- Namibia -

Last September Rich & I visited beautiful Namibia. Somehow, a year has already passed since we explored one of the most incredible countries on the planet. So, I thought it was about time I shared a few photos!

We spent 12 amazing days on the road, although technically there weren’t always roads, driving through the most beautifully diverse landscapes that seemed to go on forever. Namibia takes its name from the Namib Desert, which itself means “vast place”. That it certainly is. We fell in love so quickly with everything about Namibia. The people, the wildlife, the horizons, the sunsets, the night sky… The feelings Namibia gives you… Driving for hours without seeing another soul, never knowing what amazing sight you’ll see next. Crossing your fingers all the way that you won’t puncture a tire on the rocky tracks. The nervous excitement of stepping out of the car understanding you’re not top of the food chain out here…

I could write so much about this trip; it was one of the most magical experiences of our lives. But first I thought I’d simply share these photos as the beauty of Namibia should get to speak for itself.

- Kolmanskop -

Kolmanskop is an abandoned diamond mining town in Southern Namibia. Once a thriving community, by 1950 the diamonds had disappeared and the houses stood empty. The desert has slowly been reclaiming them ever since…

Our sunset drive to Lüderitz, where we stayed in the beautiful Cormorant House, right on the water…

Driving onwards to Sossusvlei…

- Desert Homestead Lodge -

For our time in Sossusvlei we stayed in the beautiful Desert Homestead Lodge. Of all the places we stayed in Namibia, this was my favourite. Aside from the obvious beauty of it’s surroundings and the tranquility of the lodge itself, I loved how mindful of the environment every details was, even down to our hot water being heated via the solar panel on our bungalow roof. That little bungalow was a little haven in the desert for us.

- Deadvlei -

A short drive from The Homestead is Namib-Naukluft Park, home to Deadvlei. Deadvlei was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. A collection of ghostly figures, eternal trees nestled amongst the sand dunes. These camel thorn trees are approximately 900 years old. Once full of life, surrounded by water, they are now mere skeletons. The climate changed and the desert sand dunes encroached. The white clay pan floor, baked by the sun, provides the perfect tomb for the eerie black trees. Never decomposing due to the intense heat.

I’m still not quite forgiven for failing to point out to Rich his “baboon bottom” while we were there…

- Dune 45 -

Probably the most famous dune in Sossusvlei , Dune 45 is easily accessible just off of the paved road. Standing at 170m in height, Dune 45 may seem easy to climb, but take our word for it, it’s a tough workout and it was pretty windy at the top!

Returning to The Homestead for a little sundown wander…

Dawn rises… Beginning our drive to Twyfelfontein

Crossing The Tropic of Capricorn

- Twyfelfontein -

Twyfelfontein has one of the largest concentrations of rock petroglyphs in Africa. The beautiful images are thought to have been carved as far back as 10,000 years ago. Created by nomads, they document the animals that could be found in the area at that time. They act as signposts, listing prey and warning of predators to other passing tribes.

While staying at Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, we went on a sundowner safari drive with one of the rangers. Desert Adapted Elephants can be found in Damaraland and after 3 hours of searching, we found the cutest little group having their dinner just before sunset.

- Onguma Bush Camp -

Just outside of Etosha National Park, on it’s eastern border, is Onguma Nature Reserve. 34,000 hectares of wilderness and home to 5 different camps. We spent 3 nights at Onguma Bush Camp while exploring Etosha during the day times. The Bush Camp has it’s own watering hole which was always a beautiful place to have breakfast and dinner.

- Etosha National Park -

We chose to visit Namibia in September as the dry season occurs at this time. Water is scarce which makes it much easier to observe the beautiful wildlife. Etosha has various waterholes which the animals seek out. As a visitor, you can simply sit and watch from your car as all of the most beautiful animals in the world turn up for a drink.

Sundowner safari inside Onguma

Wild African Aloe Vera

Etosha, meaning “Great White Place” is dominated by a massive mineral pan. Once a lake, the pan is now a large dusty depression of salt and clay which fills only if the rains are heavy. It is also responsible for the seemingly eternal grey sky over Etosha, which is in fact a huge dust cloud that never leaves during the dry season.

When the elephants are bathing, nobody gets a drink…

- Onguma Tree Top Camp -

For our last night in Namibia, we stayed at the very special Onguma Tree Top Camp. Sleeping in a beautiful treehouse, under the stars in Africa was beyond magical. Waking at dawn to the sounds of lions roaring their morning chorus below was incredible and a feeling I’ll never forget!

Our last day in Etosha… The day of Elephants!

Appearing through the mist. We fooled ourselves that they were waving us goodbye…

- Icelandic Odyssey -

A JOURNEY ACROSS SOUTHERN ICELAND

In February 2015, my boyfriend Rich and I drove across Southern Iceland, West to East, Reykjavik to Hof. Neither of us had visited the land of fire and ice before and were probably a little naive about just how fierce an Icelandic winter could be. Below are a few photographs and notes from what is now our favourite place on Earth.

THE PONIES

Icelandic ponies are the gatekeepers of their island. They keep watch over the horizons and offer relief to weary travellers. It is impossible not to fall in love with these little beauties and make a few friends at every roadside rest stop. They’re such hardy little beasts who take the Icelandic winter in their stride. They’re not camera shy either!

THE WATERFALLS

As you approach a waterfall, no matter where in the world, an anticipation, an excitement washes over your entire being. Perhaps it is a primeval hope awakening in you? The thrill of what you can hear but perhaps as of yet cannot see overwhelms your senses. The air roars with thunder, water crashing against solid rock. The endless pulse of it, the unchanging tempo.

There’s nothing quite like watching the mist rise up in the air, a fine cloud of water blossoming up in front of you, that eventually reaches out and caresses your face with its cold touch. I always become hypnotised by waterfalls. I get captivated by the brink, watching the water tumble over the precipice. As if in slow motion, unable to escape the inevitable. Its like watching eternity.

Waterfalls are beautiful and Iceland has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The month of February allowed us to see Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Gullfoss and Svartifoss in all kinds of weather. Each of them draws you in and lets you stand oh so close.

VIK

The small town of Vik can be found on the southern coast of Iceland. Vik is a town like no other I have ever visited. Its uniqueness is hard to put into words. To an outsider it is a place of mystery, of beauty and of isolation. A perfect combination. The erie vibe it radiates is addictive and is something I miss to this day.

While there, the snow fell and blanketed this small community, famous for its black volcanic beaches, with white frosting. I have never seen a landscape like it. I felt as if I had jumped into a charcoal drawing and with each footstep, was leaving my own smudges on this monochrome world.

REYNISFJARA BEACH

A short drive from Vik is Reynisfjara Beach, which is famous for its ebony black sand and beautiful basalt cave. Here you truly feel that you are walking on another planet. Rich and I collected a small vile of black sand from here. It now sits in our office at home, reminding us always of that strange little world we discovered.

THE CHURCHES

There is something so subtly beautiful about the architecture of Icelandic churches. Instead of ostentation, they seem to stand back and let the divinity of the natural landscape around them speak.

THE GLACIERS

I don’t think any of my words can do justice to the feelings felt while walking on a living glacier. A river of ice formed by mountains, slowing creeping its way about the earth, eventually loosing itself into the ocean.

“I am a glacier icy and white The color of frostbite dark in the night If you want to catch me it will take all your might cause …… I am a glacier icy and white.” Glacier by Sarah Kitchings.

“Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.” Robert Frost.

Iceland is a world of extremes, the land of fire and ice. Fallen volcanic ash resting on top of Svinafellsjökull Glacier.

Svinafellsjökull Glacier and Glacier Lagoon are such magical places. You feel as if you could just melt away here into the milky blue landscape and no one would notice at all.

THE ICE CAVES

As with many things in life, true beauty lies beneath. To walk beneath a glacier, to penetrate inside a labyrinth of ice is something beyond imagining.

Near the small town of Hof, on the Eastern edge of Iceland dwells Vatnajökull Ice Cave. A beautiful underground chamber, a grotto of glass from the realms of fantasy. Purest water of every blue shade imaginable, created by nature and frozen by time. I think part of its wonder is that it is temporary. With every passing day it changes a little, morphs into another cavern and begins to disappear forever. Summer is coming…

Our journey East, across Southern Iceland took us 7 days in total. Each day during that short period of time we experienced something wonderful. Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and despite its stunning beauty, still has a humbleness about it. All at once it is gracious and kind but fierce and powerful. We can’t wait to go back!

Thank you for taking a look at our wonderfully crazy adventure. It wouldn’t have been possible without Rich. The love of my life and the most amazing road trip partner a girl could ask for xxx

- In search of Hogwarts -

In late November, Rich & I were fortunate enough to spend a few days traveling through the incredibly beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Scotland, the Isle of Skye in particular, had been on our bucket list for a while... It seemed so silly to live in the UK and to have never been. So, we packed up our trusty steed, our little Jeep  named Larry and headed north. We knew it would be beautiful, we knew we'd regret not having visited sooner, we didn't however anticipate our love of Harry Potter becoming a thread that would weave its way and guide us through our magical trip. 

IMG_5860.jpg

When we saw this little Ford Anglia we couldn't help but think we were following Ron & Harry to Hogwarts. And so the journey began...

"You were seen," [Professor Snape] hissed, showing them the headline: FLYING FORD ANGLIA MYSTIFIES MUGGLES. He began to read aloud: "Two Muggles in London, convinced they saw an old car flying over the Post Office tower... at noon in Norfolk, Mrs. Hetty Bayliss, while hanging out her washing... Mr. Angus Fleet, of Peebles, reported to police... Six or seven Muggles in all. I believe your father works in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office?" he said, looking up at Ron and smiling still more nastily." Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Wizarding World and the Highlands of Scotland often seem to cross paths in JK Rowling's books. In turn the film adaptations have used those beautiful, rugged landscapes as a backdrop for Harry's adventures. Even as a Muggle it felt so comforting to be amongst those mountains and glens, feel the biting cold of a Scottish winter and know that Hogwarts was close by. 

This blog post is a very self-indulgent one and I apologise for that now. It's simply a little collection of locations that gave Rich & I great joy and felt connected in someway to the Potter books.

- Edinburgh -

Having crossed the border our first stop was the deliciously gothic city of Edinburgh and a trip to The Elephant House café for a mug of hot chocolate. The cafe styles itself as the "birthplace of Harry Potter" which is perhaps a little inaccurate but it is certainly a place where JK Rowling is said to have sat and written many chapters of the early books. Be sure to take your phone into the toilets! Sounds weird but the incredible graffiti shrine to all things Potter that covers the walls is definitely worth a photo.

We didn't spend very much time in Edinburgh at all but already hope to go back. Before we begun our drive west, we visited Greyfriars Kirkyard and found one of the graves that gave a certain character in the books his name...

- Glenfinnan Viaduct -

 The famous "Harry Potter viaduct" is located in the West Highlands of Scotland, located at the top of Loch Shiel. As a huge Potterhead, to say I was excited to catch my first glimpse of such an iconic sight is a bit of an understatement. I was instantly taken aback by how beautiful it looked in it's environment, climbing tall out of the autumnal heather, cradled by mountains under a crisp blue sky. 

"The train rattled onwards, speeding them out into open country. It was an odd, unsettled sort of day; one moment the carriage was full of sunlight and the next they were passing beneath ominously grey clouds." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

We were unfortunately just out of season to see the Jacobite Steam Train pass over the viaduct as the service stops throughout the winter months. We couldn't help but pause and listen for a while though, fooling ourselves that we just might hear the approach of the Hogwarts Express. 

- Glen Etive -

En route to Glen Coe you pass a single track road that leads you down to Glen Etive. Although this 14 mile detour is often described as the original "road to nowhere" as eventually you have to turn back, it is a place that Rich & I fell in love with. So much so that we came back the next day just to see it in different light. Words cannot describe the beauty of the scenery there; its breathtaking. 

IMG_5901.jpg

Surely Hogsmeade Village is close by...

"The grounds were still and quiet. No breath of wind disturbed the treetops in the Forbidden Forest; the Whomping Willow was motionless and innocent-looking." Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

We made a few friends along the way. 

IMG_5930.jpg

"And then the source of the light stepped out from behind an oak. It was a silver white doe, moon-bright and dazzling, picking her way over the ground, still, silent, and leaving no hoof prints in the fine powdering of snow. She stepped toward him, her beautiful head with its wide, long-lashed eyes held high." Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

"One morning in mid-December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. The lake froze solid and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban." Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

"...The snow that had begun in the night had turned into a blizzard so thick that the last Herbology lesson of term was cancelled. Professor Sprout wanted to fit socks and scarves on the Mandrakes, a tricky operation she would trust to no one else..." Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Rich being quite camera shy...

"The sky lightened suddenly to a dazzling, opaline white and the muddy grounds were revealed one morning covered in glittering frost." Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

- The Isle of Skye -

The Isle of Skye was everything we'd hoped it would be and more. We were able to explore so many beautiful locations during our time there that I think it deserves a blog post of its own. Hopefully in time I'll get round to that... For now here are a few images of us amongst the mountains, on the look out for Highland Coos and Hebridean Black Dragons of course. I think we were a little too far south for them though...

"Britain's other native dragon is more aggressive than its Welsh counterpart. It requires a territory of as much as a hundred square miles per dragon. Up to thirty feet in length, the Hebridean Black is rough-scaled, with brilliant purple eyes and a line of shallow but razor-sharp ridges along its back. Its tail is tipped by an arrow-shaped spike and it has bat-like wings. The Hebridean Black feeds mostly on deer, though it has been known to carry off large dogs and even cattle." Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

- Kilchurn Castle -

Throughout our trip and our search for Hogwarts, we discovered three castles in particular that we thought, as Muggles, fit the bill... Kilchurn Castle, located at the northeastern end of Loch Awe is a derelict 15th Century structure that looks every bit as dangerous and inaccessible as Wizardkind would want it to appear. 

"Aren't you two ever going to read Hogwarts, A History?" "What's the point?" said Ron. "You know it by heart, we can just ask you." Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

- Castle Stalker -

Castle Stalker is simply magical. It's everything you'd expect a beautiful Scottish castle to be; majestic, weatherworn, romantic and imposing, surround on all sides by earth and water. Its located 25 miles north of Oban on the West Coast and is definitely worth seeing. The silence and sense of solitude are captivating.  

We were so lucky to see a rainbow appear out of the rain while walking around the marshland.

- Eilean Donan Castle -

Our journey to The Isle of Skye took us past Eilean Donan Castle, which is located just outside the small town of Dornie.

"Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead. It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood." Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Unlike the previous castles, this one is nowhere near ruin. It is lovingly cared for still and you can even go inside. Beware of some quite creepy mannequins hiding in the kitchens...

The beautiful view of Loch Luich seen from the castle exterior. It was maybe a little too blue to be The Black Lake but it certainly looked cold and deep. No sign of any Merpeople. 

Sunset at Eilean Donan Castle.

I'm not sure that we ever found Hogwarts, we were always doomed to fail with that particular quest. But the adventure we had along the way, exploring such a beautiful country, steeped in so much history and natural wonder was simply irreplaceable and perfect.  

 "And now Harry, let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince