Where the sun doesn't set!
Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
84Trip End Jul 06, 2011
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There is a bus service to Reykjavik city and from this drop off point, I walk to my couchsurfer hosts apartment. Heida and Edda had just returned back from a music festival early that morning, so when I turn up around 8am, everyone is very sleepy! It was a bit of an awkward start, I was tired, they had just woken up and it was all a bit confusing. I had planned to drop my bags and go explore straight away, but when Heida said I was sleeping in her bed, as she wasn't using it, I quickly changed my mind and went to sleep.
I woke at 3pm! I needed that sleep.
I spent a little while chatting to my hosts before I skipped out into the city centre. I was planning on doing a whale tour but the weather was bad, so I instead wander around downtown Reykjavik. The weather was cold, but still quite pleasant till it poured down in the late afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed pottering around the streets of Reykjavik, and this is what I saw.
When the heavens opened, I dashed back to the city and found myself a tasty fish stew, expensive fish stew! Yikes! I killed some time here waiting for the rain to stop.
I ended the evening back at my hosts apartment. Heida and Edda live very close to the city centre in a secure apartment. They only moved in a few weeks ago and thus have only started hosting couchsurfers. Both are studying at university and Heida is only a few weeks away from a trip to Spain. The climate in Iceland is similar to say northern UK, but colder, darker and the sun does not set in the summer. I didn't realise this point till I looked at my watch after talking to Heida for a while over beers. A while had turned into 4am! Oh man! When I realised this, I was straight to bed, for my couple of hours kip!
Miles walked: 2.45
Day 182 July 4 - Today I was spending the day with another couchsurfer called Elin. As my hosts were busy and unable to show me the sights, Elin kindly offered to go on a hike and hang out for the day.
I grabbed breakfast at a cool little cafe then met Elin. She picked me up in her rusty car, she said I would spot it a mile away, an I did! We were going to climb Mount Esja. Elin had never climbed the mountain before and obviously I had not either. I really didn't have the right gear to climb a mountain and shoes with zero grip might cause some problems, but, I was certainly ready for the challenge.
It was as though Elin and I had been friends for a long time, conversation flowed very easily and I picked her brain on the many places around Europe she has visited, particularly, Albania. Elin works in the Hilton hotel and told a few interesting stories and some funny stories about guests, some famous even! We took our time climbing to the top.
The mountain was very quiet, there were few people attempting to climb today, the weather was not perfect but I think we were going to avoid some rain. The climb started with numerous paths before we left the paths and climbed a steep mass of rocks. There was no real route to the top, but we were following some brightly coloured rain coated individuals ahead of us. The further to the top we ascended, the greater the wind.
We didn't quite make the top, but we got as close to the top as we could, considering out lack of winter clothing and the lack of grip on my shoes. The view from the top was magical, in the distance, Reykjavik city. Some have compared the countryside of Iceland to be similar to what you'd see on Lord of the Rings. Sharp rocks, waterfalls, miles of mountains and grassy scenery, it was very special indeed.
The climb down was obviously easy but I suffered the similar fate to my descent from the Volcano on Isle de Ometepe in Nicaragua, frequent slips and losing my footing, but I had a companion keeping my butt of the floor.
We found our way back to Elins car and then agreed on trying out some Iceland Fish n Chips. I've been tempted by trying some Whale, but I'm still not convinced yet, plus Iceland is proving to be very more expensive than I imagined.
The Fish n Chips were delicious, we must have chatted for hours and before long, the afternoon had gone. I say goodbye to Elin and continue back to my hosts apartment. In many respects, I wish I had surfed with Elin, she was similar in age to me and we had more in common than my hosts. But I have a rule for my couchsurfing requests, whoever is the first to respond with a 'yes' then I go with them. I don't like the idea of receiving 3 or 4 offers from different hosts and then choosing the best. Heida and Edda were awesome but didn't seem up for showing the gingerman around.
I get back to the apartment and no-one is home. I have no key so I make myself busy for a while. I book a tour for tomorrow, I have a coffee or two and grab some lunch from a supermarket. Edda is home briefly, so I get back and she disappears. I have the place to myself, so I relax and watch some episodes of Extras. I know I am ready for home. Each day, I think about keeping busy enough for the time to slip away and the quicker the hours go, the sooner I'll be back in the UK and away from my rucksack. It is a strange feeling. I love travelling, I love being on the road, but the last 7/8 weeks have been very easy compared to my stint in Latin America. I needed to reset myself, rest, charge my batteries, enjoy some cricket, catch up on myself and prepare for the next trip.
The day ends early in the morning again, I stay up chatting to Heida, Edda and two of their friends. It's the first time in my life I have not seen darkness at night. Even though the blinds are drawn, one look outside and it seems like an early summer morning in the UK. I would hate to imagine the winter, with only a few hours of sunshine during the day. I go to bed at 3am.
Miles walked: 4.68
Day 183 July 5 - My last full day in Iceland. I sneak out the apartment early, there are 3 girls sleeping on the sofa bed, all seem dead to the world. I hit the same breakfast cafe and then walk over to the start of my two part tour. Firstly, whale watching, followed by a bus tour around the golden triangle.
I feel tired. My head is sleepy and my body aches. I think I am beginning to shut down in preparation for landing at Heathrow.
I board the whale tour boat, find a comfy seat and enjoy the ride away from the dock.
In my head, I imagine the whales coming up close to the boat, splashing the boat and performing jumps and tricks for us. Sadly, this was not the case. The majority of the time was spent looking for any sign of these large mammals. When we did see one, the tour guide would then say 'oh, yep, his back arched, he's going for a deep dive', which in layman's terms means we won't seem him again for a while.
It was cool seeing some puffins fly around and land on the water and I did get a few glimpses of some minky whale, I think. If you look closely enough!!
After an hour of this, I went below deck, sat next to a window and watched from there, although, watching through my eyelids proved very difficult. I must have slept for a good hour, it would have been cheaper to have just had a lie in, but I'm pleased to have seen my first ever whale, in the flesh.
The boat docks and I have enough time to grab some lunch before picking up the bus tour for the golden triangle. Upon leaving the boat, there are about 30 young people dressed as whales campaigning against whale fishing. Interesting, I've heard the argument from both sides. Whales eat a large portion of fish each day and therefore reduce the stock that the Iceland fisherman have to catch. There is an effort to keep whale numbers at a particular level, to find the right balance between there being enough fish for the fisherman and still plenty of whales swimming in the ocean. My mind was made up, and I preferred not to eat whale. Mainly due to the incredible cost, I am now thinking about my budget for the summer and my next trip.
For lunch, I had some chunky chips in a fancy bar. Anything to grab wifi for a bit.
The bus tour was packed. A cute cheeky red haired girl was the tour guide, a very informative tour guide as well. If I had written this blog weeks ago, I would recall some of the things that she talked about, but sadly, I have been avoiding this blog for some time now. She did tell us about how Iceland will no longer need petrol by 2030. The buses currently use hydrogen and they predict all vehicles on the island will use this technology by 2030. She also informed us about the cheap water and electricity prices. Because of the thermals in Iceland, you can run a hot shower for two hours and all the water is natural and does not need heating. Amazing to be self sufficient.
She also mentioned the national debt, ie that owed to the UK and the Netherlands from the Icesave collapse. She confirmed she voted no to paying the cash back, and so did Elin, Heida and Edda. The population of Iceland is 300 000, therefore in theory, to pay back the debt, each person on the island would need to cough up 20 thousand pounds each. Funny enough, the people who caused the issues, fled to the Caribbean and have not taken responsibility for their actions. I never realised the population was so small, so I welcome the no vote.
The first point of call on the bus tour was Ŝingvellir. It is the most important historical site in Iceland since the Alŝingi (Parliament) was founded in the year 930. It was chosen thanks to its topography, acoustics, and proximity to the population. In 1928 its history and natural interest make it become the first National Park in the country.
The first point of call was incredible. We were looking at the gap between two tectonic plates, rivers, flowers, trees, wildlife, simply amazing.
Similar to most tours, we had 25 minutes to walk to the viewing point and take pictures. The next drive was about an hour and I slept the whole way. Again, it is just my defense mechanism, and being tired anyway didn't help.
The next stop was in Gullfoss, where the river Hvitá ends in two 32 metre cascades. The rivers drop into a ravine and a rainbow frequents the area regularly during the summer. We spent another 30 minutes here, we were able to get close to the drops but there were some large flies in the area, millions of them, this made the experience not as pleasant.
The golden triangle was living up to be very special, such natural beauty, carved into the island over thousands of years. I now wish I had some more time in Iceland, hire a car and drive around the rest of this fantastic island.
The last point on our triangle tour led us to a Geysir, which is the name given to all the emanating thermal waters in the world. Unfortunately, the Great Geyser disappeared in the middle of the 20th century due to the wastes left by tourists. Nevertheless, it has nowadays irregular eruptions of up to 15 metres as a result of terrain movement as a consequence of the strong earthquakes that took place in 2000. There was also the Strokkur (churn) that erupts water up to 35 metres in height every 8 minutes. Just as the bus arrives, the Strokkur erupts, therefore giving me anywhere between 6-8 minutes to stand nearby again. We did get some health and safety tips, seeing as the water erupting would be at boiling point.
The anticipation was spine-tingling. My camera was ready for minutes. Do I look through the camera or look with my naked eye? The time here was restricted again. Soon, there were bubbles forming, a trickle of water and suddenly, whoosh! A giant plume of water erupting into the air. Amazing!
I tried to get the best view I could, without being burned. The sounds were awesome, the anticipation incredible. I wandered off to see the old Geysir.
A perfect end to the golden triangle tour. Very pricey, but pleased I saw some of 'the' attractions. Next time in Iceland, I will certainly hire a car and drive around to see non touristy areas.
Of course, while waiting for the usual suspects who were late on the bus at each stop, an ice cream was consumed.
The ride back to the city of Reykjavik was long, but you'll be pleased to know I slept most of the way. Again, back in the city, no-one was back at my apartment, so I went for an other wander around the city. I went to see some of the places where I had to skip on by during the heavy rain. I was also looking to find a bathroom, it took quite a while to find somewhere to take a leak.
I really enjoyed walking around the dock while the sun was setting. I'm not sure what the word is that describes the sun setting, but it doesn't actually set. The views across the docks were awesome, it reminds me of the wire and also of Seattle. I found some rocks, east of the city, where I watched the sun (kind of) set on my last full day of my American adventure. Many thoughts go through my mind, but I sit there and enjoy the sun beaming down on my face. I reflect upon the journey I've taken and think about how much I am looking forward to seeing my family.
I spent a couple of hours here, when I wander back into town I pick up a tasty meal while observing a large motorcycle gathering.
The evening was spent with my hosts again, we stayed up watching movies till late in the night. I also watched a youtube clip of Edda, very wasted, discussing the devil. She is quite shy, but apparently when drunk, comes out of her shell.
Again, I go to bed very late, I guess it doesn't help when your hosts don't really go to bed, especially when they typically wake up in the afternoon. Any, I had to call it a night at 3am, I didn't want to fall asleep at the Blue lagoon the next day.
Miles walked 2.19
Day 184 July 6 My last day - I woke and quietly packed. I was supposed to wake up Heida to say goodbye, but I was unable to wake her after a couple of attempts. I don't like waking people, especially when they are sleeping with a smile on their face.
So, I sneaked out, well that was the plan. However, all week, the front door wasn't locked, well the door to their apartment. I tried the key a few times and couldn't get it to work. Nuts. I was off to the blue lagoon and then the airport, but man, I needed to get out. Ten minutes went past, but still no luck. I even took my shoes off, seeing as I was squeaking around the place.
Right, I had to wake her. I shake her shoulders, but all she did was roll over onto her side. I've got no time for spooning, so I tried the door again. Pushing against it, pulling against it, trying to lift the handle, eventually, something gave way and it opened. Crazy! I put my shoes on and left.
I walked back over to the airport bus stop, and grabbed a ticket that got to the airport via a stop off at the blue lagoon.
With most images of Iceland, there is the blue lagoon. Why not? My last day, floating around in a natural hot spring, sounds great!
Let's just say, two hours say in the blue lagoon by yourself is not fun. I put the mud stuff on my face, washed it off, tip toed around the lagoon a few times and before long, I was bored. Sad to say really, but I know I was ready for home. I grabbed lunch at the lagoon before boarding my bus to the airport.
I was delayed by a few hours in Iceland, but the flight home was fine. I landed in Heathrow and as I came out the terminal, could spot my brother and I was home. Thanks for picking us up Dave.
This was the end of my adventure. How time disappears, it was only 6 months ago that my brother dropped me off at Heathrow.
The adventure has been so good for me and was so much fun. This trip was not what I originally intended, but I feel this trip was more of a challenge. Could I see Latin America? Could I couchsurf east to west in the USA? Could I get to my nephew before my brothers paternity leave ended? Well, yes to all of those.
I have seen some breathtaking sights and have met some amazing people. I thank all of those that I met for sharing some wonderful experiences.
The adventure would not have been possible without the support and love from my family. I guess I don't realise how wandering around the abandoned streets of Asuncion can do on the nerves of my close family. I'm sure you are all satisfied that I travel safe, and I don't take risks (well except for my choice of food). Thank you also to friends that kept in touch and commented on my blog. I'll say it again, you won't believe how much a small email can keep you going, for example, while killing 8 hours in a bus stop in Argentina.
What have I learned from the trip? I know now that I am happy by myself. I always thought happiness only came from sharing your life with someone significant. This is not true. I know that now. For me, life is short, and we should try enjoy every moment as best we can. If that means spending a month on the sofa watching England kill India in test cricket, then so be.
What I came to realise early on my trip was the following:
Believe in yourself
Until I blog again, thanks for reading.