Greece in Photos

So it’s been a wee while since my last update, mostly because I’ve been busy looking at all sorts of stupidly pretty things and having an absolutely amazing time (with not many breaks). This is also why this post comes to you in the form of captioned photos. Because writing an actual post would be way too hard.

First off though, let me set the scene. We arrived in Athens in the stinking hot late evening. We’d had the amazing offer to stay at a scout hall (yay Moot connections), but didn’t entirely know what sort of hall it would end up being. Our uber wasn’t super sure where it was, so we ended up getting dropped off and having to wander down the block looking for the right place. As we thought we were getting near we heard some chill music playing, and what sounded like a low key party going on outside. We (mostly Caitlin) went up and asked them if they knew where the hall was. Turns out they were scouts from that group who had just got back from a 12 day trip away, and within minutes we’d been shown where to drop our stuff, handed drinks, had pizza ordered, and were invited to join them to chill out and look at photos from their trip (on a casual outdoor tv running a slideshow). Basically Greek hospitality is amazing, and this set a really great tone for the rest of our week in Greece.

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The half way break!

I’m currently chilling in Oslo airport on the way to New York (from Athens). This is just a quick connect the dots post between Post Tour and Athens. There should hopefully be a ridiculously pretty Greece post coming out soon, once I un-blow my mind enough to be able to write about it (or at least narrow down from the 300ish photos that passed the first edit).

At about the half way point I’d strategically planned a nice low key portion of the trip. First a week staying on in Switzerland with a friend, followed up by a weekend at my grandparents in Skipton (UK).

Given the views were this:
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and this:
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Switzerland had it’s fair share of epic mountain hikes, and a day of canyoning to offset the restlessness from relaxation/catch-up-on-sleep-and-washing days. I even managed to sneak in some brownie baking, and a cheeky run.

Skipton, on the other hand, was a slightly more laid back affair, mostly spent ambling around town and catching up with my grandparents for the first time in a lot of year. I did still manage to make it as far as the Gordale Scar, and had a great picnic with Jaime and one of her Moot people on the Yorkshire Dales.

Moot (and Moot by-products)

It’s been three weeks today since I landed in Iceland. In those three weeks I’ve climbed mountains, seen glaciers, and tasted wild Icelandic berries. I’ve learnt so many new things (at least five of which I might remember) including how to tie a friendship knot (again), a traditional Lebanese dance, and the correct pronunciation of Kristínartindar. I’ve had a quiet dance party #10pmnoisecurfew, and some not so quiet parties. I’ve attended a Youth Forum at the site of the worlds oldest parliament, and a traditional Aussie knighting on top of a mountain. I’ve met so many amazing new people (at least five of whom I realistically plan on keeping in touch with). I’ve had what feels like an endless string of intense emotional and spiritual moments, and in that way that only a camp can cause I’ve added people to my definition of family after only a “short” time.

What I’m trying to say is, this post (if I do it any justice at all) might be a little on the long side. But don’t worry, there’ll be lots of pretty pictures to look at too.

Also, if you click on the photos there’s info in some of (but not all of) the captions.

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See, so pretty

The Beginning – Reykjavik

We got into Reykjavik in the afternoon and made it through the airport without major incident, and only a wee bit of foreshadowing around lost bags. After a bus trip to down and finding our accommodation (at a school) we caught up with some other kiwis for a bite to eat, and some low key complaining about Nordic prices. Before long it was time to head to sleep, because some of us had a big day RIDING ICELANDIC HORSES!!! the next day.

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Look how majestic this babe is

With the abundance of spare time we had in Reykjavik (aka all of 36 hours) we’d booked in for a tour riding Icelandic horses to some hot springs. I’d only been on a horse a couple times before and never for so long, and Icelandic horses have a middle speed called a tölt which is meant to be the smoothest ride on a horse, so it was a bit of a change of pace (har har). Despite the pretty average weather, and difficulty getting the horses to actually tölt we all had a pretty amazing time. The hot springs were a welcome break in the middle, and the fog added to the scenery (or something like that).

 

Horse riding took pretty much the whole day, so afterwards we whisked ourselves away to the NZ Contingent pre Moot dinner. This was the first (and last?) time we had the whole (shhhhh) contingent together and it was authentic Icelandic food in tapas style. We started with puffin and finished off with skyr mousse with a whole range of Icelandic delicacies in between. Everyone was left pretty satisfied, both by the food and having so many friendly faces together. Again we called it a pretty early night, because we had to be up the next morning at stupid o’clock to drop our bags off for the transport to the opening ceremony.

The Middle – Skaftafell

After an early start and being maybe the last person onto the bus (still had at least 15s to spare) I made it to opening. All the kiwis quickly (hah) got together to sort out some contingent stuff before heading off to drop our bags and meet our patrols. The arena for opening was packed full of people, but I eventually tracked down my patrol (ten people) and tribe (four patrols plus an adviser). The opening was the usual fare, some speeches, some performances, some not being able to feel my legs from sitting too long, and then we were onto the bus with our tribe to Skaftafell, our expedition centre. It was a 5 hours bus drive most of the way across Iceland, but boy was it worth it. For the next four nights we were camped between three glaciers, surrounded by mountains and disgustingly good views. Here’s some pictures.

Each day at Skaftafell we were off doing all sorts of activities with our patrols, before coming back together as a tribe for dinner and (usually) for evening hangouts. The first day was a big a hike, heading up Kristínartindar (pronounced Christina tinder) there were views of mountains, and glaciers, and waterfalls, and glacier waterfalls the whole way up. The weather was perfect, with almost no wind until the top (where there was a lot more than no wind). Our spirits were so high after summiting that we decided to take the long way back for a bit more pretty to look at.

The next day had a nice chill start doing not yoga in front of not a glacier (there were some program changes due to the weather getting a bit dodgy). Before heading off on a hike through one of the glacier runoffs to an waterfall. We were motoring a wee bit way faster than the other patrols, so stopped for a bit to fly a kite, and then a bit longer to go for a swim above the waterfall. There was a bit of climbing and then we headed up river through fairly freezing water to find the most gorgeous little pool with a cave and a river. It’s been a trip full of highlights, but exploring up a river in Iceland with my (amazing) patrol was definitely a major one.

Our last activity day at Skaftafell was our “relaxed” day, we cooked some traditional Icelandic camp food in the morning. Then snuck in a cheeky hike to a nearby glacier, as we had some time to kill before our afternoon trip to Jökulsárlón a glacier lagoon. The lagoon continues the Icelandic trend of being ridiculously good looking, and in what seemed like no time at all we were on the way back to site for one last Skaftafell wide evening of celebration.

The End

Phase two of Moot was back near Reykjavik at Úlfljótsvatn, the world’s northern most scout centre. We arrived in the late afternoon, managed to scrounge some space for our tents and figure out the “supermarket” tribe food system (we realised pretty early we had way too many “Moot bucks” to really need to worry about budget), and then it was time for opening. Scoutafell (my tribe) showed up in full force, chanting the Moot song, and it was incredible to see so many Rovers from all over the world in one place. I managed to catch up with a friend from my World Jamboree 10 years ago, and started seeing familiar kiwi faces around the place (fluro orange hoods stood out pretty well).

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The first day of phase two was International Day, where all the countries were encourage to dress up in their national style, and there was food, and dancing, and singing, and all sorts of cultural experiences on offer from the different countries. In the afternoon there was the semi traditional rugby match between the Brits and the Aussies. NZ showed up in force to cheer on our second national team (anyone playing against Australia) and the Brits came out victorious with only heaps of injuries on both sides (turns out amateur rugby is even more dangerous than pro rugby).

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The next day was the first of three activity days. I’d been lucky enough to be selected for the Youth Forum, so was instead on an early bus to Alþingi, the site of the worlds oldest parliament. Once there we were divided into small groups, each tasked with looking into how WOSM (The World Organization of the Scout Movement) should support one or two of the UN’s sustainable development goals #SDGs. My group had a really interesting discussion around Gender Equality and Reducing Inequalities, as well as chatting with the other groups about their SDGs during our breaks. In the afternoon everyone came together at Þingvellir to pass on all of our discussions. Because of the incredibly varied backgrounds present there was some really intense discussion around some of the issues, and unfortunately we had time limitation so couldn’t get super into detail. But it well and truly sparked my interest in the WOSM approach to the SDGs, which will hopefully be built on at the Youth Forum and Global Conference (happening now). After getting back to site I headed to the Rainbow Cafe (which is a super cool thing to exist and really ought to be at NZ events) for a Queer Quiz, which my team dominated. Mostly not thanks to me, so let’s call it a team effort…

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Somehow avoided sunburn despite the amazing weather

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I was back with my tribe doing activities the next day and had a day full of inflatables, crate stacking, table climbing, cooking Icelandic leaf bread and singing around an indoor (in-tent) fire pit. After giving up on the not so amazing party in the “Fire and Ice” tent (same DJ+same playlist three nights in a row) I was made aware that there was a campfire hidden around the corner. I stayed up past sunrise there having chats and singing with some amazing people which was a really chill way to spend my last Moot night.

After grabbing nowhere near enough sleep, and hearing not amazing things from my tribe I decided to skip our last days morning activity and instead hang out at my tribe’s site, signing scarves and generally making the most of our last bit of time together. All too soon it was time for closing ceremony, and then packing up and saying see-you-laters (notably not goodbyes). Most of the tribe was going to be at the unofficial after party that evening, which softened the blow, but it was still incredibly emotional to see our family slowly leaving, especially being one of the last ones to leave. After most had left I snuck in a cheeky climb of the mountain next to site, before it was my turn to hop on a bus back towards town with the rest of the kiwis.

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Epilogue

The after party was pretty good, but due to the nature of it took a bit away from the goodbyes. Still, it was nice to have one last night with (most of) Scoutafell present before placing myself in the hands of the Aussie post tour. The first post Moot day was a free day in Reykjavik, after a lazy day I headed into town in the evening an managed to catch up with some old and new friends from Moot. I even got a taste of home when the pub we ended up in had a folk jam session going on. In the morning the five kiwis on flight D were surrounded by Aussies and rushing through airports to finally get to Zurich. Without our bags. Apparently the hold on our flight was too full for about 30 Rover’s bags to make it on board. After a decent delay while trying to sort this out at the airport we made it very late to our accommodation, where pretty much everyone scoffed down some food before promptly heading to bed.

We had a full day in Zurich, and most the Kiwis hopped on a historic walking tour of the city, before exploring a bit further on our own. We found a recycled bakery, that takes unsold food from other bakeries and cafes and sells it the next day at discounted rates, which is such a great way to minimise food waste (and get cheap quality food). Zurich was such a gorgeous city, with some beautiful old buildings (which I’m an absolute sucker for) framed by the water of the river and lake.

In the evening we headed back to town and after dinner a few of us wandered around marvelling at the night lights and how walkable everything was. It was around 2 when we finally made it back to the hostel, but seeing such an amazing city at night was totally worth it to be a little tired (especially with a cruisy train trip the next day).

And then we were on a train to Post Tour proper. I quickly came to appreciate how small and manageable the NZ contingent was (vs the hundreds of Aussies with us), and how self sufficient every kiwi was. We had a brief stopover in Bern, where we wandered through another gorgeous old town to see the bear pits, before carrying on to Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC).

I’d been to KISC once before, about 15 years ago when travelling with my family. My memories of the place aren’t particularly vivid, but I had this weird experience of seeing places and suddenly having the memories fill the gaps.

Once at KISC a lot of what was happening was photo worthy, so I’ll leave you in the capable hands of the captions for this last part of Moot and Moot by-products.

And then just like Moot, Post Tour was over. I was sticking around in Kandersteg for a few more days, but pretty much everyone else was heading off. We had a last (long) night, which may have included an elaborate plan to relocate a campfire. And then a very long morning of see-you-laters as people slowly packed up and left. It was less sad than Moot, what with everyone being Kiwis and Aussies so a bit more accessible, but it’s always hard to see everyone heading off in their own directions. Even if your direction is just more ridiculously amazing adventures. But more on that later.

Finnishing Topdeck

Present/future Tom here: As you may’ve noticed it’s been a wee while since I’ve managed to get an update out. Internet on the Topdeck tour continued to be dodgy, and I’ve been super busy since then with Moot and Moot by-products. I’m now in Zurich (without my bag, but that’s a story for later) and still busy, but at least have half an hour to sit down with some internet and get a bit of photo uploading done. Now back to the past/present.

We left Norway and headed South into Finland, the second half of the trip had more concentrated driving days, without anywhere super exciting to stop. The focus was mostly on making progress towards Helsinki and Tallinn. There was still pretty scenery, but it wasn’t as ridiculously stunning as Norway. This, combined with long days on the coach, led to people getting a little stir crazy. Fortunately at every site we stayed there was a chance to sneak off and find somewhere peaceful.

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Generic Finnish scenery
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Somewhere peaceful

The last couple days of the trip things got exciting again. Helsinki was an incredibly walkable city, and after a brief coach/walking tour we had plenty of time to wander around through the markets (where we spotted heaps of Aussies) and town. We even stumbled onto an exhibition all about and sex and identity. It sometimes almost always pays to wander down the cool looking alleyways.

For the evening in Helsinki the whole tour headed out to a bar. It was a nice reminder that I can enjoy clubbing under the right circumstances/with the right people, even when not drinking. Helsinki looked gorgeous at night, especially on the walk back as the sun was just starting to rise.

Our final day of the tour was over in Tallinn in Estonia. Just a short ferry from Helsinki then we were free to explore (or recover) before a walking tour into old town and dinner. Dinner was near the centre of old town, and included a swordfight as mid meal entertainment. Tallinn’s a lovely little city, and was an absolute highlight, especially as I had very few expectations going in.
After dinner it was on to bars and more clubbing, there was a really cool science themed bar that served all the drinks in test tubes and had interactive lights under the tables. and out tour leader got us into the VIP section at a club. Again the night was capped off with a wander through town back to the hostel.

And then all of a sudden it was over. It was an incredible two weeks, seeing some ridiculously good looking scenery in Norway, capped off with two gorgeous cities, all while hanging out with some of my favourite people and getting surprisingly close to new friends. Packing up and heading out from the hostel was a pretty emotional experience, especially as half the tour was carrying on still. But it was on to the next adventure in Iceland!

Norway in photos pt 3 – Oslo to Nordkapp

Fair warning, there’s one or two panoramas in the photos below… As always check out the captions for an update on what I’ve been up to (and maybe some info about the photos).

We’re now on day 9 of our Topdeck tour, our last full day in Norway, and boy has Norway put it on. My friend Caitlin has written a really good post here weighing up the merits of package tours vs DIY travel, and so far for me prepackaged has been ticking all the right boxes. I’m super glad to not have to think about the plan for each day, but more importantly to not have to drive. The scenery we’ve been passing through is absolutely incredible and my eyes have often been fixed out the windows.

Next up is Finland, and hopefully somewhere to actually upload this post…

 

 

Norway in photos pt 2 – More Nord

Part one here

More photos from Nord below. I’m now a few days into the Topdeck tour of the Scandinavian Peninsula, but wifi for the last few days has been super unreliable. Check out the captions for a bit of info on how the second half of Nord went down.

Norway in photos pt 1 – Nord

Part two here