Thursday, 27 February 2014

Iceland: The Land of Ice & Fire

Iceland is a truly fascinating place where contrasting forces of ice and fire exist side by side, creating a truly incredible landscape. A unique destination that offers pristine nature, breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture, it a fantastic place to explore and a great trekking destination.

Join us in 2015 for our Iceland Trek & experience many of the incredible features the country has to offer. From climbing up through the rhyolite, crossing lava fields and passing steaming vents to crossing snow fields, the contrast creates a truly magical experience. Throughout the trek you will pass hot springs, geysers and even camp beside Alftavatn, a huge volcanic lake. As you admire the beautiful scenery and take in views of the amazing Markarfljót gorge and the bridged Ljorsa fissure, look out for the diverse wildlife that calls the Island home.

What better way than to finish your fantastic experience than to explore Reykjavik, the country’s capital!

See our itinerary for more details.

Here are some interesting facts about Iceland to help you envisage what a remarkable place it is:
  •  Iceland is an island of 103.000 km2 (39,756 sq.miles), about one-third larger than Scotland or Ireland. Its highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, rises to 2.119 m and over 11 per cent of the country is covered by glaciers, including Vatnajökull, the largest in Europe.
  •  Iceland contains about 200 volcanoes and has one-third of Earth’s total lava flow
  • There are many myths & legends associated with the country and the rich Icelandic culture has a strong association with folklore. telling stories of ghosts, elves & ice trolls! Even today, if a farmer moves any stones in their fields they always take care not to disturb stones that could be home to trolls. Even construction companies have been known to change the course of a road that they think will disturb the peace of the fairy folk! The Icelandic belief in elves is so strong that you will find plenty of elf houses in gardens that have been lovingly put out to provide shelter for the wee creatures (and to stop the elves from turning mischievous!).
  • It is home to the only 'Elf School' on the planet!
  • Some 11% of the country’s surface is covered with glaciers and about 30% is lava fields
  •  Hekla – Iceland’s most famous Volcano last erupted in 2000, with the earliest eruption on record in 1104.
  •  The tallest mountain in Iceland is Hvannadalshnjúkur 2119 m
  •  The largest glacier is Vatnajökull 8300 km2
  • During the months of June and July, Iceland has days with a full 24 hours of precious, beautiful sunlight, with the annual golf tournament teeing off at midnight!
  •  The Arctic fox is the only native mammal
  •   Roughly 85 percent of Iceland’s energy is from renewable resources, and well over half of that is geothermal alone.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Equipe Project: Ssese Islands, Uganda.

Having just returned from Africa today from an overnight flight, I thought it would be good to share with you what Expedition Wise Ltd have been doing in Uganda while the heat, dust and beauty of the country is still fresh in my memory.

A substantial percentage of any profit we make each year goes to support an overseas project. For the next 3 years, it will be the Equipe project on the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria, Uganda. They have 2 projects which I was able to visit this week. Firstly, they have The Bridge of Hope School, a school for orphans and then the Maranatha Gateway Adult Vocational Training Centre.

Upon arrival in the Ssese Islands (after a beautiful 3.5 hr boat crossing), we went straight to the school and even though it was a late Friday evening, some of the children sang for us to welcome us to the island. The school is a basic, one classroom building at present, along with living quarters. It was very humbling and quite emotional to hear the children sing. We were able to bring some money with us for them which will make a huge difference in feeding the children and providing work materials.

The following day, we went to visit the Adult Vocational Training Centre that is in the process of being built. This will be a 16 person training centre teaching sustainable skills to local over 18 year olds on the island so that they can then get work as labourers, brick layers, farmers, builders etc. The students will live on site as well as undertake the intensive course in the grounds. 

The area the charity has rented to set this up is right on the north eastern tip of the main island – Kalangala. It is in a beautiful site which when finished will be fantastic. There are just 3 British people doing all the work and living on site at present with their small holding. They have so far built, or are building, 1 x house, 1 x student sleeping quarters and classroom, 1 x toilet block, 1 x shower block, 1 x kitchen, 1 x chicken coop, 1 x pig pen and cleared a lot of the land. All this has been done by hand over a period of 6 months. It took them actual years to get all the permissions and paperwork sorted – this is Africa! 

We took over a large amount of money that we changed on the mainland into Ugandan Shillings (I was actually a millionaire for a while as £1 = 4000 Ugandan Shillings) and presented this to the charity workers just before we left. There were lots of tears and hugs all around as this meant so much to them, so a massive thank you to all those who took part in EW challenges in 2013 to allow us to do this.
We are looking to run a 2015 expedition to climb Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley (5,109m), the 3rd highest mountain in Africa, on behalf of these two projects. If you are interested, please get in touch.

Whilst in Uganda, I also had the privilege of travelling to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, close to the Rwandan border. Our group trekked for 6 hours before tracking to a family of Gorillas. We then spent 1 hour watching them which was one of the most amazing wildlife experiences of my life and one I will never forget. 
Brian Jackson, Director of Expedition Wise Ltd