I caught the bus over to Hafnarfjodur this morning. It’s easy enough to find the stop, on the main road running through the city. Feeling confident, I even managed to direct another tourist to the main bus station.
It wasn’t until the bus arrived that I started to feel out of place. I’ve say it before, but guide books never mention the specifics about public transport. I guess there isn’t room, but useful tips like ‘it’s better to buy the ticket in advance, because you have to pay with exact change on the bus’ would be a helpful addition when telling someone who clearly has no local knowledge that it’s easy to take this route. The money, if you have it, goes into a glass container next to the driver and they print your ticket.
Luckily, I did have the correct change. I made it to Hellisgerdi Park in one piece, enjoyed the bus’ free wifi (why don’t we have this in the UK?) and was even cornered by some children who wanted to chat with me, until they realised I wasn’t local. Oh, plus there’s a lovely coffee place round the corner which does amazing chocolate and pear cake. There are no pictures, I ate it too fast.
The park is supposedly a haven for Iceland’s ‘hidden people’, the elves. It certainly looks like the right place, especially so barren and near empty in the winter season. I was expecting something bigger, but it’s barely a ten minute lap around, albeit with some interesting (if creepy at times, see the frozen fountain) views.
When I returned to the bus stop back to Reykjavik, it was the same driver. He informed me that my ticket had a return on it, only when used within an hour of purchase (some more useful info for you there).
Topped off with a trip to the National Museum of Iceland (closes at 5, get there early) and the Saga Museum (also a bit creepy, it’s now moved to the old Harbour, next to the Northern Lights museum), I’m feeling pretty cultured.
The Nothern Lights
After the disappointing trip the night before, we ventured out again, this time heading north of Akureyri.
Pausing barely outside of the town , our guide called us outside. To the easy, there were faint patches of light (the aurora borealis always go from east to west ).
As we shuffled around, waiting, the glow grew brighter. A clear line began to forum overhead. Soon another section split off, and the lights truly began to dance across the sky. Swirling and snaking their route, they appeared as just a glowing light, though my camera captured their emerald green (with the help of a fence post as a tripod ..).
An incredible night, one that I will remember forever.
Whale Watching, Husavik
The first thing that hits you as the bus enters Husavik is the stench of fish. If you’ve spent time around harbours, it might be less of a surprise, but the whole area carries the fumes, the sea wind blowing it inland.
The sea round the harbour is chopping (read: prepare to get wet) and much colder than you’d think in the breeze, especially if you’re out of the sunlight.
Despite all this, the view is phenomenal, even with no aquatic mammals appearing.
Snow covered mountains cast a shadow from the opposing side of the harbour, with the remains of the last inhabitants still visible (the townsfolk moved back into Husavik after being cut off in the winter for too long, but their empty homes remain).
The seagulls are friendly here, with some flying alongside the boat, hoping for catches to steal. There’s no signs of whales today though, but it’s early in the season this year.
Also of note for the town, there’s a well regarded whale museum beside the docks, plus a very appetising bakery just around the corner. I still regret not buying more there..
Searching for lights
I hovered at the door for nearly an hour, frantically wondering if the travel company had forgotten me. As the receptionist prepared to make a second phone call to the operator on my behalf, a mini van swung it’s way into the car park.
I knew the drill already, having done this before in Lapland. You drive outside the town, stand outside in the freezing cold sipping hot chocolate and hope for something to appear.
I expected the landscape to be different, here we waited beside Goðafoss, a towering waterfall (though quite invisible in the dark).
The part I wasn’t expecting was the change in attitude from the tour guides. Gone was the Finnish seriousness, replaced with the Icelandic sarcasm and black humour.
Whether they were threatening to sacrifice us to the waterfall, or teasing me for worrying that they were late, this trip felt much more casual than the almost pilgrimage sense of my last one.
I may only have seen a faint green must of light, but I certainly got a taste of Icelandic culture.. Xx
Waking up at 6:30am certainly isn’t my favourite thing to do, but when you’re embarking on a 14 hour journey across Southern Iceland, it’s basically a necessity.
Thankfully, my early rising paid off. We travelled to Jokulsarlon, the ice lagoon where chunks of the glacier float down into the sea. It’s a really beautiful site, vast slabs of ice spread across a freezing lake.
Today though, and for the first time (according to the tour guide), there was a whole colony of seals lazing about on the ice. They seemed completely at ease, unaware of the infinite beauty that surrounded them, or the constant stream of people taking snapshots.
Quite a nice reminder of how blind we can be to the things around us.
We passed three huge waterfalls on the way back to Reykjavik, with farmhouses surrounding them. Personally I have no idea how anyone gets any work done, when they could just stare at the amazing landscape all day..
The Blue Lagoon
Bracing myself against the cold, I took my first few steps from the warmth of the spa building.
In just my swimming clothes, I felt bare against the vast backdrop of snow covered mountains and rolling fields of frozen lava, with black chunks of the rock littering the landscape.
The numbing cold vanished quickly though, as I entered the steaming waters.
Heated by the nearby geothermal power station, the water drifts between warm and hot, even boiling in places.
It’s a definite tourist trap, though off peak season the lagoon is fairly quiet , enough to relax peacefully in your own space along the shore.
Definitely what I needed after a late flight yesterday.. Xx
In Search Of Lights pt.II - Iceland
I set off again, bag packed, a gnawing sensation in my stomach , growling in the knowledge of what I was about to do.
My third journey alone, the sickness hasn’t stopped yet. Will I find people to speak to? Have I packed everything I need? Who will help me if it all goes wrong?
It settled, slowly. Listening to the effortlessly cool woman on my right chewing her gum through the entire length of the flight, I thought to myself “I can do this”.
Flights themselves are designed to be comforting. You set the temperature to one that you’re used to, watch films that are so familiar and idly flick through magazines in your mother tongue (if you’re English, that is ).
It’s when you first step of the plane that reality hits. Passport in hand you approach the man behind the desk, smiling eagerly and realise you don’t know what to say. You don’t speak his language, he doesn’t expect you to, but there’s a sense of failure in resorting to that uni-lingual British stereotype so early on. Still, you promise yourself, you’ll try harder, later.
Globe Theatre. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. (I am such a tourist)
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