Monday, October 26, 2009

A series of moments in Iceland

Iceland.....what a unique experience this was - well probably our most unique yet at least. In a nutshell, the landscape was so surreal and different to anything we've ever experienced. We were in awe of our surroundings and we know now, that 3 nights was definitely not enough time to spend there.

We arrived in Keflavik airport from London and took a coach to Reykjavik. The bus driver took our bags to load into the bus and Tim asked him if he needed a hand. We were met with a confused look - like what the hell was he on about? We both had a chuckle to ourselves and realised we were actually in a country where English is not necessarily spoken by everyone. We got on the bus on the opposite side to usual and as we drove off, it felt so strange to be on the 'wrong' side of the road! Like we were about to have a head on collision at any moment. haha.

We arrived at our hotel at about 1am after a half hour hike uphill with our bags. We decided not to pay the extra dosh for a hotel transfer from the bus station because according to the cashier's directions, it was only a 5 minute walk to the hotel. Yeah right! We did make our walk a little longer though by wandering right past our hotel and continuing onward for about 10 minutes until we had to ask for directions. Funnily enough, the guy we stopped to ask was Aussie who had been living in Iceland for years! So, we eventually found our hotel and crashed after a very long day of catching buses, a train and a plane.

Getting ready for bed, Tim decided to have a shower to freshen up and I was a tad concerned that the water smelled like a sewer! We worked out later, that it was actually the smell of sulphur in the water which is warmed naturally by hot volcanic springs. We learned that this smell is everywhere in Iceland! Peeew!!

We got out of bed earlier than usual to make the most of the 3 days we had in Iceland. As I usually do when I get up, I pulled back the curtains and was met with ice/snow covered mountains in the distance. I don't really know what I expected to see, but it certainly wasn't anything this beautiful. Up until this point, I had never seen real snow (I know, shock horror!) and knowing that I would be holding it in my hands in the next couple of days, well what can I say....I was having a moment, where something in my spirit leapt. Know the feeling?

We spent the morning wandering around the streets of Reykjavik, familiarising ourselves with our new surroundings. I guess the biggest things that struck us were the multi-coloured, multi-textured buildings/roofs, the mountainous backdrop and of course the cold!! Although it wasn't as cold as what we expected....and not as much ice as we expected either! The temp was about 5 degrees. It took us a while to find an open cafe for breakfast because most shops don't open until 10am in Iceland - they obviously understand that a good lifestyle includes a sleep in. We finally found a little cafe and had an impressive omelette (although it did have that slight sulphur taste) with an amazing coffee (we discovered later, that Icelandics make some of the best coffee we have ever tasted). We had a good laugh over one of the breakfast menu items....'The Hangover Killer', consisting of a hangover sandwich and a Bruce Willis shake with Jack Daniels and a Treo painkiller tablet. Serving alcohol with painkillers - classic!
In the arvo, we caught a bus to the Blue Lagoon. For those of you who don't know what that is, basically it's a famous hot spring for bathing in - click on this link for more info We had such a relaxing experience in this eery yet amazingly beautiful place. The air was so cold, the water so warm and being surrounded by blue sky, ice capped mountains and volcanic rock was simply out of this world! We gained much amusement from plastering ourselves with the silica mud mask on offer which is naturally produced and refined from the lagoon. All the Asian tourists were horrified that we had our non-waterproof camera in the water (of course we were very careful to hold it out of the water) but we were so glad we risked getting it wet coz the pics are awesome! See for yourself....
We left the Blue Lagoon and were surprised by how wrecked we were! All we felt like doing was going to bed! I guess that meant we were extremely relaxed ;-). We got back to the hotel and decided we didn't want to waste a moment in Iceland so we were going to head out again and of course we needed to take the camera. One problem.....we couldn't find the camera!!! Ahhhhh!! You know the feeling of losing something that is so precious? Yeah well we were kinda feelin like that except I just went into complete melt down! We thought we must have left it on the bus, so Tim got on the blower to the bus company to find that they hadn't come across it, our heart sank. While Tim was still on the phone, I frantically searched our bags again, throwing things around our hotel room like a mad woman, camera nowhere to be seen. The drama of it all really did make me lose the plot a bit, especially when we had just taken some amazing pics at the blue lagoon that could never be replaced unless we returned to the country. So...I crouched to my knees and put my head on the floor, had a cry and asked God to help us find it. And....wouldn't you know, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black loop peeking out from underneath the bedspread on the floor. My heart leapt, I reached in and there it was!! Woooooohooooo!! The sense of relief was incredible!! Thank God those memories were not lost!

After a few beers, some chocolate cake and hanging out with some fellow Aussies and German guys staying at our hotel, we ended up hitting the sack ready for our 8:30am-7pm tour the next day.

Whilst most people we spoke to at our hotel chose a tour that was on an impersonal big coach, with a mono toned speaking tour guide, we struck it lucky with a brilliant tour guide (Hushy) and a mini-bus with 7 other people! Hushy told us heaps of interesting facts about Iceland and it's history including what to do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest - 'stop crawling around and stand up and you'll find your way' (the trees are really short, more like the Aussie scrub) lol. According to our guide, it is never windy in Iceland, it's simply the calm air rushing by haha. On the tour we visited some of the major sights outside of the main city - waterfalls, hot springs and the site of the original democratic Parliament, but the best part of the tour was the snow mobiling on Langjokull glacier. I rode with Tim which I obviously still haven't learned is a pretty stupid thing to do! Most of you who know Tim would also know that he's pretty fearless when it comes to most things, especially when riding anything motorised and he enjoys taking a risk or three....well to my horror, when we hit a patch of ice on this snow mobile, he decided he wanted to go for a bit of a slide. All I can say is that the 90 degree slide flung half my body off, with my arms clutching onto Tim for dear life! Needless to say, Tim copped a few hard punches from me for his efforts!
We stopped at the top of the glacier to admire the view and it was here we had another moment. We were in awe again. One of those times which I think really can't be truly appreciated until later, although I think I actually shed a tear while looking out into the horizon. I guess for me, being on the top of a glacier was a spiritual moment where I was able to reflect what I had actually conquered, the fears that I had faced head on to get here and I was now at the top of the mountain. It was all so worth it!

Since Iceland's main industry is fishing, we thought we couldn't leave Iceland without trying their seafood. So that night we wandered around until we found a menu that was actually affordable (meal prices in the average restaurant in Iceland are the equivalent to 30-40 Aussie dollars). We saw several menus that had whale listed as well as Puffin bird and we discovered that these are delicacies in Iceland. No we didn't try whale as I'm sure you're wondering, morally we really couldn't bring ourselves to eat any. Our tour guide did tell us that Icelandics only hunt certain types of whales that are in high population and these numbers are monitored to make hunting sustainable. Hmmmm, not sure about that one. We also found horse on a menu! Nooooo! I guess anything cultural is completely natural to that particular culture. Anyway, we did find amazing seafood that night and we were more than satisfied.
The next day morning we spent our last few hours walking the streets of Reykjavik reflecting on what we had experienced and to really appreciate the beauty of this place for the last time, in a while at least. We were disappointed that we didn't get to experience the spectacular phenomena of the Northern Lights ( because both nights we were there it was too cloudy. Of course the weather cleared up on the day we were leaving! A good friend told us not so long ago that wherever you visit, u should always leave something for next time, so I guess this gives us a good reason to return to this beautiful country.

"We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand.....and melting like a snowflake" Marie Beyon Ray

Treasure the moments :-)


Israel said...

beautiful moments and pics Sal. I'm so envious of what I've read- I know these are experiences you'll carry on for life. hope to have my own someday xoxo Iz

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