Zhuilu Old Trail

Nov 28, 2013 in Taiwan 2013

Zhuilu Old Trail

Rainy day in the Taroko Gorge

Tianxiang

Nov 28, 2013 in Taiwan 2013

Tianxiang

A view from a temple in the mountains on a rainy day in the Taroko Gorge

El Tatio again

Oct 21, 2013 in Chile 2013

El Tatio again

Morning hike back to Pehoé

Apr 24, 2013 in Patagonia 2013

Morning hike back to Pehoé

Valle Frances

Apr 23, 2013 in Patagonia 2013

Valle Frances

Niagara

Apr 25, 2011 in Canada 2011

Niagara

Río Ulla

Sep 11, 2010 in Santiago de Compostela 2010

Río Ulla

Ready for a white water rafting adventure on the Río Ulla.

Millau

Sep 03, 2010 in France 2010

Millau

Crossing the Tarn on the way from Durban-Corbières to Calais

Down the valley

Apr 17, 2010 in Scotland 2010

Down the valley

Icing on the cake

Apr 12, 2010 in Iceland 2010

Icing on the cake

The orange glow receded. Árni reckoned the eruption was much smaller now than when he’d last seen it a week ago, but it had been awesome to see it nonetheless.

Our return journey was much slower than the outward leg. The trail had got icier, and the gale was getting stronger. We bounced around so much that I felt seasick, climbing back up to the heights of the Mýrdalsjökull. At one point, another car in the convoy got stuck, and Árni had to jump out to attach a towrope. The icy blast as he opened the door was breathtaking. It took a little while to extricate the other car, and I wondered if we would need to get out and push. I didn’t much fancy that.

Luckily we got going again, and pushed on. As we descended, I started to become sure that I could see the northern lights. When we reached the edge of the glacier, we stopped to reinflate the tyres, and here there was no doubt. The wind was whipping up a fog of blown snow, but through that I could see that the sky was full of dancing green lights. We carried on down, the wind began to drop and the lights got brighter.

We reached sea level at about 3am. I was beginning to get a tiny bit worried – my flight was leaving Keflavík at 8am and it was going to take a few more hours yet to reach Reykjavík. But if I missed my flight, then so be it. Right now I was just concerned with feeling awestruck. We stopped at Skógafoss, reinflated the tyres a bit more, and here the lights were stunning, flying overhead like curtains billowing in a colossal breeze.

We drove on, stopping in the middle of nowhere briefly to pick up some people whose car had broken down as they were trying to get to the volcano. The lights seemed brighter than I ever remembered them and at the end of a spectacular day of travelling, this was almost too much to take in. I was having a natural wonder overdose.

We headed on. The small hours grew larger, and I fell fast asleep. I woke as we approached Reykjavík, where we arrived at 5am. I had just enough time to brew a painfully strong coffee before heading back to the airport as the sun was rising. My weekend had been perilously close to turning into an appalling waste of time and money but we’d snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. I could not have been happier as I headed back to the UK. Later it turned out that just a few hours after I’d been there, the Fimmvörðuháls eruption stopped. After a day of calm, a new and much bigger eruption started a few miles away, causing massive disruption to European air travel as a huge ash cloud drifted over the continent. Much as I’d have loved to see that, my timing was pretty good. If I hadn’t left when I did I might still be there now.

Snæfell is still calling me. I’ll be going back to Iceland before too long.