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ELECTRA: intelligent, organised, practical, creative & strong; mum, wife and person.

WANTS TO VISIT: Germany, Portugal, Spain, & France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, USA, Andorra, Bulgaria, Thailand, Phillipines and Venezuela for starters.

06 October 2015

DIY stash sacks for our packs


There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to what to carry your clothing and stuff in, but let me fill you in on why we chose packs instead of suitcases in case you too are in the throes of decision-making.

  • There are some places in Europe where suitcases with wheels are not allowed (ie Venice).
  • We needed to be able to hold our children's hands in busy airports and the like.
  • To save money we will need to walk, bus, train and therefore will be more mobile with a pack.
  • The only time Atlas and I went overseas (for our honeymoon over 2 decades ago!) I remember the wobble of the suitcase and how unwieldy it was dragging it down Sydney's metropolitan streets & on/off the train.


We had already picked up a couple of packs from a garage sale, but thought that we needed at least one more so the 3 eldest of us could carry packs, if not the 4 eldest.  The other children would have their day packs (aka normal backpack).  

Thankfully due to providence we were able to order a pack from Bags2Go in Australia that was heavily discounted, and have it brought back by a family member that was travelling there.

Unfortunately it got ripped in transit, forcing us to think about how to stash it during our real trip.  We came up with the combination of a homemade oxford nylon bag, 2 re-purposed US mail bags (that we had previously got our homeschooling resources from USA in), and a Kathmandu bag that had been the wrapping of a christmas present years ago.  


Some other travellers recommend:

  • Wrapping your pack in food cling wrap (Glad wrap / Saran wrap).
  • Putting your pack into a large thick clear bag (not a black rubbish sack as it might be thrown out) and binding it tightly with packing tape.
  • Using a duffle bag to zip it into.
  • Popping it into a wash sack (usually made from Oxford nylon).
  • Using a pack liner as an outer bag 


As for our ripped pack, we hope that repairing it with duct tape underneath and Gear Aid Seam Grip along the 12cm tear will be all it needs.  Unfortunately once opened the tube of Seam Grip is hard to save for later repairs if needed but would be good in a pack repair kit along with the (mattress) needles, upholstery thread (or dental floss), duct tape, and thimble in case something happens on the road or trail.

15 September 2015

Our new multi-function headgear & The Fabric Store care card


One of the items I saw on a Youtube video about packing for the Icelandic weather was called a Buff®.  Not being part of the outdoors community I had never heard of it before so had to do a bit of research on this famed multi-functional tube of stretch material.

Apparently it originated in Spain decades ago, and has been so well-marketed that the name Buff® is used as a generic term.

You can wear it as a neck scarf, a hat, a balaclava, head band and the list goes on.  This short video shows you more of the ways it is worn:


Convinced that this would be a useful additional to our packing list but not about to pay $40-$50 each I wondered whether it was something I could make. This tutorial showed me the basic dimensions and the rest is history.

The real product is seamless so that is the big difference - the ones you sew will have a seam.

I made ours out of 150gsm black merino tshirt-like material (purchased on special at $12 per metre from The Fabric Store in Auckland) so it is tightly woven and fairly thin.  What I didn't know from the online product listing was that this fabric shrinks. The sales person did tell Atlas about the shrinkage went he went in to buy it but he didn't know to then get extra length to compensate.  It went from 142cm across the width to 133cm.  I was impressed though with the care card (above right) that came with the fabric - no one does that these days let alone understand the features of what they are selling.

I had planned on getting 3 out of each width but ended up only getting 2 widthwise and seaming together a couple of off-cuts to make a 7th.  Oh well - mine has 2 seams.  To accommodate for Atlas' larger head circumference (60.5cm) and Kita's smaller one (51cm), I adjusted their widths (not including seams) to 55cm and 46cm respectively.  The rest of us have a circumference of 56/57cm which works fine with the 50cm base dimensions.  I cut all heights at 48cm. 

I over-locked the upper and lower edges and left them as is, before sewing the lone seam.  I had wondered about turning the edges over and zigzagging them down but don't feel it needs it.  Time will tell how this wears but there certainly isn't any issue with the over-locked edges not stretching enough which I was also mindful of.

The fabric feels beautiful and they are thin enough to be worn as an additional layer as well as being substantial alone.  

However if I were to make these again I would add an extra 50% to the length (so approx. 70cm) as the material is thin enough and has a lovely drape that there wouldn't be an issue with it feeling too bulky. In fact I am tempted to get some more regardless and trial the two lengths to find out what works best for each of us and the way we come to most commonly use them!

There are also Buffs® with Polartec® fleece, reversible, UV protection and with visors to give you some further diy ideas:



If you are making all the same colour 'Buffs®' for your family (and/or need to make different sizes) and want to assign them to specific people, run a few strands of each person's chosen coloured embroidery thread or wool through the inside over-locked seam.

We have used colours to differentiate our packing cubes (recommended by another travelling family as a must-have); and hope to continue it with the travel towels we plan to get too (recommended by a motorhomer).

08 September 2015

As we plan for the possibility of touring through parts of Europe after our initial 3-month fixed stay in Germany, I have gathered some ideas and notes that may benefit other families even before they do us.  

Here you will find no- and low-cost activities planned for toddler to teenager and parents besides, with the odd noted ($$$) indulgence, in case the budget stretches that far at the time.

This is a work in progress that will be updated and changed as new information comes to hand.  If you've got local tips on economical places to go please be in touch.


Images courtesy of Google


Iceland's major draw-card is all the natural beauty and geological features within close proximity to each other.  Glaciers, fumaroles, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers and geothermally-heated water.  I was tempted to leave out some of geothermal attractions as we have these more accessible in the North Island of New Zealand (the glaciers are in the South Island) but I figure that exploration is as much about comparing and contrasting the similarities as the differences, right?


  • Planning to visit in winter. 5 - 6 hours of daylight on average.  You may need to get up when it's dark to drive to be at your next destination when the sun is up, to make the most of your day.
  • Visit intended for self-drive, self-catering and staying in cottages / AirB'n'B apartments (as the cheapest options) or hostels.
  • Plan on 7 days to travel the southern route from west to east and return, including the Golden Circle in the west.
  • Take 'camping'-style food – things that are quick & easy to prepare in a pot as stores can be few and far between on the road.  Bónus and Kronan are the cheapest supermarkets.
  • Credit cards with PINs are widely accepted.
  • If purchasing products of ISK4000 or more, see if the store will give you a tax rebate form.
  • Flybus is best price from the Keflavík International Airport to Reykjavík BSÍ Bus Terminal for families as children under 11 are free, 12 - 15 years are 50%, adults ISK1950 (Straeto don't charge for children 6 and under only; K-Express & Airport Express charge for each person.) Cheaper than hiring a car just to get from the airport to Reykjavík unless you are arriving early and are going to use the rest of the day for sight-seeing.
  • Northern Lights can be seen best every 2-3 days during winter; preferably not during a full moon and with clear skies. – IS Meterological Service.
  • Guide to photography in Iceland.
  • Beautiful photographs on Trover.
  • Better zoomable map of Iceland than Google.
  • Road conditions website.
  • If travelling in winter or inland, hire a 4WD and take out the extra insurance.
  • Iceland Search & Rescue has a Safetravel website; and phone app to proactively record your last 5 locations.
  • Check whether natural parks and features are still free to visit. There were moves post-2013 to allow land-owners to charge admission as a method of funding maintenance.
  • Flights from Oslo to Reykjavík were consistently less than London or elsewhere via Skyscanner.
  • Takk is thank you. Other words & phrases and pronunciations.



  • Build a snowman / snow angels.
  • Get a photo with the Icelandic horses.
  • Eat Icelandic salmon, cod or lobster (here or here).


DAY 1 / 2 (depending on arrival on day 1) &/or last day - REYKJAVÍK

  • Walk or get a day bus pass to get around the city. [ISK1000.]
  • Visitor information centre.
  • Red Cross op shop on Laugavegur 14 just in case it's colder than anticipated; a vintage second hand at Laugavegur 28b (Spúútnik - you may find the lopapeysa jumpers here around ISK6500) and the Salvation Army Op Shop at Garðastræti 6 which isn't too far away.  
  • Harpa Opera House (glass & lit up at night) - free to wander through.
  • Town hall has a topographical model of Iceland inside – free.
  • Öskjuhlið hill – Perlan.  On way in from airport. Take lift to 4th floor for 360 degree view of city (free as opposed to the church look-out).
  • Kolaportið Flea Market, Sat + Sun 11am – 5 on Giersgata near harbour.  Good place to buy traditionally hand-made Icelandic sweaters.
  • Sun Voyager sculpture for a photo opportunity.
  • Hallsgrímkirkja.  Free to look inside.  Charge to go up the lift in the tower [ISK800 Adults ISK 100 children;] Winter 9am - 5pm Summer 9am - 9pm.  Hallgrímstorg 101 (uphill).
  • City park Tjörnin Pond – see lots of bird life. Free.
  • Botannical Gardens - 5000 plants. Grasagardurinn. Oct – Apr, 10am - 3pm.  Free.
  • Infamous Icelandic hotdog stand on harbour - Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.  
  • Other possible Icelandic food eateries: Babalú, Grandakaffi, Kafffivagninn
  • NB Winter Lights festival in Reykjavík around 5th - 8th Feb.



  • Thingvellir National Park.
  • Almannagjá – tectonic plates.  Visitor centre.
  • Haukadalur – fumaroles.
  • Bruarfoss in Bruara river, Grímsnes.  Lots of little water tributaries joining together horizontally into a horizontal blue waterfall.
  • Geysir / Stokkur – geysers.  Geysir Center a/v exhibition.  Free. Noon - 4pm, Sep - Apr.
  • Gulfoss - waterfall.


$$$ Floating in the Secret Lagoon in Fludir listening to Sigur Rós looking for the Northern Lights.

Overnight in Fludir.  [Place to buy greenhouse mushrooms.]



  • Drive towards Eyjafjallajökull, the central volcano that made world headlines for erupting in 2010, when ash clouds brought European air traffic to a standstill.
  • Seljalandsfoss  - waterfall, off route 249 - 200m along.  5 minutes further up the road is Gljúfrabúi waterfall.  You walk between 2 rocks to stand directly under it.  Take wet weather gear though.
  • Seljavallalaug - pool.  When driving from Reykjavík (No. 1 road), turn onto No. 242 road with sign that says Raufarfell.  Take a left towards Seljavellir  just before you reach Skógafoss. Drive to the carpark and walk a further 15 minutes to the old pool along the valley (and over a little creek).
  • Skógafoss - waterfall.
  • Just before Vík going east (after the route 221 turn off on your left, this is on the right) - Sólheimasandur.  US Navy DC3 crash.  Preferable to have an off-road vehicle.  GPS 63.459523 -19.364618

Overnight in Vík.




  • Svartifoss black waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Vatnajökull National Park. 1.5 km hike from the visitor info centre (2 hours return)  Past Dog Falls then past Magnusarfoss. Or there is a car-park after the first 2 falls.  Snow shoes or microspikes may be needed in winter.
  • Jökulsárlón - glacial lake in Vatnajökull National Park where you can see seals and floating icebergs.  On the black beach opposite icebergs often wash up on it (so you can get close up).  Take lunch to make a day of it.  Taste some glacial ice.


$$$ Vatnajökull skidoo tour on the glacier.

$$$ Vatnajökull ice cave tour (not suitable for under 8 year olds).

Overnight near Jökulsárlón / Hrollaugshollar (Vagnstaðir hostel).



  • Take a second look at Jökulsárlón.
  • Selfoss – waterfall.  Tomato farm - opt.  [Kerið crater. Fee IKR350 per adult.  Only Jun - Aug 9am - 9pm.  Not spectacular in winter as aqua-teal coloured water and red crater walls disappear under the snow but it's still a crater!]
  • Hvaergerði hot houses grow much of IS food using geothermal heat (It takes 10 - 12 mins to boil an egg in the geothermal water).  Need some sort of receptacle to do so or buy your egg from the geothermal park (open by arrangement in winter for groups only) and they will give you a stick and net to cook it with ISK100. Park entry ISK200 adults? Children free. [The visitor information centre has a glassed viewing floor showing the crack created by the 2008 earthquake.]
  • National Geothermal Centre, Hellisheiði [charges].
    Depending on timing / inclination one could head straight back to Reykjavík instead of continuing to:
  • Strandarkirkja – Church of Miracles near Angels Bay.  Look up the story about this, and look out for the elf houses on the beach!  Very seldom actually open though.
  • Krysuvikurberg - bird cliffs, and sometimes seals (if neither have been seen already).



Whatever didn't get seen or done in the first day(s).

Optional extra trip: east of Reykjavík – Hafnaberg Sea cliffs – birds and the kitsch bridge over the two tectonic plates.


SIDE NOTE: Akureyri in the north, post the 2008 economic crash decided to do something to lift the morale of it's residents.  So it changed the red traffic lights to hearts and installed a huge heart on a hill facing the city.  I thought it would be amazing to be there on Valentines Day or a wedding anniversary - if the heart was beating again.



Age of the Vikings Oceania Cruise: London - Iceland - Greenland - Scotland - Ireland - London 

Circumnavigation of Iceland Wild Earth Travel cruise