So here I am! I’m in Iceland, where there are Volcanoes, Geysers, Icebergs, and credit card machines to use the public toilets! (more of that to come).
I flew by Easyjet, It was a pretty uneventful journey; that’s a good thing! It was an early flight, I was through airport security in a flash and after the obligatory wander and purchase flit around the departure lounge, I was ‘speedy boarded’ onto the plane for a 2 hours 30 mins flight into Keflavik. an airport that is domestic and also contains a military facility run by the Icelandic coastguard. I hired a car through Sad Cars who offer older cars for lower prices, after being met in arrivals by the rep and ferried to the pick up point, I was given possession of a car which if it were considered as ‘worn’, would be an understatement. The standard walk around the hire car to mark the damages and rust would have been a lot quicker had we been marking the sheet with the ‘good’ panels!
Driving in Iceland is pretty easy, the road signs and traffic control systems are clear, and many of the petrol stations are self-serve and pay at pumps. The first one was a challenge to use as the display asked how much I wanted to pay for fuel, I had no real Idea of how much I needed to fill the tank, or how that would translate into the cost for the litres, after receiving my travel money a week previously I used the only denomination I knew; 5000kr. I crossed my fingers that it would be enough or not too much. (it was fine by the way).
I made my way to Hótel Hafnarfjörðor (haf-nar-fyor-door) and being a little too early to check in, I dropped my bags in the luggage room and went for a quick walk. It was about 1pm and I was looking for lunch. I entered the first Icelandic restaurant I found, which just happened to be a Subway and had a BBQ chicken on Italian bread and a pepsi. This immediately quashed any concerns I had around finding food to eat that didn’t consist of fermented shark (Hátarl) or whale meat, in fact Subway restaurants are everywhere, as are KFC and there’s a Domino’s pizza just down the road (I can’t seem to get away from them). On the subject of food, I want to cover something else quickly; cost. I’d heard that Iceland is very expensive, well, the Subway meal cost around £7, a little higher than the UK but not excessively so. The petrol is around £1.07 / ltr, which at the time of writing (Nov 2015) is comparable to the UK. In fact until a couple of months ago, the UK fuel price was quite a lot higher than this.
Back at the Hotel, I checked in to a room that felt like it was heated by it’s own volcano! I turned the radiator off, and opened the window to allow the fresh 5°C breeze to flow through. The room is good enough, a nice bed, shower and toilet is all I need. The TV that’s provided is a great addition, as is the free wifi. It’s always a poker game to see which channels hotels provide, and whilst I don’t want to sound ungrateful, there are only three English speaking channels that I have the choice of; Sky News, BBC News, and…. ‘True Christmas’…. a 24 hr channel dedicated to showing every cheesy and slushy 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and 10’s christmas movie that didn’t ever make it onto the cinema, DVD or probably even prime time TV! Beggars can’t be choosers I guess…
In the past couple of days I’ve been out an about doing the tourist things; yesterday I took myself around ‘The Golden Circle’ this is a circular tour route that takes in a few of the attractions within 50kms of Reykjavik. It’s called Golden as it passes by Gullfoss (Golden) falls. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) was first, followed by the Geyser at Geysir and finally Gullfoss falls.
Þingvellir is an area where the movement of Tectonic plates can actually be seen. The North American and Eurasian plates are moving apart and the canyons and fissures caused by this movement can easily be seen.
Þingvellir is also important in Icelandic cultural heritage as the setting for the creation of the judicial process. From the year 930 until 1271, the Lögberg (law Rock) was a natural platform for holding speeches. Before the laws were ever written down, the ‘Law speaker’, the only paid employee of the Law Council, would preside over the assembly each summer and recite the law of the land and assembly procedures. This would take 3 summers to complete…
As I promised earlier, now is the time to tell you about the public toilets. As many western places do, to pay for the upkeep of the facilities, here in Iceland there is often a fee of 200kr to use them, usually requiring two 100kr coins. But what do you do if you don’t have change? Well obviously you pay by credit or debit card! Yes, either on the wall dispensing tokens or actually attached to the turnstiles are your standard chip and pin machines. Very handy, but also feels like overkill. at least you have options if you’re caught short (as I was here..).
From here I continued around the circle to Geysir to see Strokkur (Churn), a fountain geyser which erupts every 8-10 mins or so. This is a pretty amazing place, you walk around past bubbling pools and the water run off along the dyke at the side of the road is hot to the touch (I know because I did).
Strokkur is awesome (and wet) to see up close, but you need to see it from a distance to really see how magnificent and high it erupts!
Gullfoss (Golden) Falls are pretty spectacular as the next thing on the circle. The water from the Hvítá river rushes down a couple of steps and then plunges into a 100ft deep crevice. The noise and amount of water passing through here is phenomenal.
So far this had been day one of my trip. The weather had been fabulous and Iceland has not disappointed. Due to the constant low sun at this time of year, as you can see in the photographs, the whole of the day was bathed in a deep golden glow but this became most prevalent as I was driving home. I took a minor detour and had to stop to take in this sight…
I think I’ve found water on Mars…!!