More Kuku Cooking On The Go - Iceland

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More Kuku Cooking On The Go - Iceland

It’s all very nice singing about overreacting half-giants and swimming trunks, but it will only get you so far.

  What is the real fuel of an Icelandic Ukulele Adventure?

What is the real fuel of an Icelandic Ukulele Adventure?

 

The more you endure the frost and harshness of Icelandic elements as you travel around the island, the more comfort you need to keep going. And that’s where Cornflakes with Filmjölk come in.

Technically Filmjölk is the Swedish word and the traditional icelandic milk-stuff is actually a yoghuty vikingy thing called skyr, but just roll with this one. I mean, sure, a traditional raw-milk skyr in the company of that half-giant would be more authentic; but it’s not like I met him anyway. And I didn’t see skyr when I was shopping at Netto in Reykjavík. So it’s Cornflakes with Filmjölk’ and it works just as well.

 The Kuku Studios, parked.

The Kuku Studios, parked.

 

And from the Kuku Studios (which are also the kitchen, living room, and the general relaxing ‘yay more than 5°C’ space of the adventure), here’s a proper recipe, with 1 map, 7 ingredients, and at least twice as many pixels. With this one, the “Kuku Cooking Show” is properly back, and also, properly gone, because it’s the final instalment. The Kuku Finale. Ready, steady, spill some egg!

It’s bean onion-cr-edible & egg-citing rye-de, but even weird cooking shows mustard-mit when time’s up.

As always with showbiz’, don’t entirely trust the glamour and perfectly filmed scenes of perfect omelettes. A Kuku Camper Van Road Trip in Iceland is not all 5 star meals and 1000 star skies . Behind the scenes, we just soldier through!

 Driving back. Bean there, done that.

Driving back. Bean there, done that.

 

These Ukulele Road Trips are cooking, driving, and all round adventure-ing with Kuku Campers, the life saving exploring-enabling very nice people from Reykjavik., and playing and singing with CloudMusic ukes, perfect for praising Filmjölk. And cornflakes.

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Blue Ice - by Jökulsárlón, Iceland

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Blue Ice - by Jökulsárlón, Iceland

 
 
 

Iceland has no shortage of surprises for guests on its glacial shores. Imagine you’ve been driving around route 1 with a portable hotel for days. You’ve been dazed by natural beauty and drama, and whipped by the same fresh winds that half-giants called home.

And yet, as you near back to where you started, there is plenty to stun and inspire.

 Taking a step outside the hotel-mobile

Taking a step outside the hotel-mobile

 

The Jökulsárlón is an eery beautiful sight. Jökulsárlón litterally means “the glacier’s lagoon”, and it very much is. South of the lagoon, the sea, and North of it, the massive Vatnajökull glacier. Vatnajökull translates as “the glacier’s waters”, so you can see, Iceland is good with names. And “the glacier’s lagoon” is like no other.

 Stillness, and a beach of black sand, surround the blue Ice

Stillness, and a beach of black sand, surround the blue Ice

 

The Vatnajökull glacier, ‘feeding’ water and ice to the lagoon’, is so huge that it covers almost a tenth of the entire island, and tops the ‘Europe’s hugest ice caps’ list by virtue of ‘most ice’. And while the ice is high up, far away from the tourist’s gaze, magic happens - then, it breaks, crashes or floats down, to appear a wonderful blue in the lagoon. Or black, if it is carrying volcano ash.

 In the midst of a grey trip, the colours of  Jökulsárlón  stand out

In the midst of a grey trip, the colours of Jökulsárlón stand out

 

The quiet and cold around the lagoon are a great moveless spectacle. Birds fly here and there, and seals elegantly paddle by, but the stillness of the place makes one feel… silent. Any sound quickly dies, to leave its place with haste, to a cool, heavy, frozen silence. An absorbing, overpowering silence. A silence so deft, she could muffle her visitor in her palm, and slowly, unnoticed, take, and keep him.

 
 

The beauty of the lagoon is not lost on too many, and funnily enough, all sorts have come here to make the most of this frozen sight. Movies (2 James Bond-ses!), music clips, adventurers with bad quality camcorders (see above)... Add to that, during the afternoon these ukes were there, a crew of heavily coat-ed guys from (probably) Japan, making a young pretty model do something silly, for the benefit of (probably) a new fragrance or a magazine’s signature hair colour.

  freeze frame technique

freeze frame technique

 

BEN’s BIT OF SCIENCE

WHY IS THE ICE BLUE ?

Basically, on the Vatnajökull, there is a whole lot of ice.

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All this ice creates massive pressure, or weight.

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On occasion, when it snows, air bubbles are compressed out of the snow as it becomes part of the glacier. The ice created is then heavier, or denser.

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In this process, the ice crystals enlarge, meaning that the ice becomes better at absorbing colours. But not blue so much (an oxygen-hydrogen thing). So if it absorbs other colours than blue, it refracts, or sends back, more blue. So blue light bounces off of it and reaches our eyes. So it looks blue. So… it’s blue !!

 Photograph of the Vatnajökull and lagoon, circa 1947, colourised (joke)

Photograph of the Vatnajökull and lagoon, circa 1947, colourised (joke)

 

HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THIS? (UHM… NO, AND IT MIGHT NOT BE FOR LONG EITHER)

The Glacier’s lagoon wasn’t there a hundred years ago. Instead there was what can be called the glacier’s ‘tongue”’. It looks like a giant tongue. Of ice. Coming out of the glacier and leading towards the sea.

It was called Breiðamerkurjökull, meaning, wide thing marking where the glacier is (I guess).

As it all gets hotter starting in the 1920s (swing jazz and all that), things crack, melt and crash, and most of the tongue then leaves the lagoon in its wake, in 1935.

In 1979 it was 8 square kilometres big, but is now more than double that (18km²)! The speed at which the lagoon is growing is a witness to the heating up of the planet. And as you know, it’s not only swing jazz’s fault.

The beauty and uniqueness of the lagoon is that it changes daily. It is in a way a transition for the glacier’s water to flow back into the sea and is in constant secret motion. Never repeating itself in its icy sculptures.

  It take an iceberg about five years to go from ‘new lagoonee’ (or ‘freshwater freshman’) to being fully ‘sea graduate’.

It take an iceberg about five years to go from ‘new lagoonee’ (or ‘freshwater freshman’) to being fully ‘sea graduate’.

 

The silent, constant motion, is a marvellous, hypnotising one. However the rate at which this very motion is being quickened might well drastically change the location sooner rather than later. Hopefully we’ll fix the climate issue and the lagoon won’t have to be renamed the Jökulsfjörður.

Thanks for reading, and if you are one of the very very very few explorers to make it all the way down to these frosty depths of this post, hey, leave a comment!

This musical adventure through Iceland is made possible with the participation of the lovely and crazy people at awesome Kuku Campers, and with the participation of CloudMusic Ukuleles, which are the ukes you see me wandering and musing with here on the island!

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The Northern Lights - Öxi Road, Iceland

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The Northern Lights - Öxi Road, Iceland

Aurora Borealis: Lat. litt. the dawn of the (Going) North

 
 
 

Despite chasing Giants and hot springs on your Icelandic Road Trip, it is possible you may be surprised one quiet night by a different kind of sight. A sight which many visitors eagerly look forward to on this island.

Unexpectedly peering through the sky as you take a break outside from the late-night drive, 3 a.m. in the middle of nowhere, unannounced, they might just grace your adventure: the Northern Lights.

  “What’s that light above the mountains there?”

“What’s that light above the mountains there?”

 

A fascinating dance of colours, a mystical display of flickering beauty, a graceful and inspiring stream of celestial photonic melodies,…

… none of those thoughts pass through my mind.

In the complete silence of a deserted gravel road, surrounded by mountains, I’m trying to understand what on Earth is happening. I only went out for a stretch. And in the dead of night, the sky is becoming lively.

  “Oh! Wouo. What?”

“Oh! Wouo. What?”

 

The reason why an adventurer such as yourself may be taken aback under this rare blanket of light, is that it looks nothing like what you’d expect.

The tourist brochures have been lying to us! So drawing from my extremely limited experience, a few things need debunking, I find.

NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT

THEY FLICKER

First off, they’re not still. They’re not like on the brochures. Which I understand cannot flicker. But these Northern Lights certainly do. The sky, in parts, flares up in flashes, light spreading across the canopy of night and stars. These travel like waves, conveyed by heart-beat, sending pulsating clarity to glide over the stillest landscape.

In other parts, the lights move like a cloud, slowly morphing, expanding or retracting. All this with a hint of fragility, as they can then disappear without the slightest notice.

NOT THAT NOISY

That one’s on me for subconsciously imagining a dancing sky would be accompanied by ‘swooshes’ ‘whoooshes’ and ‘vvvvvoooms’. They’re not. They’re really not. Transfixed by the eeriness above, the only sound you’ll hear for miles around, is your own boots on the gravel of the sleeping road. Crunch. Crunch crunch crunch. Crunch. And nothing more than silence.

THEY DON’T LOOK LIKE THIS:

  Looks at camera’s screen. ”Whut?”

Looks at camera’s screen. ”Whut?”

 

They don’t look green. There’s a huge difference between how we’re used to seeing them in Instagram or on “Come See cool Iceland Stuff in a Packed Bus” brochures, and how they actually look.

That’s because the cells in our eyes that can detect fainter light (Rod cells) aren’t so good with colour, and the Aurora Borealis-es actually end up looking… GREY !

But (good) cameras pick up colours that we don’t see. Add to that the habit of Instagram and of the brochures to really up the saturation and contrast settings on their pictures after they’ve been taken, and you’ll see there really is a gap between what we’re ‘shown’, and what we ‘see’. A little example with my blurry picture:

 My Instagram post with the caption  “OMG Northern Lights so so green #beautiful”

My Instagram post with the caption “OMG Northern Lights so so green #beautiful”

 What human eyes actually see. Also #beautiful.

What human eyes actually see. Also #beautiful.

At no point did I see green, blue, or see la vie en rose literally. However this may vary. If the sky is charged with colours enough that the bits in your head that see colour get switched on (that’s the eyes’ cone cells), then you may see certain colours with the Aurora. I guess. Not that I’ve seen it. An Icelandic lady who sold me postcards told me she saw purple ones a couple of times. That’s as reliable as my sources get.

So they’re grey. But, also maybe, colourful, if 1. you’re really really lucky 2. if you modify your memories through exposure to the souvenir photos you’ve taken 3. if you develop the ability to see beyond the usual spectrum of human eyes, like superman.

But why do they happen ? Why do the Northern Lights happen?

Ben’s BIT OF SCIENCE

We live on a planet called “Earth”. Lots of very exciting things are happening there, a few of which, I’ve tried to illustrate here.

Click on the picture to see all these exciting things close up

 

Our planet waltzes around everyone’s favourite star: the Sun! It’s quite hot.

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The Sun’s so hot, it goes on 365 dates a year with the Earth (badum tish). And it explodes a lot. And sends deadly solar wind our way at the end of the meal.

But our planet’s pretty hot too! Inside it, there’s some molten (melted) iron in constant fusion! Hot.

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Luckily for life, giant Eagles and musical adventures, this molten (red hot) iron creates a magnetic shield. A bit like a ukulele bag for when it’s snowing. And this enables us to stay alive. Which is quite handy.

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However, the shield is weaker at the magnetic poles (top and bottom of Home).

Meaning the sun’s radioactive storms -ions and electrons shooting through space- can sort of get through a bit over there as you get closer to the North and South end bits.

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As the sunny electrons fizz (silently) into our atmosphere, they rub and tango with molecules in the air (oxygen and nitrogen). The air’s molecules, rattled by the dance, then have to relieve the extra energy by emitting photons. Which we call light! The type of light emitted by the molecules varies according to altitude and ratio of gases present, and these variables are behind the different colours of the Aurora… that your camera can see.

If all this happens in the Northern bit of the planet, these photons then hit the rods (and if they’re lucky, maybe the cones too) at the back of the eyes of an adventurer or two, who then exclaim “Oh! Wow, I think it’s the Northern Lights!”

That is where the famous expression “Hit the rods, Jack” comes from.

 A wave of Light. The Silent Sky, just like it seemed to me, as it hit the rods

A wave of Light. The Silent Sky, just like it seemed to me, as it hit the rods

 

The Aurora Borealis, are, subjectively, fascinating to experience, but not necessarily for the (colourful) reasons they are such a sought-after sight. Rather than a dazzling dance of colours, they are a touching tribute to how little we know, or notice, about our everyday reality.

The particles shooting above Iceland, are shooting all across the solar system and beyond, every single second. We are also unknowingly bombarded by millions of particles, wherever we are sat or standing, whatever we are doing, despite the magnetosphere. It’s just that comparatively with how much is happening, our sense of sight operates on a pretty limited range.

And seeing the sky flicker, standing underneath thousand of stars a late night in Iceland is, most of all, an inspiring reminder to how much unseen drama is actually going on everywhere, always.

DSC_0807.JPG
 

Imagine if I had a really good camera ? This article would have been amazin’. The drawings are top shelf though.

Thanks a lot for reading. Btw, scribbled in the top shelf drawings, are references to 6 Going North other destinations and songs. Do you recognise any of them ? Do tell #sayinthecomments #drawin-skillz

This lucky adventure of light and sound is propelled by Kuku campers, the nicest peoples with vans and cars that you can rent, and CloudMusic Ukuleles, whose hearty ukuleles I strum along the cold adventure. But not during Northern Lights. I just look when those happen.

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