You seem to have found yourself on "Feathery Travels". My name is Katie Featherstone and sometimes I go places. Often I stay longer than originally planned.
After falling down a black hole into the refugee crisis for nearly half of 2016, Dan and I escaped with the remainder of our sanity in our van "Burt" to recover. Through several strokes of luck and kindness, we found Summer jobs in the Fjallabak nature reserve in Iceland; that has allowed us to maintain this slow, travelling lifestyle much longer than expected.
I am updating snippets more regularly from here and slowly trying to piece together the rest of my words.
It's nearly two years since I left Calais. The refugee crisis is less of a deafening scream, swallowing my other thoughts. Now it is more of a solid lump, a quietly judgemental resident
in the side of my mind; we are cohabiting the space and doing a somewhat reasonable job of getting on with another sort of life.
This isn't about my head though; this is about the group "Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People". Observant readers will have noticed their link at the bottom of my site and anyone who follows me on social media was probably bored of hearing about them years ago.
"You don't even have a smart phone Katie! You haven't checked your voicemail for three years! Why do you care so much about refugees having phone credit?!" I hear you protest.
Let me tell you why it is so important for refugees to have phone credit...
Over the last six months, this blog has become a hikers' instruction manual. My "warden" job in the highlands is totally immersive — I love it for that — and there is little space in my brain for any other line of thought. Since we left, I've lost my focus; I've been stuck in my head and forgotten how to write it out. Those of you who only check this site* will be totally unaware that we have moved to the East Fjords. It feels like about time to show you what it's like.
*I post photos on my facebook page most days.
Skalli is a marked, 15km day hike from Landmannalaugar. The peak is around 1027m, but the path skirts around it on the southern side. Landmannalaugar is at 550m, so the elevation gain is probably something around 460m. Depending on your fitness, pace and ability, you should allow between six and eight hours to complete the loop.
Unless you have a GPS devise (with the route saved into it), it is only advisable to attempt this hike in good weather and later in season — towards the end of July, August and early September — once most of the snow has melted [and you can see the stick markers]. The wardens in the information center can advise you whether conditions are suitable on any given day, so you should always talk to them before you set out. Don't be disappointed if it is not possible for you to do this hike as there are many other amazing day hikes around Landmannalaugar which are less weather dependant.
Please note the the majority of these photos were taken on two incredible days of sunshine. You would be very lucky to experience such weather on a short trip to Landmannalaugar, but it is definitely worth checking the forecast before you arrive and planning your trip around it.
Strútsstígur is an unmarked path; it is not possible to follow indications or footprints. It is also not guaranteed that you will meet staff working in campsites or even other hikers. It is therefore, vitally important that you are experienced at hiking in Iceland, have a GPS and are entirely self-sufficient. I have added some useful information at the bottom of this article.
Being flexible with your timing and working around the weather forecast can make the difference between a great hike and a disaster.
The two most reliable online weather predictions are www.vedur.is and http://belgingur.is (often more accurate for Hrafntinnusker). You should familiarise yourself with both of them. It is good to look some days in advance, but things can change quickly and you should not forget to make a final check just before you leave civilisation. Wind and rain are the most changeable factors which I have focused on here, but you should also be aware of general temperatures day/night, the effects of wind chill and decreasing hours of daylight. Fog comes and goes at will and your only real defence against it is a GPS device.
Always speak to the wardens at Landmannalaugar or Langidalur before you start and in each campsite you visit along the way, to ask their advice about weather and conditions. Up to date local knowledge is impossible to find online.
Painfully brought to the public's attention by the genius series "Blue Planet II", plastic pollution has been a hot topic this year. As bloggers, photographers and general Planet Earth enthusiasts, it's easy to present the places we love as we wish they were; to crop out the ugly parts or direct our cameras elsewhere. This collaboration is an attempt to rectify the rose-tinted vision we have often portrayed. Nowhere is left unaffected by the plastic plague.
I'm not going to pretend this is the "ultimate guide" or draw you a map as, having worked there for much of the last two summers, I know how important it is that you talk to the wardens at Landmannalagaur and ask for their most current advice. Please refer to the text at the bottom of this page for information you should know before you arrive.
This Summer I'm working as a warden in some of the campsites along the Laugavegur hiking trail. It's my second season up here and these are all the things that I always wish hikers/campers knew before they arrived.
This information is not official, but just from my personal experience. It is not a substitute for talking to the wardens in the Information Office when you arrive; there are some things which cannot be checked online. The hike is very dependant on the weather and other conditions on the trail.
I am starting this with a happy disclaimer - I liked my first Friendly Soap shampoo bar (and the company's ethics) so much that I wrote to them and asked if they'd like to work with me... They sent me some more things to try and sponsored this article. I hope that is fine with you, the reader? If you have a problem with me advertising on this site, please email me and we can talk about it. I have done a lot of research on ethics and sustainability and I will never, ever advertise a company I don't fully agree with.
2018 was my second Summer in the Icelandic Highlands. My job as a warden revolves around the Laugavegur hiking trail and its campsites.
Passing through areas of colourful geothermal activity; across snow plains; over ice bridges; through vast, black lava fields; and finally down into a twisted birch forest with the view out towards two glaciers – all within 56km – it's no surprise that the Laugavegur is Iceland's most famous hiking trail. It's an incredibly beautiful trek, but for every nine people I've met having the time of their lives, there was [at least] one who hated it. Aside from a defeatist attitude or serious lack of physical fitness, the most certain thing to ruin your hike is the lack of adequate gear. Though temperatures are not that much more extreme than many other places in Europe, the wind can get phenomenally strong and you'd be very lucky to pass a whole day without having to don your water-proofs.
Before catching a bus to Landmannalaugar (or Þórsmörk), please also read these articles I wrote about how to prepare for hiking the Laugavegur trail and how to read the weather forecast. They include everything else you should know.
We arrived at Popenguine at the end of the Pentecost festivities. The streets were a mess of half-deconstructed market stalls, stumbling revellers and strewn plastic cups. Feeling tired from the
journey, we were thankful to find that – apart from pointing us in the direction of the ancient church – nobody paid us much attention. There were a few other toubabs*, enough to make us
unremarkable, but they mostly seemed to live there and (in May) there was little tourism to speak of.
*White or foreign people.
My partner Dan and I were backpacking around The Gambia and Senegal for six weeks. This is the information I was looking for before we left...
Unless (like us) you are carting around bodyboards or other specialised equipment, there is no reason why you can't fit all your luggage into a "day pack", hand-luggage sized bag. The warm weather means you can usually wash and dry things within a few hours, but if you do find you need more clothes, a visit to a fabric shop and tailor is fun and affordable (between three and ten pounds for a shirt in The Gambia) and second hand clothes markets are common. Almost anything broken can be fixed, so make sure you ask around before throwing stuff away.
After crossing the border into Senegal, we made a bee-line for the coast. We were looking for surf in Toubab Dialaw; it took three days to arrive. We walked south, right out of the village, to where women were collecting rocks from the sea and then a little further, and bobbed in the waves like seals. When it got bigger, the ride was short and dumpy, smashing Dan into the sand and grazing his head. It didn't stop him trying again of course.
This is a very boring post, please proceed directly to either of the following unless you need advice:
If you are looking for pre-departure packing and preparation tips for backpacking in The Gambia and Senegal, I've written a whole post for you!
Travel onward from Bwiam was hot and mildly confusing. Initially we caught a big bus to Soma. Out of the window, what limited modernity we had become accustomed to dropped away; roofs changed to thatch and houses shrunk, men began to wear robes more commonly than t-shirts and horse carts soon outnumbered private vehicles. Soma was predominantly a busy intersection, swirling with dust and criss-crossed by semi-panicked donkeys. We went to check the bank for an ATM and were greeted by a nervous, armed security guard, his finger on the trigger, who seemed eager for us to leave. It was much more confusing than threatening. We quickly found a gelly-gelly bound for Janjanbureh.
At any given time, it is rare to be further than thirty centimetres away from a baby on public transport. We provided in-transit entertainment or sometimes accidental terror. Up until that day we had found travel to be quite fun, but the novelty wore off as we waited for the minibus to fill up; trundled off after a bump start (nearly leaving Dan behind); and proceeded to stop what felt like one hundred times, once for as long as an hour, over as many kilometres. To the other passengers dismay (and our confusion) merely a tenth of the journey away from Janjanbureh, we were turfed out of that bus and onto another. Then we waited for that one to fill up. All in all, one hundred and eighty kilometers from Bwiam to Janjanbureh took us seven and a half hours. Dan was getting an increasingly bad back and upon arrival, we accidentally paid one hundred dalasi instead of ten for the five minute ferry crossing across the river Gambia. Finally, we arrived on the north bank dispirited, dirty and on the verge of heat stroke.