Northern Iceland!

anna

Remember me telling you all about the sixty-five plus year old woman whose camper van we stayed in? Her name was Anna and she was such a lovely woman. She and her dog Shnorty (I know I’m mangling that spelling) live in a small town and host visitors every evening. Her front yard was twinkling with tea lights when we arrived and she showed us the amenities before leaving to great her final guests for the night as they arrived.

The van was comfortable and reminded me a lot of ours in New Zealand. The biggest difference being, we were told this one, “doesn’t move.” Just in case we wanted to get crazy in the middle of the night. So I got to experience once more the fun of climbing over Marc to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and trying not to wipe out on the very slippery lader. There were tons of horses hanging out in the front yard, but the little stallion made sure no one got any love from me.

Didn’t take us long to get our stuff together and hit the road again. It also wasn’t long before we were stopping for another gorgeous waterfall. Got a nice little hike in through a well-worn sheep trail to get a little closer to the falls and traded taking pictures with some of the other folks.

waterfallWe continued to drive on through a landscape that became less and less green and more and more rocky. The mountains resolved into individual volcanos and the grass finally disappeared completely.

volcanos

It Looked Like This

Every so often, we would see little pools of toxic looking water either off in the distance or next to the side of the road. We kept going as we were starving. The potato chip supply began to dwindle. Our destination for the night was a homestay in the second largest town in Iceland, Akureyri. Before we got there though, we had to stop at a hot spring  everybody had been telling us about. Myvatn Nature Baths  are unique because there is a sandy bottom and the water itself is full of beneficial minerals that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. The water stays at a comfortable 96 to 104 degrees and they warn you to take off any brass or silver before you enter as the water will literally turn them black during a visit. These pools were so amazing for lounging around in and people watching. The cafe was rather nice too and it meant we could lay off the chips for a while.

myvatn2

myvatn

Aftermath. Do we look relaxed, or what?

Marc had to drag me out so we could leave, but getting changed presented its own challenges. Although we had the option of renting towels, we decided to rough it. How do you dry off without one? Easy, after the shower… you use a hairdryer mostly all over and use paper towels for the delicate bits. Worked out pretty good actually and soon we were back in our seats and on the way to Akureyri.

Our hosts Paulina and Samuel showed us our room inside their beautiful home. Everywhere we looked art works were on display and it didn’t take long for us to find out Paulina and her husband (whom we didn’t get a chance to meet) were artists. I took many pictures inside their home.

paintings

I also took many outside their home as Akureyri had cool stuff to see everywhere we looked. Paulina’a husband we were told, teaches art in town and there was an art exhibit going on during our visit.

1917

Cute Little House. Not Our Homestay Though.

door

The Door of Akureyrarkirkja. A Prominent Lutheran Church.

art1

Paper Mache Monster from the art show

Our breakfast was included the next morning and it was neat to experience what an Icelander might normally have for breakfast. Of course, I always bring our own tea, but otherwise, we did as the locals do and enjoyed soft-boiled eggs, cucumbers, red pepper, oranges and banana’s and granola. Marc  even got to try a little of the local yogurt.

breakfast

Satiated, we did a little more poking about before we had to take off again. Just as well since Akureyri had more tourists and simply more of a sheer mass of people everywhere than any other place besides Reykjavik. After seeing the wild and wide expanses of nothing from the safety of our little car, being shuffled along with throngs of people palled quickly. Besides, we had another homestay lined up in Dalabyggo to get to. Off again we went!

end

This is how you know you’re leaving town… if it isn’t already obvious.

 

 

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon to California

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Mingus Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

After a night spent sleeping close to the road. We woke up to a world filled with fog outside our window. We ate breakfast and watched the mist recede back across the bay while eating stockpiled Ranier cherries, apples and jerky. When it was clear to the bridge, we took off. Our first stop was a cute little neighborhood park. Mingus park is beautifully maintained and had an easy one mile trail around a lake with an open section guarded aggressively by geese and a beautiful wooded section with a Japanese theme and a few friendly cats smoozing for pets. What a great start to the day, eh?

MarcTyrano

Marc meets a Tyrannosaur at Prehistoric Gardens

Next up was  a kinda kitschy, but eminently cool roadside attraction called Prehistoric Gardens. Being located inside an Oregon rainforest gives this park of life-sized dinosaur replicas an even greater sense of realism and it was fun to compare ourselves to the models. We talked to the owner on the way out and she  told us about her grandparents building the park back in the 1950’s and her commitment to keeping it going. Needless to say, the kids we saw along the way loved it… and so did the adults!

Big brontosaurus and teeny me!

Big Brontosaurus and teeny me!

Pteranodon

 

I bet you’re wondering how much stuff two people can fit into one day. The answer is a helluva lot actually, when Marc is driving. LOL. I’m going to skip the last two stops for the day but suffice to say we saw another lighthouse from a distance ( missed the low tide window and didn’t want to wade through icy cold water). Also saw another cool rock formation at a scenic outlook, and crossed into California. Odd to have to go through an agriculture checkpoint from one state to another.

Day six was dedicated to finding Redwoods.  Marc headed us down the road toward Lady Bird Johnson’s Grove. On the way though,  we had to stop for a couple of photo op’s. I mean, how often do you come across gigantic statues of Paul Bunyan and Blue or wild elk?

Paul Bunyon and Blue

Paul Bunyan and Blue.See Marc underneath Paul’s foot?

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

Elk! They were wholly unimpressed with me.

We met our first redwood trees at a spot that felt almost sacred. Lady Bird Johnson was one of many people who realized early on that the Redwood trees were special and needed to be protected from commercial logging and timber industries before there was nothing left for future generations. This 300 acre grove was dedicated to her in 1969. It’s quite different from the Kauri’s in New Zealand. Here, a lot of the trees are hollowed out and blackened in spots from periodic forest fires that clear ground cover and new opportunities for life. Interestingly, fire  doesn’t necessarily  kills these trees because  their bark is a thickly insulating layer their sap is mostly water.  It was a beautiful tramp in an almost hushed atmosphere  with cool clean air brushing my cheeks occasionally as we investigated the forest.

LBJPark

We drove on refreshed, towards Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods state park. This is a thirty-two mile driving tour through groves of Redwoods that are named for the folks that paid to preserve them or the towns they’re inside. There are trails, campgrounds,  and overlooks with plenty of pull off spots and souvenir shops along the side of the road. We saw fallen giants and victorious survivors along the way and took plenty of pictures.

 

Fallen Giant

Toppled Redwood tree. Massive, eh?

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, loging axes, lightening, and floods. It's between 950-1000 years old.

The Immortal Tree. This tree has survived fire, logging axes, lightening, and floods. It’s between 950-1000 years old.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

The Eternal Treehouse. Used at various times to house people, supplies, or livestock. Hollowed redwood base.

Just driving through

Just driving through!

Yes, I had to do it too

Yes, I had to do it too!

It got hot as we drove out of the forest. Amazing what those massive trees do to cool the temperature down. We kept our eyes open for a spot where we could reach the river for a skinny dip, but the one potential spot  we found without people we began to realize may have been being set up for an illegal pot growing operation and we got the hell out of there. Still, the scenery in the distance was awesome.

NiceView

Wow! No wonder I was tired when we got back home! Four posts into the trip and I think I should stop here so no one gets too tired reading all this at one time. One more to go. I’m sure of it now. Thanks for following me and see you again soon on Chasing Summer!

 

 

 

 

Cunningham Falls, MD

ThePath CF

Path To The Falls

 

Last weekend was perfect weather for a tramp outdoors. Balmy, a bit of a breeze and mid 70’s  meant there was no way I was going to stay indoors. My girlfriend Jessica and I had made plans to go to Cunningham Falls State park and after a quick breakfast and an hours drive to Thurmont, Md (outside of Fredrick), we made it.

My Friend Jessica

My Friend Jessica

The sun was shining, the air was clean and the path was dry, although occasionally crowded with other hikers. The waterfall  itself (supposedly the longest in Maryland) is fed by Hunting Creek Lake and  features a catch and release trout stream for all you fishermen out there. I did not see any trout though. Just green, green trees, awesome old boulders and some of the oldest exposed greenstone rock outcroppings on the world. The park is part of the Catoctin Mountains which lie inside the Blue Ridge. A truly beautiful place.

Nice

TopofFalls

We took the slightly sloping path up the  end of the boardwalk and had a look around. Everywhere, folks were rock climbing to the top, or watching their children play downstream. What could we do? Of course we climbed to the top of the waterfall and found a place to sit in the sun. I think we both may have drifted for a bit, soothed by the sonorous sound of rushing water and soon leaning back against the rocks to soak up the heat. Occasionally awakened by enthusiastic children hiking past into the mysteries above the falls.

View From The Top

View From The Top

Ready To Swing Out Over The Rocks

Ready To Swing Out Over The Rocks

All too soon it was time to go. We were meeting a friend for a BBQ dinner and didn’t want to be late. It was good to catch up with my friends and  eat some massive grilled steaks with all the fix-in’s. I got to cook too, which was an experience. I seemed to have the smoke following me around every time I opened the grill… oh, and then there was the part where we had to rinse off all the vegetables and our friend Denny’s steak cause the grill  cover slipped out of my hand and flakes of black stuff got all over everything. They forgave me though and it turned out to be a great dinner.

JessicaFalls

 

Best of NZ: Birds

The Bird that started it all. The Pukekoe. No wings, but  smart and very protective of their young.

The Bird that started it all. The Pukekoe. No wings, but smart and very protective of their young.

I believe in one of my very first posts here in New Zealand, I had a picture of a bird called a Pukoke. I was waxing enthusiastic about the bird population here and made a statement that I would try to take a picture of each type of bird I found and get as many as I could. In the end, those suckers usually don’t sit still for pictures, so we saw a lot more than are represented here. Still, it was fun and I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some different birds.

Austrailian Magpie, they have a reputation as pests and people shoot them at will.

Austrailian Magpie, they have a reputation as pests and people shoot them at will.

Paradise Ducks. Always seen in pairs, the female has the white head.

Paradise  Shell Ducks. Always seen in pairs, the female has the white head.

BeachBirds.e

Pied Oystercatcher

Fishers

Pied Shag

Black Swans with goslings

Black Swans with goslings

Black Swans with Spoonbill

Black Swans with Spoonbill

Little Blue Penguins

Little Blue Penguins

Some chickens drink pretty well

Some chickens drink pretty well

New Zealand Robin

New Zealand Robin

Fantail

Fantail

Another view of the Fantail showing off.

Another view of the Fantail showing off.

Heron?

White Faced Heron

Kaka

Kaka

Kea's

Keas

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Yellow Eyed Penguin

Yellow Eyed Penguin

New Zealand Hawk. Usually seen when 2 other things are happening at the same time.

New Zealand Hawk. Usually seen when 2 other things are happening at the same time.

NZ Hawk

NZ Falcon. Half Grown.

Quails

Quails

Red Footed Gulls

Red Billed Gulls

Rest Stop Roosters

Rest Stop Roosters. They didn’t care for breadcrumbs.

They were in the Auckland Zoo so they count, although I don't think they're native.

They were in the Auckland Zoo so they count, although I don’t think they’re native.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill

Tui

Tui

Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys

Stuffed Wood Pigeon

Kereru or  Wood Pigeon. This one is stuffed.

Mutton Bird. Pretty salty. Prepared by boiling a couple times to leach out salt before doing anything else.

Mutton Bird. Pretty salty. Prepared by boiling a couple times to leach out salt before doing anything else.

Satan & Snowball. Two very personable rest stop roosters.

Satan & Snowball. Two very personable rest stop roosters.

Weka. One of New Zealands largest flightless birds. About like a young chicken.

Weka. One of New Zealands largest flightless birds. About like a young chicken.

OceanBirds

Pied Stilt

Oceania2

Grey Tailed Tattler…. I think.

Right, well…. thats it for new Zealand damnint. We’ve been back in the states about four days now and dealing with jet lag and reconnecting with friends and family. The trip really isn’t over till we get a place and I am re-employed but I will be activlly working towards that goal from now on. We had a wonderful time in New Zealand and it was hard to leave.We made many friends and saw some amazing scenery. We look forward to visiting again someday. As for the blog, I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet. Something says keep it. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking pictures.

Marc and myself @ The White Lady

Marc and myself @ The White Lady. Weekend institution burger bus

 

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things

Before I leave off the Bali posts now that we’re back, I figured I’d write and share some pictures  about what we’d do there on a daily basis. Things like internet cafes:

The chairs wobbled so it was better to go with the floor. Filthy though.

The chairs wobbled so it was better to go with the floor. Filthy though.

This place had AC and chairs! Cleaner too.

This place had AC and level chairs! Cleaner too.

We went to see movies:

Movies

World War Z, The Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2, Reds, and The Killing Season

We did go to the beach together sometimes although it was more often for me to go while he was flying. Our friend Chris shared a good way down to the beach. He used it most mornings to sail the boats he made out of trash on the beach. At low tide, it was good for shallow snorkeling and for the local women to hunt for shells or the men to net for dinner. I liked to soak up the sun.

Ready to launch!

Ready to launch!

Shell Hunt

Shell Hunt @ Low Tide

The shade is a welcome relief after the intensity of the blaring sun.

The shade is a welcome relief after the intensity of the blaring sun.

We’d drive around and look at statues:

Ganesh

Ganesh

Taking Wedding Photos @ Pandawa Beach

Taking Wedding Photos @ Pandawa Beach

SeaGod

Along the way to Balangan/Dreamland

Along the way to Balangan/Dreamland

HorseFight

And of course all the great restaurants and all the paragliding that Marc got to do while we were here. I think I’ll do a post each for those last two topics so I can get in more pictures and nobody gets overwhelmed. Enjoy the pictures!

My Monkey Story

collar

A True Story For Joshua, Jordan and Grady

One day, a boo-lay couple (for that is what foreigners are called in Bali) decided to go to the beach. After packing their backpack and applying sunscreen, they drove to the stone steps next to the temple.  They locked their helmets to their motorcycle, walked up to the steps and looked up to see…. a little monkey sitting in the tree.

They looked all around for other monkeys; for they never travel alone. but this one was. He sat in the tree and chattered at them and they noticed a frayed collar around his neck. After saying hello, the couple started down the steep steps to the beach and the little monkey followed them. From tree to tree and step to step, all the way to the beach. The lady started to call to him and held out her hand but the man stopped her because he didn’t think it was safe.

It was low tide on the beach and the couple began to explore the shore and the caves along the way. The little monkey followed them onto the sand and climbed the rocks around the caves. Never getting too close, but never too far away either. “That’s odd,” said the man. “Maybe he’s hungry.” The man found some snails in the caves and cracked them open before tossing them to the monkey. The monkey was not interested,

Cave1

“Take my picture?” the lady asked and gave the man the camera. He walked into a big cave and took a few pictures of her while the monkey sat watching. The lady sat outside on a rock  to watch the water and the man watched as the monkey began to come closer and closer to the lady. He played with the straps of her backpack and patted her foot and she began to talk to him. The little monkey began to talk back, chattering away as he came nearer and near to her until he jumped up on the rock next to her.

PatFoot2

“What are you doing here little one?” she asked as the monkey sat closer to her leg and picked grains of sand off her skin.  Her voice was soft and comforting to the little monkey and soon he had jumped into her lap! “Where did you come from little guy,” she asked. “Did you escape from someone?” The monkey could not answer, but snuggled close to her and continued to talk to her as they sat on the beach. He seemed quite relaxed in her lap. “Can I pet your fur?” she asked and gently brought one hand up for the monkey to see. Slowly she moved it closer to him until she was stroking his shoulder and side.

PickSand3

Stroke1

The man was watching and taking pictures and video  when two young men walked around the corner and startled the monkey. He stood up on his hind legs and screeched at them. They stopped and asked if it was her monkey. “No,” she replied,”but I may be his human. At least for right now.”  The men quickly walked past and her man continued to watch and take pictures and videos. “I wonder if he’s hungry,” he said. “I don’t know what they eat.” “Maybe we should go up and get him something to eat.” “OK.” said the lady and when she stood up  the little monkey  immediately climbed up to her head and found her earrings. “Oh now, we’ll have none of that,” she laughed as she removed the earrings.

Earring1

The little guy sneezed as they were walking back and she; startled, dropped him. He shook his head, climbed a near rock and jumped back onto her arm. “All right little boy, lets go,” she said and they began to walk back to the long, steep stairs. They passed local women walking on the beach that looked curiously at them but the monkey didn’t screech again until it saw the two young men returning. “I think he likes women,”she said. “I think he likes you,” the man replied.

You

The man was much quicker climbing the stairs than the lady and by the time she reached the top with the little monkey, the man was gone.  The monkey had slept in her arm the whole way up which was funny. They sat on a bale near the top of the steps and waited for the man to return. When he did, he brought dried peas, and peanuts and crackers. The little boy sniffed the peas and dropped them. He didn’t seem interested in the peanuts or crackers either. “Maybe he doesn’t eat solid food,” the lady said and crunched up a cracker in her mouth before spitting it into her palm and  giving it to him. The monkey looked up at her with his big brown eyes before grabbing some of the softened food in her palm and trying it before flicking the rest of the food away onto her pants. “I don’t think he likes it.” she said. “I don’t blame him,”said the man after he tried one , “these crackers aren’t actually very good.”

So the good man got on his motorbike again and left to get something else for the little monkey. As soon as he was gone, the little boy jumped off her lap and hopped over to some young green plants growing by the side of the stairs. To her surprise, he grabbed a branch and began stripping the branches of leaves with his mouth before munching away. “Is that what you eat?” she said. “I hope you’re not full by the time he gets back.”  The little monkey eat for a bit before coming back. He played on her lap, twisting around her arm and softly biting her hand as he practiced being a monkey.  When he would start to bite too hard she would exclaim, “no!” That seemed to do the trick. He fell asleep again for a short time before the man returned.

This time the man had fruit, watermelon, honeydew and papaya. The little monkey ran over to the nice man and took a piece of watermelon which he began cramming into his mouth, “Look,” said the man “you can see his cheeks getting bigger as he packs in the fruit.” The little boy would fill his cheeks up with fruit and then push them in with his hands and swallow before starting all over again. He ate all the watermelon and he loved the papaya, but rejected the honeydew.

Wmelonmon

“What are we going to do with him?” the lady asked. “We can’t take him with us. He’d wreck the place and get us thrown out of our hotel room.” “Maybe the temple monkeys will take him,” the man said. “They live close by. I think we just need to leave him here.” The lady and the man agreed but were worried about the collar around his neck. What happens if he grows and does go live with the temple monkeys? He could choke, they thought. So the good man, the very good man, got on his motorcycle a third time and went in search of a knife or scissors to cut the collar off. The little monkey finished all the fruit and returned to playing with the lady and  bringing her bits of trash from around the bale which she would try and rescue from his mouth. “I wish we could take you with us,” she said to the little monkey “but if you were left here by someone for a reason, it’s probably better you go back to the wild.”

The very good man returned with scissors and a knife which he gave to the lady. The lady waited until the monkey had settled down and then quickly snipped the collar off his neck. “There. That’s all we can do,” she said. The lady and the man sat on the bale for another hour, watching the monkey as he  played.He  would look back every so often as if to make sure they were still there. The little boy even  got comfortable enough with the man to climb his arm. The lady took a picture.

Marcmonkey

When it was time to go they quickly  put on their helmets and the man started the motorbike. “We gotta go quick before he tries to come with us,” he said. The lady jumped on and and as they began to drive away, the monkey began to run behind them. “Faster,” she yelled into the wind “he’s right behind us.” To the monkey she yelled,”goodbye little boy. Hopefully, we’ll see you tomorrow.”

They did go back the next day and many days after that, but they never saw the little monkey again. They looked whenever they saw the temple monkeys and she feed them peanuts every time she visited but never again did a little boy monkey follow them down the steps looking for company. The  boo-lay couple was sad but happy too in the hopes that he joined a monkey troupe  and they kept his cut collar to remind them of their friend.

??????????

Paragliding, Monkeys and Sunset at Dreamland Beach

Food Hall Cooks

Food Hall Cooks Near Timbus. The Food is Great and their fried chicken is to die for!

So some pretty good things have been happening here in Bali recently.  The weather has gotten a little better (thank the gods), but we’re still getting frequent rain storms. The wind continues to try and dissuade the para-gliders from taking off but with perseverance and a second flying site to launch from, Marc has been able to fly more in the last week and a half then the whole time we’ve been here. It means I get to hang out at Gunung Payung a lot and swing in my hammock when I’m not taking pictures of the guys flying or going for a hike through the cow pastures.

Such a life.

Such a life.

MarcFlyGrnGP2

Marc Flying His Green Nivuk2

MarcFlyGrnGP

You meet people from all over the world out here.  The folks that come for a tandem, the wives and girlfriends of the pilots, occasionally a few kids running around. It’s a festive atmosphere made more amusing by the drink and snack folks that fall all over themselves to be the first to sell you a beer, a coke, a snack. Usually at a four hundred percent markup.  Then there are the locals that help to fold up the wings or help you launch.  I’ve seen more than one launch that ended up back in the trees.  Well, it was windy that day.*LOL*

Reky, one of the members of the Indonesian Paragliding Team. He also does tandems.

Reky, one of the members of the Indonesian Paragliding Team. He also does tandems.

GirlPlay1

Playing Can’t Catch Me

Girlplay2I have met a few female pilots but so far it seems to be a mostly male dominated sport. At least, that’s been my observation. One of the people Marc met the other day was a guy from Nepal. I think he has a paragliding shop there and teaches as well. He let Marc try out his new Nivuk3 wing.

Ready to launch!

Ready to launch!

Marc flies the red Nivuk3. Yes, it really is better.

Marc flies the red Nivuk3. Yes, it really is better.

I have a feeling he might be thinking about a trip to Nepal sometime in the future. I told him to bring me back something nice… if he doesn’t bring me. *Lol* Oh, speaking about the people you meet, Marc got to meet up with his friend Kim from Norway. Evidently Kim heard he was here and had some vacation time coming so he came to Bali to visit friends. He stopped by one night with a nice little bottle of Whiskey and with some good music and Bintang’s, they got to catch up a bit and I got introduced. Nice guy, is Kim.

MarcnKim

On another note, I finally got to see some monkeys! We stopped at Bali Cliff one day and there they were. A whole troupe of  Balinese long tailed Macaques! We were totally unprepared and they were not impressed by that. Of course, after Marc came back with some food their attitude changed in a hurry! The big male leader actually stole a bag of nuts right off the bike and gobbled them down in a minute. After that, Marc would distract him and throw him treats one at a time while I threw snacks to the others. Especially the momma with the baby. They wouldn’t go near him. Looked like they were all afraid of him. He’d stand his ground too. The foot stomp didn’t even make him blink.

That big boy had no fear

That big boy had no fear

Grooming Behaviour

Grooming Behavior

MonMombaby

I have an even better monkey story to tell you all about, but that will have to wait till next time. Other things we’ve done that are on this “roll of film” are the sunset we finally got to see at Dreamland Beach. Can you believe in five weeks or so, this is the best and near only nice one we’ve seen? Ya, I told you the weather has been weird.

Sunset @ Dreamland Beach

Sunset @ Dreamland Beach

Sunset Surfers

Sunset Surfers

Oh, and we did get to Jimbaran Beach again for prawns and Red Snapper in Balinese sauce. OMG is it good! So good and we were so hungry we just dove right in and by the time I thought to take a picture my hands were really messy and they don’t really believe in napkins here so I couldn’t take a picture. Next time, ok? I did take a picture though of the wandering musicians who serenade the tables at dinner time. Marc said they must know at least one song in twenty odd languages and they knew plenty of English songs. They are awesome! Next time, I’m going to ask for some Elvis.

JimbaranBand

Next time I promise I will tell you all about my monkey story and the beach and everything else on this next roll of film, ok? Y’all take care!