Watch out: sensory overload outside

If you hadn't already guessed, I'm not exactly one of life's Great Outdoorsmen - and not just because I'm missing a key appendage.

               ABOVE: Beautiful landscapes in Iceland

It's on my agenda, but I haven't tramped the Routeburn.

I'm a decent swimmer, but so far my plans to learn to surf have been all talk.

I love a good steak, but I've never slung the carcass of a wild animal across my shoulders and lugged it from the bush back to civilisation.

(I have shot a slug gun, though, at a Jif bottle balanced on a fence post. I would like to remind all those in attendance at the time, that my aim was far superior to that of the boys. Females for the win.)

But even I had to scoff.

               RIGHT: As hideously cold as it looked, on a
               stormy day at one of the south coast's black
               sand beaches

Iceland, as a general rule of thumb, lives up to its name during the winter.

It is cold. There are mountains, and they have snow on them. Waterfalls freeze. Scalding cups of coffee become your new best friend. The landscape is made up of geysers, glaciers, moss- covered lava fields, and volcanoes from which said lava once spewed.

But there is phone and radio reception pretty much everywhere, and a large population of hilarious-looking - in a good way - Icelandic ponies I'm sure you could hitch a ride on, should you ever find yourself in a pickle.

               ABOVE: A geyser erupting in the Golden Circle.

(Tangent: The ponies have dazzlingly thick fringes sprouting over long-lashed eyes. I felt a real connection.)

I know back home we're always reading stories about loopys deviating from the track and getting lost and having to spend three nights surviving on huhu grubs and their own wee in the middle of Fiordland, all because they decided to go off-grid without a locator beacon.

           LEFT: A waterfall that had frozen solid

Unsurprisingly that often ends badly, and I don't mean to be flippant: I'm all for taking nature seriously - it is pretty badass - and being prepared.

But do I see the need to come equipped to a geyser - a site that attracts thousands of visitors each year - equipped with aluminium walking poles, a full-body snow suit, brand-new hiking boots, and possibly emergency flares next to the scroggin in my canvas backpack?

Well, when the incline is barely more than flat-as-a-pancake-Invercargill's gradients and the car park remains in full view ... No.

Then again, I didn't grow up in a dimension where the closest you get to "scenic" is if your middle-aged neighbour forgets to pull the curtains before doing calisthenics in the nuddy.

Being overseas really has reinforced how much we take for granted in New Zealand.


We're so used to stunning waterfalls making up a significant chunk of our landscape, we usually drive past nonchalantly; we're so used to the mere existence of grass, we don't deliberate over our footwear choices too much.

(Jandals or jandals?)

For city slickers, though, being around this much nature is like a sensory overload.

Stars! Water straight from the tap! What is this place?!

               ABOVE: Looking out the window at the Opera House (Harpa) in Reykjavik.

It renders the populace so clueless, they forget carrying a $2000 camera into the Blue Lagoon might not be such a great idea.

(While wearing goggles. In a hot spring. What da?)

It's making me feel quite adventurous myself - and, if I'm honest, more than a little bit smug.

Anybody up for a surf?


               ABOVE: Some new Icelandic pals.