snowy mountains
History & Traditions, Travel

Mirror Mirror on the Mountain

Norwegians are obsessed with sunlight. They talk about it endlessly and watch and wait in the New Year, for the light to come a little earlier each day heralding the onset of an early spring.

Obsessed?

Quite possibly. Most of us are familiar with the winter blues, associated lack of sunlight and how it can alter our bodily processes, mood, energy and appetite. Some of us might even know how our thyroid gland, melatonin and serotonin levels change in winter, explaining the physiological reason for tiredness and low mood.

According to Daniel Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, when melatonin strikes a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, this alters the synthesis of another hormone – active thyroid hormone – that regulates all sorts of behaviours and bodily processes.

Bright light – particularly in the early morning appears to reverse these symptoms.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The winter darkness is harsh in the town of Rjukan, situated in one of Norway’s steepest valleys. More famous for heavy water production in World War II, for half a year, Ryukan is the town where the sun didn’t shine. That is, until something changed.

When the factory workers began to suffer from a lack of sun, Norsk Hydropower constructed a cable car to take them to the top of neighbouring Gaustatoppen, a mountain with a sheer 1,800-metre peak, so that workers could bathe in the sunlight!

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Imagine an employer taking such an action anywhere else in the world?

This was big.

Yet, this wasn’t enough for the town’s people.

I felt it very physically; I didn’t want to be in the shade.

Martin Andersen, Ryukan resident https://www.highbrowmagazine.com/10920-how-town-norway-copes-winter-depression

An idea was floated to use large rotatable mirrors on the northern side of the valley above Rjukan, to collect the sunlight and direct it down over the town.

It seemed crazy.

Martin Andersen thought differently.

He applied for and obtained a grant to develop a mirror that turns with the Sun while continually reflecting light into Rjukan town square.

Sunlight reflects off the three giant mirrors.
Photograph: The Guardian

Whilst only directing light into the town, for a maximum of two hours, in the darkest month of January, it has been well received by residents and Ryukan has a new tourist attraction.

Rjukan's market square basks in the light beamed down by the three mirrors.

“It’s the sun!” grins Ingrid Sparbo, disbelievingly, lifting her face to the light and closing her eyes against the glare. A retired secretary, Sparbo has lived all her life in Rjukan and says people “do sort of get used to the shade. You end up not thinking about it, really. But this … This is so warming. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s mentally warming.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/rjukan-sun-norway-town-mirrors

Overcoming Depression without the Sun

Tromso lies 400km north of the Arctic Circle. Many Norwegians take extra Vitamin D tablets but some Northern dwellers seem to have an edge without the need for tablets.

Winter in Tromso is dark – the Sun doesn’t even rise above the horizon between 21 November and 21 January. Yet strangely, despite its high latitude, studies have found no difference between rates of mental distress in winter and summer. One suggestion is that this apparent resistance to winter depression is genetic. Iceland similarly seems to buck the trend for SAD: it has a reported prevalence of 3.8%, which is lower than that of many countries farther south. And among Canadians of Icelandic descent living in the Canadian province Manitoba, the prevalence of SAD is approximately half that of non-Icelandic Canadians living in the same place.

“It sounds dismissively simple, but a more positive attitude really might help to ward off the winter blues.”

A Stanford University Researcher found that the farther north they went, the more positive people’s mindsets towards winter were. People there might rephrasing attitudes like, ‘I hate winter’ to ‘I prefer summer to winter’, or ‘I can’t do anything in winter’ to ‘It’s harder for me to do things in winter, but if I plan and put in the effort I can’.

In this regard, a person feels they exert some control over how they respond to the colder weather.

Have you ever suffered with the winter blues? What helped you overcome it?

Is the winter blues exacerbated by Covid-related lockdowns?

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Skiing Bitihorn Beitostolen Norway
Travel

Skiing in New Zealand

Several years ago, we endured a heart-stopping trip to The Remarkables Ski Fields in the South Island of New Zealand. Australians flock to the NZ ski fields, every year, as it is more cost effective for them, than skiing in the limited fields in Australia.

Finally, we arrived!

After the 8 Kilometre, nail-biting transfer to the Remarkables Ski Field, in a very old bus, we checked “in,” to receive our NZ Ski My Pass Card, microchipped to follow our progress around the ski fields and were measured for clothing, boots, and skis.

Hiring Skis and Clothing on the Ski Fields

The Ski Centre, (at 1610 m a.s.l.), was awash with bodies of all sizes in snowsuits, teeny tiny kids sliding about on snowboards and loads of skis resting in the snow.

Travel tip: Visitors can hire ski gear for their skiing adventure, (pants, jackets, and boots etc) but they do have to bring some items of their own, as I was to soon discover.

No, you can’t hire gloves, Ma’am, for hygiene reasons” – the attendant in the Ski shop told me sternly, upon enquiring. What was I thinking? (Even in this pre-Covid vacation). Ski gloves would be a personal item you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to hire!

I regretted not thinking through the Travel agent’s vague advice: “Travel light, you can hire everything over there.” I cursed leaving my own super-thick Norwegian gloves at home and regretted passing up the opportunity to buy a pair at our local supermarket, (which had so many on sale, as ski gloves aren’t usually a popular commodity in Australia). Thus, having a captive market, I succumbed and purchased a pair for $50.00 at the small mountain Ski shop. It would be impossible to ski/toboggan without gloves.

Storage Lockers for Hire at The Remarkables

I also regret not hiring a storage locker at the ski centre; however, the locks appeared dubious and I preferred to have my passport, drink bottles and asthma medication with me so chose to carry it around on my back, whilst skiing, not realizing how destabilizing this would be on my balance.

Update: The Ski centre now offers secure day storage with automated pay lockers and if skiing the next day you can store your used gear overnight in the Rental Department. This is available downstairs in the base building and you can pay by credit card or EFTPOS.

Ski Lessons

Group and Private ski lessons can now easily be booked ahead of time, via the website.

I’d opted to introduce my daughter to the thrill of downhill skiing in New Zealand, so I attempted to teach her what little I knew from a trip to Thredbo Ski Fields, as a school student, some 30 years ago.

Unfortunately for my pride, it fast became apparent that following the lead of another beginner skiers in the very generous Beginner’s bowl as well as eavesdropping on a few instructors was far more successful for my daughter, than listening to Mum’s antiquated knowledge. Physically adept, she quickly got the hang of it, having been cross-country skiing in Norway, several years previously. Before long, she was going up and down the magic carpet in the Beginner’s bowl area, while I watched on from a distance.

Hands up in a Happy ‘Y’

Lifts at the Remarkables

It is useful to bear in mind that lift passes allow you to access both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields and do not need to be used on consecutive days.

From the ski centre, we jumped, (literally), onto the chairlift, to travel up to the Tubing area. With skis on, it is no mean feat for a 10-year-old, new to downhill skiing, to manage this without any assistance. What happened to those nice attendants I remember who were there to help you on and off the chairlift with a modicum of grace?

In this age of economic rationalism, they had been replaced by a single safety officer, who replied to a request for assistance with a lackadaisical, “You’ll be alright!”  That is Kiwi skiing for you and his confidence in my skills, as anticipated, was sorely misplaced. Getting on the lift, was managed fine, but getting off was quite a different matter.

Busily advising my daughter, Miss 10, on what to watch out for when alighting from the chair, (which she managed with incredible finesse), I suddenly realised I’d left alighting from the chair a second or two, too late!! By which time, I had to jump, as the lift had started to turn and the ground was fast disappearing beneath me. The sharp decline on the slope meant I promptly lost my balance, falling over right in front of the turning chair!

With not a soul to help, I got up with the help of Miss 10, which was humiliation enough. I was then relieved to see a friendly face approach me, thinking this stranger was going to assist me to maintain my precarious balance on the snow. Alas, she was a photographer out to take an obligatory-first time ski portrait- the kind they sell in kiosks at somewhat ridiculous prices.

Snap snap snap, clicked the camera.

I inwardly hoped she didn’t get one of me falling at the top of the chairlift. On second thoughts, that could have been a better tourist photo! With my mouth wide open, gasping for air and scrambling for something on which to gain a solid footing, (said backpack swinging around on my back), it is little wonder the photographer suddenly hesitated, thinking I was about to sneeze, or collapse. No, it was me with a mild bout of asthma, gasping for a little more air.

Tubing and Snow Fun at The Remarkables

After that mild mishap, and a few more falls and runs down the slopes, we arrived at the Tubing area – which is a short walk from the lift.

Riding a Rubber tyre tube down a huge slope is a real blast in the snow. I can’t tell you how much fun it is, even for a person of my age. It is not just for children.

Miss 10 and I tubed up and down for over an hour, and I would have continued if I could have. I think sometime we may have reached speeds of 20 -30 km/h. It was heady! I felt young again!

Back then, the Tubes are pulled up by a rope tow, which has to be held taut whilst you are seated on the large rubber tube. For me, that meant holding the tow rope in a position that rather awkwardly was between my legs! Yet this was so much more preferable to walking up the hill in the snow dragging the tube in thick snow. And it meant we could get more downhill runs in. Yay!

Of course, the ubiquitous Tourist Photographer was there too. I think two photos cost near to over NZD$60.00 – you have been warned!

After several more hours, I was utterly exhausted and needed some fuel and asthma medication to continue. We returned to the beginner area instead of attempting more advanced runs. We’d fallen over too many times to remember, by this stage.

Despite seeing a nasty beginner snowboarding accident which to me looked like a flip gone wrong, we had so much fun, going up, coming down, going up, coming down, throwing snowballs, sliding down the snow cave/tunnel etc.  And the view from the Remarkables was well, remarkable!

Ski Transfer to Queenstown from The Remarkables

The return trip from the ski fields is simple enough. No need to book as apparently shuttles leave the mountain every hour, or as soon as they fill up a bus load, from 2 pm onwards.

Something to Ponder About

Australia, Photography

Morning Walk

I often complain about the weather here, particularly in summer, however, this morning was so delightful I would like to share a photo or two of my morning walk.

The mist was rising off the football field, not a cloud in the sky, a gently zephyr and a very pleasant 13 degrees –

( NOTE: how do we get access to those special symbols in this new wordpress editor. Does anyone know?)

My little Schnauzer was most happy to join me, occasionally stopping to sniff some interesting smell.

Walking like this is one of the best things in life.

We don’t always appreciate these small moments in life, our mind is cluttered with the problems of work, family or the world.

Golden sunlight filters through the trees

Nature can be restorative if we find a moment to appreciate it.

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday.”

I Alice Earle
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Monday Mystery Photo – Last time Norway

Every second Monday, I post a photo of a ‘mystery’ location, and sometimes a mystery object. 

I invite you to leave a comment if you think you know the location, or what the mystery object might be.

 

This Week’s Monday Mystery Photo

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Can you guess the location?

If you guess correctly, I will link back to your blog in a post the following Monday, when the answer is revealed.

Comments will be released later in the week, (Thursday Australian E.S.T.), so as not to spoil the fun for latecomers to this post.

The Mystery photo this week comes from Amy P from the Blog Tesserolo.  Many thanks to Amy for the use of her photo.

If you also have a travel photo you would like featured on Monday Mystery, please leave a comment or contact me on my email which you will find on the Contact page.

You can also find my email by hovering over my Gravatar and viewing my Profile information.

Last Time on Monday Mystery

Ted from recipereminiscing.wordpress.com has been a very welcome regular commenter on Monday Mystery, but his gorgeous photo comprised the very last MMP for 2017.

It was of course, the very famous Vigeland Sculpture park in Oslo, Norway.

  Thanks Ted for the photo!

This photo was taken on New Year’s Eve some years back, and strangely enough, both Ted and Myself were at the park on that very night!

Although we did not know of each other then!!! The snow fell right on midnight following the annual Fireworks display lighting up the sky.

A wonderful moment for a traveler in Norway!

Congratulations to Drake for correctly guessing the location.

Who will guess the location this time?

Something I do Ponder About

– Amanda

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Walking with Edmund at 760 metres

Once a humble beekeeper, Sir Edmund Hillary came to know this mountain very well. For it was here that he would hone his mountaineering skills to become the first man, along with Tensing Norgay Sherpa, ever to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world – Mt Everest.

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Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with cramp-irons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs….??

His statue stands at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, New Zealand, a place that came to be his second home. Known as Aoraki in the Maori tongue, I stopped here en route to Queenstown and took a walk around the Mt Cook vicinity.

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Yes, I was mad enough to go to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter!!

Mt Cook is in the South Island of New Zealand and a stunning place of phenomenal beauty, yet a very unforgiving place.

 

There was a patch of blue sky in the far distance, which looked promising for my walk, but at this altitude, the weather can change exceedingly quickly so there was no guarantees.

So my walk entailed being extremely careful when I stepped, not wanting to fall on the ice like I did, once, in Norway. That little trick rendered me unable to walk properly for weeks.

Ouch!!

The flora around the Hermitage area is very much alpine heath, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, although there are also sheep grazing here. The finest merino wool in the world, is in fact, grown a few kilometres away, at Mt Cook Station.

 

The sheep seem to have right of way here, at one point we had to ‘split the mob’ to get through.

Mt cook sheep
The finest fleece – Mt Cook’s Flock

In the area around Mt Cook, you can also see the most delightful blue snow/glacial fed lakes, like this one which form part of the hydro and irrigation scheme.

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We had to walk back very quickly to the Hermitage, as the weather was closing in, fast.

 

Lunch was a quick bite in the hotel restaurant and whether it was due to the intense cold, I am not sure, but it tasted really delicious. And prices were very reasonable. They do have a monopoly as it is the only place to eat, for miles and miles, But oh! I would pay a lot more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view.

We ate in front of these magnificent full length glass windows at the hotel admiring the view. You can also get an idea in the reflection of the windows….

There was then only a little time for my daughter to throw around some snowballs and slide up and down the slopes on a toboggan, which the lady at the hotel reception said we could use free of charge.

She was so kind, and it seemed that her manner was from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour.

(Great New Zealand hospitality!)

It is claimed by some, that New Zealand is a rather conservative place and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it?

And certainly not a bad place to be stuck, either.

All too soon, it was time to leave and I was left with the memory of these wild and extreme walks, I took, at Mt Cook.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walk

Jo’s walk this week is to Carding Hill Valley

New Zealand
Restless Jo Monday Walks

Footnote: Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.
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Travel theme: Snowy

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chiniophilen

A few days ago, I saw this meme referring to those who love snow. Yeh, that’s me, for sure! My hand’s up, waving frantically in enthusiasm for snow and the colder elements. People in the northern hemisphere must think I am stark raving mad, and I can see where they are coming from, when cold surrounds them for the majority of the year. However, not only do I love the snow and cold, I crave it! I am even married to a man whose nickname was Snowy!!! My holiday destinations usually encompass snow in some form as you will see here.

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There is plenty of Snowy scenes in Iceland in winter

A friend who knows me very well saw the meme and said, “This is SO you, Amanda!”

She knows! I thought.She knows me so well. She knows for instance that I have a preference for low light, that I hate the blazing sun and glare and suffer from the effects of it; and she knows that I feel energized when it is cold and finally she knows that being in a snowy place fills my heart with contentment!

Skellefteå
Skellefteå – Swedish Lapland

You think I am crazy too? Then I challenge you to find me a person that feels energized on a 37 degrees plus day (97 for Fahrenheit readers), and I will be genuinely surprised. Even the Spanish/Mexicans etc need a siesta at high noon!

28th April MM photo
Iceland

There are many that claim they crave warmth and heat. Chionophile deniers, I accuse them, under my breath! These are the people who can’t wait to travel to tropical island destinations for holidays or go out in the heat and glare of the midday sun, without hats and sun protection. And yet, it is these same self-confessed sun ‘worshipers,’ who are spotted at these tropical destinations – exactly WHERE, I ask?

Mostly you will find them languishing on a hammock/bar stool/ beach towel/ or a day bed dotted with cushions in trendy colours. Yes, languishing in the SHADE of course! Why? Because it is SO HOT, they state wafting their limp hand back and forth in front of their face in a vain attempt to create some a cooling air flow.  

They seek out a beach umbrella, covered verandah, or simply the protective branches of a shady tree, out of the sun they so dearly love, and they sit, often accompanied by cool drinks, lathered with swathes of ice, sipped in an effort to do what….. to COOL down! A little hypocritical, don’t you think? Perhaps the sun-worshipers are closet chionophiles at heart?

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A Sunny snowy day – but no heat, thank goodness, in Norway.

Snowball Zermatt
Switzerland  delivers on the Winter Wonderland

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This is one of my favourite Snowy photos. The blue light exudes calmness.

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Probably not the best place to put my hand for the photo!!

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Magnificent awe-inspiring Mt Cook – what is not to like?

Lunch with Edmund Hilary at 760 metres at MT Cook /Aoraki
Snow is so much fun! And the reflection is not bad, either.

Lake TekapoNew Zealand Christchurch to Queenstown cont'd
I love the contrast between the stone and the snow here

Of course, my comments are only in fun. (These days in social media platforms, words can be misconstrued so easily!), so I want to make it clear that I am only having a friendly jibe at these sun ‘worshipers.’ For whilst I love the cold and it gives me energy to get about and do three times as much as I would have accomplished on a hot and sultry day, I too crave a bit of a balance. I can be out in the snow all day but do enjoy coming home to a wood fire and a warming cup of cocoa or wine!

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Feeling blue? Not me!!!

I hope you enjoy some of my travel photos from my contented or snowy places! They make me feel cool just looking at them.

Linking to Ailsa’s Travel theme- Snowy

Snowy places are Something I always Ponder About

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Travel Theme – Winter

When the mercury screams it’s between 5 below and 10 degrees above celsius, I am a happy person, fully of energy, enthusiasm and vitality. When the temperature passes 26 degrees, the sun is shining, and humidity is high, I can be known to morph into a cranky sloth who lacks motivation to do anything remotely physical. Trapped as I am living in a subtropical climate, I escape by travelling to the cool climates and snowy realms of the world, as often as I can. For it is there, I feel most alive.

Skellefteaa winter

I almost missed this challenge, from Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack. And as winter is my absolute favourite time of the year, whether I be in the northern or southern hemisphere, I had to post a photo/s and brief story. These pictures are from one of my winter escapes. (ie: escape to winter, not from winter)

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IMG_8810stigs konditori, Skellefteaa IMG_7378 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there other winter lovers out there? Something I’ll ponder about.

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A WORD A WEEK PHOTO CHALLENGE – WEATHER

A WORD A WEEK PHOTO CHALLENGE - WEATHER

ZERMATT, Switzerland. Xmas 2011

to find out more about this photo challenge….go have a look here:

http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/a-word-a-week-photo-challenge-weather/#like-9372

Noosa National Park. The weather can be stunning....
Noosa National Park. The weather can be stunning….

 

 

The best of the Queenstown!

Fog over mountains in New Zealand, Queenstown.My apologies for the poor quality of the photo. As it is taken through the coach window. But I was concentrating wholeheartedly on the fog on the mountains, and not the foreground.