15.01.2014 0 °C
Hvar sem fjandinn er par hafur hann sina (A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will).
Iceland. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be boarding a plane, crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, heading towards Reykjavik. However four days ago, this is the exact position I seemed to find myself in.
Many people asked me, ‘why Iceland?’ and my response was ‘why not?’ This fascination with this little country with a population of 320 000 stems back to the start of this year. A guy I met traveling was heading there in search of the Northern Lights, and I never really thought anything more of it. Another friend of mine headed there in Summer where it’s light twenty-four hours of the day, again, I didn’t give it another thought. Then, whilst I was planning, booking and researching my end of year travel, Iceland made her way into my mind. I began looking into the wild idea of actually going, where I became hooked to my computer screen at the captivating images of this magnificent country. Then, another friend went to Iceland and I thought, that’s it, I’m doing it. So that brings me to Reykjavik in the middle of winter.
As we descended through the clouds, I was breath taken by the rugged, barren and untamed landscape before me. The bus ride into town was pretty majestical, I listened to Sigur Ros’ album Valtari, and my senses were overloaded. I was captivated by the dark mountains blanketed ever so delicately in snow, the mysterious sky swirling with grey clouds to such a brilliant album was truly such an amazing experience.
I stayed at the KEX hostel which is one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in. It used to be an old biscuit factory which is now converted into a retro, funky hostel. That night I had some beer at the bar with our little KEX crew, people from England, Germany, America, Canada, Taiwan, Malaysia, Holland and of course, Australia.
My first day in Iceland was spent relaxing and lazing around the Blue Lagoon. Whilst steeply overpriced, it was so worth the money to be in such a warm, beautiful place. The hardest thing about these geothermal pools is the pain staking run from indoors to the water. And I’ve never run faster. Once submerged in the cleansing waters, all of life’s troubles were forgotten. We watched the sun rise over the mountains, witnessing the darkness disappear to golden hues. I had my underwater camera so we took some pretty awesome photos, the only issue now that I believe some of the sediment made its way through the cracks and now I’m experiencing technical difficulties, but the photos are fine so that’s all I need. After a few hours of heavenly bathing in nature’s goodness, we headed back to the city.
That afternoon, we trudged our way around the town, and that is no exaggeration. I have never been in wind so strong. Your face stings, coat is flapping everywhere and your words are lost to the roar of the skies. In hind sight, it’s all hilarious but at the time, ever so painful. We saw the renowned Viking statue and walked up to probably one of the strangest churches I’ve ever seen. The main street is so cute and lovely, with Christmas decorations still swaying above. That night I enjoyed a long hot shower, some awesome cheap food and more beer from the bar before completely passing out in my little cocoon of a sleeping bag.
A very early start to the day as I embarked on a journey around the Golden Circle. At 66°N, the sun doesn’t rise until 11am so the first part of the day was spent napping. The Icelandic Highlands are absolutely incredible. Words cannot describe the vastness of the place. How people managed to inhabit the land hundreds of years ago is beyond me. Our first stop was Gullfoss waterfall, and I thought Reykjavik was windy, oh wasn’t I mistaken. The hurricane strength winds flew off the icy earth and whipped across my face like knives. I literally could not feel my nose and occasionally reached my hand up to check that the wind had not swept it from my face. We were walking across the ground which was dangerously covered in ice so people were slipping and sliding in all directions. However, the view was worth the numbing pain. The waterfall was such a vivid cold blue, as the edges of the earth were frozen the water plummeted down. I took my photos, took it all in and then retreated back to the bus to defrost.
The next stop was the Geysir, which as we arrived was spurting high into the air. Here was much less windy and they sky was a rich blue with the sun actually showing its face! Afterwards we stopped at the tectonic plate boundary between the Eurasian plate and North American plate. The Rift Valley was amazing and having studied environmental science at school and being a mega nerd about it all, I was fairly excited! The view over the valley was incredible and difficult to take in. On the ride back to town I was listening to Of Monsters and Men, another great Icelandic band, and let my mind wonder beyond the mountains and clouds.
That night there was a jazz band playing in the bar so we found a corner complete with a cool swinging chair and lots of beer to enjoy each others company, the music and my last night in Reykjavik.
Iceland was such a beautiful surprise, a gem hidden in the middle of nowhere. I really didn’t have many expectations but I can tell you they were all exceeded. Despite the pricy nature of the country, it’s so worth getting up hours before the sun rises and exploring this mostly untouched land. I would love to return one day, maybe in the summertime, but who knows when I’ll next be 66°N again? I met some absolutely lovely people, drank some really awesome beer, saw natural wonders like glaciers that I may never see again. And in an environment that is so fragile yet fierce, it really got me thinking about the immense power of nature and how it can influence our mind, spirit and body. Iceland, you were absolutely magical and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my year abroad.