Icelandic Adventure

It has been a few months since we went further North than we've ever been before, but the passion the country gave me for all things Icelandic has not wavered one bit! I could speak to you for hours ad-nauseum about its scenery, mountains, beaches, buildings and people but you know what they say... A Picture Paints a Thousand Words. It's a cheesy one-liner but it really is true. 

We visited Iceland in February, and were greeted with a certain amount of pessimism from the car-rental kiosk. When she mentioned that we should probably be spending all our time in the hotel because of the impending storms heading towards the island, our hearts sank. We had come to the small Scandinavian island to explore and have a life changing experience! We weren't going to let a storm get in our way! We jumped in our Suzuki Jimny and headed towards Reykjavik and our apartment. 

We awoke the following day with plans to head into the wild, but instead we were greeted with sideways snow and very strong winds. We explored the city and planned our adventures. On reflection the extra day of relaxation was perfect. We found our feet in the country and had a day to plan and check our destinations. On day 2 we woke early and got on the open road.

Iceland's roads are interesting to say the least. The main ring road which goes all around the Island is their equivalent to a motorway, but most of it is single carriageway and some of it is pretty sketchy at times. The road climbs for around 50km and eventually reaches the summit of a mountain before dropping down to Soffa. On the summit we were met with snow drifts and a disappearing road because of the settling snow. Our little Jimny was perfect though and handled great. We stopped in Soffa for some fuel and the application of some Rain-X and headed towards our first destination, Reynisfjara Beach.

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Reynisfjara Beach is one of the most Southerly points on the Island and is 180km from the capital. It is famous for its black expansive sands and basalt columns. Legend says the columns are trolls that once pulled the ships out of the sea, long since turned to stone. The roaring waves can be unforgiving and the sneaker waves can literally sneak up on you and make you very cold and wet instantly. We ventured onto the beach as well as climbing up onto the headland to view the standing columns from above.

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After we explored the coastline and beaches we heading back East for a short time and stopped at the tenacious Skogarfoss Waterfall. At 60 metres high and 25 metres wide it is one of Iceland's largest falls but also one of its most accessible. It is right off the main road and you can walk right up to its cascading icy waters. Just be prepared to get soaked! The viewing platform at the top of the fall is amazing, with the most amazing views available if you put in the effort to climb the 527 steps. It was very icy and slippy when we climbed so it is advisable to get some crampons or chains to pop over your footwear. You can continue walking along the Eyjafjallajokull Glacier and see 20+ more waterfalls and rapids. We hiked for a short time and couldn't believe how few people did this, evident by the way the tracks disappeared quickly in the snow, just tens of meters away from the viewing platform. We were more than rewarded by just walking a little bit further as the view was staggering. You could see snow peaked mountains, cascading rapids, waterfalls, lowlands, sandy beaches and the Atlantic swells all in one vista. 

After we had climbed back down we heading towards something I was extremely excited about. One of Iceland's most famous attractions and strangely one that is man-made and very unnatural. The Solheimasandur Plane Crash.

In 1973 a United States Navy DC Plane ran out of fuel and crash landed on the beach. It remains there to this day. It's about an hours walk from the main road along a well marked path. The walk is across a desolate black volcanic landscape which gave us many challenges including driving hail, wind and rain. The spectacle when we got to the crash site was well worth it.

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From there we headed back to Reykjavik and made our plans for the next day.

The following day we headed North and towards to Thingvellir National Park. This is the site of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and the meeting of the American and European tectonic plates. This has caused a dramatic landscape with gorges, ravines and lakes throughout the park.

The parkland was also home to the ancient parliament of the country between 930 and 1798 they met in the Fissure Zone. The whole area has immense cultural significance for Icelandic's. When we were there the area was deep in powdery clean snow. It made the whole experience so special and rememberable. 

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The Island tested us more than you could imagine. The weather was brutal and harsh. We were very prepared with thermals and gear but it was still freezing cold. The driving was challenging with many locals staying off the roads during the storms and we pushed ourselves to see some amazing sites in the short amount of time we had. 

We'd love to head back and see the Aurora at some point as the storms created too much cloud cover and also we'd love to see the North of the Island. 

Until next time Island. 

Lydford Gorge

In 2017 we road-tripped to Cornwall and wanted a rest stop along the way, and we're always eager to explore new places, so we picked a place on the map and aimed for it.

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We'd chosen an area in Mid-Devon called Lydford Gorge. It's a part of Devon owned and managed by The National Trust, and on past experiences we've found that The National Trust do an amazing job, so we were pretty sure we'd find somewhere special.

What it gave us was more than we could of imagined. The gorge is the deepest river gorge in the South West of the UK with a spectacular 30 metre waterfall called "The White Lady". There is a circular well maintained and sign posted walk around the gorge taking in the woodlands, farmland, river and waterfall. 

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The first half of the walk takes you through the woodland, high above the river and to the top of the waterfall. We were lucky enough to go on a sunny day and enjoyed the golden light falling on us through the leaves.

Then you walk down a steep set of steps to the bottom of the fall. You follow the path along the rivers edge, some bits can get slippy here, so be careful, until you climb again to the Devil's Cauldron! This is a swirling pool of water through the cliffs which you can almost climb into. As you drop down to the Cauldron the temperature really drops and as it does the noise level goes up. You can sense nature's fury all around you so the name seems very appropriate! 

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The total walk takes around an hour, but longer if you stop to take photos and have a sniffing dog with you, like we did! It is the perfect hidden retreat deep in the Devonshire countryside.

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Arthur's Seat

When most people go on a city break they think of open topped bus tours, city skyscapes and boutique shops. Edinburgh is a city like no other. The streets twist and change elevation around the landscape. The castle looks over the city from its vantage point from Castle Rock. One of three volcanic natural structures that make the city the size and shape that it is. Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat are the others. 

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To the east of the city centre near the Scottish Houses of Parliament is Holyrood Park and its lochs and green grassy slopes. It is from Holyrood Park you can start your climb up to the summit of Arthur's Seat. At 250.5 metres high it is the highest of the three volcanic peaks around the capital.

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The path is well trodden and can be done in normal trainers and clothing. When you begin you are pretty much at sea level and begin to climb quickly. You're soon above the treetops and looking over Edinburgh's rooftops. The Castle can be seen across the tiled peaks of the houses and shops and as the path twists around the sides of Arthur's Seat you get views across Mid Lothian and the southern Scottish rolling hills. 

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It isn't clear where the name "Arthur's Seat" came from. Some say it is from Arthurian legend or others say its from the Gaelic "Ard-na-Said" meaning Archer's Seat and over years its been corrupted and has become Arthur's. It certainly would of been a great vantage point for an archer!

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The path after a while switches to the left and then doubles back on itself before the last climb to the summit. Here the wind can hit you hard and you'll see the North Sea before you as you look down towards the town of Leith and Portobello Beach. The 360° view of southern Scotland is amazing. You can take the path down the other side of the hill and make your way down to Holyrood Park and back into the city. You may have forgotten you were in a capital city!

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Savannah King

A few months back we asked you what you'd like to read more about in our journal. There was so many amazing suggestions but one answer featured quite a lot. You wanted to read about people who live out on the open road and make a wage from living in a van. Vanlife, as its become known as, has exploded recently with books, films and documentaries being created all trying to cash in on the success of a small group of individuals who make the lifestyle work. We scoured the globe, (well we searched on Instagram), for such a person. We found Savannah King. A musician in the States who travels gig to gig in a beautiful van exploring as she goes. We got in touch and had a chat about her life and experiences....

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Tell us about your background and where you're originally from...

I am from Wilson, NY - A small harbor town on Lake Ontario. I started playing piano at the age of 4 and began performing with my guitar at 14. Both my parents are musicians, so I had a lot of support and encouragement. I’ve been performing and writing ever since!

When did you decide you wanted to be a musician? Was it a difficult decision to make?

Music has always been the most natural path for me. However managing your career and writing songs are two very different things. I earned a B.S. Business Administration with a concentration in the Music Industry from SUNY Fredonia in 2014 and that gave me a lot of the tools I needed to manage myself. After finding myself stuck in a job that I hated and going through a really intense writers block, I decided to buy the van and take off on the road. The more experiences you have, the more you have to write about! Today, the music industry is an ever changing world and much of it is DIY though the internet. I feel blessed to be starting my career in an age where it possible for me to make the decisions about my career. Being self employed can have its difficulties, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Writing songs is my true passion.

Anyone who follows you on Instagram knows you live out of your van. Tell us more about the van....

My van is a 1987 Ford Coachman named Vance. When we bought him off Craigslist, he had only 58,000 miles. Mechanically there was no work to be done, but ascetically he needed some work. We put in bamboo hardwood floors, new countertops, two 100w solar panels, new curtains, painted the walls white, and added more lights. We have a lot of luxuries in our van such as a full fridge/freezer, a two burner stove, running water, a sitting shower, and toilet. 

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Why did you choose a van to be your home? Does it make your lifestyle easier?

As a musician, you are on the road a lot. Touring long term is challenging and hotels are pricy. The more comfortable you are, the more shows you can play. Having a mobile home was the perfect solution. No matter where we are in the country, when we close the van doors, I am home. We practice, write, and create constantly in Vance. 

Have you found your living space influences your music?

We take Vance to a lot of remote desert areas. The desert is a place that has worked its way into my music and my heart. There is something so spiritual about being far away from the civilized world deep in the desert. It would be very hard for me to not be influenced by these experiences. 

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What else influences your songs?

My songs are influenced a lot by people. Our time on the road has allowed us to meet some very unique and inspiring people. My last album was made before we bought Vance, so a lot of the songs that will be on my upcoming record tell the stories of these people, as well as what we’ve experienced. 

Where is the best place you've parked Vance up overnight?

We were somewhere in the Tonto National Forest and turned down an unmarked side road. We ended up staying the night on the edge of this huge cliff overlooking the mountains miles into the distance. I just remember how quiet and peaceful it was out there. All alone, miles from any city. 

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What do you do for everyday living?

We have a Planet Fitness membership so if we are in a city we will usually go to the gym to get a workout and shower. Otherwise we will use the outdoor shower off the back of our van. We cook almost all of our meals in the van so there is always a lot of dishes being done and constant cleaning. It can be difficult staying tidy in such a small space, but we’ve worked out a good system where everything has a place.

Who travels with you?

I travel with my boyfriend Drew. He is also a singer/songwriter and musician. We were together for 2 years before we decided to move into the van, and we’ve now been together almost 4! It can be tough sharing such a small space with another person, but we do really well!

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Best gig you've ever done?

One of the best gigs I’ve had came out of Coffeyville Kansas. I was hired to perform and/or lecture in 5 high school classes, 10 nursing home/assisted living facilities, and one college class - all in the span of 4 days. As a songwriter it can sometimes feel like you’re not making a difference, but these shows were so fulfilling and engaging. It opened my eyes to the importance of telling your stories and sharing your journey. 

What does the future hold for you and Vance?

We will be heading to Baja Mexico this December. It will be our first time out of the US with Vance. Drew and I both love Mexican culture and paddle boarding on the ocean, so we can’t wait to explore everything Mexico has to offer!

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Where can we find your music?

You can find my music on all the major music providers: Spotify, iTunes, Facebook, Instagram, and through my website savannahkingmusic.com

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We want to extend our gratitude to Savannah for taking the time out of her busy life to speak to us. We loved hearing her story and can't wait to hear yours. If you've got your own Vanlife story then please get in touch by clicking "Contact" at the top of the page.

 

 

Arcade Belts

Strap in and venture out! That's the bold message that greets you when clicking on the Arcade Belts website. Never thought i'd get that message from a belt but it's so true. 

I've been trying out two belt designs over the last few weeks. I've had the Blackwood Adventure belt. With plenty of stretch and with a low profile design it allows you to move freely and climb/hike with comfort. The design stops that awkward belly/buckle meeting point when crouching down which you'd just come to accept, but with this belt that is a problem of the past.

The Adventure Belts come in numerous designs and now you can get collaboration designs with skate companies like Santa Cruz. 

Fantastic quality belts at a good price.

Fantastic quality belts at a good price.

Unique stitched designs

Unique stitched designs

The low profile buckle 

The low profile buckle 

Ive also had the Guide Utility Belt, (in Olive Green), and really love how the ratchet buckle allows you to tighten and loosen the clasp so easily when needed. This came in handy when hiking a few weeks ago and taking off base layers once i'd warmed up. The metal buckle is great quality and on both belts the fabric and stitch work is superb.

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Easy to use ratchet buckle

Easy to use ratchet buckle

Plan your next adventure!

Plan your next adventure!

Other designs are available including a woven design and suspenders with some heavy duty clips. Head to the Arcade Website for more information and to see all the products. The belts are imported by Hectic and sold through Blackleaf.

Thanks to Samuel Nelson at Hectic Europe for helping with this article.