Yearly Archives of: 2023


My Recurring Tornado Dreams Finally End! With a Tornado!


I wrote way way back in 2005 that I had this recurring dream where in the dream I see a tornado (or sometimes multiple tornadoes) and then say or think “wow, after all these years of recurring tornado dreams I finally see a real one!” before I wake up and realise it was yet another dream. Or sometimes in the dream I’ll realise it’s a dream and that it’s all fake and once again I’ll wake up and it’s gone. This recurring dream has continued over the past 18 years.

The dream is never in the same place or same situation. I’ve had one where it’s like the world is about to end and there are fires in addition to multiple tornadoes and I’m running for my life. I’ve had others where I’m walking along a beach and see a water spout or in the hills and spy one in the distance. But one thing I never dreamed about was driving from Skipton to Harrogate in North Yorkshire and spotting a tornado as I come up to a roundabout on a regular, not particularly hot, not particularly cold day in August.

So imagine my surprise when I’m driving from Skipton to Harrogate and see a dark cloud in the distance. As I always do, I look to see if either the entire cloud is rotating (it wasn’t) or there’s a jet streaking down that looks like a funnel (which there was). Wait. What?! Despite driving alone I said out loud: “that’s a tornado!” before some trees got in the way. As I managed to get clear I took the following photos where you can see that yes, indeed that is a tornado!

It hadn’t quite touched the ground and researching on social media for other people who saw it, it indeed didn’t hit land. But it was nevertheless quite unusual to see one where I did. As I continued driving I started to question myself. Was I dreaming and about to wake up? Everything felt real. It didn’t feel like one of those bizarre recurring dreams. And a couple of weeks later I’m starting to think it really did happen and my recurring dreams will finally end. Or if I have another one at least I’ll be able to say “oh yeah, seen one of those already, no big deal”!

If I never see another one I’ll be fine with that – they can be incredibly destructive. But just seeing one with my own eyes was something I’ve literally dreamed about for years and sometimes dreams come true!


Hiking To An Active Volcano in Iceland


My girlfriend and I just returned from a trip around Iceland and to say that it over-delivered would be a massive understatement. On researching the trip (which started with a couple of days road tripping around Reykjavik) I was expecting us to see a lot of waterfalls and hike up a few mountains. What I didn’t realise was that we were going to end up doing something I never thought I would by hiking to an active volcano and watching lava spilling out of it.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t go near a volcano without an expert guide – those things are unpredictable and incredibly dangerous. Sure the lava will liquify you in seconds, but the gasses a volcano emits are arguably more dangerous as a change of wind direction can have catastrophic results. When my girlfriend mentioned visiting the volcano once she saw it on the news I was at first not keen (to say the least). We were staying at an AirBnB and the host (who was Icelandic) described it as a “tourist volcano”, meaning you can just walk to it safely as a tourist. He said the volcanoes that erupt in the glacier regions are the dangerous ones but this one would be no problem. So the next morning off we went in our hire car to do the 10km walk in.

The walk in started along an easy angled gravel track used by the rescue vehicles going back and forth, mostly carrying water as the volcano had ignited half the hillside in the previous days. What’s interesting is the entire landscape was clearly created by previous volcanic eruptions and all the surroundings were solidified lava covered in moss. You could see the evidence of volcanic activity everywhere you looked. This was clearly a land formed by fire and it was no surprise our host was unfazed by an eruption – it’s been a fact of life in this part of Iceland for millenia.

Eventually we rounded a corner and caught our first glimpse of the actual volcano.

We kept a respectful distance from the solidified lava but to see miles of it covering the landscape having only started erupting a couple of weeks before gave us an idea of how powerful they. Particularly given this one is called “Litli-Hrútur” or “little Ram” so is only small in the volcano world. I started getting excited as I knew we had a long way more to walk and that would take us very close to the actual crater and as you can just see in the photo above, the lava was bubbling away.

Another hour or so of walking the crater finally came into view in all its glory. Everything smelled of a barbecue due to the entire area being on fire a couple of days before. There were helicopters circling overhead, giving lazy tourists a view of the crater from above. But seeing the lava bubbling just a few hundred metres in front of my eyes – having seen countless documentaries over the years showing the same – was just magical. As you can see in the video below:

We took the obligatory selfies, photos and videos, then just sat down to stare at it just off the solidified lava field. When I was a child I remember reading about volcanoes, what caused them, how dangerous they were and I always imagined what it would be like to actually see one, but never really thought I would. As I sat there watching I knew my 5 year old self would have been so jealous of me!

Of course this was the one trip I didn’t bring my drone along to (since I’d often carry it and just leave it in my bag). Fortunately there were plenty of other people flying them capturing even more incredible footage, like this over on Instagram.

Truly a once in a lifetime experience and I still can’t quite believe we saw it! In spite of the long hike in there was a steady stream of people all day and every one of them will have left with an astonishing memory to last a lifetime. As for the rest of my time on Iceland, it’s a beautiful country I’ll definitely return to for some more in depth exploring.


A Week On Madeira, Followed By Another


Back in the days of lockdown foreign travel was not an option. Walking around the local park was about as much travel as you could do in the UK. However between two periods of lockdown – October 2020 – one of the few countries I could travel to was Madeira, a Portuguese island located off the coast of Africa. Truth be told I was familiar with Madeira cake, but wasn’t even aware it was an island at all. However the chance to escape the UK was too tempting so we got our covid tests and off we went for a week.

It didn’t start smoothly as the plane took off, turned back and landed back in Heathrow due to a technical glitch on the plane. A night in a hotel and we were off the next day. However it turns out Madeira is paradise for an outdoorsy guy like myself. There are white sandy beaches, black volcanic sandy beaches, beautiful mountains, hiking trails for all levels, great food, incredibly friendly people and perfect weather for a Scotsman (i.e. not too hot, not too cold). Plus since everyone was tested on entry, it felt like a safe haven away from coronavirus and back to the world before. It was delightful.

We had such a great time that in September 2022 we went back for another week and loved it just as much as before, if not more so!

One of the great things for hikers is a large set of marked hiking trails that range from nice, easy walks through forests to full days of hard grind through the mountains on the side of cliffs, through tunnels and over knife edge ridges. You gain access to areas that would normally be accessible only to hardy mountaineers. And all without destroying the beauty of the area – this is clearly an island loved by the people who live on it.

When I visited New Zealand many years ago I always thought that if you got to design a place from scratch and right all the wrongs of every other country, New Zealand was it. I feel the same way about Madeira, it’s just a wonderful place and there’s nothing I’d change about it.

Interestingly Madeira’s most famous son is Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether you’re a football fan or not I’d highly recommend visiting his museum in Funchal. There you can see just what an incredible set of achievements he’s had. The trophies, the Ballon d’Ors, the hat trick balls, the photos, memorabilia and letters from fans. It’s very tastefully done and rightly shows off he’s one of the most talented footballers ever to lace up a pair of boots and is a legend. My girlfriend is not remotely interested in football but was left highly impressed by what one man managed to achieve in his career.

Anyway, that’s just a taste of what a wonderful place Madeira is. We’ll definitely be back! There are still plenty of hiking routes to do, food to sample and beaches to walk on. Although while I enjoyed surfing, I think I’ll stick to land based activities.