So I wrote most of this post on the plane then my phone cracked the shits and I’m doing it again… So forgive the inadequacies (still 4000 ish words – good luck Ben!), and lateness. So Friday I left work right on the knocker of 1130, the time I’d hoped to leave, I headed home, had a rushed lunch with Earl, finished packing, and then was picked up by Nick and Kat to head to the airport. I have to say that getting out of this city on an international flight is ridiculously easy. I was educated to the third access point, the bridge, which I’ve seen on the websites as being a fast way into the terminals, but you have to walk across the bridge then down to catch the train to the further terminals. But I suspect that when the bridge security is 8 minutes and the others are 20 minutes I’ll still be winning. So the plane ride was nothing interesting. It got done, it was hard work with a knee in my back the whole way, thank you bloke in the seat behind me, but it was over in 6.5 hours, so not too bad.
The days mission was to hire the car then explore Reykjavik. Mission one was eventually completed. The guy had a full car when we (eventually) found him, so we had a cuppa coffee, that was highly necessary! After coffee we went to the rental place and a bloke from Jersey rented me the car. It was a Jeep, and I guess I understand why it was cheap now. The first thing was that the check engine light was on when I started heading off. I stopped back in and asked about it, nope, the sensors are a bit odd on this one. Okay, off we go. Cruising up the road and there is an emphatic whistle through the window – yep the seal was busted too, that was super fun to drive with the wind howling through your ear the whole time. The brakes were squeaky. The tyres were embiggened so they rubbed on the wheel arches. The speedo was wrong (reference previous comment about embiggened tyres). The Clunker did us good. We had three rules:
- Hold on to the door when you open it. No one insures for doors being blown backwards.
- Don’t get on the roof. No one insures for standing on the roof.
- Don’t drive through rivers. Or at least don’t get stuck driving through rivers. No one insures for damage from river crossings.
Apparently there are many things that the Asian set will do to a car which are shocking and unheard of for us… Including cooking and eating very smelly foods in the car. Oh well, we had a great time giving each other shit about the things we could and could not do with the rental car. Particularly yelling at each other to turn the headlights on (or off when you get out), having headlights on is the law all day in Iceland, and this old clunker was not automatic. I also had an interesting time remembering to look at the smaller dial for the speed…driving 90km/hr is so boring compared with 90m/hr! The other ongoing amusement of The Clunker: turn the lights off you idiot. Usually after a self admonishment to turn the lights on in the first place. Iceland has a turn-on-headlights-at-all-times law, which is fine in new cars that are set to do so, in The Clunker, none of that. Just gotta a remember, and usually via a moment of yelling at oneself in Nicks case.
Okay, so enough about the clunker…. We got going and headed into Reykjavik for the exploration of the big city day. We started with breakfast at a little bakery – insert the first good bread I’ve had since Australia. It was a half decent breakfast, though small, there was a lot of research that went into finding a place that opened for breakfast before 11am…Icelanders are not early people! Though the websites profess that they are early people, they just get their farm chores done first then have their morning.
After filling our bellies we walked all the way through the big city to the Hallgrimskirkja. We stopped in at the wool shop for Kat to see and experience that…the boys didn’t give two hoots about the wool place. Kat got herself a beautiful Icelandic Lopi jumper! I didn’t see that style when I was there, I’m almost jealous. Anyways, we then headed to the church and it was nice and windy and blowy when we headed inside to stand in line. I was astonished by how many tourist there were – across the board – in the middle of winter. Don’t they know that Iceland is an inhospitable place? Anyways, in the line at the church and an Irish lass came up and passed on her tickets…saved us all of $5 each, but that was sweet of her.
Then we walked along the beach to the Harpa. I will always think that place is super impressive. Always! You can look at it in so many different ways, and even if you look at it the same way it will look different this moment to that moment. After that we were pretty beat but our accommodation wasn’t ready, so we headed to the pool for our first spot of relaxation. The hot pots were exactly what I remembered – this was a pool I went to last time I was here – varying degrees of toasty warm, lovely people, but this time it was also snowing! Its super cool to have snow while you’re boiling yourself in a hot pot. Nick and Kat also had a hilarious time playing in the kids end of the indoor swimming pool…I was feeling a bit too dehydrated after all the hot soaking (and the lack of sleep and the windy cold, and the …) so I reclined poolside and retrieved the ball when it went out of the pool.
Finally, it was about time for us to head to Selfoss where I’d booked Julia’s Guesthouse for the three nights. We followed all the instructions and ended up in the right place, thankfully…the road into the house had about six inches of snow on it, I guess it had snowed shortly before we arrived and the plows only do one run a day along this road (they’d been in the morning) because there are all of three houses along the 1.8km road. It was no issue really thanks to The Clunker having its giant tyres. We rolled in and Julia and Mike, our hosts, were sitting at their kitchen table having a relaxing Saturday afternoon. The guesthouse is just that, a house which has some spare rooms so Julia cooks breakfast for the guests and provides clean sheets and towels, and off you go – everyone shares the house. Of course it is interesting when there are eight people in the house with two toilets (one of which is located such that only two people would use it) and one bathroom. Its not a massive house by any stretch of the imagination…and there is stuff everywhere! Every surface is jam packed with little nick knacks and bits and bobs. I’d hate to live in that situation, but it was great for this brief trip. We decided that a shower than a little whiskey and gaming was in order – we played a few rounds of Jenga and hit the sack pretty early. Remember that six inches of snow? Well Saturday night Reykjavik had record breaking snow (50cm apparently), and as Selfoss had some snow – not 50cm though! I guess we were at about a foot of snow when we got up. Again, we had no issues with The Clunker, the other pair who were staying at the guesthouse had a small run-about car, they likely had some fun getting out, we didn’t stick around, a neighbor was there to help out so we just headed on our merry way…after breakfast.
Our first stop for Saturday was the waterfall you can walk behind and the hidden waterfall, Seljalandsfoss and Glufrabui respectively. Places I’ve been before but they were really pretty in winter too. Pretty slippery as well when I think about it.
Next stop was Skogafoss. The 385 steps up to the top was more challenging this time with all the snow and ice on the stairs. We were treated to this wonderful rainbow as well, so cool! Unfortunately, the walk along the river was all closed off, looked like it was a permanent closure, so didn’t get to take a walk in at all.
I had considered stopping in at the one hot spring along this route (the one that you had to walk in a little ways), but I decided against that after talking to Julia and Mike. They were saying that being such a big pool area (its 25m x about 7m) and with the recent rainy, cold, snowing, and windy weather it would likely not be very warm. Upon reflection I recalled that I hovered under the hot water inlet the entire time I was there in May, so I could totally understand it would be really quite cold now. So we skipped that one.
So our next stop was Dyrholaey, the stone arch and amazing view of the black sand beaches.
Finally we had some dunch in Vik where we introduced the locals to just how noisy and troublesome Americans can be. Yep – I’ll let the Americans take the fall for that one, I’m pretty sure that the locals didn’t know the difference between my accent and theirs. Then we tootled back to the Guesthouse. There we discovered that Julia was having a friend over for dinner, so we all sat around and chatted a little and played Uno while having some whiskey and brenivinn. The game of Uno started about 1930 and didn’t end until 2125…seriously, one hand of Uno went for (about) two hours. I think it only ended because we put a 2130 time limit on it and Earl decided that he’d win instead of letting it be called some sort of draw.
Monday was the day for doing the Golden Circle tourist attractions. A few wonderful photos were found on the journey, no stopping of course, The Clunker doesn’t like stopping once it got rolling! Or maybe that was the driver…..
First stop was Thingvellir and Althingi, the place of the first Parliament. You remember that – right? J This time we managed to park in an area which apparently we shouldn’t have. A bus driver came over when we were pulling out and let us know that we’d passed a big sign on the way into the car park which said busses only/…on the way out we did indeed discover the sign, ¾ covered with snow. Oh well, the big bad people didn’t get to us so we’re okay I guess. This was the area where I realized another #fuckyouColorado moment… Looking out over the views and the mountains I realized that I wasn’t in as much awe as I was last time, and I don’t think it is because I’ve seen it before. I firmly believe that this lack-of-awe is because I get to drive west and see the Rocky Mountains covered in snow every morning that I go to the office. Damn that’s annoying!
The second stop was scheduled to be Geysir, but I looked at my maps and was curious about a star that I’d placed at Laugarvartn. On first look there is nothing at all interesting about this town; just another little tourist town on the Golden Circle. Upon further inspection I found that there is a hot spring here – winning! Having missed out on the hot springs yesterday everyone was super keen to experience a real hot spring (the pool is just a pool with hot pots, not a hot spring). This hot spring was a real one, the kind that turned my silver jewelry fun colours with tarnish.
After a good hour and a half soaking in the hot springs we realized that we would be pushing for time to finish our Golden Circle tour and get to our booking later in the evening (hold your horses, all will be revealed). I guess the soak took up all our potential napping time, I was devastated, but we headed on to Geysir, oddly, I didn’t take any photos here, it looks just the same as it did when I was there in May. The ground around the area is so warm that there wasn’t even snow to make it look different, though the path was icy and slippery that isn’t anything to take a photo of! The crowds were at a similar level to May – madness. After watching Strokkur blow its top a couple of times (we’re not waiting years for the Great Geyser to blow!) we headed on to Gullfoss. This spot was astonishingly windy, like make sure you’re leaning into the wind so you don’t get blown over, and hold on to your phone with two hands because that small surface area will become a sail in no time flat.
Final stop for the Golden Circle tour was the crater Kerid. I don’t actually recall going here last time, so that was a win – a new stop! It isn’t a particularly earth shattering type of interesting place, a crater in the middle of a highly volcanic island isn’t a rarity, but I can see it as being interesting for those who haven’t seen the others. We walked around the crater rim and I read the pamphlet – apparently this isn’t a violent eruption crater, it was a slow bubbling kind.
Phew – the days touring done we stopped off at Selfoss for dinner. This time we were a little less rowdy. Or maybe the music was up louder so we didn’t hear ourselves quite as much. It was another yummy meal of fresh ingredients. I had the fish and chips. Lots of good fish! We also popped into the bank to collect some cash to pay Julia for our stay…look at all the zeroes in that pile of cash!
Having missed out on our nanna nap, we headed along the coast for our next adventure.
The next adventure: the highlight. Okay, the adventure wasn’t the highlight, I was not at all fussed about a trip to the Blue Lagoon, I really enjoy the smaller hot springs, but I acquiesced – you’ve gotta go once! The highlight was what we saw while we were there. We hadn’t paid enough attention to the Blue Lagoon website and didn’t book early enough, so the only available time for us was 2000 on Monday night. I wasn’t overjoyed about that either because it’s a long drive back to Selfoss, but our lateness in booking was redeemed. When Kat and I were venturing into the lagoon we were hearing a bit of yelling, we ignored it thinking ‘silly tourists’. Then we looked up and realized that they were yelling and screaming (it was a tour bus full of Asian girls) because the northern lights had started up their show. So okay, that became pretty special – watching the northern lights for about an hour while soaking in the blue lagoon.
We showered and headed home about 2130, all of us quite soundly pooped. It took quite some time for us to get to bed – we kept popping outside to watch the show, then sitting on the couch watching some more when we got cold. That’s what I came for! I’d say it is a pity that the photos didn’t work out, but really it isn’t the photos that you want – you just have to go and experience it for yourselves. It is seriously awesome to watch. I guess I’ll be wandering off to find more from other places next year me thinks.
So not a lot of sleep later we got up and had out final breakfast at the Guesthouse. Julia was an absolute sweetheart when she said her goodbyes. It was a very familial stay. Loved it!
On our way back to the airport we just had to stop off at another hot spring – this one was called the Secret Lagoon. At $28 to get in (each) and with as many people as there were, it wasn’t so secret me thinks. This one seemed very genuine, the floor was gravel and sand and the hot water appeared from the sides in odd spots, just wherever the hot water wanted to come out. There was even a little geyser there to keep us amused, went off every few minutes.
And so the journey ended. We tripped back to Keflavik and returned The Clunker with no issues and got to the airport. At the airport it turned out that Gudmundur was also flying out that afternoon – he was going to London to head on to Croatia for a work conference … such a hard life. He popped over to the bar we were at and had a brief chat – it was good to catch up with him! He insists that I need to come back to Iceland again, to come in summer, because that may was a super wet and cold one so he thinks I’ve been there twice in winter. I’m not sure I would be able to handle the crowds in summer, there are way too many people in Winter and Spring!
On the plane I managed to watch a few movies after I typed up half of this blog (then lost it, got angry and turned on movies). The first was Fargo. Now that was a waste of time. Even though I was stuck on a plane for seven hours and I was putting together all the photos for the blog, I still think it was a waste of time. What a daft movie. And only two scenes were actually set in North Dakota, one north of Fargo where some bad people meet to exchange some information and the second time in Bismarck (the other side of the state) when one of the bad guys got arrested. Seriously, pointless movie, highly do not recommend it. The second movie was Chicago – Earl had a great time laughing at my bopping to the music. And finally I watched the Suicide Squad. That was a great movie, perfect if you don’t expect anything more than comic strip frivolity and explosions. One line really stuck with me. The straight hero guy says to the squad “You disobey me, you die. You try to escape, you die. You otherwise irritate or vex me … and guess what? You die.” Harley Quinn (the Aussie lass I might add) said “I’m known to be quite vexing. I’m just warning forewarning you.” Yep, that may or may not be me to a tee 🙂
And so I got home. Ridiculously tired, thoroughly warn out, and with what I am calling the Icelandic Flu – really it’s just me being a bit sick while I’m ridiculously over tired. Thankfully tonsillitis isn’t on the cards any more so I’m in denial. I wonder what the next week has in store for me?