The land of fire and ice!
Trip Start Jan 09, 2008
70Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
For the first time ever we are flying out of Glasgow Airport! How exciting, we have lived her for 2 years and never flown out of Glasgow. We all barrelled into the car with our bags and then we hit the M8 to Glasgow. There was heaps and heaps of snow piled up on the side of the road (The "Big Freeze" had ht while we were in Europe) but it was a beautiful sunny, clear and crisp day. We got to the long stay parking lot, parked our car and the bus was waiting for us (nice Scottish driver). We then had a 20min ride to the airport, the car park is no where near the airport but hey it was cheap and our car was there when we got back. We arrived at the airport, no line for Icelandair so check-in was a joy, up through security and then Duty-Free Shopping (Since they are not part of the EU yet)! We got a bottle of Vodka and Rum as alcohol is very expensive in Iceland and bought some new sunnies for Katherine. Since we were early we went and had a lovely lunch at Frankie's and Benny’s (A US style restaurant) and some cocktails before heading to the plane and boarding. We were on a new 757-800 which I thought was great, we got a meal and drinks and even watched a movie! (Such a luxury for us now since we usually travel in SqueezyJet (EasyJet) or Cryinair (Ryanair)). The hosties were brill and we ended up calling her our Icelandic mother. It was a great start to our trip and Iceland’s national airline was putting up a good show that hoped the rest of the country lived up to. We finally arrived in Keflavik, and the airport was amazing I mean even the rest of them thought it was great! We went though the pleasantry of immigration and getting our bags, once through we walked up to an ATM style machine and got our tickets for the bus into Reykjavik. Bus….it was a luxury coach! It was dark along the road and for the complete 40min ride the sky was full of fireworks as it was the 12th day of Christmas. It was a beautiful site and everyone was like a kid looking through the window of a candy store having a sale! We soon arrived at our hotel, checked in dumped our bags and up to the road to the Banki before going across the road to the Servo to grab some dinner. They had Subway! Once we had demolished our dinner we went back to the hotel, watched a movie and hit the sack.
Ahh holidays and sleeping in, we woke up just before 9am and headed downstairs to get our free breakfast before they shut it down. 10am and the sun decided to wake up which was really weird but I guess we were just outside the artic circle. Steph, Katherine and I decided to head into town and explore Reykjavik. There is a really nice path right along the waters edge and it is a beautiful walk into, past a sculpture of a Viking long boat. The first thing we did when we got into town was visit the souvenir store and get patches for bags. The weather was warmish (considering) and the rain made it bleak but we were having a great time. We walked around the quaint town and then stumbled upon this awesome museum underground, 871±2. The museum centres around a boundary wall (one of the oldest man made structures in Iceland) which dates back to 871AD ± 2 years, hence the name. This was a fantastic place and it was really nice getting an insight into the Viking past. Interesting thing about Iceland, the majority of men were Norse (from Norway) and the majority of women where from the Hebrides of mainland Scotland. We reckoned when the Norse came through and raped and pillaged Scotland they only took the good looking women as the people in Iceland are stunning. If you are ever looking for a partner and you want a stunner, Iceland is the place to go then! After spending a good few hours underground in this wonderful place we decided to go and see what else was around. Seeing this beacon of Reykjavik on top of the hill in town we decided to go and find the building that towers over all of Reykjavik, Hallgrķmskirkja (aka the Lutheran Church). This building is beautiful and as you approach it it looks like your looking at a massive long boat straight on. As Josh was gonna stay in we decided to go and try some of the local cuisine as our Northern Lights tour had been cancelled due to weather. We found this great restaurant I think it was called the Icelandic Bar so we went on in and grabbed a table. The food was amazing and the dishes were really good, Steph had Lamb with jar vegetables, literally wee jars full of different veggies, one for peas, carrots, etc. Looking over the menu I decided to go for something a bit different so I asked with a hint of hesitation in my voice to have the Minke Whale. I thought a wee bit of hesitation was what the situation called for, however the waitress looked and me and said “yes” but so much more than that. The look was more of a “why wouldn’t you order whale!”. I didn’t really know what to expect but it was beautiful and I enjoyed every last bit of it. The texture was like that of a beef steak however it had this saltiness that you could taste. It wasn’t like they had just cooked it with salt it was as if you could taste “the sea” in it, it is the only way I can describe it. While I was hoeing into my steak Katherine was enjoying a perfectly cooked Icelandic Lobster. When we got the bill we were so shocked as it was cheap! Between the 3 of us we had 2 entrees, 3 mains, 3 desserts and drinks and the whole bill came to just over £40. Bargain! After our very contented meal we strolled back to the hotel, caught up with Josh and booked our tour for the next morning.
The day of the Golden Circle tour, we were up early as the tour left early and soon on the bus to a thermal power station. The power station was actually better than I thought and that rattled off these facts about this renewable energy, the only one that stuck was something like 80% of Iceland’s power comes from renewable energy, which is really cool. Next stop along the way was the Gullfoss waterfall which is one of Iceland’s most famous. We were driving along what seemed to be endless plains and then the bus stopped and the guide was like “Ok, we’re here”. Where the heck is the waterfall, there are no cliffs or mountains around, the occasional rolling hill but that was it. We walked along the path and at the end was sure enough a huge waterfall that had been cut down into the land. Over thousands of years the river had cut this 2 stage waterfall out, there is this powerful waterfall and gorge that just appears out of nowhere. This is starting to live up to it’s status of a magical land. After visiting the waterfall we were back on the road and onto the thermal fields where we would be having lunch. This place was really weird as there were all these bubbling pools of boiling water or mud everywhere and then in the distance was this huge Geyser that went every 15 minutes. We got really close to it which was great although it was weird having this boiling geyser going off and standing on ice. These fields are also where the original geyser is, funnily enough called “Geyser” (it’s the one they got the name from). Unfortunately she doesn’t blow any more after an earthquake sometime ago. It was really cool to be standing in front of the original one though. After a very wet geyser experience and a warming lunch (that was the only good thing about the burger, it sure wasn’t the taste) we were off again, this time to Žingvellir National Park. Once again another really cool place. It is the site of the first and longest running parliament that started in 930AD and also the only place in the world where the continental plates are above-ground! When we first entered the park we were on the Eurasian plate and 30 minutes later we were on the American plate. After this tour we were looking forward to a quick dinner and going to see the northern lights. Yet again the tour was cancelled due to weather, (dam Gulfstream). We did have our quick dinner, subway again and then booked some more tours for the next couple of days and then hit the bed.
Ahhh Iceland, the land of fire and ice……and rain! Once again up early but this time we were off to go ride Icelandic horses. We were greeted by our guides for the morning and soon were getting kitted up with thermal woollen jumpsuits, waterproofs and helmets. Now our horses were selected for us and they are so cute and small. Great if you fell off as you were only a couple of feet of the ground when you were on them. We walked out of the farm and were soon walking next to a lovely stream. Next thing you know the leader was down the bank and crossing the stream which ended up being a couple of feet deep. As I crossed there was no way I was gonna fall off my horse and into the freezing cold water! Phew, made it across and still dry and then we entered the lava field. These horses were amazing and made walking across alien landscape look so easy. Finally after a good 30 minutes we had made it across the lava field and onto a nice dirt track where we were allowed to open these horses up a bit, we got to trot. Everyone was bouncing along trying to enjoy the faster speed but finding the rhythm was a bit hard, but never fear we were about to take these horses into one of their special “sports mode”. The Icelandic horse has 2 additional gaits to other horses, the skeiš, flugskeiš or "flying pace" (which we didn’t do) and the tölt. The tölt is similar to the trot, a bit faster and horse sort of drops down and skids across the ground, being able to cover vast amounts of rough terrain quickly and rather comfortably, hence I call it it’s “sports mode”. After tölting around for a while we found ourselves back at the farm and it was time to say good-bye to these amazing animals. Katherine and I decided that after this bum bruising activity it was time to relax and recuperate at one of Iceland’s most famous sites, the Blue Lagoon. The weather was poor and miserable with some misty rain but that wouldn’t dampen our relaxing time here. You are presented with this beautiful modern spa building, walked in and then headed to the change rooms. Got changed and headed downstairs to the lagoon. Walked out along the wooden platform and then into the perfectly warm waters of the lagoon. Here is where it heads back to nature. The lagoon doesn’t have tiled sides or a concrete floor like some other hot springs instead it is just the beautiful volcanic rocks and the silt and mud that naturally occurs. We went to one of the very few sides that had a wooden platform to create our own mud masks from the mud and silt. It was really gooey and white as white but on it went, we looked like we had had a food fight with porridge! It started to sting as it worked, must….keep…..mud…..on…..face…..for…..a…..few…..more…..minutes and then splash! I dunked my head and got this stuff off! But I tell you what my skin was so smooth and felt a lot better. We had a wonderfully relaxing time at the lagoon and would highly recommend it to anyone even if they were only going to Iceland as a stop-over. Later that night we decided to head into town for some dinner and stumbled into this restaurant that looked really nice and cheap. They took our coats and there was a bloke playing the piano in the corner and the place looked immaculate. We sat down and ordered some glasses of wine and then looked at the menu. We then decided that that night we would have a progressive dinner. So after an amazing entrée we high tailed out of there which I’m sure the staff were a bit confused about (turned out it was the most expensive hotel in Reykjavik). The second place was this Spanish restaurant which fused local ingredients and tapas together. This time is was cocktails for the beverages and a few tapas that we shared. There are many different types of meat that they eat here so thought we better try another one you don’t often see, Puffins. They were very very dark and really salty, guess you could say there were the bird version of anchovies. After totally stuffing ourselves with food and some cocktails it was time to progress to desert, a cocktail bar on the way home! Upon arriving on the top floor we were greeted by enticing couches and a large cocktail menu. We all order something completely different and were so surprised with the results. These were great cocktails so what do you do? Order some more! After a couple of rounds we decided to call it a night as we had an early tour in the morning.
Our last full day in Iceland had arrived and once again we were up early, dressed and fed and waiting for our van to pick us up. Josh was going caving in the lava tubes while Steph, Katherine and I were going glacier hiking and Ice climbing. We slept the 3 hour drive out to the Glacier so I can’t really tell you much about that. Arriving in the car park to the Glacier we hoped out and started to get kitted out with helmets, crampons, and ice tool (looks like an ice axe but doesn’t have the curve or the grippy bit on the bottom like an ice axe). We walked down to the tongue of mighty Glacier and put on our crampons. “That’s one small step for me, and wow these things are like glue on the ice!” The first step was exciting as I didn’t really know what these metals things were going to do on the ice but they stuck. After walking a few steps we stopped and had our brief about how to walk in crampons, how to go up a hill and down (which is harder than you think). After all this we were off and heading up the hill. We went into a really cool Ice cave and the ice was as blue as blue, it was amazing! A bit further on we came to some pools of water so stopped for a drink and wow this was the best water I had ever tasted! (Sorry for all the exclamation marks but Iceland really does need it as it is awesome!!!!!!!!!) We kept on walking past were ice and volcanic ash had fused together and created an amazing marble effect in the glacier and then we trekked down into a wee valley and there was our wall of ice to climb. Now I said a bit earlier that the ice was really blue, this is important, this is because the ice is so cold and hard that it goes this colour. After Olli had set up the ropes and everything the first guy was off, about 15 mins later he had made it to the top, then the next bloke went, he took a slightly harder route and 20 mins later he had made it, next was my turn. Now I didn’t think I had put on that much weight but Olli had to ask one of the other blokes help him with the rope in case I fell and thank goodness he did (everyone fell a wee bit one way or another).With ice axes in hand I was ready to tackle the wall of ice. The first bit was really fun and I managed to scramble up the first half in about 5 minutes and then when there a small overhang and it is so much vertical at the face of it. Half way and slowing the axes were getting harder and harder to put in the ice but they can hang on with the tiniest amount of t in the ice. My crampons slipped a couple of time and it is amazing how strong you can be when you think you are falling and hanging on for dear life. I found out the hard way how sharp the crampons are as one came just a bit to close to my leg and ended up cutting my ski pants on the way through. I did eventually made it up to the top and what a feeling it was. I have so much respect now for ice climbers now that I have tried a small ice face. The girls went next and they all made it except Steph who was so close but when you are on the wall the top seams so much further away. We all had a great time but were happy when we got off the Glacier and had some lunch. On the way back we stopped off at a beautiful waterfall and then afterwards we all slept the rest of the ride. That night we had a nice dinner and had an early night as we were all so tired.
Time to head on back to Glasgow as tomorrow I start my new job at RBS. There journey back was nice except for the fact that the flight went via Manchester but hey it meant I got to finish a movie and relax. Anyway that was the last trip away before we start our big adventure.
Stay tuned to hear stories about our trip home!
Daniel and Katherine.