This blog is about my travels. At home in New Zealand, in other parts of Oceania, North, Central and South America and in Europe.
I headed to Holyrood Palace, which is just down the hill (the Royal Mile) from Edinburgh castle. The Scottish royal family moved there in about the 16th Century, and Edinburgh Castle was used more for military purposes.
The tour inside the palace was quite interesting, however, taking photos was not permitted. It's kind of a shame because some of it was quite interesting. From the narrow winding staircase up to the bedchamber of Mary Queen of Scots (she comes up a lot in Scottish history) there is the corner where her Secretary David Rizzo was brutally stabbed to death by a mob including the dissolute Lord Darnley (who was concerned at the influence that Rizzo had over Mary). Poor chap. There is a faint mark on the wooden floor on the spot where he was murdered. Now, I am not exactly an expert on bloodstains, but this spot had a suspiciously pinkish and un-bloodstain-like colour. It turns out it has been painted on for years for the tourists!
Next to the Palace is a ruined Abbey. It was destroyed in the 16th century, but it is still an atmospheric place.
It was a short flight from Iceland to Edinburgh. I arrived in the evening and woke up to a beautiful day and a great view across the city. I had recently watched the documentary series 'A History of Scotland' by Neil Oliver (it is fantastic, highly recommended), so I was looking forward to seeing some of the sights that were mentioned.
My first visit was to Edinburgh castle. It was all the more interesting because Edinburgh castle had been the scene of all sorts of interesting historical events.
It is located on the site of an ancient Volcano which provides a natural fortress and has been occupied since the iron age. The castle has withstood many sieges and attacks over the centuries.
Walking up to the Castle there are masses of daffodils on the slopes beneath it. Spring had well and truly sprung! In the courtyard just down from the castle there was a plaque commemorating women burned as 'witches' in the middle ages. Widows, single women and traditional healers were scapegoated for anything that went wrong, such as outbreaks of the plague and accused of being witches.
I signed up for a guided tour (which was awesome) and we wandered up to the top of the castle - it was quite a clear day from the top of the castle and you could see right across the harbour.
We visited the tower of the palace that the Scottish crown jewels are kept in (taking photos is not permitted). In the rooms of the palace that the Kings and Queens slept in were paintings commemorating the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, however, the marriage soon soured, Mary depicted him as a 'social climbing turtle' in her embroidery. Ouch! The relationship did last long enough to produce an heir (Prince Charles) in 1566. In one corner of the building there is a tiny wee room that Mary queen of Scots gave birth in. It is about the size of a largish wardrobe. As well as becoming King of Scotland, he went on to inherit the rule of England and Ireland from Queen Elizabeth (as you do), making it the United Kingdom and inventing a fancy new flag.
One of the prettiest buildings in the castle (and the oldest - nearly 1000 years old) is a beautiful little chapel dedicated to St. Margaret, who was once a queen of Scotland but was also a compassionate person who helped the poor and needy.
Another interesting room of the castle is the 'great hall'. After Oliver Cromwell arrived in 1650 it was used as an armory, so there are plenty of suits of armor and swords on display.
After the tour of Edinburgh Castle I decided to take a walk up to the top of Arthur's seat.
Some historical accounts claim that this is where the legendary King Arthur ruled from, but it is kind of lost in the mists of time. It is very popular with walkers and has a great view over Edinburgh.
Iceland has a lot of geothermal activity because it is located on a rift between between two tectonic plates. A lot of its energy and hot water comes from geothermal energy and they also grow a lot of their vegetables in geothermally heated glasshouses in winter.
Then we headed off to the huge Gullfoss waterfall. There has been some talk of turning this into a hydro power station, but environmental campaigners are against it. People in Iceland seem very proud and protective of their natural heritage.
The weather was so snowy we had to turn back early, and it snowed heavily for the last couple of days. I went to the local hot pools each day. There are 170 hot pools in Iceland, and it is a big part of the local culture. It is quite lovely to soak in one as the snow falls down softly!
I also visited the local museums. It turns out Iceland was settled by human beings relatively recently. The first people to Iceland were Irish priests looking for solitude. Then the Vikings arrived. Life was really hard for a long time, and people measured their age in winters.
Iceland was an amazing, beautiful place and is certainly well worth a visit!
I headed north to Vancouver and headed over the Rockies to Banff for some ice climbing. The drive over the Rockies in winter conditions was quite something, definitely challenging conditions. The roads were icy the whole way. There are also so often avalanches that special covers are built over parts of the road to protect vehicles, and there are signs asking drivers not to stop in certain places due to the avalanche risk. It's a long drive from Vancouver to Banff so I was pleased to get in.
Banff is a stunning place, surrounded by the most gorgeous mountains. It was icy cold but completely clear weather. While I was there I went ice climbing, the cold conditions meant lots of well frozen ice. While I was driving back I saw a wolf, a rare sight and one I felt very lucky to have seen!
I headed over to Washington state for some climbing with a friend. The first day we were out was a fantastic day with perfectly blue skies.
We climbed Mazama peak in the Pacific cascades. We had amazingly clear (although very cold) conditions, with views all the way up to the mountains of Canada.
There was a lot of snow the rest of the time. The polar vortex had stretched it's icy fingers all the way out to the Pacific coast. This meant a huge dumping of powder snow right down to sea level. This is quite unusual (almost never happens) in this area. The shops were full of people stocking up on supplies and getting chains for their car tyres to get through the next few days.
The endless powder snow did make for great skiing conditions. We decided to make the most of this and skied for the rest of the time. Washington is definitely a fantastic place!
We saw a spectacular blood moon, which was only visible from the Northern hemisphere. It was both a super moon and blood moon due to the shadow of the earth blocking out the moon's light from the sun at one point during the eclipse. The filtered light has a reddish tinge, and as you can see in the photos below, looks gorgeous. The next blood moon will be in 2 years time.
I went for a day walk on the Kapiti coast there is an escarpment walk above the train line. It has great views of the coast and Kapiti Island on a clear day, which it certainly was the day we were there.
I visited Waiopheu hut in the Northern Tararuas with the Tararua tramping club. We headed in from the Ohau road end and headed up Gable end ridge. The weather was kind of brooding, there was this low cloud hanging over the hills, but it didn't rain, and there was some visibility, so it wasn't too bad. When we got to the hut the weather had cleared and there were beautiful views across the main range, as well as across to the sea. The hut was quite packed overnight. It is a great weekend trip from Wellington or Levin.
My friend and I decided to go to Blue Range hut on the Eastern side of the Tararuas. We headed out from Kiriwhakapapa car park up towards the hut, which turned out to be quirkily decorated with all sorts of signs ('antenatal clinic' and 'towaway after 2pm') inside.
After lunch, we decided to head down to Cow Creek hut as well. We headed down via Cow saddle, which involved a fun little bush bash following an obscure overgrown track. We got to Cow creek hut, had a quick snack and were started heading back. Things took a dramatic turn when a few minutes from the hut we met an injured party who were waiting for a helicopter call out. We waited with them until search and rescue arrived and then headed back. We did get back in the dark, but we were glad to have been able to help!
The weather was looking sunny and perfect for the whole of labour weekend, which was great because I had signed up for a trip to Payne's ford with the alpine club. There were amazing views flying out over the Marlborough sounds from Wellington.
The first two days (Saturday and Sunday) we climbed at the Pohara sea cliffs. The views from the top of the climbs were great, you could see across the sea. On Labour day (Monday) we climbed on the
fantastic limestone jugs at Payne's ford.
I am a traveller from New Zealand. My blog is to inform friends and family about my adventures. I hope you enjoy it.