Mount Taranaki looms majestically over New Plymouth, on its own peninsula on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The mythical mountain is obscured from view most days of the year, shrouded by its low-hanging clouds. But now it stood there, clearly visible and beckoning in all its glory. I literally skidded to a halt when I saw it, and changed my direction there & then. It was calling me and I had to go. Mount Taranaki draws you in to explore its lofty top and many hiking tracks.
This title may look a bit bewildering… It’s Icelandic for ‘Where the heart beats’, the anthemic song of Vestmannaeyjar. I was drawn to the Vestmannaeyjar islands at first sight, when I saw their mysterious shapes shimmering on the horizon. It was as if there’s an unexplained energy emanating out of it. I just had to go there. Heimaey is a spectacular island of volcanic peaks and jumbled rocks and the landscape is out of this world. Vestmannaeyjar is also home of the Þjóðhátíð festival in August. ‘Þar sem hjartað slær’ is the ultimate Þjóðhátíð song that captures the atmosphere of the Iceland National Festival like no other.
What is it with this spell that Iceland does to you? My first visit was a sponttaneous short trip to see a concert of Sigur Rós in Reykjavík. Little did I expect to be blown away in more ways than one… I got lost in some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. It was full of steaming fields and craggy mountains with countless waterfalls tumbling from their hallucinating green edges. The overwhelming beauty of Iceland just keeps you coming back for more.
De Westman Eilanden trokken me aan vanaf het eerste gezicht, toen ik hun mysterieuze silhouetten zag glinsteren aan de horizon. Het was alsof er een onverklaarbare energie uit opborrelde. Ik moest er gewoon heen. Heimaey is een spectaculair eiland met steil uit zee oprijzende knoesten, woeste landschappen en vulkanen. Vestmannaeyjar heeft ook het jaarlijkse Þjóðhátíð festival in augustus – in één woord: geWELDIG! ‘Þar sem hjartað slær’ is het ultieme Þjóðhátíð lied dat de sfeer van het Nationale Festival in IJsland als geen ander beschrijft.
People on Vestmannaeyjar like to light candles on mountains. In the darker months of the year, you can often see candles on Heimaklettur, the iconic Home Rock of the island. The first one usually appears at the beginning of August, when the midnight sun is slowly fading. The flickering candles are clearly visible from the town and for people who come in on the evening ferry. I was fascinated by this unique tradition and became one of those candle lighters too. If you are wondering what this is all about, you can read it here.