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Published: June 17th 2017
Amazing Iceland 1 of 3
Why on earth did we choose to come here, Janice?
We were up at 2am to catch the 6am EasyJet red-eye from London Luton. It’s now 9am and we’re sitting in our LHD automatic hired Renault Megane in Keflavik under a leaden sky with the temperature gauge pushing 4C : it’s raining like the bath’s overflowing and there’s a mighty north-easterly blowing off the arctic across a bleak barren landscape threatening to blast the hinges off the doors should we venture outside the car. And the sign on the airport luggage-trolley said ‘A Warm Welcome – It’s in our Nature.’
We should have gone to the Bahamas.
There are no song thrushes to wake you from your slumber on a bright spring morning on Iceland, or nightingales to lull you to sleep at night. Just a handful of butterflies get this far. A tree is a rare sight. With few exceptions, the beaches are all black. And the Arctic Fox is the only native mammal you’ll get to see, if you’re very lucky.
And then there’s money. Everything in Iceland is
outrageously expensive compared to the UK. Much of that is the result of the falling £UK: from 212 ISK (Krona) two years ago, to just 128 ISK = £1 today. So expect to pay around double the UK price for just about everything. Check out the dollar if you’re the other side of the pond.
What can there possibly be to like about Iceland?
We should have known better. The wind and rain blasted our motorhome like an angry rocking-horse for three whole days whilst we were on Faroe, just across the water, back in 2005. With that experience behind us we came to Iceland fully prepared and equipped for a soaking.
So be it. We’re stuck here for two weeks. It can only get better.
On the other hand, it could get worse. Let’s get on with it.
If your diary is free for the next couple of weeks, why not come with us? Don’t forget to pack plenty of layers, your waterproof jacket and trousers, hiking boots, hat and gloves, a flask for your daily coffee will save you a tenner a day,
A bleak landscape
But so beautiful in its own way.
and your best swimming costume for a soak in the hot pot at Blue Water. Bring your camera and a good lens cloth - it could be wet.
You’ll be in good hands. Janice has it all planned in fine detail with hotels, B&Bs and hostels booked well in advance. We’ll circumnavigate the island following Route1, Iceland’s ring road, in an anticlockwise direction she tells me, adding a number of diversions to the ends of nowhere in particular – to see what’s there - or not there for that matter. We’ll be lucky to see anything through the thrashing rain and the constant flap, flap, flap, of the wipers as we head off along the road around the southwestern headland, a winding black ribbon out over the flat expanse of a depressingly grey lava-field.
More than a million tourists come to Iceland each year and the numbers continue to grow at an alarming rate, so why do they all come to this outpost on the very fringe of the Arctic Circle?
And why on earth did we choose to come here, Janice?
I’ll tell you why
if you have a moment or two.
First up, it’s our sort of place. Iceland has been on our wish list for far too long. There’s a certain fascination for us in remote places and, as we were soon to discover, it’s possible to get truly lost here once out beyond the touristy bottleneck around Reykjavik.
There are puffins on Iceland.
It’s the end of May and if the weather eventually breaks, we should be able to enjoy 22 hours of daylight each day. (You might not want to be here in the depth of winter, though any Icelander might tell you different! They’re a tough lot).
That brings us to the people. As if to make the point, half an hour after leaving Keflavik airport, a young lad was madly waving his arms ahead of us, well wrapped up in his waterproofs and clearly anxious for us to stop. Janice slowed to a halt and dropped the window far enough to keep the rain out. ‘Can I help?’
‘We’re scoring points for our school,’ he shouted over the thundering rain on the car roof. ‘We want
you to drive through that enormous puddle and soak the guy standing there with his arms held out wide.’ Janice happily obliged with a rather good high-speed splashing worthy of at least a ten! The people here seem to be extremely friendly. It must be the Viking heritage.
And the birds. I guess you knew I’d get around to that sometime. There are not too many bird species that get all the way to Iceland, but we’ll be on the lookout for around 60 different ones, many of which are rarely seen in the UK, but likely to be here in large numbers for a little bit of romance now spring is here. (Within the first hour we were amongst many thousands of nesting Arctic terns and Eider, seen through the rain-blasted window from the car, on the marshes right beside the road) Birding is one our passions as you might know, it takes us to those remote places we mentioned and much like golf, it’s a good excuse for a walk.
It’s a great place to see Whales.
For those with a lust for geological thrills, they’re all here in
abundance. You’ll get the chance to see bubbling, stinking mud pools as we travel, dark razor-edged lava fields, immense Ice-caped mountains on every horizon, volcanic activity around every corner, basalt columns, and magma driving through the earths’ crust where the Eurasion and North American tectonic plates meet along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Just sit tight there in the back, fasten your seat belt and be patient. And don’t keep telling me I’m driving too fast.
The list is never-ending. But let’s not forget the real punch-line – some of the most magnificent and wild scenery you’re ever likely to encounter. Awesome. It’s up there with Norway, Newfoundland and Shetland for remote splendour: vast open landscapes, enormous skies, both black and blue, dramatic snow-topped mountains lost in cloud, fjords sparkling in silver sunlight – and if you’re unlucky, it’s possible to have all four seasons’ weather in any one day.
Come with us on our journey around Iceland over the coming two weeks.
David and Janice
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