A selection of my published travel writing from 1999-2011.
One night in Narsarsuaq
I’ve always been fascinated by cold places. Maybe it‘s my distant Finnish ancestry that led me in July to a part of the Northern Hemisphere that in summer was colder than the winter I was leaving behind – to Greenland. The first thing Baldvin, my Icelandic guide, said about Greenland, was “throw away your itinerary”. Apparently things never go to plan – boats get trapped in ice, planes are grounded and everyone is at the mercy of the weather. I become immediately excited, imagining myself stranded in Greenland, perhaps with a glamorous helicopter rescue once I’ve run out of whale blubber and dried seal meat.
Cold Fever: Tramping in the Icelandic interior
The cold was biting. The glacier loomed before us, covered in a thin layer of snow and barely distinguishable from the low white sky. The only visible landmarks were the large gravel ridges behind us. Ottur, our guide, stopped, put down his pack and pulled out a map, compass and a small black box. He flicked a switch on the box – a global positioning system (GPS) receiver – to check our geographic coordinates. With no visual references, we were relying on signals from satellites orbiting 20,000 kilometres from Earth to guide us.
To Hell and back
A wail of terror rises above the sound of seabirds and lapping waves. Jonathan is running down the road towards me, shouting and waving his camera bag around his head, as a pair of angry seagulls dive-bomb him like a scene from The Birds. I grab his hand and we jump aboard the fishing boat that will take us to Hell, and take shelter in the wooden cabin.
The North Way: In search of Norway’s Viking heritage
I’m looking up at the smooth, dark, wooden prow of a 1,200-year-old Viking ship. Cameras flash all around me. The Viking Ship Museum, built to house three excavated ships, is one of Olso’s top tourist attractions. The ship I’m admiring is 70 feet long, sleek and imposing, with smooth curves and a coiled stempost carved with elaborate dragon and serpent motifs. Powered by burly Norwegian oarsmen and a woolen sail, axe-hewn ships like this one carried boatloads of Vikings on raiding parties to the British Isles and on colonization journeys across the Atlantic.
Back to Basics in Baja
Tijuana has a long and fond reputation as a bawdy sex-and-drugs border town where you go to drown your sorrows when you’re on the run from the law or a less-than-gracious ex. But below Tijuana is a narrow, 1100-mile-long peninsula called Baja California, which separates the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortez. I’ve come to love this peninsula, not least for its weird and wonderful deserts, beautiful beaches, fabulous food, and cheap beer and tequila. And I’m not the only one – tourism is now Baja California’s biggest industry and every year millions of revelers head south of the border.