Heroes of the arctic circle: more on Steve Young

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Someone else has been on adventures in the Arctic recently, but in a more dramatic way than me. In March I interviewed the fantastic Steve Young, a soldier who trekked to the North Pole after breaking his back in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, despite being told he would never walk again.

He and three other injured servicemen joined a team of explorers, including Prince Harry, and trekked from Norway to the pole, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity Walking with the Wounded.

photo by walking with the wounded

Now the BBC is showing a fascinating documentary of the trip: Episodes 1 and 2 are now available on Iplayer, and depict just how hard the conditions are at the pole.

You can also read the story of their trip on the Walking with the Wounded website, and donate to the charity.

xx Sian

REVIEW: The North Face Women’s Base Camp Flip Flops

August 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

My fabulous friends at Webtogs sent me a pair of Base Camp flip flops to take with me on my Finnish adventure because where better to test them than an actual base camp? We were staying in log cabins in the Lapland wilderness whilst hiking and rafting, so I had plenty of time to wear them in on our adventures. The Base Camps are available here for £12.50.

The product description:

“The North Face introduce the Women’s Base Camp Flip Flops into their Summer range of foot wear. The Base Camp Flip Flops are designed with North Face’s expedition equipment in mind and therefore they have been made for loads of use and to last well. The Base Camp Flip Flops have the same PU laminate that is used on the Base Camp Duffel bags as a strap, so you can safely say that dexterity is not an issue and for your soles North Face have used an ‘extra cushy’ egg crate inspired EVA foot bed with anatomical arch support for great comfort and support everywhere you go.”

Test 1: Walking. And walking. And more walking
The Base Camps have a super cushy base that molds to your feet, making for easy walking. They also somehow, miraculously, manage to be the only flipflops in the world ever to have a strap that feels comfortable between your toes. I don’t know how. It’s magic. But it means you can walk miles in them and not notice.
The only issue I had with the flipflops was sizing: I’m a 6 and had to exchange mine for a size up to get the right foot length. I’ve noticed a few people have commented on this, so go a size up when you order.

Test 2: Paddling in lakes in Lapland
The Base Camps are a more rugged breeded than your average flimsy flipflop: the thick straps hug your feet and they stay on even in water and when climbing over rocks. Mud and dirt washes off easily, too.

Test 3: As a fashion accessory
My Base Camps are in an attractive ice-cream combo called Pink Lady / Demitasse Brown. I will never tire of product colour names: you can also get them in pink pearl or petit four blue. Seriously. Anyway, despite looking a bit like brown eggshells, I personally think the flipflops are pretty cute. They are very casual, yes, but they work well with surfer-style clothes like board shorts on the beach or with summer dresses.

Verdict:
A great price for flipflops that are more like sandals – they are super comfy, stay on and last ages.

xx Sian

White water rafting in the Ruka rapids with Team Reindeer

August 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

White water rafting does not involve the most attractive outfit in the world. Over your normal clothes go thick rubber dungarees, a coat of the same shiny blue material, wellington boots a few sizes too big, a lifejacket so well padded you can perform sumo wrestler moves on friends worry free, and, finally, a helmet strapped under your chin that immediately makes your scalp sweat. As soon as you are dressed like this, all you can think about is how much to now need to pee.

The gang of us from FCP didn’t care, though, as we looked out over the Kuusamo river near Ruka in Lapland, our rafts ready and waiting for the twenty of us to embark on our final adventure before leaving Lapland. Before us stretched seven rapids for us to conquer, armed only with trendy neon coloured oars.

Our boat quickly decided that a team name was needed to rally us together into one body, rowing in harmony, and we became Team Reindeer. I’m not sure it worked, as our ever-patient guides Janne, Andri and Johannes kept up a constant shout of instructions “right side paddle! left side brake! paddle HARDER!” as we approached the rapids, which, I must admit, were less the swirling white waterfalls of death we had all imagined and more just places where the water flowed a bit faster over shallow rocks.

Still, the best was yet to come, as once over the gauntlet of the rapids we drifted down the rest of the river past the most beautiful scenery Finland can offer, and Finland does pretty amazingly in that respect. The endless vista of pine trees reflected in the still water was breathtaking, and the only sign of man’s hand on the landscape was the very occasional tiny log cottage or Sami laavu tipi peeking out from a clearing.

Our newfound peace didn’t last long, as the three rafts drew abreast and we got down to some serious war. Our humble vessels became Viking longboats as the three teams got completely soaked, splashing each other desperately, helpless with laughter. We were approaching the log cabin where coffee and lunch were waiting for us, and Team Reindeer didn’t need much support from Andri to end the rafting in style – we all stood up, held hands and jumped into the freezing river, and spluttering swam to the shore, wellingtons and all, to dry out by the fire.

Want to do it yourself? Check out Ruka Rafting. The gorgeous photos are by Karina Kold.

xx Sian

Guest Blog: Nuuksio National Park by Karina Kold

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

It doesn’t get much more beautiful than Finland’s Nuuksio National Park, which may be only an hour from central Helsinki but feels like a million miles away in both space and time. Unspoilt and untouched, the semi-wilderness stretches for miles – glassy lakes, springy moss, tiny log huts with open wooden fires, blueberries underfoot. The lovely Karina Kold, who ventured into the forest with me and 18 other student journalists, wrote this fantastic blog about our adventures and kindly said I could post it here.

Nuuksio National Park – tall trees, lovely lakes and blue vitamin bombs

Welcome to Nuuksio National Park, its beautiful lakes and delicious blueberries! On the second day of FCP 2011 we all put on our hiking shoes and went into the wilderness.
Conveniently for nature lovers Nuuksio is only half an hour driving away from the city centre. Its landscape is formed by the Ice Age with rocky hilltops and is dotted with dozens of lovely lakes. In Finland it is free for everyone to fish, pick berries and mushrooms in the forest. No wonder that Nuuksio has over 200.000 visitors a year.

The participants of FCP 2011 is a chatty group and the hike was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other while breathing in the fresh air and admiring the lakes as they peacefully reflected the sky like a mirror. Now and then we stopped to listen to our guide Pekka Väänänen from Green Window who told us he might have gone a “bit strange” after all the time he had spent in the forest.

After some hours of hiking and a nice dinner in a wooden tipi-shaped house it was time for our first Finnish sauna experience. I dare say it was a hit heating up our bodies in the sauna, running to the jetty and jumping in the fresh lake. Screams of joy echoed in the forest of Nuuksio.

The last forest task of the day was to tell a tree our biggest worry while hugging it. Pekka Väänänen instructed us in this Finnish tradition. Everybody picked their own tree and with forehead bend to the trunk and eyes closed we shared a worry with a Finnish tree and said kindly goodbye to Nuuksio National Park.

Kiitos! – Karina Kold

You can read the rest of our blog posts about Finland on the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s website.

Nova Scotia: a photo blog

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Two weeks in Nova Scotia are not enough. The Maritimes are a gorgeous patchwork of apple trees, wooden slat houses in pastel yellows and blues and cold, empty lakes fringed with dark pine trees. Oh, and gooooood pie. Actually, two weeks are definitely enough, or I would get disgustingly fat on buttered lobster.

Lighthouse at Peggy's Cove

Grand Pre

My beautiful grandmother has a dip in Lumsden Pond

Downtown Halifax

xx Sian

hello my deer

August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

In honour of Finland, which I am calling home this month, Finnish reindeer, which are both beautiful and tasty, and the now defunct student magazine Buck, which my journalism class edited our fingers to the bone over, I have purchased possibly the most lovely necklace in the world ever from Accessorize.

xx Sian

HOW TO: Draw your very own fox

August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Okay, so it’s a guide for kids, but I don’t care – today The Guardian teaches you how to draw adorable cartoon foxes in 9 easy peasy steps. Brilliant.

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