What a day. Well actually what a two days. In true “Iceland Style” (frozen food supermarket not country), I’ve had a 241…. Actually more a 222:
2 hours sleep
To suggest I’m tired is an understatement.
Having got a lift to Newark, I gingerly placed my bag on the scale to find out that actually surprisingly my bag was underweight! (I’m not sure how!) I popped some more stuff in and headed towards the gate….
I’m still unsure why people would want to “preboard” the plane. You’re gonna be sat on your bum in that seat for the next 4, 5 or however many hours… Why have extra time sat down?! Anyway… We boarded, I’d been switched back into an exit row (following a 3 time switch debacle!) And due to the man behind wanting to sit next to his partner ended up making a new friend in Emma (shout out to Emma, who for the record agrees with my preboard point!).
I somehow managed to pick up 2ish hours sleep. I don’t sleep well on planes…. Oh and a very nice new blanket for the collection! Some shluf, Sour Patch kids Courtesy of Emma and some conversation later we land in Keflavik Iceland…
I head straight for the “Shuttle bus to car hire” Pickup point (Outside in the cold, not wearing appropriate clothing) to realize that actually I was being met in the terminal. I got back in side just before a quick snowstorm and tried to buy a coffee. Apparently “The coffee machine doesn’t open before 8am, but the one over there works”… Who knew coffee machines had feelings.
Eventually I was on my way – rumbling along in my Opel (Vauxhall!) Mokka 4×4, with Nails in the tires! (Good nails – Spikes out, NOT Bad Nails – Spikes in).
The man at the car rental explained that it wasn’t going to get light until 10am, and that there wasn’t much do/see when the sun was down but I could head to Grindavik and drive the very long way round to Reykjavik that way.
On arrival at Grindavik I found nothing…. Well nothing but a very off road road which led right down to where the land met the sea. (And at times, the water did meet the land, and I had flashbacks of Mersea 2015 – 4×4 copes better in water than civic!)
This tiny dirt track of a road led me to watch the sunrise over the sea by the lighthouse. Pretty cool!
From there I headed to Reykjavik, stopped off for another coffee and cake before realizing that I couldn’t check in until 4 so I ought to do something with my day!
So I headed out to do my own version of the “Golden Circle” tour that a lot of tour operators here run for me this included
A hike/walk/stroll/slide round bits of Þingvellir National Park
Seeing the Geysirs
Seeing the Gullfoss waterfall
I’m not really going to write much more about it, but just leave you with some pictures!
I had dinner tonight in a restaurant round the corner from my hotel and now I’m off to bed but first must decide what to do tomorrow… sadly no northern lights were visible tonight 🙁
Lots of people in this life give you lots of advice. Some you decide to listen to and some you decide to drop… “Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rives and the lakes that your used to”…. is something I’m gonna drop. Today I chased all three! 🙂
So I woke up about 9, went down for some breakfast and made myself a couple of rolls which were wrapped carefully in serviettes and popped into my pocket ready for lunch. (Think March of the Living Sans Tuppaware, if you’ve been!)
From the hotel I headed towards “Road 1” or as some locals like to call it “The ring road”. Think M25, but also think often single lane, questionable weather, single lane bridges (i.e. one lane two directions) and think at some points, gravel! FUNs.
I headed south on the ring road hoping to get to Vik, practically the most southern point of Iceland, to see it’s cool cliffs and amazing black sand… I was not far out of Reykjavik on Road 1 when the conditions became interesting. The road goes uphill quite steeply and the wind at the top was doing all sorts of things. I’m pretty sure I now know what a pilot feels like when a plane hits turbulence!
The views while driving, which were meant to be stunning were unfortunately obscured by the low cloud and rain. BOOO.
I’d got over halfway to Vik, when I saw from the road an amazing looking waterfall in the distance. I was obviously going to stop and have a look!
What I found was the Seljalandsfoss and another which I’m not sure of the name of. I also found LOTS of rain…. and also managed to ensure that I saw all the usual candidates! (I always say you can go anywhere in the world, and always find American and Chinese people!)
It was truly beautiful if not truly soaking! I wandered around and watched the water flow beneath the ice – I uploaded a short video of it to Youtube here… https://youtu.be/7D4DMJWzNA8
From there I got back in the car, took all the wet layers off (Thankfully I was wearing many layers)… was a little upset I hadn’t bought a spare pair of trousers…. cranked the heating up to full, laid the clothes out on the passenger seat like a clothes horse and set to dry as well as set off to Vik.
On the way I noticed I was passing the Eyjafjallajökull which erupted in 2010 causing all those delays/cancellations to flights. Turns out those waterfalls run off from the volcano! (they say it’s the land of fire and ice and they ain’t wrong!) Sadly it was so cloudy I could only see the very bottom of it! 🙁 (Bastard in 2010, still a bastard in 2017!)
Eventually both the clothes dried and I arrived at Vik. Initially going directly to Vik, and stopping in the food/icelandic wear shop (Useful stop for the loo!) before heading back a little way towards one of the popular black sand beaches. (It was still raining and although I was already damp, I just couldn’t face the thought of a wet 15 min hike!
I arrived at the beach and took heed of the friendly warning signs….
…and then headed (Yes, VERY Carefully Mum, Aunty Nicky, and anyone else who will send me a warning. I WAS CAREFUL!) onto the beach.
It was truly spectacular and the waves were truly terrifying. I was stood a long way back taking a photo and the next thing you know the very end of the wave (the foamy bit) was lapping at my feet! The rocks are really cool too – the way they are shaped is to do with the way the cliffs were formed from magma cooling….. Ill leave that to the geologists, BUT THEY COOL AS HELL!
While at the beach I took a moment to stare into the space of the waves, in my own little space where it was quite and just reflect on things. ( a bit deep but really actually I felt so much better afterwards!) I thought for a while about the stress of the last 2 years and the effect it had on me as well as my upcoming challenge starting a week tomorrow. (AAAH)
Reality hit me as the rain became more aggressive (Dry is underrated) and I realized I should probably head back as light was fading. (We’re only getting light about 10-4ish). I tried to head to another waterfall but the light was gone so decided to turn round and head back home.
I stopped to fill up on the way back and asked for directions for some good food locally. I was given VERY detailed instructions by people who swear their English wasn’t very good… to find you could actually see the restaurant, 200m down the road from the petrol station.
Fish and chips was nice, but VERY expensive. I did worry as I was the only person in the place, and there was a lot of horsemeat on the menu. I’m pleased to say they didn’t mince me a make me into burgers. (the man was really nice and we spoke literally about the weather!!!)
On the way back, things were going to plan, until I hit the rather tall hill which was turbulent on the way out… It quickly turned in to a snow storm. Thankfully only a small amount of Large Car Toboggan took place, thanks to the 4WD and snow tires!
When I got back to Reykjavik, I stopped off at the Hallgrímskirkja just to get a photo at night… I plan to stop by in the day for a visit!
I’m now posting this and am off out again – it’s very cloudy here and chances of the northern lights are LOW due to the cloud… but I’ve seen a spot of the forecast near where I was yesterday which has little cloud. I’m hoping I’ll catch something as it’s forecast lower and cloudier tomorrow! 🙁
That should probably be more Snow and hot water…. I’ll talk to the tourist board about that…
Tonight’s location is the bar of Foss Hotel Reykjavik. (that’s my hotel, I’ve not just wandered into a random hotel!) To be clear, the bar is in the corner of the room. The room being the breakfast room with a couple of lit candles and the lighting on dim…. a tad less inspiring than the Hamilton DC. (I’m going to get kicked out mid-writing this…. as the bar shuts strictly at 11!) They do serve a lovely Icelandic Orangina (same idea different name)… it was £3.50 but was still the most reasonable thing I’ve bought today. (EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN EXPENSIVE!)
Last night, about 1.30, I decided to go out for a drive to try and see the northern lights. I’d noticed a gap in cloud cover on the forecast, thought it lined up with Þingvellir so thought I’d drive out there and have a look.
On the way, nature decided that a snowstorm was in order. This made for fairly interesting driving conditions. Once in Þingvellir national park there were no other tyre tracks on the road which was cool. There was also next to 0 light pollution too.. so even at night you could see the clouds as white on the dark of the sky.
I stopped for a while just off the main road at the entrance to a closed road. Safely parked and visible to any cars that might come (None – I hadn’t seen any in over 40 mins by now!) I switched off engine and lights and sat and waited. There was a lot of clouds and while I thought I saw something, a spot of further driving and cloud movement confirmed it was just the moon! 🙁
This morning I had a little lie in (I was shattered!) and got up, dressed and headed literally across the road from the hotel to look at the view!
Then I decided to head out towards Reykjadalur – Steam Valley. I stopped just off the main road and had the most amazing salad for lunch (Create your own, Chop’d style) with incredible smoked salmon. So good and so big that it came with me as a dinner too!
From there I drove a bit further towards the foot of the Reykjadalur trail to go to the hot springs…. I could have taken the very easy road of going to Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, paying a ticket fee and sitting in the geothermal springs… but I decided to opt against commercialism and go eau natural.
The website said that the hike too about 30 mins… Great I thought… except it was throwing down snow like you can’t imagine. Now back home, the Met office would thrown Black, Red, Sparkling flashing and fizzing warnings out to everyone to lock up their children, buy tinned food for 9 years and not to go outside. Here, the weather was decidedly “Fair”. (Someone even said “this isn’t even winter here”).
Thankfully I started, turned round to pop my camera back in the car and met some people on the way – 2 foresters from Canada and a brit who has become a Glacier guide here in Iceland. Without the company I’d most certainly have given up very early into the hike and gone back to the warm car.
To semi-quote the sound of music, we pretty much Climbed Every Mountain. Up, Over and down the small peaks we went. Frankly this was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done and conquered. It has meant that I now have a bit of a want for walking again…. lets see how I get on with keeping that up!
About halfway I fell foul to what we thought was a bridge – one of the girls went over first, I soon followed to find that the bridge was actually snow and that my right foot was about to get a soaking! (A warm soaking mind you!)
Eventually we knew we were getting closer to the springs as pools emerged smoking, bubbling water with signs warning you that the water was ~100 Degrees centigrade. Unsurprisingly these were not the rivers for swimming in! (They are like mini Geysirs and you can see the water bubbling like a saucepan on a hot hob!)
After what felt like about 3 years but was more like 2 hours. We reached the top, where we found some, erm… windbreakers. In the thrashing snow, we stripped off, popped on swim gear, nearly froze our feet to the floor, and jumped into the river. My laces had become frozen together so took a little defrosting before I could even start!
It wasn’t as warm as we hoped – The snow doesn’t help! But the experience was incredible. We were up a mountain, in the snow, in hot water. (Laying there and keeping yourself from moving was a great core workout, I thoroughly recommend, but everything is going to hurt tomorrow!)
Eventually we were brave enough to jump out. OH SWEET LORD WAS IT COLD! Thankfully my coat had held down sheltering all my stuff and soon I was dried, dressed and ready to roll.
We started to descend and the snow had decided to hold off for a little bit. The amount that had fallen was incredible and in places we were up to our knees in snow! At one point I slipped a little and my water bottle (Courtesy of Hilly Jilly Dilly of Hong Kong Fame) decided to jump out the side pocket of my bag and take a slide. Thankfully it went cap first, and got lodged just a meter or two down so I could slide down (Myself already on the snow) and retrieve it!
As the snow had stopped, the view had cleared and we had the most amazing views of the valley and hot pools as we descended! Strangely the descent was shorter than the ascent (Employing sarcasm here!) and soon we were back at the car.
I finally understood the reason that car manufactueres invented heated seats and heated steering wheels! I treated myself to a coffee and a cake at the bakery I’d eaten lunch before heading back to the hotel.
The snow was back and it was a little more tretcherous than before. Worst in the city centre where a run in with a taxi driver nearly ended up with me bespokely redecorating the side of my car. (Thankfully I saved it!)
We’d discussed at the end of the walk the public pools and how they were great so after finishing my salad (yes I waited 30 mins Mum), I decided to go 4 blocks up to the Sundhöll Reykjavíkur. I actually decided against the pool but instead spent my time in the Hot Tubs (39 and 43 degrees). The hot tubs were rooftop so all the while the snow was lashing down on us. It was incredible.
The pools here are like an institution. This one in Downtown Reykyavik is fairly old but very well kept. They are very strict on washing before entering and I’d read that regulars will send you back if you haven’t had a proper full on naked shower before you swim. (“Naked shower” was exactly what was written on the signs all over the showers!) You could tell who were the sort of people who could become “Shower police”!!! (I didn’t get into trouble, don’t fear!)
Watching the people in the pools was incredible. (I love a good people watch!) Mainly due to the different types of people that were there. I was the only English speaker for the majority of the time so had to kind of guess what was going on but there was literally all walks of life there – Couples, Women friends meeting up for a natter, “Lads” having a lad night out, (They’d be getting drunk and having fight at home!) Girls having a girls night out, and people just there alone for some peace and quiet!
All in all a fantastic experience for just over a fiver… which is surprisingly comparable to home! If I had more time, I’d go again… It’s open til 10pm!
All watered out, I slid/drove back to the hotel (I just couldn’t face walking through the snow storm) and sat for a moment reflecting on the last few days:
Tomorrow I’m going to try and go inside Hallgrímskirkja the huge church before the flight home and then that’s pretty much it… I’ve got an afternoon flight, but have to be at the airport at midday and lord knows how long it’s going to take to get there so this could be the last blog post…. (I might update it with Hallgrímskirkja for my own record!)
Tomorrow not only marks the end of my holiday, but also begins the end of the limbo I’ve been in for the last 2 months…. I’ve done some serious life evaluation over the last 2 months, (not just doing some of “The life changing Magic of Not giving a fuck” book that one of my old suppliers sent me and an excellent xmas present!) but I can honestly say I’m in a much better place that I was… probably actually this time last year!
I’ve learnt that no matter how much you think you love something, you really do have to check that you don’t just get into the rut of loving something for the sake of loving something…
Parts of the last 2 years I have really really loved, and I have made some amazing friends worldwide whom I know I will keep in touch with for years to come! Thanks to anyone who has put up with me, in person, down the phone, down a dodgy Whatsapp video call, or over email, snail mail or any other means… and thanks to those who stood by me while actually my soul was being eroded away inside.
I’ve seen amazing changes in myself not just mentally, but also physically with my skin clearing up (Partly helped no doubt by these new drugs… but assisted by circumstance) and it’s really amazing to hear from people “you just look generally so much better”… it really reinforces the fact that you’ve made some right decisons, for yourself. (especially when you’re looking much better on the inside too!) I have a habit of not putting myself first, which I finally understand the importance of doing!
I know a lot of people have asked me what’s happening next, and if you’ve read down this far, well done… I’m pleased to say that I’ll be starting at a little firm you may have heard of called Amazon in their IT Department. (No, I’m not delivering the parcels. Not funny anymore!)
Nervous, worried and excited are only three words which describe how I feel now… (looking forward to a bit of routine again!) meanwhile I best go and get on packing… Suitcases sadly don’t pack themselves.
Peace out. Steveey P, SuperStiv, Stevo, Knobhead (Just you Angie!!), whatever you call me…. Over and out! 🙂