Iceland Ring Road – Iceland’s road to natural phenomena

They should call it something descriptive like the “Iceland’s road to natural phenomena” but according to the sat nav it’s referred to simply as One. Tourists though may know this humble yet well-maintained two-lane road as the Iceland Ring Road.

Yet you would have to burn some serious rubber to get all the way around the 832 miles that encircle this sub-arctic island. It passes pretty snow-capped mountains and brooding cloud topped volcanes, eye-watering boiling sulphur mud pools, tortured lava plains, thunderous waterfalls, jagged icebergs, and dozens of glaciers.

Driving around Iceland Ring Road in Mazda MK 5 icon convertible (c) Sharron Livingston

And I drove all around it heading north from Reykjavik then returning back there heading south in a mad-cap two-day junket in a dinky Mazda MX 5 icon convertible. Call it a test drive.

First things first – Blue Lagoon Spa

Blue Lagoon Spa (c) Sharron Livingston

Starting in Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city and the world’s northernmost capital, I hopped into my roadster for a 47km detour to Grindavik to the Blue Lagoon outdoor spa. I knew a relaxing dip into its placid bright blue mineral-rich waters and swish under its waterfall would set me up for the gruelling two-day drive. As a bonus, ater when the sky was at its darkest I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights with its curls of luminescent green. What a prelude for my driving bonanza!

Check out the city church – Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja (c) flickr/Brian Gratwicke

I was behind the wheel early the next morning making my way through this low-rise city where the tallest building is the dramatic Hallgrímskirkja, church, the biggest in Iceland. It’s worth noting how something made completely of concrete could look so interesting; almost like a space ship about to take off. Incidentally, the view from the top stretches the entire city and is the only place you can enjoy this.

Away from city limits – vast isolation and scenery

driving through vast isolation (c) Mazda

Stopping at traffic lights with quaint heart shaped red lights, then turning onto One, the road opened to a shock of a wilderness hemmed by dark, brooding mountains. There were hardly any other cars around and not much sign of human life.

The road snaked through undulating landscape and sometimes after a swerve or curve a clutch of red roofed cottages or a lone wooden church would appear. Yet with so few people around, I wondered how these houses of prayer filled their pews.

There were plenty of nonchalant sheep though who seemed unperturbed by passing traffic. At times fields would be hosting smallish Icelandic horses – a regional breed that are sometimes as small as donkeys.

Within the nooks and crannies of the land you can see strings of waterfalls

Within the nooks and crannies of the dark rugged or moss covered hills and tors, strings of waterfalls cascaded catching the light on their way down. It’s a recurring feature which adds movement to the stillness.

Giant red chair sculpture

Bizarre sculptures, such as a giant red chair (taller than a human being) or a giant man randomly turned up to add humour to the bleak vastness.

A glacier on a Snæfellsjökull volcano

Snæfellsjökull volcano (c) wikimedia/Axel Kristinsson

Glaciers are a recurring feature along One. These are masses of glacial ice that look like stretches of white on the higher echelons of the mountains. The most famous is the one atop the 700,000 year old Snæfellsnes volcano. Fans of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne will have read about it as the doorway to the centre of the earth.

Iceland’s second biggest city – Akureyri

Akureyri – the second largest city in Iceland

Most towns along the route are pretty dull. Not so Akureyri (dubbed the capital of North Iceland) was different. Iceland’s second largest city had a hint of Monaco about it. With only 18,000 inhabitants, there is no big city vibe, but plenty of visual charm. It sits at the head of Iceland’s longest fjord with colourful homes built on the waterfront with a snow-capped alpine backdrop.

Goðafoss Waterfall

Godafoss (c) flickr/Marco Bellucci

Located just south of Húsavík, a waterfall that means “of the gods” had to deliver a lot to live up to its name. And it did. I was able park up literally just steps away and I could not only hear but feel the thunderous pounding force as the water provided by the Skjálfandafljót River – the longest in the country – fell 12 metres over a 30-metre width. I could still feel the spray some 20 or so yards away.

 Geothermal area – Námafjall Hverir

Geothermal mud pools

At Mývatn lake, the landscape becames barren in nature. The fresh Icelandic air took on a sulphuric aroma. Following my nose I found myself in front of the Námafjall Hverir geothermal area, reminiscent of a lunar landscape, to see the fumeroles (steam springs) and boiling sulphurous mud pools. These are 1000 metres deep where temperatures reach a whopping 200°C.

The humungous mud craters with their constant emissions of fumes certainly had a wow factor, but the sulphur burned my eyes and left me coughing.

Geysir, Strokkur

Another geothermal must-see is located by the Hvítá River it’s incredible how close you can stand by this geysir, the most famous in the land. The shock of the eruption when it happens is compelling and as these happen every five minutes or so often reaching heights of 50ft it’s not long to wait for the next one. The Geysir Center is interesting enough for a quick pop in to check out exhibits and presentations.

Is there a monster in town? Eglisstadir

The most interesting thing about Eglisstadir is the legend of the serpentine monster said to live in the nearby Lagarfljot lake. They say there have been sightings for hundreds of years. The last sighting of the monster swimming is said to be captured on video in 2012. You can blame Jon Amason and his collection of Icelandic folktales published in 1862.

Black Sand Beach – Reynisfjara

You will know you are near when you can detect the faint scent of seaweed. Choppy waters break upon the rocks and cliffs while stretches of volcanic black sand and dark grassy patches create patterns on the ground. On its landscape is Gardar, an amazing basalt cliff. Out in the sea are the spectacularly shaped Reynisdrangar a series of basalt sea stacks.

Black desert

At Skaftárhraun, just west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, there is endless Skeiðarársandur, a 1000-sq-km area that resembles a black desert. It is made of a mix of the gravel, silt and sand dumped by glacial runoff. In concert with dark cloudy mountains with white glacier patches, it was a haunting visual melody.

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon

Ancient Icebergs

You pass over several single lane bridges on route and you may spot icebergs floating. Either way you will definitely feel a slight chill in the air as you near Jökulsárlón. This lagoon is brimful with icebergs, thanks to Breiðamerkurjökull glacier which is slowly melting. Some icebergs are so old and so compact they are deeply blue in colour.

Skógafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss (c) wkimedia/Chris 73

The Skogafoss waterfall is a veritable rival to Goðafoss. Rectangular in shape it has a 60 metre drop and a 25 metre width. People look miniscule in front of it. There are wooden steps that lead to a viewing platform at the top. Often a rainbow forms.

The Door hole –  Dyrhólaey peninsula

On the way to the delightful village of Vik, I passed moss covered lava plains that resembled endless amounts of gnocci covered in pesto sauce to detour onto road 218 to Dyrhólaey peninsula, Iceland’s most southern point. Here you can see puffins nesting in the cliffs.

In front of the peninsula there is a huge black arch of lava reaching out into the sea hence its name. Dyrhólaey means “the hill island with the door hole”.

Fly: Icelandair have return flights to Rejkavik from £472.42

Stay: Hotel Borg in Reyjkavik (rooms from £297 per night) and Hotel Guesthouse Egilsstadir in Egilsstadir (rooms from £145)

Visit: Blue Lagoon. 75 euros buys you entrance (stay all afternoon), two facial masks and a cocktail. Must be pre-booked.

Read also: Iceland’s Top 5 Waterfalls

Iceland’s Top 5 Waterfalls

Sharron was the guest of Mazda in Iceland. She drove the Mazda MX 5 icon special edition,
on sale from 1st August. The £20,995 on-the-road Icon special edition is limited to just 600 cars.

Seeking the Soul of Paris

Paris is living through extraordinary days and for a while it will be difficult to experience the city in the same carefree way as before. At such times most of us need to reflect.

Here are some suggestions for places to go in Paris, or on a day trip from the city, if you want to find a peaceful place to think.

* Places with an asterisk are marked on the map at the bottom of the article.

Places to see in ParisTour St Jacques (Saint-Jacques Tower)*

(c) Nick Inman

This handsome remnant of a long vanished church stands in a peaceful public garden. It marks the start of the pilgrimage route stretching 800km to the Pyrenees and then a further 800km across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. You may not want to do the whole journey but the first part of the route is easy to follow through the Latin Quarter. Walking mindfully even a short distance can be therapeutic for the thoughts.

Musée – Librairie du Compagnonnage*

(c) Nick Inman

This tiny museum just off the Boulevard Saint Germain gets few visitors despite its free admission. It encapsulates two big ideas which the world can always do with: co-operation and constructive activity. The uniquely French system of compagnonnage is a way of training apprentice craftsmen and women to the highest standards and forming strong bonds of solidarity between them.

Concorde Metro Station*

It’s easy to rush around Paris and not notice the metro stations that you pass through. Concorde is a timely reminder of the respect we owe to each other. Its ceramic tiles spell out the text of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man of the Citizen. The French Revolution may have had its share of brutality but out of it came some noble ideals worth championing.

Square du Temple*

(c) Nick Inman

The Order of Knights Templars would be able to tell us much about the complicated interface between Europe and the Middle East but unfortunately the order was suppressed in the 14th century. All that is left of them is mystery: did they possess some great secret that died with them. This square now occupies the site of their headquarters of which no trace remains but it is a beautiful place to sit. Alternatively, you may want to seek out the former Templar commandery in the town of Coulommiers, east of Paris.


Montmartre is a village within a city but most people get no further than Sacre-Coeur and the crowded and commercialised Place de Tertre. There are other aspects to Montmartre if you look for them. Next to Sacre-Coeur is the atmospheric old church of St Pierre. North and west of the touristy part there are some quiet gardens to sit in.

Places to see around ParisMusée d’Archeologie Nationale, Saint Germain en Laye

There is nothing like visiting a prehistoric site to put the present day into context and your cares into perspective. There are several standing stones, dolmens and even rock engravings within reach of Paris but they aren’t easy to get to by public transport. The National Archaeology Museum* is the next best thing. It has lots of unimaginably ancient figurines and artefacts to gaze on while you contemplate the nature of human life. Alternatively, you might prefer the Musée du Quai Branly* (in Paris) which could be seen as a reminder that there is more that unites humanity than divides us.


Monasteries, whether or not still occupied by monks or nuns, have a soothing effect on the soul. There are several abbeys around Paris. Notable among them are Chaalis* (to the northeast), Lieu-Restauré (northwest), Port Poyale de Champs at Meaux* (east) and Royaumont* (north). There are several more not that far away down the Seine valley, in Normandy.


(c) Nick Inman

Paris is ringed by great Gothic cathedrals, all zinging still with spiritual energy. Notre-Dame, in the city centre, is splendid but usually heaving with tourists and not a place to seek peace. St-Denis in the northern suburbs of the city – where Gothic began – is less busy. But there is no beating Chartres, worth the hour and a quarter train ride from Paris. Built to the principles of sacred architecture, it is renowned for its use of symbolism and numerology, and for its stained glass. Set into the nave floor is a circular labyrinth which probably served as a processional path to occupy the feet of devotees while leaving their minds free to soar into other realms. Trains from Gare Montparnasse.


The famous shrine of Lourdes is deep in the south of France but the country’s second most popular pilgrimage destination, Lisieux, is within reach of Paris, only less than two hours by train from Saint Lazare station.


France has a long tradition of alchemy, a much misunderstood esoteric system of knowledge to do with the mysteries of existence. 51 rue Montmorency in Paris is said to have been the home of the city’s most famous alchemist, Nicolas Flamel, but a train ride of just over two hours will take you to the small city of Bourges, considered to be the capital of alchemy. The Hôtel Lallemant has many intriguing alchemical designs on its coffered ceiling. Trains from Gare Austerlitz.

This article is an extract from A Guide to Mystical France: Secrets, Myseries, Sacred Sites, an authoritative exploration of the mysteries and sacred sites of France – an invitation to go deeper into this magical country, the most visited, yet not well-known, country in the world.

Sporting events should ditch nutritional supps, sports drinks sponsorship, experts urge

Two years ago, research published in BMJ Open reached similar conclusions.

Outram and Stewart accept that nutritional supplements and rehydration drinks don’t compare with the unhealthiness of fast food, tobacco, or alcohol, all of which have been associated with major sporting events.

But the very fact that these products are marketed as beneficial or essential for sporting prowess and/or general health, when the evidence has so far failed to substantiate these claims or justify their cost, is likely to make it harder for the public to judge the value of these products objectively, they suggest.

“Successful sponsorship campaigns remove or minimise any scepticism about the product (a common reaction to advertising),” they write. “A form of seamless or hidden product association is created whereby such products come to be seen as integral to sport — the sports supplement or sports drink,” they say, adding that celebrity endorsement helps to promote that idea.

“It is for good reason that nutritional supplement and sports drinks companies invest heavily in sports sponsorship,” they write. “Such sponsorship — together with associated product endorsements and advertising — conveys the message that their products are integral to sporting engagement and achievement.”

But they warn: “Sport may have found itself lending unwarranted credibility to products which would otherwise not necessarily be seen as beneficial for participation in sports and exercise or as inherently healthy products.”

The issue has already prompted some degree of disquiet among sporting authorities about the perception that they might be seen to be endorsing nutritional supplements and sports drinks, suggest the authors.

The Australian Institute of Sports has voiced concerns about this, while the American Dietetic Association, Dieticians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine have issued a joint statement, which among other things, questions the manufacturers’ claims for the effectiveness of these products.

And the World Anti-Doping Agency has highlighted the potential inclusion of undeclared and banned substances in these products as a result of global differences in labelling and manufacture.

“If sport authorities, teams, and sports personalities distanced themselves from supplement and drinks company sponsorship, ways would have to be found to cover the financial gap created,” admit the authors.

But they add: “Lessons can be learnt from the history of tobacco sponsorship and its gradual restriction, which did not lead to the wholesale collapse of sport.”

Unmissable events for English Tourism Week

For familiesLiverpool

Celebrate legendary lyrics and tunes with British Music Experience’s Family Trail launch, Liverpool March 25 – April 2

British Music Experience

After five years at London’s O2, the British Music Experience (BME) opens its doors to the public at its new home on Liverpool’s iconic waterfront this month. On the March 25, they will be introducing a family trail featuring beautifully illustrated characters from key musical eras to create a fun and inclusive activity for families.

Family tickets (2 adults and 2 children) cost £43. The BME tells the story of British popular music from 1945 right up to the present day through stage costumes, instruments and hand-written lyrics.


Bask in spring and visit new-born lambs at Bocketts Farm, Leatherhead March 25 – April 2

With over 300 gorgeous baby lambs due over six weeks at Bocketts Farm, kids will squeal with delight at this working family farm set in the beautiful Surrey countryside. Interact with farm animals, enjoy farm activities and indoor and outdoor play as well as the baby chicks and ducklings in animal handling sessions. You can even milk the goats, enjoy tractor and pony rides and the famous pig racing.

Outdoors, there’s jumping pillows, go karts, agility trails and sandpits, while indoors, the giant soft play barn will keep children occupied whatever the weather. Adult £10.50; Children: 3-17 years £10.95; 2 years £9.20; under 2 free.


Become a chocolate connoisseur with The Chocolate Experience, March 29

Become a chocolate connoisseur with The Chocolate Experience,

A dream job for some, learn about the life of a chocolatier, their chocolate-making techniques, and the mysteries behind the trade. The Chocolate Experience is suitable for  adults and children who are welcome into their studio for an hour of magic, passion and of course, a divine chocolate-tasting experience.

Entry fees are: Adults £5; Children (3 – 16 yrs) £4; Children (under 3s ) free.

Leighton Buzzard

Railway rides, April 2

Catch a ride on the Leighton Buzzard century old railway

The Leighton Buzzard Railway is almost 100 years old and one of England’s finest narrow-gauge railways. After half a century of carrying sand, it’s now full steam ahead as a working museum. And amazingly, it is operated by volunteers.

Entry fees are: Adults £10.00; Children (2 – 17 years) £6.00; Child (under 2s) free.

Live EventsLeicestershire

Urban paddle on the River Soar, April 1

Explore the buzzing, cosmopolitan city of Leicester from a different perspective as you travel by canoe along the River Soar, paddling down thrilling weirs. Designed to stimulate, educate and motivate young people, this experience will give you a taste for adventure travel.

Starting at Riverside Park (Aylestone Meadows), you’ll paddle to Leicester City Football Stadium; Frog Island; the Space Centre and Abbey Pumping Station, passing wiers along the way. You will be given a qualified leader who will supply you with any kit you need and teach you any skills that will help you in your journey. Tours cost £29.


Take a retro adventure in a classic VW Camper, March – September 1

Explore the open road and hire a fabulously retro VW Camper for a short break around stunning countryside of Southern England and beyond. Choose from nine beautifully restored classic VW campervans, all fully equipped with double beds, cookers, fridges, running water, a great sound system, cosy lighting and good time retro charm. All campers are suitable for couples or families, providing sleeping space for four or more.

Prices start from £325 for a long weekend.

Literary HeroesNottinghamshire

DH Lawrence Museum, March 25 – April 1

See the literary legend D.H. Lawrence’s humble home. The charming museum in the ex-mining town of Eastwood is open by guided tour for groups of up to eight. Be taken back in time to late Victorian industrial England and the typical miner’s cottage of Eastwood in the late 1800s, and listen to the story of a normal working class families rise up the social ladder. Learn about how D.H. Lawrence surpassed all expectations of a miner’s son and went on to become one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Normal admission prices are: Adults £6.90; Concession £5.10; Children (5-15) £3.50; Under 5s free.


Tumble into an Alice in Wonderland-themed Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, April 2

Mad Hatters tea party in Brighton

Tumble down the rabbit hole and land in a Wonderland of your own with Lewis Carroll-inspired vintage fun, games and sweets. Expect games, music and play as stories of the Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts and the maddest of Hatters are bought to life. All ages are welcome and entry includes a raffle ticket, savoury and sweet treats, tea and punch (fruit punch for the little ones!), with vintage crockery in abundance.

Tickets are £20 for adults and £7 for children.


Literary legends with Words & Wanderings walking tour, March 25 and 29

Explore England’s first UNESCO City of Literature with an expert-guided walking tour of Norwich, and discover more about the authors who have contributed to its rich literary history over the centuries. This is a city of literary firsts and excellence; not only has it produced the first recognisable novel, the first blank verse and the first provincial library and newspaper, but also the first British MA in Creative Writing (UEA) and the first UK City of Refuge for persecuted writers. This Words and Wanderings tour is free but booking is essential.

Expensive TV ads missing their mark when people use smartphone or tablet too

While the trend of “second screen” use has become pervasive, this is the first study to show that viewers have trouble recalling brands they see (or hear) on TV if they’re using such devices.

“Viewers don’t even remember that your brand was there on TV because they were busy posting on Facebook or Twitter or reading email,” said Jonathan Jensen, who led the study as a doctoral student in sport management in the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“This should provide a measure of pause to brand marketers who are spending a lot of money to get their products integrated into live sporting events and other TV shows.”

The study was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

The problem posed by second screens is a big one for brands. A new report by the firm Accenture found that 87 percent of consumers use a second screen while watching TV.

This new research examined whether viewers could recognize and recall brand names that announcers mentioned during a college football game broadcast. This wasn’t about advertisements — it was about “brand integration,” or the promotion of products during the actual broadcast, achieved via sponsorships of events. For example, in this study, the Allstate logo was featured on nets behind the goal posts when field goals were kicked. Allstate was also mentioned as a sponsor by the announcers during the game.

“With DVR penetration approaching 50 percent of households, there’s no guarantee anymore that people are watching commercials. But marketers thought that if they could get their brands mentioned and shown during the broadcast they would have a foolproof way to reach consumers,” Jensen said.

Computer modeling could lead to new method for detecting, managing prostate cancer

The new study, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, details a computer model that uses medical images to reproduce the growth patterns of prostate cancer on the anatomy of a patient’s prostate.

This type of mathematical modeling and simulation of disease (aka predictive medicine) can lead to personalized treatment and more accurate forecasting of clinical outcomes.

“There is a lot of room for improvement in both the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer,” said study coauthor Michael Scott, BYU professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We’re using computer modeling to capture the behavior of prostate tumor growth which will hopefully lead to minimally invasive predictive procedures which can be used in clinical practice.”

Current diagnosis methods include invasive biopsy procedures which too often lead to patients being over-treated or under-treated. Complicating matters is the fact that prostate cancer can remain undiagnosed because early stages of the disease may not produce symptoms until a tumor is either very large or has invaded other tissues.

The new system could lead to both earlier diagnosis and less invasive testing. It’s a promising development given prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men worldwide, responsible for 308,000 deaths in 2012 and estimated to take 26,120 lives in the U.S. alone in 2016.

Scott, and fellow BYU professor Kevin Tew teamed up with colleagues at the University of Coruna, UT-Austin and Carnegie Mellon for the study. The personalized tumor growth simulations leveraged the high-performance computing resources available through BYU’s Fulton Supercomputing Lab.

Scott said the research is still in its infancy and extensive validation and refinement of the model must occur before it is ready for clinical application. That said, “it’s likely that these types of models will eventually turn up in medical practice,” he added.

“We are entering an age where we will see the emergence of tools which leverage computation to improve diagnosis of disease,” Scott said. “And we’re not the only people working in this area — it’s rapidly growing.”

Six Valentine presents you probably didn’t think of

1Take a romantic tour of Paris in a Citroën 2CV

(c) flickr/StéfanLD

There cannot be anything more fun and quirky than a Paris Tour onboard the peculiar French 2CV. You will drive past celebrated buildings such as the legendary Eiffel Tower which is perfectly visible from the roofless 2CV, the Trocadero, the world-famous Louvre and down the glamorous Champs Elysees avenue. The refurbished 2CV is equipped with a transparent roof that can be fully opened from inside to guarantee panoramic views regardless of the weather.

As you pop out of the roof top to get great shoots of the Paris landmarks, your private chauffeur will entertain you with interesting Parisian anecdotes.

€180 per couple for a 2 hour tour CLICK HERE TO BOOK


Losing streak: Competitive high-school sports linked to gambling

A new Tel Aviv University study published in The American Journal of Addictions indicates that high-schoolers involved in competitive sports are at an elevated risk of gambling. According to the research, led by Dr. Belle Gavriel-Fried of TAU’s School of Social Work and conducted by TAU student Idit Sherpsky, in collaboration with Dr. Israel Bronstein of Bar-Ilan University, the participation of male high-school students in competitive sports is associated with problem gambling and gambling frequency, and female students who participate in competitive sports are at a higher risk of gambling frequency.

“The drive to win underpins both gambling behaviour and competitive sport,” said Dr. Gavriel-Fried. “Most of the research within this area has been conducted on university athletes, but we wanted to dig deeper, find out whether the link between gambling and physical activities began earlier — before other co-factors emerge — and we found out that, in fact, it does.”

For the study, the researchers asked 316 high-schoolers, aged 14-19, from four high schools in Israel to fill out questionnaires to establish their involvement in sports and their gambling habits. “Intensive exercise” was assessed on a frequency rating scale. “Competitiveness” was rated by the number of competitive sports engaged in over the previous year, including varsity or junior varsity sports and other extracurricular programs.

Winning vs. fitness

Novel MRI technique distinguishes healthy prostate tissue from cancer using zinc

Typical MRIs don’t reliably distinguish between zinc levels in healthy, malignant, and benign hyperplastic prostate tissue, so discovery of the technique could eventually prove useful as a biomarker to track the progression of prostate cancer, according to researchers with the Advanced Imaging Research Center, part of UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This research provides the basis for differentiating healthy prostate from prostate cancer by use of a novel Zn(II) ion sensing molecule and MRI,” said senior author Dr. A. Dean Sherry, Director of the Advanced Imaging Research Center and Professor of Radiology at UT Southwestern.

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The potential for translating this method to human clinical imaging is very good, and will be useful for diagnostic purposes. The method may prove useful for monitoring therapies used to treat prostate cancer,” said Dr. Sherry, who is also Professor of Chemistry at UT Dallas, where he holds the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology.

The majority of prostate cancers are classified as adenocarcinomas and originate in epithelial cells. The UTSW researchers initially determined that glucose stimulates release of the zinc ions from inside epithelial cells, which they could then track on MRIs. The prostate cancer tissue secreted lower levels of zinc ions, offering an opportunity to distinguish between malignant and healthy tissue. When they tested the technique on mouse models, they were able to successfully detect small malignant lesions as early as 11 weeks, making the non-invasive imaging procedure a potentially useful method for detecting the disease and its progression.

“Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms, so identifying potential new diagnostic methods that might catch the cancer at an earlier stage or allow us to track how it is progressing is an important opportunity,” said co-author Dr. Neil Rofsky, Chairman of Radiology, Director of Translational Research for the Advanced Imaging Research Center, and holder of the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States, after skin cancer, and is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men, according to the National Cancer Institute. Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men, who are more likely to die from the disease.

Researchers with the Advanced Imaging Research Center are world leaders in developing new MRI tracers, which are non-radioactive, and techniques to reveal the aberrant machinery of cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and diseases of the heart, lung, and liver. As part of UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, the scientists are also mapping the brain in unprecedented detail, offering researchers new understanding of the normal brain and abnormal brain as found in subjects with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses only harmless magnetic fields and radio waves, is one of the most benign technologies in medicine for studying and diagnosing medical disorders, enabling researchers to view diseases that afflict millions of people, without the need for surgery, X-rays, or radioactive tracers.

Kamloops, Shuswap and the North Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada

Just a short 45 minute flight from Vancouver, Kamloops lies at the confluence of two branches of the Thompson River. Important during the gold rush of the 1860’s, it was the Canadian Pacific Railway which finally put in on the map when it arrived in 1883.

It enjoys more than 2,000 hours of sunshine annually and with 100 freshwater lakes within an hour’s drive of the city, tourism is becoming increasingly popular.

Shuswap Lake (c) Rupert Parker

Indeed, the sun is shining when I arrive in early October and check in to the Hotel 540 downtown. That’s good news as I’m here for outdoor activities and next day the weather is holding as I set out to Harper Mountain, around half an hour out of town.

We climb up through the forest and meet our guide, Monique Vek, in a clearing where she has our mountain bikes ready to go.

Monique has qualifications as a bronco rider and only exchanged her mount for the two wheeled variety a few years ago. It was not without mishaps as she’s broken her nose, smashed ribs and other bones, but she says it was her own fault for being too ambitious.

I am beginning to get worried as she helps me into the armour – knee pads, a padded jacket and of course the obligatory helmet. Even though I’m used to riding a normal bike she tells me to stand up straight, keep my feet level on the pedals, lean forward and always look ahead.

Kamloops Mountain Biking (c) Rupert Parker

In fact the bikes are only good for downhill as they’re sprung heavy machines, costing over $2000, and completely impossible to cycle uphill. Kamloops has enough trails to keep you occupied for two weeks but nearby Whistler is the mecca of the sport as chairlifts take you up the mountain for that downhill adrenalin rush.

Here in Kamloops, we start off by pushing the bikes up the trail to the start. It’s narrow and steep and I’m beginning to harbour doubts. I let my companions go first, and they seem to make it OK, but I’m not happy. I’m thinking of Monique’s broken bones, so I take the easy option and cycle down the dirt road, practising all the things she’d told me to do, and enjoying it without putting myself at undue risk. It’s so good that I miss the turnoff for the clearing where we’re going to meet for a barbecue and end up halfway down to Kamloops with no idea how I’m going to rejoin the party. Fortunately this has happened before and Monique arrives in her van to rescue me.

I leave Kamloops and set out for Sun Peaks Resort, 50 km to the North East. In the winter this is a ski area and the resort is laid out like an alpine village. There’s no snow here yet which is fine by me as I’m booked on the Voyageur Canoe Tour. It’s a pleasant cross country bike ride to McGillivray Lake where we transfer to an eight person historical replica canoe. Our guide is dressed as a historic fur trapper and, as we circle the lake, he tells the story of his ancestors canoeing all the way from Canada’s East coast in the search for beaver. Fortunately as fashions changed, demand for their tails slumped, and the population began to recover. The fur trappers, exploring the Canadian frontier, did manage a thorough mapping of BC’s waterways.

Voyageur Canoe tour (c) Rupert Parker

From one of the oldest modes of transport I’m moving to the newest – the Segway. At Sun Peaks they offer off-road tours, piloting souped-up rugged devices, and there’s a short ten minute training session before we’re off. It’s surprisingly easy to get the hang of it and I’m soon speeding up and down the dirt trails. Apparently a previous owner of the company steered his off a cliff and came to a bitter end, I’m slightly more careful.

Segway off-road tour (c) Rupert Parker

My next destination is Shuswap Lake, named after the First Nations people who live here. I lunch at Quaaout Lodge with Frank Antone, a quietly spoken Shuswap elder who tells me about Secwepemc culture. He’s a fund of interesting stories about their traditions and he shows me a replica of a traditional pit house, a Kekuli, in the hotel’s grounds.

Salmon are particularly important for the Shuswap and just nearby is Haig-Brown Provincial Park, where the Adams River is home to the largest migration of Sockeye Salmon in North America. Thousands of fish travel 14 days from the Arctic Ocean to lay their eggs in the gravel here in October and it’s meant to be an extraordinary sight. Unfortunately, it seems I’m too early, the salmon are still swimming upriver, and I only spot a couple who’ve arrived ahead of the rest of them.

Salmon River (c) Rupert Parker

However there is some consolation as nearby is the Shuswap Pie Company in Salmon Arm. I can honestly say that they’re in the running for the best pies in the world and sell around 400 of these gems daily, all freshly made on the premises. They use only natural ingredients and I tuck into a curry vegetable version with crisp pastry – I’m thinking I might need it as I’m spending a couple of nights on a houseboat and it’s getting colder.

Normally I would board the boat at the wharf here but the lake is so low that I have to go to Sicamous, known as the houseboat capital of Canada.

I climb about the Twin Anchors Houseboat and cruise around an hour to moor at Hungry Cove for the night. I’d expected to rough it but the CruiseCraft V is designed to be the ultimate floating resort, complete with hot tub on the top deck.

Watching the sunset from the hot tub of Twin Anchors Houseboat (c) Rupert Parker

Even better it has its own chef on board and I enjoy an excellent dinner before venturing out to the beach to huddle round a campfire. As I gaze up at the stars, enveloped in the silence of the lake, I can only admire the fortitude of those pioneer fur trappers – at least I can retreat to a comfortable bed, safe from the predations of wild animals, and don’t have to cook my dinner.

Twin Anchors Houseboat at sunset (c) Rupert Parker

Tourism Kamloops has information about the city.
Shuswap Tourism has information about the area.
Super, Natural British Colombia has information about the province.
Destination Canada has information about the country.