UK and Europe 2023!

I’m off! Well, I’ve left Melbourne, and yesterday Luke and I drove to Albury for the first and tiny step on this trip.

Being less fit than last time, the packing has been much more minimal!

Here’s the brief itinerary for anyone interested, and if you have suggestions of things to do or places to go in these locations, speak now!

Flying out of Sydney April 10 with Asiana (a Korean airline) arriving in London April 11 via an overnight stopover in Seoul.

Three weeks solo in the Lake District, hopefully doing a bit of wild camping.

First two weeks of May with Daniel walking the Camino Ingles from Ferrol and seeing Santiago de Compostela.

Two weeks with Luke’s family in the Lake District.

A week in London with Luke’s parents.

Two weeks e-bike cycling in Switzerland and Austria between St Moritz and Innsbruck with time in Salzburg and a night in Hallstatt.

A couple of weeks back in the UK visiting Northern Ireland and travelling around.

Myself, Luke and Luke’s dad, Pete.

In the morning Luke dropped Bonnie off at her version of Disneyland (long term in-home care with her favourite dogs and people) for the next 3 and a half months. While it would have been nice if she’d looked even a tiny bit sad, apparently there wasn’t even a backward glance as she raced into their backyard.

Chester, Bonnie and Harvey

We drove up from Melbourne yesterday, leaving the rain behind and arriving to lovely sunshine in Albury. Luke’s mother, Lea, is away on a girls’ weekend with her four sisters so we are spending time with Luke’s dad. Pete.

After an afternoon visit with Kath, Luke’s nan, we settled on the couch with some wine, gourmet sausage rolls (blue cheese, walnuts and pork – delicious! Thanks Kath!) and watched a few episodes of Eugene Levy’s ‘Reluctant Traveller’.

Nothing better than relaxing with family!

Luke caught the train back to Melbourne today and I headed off to Orange for a week. I’ll then be flying to Sydney and catching my flight from there as Asiana doesn’t fly from Melbourne.

I had planned a solo mini adventure on the way to Orange via the Yarrangobilly thermal pool. I’d seen it online, and the appeal of a chlorine-free, 27 degree pool out in the middle of a National park was very strong. I left Albury at just past 11am, since the drive to the pool was supposed to take almost four hours.

Unfortunately, due to my slow driving and several stops, I didn’t get to the car park until 4:30. The ranger in the ticket office said the walk down was *steep*, which didn’t fill me with confidence. My walking buddy, Charmaine, had slipped on gravel a few months back and had to cancel her part of the trip due to a broken ankle.

When I got to the path it was extremely steep, covered in loose gravel and the light was fading, so I did what I always do and turned back. The trip wasn’t an entire loss though. I did see quite a lot of lovely views over Kosciusko National Park.

Lots of regrowth after the last fires.
Heading towards Tumut.

I also saw signs warning of brumbies (wild horses, sadly not sighted) and a wedge-tailed eagle ripping up road kill and dodging traffic.

Not my photo, I was driving! This is what they look like though, their wing span is 3 metres, making it the second largest eagle in the world.

I decided to stop for the night in Tumut, a small country town just off the Hume Highway. I stopped at the first pub I saw and booked a room. The Oriental Hotel is very like the pubs my family has owned. Wrap-around verandah, high ceilings, lots of old guys in plaid shirts propping up the bar.

Very traditional!

Unlike my family’s pubs, they do a mean chicken karaage bao, it was delicious!

Now I’m in my room, which comes with free earplugs 😂 and it’s only 6:30pm. I might take a stroll down the Main Street and see what entertainment Tumut has to free on a Sunday night. I’m guessing not much!

Here Comes The Planet 39 – Iceland 04

We go back to Jökulsárlón to see the nearby black sand beach, and then continue our travels across Iceland’s stunning landscape.

Also, here are the promised 80’s-hair-metal-band Iceland horses; none, unfortunately, which are fighting. 🙂

Music: Rafstraumur by Sigur Rós

Here Comes The Planet 36 – Iceland 01

Our Iceland adventures get off to a slow start as we check out some fresh hot springs around the town of Hveragerði before exploring the capital of Reykjavík. We view some modern architecture, catch a cultural comedy show, see a church straight out of Middle Earth and eat one of Iceland’s famous hot dogs.

Also, Amanda hopes that her cold will clear up so she too can be assaulted with a terrible smell.

Iceland! (Luke)

Figured I may as well give my first impressions of Iceland as well. Amanda’s may have been the toilets at the airport, but mine was the plane! We flew Iceland Air. They had comfortable seats and a good amount of leg room, plus a decent selection of entertainment. I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox (passable) and The Campaign (which, while being an average movie on the whole, had one scene which was so funny that I was crying with laughter, and rewound it just to show Amanda). The seat also had a USB port, presumably for charging devices. The in-flight magazine also said they were getting the planes equipped with wireless internet this year. Soft drink, coffee and tea were complimentary, anything alcoholic you had to pay for. Which is perfectly fine on a flight of less than three hours. So; Iceland Air – two thumbs up!

I do have to mention the airport toilets as well though. Everything was so white and minimalistic, I felt like I was in a Stanley Kubrick film. Clean and streamlined, though, I’ll give them that. The other thing I found strange was that there was no separate arrivals and departures area, so on the way to baggage claim I was walking past gates that had people boarding as well as arriving.

We picked up our rental car and hit the road, traveling to our destination of Hveragerdi, which is an hour from the airport and about 40 minutes from Reykjavik.

Driving here is a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t really enjoy driving all that much, but when I do enjoy it I’m usually on a highway, going fast, not needing to change directions or make navigational decisions, and either happily overtaking people or going a little under the limit and watching everyone else jostle for position. The limit on most UK motorways is 70mph, or 112km/h. Van Failen isn’t the best at high speeds – when he slowly but surely reaches 70mph the steering wheel vibrates so violently that it’s indecent – but he does the job and gets us there, so far without issue.

Here they’ve given us a brilliantly sporty little Nissan Micra which wants to blast off the line at the slightest touch of the pedal – pretty much the opposite of what I’m used to with Van Failen. Not only that but in Iceland they have huge stretches of open road that are fairly empty. They’re begging to be driven on at speed. But the speed limit here is 90km/h on sealed roads. When the weather is good, this feels woefully slow, especially after the UK. However their driving conditions can change drastically, and after driving a short stretch in the pelting rain, I was happy for an excuse to do no more than 80km/h. I imagine in the winter time it can get even worse.

Driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time definitely made me nervous, but nowhere near the level that narrow and single-lane roads have done in the UK. I have at least played computer games where I have needed to drive in a lawful manner on the other side of the road, so my brain has been put to the task of reversing everything before. Additionally, I’m a very new driver (just shy of two years), so left-side driving isn’t as ingrained in me as it is with Amanda – this makes it easier for me to switch.

Anyhow we got to the hotel without incident, and after checking in I went for a wander to scope out the small town, grab a bite to eat and withdraw some cash. I’m always eager to see new currency, and the Iceland Krona (ISK) is fairly spiffy.

Iceland Krona

Icelandic Króna (ISK)

The coins all feature different aquatic animals. Currently, it’s 111 ISK to 1 AUD. I purchased a plain hot dog and a bottle of coke from one of the stores here and it set me back 590 ISK ($5.30 AUD). That’s not too bad, but generally speaking the prices of things here are fairly high. We’re going to have to keep an eye on our wallets! Luckily the main thing we want to do is sight seeing, and that’ll only cost us petrol… which costs on average 248.55 ISK ($2.23 AUD) per litre. Lucky it’s a small island!