Waterfalls, Phallii and Floop

Hier geht’s zur deutschen Version

Dear readers, friends, relatives and anybody else who somehow ended up on this blog,

It happened again: I went on a trip and I would really like to tell anybody who wants to read this about it!

About 4 years ago we (that is my good friend Patrick and I) found out that in 2017 the 15th world Scout Moot is going to take place in Iceland. Some of you might ask: What the hell is a World Scout Moot? Very simple: It is an international scout camp for Rover and Ranger scouts – so the 18 to 26 year olds. Instead of having to take care of children you become the participent yourself one last time and go on an international camp as a real scout. We did not want to miss out on that opportunity and promised each other years ago that we would go on this camp together.

Fast forward: July, 2017. Since we have plenty of adventurous lads and lasses in our awesome Scout group (Graz 5 represent) it wasn’t just Patrick and I who decided to go on this camp but overall 11 of our group that should go on this Icelandic adventure.

Because of individual and financial reasons I left for Iceland – a little bit earlier than the others – on the night of the 21st to the 22nd of July already to fly into Keflavik, Iceland. As luck would have it our dear Börni and a small Austrian IST delegation (IST is the International Service team – so essentially staff) arrived at the same time as I did and on the spot decided that we would stick together for the next few days. After looking for our luggage for a while we finally got to the campsite at around 4am and after a Welcome-to-Iceland beer went to bed.

The next couple of days were basically exploring Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik. A few hightlights: The Phallus Museum in which you can literally find all the manhoods of the animal kingdom and of some fantasy beasts (raise your hand if you have seen a troll penis!). Talking about phallii: The local church of Reykjavik is definitely such a symbol and towers over most buildings of the capital. On the 22nd we kind of started the camp experience as it was time for the IST members to receive their training. Since I was actually not a staff member but a participant I quickly assumed the identity of Ramon Maier in order to receive all the staff perks (which indcluded free room and board and free admission to the local hot pools) until the camp officially started.

On Monday, the 24th it was finally time! The Moot was officially opened. Goosebumps included, which I always get at the beginning of camps like this. After a short and quite strange opening ceremony (the Icelandic do some things in a different way) with a few speeches and three acrobatic shows the Moot was inaugurated. Right away all the participants were sent to there so-called “expidition camps”. In 11 locations spread across Iceland the participants would spend their first 4 days of the camp. We (that is Christoph and I) had already found out beforehand that we were going to be send to to the highlands of Iceland. Together with our patrol (in our case Collette and Cory from Australia, Rebecca and Chris from the UK, Corinne from Colombia and Clarice from Brasil) and our tribe (roughly 40 people overall) we were send off to Hólaskjól (lit. shelter in the hills). After quickly loading up the bus with our luggage, equipment and food for the next 4 days we were off for our 5h bus ride across country. After a little bit of smalltalk and getting to know each others names we received our first evil tidings from our tribe advisor Marie-Luise: At our expedition center there will be no running hot water (which means no showers), no electricity and most importantly NO PHONE RECEPTION! Swallow that, bit***! But hey, we are scouts right? So it shouldn’t be too bad. In hindsight these circumstances were a true blessing to our group dynamics. Because I would like to argue that if we had access to our phones we would have never became such a close group. It might sound sad, but we are indeed the smartphone generation but if you take them away from people astounding things happen. People actually engage with each other, play games, dance, make music, philospohize about god and the world and really become close friends in a very short amount of time. And exactly that happened to our HOLA-2 troop, or as we later called it our little “Floop family” (Floop is, according to our troop leader Haldór, the sound that Icelandic make when the get down to business). A few highlights from our 4 days in Hólaskjól: Crossing a river at a water temperature of 4°C, climbing an inactive volcano, swimming in natural hot pools in the middle of nowhere, crossing rivers in a bad ass bus, spreading hay on horse tracks for community service (hay fever olé) and countless hours of games, making music, singing and just generally a really fucking good time! After four adventure-packed days, all our clothes and ourselves being just filthy we were able to go to some public pools on our way back to the main camp at Úlfjótsvatn where we were able to take HOT showers and so we wouldn’t have to arrive as dirty pigs to the opening ceremony of the main camp.

Which brings me to the second half of the camp which we got to spend at the marvellous Úlfjótsvatn lake, southeast of Reykjavik. The main camp was opened with a welcome party with speeches and a Djane. Moments like these are always really special to me because the just bristle with happiness of life. If you have people from all corners of the world that come from different backgrounds and you could immediately start a conversation with any of them you have arrived at an international scout camp! People singing, smiling and dancing together as far as the eye can see. Just walking through the crowd and taking selfies with complete strangers. Joining a conga line and randomly stopping somewhere else to dance the Limbo. Beach balls, inflatables and flags everywhere! Pure goosebumps!!

These next four days we also got to spend with our Floop family and had the chance to get to know each other even better (the occasional game of never have I ever helps a lot) and do all the different program activities together. There were 5 different program villages at the Moot that all had different themes. Taken from the Icelandic coat of arms – the Landvaettir – there was the bull village (environmental activities), the eagle village (history and Icelandic culture), the giant village (games and leisure activities), the dragon village (music and culture) and the Yggdrasil village (that’s the tree of life according to Nordic beliefs) which was the inter-faithful zone where you could learn more about faiths and beliefs.

Another great highlight was the international carnival where all countries were able to represent themselves with authentic, traditional cuisine, their respective traditional clothing. It fostered the intercultural theme of the camp even more. From Argentinian Yerba Mate, over Jordanian coffee all the way to Romanian horse salami all the overwhelming treats made your taste buds explode.

The evenings were just exactly right up our Graz 5-alley. Meaning campfire and singing and guitar-action until the early morning hours almost every day. Led by Christoph and Momo, who wouldn’t pass up the chance and took their travel guitars to entertain what was looking like a good 100 people some nights. Obviously vocal cords and sleeping pensum suffer from that but you know it was worth it when 4 weeks Rebecka from Sweden messages you that she always has to think about those nights when she hears Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Otherside now and when Myriam from Lebanon buys a Kazoo for the same reason. Cheers to singing! Loudly, passionately and completely out of tune! If the voice wasn’t up for it at all the dutch partytent “Fire and Ice” was a fun alternative. Every night was popping and you could really smell the testosterone and estrogene mix in the air.

Way too fast the 15th World Scout Moot was already over again. I am extremely happy I was able a Scout camp like that one last time. The theme of the camp “Change” was definitely suitable and I believe I am not the only one when I say, that this experience has changed me in a positive way and once again showed me that our world doesn’t just consist of powerhungry politicians, religious fanatics and assholes of all sorts. There are so many young, positive people that would like to move our society in the right way and will do that for sure. Through tolerance, open-mindedness and positive thinking we can achieve so much and at this camp I got the impression that we are on a good way to improve our world. I am very glad to make the international friendships that I have with my Floop family and I am certain to say that I will see many of them in the future.

The whole camp was closed with an official closing ceremony and an unofficial one that was hosted by the Australian contigent who really splashed out and rented the whole entire Harpa. The newly build opera house in the harbour of Reykjavik. With a special VIP wristband and steep, icelandic prizes for drinks we closed the Moot in style. For some the next way was straight to the airport to come back home, some others had planned some kind of post-travel. The friends from our scout group (9 overall + two girlfriends and 1 Markus) decided to travel in Iceland for the next 10-12 days.

So the next day we (that is Annika, Resi, Benjo and I) went to pickup our rental car. A lovely Renault Megane and went to our first pit stop, Sandgerdi where we were waiting for Markus, who was going to travel in Momo, Michi and Johnnys car. After one of the coldest nights in Iceland so far we left the next day to explore the Golden circle – one of the most popular and touristic areas in Iceland since it offers the chance to see Geysirs, waterfalls and glaciers in a very short range from each other. Like true tourists we passed by the iconic places really quickly and then left for the Snaefellsnes peninsula to the lovely fishing town of Ólafsvik. On the way there we still stopped to explore the Arnarker cave which is situated in the middle of nowhere but is quite impressive to climb into. Arriving in Olafsvik we were welcomed by one of the most amazing sunsets that I have ever seen and which seemed to last for 3 hours until the sun had really set.

Over the next couple of days we thoroughly explored the peninsula and all it’s beautiful places. Among other things we saw the Snaefellsjoekull, which is the glacier of the peninsula. Actually our plan was to drive up as far as possible and then hike the rest of the way up the glacier but the roads were in such a bad shape that it was impossible to drive our rental car up there. So we had to settle for a smaller hike and went on the rock that is featured in the beginning of the Lion King. Some other highlights were the seals in Ytri-Tunga, the black beach of Djúpalón, the picturesque town of Hellnar with a nice birdwatching bay and of course the watefalls of Kirkjufoss and Bjarnarfoss.

Before we left for the Westfjords, the main destination of our roadtrip, we started a whalewatching tour in Olafsvik. Unfortunately we didn’t get as lucky as in Califnornia (the loyal reader remembers) and only saw one minkwhale for a bout 10 seconds. Thanks for nothing… At least we got a lifetime voucher for any of the Laki whale watching tours. Which are offered from Olafsvik and one other remote place in the Westfjords. I guess I gotta come back.

The last few days of our road trip we spend in the Westfjords region of Iceland. A very scenic and beautiful region which is quite hard to travel since you have to drive around every single fjord and sometimes spend a long time on the road to get from A to B. For that fact the Westfjords are not that frequently traveled and only 10% of all the tourists in Iceland make it there. The untouched and remote nature are really what make Iceland the special place that it is with the very diverse landscapes and terrains. I can really only recommend anyone to take the flight up north. It is definitely worth it.

A few of the highlights in the Westfjords were the incredibly impressive Dynjandifoss waterfalls, which are 100m tall and 60m wide in the lower part where they hit the ground; the oldest steel ship of Iceland, the cliffs of Latrabjarg which are not only a bird-watching paradise, home to the iconic Icelandic puffins, but also the most Western point of Europe, the witchcraft museum in Drangsnes..

..and the Brautarholdtfarm in Selárdalur. This farm actually deserves a special mention. It is only accessible through a 26km long “road” that partially goes along right next to the sea and has more pot holes than I have ever seen anywhere else. When it rains heavily, like it did when we went there, you can at least spot the holes more easily. The Brautarholdt farm was populated by a man called Samuel Jonsson, who moved there to spend his retirement and who was a self-acclaimed artist. He built several sculptures on the premises. Among them a replica of the Sisteen Chapel, the Lion Fountain of the Alhambra which he only built with 6 instead of 12 lions because he could only see 6 of them on the picture. You can barely notice that Jonsson never received proper training to be an artist…

The last night on the Westfjords was especially pleasant. Since in mid August Iceland can already get quite chilly and our campsite was situated just next to the sea it was quite windy. 5°C + windchill is cold. At least there was a social room. Which was also the kitchen. Which was also the room with showers and toilets. Thanks for nothing Mr. Campsite owner..

After finishing the roadtrip I was ready to relax. Well… I wish. Flying back on the 11th of August to Warsaw I only had a day to recover (and go out to shot bars. You can Imagine how that went) before flying straight to Beijing, China on Sunday evening to go straight from the airport to my new workplace on Monday morning: The German primary school of the British School of Beijing, Shunyi. I’ve been in Beijing for over a month now but I have not had any time to write any blog posts (besides the ones for the parents, but that is a different story) hence the delay of this post.

How life in China has been so far, I’m going to tell you in the next blog which I’ll hopefully be able to publish by the end of next week. I’ll just tell you this much: There’s at least three worlds between Iceland and China!

You’ll hear from me soon, promised! Until then Bussi aufs Bauchi and treat yo’self!

Peace out, your friendly neighborhood bear <3

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