Iceland : The land of fire and ice

Mother Earth adorns different dresses in different parts of the world by virtue of its flora and fauna, and in  some places due to the sheer lack of it.The more we travel on the road less travelled, the more we discover such jaw-dropping locations like Iceland

Iceland Mother Earth adorns - Meetime

Iceland was formed due to volcanic eruptions over the millenia and now has a plethora of geological phenomena to explore from hot spouting geysers, lava fields and geothermal spas to glaciers and frozen waterfalls.

Spouting Geysers - Meetime Frozen Waterfalls - Meetime

FIRE :

Volcanos :

Multiple eruptions over centuries have left their mark on Iceland in the form of the more incredible  landforms. This island has 30 active volcanos and the fire continues to burn! Basalt laden lava fields and tube caves, black sand beaches are particularly common here. Iceland alone comprises of one third of the world’s lava and this endless flow has sculpted the mountains and plateaus into remarkable forms that you really must see in Iceland.

Volcanos - Meetime

Geysers :

The term geyser comes from the Icelandic Great Geysir (literally means “gushes” in the local language). This was the first to be described in printed source and means a periodically spouting hot spring.It used to hurl boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. Later the frequency of these eruptions reduced and now has stopped completely for a few years. Nevertheless one can still witness the Strokkur geyser about not too far away, that hurts a 20 m tall fountain into the air every  few minutes. We also visit Haukadalur on our Iceland tours where the heat from the volcanos produces hot springs, bubbling pools and fumaroles emit steam. That’s certainly a sight to behold.

Icelandic Great Geysir - Meetime

The Blue Lagoon :

The fire that burns beneath the mantle produces many geothermal hot springs, rich in minerals and the waters are diverted into a glorious man-made lagoon surrounded by lava fields. We do believe that such spa experiences are essential any time of the year and definitely a stress-buster for you.So relax, refresh and recharge ..an evening of pampering to bring back that glow …and the view and painting -like setting of aquamarine and black is surely a sight for sore eyes … all in all such a bucket list experience !

The Blue Lagoon - MeetimeAquamarine - Meetime

ICE

Glaciers :

As the name suggests, this frozen island has the most awesome glaciers in the highlands and mountains. These are formed when the snow stays in one place for a long time and is compressed into thick ice masses with interesting patterns over centuries.

Frozen Island - Meetime

The most picturesque is the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon near the southeast coast.The broken chunks of ice floating and shimmering in the lagoon are breathtaking and it opens into the sea at the black beach where seals swim in and perch themselves on the icebergs. Another priceless moment for the shutterbugs in Iceland.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon - MeetimeShutterbugs - Meetime

Glacier walk

Sólheimajökull or Svínafellsjökull are the glaciers where we take our Iceland explorers with a thirst for adventure for a Glacier walk. That’s certainly not a mean feat because the glaciers move very slowly due to the sheer weight of the ice masses and have crevasses, ridges and ice caves.We explore those too for that truly icy feeling !

Glacier Walk - Meetime

The melting of ice produces waterfalls, the most spectacular being the Gullfoss on our Golden Circle tour.

Gullfoss - Meetime

The list of “once in a lifetime experiences” in Iceland isn’t over yet. Thingvellir Rift valley where two continents collide and you can walk on the the ridge between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! Scuba enthusiasts can scuba dive or snorkel at Silfra where the continental plates meet and drift apart about 2cm per year! The glacial water is filtered by the porous lava and extremely clear so its a very popular dive site.

Thingvellir Rift Valley - Meetime Iceland Tours Scuba Dive - Meetime

Iceland …A destination brimming with bucketlist activities for you and me!

The Great Battle in the Sky – What are Northern Lights?

Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian poet and singer once wrote:

There is a crack, a crack in everything…That’s how the light gets in.

While the late singer was not likely thinking of Northern Lights when he wrote this, the song comes handy in explaining the phenomenon of Northern Lights!  Having guided over a dozen Northern Lights tours over the past few years, I find a common theme – almost everyone knows that they will see green lights in the sky – but almost no-one knows who put them there! In short, everyone knows the what, very few know the how!

So while you watch the extraordinary show called Northern Lights – here is what’s happening backstage:

The Author:  The Sun

The Great Ball of Fire up in the sky is not a happy camper. It is continuously spewing out radiation (called Solar Wind) as it spins around itself. This is nasty stuff, full of high energy particles – a few million degrees in temperature – and has the power to destroy everything that comes in its path, and yes, it come speeding down to the earth at over 900 kilometres per second. Luckily our satellites are able to pick up images of this happening, so we actually know when the Sun is mad at us.

Solar Wind

The stage: Earth’s Magnetic Field

Well if the nasty Solar Wind ever reached us, we would burn up instantly (yeah, it’s really bad) – however, Mother Nature likes us and wants us  to survive, so .. enter our saviour – Earths Magnetic Field – which protects us from this radiation. It forms a shield around us, and deflects it out

Earths Magnetic Field

Unfortunately no-one’s perfect, and neither is our magnetic field – it has, what Leonard Cohen would call cracks – scientists prefer holes – that does let in some of the radiation!! These cracks or holes are near the North Pole and South Pole.

The Opening Bell

The opening bell – Once some of the solar radiation enters through these holes, they hit the next line of defence that Mother nature has made for us – the atmosphere – with its gases acting as foot soldiers, platoons after platoons of Nitrogen and Oxygen and all kinds of gases,  ready to take on this invading enemy.    A huge battle ensues – the flares literally “burn” or “light up” our soldiers – but the gases don’t give up! They put up a fight –they use tactics – they move around, they come in large numbers, they come in small groups – think of a battle in one of the History Channel movies – it’s just that!

The audience – YOU

While the solar radiation and the atmospheric gases are in the middle of their fight, you, the lucky audience get to watch the whole battlefield from far away (to be precise, you are about 70 to 80 km away from the battlefield!) – and it looks like this:

Atmospheric Gases

So next time you come with us on our tour of Iceland and we see the Northern Lights, think of yourself as a witness to a huge battle – one that your army (the gases) cannot afford to lose! Luckily for us, they have won it every time! If we hadn’t won this battle I won’t be writing this blog and you won’t be reading it!

by Sameer Londhe, http://www.mapsandstories.com

 

Sun, sea and truly scrumptious food in Sri lanka

A holiday to Sri Lanka gives me a perfect chance to explore the local cuisines and savor exotic dishes to my hearts content….Join me on yet another Foodie Trail and discover why good food is salvation on the serene island of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Local Food

Begin your day in this tropical paradise with some spicy, tangy flavours to tickle your palate. Breakfast is a bit similar to the South Indian dishes especially all the coconut based curries and steamed rice preparations called Hoppers(the anglicized name thats commonly used in Sri Lanka ) ….similar to Appams! The plain hoppers are dome-shaped rice pancakes made out of rice flour and coconut milk and the string hoppers are very fine spaghetti ones (like idiappams).Coconut (pol) Roti is thick and dense with coconut and that was totally different from anything I had ever had before though! These hoppers  come with various toppings as well: egg, cheese, vegetables, buffalo curd, trickle (palm sugar syrup) and are commonly found as street food everywhere you go.

Coconut And Katta SambolPol Sambol

Pol Sambol

This traditional Sri Lankan dish like a chutney made from coconut,onions,red chilli and garlic is the mostly commonly used accompaniment with rice, string hoppers and other hoppers. Katta sambol is a Sri Lankan chili paste thats is really hot! So only for those brave enough to try it….I did ..and survived !

Dhal Curry

Sri Lankan curries

Parippu (dhal curry)

 

Parippu, or dhal curry, made from Masoor dhal (split red lentils) is an integral part of every Sri Lankans daily meal.Tempered spices, onions and coconut milk give it that unmistakable flavor and you can dip your rotis in it or have it with rice or lunch (and have a good afternoon siesta after that for sure)

Fish has to be the staple diet of the Sri Lankan people as they are surrounded by water on all sides, obviously they feast on the “fruits of the sea”!

Other distinctive curries you must try are :

Polos (green jackfruit curry)

Wambatu moju (eggplant/brinjals pickle)

Gotu kola sambol (pennywort salad)

Kiribath with lunu miris(rice with Coconut milk)

Sour Fish Curry

Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry).

 A blend of spices are used to prepare this delectable curry, especially black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan leaves and curry leaves. The unique ingredient which gives the fish its distinctive sour flavor is dried goraka and this dry preparation with all spices coating the fish is a “must-have” on your holiday in Sri Lanka
Ministry Of Crab

A trip to Sri Lanka is not complete without an evening at the iconic “Ministry of crab ” Restaurant owned by Kumar Sangakara,Mahela Jayawardene and Dharshan Munidase.They have created this as a celebration of Sri Lanka’s seafood, particularly of her wonderful crabs.

All Sea Food

And believe me the crabs come in all shapes and sizes  and flavours here ! and all other kinds of seafood and mean as well, some Japanese dishes too.Vegetarians stay away!

Sri Lanka’s Seafood

So many different curries to chose from. The chilli crab with kade (traditional wood fired ) bread or ghee garlic rice…is to die for !

Chilli Crab With Kade

An absolute must do when in Colombo- great food and ambience, excellent service and so much fun !! Dont I look so very happy and contented ??? I will definitely come back here for some more ..and so should you !

 

As narrated and pics posted by Kalpana Xavier !