When I wondered, a week or so ago, where I should go now that Madagascar is off the radar, a friend on Facebook suggested Iceland.
I went there many years ago (before digital cameras, so there are no pictures) - so I thought I'd muse on a recollection or two, as I'm not likely to go back in the near future: so this is a present for her.
I was there in June, during the long days of summer. So I went outside to see the sun almost dip below the horizon in the middle of the night and then rise again. It was dislocating, unnerving, waking to daylight and have no idea what time it might be.
I stayed in the south - for various reasons I couldn't get to the north, and I understand it's different, and full of mosquitoes. Reykjavik is a modern city with some lovely wooden buildings and modern sculptures by the waterfront, but the countryside is much more interesting.
It's geologically very new - which has a huge impact on the environment. Where volcanoes have erupted under the ice, carpets of new lava creep the mountainside. When cool, it looks like huge fields of stones (by huge, I mean something that can take a couple of hours or more to drive across - that huge!). These volcanic stretches are grey and bleak, and on cloudy days they are echoed in the sky to give an air of cold but beautiful abandonment.
But it's not all grey. Where grass grows it is fresh and green and precious. The ice (and there is plenty of ice) is blue, except at the edges of the glaciers where it is a rather dirty white. There are magnificent waterfalls - angry and full of water from the glaciers. There are some you can walk behind and find rainbows when the sun shines. And there are some - fed from warm underground water - that are warm, where you can swim.
Geysers, with the distinctive smell of sulphur, remind us of the earth's fragility. There are corners where the crust is so thin that the underworld bubbles and pops.
What is there to do? This is not a country for beaches. But you can ride an Icelandic pony, which has a strange extra stride somewhere between a trot and a canter. (I confess to giggling at a couple of experienced riders who were discomforted by that.)
And then you can go on a skidoo - which is like a motorbike on skis. You tog up in a giant babygro and gloves and helmets. Stagger across and wonder how you'll ever get on the thing (forget elegant). I used not to understand the attraction of motorbikes, but now I get it. That engine pumping between your knees - and you almost float across the icecap knowing that if you do fall off the landing (a thin layer of snow) won't hurt. Well, I suppose it might if the skidoo fell on top of you, but let's not think of that. It's wonderful - all that white ice, the wind in your face, and just a flick of your wrist to make that engine throb and you're racing.
Maybe I'll go back sooner rather than later.