Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

June 10, 2010


Filed under: June — Hennie van Heerden @ 1:34 pm

Can a day start any more beautiful than being woken up by birdsong? The reeds next to where we had moored the Tembo for the night was swarming with reed warblers who treated us to a concert at 7AM. Wonderful start of the day!

The rest of the day we will be steering the Tembo towards Muiden, a beautiful town which manages to remain totally authentic, although it’s located practically around the corner of Amsterdam.

Tomorrow, Michel will pick me up there for Schiphol airport, where another adventure will start: Our trip to Iceland!! Michel and I have been to this gorgeous country 2 years ago together. Although we initially would go with a party of 4, who didn’t know each other at all (I had only seen Michel maybe twice before), the other two backed out at the very last moment, leaving just Michel and I. Of course we had doubts at first, if we should go or not, after all, it is quite a gamble to go on a 9-day trip to a far away country with someone you don’t even know. The only thing we did know was that we shared the same passion for nature photography. That turned out to be enough to have a totally awesome trip! So, this year we decided to repeat that trip. I am só looking forward to it!!

This was my summary of the trip of two years ago:
9 days Iceland in a nutshell:
– 9 days of raging wind
– 4 days of rain – and with rain I mean rain!
– Average temp: about 12 degrees C
– 5 ‘warm’ meals in 9 days (3x hamburger, 1 club sandwich, 1 ‘real’ meal with   vegetables), rest cookies, tuc’s and (increasingly dry) cheese sandwiches
– NO wine (AAGH!)
– All of my clothes stiff with mud, birdshit, sheep droppings from ‘tigering’ after birdies. Gave a convincing impression of the Michelin man in my extremely becoming plastic green rain-trousers (one size fits all) for 4 days in a row (MG, if you dare to post shots of that, I’ll have to kill you….)
– My hair tangled (COMPLETELY) with dead musquitos (Myvatn is the Icelandic word for musquito lake… well, they are right!) The repellant has melted my raincoat. Michel suggested my hairdo would make a great Tern nest.
– 9 days not a trace of make-up and we won’t talk about nails
– Black, blue, green, yellow bruises, scratches and little wounds caused by the course gravel all over!
– Some really weird hosts! (I will not go into detail here, but we had great fun fantasizing about their respective fetishes.. 🙂 All of them though, after breaking through the initial ice, welcoming and hospitable.
– Staggering against the wind on 200m high cliffs, no safety fence, to shoot puffins
– First day totally drowned by an unexpected floodwave on an otherwise calm basalt beach, complete with camera and brandnew wide-angle lens (they still work unlike the 60mm macro I dropped on the second day). Running like mad on flooded boots to save the telephoto lenses that I left further down the beach. Waited half an hour for Michel, who had climbed 150m up a cliff to shoot Fulmars, soaking wet in raging wind with 10 degrees, really feeling sorry for myself.
– Finding out that 2 little lambs, that ran into the car on a loose gravel road in the West Fjords, with an 100m. abyss on the right, and a 100m rising cliff on the left, would fit underneath a car (bonk bonk behebeheeeee) can come out the other side, totally unharmed.
– Climbing up a basalt-sand dune, with 10kg of rugsack and 5 kg of camera/lens, 2 kg of tripod/head, some 30m mtrs high and with every step, sliding back about the same length; I though I would die on the spot! (I really should stop smoking!) with Michel waiting fresh and fruity on top. But I made it!
– Also first day: the 100-400mm totally fogged up from the inside. After half a day it dried up..
– On average 3,5 hours of sleep per night: came back at 11.30 – 12.00 PM, then ‘souper’ (Ha!), emptying memory cards, charging batteries etc.. Up at 4.30 every morning.
– 600 km. through the inland in dense fog, mountains, icefields, tree skeletons, no more than 5 m of view. high mountain gravel roads, (no crash barriers) All of a sudden we understood where the Icelandic Troll sagas came from.
– Brushing your teeth in the morning, still weary from lack of sleep, opening the tap, to be overwhelmed by a H2S cloud (rotten eggs) that sends last nights culinary delights right up to where it had gone in.


How can I explain the rugged, pure beauty of this country. The glaciers, the mountains, the geysers, the sulfur wells, the ice lakes, the fields covered in blue lupines and/or yellow dandelions, the enormous cliffs, the plentiful birds, the unbelievable blue of the skies, crispy fresh like Iceberg salad, followed by raging dark storm clouds. The overwhelming power of nature, so incredibly expressed in Iceland. It is totally overpowering, humbling. Makes you want to soak in every second, repeating the images in your head like a calming mantra.


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