It was the 15th of June 2009 when our plane took off from Heathrow at 9.30pm just as the sun was about to set… yet we never really saw the sun setting for the next 3 hours as we headed for one of the 3 most populated cities above the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik. I forgot how calming it feels to be looking down at the clouds; I’ve always loved looking at the sky especially when there are clouds.
I panicked just a little as the plane was almost touching down into Reykjavik as it felt like we were landing on the moon. As we drove out of Keflavik Airport, I realized that that’s just how the land is in Iceland. This became more apparent as we drove some 500km the next day. We quickly checked in and waited for Subuh which was at 2.02am. I slept really well.
Interesting Facts about Iceland:
1- Since the crime rate in Iceland is the lowest in the world, apparently the only job police here really have is to be very strict traffic policemen. The maximum driving speed limit is only 90km/h. This made a lot of sense as it rained the whole day and some of the roads were just in such a terrible condition that it was impossible to go beyond 40km/h.
2- 11 degrees Celsius in Oxford is NOT the same as 11 degrees Celsius in Iceland. You have to take into account the wind factor. And the rain factor.
3- You get free coffee! Which other country gives people free coffee? It’s insane… I’m talking about the chain of petrol stations across the country. So if you’re tired, just stop at one and have as much coffee as you want – FREE!
4- We are in luck. 17th of June is Iceland’s Independence Day so we’ll be able to witness lots of events around town and Vikings from all over the world are gathered here from the 12th to the 17th setting camp at the Viking Village which we hope to go to tomorrow.
After a good breakfast, we set off for our first stop of the day – The Pingvellir National Park which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004 was the seat of the world’s oldest Parliament in 960AD. It was very windy and me being very picky about shoes therefore having none to bring along with me to Iceland, walked the whole day in open toed heels. I shall not elaborate more on how inappropriate my footwear was.
I was shocked to find them selling a can of Icelandic Air in the souvenir shop. Who would buy that and for what reason?!
Our second stop was the Geyser. The road was just impossible. When we finally got there, I was caught off guard when the geyser suddenly shot out water some 15 feet high. What a sight!
There were 2 guys next to me whom I immediately asked if they knew how often the geyser kept exploding to which they answered it depends… it could be 7 minutes or 10 or 2. They were from France and one of their other friends standing on the opposite side of the geyser lives in Washington DC. They were really nice and we got along really quickly as we were all trying to get the best pictures of the geyser. I got a very good shot. I made an attempt to speak to two of the Japanese women we saw at the previous stop and as usual managed to strike a decent conversation especially when I found out that they live in Ibaraki. I mentioned that I was there last summer cause that’s where Reiko is from and I got to experience kendo too.
I ended up taking many pictures with the 3 guys and stayed with them, Nicola, Matthieu and Vincent as Papa and U.Zainal decided to go up the hill. Then Matthieu said he was going to go to the other side to get wet and made me come along. So Vincent stayed behind with the camera trying to get a movie of us being drenched by the geyser when it exploded the next time which was exactly what happened. I however hid behind both Nicola and Matthieu so I wasn’t anywhere as wet as them. Just as we were trying to recover from the shock of the smell of the sulphur and the heat of the water that caused us all to be drenched (me semi-drenched), the geyser exploded again this time much higher than the one just seconds ago and I got totally drenched this time. My hair was all wet and so were my jeans. We were laughing so hard as it was such a great feeling getting drenched, in Iceland. Matthieu said he didn’t mind getting wet; he just knew he had to do that for a lifetime memory. I agreed. I didn’t mind being wet. I was just really happy to have shared that with them and the video that Vincent took of us was beyond awesome. I do not have this video to this day.
As we headed for the very nice restaurant for a quick break, one of the other Japanese women just looked at me and said you speak really good Japanese, to which I said oh I can only manage a little and then I went on talking some more to some other Japanese people. That was nice. We stopped at the souvenir store and I saw something so ridiculous! They sold Icelandic Mountain Air for 1100Kr in a baked beans type of can. Are you kidding me? It weighed NOTHING and it costs that much? What would anyone sane do with that??? I was just shocked.
Our next stop, Gullfoss, was simply breath taking – the flow of the cascade of waterfalls was unlike any other.
Courtesy of Wikipedia: Gullfoss is a waterfall, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. About a kilometer above the falls it turns sharply to the left and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (60 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, is at right angles to the flow of the river.
The wind seemed to blow like there was no tomorrow. It kept blowing us to the left, a wee bit difficult to walk straight. We took photos and quickly headed for our next stop, Skogafoss
Seljalandsfoss is a picturesque waterfall where you can take a walk behind it as it falls from the cliffs – I am pretty sure that one part of a song from the new Hindi Dilwale movie was shot here. We stopped for petrol on the way and made another quick stop where I found out that this country gives just about anyone free coffee. What a great treat! And all the toilets in Iceland were SO clean! I love this country. Back to our fourth stop, Seljalandsfoss didn’t look all that great from far but it truly did when we were standing just a few feet away. It started to drizzle and since we didn’t want to get wet, we skipped trying to walk behind it.
We were optimistic about getting ourselves to Vatnajokull the biggest glacier in Europe, but the sudden change in the weather made it impossible. The average thickness of the ice at Vatnajokull is 400 m, with a maximum thickness of 1,000 m. I was very disappointed. What we did instead was to head for another glacier Myrdalsjokull, Iceland’s fourth largest but it’s not the kind where you’d see huge blocks of ice floating in the water. It was a VERY rough drive to get to the glacier and the rain and the wind got worse and worse as we headed up the bare hill covered in glacier.
When we finally got there, papa said he wanted to go down so I tried opening the door but it didn’t budge at all. I checked the lock a few times and papa and I tried opening the door together without any success. After a while, we realized it was the wind that was stopping the door from budging. It was crazy! It took us so much effort just to open the door and the walk to the glacier from the car was a nightmare especially for me. The rain which just managed to hit my face felt like arrows being shot at me from a distance and my very inappropriate footwear proved to be problematic. The wind blowing throughout the day was just so strong. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere and experienced such wind before. Our car kept swaying a few times throughout the day which was really scary not to mention dangerous. Anyhow, the 3 of us set foot on the glacier. It was well worth it.
We missed the black sand beaches only because of the rain. We then started the long drive back to Reykjavik – it being long because of the rain, the terrible condition of the car, the speed limit, the wind. It’s 1.39am and Subuh is at 2.02am. It’s supposed to be Isyak but it looks bright outside… I don’t think the sun really ever sets in Iceland in the summer.