Iceland Day 4

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I got up a little later than I intended with no specific plans. I had to go to the Kriglan Mall to run a few errands, Heiner caught up with me at breakfast and offered me a lift there. I got what I needed and picked up something for Helen as a Christmas present. Heiner found me again and gave me a ride back to Laugervagur.

I spent more money on Laugevagur than I had done previously but I got some cool stuff, including a ‘norsey horsey’ cuddly toy. I had a look inside the cathedral and got myself a pizza for lunch, which is the first proper money I’ve spent on food, but so worth it. I found Cafe Loki opposite and had some Icelandic herb tea while the sun went down (so round about 3:30 pm).

I attempted to find the National Museum but I thought it might close too soon after I got there so I hung out in the park. It was pretty but totally frozen, even most of the large pond at the centre. It was David’s anniversary so I sat down for a little while. There was one small area of the pond that wasn’t froze, with swans and ducks swimming in it. I went down a nearby street that looked cute and it had an English Bar, an American bar, and an Irish bar, which already sounds like a joke. I found a souvenir shop selling cheap hot chocolate.

I checked out the Irish bar and went for a coffee. They had a stuffed rabbit dressed like a fenian holding a shotgun, so it was wholly authentic. I headed back to the hostel after that with the plan of drinking what I had there to save money. I had the same dinner of boil-in-the-bag rice and kidney beans and sat with the same crowd as yesterday. I had one of my beers, a wine, and a pint from behind the bar.

We were all drinking and eventually decided to go to some bars in Reykjavik. The plan was Lebowskibar but we passed Dillon’s on the way, which I had heard a lot about, so we checked that out. I had a shot of brennivin and a whiskey, and still felt totally sober. There was a band in there but we didn’t spend too long listening to them.

Next stop was the infamous Lebowskibar. It was super cool in terms of references to the movie, but like everything in the country, expensive as hell. None of us bought anything to drink as a result but a few of the guys found some girls to chat up. I was determined to go to this gay bar across the road called Kiki’s, recommended to me by a friend, and dragged two very straight Californians along with me.

Neither of them were too happy about it at first but they were playing some absolute bangers so they quickly got very into it, especially the young guy from LA. It was only a small place but the music was at a good volume where you could still hear yourself. I had another pint there, but still felt absolutely fine. We chatted to other people in there, before heading to the American bar where everyone else was.

The guys wanted some food so we went on a mission for some, eventually finding this takeaway place and getting fries. After that it was a walk back to the hostel in the cold. There was no falling on the ice luckily. I went straight to bed once we got back. I still felt completely fine, despite the mix of booze I’d had.

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Iceland day 3

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Once again I managed to hijack someone else’s trip! Me and the three Spanish girls got invited along for a drive with this guy from San Fransisco, who, unlike our driver yesterday, only asked for fuel money. We left early to miss tourists and played some 90s R&B classics along the way.

We got to the black sand beach in the south coast just as the sun was coming up. One of the most surreal, beautiful places I have ever been to. There were these huge rock formations on the cliff side not dissimilar to the Giant’s Causeway. There were flocks of seagulls flying around and the sea was pretty wild. There were cavernous spaces in the cliff face that looked like the mouths of caves, and two crooked rock towers out in the sea to the left of the sun. I picked some volcanic rocks for people back home.

We then drove to another part of the beach that was home to the wreck of a WWII bomber plane (everyone survived the crash). It was about a 2 mile walk from the care but that made it more special. Anywhere else it might have been taken to a scrapyard decades ago, or become a tourist trap. The lighting was beautiful and there were a few professional photographers. I carved David’s name on the side of the plane and inside, it would have fascinated him. We took loads of pics, including one of me stood on top and frozen in terror! After the walk back to the car we ate some sandwiches and took some pics on the road.

After that we moved on to an amazing waterfall, covered in ice. It was less cold, and we had visibility problems in the car due to rain. There was still plenty of ice around, however. Lee, our driver, spoke some Spanish and was trying to improve, so I was mainly surrounded by Spanish speakers for most of the journey! It was fine, however, I learned a lot myself!

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After that we moved onto a glacier, which was truly awe-inspiring. We had to walk over a fair bit of ice to get there but luckily no one fell. If my Mum had been there she would have had a heart attack! It was huge, a gorgeous blue colour, and sat amongst more mountains. There was a small blue lake coming off it with frozen patches and small bergs of blue ice, like a miniature Arctic sea. The banks were made up of black sand and shiny black pebbles. Iceland has to have one of the most surreal landscapes on the planet. There was a tiny little cafe where we could use the toilet and buy some food, I can’t imagine working somewhere so tiny and remote.

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We managed to squeeze in one more waterfall before driving back to Reykjavik. It was getting dark and starting to rain, so we basically just ran out, took some pics, and ran back to the car! Although, I did squeeze in a quick visit to the gift shop, and two of the girls bought Lee a donut for his trouble.

I snoozed in the car for most of the journey home, and woke up with the rain and blizzard level snow covering the road. Poor Lee was having to go about 2 miles an hour, and his windscreen wipers only seem to make things worse! We pretty much just followed other cars. If Mum was there she would have freaked out. Luckily, we got back in one piece, and me being lazy, I went for a nap.

I got talking to other hostel guests at the bar. It was happy hour, so we were able to get pints cheaper than normal. They were all really nice, and a cool thing about hostels is getting together with people from all over the world. If I was staying in a hotel I wouldn’t have taken trips and I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with in the evening. We spent a long time talking about the penis museum, and Icelandic witchcraft.

At around nine o’clock me and the same group went out to try and find the aurora. We got out to a spot near þingvellir. The lights we out, but once again it was very faint. It was still a nice night, however, the skies were clear and we spotted a few shooting stars. I t may have been purely imagination but the stars seemed twinklier out there, too. Lee took some long exposure pictures which showed the Northern Lights a lot brighter and more impressive than they were in person, so we always have the option to lie and say we saw them. We drove back and I pretty much went straight to bed.

Iceland – day 2

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I agreed to go on an unofficial (and possibly slightly illegal) golden circle tour with Heiner, the guitar playing German from the hostel, and three Spanish girls travelling together. We packed ourselves into the small car with a loud and somewhat oversharey German playing Rammstein, but it was way cheaper than proper tours and far more flexible. We stopped at the supermarket first for snacks and I picked up some food for the week, I tried to stick to canned and cheap stuff but even that was stupidly expensive.

We started at Þingvellir which I was able to really explore after just passing through the day before. I got some great pics and learned some facts, like how it hosts the Icelandic Prime Minister during the summer. I also believe it’s home to the world’s oldest parliament.

 

 

In the car Heiner mainly stuck to his rock music, but we all got a turn with the auxillary cord and even managed to play some Christmas tunes! David would have loved the whole thing – viking history, Rammstein, and geological weirdness. We stopped at other spots, like an amazing frozen lake, The whole country is like an alien planet.

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After that we went to this pool/spa place to try this famous rye bread, traditionally baked by burying it for 24 hours next to the thermal springs themselves. It was pretty nice, a little sweet but easily balanced out with salt and garlic oil. The thermal springs and the lake were so cool, they smelled a little eggy due to the sulphur, but that just made it all the more surreal. It’s very freaky, you’re walking on three inches of solid ice, then you dip your hand into a stream and it’s hotter than bath water. With the big lake and the steam rising up, it was amazingly cool.

 

 

After that was the geysir, which was fun to see again. I got such a fright when it exploded while I was taking a picture that I dropped my phone and cracked the screen a little – but it’s a great story so I wasn’t bothered! It’s quite literally an icebreaker (or a screenbreaker). After that we went to this weird little place that had a greenhouse full of tomatoes (Icelandic people love tomatoes – who knew) and a restaurant. It also had the Icelandic ponies, bred for horse racing, ans a small track. We got to see a little demonstration of one going round the track, they trot in a really funny way.

 

Before the light was completely gone there was just enough time to visit Gulfoss waterfall. It was truly epic, made more so by the fact it was half frozen. God knows how that even happens! Not enough safety measure though – a small rope fence stopping you from falling down a cliff face and into a waterfall, with icy ground. I saw two ravens flying around – Huginn and Munnin keeping watch on Midgard for Odin?

It was about a 2 hour drive back to Reykjavik so I snoozed in the car and had another nap when I got back. I made tortellini pasta for tea and chatted to my fellow hostel guests. Me and the three Spanish girls were due to retake the Northern Lights tour, but the forecast wasn’t good so we decided to forgo the bitter cold and stayed in with a beer. Plus, an American guy offered to drive us out another night to see them anyway, so it’s all good.

Iceland – Day 1

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I got up at around 8 and left at 9. It was still pitch dark and didn’t get lighter for another hour. My plan was just to explore Reykjavik, but Mum texted me to tell me that Simon, a family friend of ours, was in Iceland for work, so we arranged to meet for lunch. I walked up to Hallgrimskirja, the iconic cathedral, to take pics, then to the longship sculpture by the shore. From there I got some incredible views of the mountains.

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A little bird flew up to me so I gave it some almonds and fish jerky. Later I found out it was called a redwing. The longship looked out to the sea and the mountains and faced the Reykjavik skyline the other way. While I was taking photos I slipped on the ice and did a big clumsy dance that went on for ages before actually falling. Bizarrely none of the other tourists seem to notice at all, they didn’t laugh or ask if I was ok!

Once I had recovered I explored Laugevagur, the hipster street that also had some great tourist tat shops. I picked out some postcards and went into a coffee shop to write them. Simon said he would meet me in a place called the noodle station a little further up Laugevagur. We met and he very kindly bought me some noodle soup with peanuts. He had been out drinking the night before so really it was nice for him to meet me at all! We got talking to an American couple sat next to us – Rusty and Lois from Colorado, who were on the last day of their trip. Simon and Rusty both had military backgrounds so they had a lot to talk about. Eventually they offered us a space in their car for their road trip, and I jumped at the chance! Simon still felt rough, so he declined.

Immediately when you drive out of the city you hit these incredible icy plains and mountains. There are tiny cabins here and there, and the odd caravan. There are lakes and rivers which were completely frozen and very sparsely dotted fir trees. Rusty and Lois joked that they were kidnapping me, but they were incredibly kind to invite me along! Before going, I had joked that I would just tag along on other people’s drives instead of paying for coach tours, who knew it would happen on the very first day! We stopped at a few random beauty spots that caught our attention to take pictures, then made our first real stop at the geyser. I tried to get a video of it blasting off, but it proved difficult, especially with my shaky camera work. We briefly stopped at Þingvellir, where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet. Lois very kindly bought me one of Iceland’s finest overpriced beers (a warning for anyone planning a visit – EVERYTHING in Iceland is overpriced!) and we picked out a few more beauty spots. Rust took a shirtless pic with the mountains in the background, which is especially brave when you consider it was so cold it felt like your eyeballs would freeze. We also stopped to greet some incredibly cute Icelandic ponies, though one of them bit my arm!

They very nicely drove me back to the Bus Hostel before going out for some fermented shark tapas. I gave them a shot of brennivin bought at duty free as a thank you for my free tour and we listened to this German guy living at the hostel playing guitar. We parted ways and I got ready for my Northern lights tour.

I got talking to some girls from Kerry and some girls from the UK who were also going. The bus took us out to the middle of nowhere, where it was about -10°c. It was a clear night with some beautiful stars, but aside from a faint bluish line in the sky, they didn’t really show. However, it was still a gorgeous night and we got some info on the constellations and the milky way, and I saw a few shooting stars. I got back to the hostel and went straight to bed.

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