Iceland 2011

15 September

I got up at 4.30am and dropped the car off at 5.30am. The chap at the rental agency inspected the car and, to my relief, there was no damage. After all that driving the car was given a clean bill of health.

My bag was overweight again at check in. I'd hoped the food I'd brought with me--and consumed--would have brought it under. Again I was given the opportunity to pay for the excess. I asked instead whether I could treat my tripod as carry on and, since it was in a bag and had rubber feet, this was allowed. Removing the tripod from the bag brought me within the limit for check in luggage, but you do have to query the logic of this. I would still be bringing the same weight on board the plane, and it would be far less convenient for both me and everyone else on board to have the tripod in the cabin. 

The 'plane for the Iron Maiden world tour was parked next to ours. Several of us admired the paint work as we walked down the tunnel to our 'plane.

The flight home was uneventful. Sun was shining over London and I got some nice photos out of the plane window as we came to land. A drive home, unpacking, shower, and collection of a small green parrot--and the holiday is officially over.

Photos from today are available here.

14 September

I'm glad we spent the night in a modern house. The wind dropped overnight, and there was frost on the car. 

We set off for Pingvellir National Park, and enjoyed the lack of wind, volcanic ash, and near cloudless skies. At the Park we found ourselves in the midst of students visiting this most historic of areas. The original parliament of Iceland met at Pingvellir from 930 to 1798 AD. The National Park also marks the place at which the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian plates are taking place, and there are a number of rifts and canyons. We also enjoyed encountering a small flock of Ptarmigan, who were clearly changing from summer to winter plumage.

Carmen and I had a last picnic lunch together, sitting outside in the sunshine, and afterwards I treated her to an ice cream from the visitor centre. Then I drove to Reykjavik, and dropped Carmen off outside the city centre. She has another couple of weeks to spend in Iceland, before she continues her trip around the world.

The car felt very empty as I drove past the city and on to the Reykjanes Peninsula. The area is covered with volcanic debris. I stopped at the Blue Lagoon for a coffee and to admire the bathing areas. Because of the recent operation on my leg I decided not to risk a plunge, but I hope to do so next time, even though the blue waters looked very unnatural.

I filled the car with petrol and found the youth hostel. I packed for the journey home and went to bed at 9pm.

Photos from today available here.

13 September

At dawn the mountains across the valley were visible, although still a bit hazy. At 8am we bounced back down the gravel road, and into fierce wind. Although we were now out of the ash cloud the wind was gusting (I was informed by another tourist) at 40 miles per hour. 

At Geysir I was able to set up my tripod for shots of the geyser. I could have hand held, but the water shoots up around every ten minutes, without much warning, and arms get tired! It was good fun to watch, and to listen to fellow visitors going ‘Oh!’ each time.

After a warming drink in the cafeteria (it was very cold in that wind!) we drove on to Gullfoss. And there I met my photographic match. There are many things I can cope with, or work around, but winds at that strength are beyond me. I managed to find a bit of shelter for one tripod shot, and I tried to make a virtue of the situation by setting up behind grasses and letting their blur tell the story of the day. I had to hand hold to get the rainbow in the spray, and even then the wind was buffeting my eyes into tears. 

We drove to the Pjorsardalur valley. The whole area is is full of farms, a pleasing rather than a dramatic landscape. The longhouse replica of dwellings from the 1100s was shut, but we admired it from the outside. The nearby waterfall, Hjalparfoss, was beautiful and we were lucky to enjoy it in solitude. As we were leaving a coach load of tourists arrived, utterly changing the character of the place.

Our hostel is in Arnes, in a modern house. Quite a change from last night! This is the last evening which Carmen and I will share. Tomorrow afternoon I will drop her off near Reykjavik.

Photos from today available here.

12 September

Dawn was lovely, a clear blue sky. But soon after the dust closed in again. I went to the Skogafoss waterfall for some sunlit shots, then we left to a view a tongue of the Myrdalsjokull glacier. It was a rough road and then some rocky walking to look at a rather dirty ice. We mostly admired the ice formations from a safe distance.

Lunch was back at the Skogafoss waterfall. I was pleased to discover that the sun and wind were now providing a lovely rainbow in the spray. 

One last waterfall for the day. The Seljalandfoss is famed as a waterfall which one can walk behind. That was great fun, standing behind the water and hearing it hit the rocks like thunder. I only risked the compact camera in the spray, and waited until I was on one side to take some photographs with the SLR. 

We then drove on to our hostel at Fljotsdalur. We had to stop when a large herd of sheep flowed towards us, herded by men on horses. At this time of year the sheep are brought in from the hills, and it was fun to see part of it. Then we bounced down a gravel track to reach the hostel. The last part of the road is uphill and only suitable for four wheel drive, so we parked at the bottom and climbed. The hostel is in a farm building which is over a hundred years old, with a turf roof. The only shower is outside, but there is electricity and heating and, tonight at least, it is rather cozy.

Photos from today available here.

11 September

Another day of volcanic ash. The sun did try to come through from time to time, but was defeated by the fine grit. 

Our first visit was to the Kirkjugolf. This a natural basalt formation which looks like a church floor, hence the name. I took photos and Carmen commented on the ram’s attempts to carry out his duties in the nearby flock of sheep. 

We drove through a dusty, mossy landscape. I washed the car, although by the end of the day it was dirty again. At our lunch stop we read of the tradition of placing a stone by the mound for good luck. The information board stated that rangers had brought in a supply of stones for travellers to use. 

In the afternoon we stopped to walk around the black sand beach at Vik. The wind, waves, and grey skies certainly made it dramatic. 

Then on to Skogar. I enjoyed the rural life museum. A number of traditional buildings had been moved to the grounds, and in the modern buildings there were vast collections of items from Icelandic life. This included fishing vessels, old kitchen appliances, and large mechanical diggers. I liked the collection of jeeps.

Our hostel was just a few minutes walk from Skogafoss. I took some photos in the dull evening light. I had hoped to get up close with wide angle lens, but the spray proved too much so I dropped back and used my telephoto lens.

Photos from today available here.

10 September

I stumbled out to the car at 4am to get in stuff for breakfast. And then I saw them, the Northern Lights, dancing an elongated wave above me. Due to the time or location (lots of town lights) it looked grey rather than grey, but it shimmered and shifted just as I'd always heard it would. A few minutes later, as the sky lightened, it was gone.

We left at 5am. The skies were absolutely clear, and as dawn approached the mountains took on lovely hues. In different circumstances I would have stopped, particularly as the wind had finally died down, but my goal was the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. We got there soon after 6am, just in time to have tripod and camera in place for dawn to tinge the glacial with pink. 

I soon discovered that the lagoon offered challenges of its own. My normal practice in low light would be long exposures. But the icebergs move, of course. So I had to bump up the iso and knock down the exposure time to make sure the icebergs weren't blurred. I spent a happy two and a half hours recording various aspects of the lagoon. There had obviously been a freeze overnight, as the water near shore was icy and there were some fantastic ice structures. I laid flat out on my stomach, camera and macro lens balanced on my Tilley hat, to record one small structure. I met a fellow photographer, a young man who had camped out overnight and had recorded the Northern Lights over the lagoon.

I had a coffee when the cafe opened at 9am, and we booked tickets for the boat trip on the water. A quick dash to the seashore to photograph small icebergs which had washed down the river, and then we were on the 10am boat. We saw a number of seals, and the guide brought a piece of ice on board to show us and to let us sample. 

We drove on to the Skaftafell National Park and had a soup lunch at the visitor centre. Then we walked up to the Svartifoss waterfall, a lovely sight in the midst of the hanging basalt columns. So wonderful to finally take a photo of a waterfall in sunshine! The day, however, was murky. I was told in the visitor centre that the haze we saw was from volcanic dust particles, stirred up by the wind and fine weather. The dust settles on everything, and into throat and eyes. 

We drove on to our hostel in Hvoll, admiring the black sand desert left by volcanic and glacial action. The weather was so wonderful that, after we'd checked in, we sat outside at one of the picnic tables and I enjoyed a beer. 

But the day's delights were not over. Shortly after 10pm the Northern Lights came back to amaze us. It shifted and danced around the building, first one side, then the other, then directly overhead. I did my best with tripod and camera, but I really need a lens with a larger aperture than f/4 to slow the action. But just to see the Lights, spreading like fire above us, was enough. That is a memory which will stay with me, equal to seeing a tornado for the first time.

Photos from today available here.

9 September

Snow was falling once we got into the mountain pass at 8.30am. A stiff wind blew flurries across the road, and even the Icelandic driver in the four wheel drive in front of me was taking things slow. I would have loved to take some photographs to show the conditions, but it seemed wiser to simply get over the pass and down the other side.

This was another driving day, along the south east coast. The grey clouds were high over the mountains, so we had good views of the snow dusted tops and the ragged shoreline. But we also had high winds, the fiercest I've yet encountered in Iceland. No point trying to set up a tripod. In fact, most photos were taken with my compact just to record the journey rather than try for anything award winning. We did stop once the glaciers came into view and I took a few hand held photos with my telephoto lens. 

As a result we reached our destination for the night, Hofn, at 2pm. I visited the Glacier Exhibition, which was rather fun and included a plastic simulation of an ice cavern. Carmen looked into a skidoo trip on the glacier, but the buses don't run this time of year and she would have had to rent a car to get herself there. So she decided to come with me tomorrow morning, although she knows it's going to be a 5am start. I want to get to the glacial lagoon for dawn.

I found the 'shopping centre' (a glorified supermarket) and finally an alcohol store. These are all state run and the only place to buy alcohol. I bought bottles of six different types of Icelandic beer to sample. 

We checked into the youth hostel and wandered into town. A rather busy cafe offered 'fried fish and chips' and I had visions of an Icelandic version of the English chippy. We ordered, and took a seat inside. The woman put six pieces of bread crumbed fish onto a plate. thawed them in the microwave, then put them into the fryer. So much for fresh fish! It was edible, but not exactly what I'd been hoping for.

I went to bed at 9.30pm, setting my alarm for 4am.

Photos from today available here

8 September

I let Carmen have an extra hour in bed, so we didn't head back down the bumpy, gravel road until 9am. A flock of greylag geese were grazing near the hostel, and took off with indignant honks whenever I came out to the car with belongings. It took nearly an hour to get back to the main road and, as ever, I gave thanks for the wonders of smooth tarmac.

The clouds began to lift, though not to clear. This revealed the mountains, and that all the peaks had had a dusting of snow overnight. A beautiful sight, and I was also glad that we'd gone over the mountain pass yesterday, not today. 

We drove down to the lake of Logurinn (also called Lagarfljot). The winds picked up again at various points, but in a short walk through the forest of Hallormsstadarskogur. Since the early 20th century an attempt has been made here to plant trees, many of them brought over from subarctic areas of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. I took a few photos of the flowers before we headed back and found a viewpoint for our lunch. We wrapped up warmly and sat at a picnic table to admire the lake.

We parked at the start of the hike to Hengifoss, but in the windy (and soon to be wet conditions) decided against the strenuous, two hour hike up the mountain. An advertising board told us of a restaurant in Skriduklauster, a house once owned by the Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson and now a museum. We had hot drink and nice desserts there.

Back up the road to Egilsstadir. We had to pause for some road works. The gravel was quite deep and I was pleased when our little car didn't get stuck. At Egilsstadir Camen went into the supermarket. I visited a souvenir shop, and finally found the Icelandic sweater which said, 'You must have me.' After purchasing said sweater I joined Carmen on stocking up on food.

Our youth hostel for the night was in Seydisfjordur. To get to this ferry port (population 800) we drove over a mountain pass, thankfully tarmac. As we climbed up the road, I stopped to take photographs over the lake. The wind was fierce and my eyes were watering by the time I gave up. I didn't even attempt to set up a tripod. On either side of us we were surrounded by snow covered mountain peaks, and snow was in drifts either side of the road. The sight was stunning, and again I wrapped up warmly and took hand held photographs.

At the town we checked in to the hostel and--hurrah--have enjoyed good wifi for the first time in three nights. 

Photos from today are available here.

7 September

The weather changed dramatically overnight. We woke to high winds and rain. As we went over a very poorly maintained gravel road, high over a mountain pass, the rain first turned to sleet and then to snow. I'm certain the views are excellent on a sunny day, and it was in such hopes that I had planned this part of the trip. But in the given weather conditions we didn't stop anywhere. There were a number of waterfalls and views of a large river which we admired from the safety of the (now dirty again) car.

At one point I had to stop the car to let a small animal cross. I think it was a mink. We also disturbed a small falcon, which took off sharply from the side of the road.

The youth hostel at Husey, our overnight stop, is on a working farm. I had not realised that we would have to go 30km down another unpleasant gravel road. Again, I had hoped for good weather, because the area is supposed to be excellent for bird watching. Indeed, we had to stop for a small group of shorebirds, perhaps redshanks. My intention had been to get to the hostel early afternoon and to go birdwatching. We still arrived early afternoon, but we simply booked into the hostel and settled in. 

The farm sells fish which they catch themselves, both trout and salmon. Carmen bought a trout for our dinner, at the price of 400 krona. I bought three eggs, two chicken and one duck, also from the farm. A sheep keeps wandering past. She was rejected by her mother and raised by hand, so now she follows people around and tries to get into the house. 

My first ever attempt to cook fish, which I pan fried in oil, was quite successful, if I say so myself. Carmen insisted that I take off the head beforehand. I even managed to get most of the bones out. A couple from Switzerland checked in, and we had a cosy evening in the warm lounge. German was the language of the evening. I've used more German during this holiday than I have for the past six years.

So, a rather uneventful day. A few photos, available here.

6 September

Another day of early fog. It would be nice to see dawn at least once in Iceland!

We stopped to admire grasses and almost unnaturally green mosses growing out of black sand near a lake. It was shortly thereafter that I killed a goose. About five of them suddenly launched themselves from bushes beside the road, crossing right to left in front of me. A car was coming the opposite direction so although I braked I couldn't swerve. Car and goose collided with a sharp thump. The car is undamaged, but sadly the goose was killed. At least the death was instant.

We stopped to view the canyon at Aysbergi. The canyon forms a microclimate, with scrubby birch trees and many shrubs. We walked along a path to a lake and enjoyed the quiet. The waters were so still that wonderful reflections were made by the rocks and plants. A fulmar came to bathe in the waters, which disturbed the reflections. Then a coach load of German tourists came marching down to the lake, chattering and shouting for the echoes. Fulmar took flight and I escaped to a nearby viewpoint. 

We had lunch in a picnic area near the car park. A large white bird, merely sitting in the meadow nearby, puzzled us. I finally went over and discovered a young fulmar. I think she must have recently left her cliff nest and was finding her wings not strong enough to lift her from a ground start. She did try, and nearly made it into the air, before crashing into the trees. Carmen wanted to help, somehow, and I pointed out that there was nothing we could do.

Today was not a good day for birds...

After our lunch we went on to Dettifoss. As guidebooks warn you, the gravel road is rather bumpy and, at times, dirt rather than gravel. We crawled the 25 kilometres and finally reached the car park for the falls. And, around this time, the sun came out. Just to show that some photographers are never happy, the sun was just above the falls, making for challenging conditions. The spray was spectacular, rising above the falls to drench the cliffs on (fortunately) the other side. Carmen and I both felt that Dettifoss was majestic rather than beautiful. The water in the falls was a muddy grey-brown, and the landscape nearby very barren. After I felt I'd done what I wanted with the waterfall I headed back towards the canyon further down the river. The returning clouds gave interesting patterns of light and dark on the stone walls.

We went back across the road, stopping to admire the sunlight on the red hills. I was very glad when we finally left that road behind. We drove on to our hostel in Kopasker, admiring sun and showers along the way.

Photos from today available here.

5 September

Usual 8am leaving time. The town was covered with fog, but as we drove up into the mountains we climbed above the clouds. We stopped several times to admire the clouds. As we dropped down to Godafoss the clouds covered the sky again.

We stayed around the falls for a couple of hours. Blue sky teased in all the wrong directions. Various coach parties stopped for twenty minutes at a time before going off to their next destination.

Afterwards we drove on to Lake Myvatn. Two thing struck us immediately. One was that what sounded like rain hitting the windscreen was actually insects dying a splotchy death. The second was the fascinating scenery. Unfortunately the first had the tendency to interrupt the enjoyment of the second. As the guide books promise, the midges don't bite, but that doesn't stop them from swarming over your face and doing their best to get into your nose and eyes. 

We stopped for photos a various spots around the lake. Geothermal energy is used in this part of the country, and the power plants themselves look quite interesting. Namafjall was full of bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Visitors are warned to stay on the paths in order to protect shoes and lives from the hot sand and mud. The smell of sulfur was quite strong and, rather maddingly, the midges were undeterred.

After this we drove up to Krafla. We walked along the paths through lava fields to the volcano craters. And more geothermal vents. We could see rain coming our way so we headed back to the car, and reached it just in time. We headed off to our hostel, reaching Berg at 6pm.

Photos from today available here

4 September

I'd booked two nights in Akureyri with the deliberate intention of having an easy day. I slept in until 7.30am, and didn't leave the hostel until after 9am. Grey skies and light rain followed me into town. The woman at tourist information assured me that the main church had a Sunday morning service at 11am, so I slowly made my way there. But when I climbed up the steps, the noticeboard informed me that there wouldn't be a service until 8pm in the evening. There were four other people annoyed at the same notice, and we all went on our ways. The church wasn't even open.

I found another, smaller church on my way to the Botanical Gardens. However, whereas I felt I could be discrete in my lack of comprehension in a large church, I worried that in a smaller one it would be all too obvious that I hadn't a clue what they were saying. So I went to the Gardens instead. They are probably quite beautiful when it's not raining. An American couple were trying to entertain their toddler, but he keep insisting that the ball should be kicked into the bushes rather than along the path.

I had been very excited to see a redwing in the mountains. Here there were entire flocks of them. They seem to be the city bird.

I headed back and had lunch at a restaurant. Salad bar, wild mushroom soup, and grilled guillemot. The last was an interesting flavour, a very dark, red meat. The restaurant also served minke whale, for around the same price as the lamb and the guillemot. I had thought whale was a luxury, but obviously not. I ordered a beer with my lunch, and one sip confirmed my suspicions. They'd given me a low alcohol beer! I can hear all of you laughing from here.

To walk off lunch I headed for the old town. There were lovely wooden buildings which were even nicer to view once the sun came out. There was also a bowling alley, which seemed to be popular with families on a wet Sunday afternoon. 

Once back in town I again talked myself out of woollen jumpers, but I did buy a woollen hat (fleece lined). I think it will do me well in the Antarctic, especially the night I'm camping out on the ice. I don't think I have the face for hats, but surely the penguins won't complain.

I had a coffee in the bookshop, and discovered that the Harry Potter books have been translated into Icelandic. New life goal: Write a book so popular that it's translated into Icelandic. 

I returned to the hostel and met up with Carmen. She has decided to continue with me, and she was able to get beds in the rest of the hostels along my route. 

Photos from today available here

3 September

Usual leaving time. We had a bit of gravel road, with the additional challenge of fog. I drove rather slowly. As we went further inland the clouds began to lift and we had sunshine!

The sun came and went until mid afternoon. We joined the main ring road around Iceland and headed towards Akureyri. We stopped to admire the Vidimyri turf church. A little further on we visited the Glaumbaer turf farmhouse. The latter was fascinating, very large inside, and indeed built out of turf with wooden posts to hold it in place. The buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. No heating, but according to the guide everyone was warm enough due to the insulation of turf and the woollen clothes which they wore.

We reached Akureyri mid afternoon. A petrol station had free car wash hoses, so the car shed half a mountain of dirt. Next stop was the supermarket, then we checked into the hostel. Photos from today are here--what a difference sun makes!

2 September

Again we left at 8am. As we around the many fjords the sun appeared briefly, as if to mock us. The roads were quite good and what surprised me was how low we often were, just above the rocky beaches. We had been told that we might see seals, but these never emerged. We did see a number of birds, often geese, as well as shore birds. There are few villages this far north, but we continue to be amazed at the regular appearance of churches. These often appear far larger than the small number of houses would justify, but perhaps they were built when the area had a larger population.

We stopped at various times for the views. At one place I came across wild blueberries, which were delicious.

Mid afternoon we stopped in Holmavik. I was thrilled when we found a flock of eleven ptarmigan in a car park. I managed to get a quick shot with my small camera before they ran off. We stopped for a coffee at the Witchcraft Museum (didn't go in to to view it). When we went back to the car I realised that one of the tyres was flat. Two other youth hostellers came by and one offered to change it for me (she's a mechanic). She got the bolts off but the wheel refused to budge. So she drove me back to the local supermarket where I asked about a mechanic. The woman at the liquor counter called her brother, who was the local mechanic, and his workshop was close to where we were parked. So I drove the car to him. He got the tyre off, and fixed it, and I was able to drive away with my wallet 3000 krona lighter for the experience.

We had a bit more of a gravel road to get to tonight's youth hotel, in Broddanes. I was booked into a single room (the dorms were full when I booked my holiday). I found two beds in the room, so Carmen has joined me. She went to have a nap. The women who assisted me earlier are also here tonight so I've been able to give my friendly mechanic some whiskey.

Photos from today are available here

1 September

We left the hostel at 8am. The rain eased off during the morning, and we could see the mountains, but the high level grey cloud remained. Soon later we started on Trial by Gravel Road. The roads were pretty much as I had expected. Potholes, mud, some hairy bits up and down mountains. I only had one small skid, which I corrected, and a momentary slip on the mud. If I were to do this again perhaps I'll go to the expense of four wheel drive.

We stopped for several hours at the Dynjandi waterfalls. I went into photography mode and Carmen wandered and talked to other visitors. We had lunch at the site. It's warm enough to sit outside for awhile if you're wearing a jacket. There were midges around to annoy, although I've been assured that these don't bite. Time will tell.

After some more steep climbs and drops on mud/gravel, I was very pleased when the road returned to tarmac. We made good time to our hostel at Korpudalur. We arrived before reception opened so Carmen went for a walk. To my delight the clouds finally departed. I had the sort of light I love, a mixture of sunshine and shadow on the mountains. Some serious tripod time was had. I also saw a redwing, another bird first for me.

Carmen and I have a room to ourselves. I'm sitting at the window and have a marvellous view through the valley. Clouds are closing in again and more rain is forecast, so I shall treasure the evening's glimpse.

Photos from today available here.

31 August

We woke up to fleeting patches of blue sky. Our ferry from Stykkisholmur  to Brjanslaekur was at 3pm, so we had a leisurely start to the day. On our way to the ferry port we stopped to admire the misty scenery. I had my first taste of driving on a gravel road when we made a detour to visit an old church, only to find when we arrived at the small village that the path to said church was marked 'private.' But we enjoyed watching dogs, cats, and chickens intermingle nearby.

We arrived at Stykkisholmur around 11am. Postage stamps, groceries, and petrol were purchased, but from different places. I visited the Norwegian House, which had been built by a wealthy shipowner about a century ago and had been refitted to look as when he had lived there. There was a fascinating exhibit about eiderdown. I didn't realise that the down was collected from the nests after the mother and ducklings have left. 

When I drove on to the car ferry the staff wanted me to back the car into a small space against the hull. Reversing is not my strong point, so I was happy to hand the keys over to the woman who did it for me. She had to crawl over the passenger seat to get out, and of course at the end of the ferry trip I had to crawl over to get in.

Sun toyed with us during the three hour crossing. We paused briefly at the island of Flatley for people to disembark. Whilst sitting in the cafeteria, a young man called Nickolai asked if he could get a lift to our destination, Bildudalur. He was born in Russia but now lives in Germany, and during the university break he is doing a mixture of hitchhiking and volunteer work in Iceland. We managed to squeeze him and his backpack into the back seat. German became the language of choice in the car for the hour or so. I let Carmen and Nickolai do most of the talking as the mountain roads required strict attention. We went up and down steep grades, and even in the mist the views were fantastic. I didn't stop because they weren't the sort of roads to travel over in the dark.

In Bildudalur Nickolai saw someone he knew and we let him out. The hostel was just a bit further down the road, right on the harbour. It's a new build and very modern. In fact, the stove is so modern that Carmen had to show me how to use it! 

At the moment I am a frustrated photographer who is grimacing at the weather forecasts. In the meantime, photos from today are available here.

30 August

I've been joined by Carmen, from Germany, who has started an around the world journey. She heard me talking about my trip and asked if she could join me. So we were picked up at 8.30am and taken to the car rental place. The guy tried to sell me Super Collision Damage Waiver insurance, but I'd already arranged cover for a much cheaper price on-line before I left the UK. What did surprise me is that I've been given an automatic car. 

I can't say that driving out of Reykjavik was my finest hour. It's been many years since I've driven on the right side of the road. I love the logic of rental companies, they put tourists into cars at their offices in the middle of a city so your first experience of driving abroad is trying to get out of said city. And I kept looking for a clutch at all the wrong times. But once we were out of the city I settled down into driving. It was helpful to have Carmen as navigator and to remind me to return to the right side of the road when coming out of junctions.

The day started grey and remained so. At times the clouds lifted, but not far enough for us to see the mountains of the Snaesfellsnes peninsula. We travelled along the coast and stopped to admire the moss covered lava rocks. We saw a ptarmigan, which was a first for me, near the ruins of buildings made from lava rocks and which were used to dry fish in the 15th century. What amazed both of us was how we could hear waterfalls from far away because there was so little sound pollution. 

The other delight were the many Icelandic horses grazing everywhere. We also came across numerous sheep. I have driven in Scotland often enough to know that sheep will suddenly dash across the road, so I was prepared when this happened. It did surprise Carmen!

We reached Grundarfjordur around 6pm. And then the rain felt it had been kind to us long enough and really let loose. We checked in to the hostel and settled in for the evening. We met up with two couples from England and have shared stories, photographs, and alcohol. Just hoping the weather improves...

Photos from today available here.

29 August

Tried to sleep in, but body clock told me I had to get up at 7am (which was 8pm UK time). So I found the kitchen (a separate building) and had coffee and a breakfast bar. I live in style...

I headed out just before 9am. And got hopelessly lost trying to find the city centre. Then I had one of those chance encounters which make travelling worthwhile. A woman asked if she could help me, and as she was going to the city centre she suggested I followed her. We got onto language, and it emerged that she had studied the grammatical similarities and differences between English, German, and Icelandic. I found her observations fascinating. A talk about the names of the days of the week led onto a discussion about Freya/Friday. She told me that there is a flower in Iceland which, if you pick it and put it under the pillow of a man, he will fall for you. I said, 'Yes, and that is okay until another woman puts the flower under his pillow. Then he can say, "It wasn't my fault, the flower made me do it."' She quite liked that, and we discussed men for a few minutes.

When we reached the city centre I gave her one of my cards of my website. She told me that she has a house on an island and I should come and stay to do photography. We had a hug, and I was so pleased to have had such an interesting conversation so early in my trip.

I'm not sure what to make of Reykjavik. Perhaps on a sunny day it would look cheerful, but on a grey day it looks just, well, grey. I wandered through various stores and visited the Hallgrimskirk. I had decided to have two meals out during this trip (the rest of the time I'll be cooking for myself in the hostels) so I had a three course meal of 'traditional Icelandic cuisine.' Because I value the friendship of my readers I won't elaborate, but it was very interesting and rather expensive. And I did enjoy it.

Afterwards I tried to find a bus to Perlan, and failed, so decided to walk. After two months of enforced no exercise (due to an operation on my leg) it was a bit of a challenge, but I made it. I was guided on the last part of my walk by a pied wagtail, who didn't seem to mind me watching her on the path just ahead. I enjoyed the views from the observation platform, especially when the sun finally came out.

I managed to finally work out the bus system and caught one back to the city centre. I still had a bit of a walk back to the hostel. Finally, at 6pm, I got back. Then. of course, the sun came out, but I was too tired to go out again.

Have had a great evening with the other women in the room. We've swapped stories and I've shown off my photos. 

Photos from today available here.

28 August

A bit of a strange day. I officiated at St Martin's Church, Welton, came home for lunch, then wondered what to do until I left for the airport. My flight wasn't until 9pm and there was no point driving down to Heathrow too early.

I finally left at 4pm and got to Purple Parking at 6pm. Checking in at IcelandAir gave me my Airport Rule Number 57, namely, never check in at a desk above your flight level. I was booked into economy, but when I got to the desks the person who checked in business class called me over because no business passengers were queued. She weighed my bag and it was 23 kgs, over the limit of 20 kgs. She told me that I would either have to lose the excess weight or pay £9.00 per kg for the excess. So I went away to see what I could do. The only thing I could think of was to take out the tripod. As this is a Serious Photography Holiday I had packed my Serious Photography Tripod. If I carried it under my arm, hidden under my coat, perhaps I could just sneak it on board. 

When I got back into the queue, business passengers had turned up so I went to the economy desks. And then I saw that those in front of me had overweight bags and the woman at the desk wasn't at all bothered about it. So I quickly returned tripod to bag and, indeed, she didn't care about the excess weight. Whew!

I had time for one last English beer. I sat near the window and saw a rainbow appear. Although I don't believe in luck, I always think it a good sign when I see a rainbow. I've never claimed to be entirely rational...

The flight was three hours, which meant we landed 11pm Iceland time (midnight UK time). There is a coach which takes people into Reykjavik, for which I paid on the 'plane, and it got me to the youth hostel at 1am. I did try to get into bed as quietly as possible, and as at least two people snored on undisturbed I think I succeeded.

The one photo from today here.

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Late August I will make a two week visit to Iceland. I'm hiring a car and driving myself around most of the country, following the route recommended by Hostelling International Iceland. The itinerary which I will be following is this one available here. HI Iceland booked the car and the hostels for me.