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travel

Senja, Arctic Norway - Cheap Accessible Adventure

Scandinavia is so accessible to us in the UK with and with the ‘last wilderness’ in Europe it really is a must for anyone loving the outdoors. Arctic Norway is even more accessible than most of Scandinavia through the gateway town with international airport Tromso. I’ve flown through Tromso before, heading over to the high Arctic islands of Svalbard but on this occasion I was keen to see what was there to do with only one or two weeks to spare.

That’s where we discovered the island of Senja and spent six days traversing the island, hardly seeing a soul. So if you’re competent in wild camping, love hiking and can read maps in low vis. (and like that sort of thing) then this is really awesome trip. Plus, it’s a super cheap trip if you play it right.

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From Tromso, you can take a ferry, that takes only a couple of hours, that drops you to the tiny little crossroads of Silsands and from there you’re on your own. Heading straight up into the hills of the interior you have the entire island to yourself.

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Water can be scarce in the high interior where there aren’t many rivers and if you’re lucky enough to have fabulous weather, like we did, then that means that the small streams that exist will be very low. So make sure you have plenty of water containers to fill up when you do find a water source and enough fuel to boil away water taken from less than perfect sources.

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Hiking across the interior takes you over a mountain pass. Despite it only being around 1,000m high, being this far north means that you will have to pass over snow slopes and it can get bitterly cold with the weather exposure even in mid-August.

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Despite not seeing another person, we did see plenty of reindeer. Having spent a fair bit of time in Scandinavia I know how common reindeer are and that they don’t really fear humans at all. Many a times I’ve woken up in my tent to the sounds of a herd of reindeer walking straight through our camp. As well as not being scared by humans they are also not bothered or interested in us. But that was different on Senja, clearly not seeing humans that often they were enthralled by our presence and kept on hiding behind the next rise to see us before running off to try and sneak up a different way to get a view. We were completely bemused and we enjoyed turning around every few minutes to find a couple of reindeer following us. They will stop in their tracks, frozen like a children’s game and start again when we turned back around.

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Depending how quick you go, you’re looking at 4-8 days to get to the southern side of the island where a ferry leaves fairly frequently. Be sure to check out the days and times and make sure you’re there on time. You cannot bet on the weather but you can bet on the ferry times.

At a push, if you’re well organised, you could do this on a week’s trip, ideal for those of us with limited holiday. We took two weeks out and spent the second week exploring Tromso and other parts of the Arctic.

If this does inspire you to get to Senja send me over a photo. Happy planning!

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 7 - Of Music And Angels

Lalibela, Ethiopia's Jerusalem, a town of faith unchanged for over a thousand years.  Episode 7 takes us into the realms of the rock hewn churches, carved out by the angels and at the centre of Ethiopia's Christian faith.  But first of all we start with stumbling into a music video at the honey market...

Check out Episode 7 of our adventures around Ethiopia.

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 4 - Erta Ale

Ever found yourself on the edge of an active volcano?  We did in the far North Eastern corner of Ethiopia.  Join us for episode 4 of our travels around the fascinating country that is Ethiopia.  This is my scariest adventure to date and the most incredible thing I have ever seen!  Episode 4 - Erta Ale

 

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 3 - Buna

Ever had coffee roasted on an open fire, grounded and served right in front of you? We did, in a small village 3,000m up in the Simien mountains.  Captured beautifully in our latest film.

Check out Episode 3 of our adventure around Ethiopia:  Buna

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 2 - War

African history sits in our educational knowledge as a backwater; glossed over with some wars, a few genocides and little famine.  I class myself as well traveled and well read, however I was soon to learn that there is all of this and a lot more in Ethiopian recent history than I could have ever have thought of... and a lot of it happened in my lifetime.

This is our second episode in our epic journey around Ethiopia.  Enjoy!  Ethiopia: Episode 2 - War

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ETHIOPIA: Episode 1 - Of Mountains and Monkeys

It's been an absolute privilege to travel to some of the most incredible places on the planet.  One of these is definitely Ethiopia, a country that has always been there in the back of mind to want to visit.  This year I got the opportunity and I'm so excited to share our journey across this ancient land with you via our eight part film. 

Here is episode 1, taking us high up into the Simien mountains, an enchanted world Of Mountains and Monkeys:

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A Thousand Years of History

A thousand years ago, King Lalibela of Ethiopia, helped by angels carved twelve magnificent churches out of the ground beneath his feet in a single night.  He dug down into the ground and from solid rock carved each church before hollowing out the centre. That is how the legend goes, which our guide vehemently believed.  And despite their architectural wonder it is the belief of these churches, belief of Christianity amongst the Ethiopians that brings these buildings, some of the oldest in Africa, alive.

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The Azores: Islands of Adventure

Peaking out of the vastness of the Atlantic ocean lie the volcanic islands of the Azores. Equidistant between Europe and North America they are neither from the old world or the new but instead a world of their own.  This summer, before which I never knew these islands existed, I was fortunate to spend a couple of weeks visiting.  They're incredible!

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Authenticity in Travel

It’s authenticity that we have always been in search of:  The search for ‘cool’, the declaration of ‘pretentiousness’ and the smirking at hipsters are all about our definition and acceptance of authenticity. 

In the fast moving pace of urban western society this is a subjective minefield and the very search for authenticity, by definition, becomes the very opposite.  But authenticity isn’t a modern trait and neither is it confined to the realms of western society.  When we travel, I have noticed, we are continually searching for the ‘real’ country, authenticity it seems, consumes us even abroad.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a real (authentic?) traveller.  Is it in search for people, societies or cultures that have yet to be assimilated into the fold of the mono-cultural, homogeneous society that we are converging into?  A lot of people I met would agree with this, they would argue that that is to experience the ‘real’ country; an ‘authentic experience’.  To be honest with myself, this was something that attracted me to travel too.  The farther away these societies are from our own, the greater these differences, means the greater our awe, the more we’re entertained and quite possibly, more we learn.  But is the search for this authentic?  I might’ve been in agreement with this question in the past, but now I would disagree.  To be a real traveller is to see what is there, without any preconceived notions or ideas of what to find.  As soon as we are in search for something we are no longer open to other experiences, to other ideas, we have already narrowed our mind and by that we are no longer seeing the ‘real’ country, blind to the reality that is before our eyes – whatever it may be.  That is how I define the difference between travelling and tourism, it’s a mindset, and is brilliantly phrased by G. K. Chesterton with his quote ‘The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.’

This is not to put down tourism or to revere travel.  Sometimes when on a trip I grow tired of ‘travelling’ and I become a tourist for a few days/weeks, deciding what I’m seeing beforehand.  In doing so I might learn more intellectually, satisfy a curiosity and quite frankly have a far more enjoyable time, but none of these lessons cuts as deep as that of an experiential learning that comes from experiencing the world from a traveller’s perspective.  During my trips I am both a traveller and a tourist, the former being the real work which is often tiring and the latter being, in a way, a type of rest and relaxation.

Authenticity in travel is not thus defining oneself as a traveller as opposed to a tourist, but is, in fact, just the same as authenticity in every aspect of life – It is to be true to oneself.

 

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