeks. It’s been so good being in a English speaking country, first time since November!!

My expectations of England weren’t that high but I have been impressed! I just thort it would similar to Australia and Canada , but it’s not, I forgot that it was as old Europe, and has plenty of cool old little towns and buildings. And it’s sooo green! That’s due to the large amount of rain it has, but it’s been ok since we arrived only 2 days of rain out of 14, not bad for England;)

Last week we went to London to check it out and also lodge out passports applications for normal passports, as it turns out America won’t accept us with emergency australian passports . Dramas !! All good now, thanks to Chloe’s parents for taking the required documents to the post office to be sent to the passports office, we will get the new ones next week.

Another great thing about the UK has been our Aussie friends being here, three of Chloe’s close friends all happen to be here, 2 are working here for 2 yrs and the other is getting married to a Englishman. And my cousin Adam is also here, so it’s been great hangin with Aussies and meeting all their uk friends!;)

We have been staying most of the time on Adams boat, he bought a 60ft canal boat that he is restoring, and we are gladly helping him a bit ;) in exchange for free accom ;) I think next week if the weather is good I’m gona try and paint the outside of the boat, the whole 60ft! I don’t really want to but, I think Adam doesn’t want to more, that’s why he’s offering cash, which I do need. Plus I kinda miss work … A lil bit;)

I actually miss home a lot, just staying in the one place I think. Traveling for 6 months straight does actually get slightly monotonous , kind of;) that’s my opinion. Anyways still having plenty of good times ;)

We are currently in Scotland , it’s a pretty cool place, so much green!! The mountains are all green, even the tall ones!

Luke left us on the wknd to head to Amsterdam then Denmark to catch a 30hr boat! to faroa islands! then 15hr boat to iceland, where we’ll meet him in 2.5wks.;). Anyway enough for now, I’ll try and write sooner next time.20130612-202704.jpg
The Palace
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Big Ben & lil Ben
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Fireworks on the canal

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Party on the boat

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North England & Lakes District

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Loch Lomond, Scotland

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Where we stayed last night, on a loch

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Beautiful Highlands

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Loch Ness

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Ben fitting in with the locals

Travel Update

The reason we haven’t blogged for so long is due to the fact that all our bags were stolen in Marseilles, France, from our car, at 2pm, when we left the car for 200m for only 10 minutes. All our passports, clothes, toiletries, our Esky, SD cards, phone and iPods were stolen.

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This is how they got in the car

Hence, our travel plans were diverted from Spain to Paris. We have had the funniest last week in Paris with Carmen and Heidi in their tiny apartment, it’s been a never ending sleepover staying up late, watching movies, eating baguettes and sleeping in. We drove to the beach yesterday for a short holiday near La Rochelle which is a beautiful old harbour town. We are staying with the girls at a camp ground and were surprised by Michael and Shosh Hindmarsh who have ridden here.

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Travel Update

The reason we haven’t blogged for so long is due to the fact that all our bags were stolen in Marseilles, France, from our car, at 2pm, when we left the car for 200m for only 10 minutes. All our passports, clothes, toiletries, our Esky, SD cards, phone and iPods were stolen.

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This is how they got in the car

Hence, our travel plans were diverted from Spain to Paris. We have had the funniest last week in Paris with Carmen and Heidi in their tiny apartment, it’s been a never ending sleepover staying up late, watching movies, eating baguettes and sleeping in. We drove to the beach yesterday for a short holiday near La Rochelle which is a beautiful old harbour town. We are staying with the girls at a camp ground and were surprised by Michael and Shosh Hindmarsh who have ridden here.

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Blown away by Bosnia

Bosnia is nothing like you’d expect from a country littered with land mines. It’s stunning from top to bottom. We had planned just driving through it from Hungary and a little of Croatia together to Montenegro on the same day. As we drove further south we realised just how beautiful it was with its lush green forests on light grey rocky mountains. Even Ben admitted it was better then the Rockies, which he compares every mountain to. We came across a random castle above a river at some stage.
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When we were about 15mins from the Montenegro border we stumbled upon a whitewater rafting camp. We had been tossing up whether to do rafting later but when we got here you can see why we decided to do it and stay two nights. Set on the beautiful Drina River in the Tara Canyon which is the second longest in the world besides the Grand Canyon.
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We did rafting the following day down Tara river with the canyon towering either side. The river was fast flowing and ice cold. We were wishing we’d bought a GoPro just for this it was absolutely amazing scenery and the rapids were hectic.
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We left Bosnia the following day and crossed the border into Montenegro where the Tara Canyon originates. The scenery was impossibly beautiful here. The river was dammed for Hydro-electricity and the stunning blue-green water filled the canyon.

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We drove to the coast of Montenegro, ate the biggest pizza and swam in the Adriatic Sea. That night we camped with a view of the ocean where we watched the sunset over Italy.

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Yesterday we drove along the Montenegro coast to the Bay of Kotor. We climbed up the old fortress for views of the bay that were then totally outdone by the views we had once we drove to the top of the “Black Mountain”. This is the mountain that Montenegro is named after.

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