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Published: November 13th 2013
The annual Airwaves music festival in Reykjavik is a big event on the international music scene. Music lovers from around the world descend on the capital of Iceland to indulge in four days of non stop live music, enjoying the electric atmosphere as the city turns into a huge party town for the duration of the event. The organisers chose to delay the festival until the end of October for the first time this year, in order to extend the all too brief tourist season in Iceland before the Arctic winter begins to flex it's considerable muscle. So here I am, a music lover from way back, enjoying a random chance to join in the party amidst hordes or hard core music fans, and an exceptional lineup of local and international artists performing up to five gigs around town each day. Iceland has always punched well above her weight as a music destination, and the the country of Bjork plays host to a seemingly limitless supply of local talent.
So it's time to gear up and rock on, constant reader, from where we left off in the Faroe Islands. Iceland Air were again my hosts for the three hour flight
west over the North Atlantic to Reykjavik. I've developed a bit of a crush on Iceland, and was excited to be coming back for more good times. Airwaves is a huge motivator in ensuring I arrived before the end of the festival, and a few more days in Reykjavik never goes astray. I fell back into the routine of staying at the wonderful Kex hostel, although often with a full house and standing room only in the bar watching the great acts perform was the norm. It proved to be a shock to the system after such a quiet and peaceful time in The Faroe Islands. Kex was given a licence to host bands during Airwaves, and you could not even move sometimes over the course of the weekend, with the hostel bar going totally off to the live performances.
Those without tickets to the big acts still have an opportunity to enjoy Airwaves at off-venue performances. All it takes is a stroll down the road over the weekend and visitors can enjoy bands at every little bar and cafe, I even saw an act in the local record store. I headed out one night with an Aussie girl
who was under the impression an act she wanted to see was off-venue, but I was booted out the door so fast my shadow couldn't keep up! I couldn't last two rounds against a revolving door that night, but no tickets means no entry anywhere in the world. We ended up going to a happening bar with a DJ instead, and the atmosphere was excellent. At least as a guest at Kex ensures entry to the premises, so I got a great introduction to Airwaves with several acts performing at the same bar I call home up here in the Arctic. The weekend passed, and many of the hard core partiers began to head back to their countries. But I still had a bit of exploring to do, starting with a morning bus ride north to Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland. The journey takes six hours, and many people choose to fly up north, but if you have the time the scenery is as spectacular as any I've seen in this beautiful country.
Even the road looks staggering, as the black tar winds up the snow covered hills into the distance. Sometimes I feel Iceland
is almost too beautiful to describe. I made my way to the excellent Akureyri backpackers on what was a very cold day. It was minus 7 degrees in the city, and definitely a bit colder than in Reykjavik. I spent the evening hanging out at the hostel over a few beers, a good book, and the trusty computer. It seems I'm quite easily entertained when on the road. The next morning I chatted to a bunch of friendly roomies, which seems to be the norm in hostels, who were genuinely interested in what I was up to as we shared travel stories. Most of the guys were heading out in a hire car, and I think they would have happily invited me along if our plans coincided, but I was on a tight schedule as a twice weekly tour was already pre-booked out of Reykjavik. I headed out to explore Akureyri for the day, and took some of the best photographs of the trip, by just wandering around and trusting my eye for a nice shot. The sky is so unique in the Arctic, and with the sun hanging so low in the sky the cloud cover creates natural colours
I've never been able to photograph before. I love the Arctic at this time of year, providing travellers are sensible enough to rug up appropriately.
My bus journey back to Reykjavik was that evening, and six hours passed pleasantly in the company of some gorgeous looking fellow passengers. It was great to get back to Kex around midnight, but I felt a little pressured as I had to get up at the crack of dawn for another tour of the peninsula. I managed it OK, but was left like a shag on a rock outside the hostel entrance waiting for a bus that had actually arrived half an hour earlier. The mix up was just one of those things, and I was able to relax around the hostel instead with my friends, as the helpful staff organised an alternative tour the following day. In hindsight it was for the best as I was feeling tired with all the running around of the last several days starting to catch up on me.
So next morning there I was again, waiting expectantly for my ride yo! My man rocked up in his Nissan four wheel drive featuring huge snow tires,
and I met the other three passengers as we embarked on a boutique tour of central Iceland. It was a brilliant day, spent in the company of older and I suspect wealthier clients from around the world who were knowledgeable and impressive to talk to, and that includes the friendly guide with his wicked sense of humour. I remember him pointing out the location of the lake for drowning women, which took place up to around 1900. The American lady on our tour took umbrage at this, protesting as to why they did not drown the men also. The guide looked straight at me with his cheeky smile and said 'because they didn't do anything wrong!' Actually, it transpires male offenders had their heads chopped off, in the course of those dark days when Iceland was still a very poor country.
We visited The Long Glacier, and went off road in the snow on a bumpy but exhilarating ride. The scenery is bleak, cold, windy and desolate up in the high country, but the scenery is beautiful. We also went lava cave exploring, saw some magnificent waterfalls, and visited Pingvellir national park where the major tectonic plates meet. I
had another marvellous day in a country I will never forget. I bid a fond farewell to my friends and the staff of Kex, and flew back to Amsterdam for a huge catch up on the final night of this trip. I met up with an Aussie friend who has been living in the Netherlands for the last decade. In the blink of an eye I'm already having to reflect on the wonderful time spent visiting Iceland and, basically all of you should be here now!
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo." Steve Jobs
It's home time so until next time, it's signing off for now
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