Iceland and Norway

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Europe » Iceland
September 9th 2010
Published: September 14th 2010
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Well Iceland is classed as Europe on this site...

Monday, 6 September 2010 Reykjavik City Hostel, Iceland
Slept awesome until 10am and then dozed till about 11am and feel much better. Bit gloomy outside so repacked port with stuff I don’t think I need and tried to wash some clothes. Saw in book that Iceland has the best drinking water in the world. Cold water that is! The hot water is sulphuric so smells and tastes bad. That is ok, I can live with that, until I got in the shower. It is between 10 and 14 degrees, but we must be acclimatized a bit because don’t even have the heater on, in any case though, it is not cold shower weather. It is a catch 22. For me to have a cold shower, I would have to smell as bad as the rotten eggs I washed in this morning. I checked with Joanne before going out in public that I didn’t smell like the shower. We caught a bus into town in miserable weather. Guy gave us a day bus pass which was good because we couldn’t but a day pass on the bus only one way tickets, Joanne ended up being paid for by another girl and paid her back or something? Wandered around to get orientated and had pasta for lunch. Took photos of Hallgrimskikja Church which is on every postcard from Iceland that isn’t the volcano or puffins. It is the highest building in Iceland. Then down to Viking statue on beach and started to head home. Now catching up on diary and will go and start trying to post 111 photos to my blog. Spent about 5 hours but got blog done which I am very happy with. Free internet is a great thing hey. Panadeine and bed again.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010 Reykjavik City Hostel, Iceland
Up with alarm for Golden Circle tour. Bus was ½ hour late to start day but was a great day with lots of info so here we go…. Iceland has about 320,000 people (somewhere else I saw 380,000 but thereabouts), 180,000 live in Reykjavik. The 2nd biggest town is the port we were at which was about 16,000 so there are heaps of people scattered around. The island is not a continent and not part of a continent, but actually sits on tectonic plates splitting North America and Eurasia continents and is moving apart at about 2cm per year which occasionally gets filled up with lava from one of the eruptions that happen on the Island every 3 years on average. Eyjafjallajokull (without dotted I’s and crossed t’s, or in this case u’s dotted, o’s tildaed, y’s apostrophed and any other letters without their little weird characters) which erupted earlier this year causing heaps of airspace shutdowns was a major problem because it is near a glacier so the ice and lava mixing had explosions sending the volcanic dust into the air. Iceland is the land of Ice and Fire, with ¼ of the island having some form of volcanic activity and 10% covered in glaciers, with a third snow/ice (I think this includes the glacier count?). Reykjavik itself was started in 874 when Norwegian Vikings picked up a few girls and supplies from Denmark and Ireland and the name stands for Steam Bay. The weather is apparently quite mild in winter mostly due to the gulf stream coming up from the Gulf of Mexico hitting the centre south of the Island. Funnily enough, Iceland has a fair bit of exporting going on. The weirdest being horse meat. I didn’t try whale while I was here but is for sale in a lot of places. Other exports are fish which is still quite plentiful in their 200 mile of ocean. This is one of the things stopping them from joining the EU, they would have to share their oceans which they are quite proud of protecting and sustaining and not prepared to do so. They quite self sustain on agriculture, simply because they build greenhouses to fake a tropical climate and even export some goods. One little town we went through has over 30,000 square metres of glass. One was in the middle of being rebuilt after an earthquake - not insurance but government support. Farmers are also onto the fun of salmon fishing which they charge heaps for, even building salmon steps for them to get up waterfalls they cannot get up naturally then increasing the fishing space. First stop of the day was a Geothermal power plant which itself, produces 7-10% of electrical supply for Iceland. 90% of homes are heated with the water that is released through holes drilled into fissures for these plants. It travels over 17km and only loses 1-2 degrees in temperature. Oh, it comes out of the ground at 300-400 degrees too before it is cooled as part of the energy process. We stopped quickly at a waterfall to see how the salmon steps were made and also a sheep pen that is only used one day each year when all the sheep are herded down from the mountains. Then stopped at Geysir, famous for Strokkur geyser that erupts often on average every 7 minutes. We saw a few which was cool, you could see how it built up and then after too much pressure build up it went off. It was here I finally worked out how to make my camera take multiple photos - aren’t we all lucky I didn’t find that before the animals! Another stop at Gullfoss Falls or Golden Falls, which were pretty cool as waterfalls go, but awesome to walk in the screaming winds. From my limited cyclonic experience, I would guess they were 150km/h winds, I asked guide but he just shrugged off like it was a normal day. Seriously though, with the wind behind me it felt like I was doing the limbo. Then with it coming from the side I was wandering around like I was drunk leaning into the wind that hard that when it suddenly stopped I stumbled and nearly fell over. Then there is when the wind picks up the leg you are stepping with and blows it behind your standing leg looking like a moron nearly tripping over yourself (all at a 45 degree angle). I won’t even start on what my hair looks like. Reminds me of playing broomball (sandshoes on ice) where out of the corner of my eye at the opposite end of the rink to play, I just catch someone going A over T. If the Olympics were held here they would all be running sub 8 second 100 metres. Maybe even sub 7s if their legs could keep up and they didn’t spear in. Man, even Joanne did a 12 second 100 metres chasing her hat J Glad to be back on the bus in the wind block - thank god it wasn’t that cold, only 12 degree last sign we saw. Onto Unesco listed Thingvellir NP with the Great Lake, Rift Valley which you could see the face of the American continent (Eurasia is under lava so smooth looking) and where it is still splitting apart, and finally the Rock of Law where on 17 June 1944 70,000 locals declared their independence after 700 years, from Denmark which was now occupied by Germany in WWII. Was cool to run into Wim and Jeanette here as well. Other little bits of info, the Icelandic Pony, oops horse. It does have many colours, apparently every horse colour, originally bought over by the Vikings. They have a 5th gait with all other horses only having four. There are about 90,000 on the island with more than that living overseas, exported at huge costs, but they are very loyal, strong and loving. Actually, I want one. The main menu over here though is lamb. There doesn’t seem to be as many sheep around as NZ but the locals are proud of their sheep. Icelanders still carry the tradition of taking on their fathers name. So our guide was Jacob, all his kids are ‘firstname’ Jacobson. They don’t change their names when they get married either - that would apparently be too confusing. I do love the sight of all the beefy 4WDs here - don’t know about camping or getting stuck in the mud in freezing weather though? I ended up having to ask about the Trolls everywhere, apparently 70% of Icelanders believe in trolls or elves. The other thing I do like is the speed bumps at traffic lights. Would either stop fools from running lights, or just lift them up over any protective measure built into cars, hopefully the first. So, after a weird first night, a fair first day, a miserable second day, I now like Iceland after a great 3rd day. Dropped off and finally got my subway which I’ve been craving since I saw it - would’ve gone Taco Bell only didn’t know closest one to walk from hotel. Oh, did I mention the huge underwater tunnel here as well, is at least 5km long, maybe longer, that goes fairly steeply into and out of the apex. And just felt me head where I cracked it on the airvent today, managed to break the airvent and shove it back up into the ceiling of the bus - oops.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010 Oslo, Norway
Waited for Airbus while a bee tried to land on my face causing me to whip my head and nearly put my neck out. Bus was only transfer to terminal and then change buses again to skybus. Got there only about 1 ½ hours before flight but quick check in and customs and had time to be bored anyway. Flight was ok, slept some and listened to my country mp3s. Getting into Oslo was quick and easy. Caught local train into town which is 50km away for about $22. Checked in and wandered back out to get a feed and organize something for tomorrow. Town had a nice feel about it even though one of first things we saw were three pretty petite blond police officers with a guy handcuffed. Had a kebab that came on a plate even though the shop guy and myself were both pointing to the picture of a triangle kebab pocket. Oh well, couldn’t eat it all anyway. On free internet again and because we lost 2 hours today got to bed late. Is weird too because you can feel the underground trains or earthquakes but maybe my sea legs are still kicking in, sometimes I just nearly tip over even sitting down. Joanne gave me a couple of sinutab and had a panadeine too. Bloody flu.

Thursday, 9 September 2010 Oslo, Norway
Got up in time to wander down to hopon hopoff bus stop. Still feeling pretty fluey and lethargic so not much info recalled and photos are half hearted. Shame it is my last day of trip really but I’d rather be better for my 49 hour journey home. Anyway, here’s what I did get. Oslo was built where it is today in 1624 when King Christian 4th decided it should be here after it burnt down. It was called Christiania then until returning to Oslo in 1925. Passed Akershus Fortress and Castle which was built around 700 years ago. There is a Jewish memorial here of chairs in a park again. Drove past new Opera House where the stage is 60 feet under sea level, and it is on the sea. Norwegians get to retire at 67, earlier for some jobs, but every gets pension at 67. There is 43 weeks maternity leave at full pay as well, 9 for mother, 5 for father and the rest for either. Interest is currently at 4%, but 28% of that is tax deductible. One of their main industries is oil, after 1962 companies drilled for oil and must have been persistent because they finally found oil 8 years later and is now 24% of GDP. Saw and visited Town Hall with Scandinavia’s largest caroline with 49 bells which plays a different melody every hour. This is where the Nobel Peace Prize is celebrated every 10th December. Saw the obligatory Parliament House, University, National Theatre and the Royal Palace where we watched changing of the guards. I was very tired, but it seemed a long drawn out process. Was funny and cool though to see the guards communicating with boot noises. We also wandered through Vigeland Park with 212 sculptures of life, include the cycle of life fountain. Norway was called so because it used to be the North Way or way north. It is 1750km long and only 6km wide at it’s narrowest point. Oslo is the largest Capital City in the world at 454 square mile which is 4 ½ times as big as Paris the area is quite green and only ½ built up. Skipped all the museums for lack of time (and energy) but one I would’ve loved is the Viking Museum and the Frammuseet with the wooden ship that has sailed furtherest north and south. Saw, a wooden church that is Unesco listed because it is only of only 28 left of over 2000 churches that have both the Christian Cross after Catholicism reached here in 12th century, but also the Dragon from Norse Mythology. We didn’t get to go to the ski jump arena that a few people had recommended because it was closed for renovations. Had beautiful red curry chicken on walk home to get Joanne ready to leave. She left me bombed up with Sinutab and Strepsils, if only so she didn’t have to carry them. Could be a lifesaver though. Walked her to train station and now reluctantly doing diary and photos to try and get blog done before I go to bed.

Friday, 10 September 2010 Fly Oslo, UK, US, NZ, BNE
Slept pretty well only waking once and then woke just before alarm. Because I thought I had plenty of time then ended up in a rush at the last minute. All went smoothly though and thought I was only 1h40m before flight at airport but was 2h40m so plenty of time. Left my luggage unlocked when I got to check it right through to Brisbane, although guy said I might have to get it back in LA and recheck? Flight was ok, slept a lot and woke up with crinked neck. Then getting out, we had a weird guy in aisle seat who wanted to wait until the whole plane left. Finally he got up and fussed around a bit. Caught the transfer bus to terminal one and it was weird to be taking the roundabouts on the left, I felt like he was cutting corners all the time. The airport has a lot of security, all dressed in black and fingers on the trigger nearly, at the very least an aggressive pose. Had a burger and chips and got a free ½ hour internet to waste some time. Joanne emailed that she had trouble when catching the train because a train had an emergency…. Reminds me of Moscow, who is the common denominator? I wondered how people were picking I was Australian today and then realized, it is probably given away in my first two mushed together words G’day. Managed to spend my last 5 euro in coins I found on chocolates and lollies. Was like a little kid and managed to spend down to my last 6 pence J Anyone know anything I can spend 6 pence on? Of course I had to play gate find again and from gates 31-60 which was my first turn, gates were appearing before and after my gate number but of course it had to be last one I got to. Flight was late because the moving stairway wouldn’t disconnect from our plane but then a fairly uneventful flight into LA. The lady at Heathrow moved me to a window seat instead of between two strangers thank god, but the seat I had to spend the next 26 hours in was a skinny one because it was at the back of the plane where it narrowed. Not good for my hips! Watched Sex and The City II first up which was great, then Letters to Juliet, Hot Tub Time Machine and The A-Team for a trip down memory lane. Watched a beautiful sunset over hilly area I am guessing around Salt Lake City and then the lovely pink horizon. Both Heathrow and LA I wasn’t overly comfortable with seeing planes just outside my window on a number of occasions.

Saturday, 11 September 2010 The disappearing day.
It would have been better if this day did disappear rather than actually flying into and out of US. I’ll just ignore that fact. Well I got into US about 4am London time, but went back to before midnight LA time. Then had to sit around for a couple of hours waiting to clean the plane or whatever it was they were doing. Finally boarded just before midnight but I think I plucked a wrong time so god knows.

Sunday, 12 September 2010 Townsville
Ticked over a third time onto Sep 11 but then had to change day forward. Flight LA to NZ was long but listened to music and got at least a couple of hours sleep. I am going great at the moment, have been up 44 hours, with only couple of hours sleep which is weird. Watched Animal Kingdom, See It In Their Eyes and all but the last few minutes of Wall Street. I must mention my feet are so sticky and horrid and wished I had packed a spare pair of socks that I could dump this pair before they run away with me in them. Another couple of hours sitting around Kiwi airport which was quite hot. Actually the whole flight has been quite hot and sweaty. The safety announcement on the flight had me in fits. It was some of the Kiwi All Blacks in the film and based on rugby talk. A couple of the big guys lifted a little old lady up like the lineout to put her baggage in overhead storage, then the coach says “if you’re a smoker you’re off the team”, then extra air in the life jacket made the noise of refs whistle, the brace position they voiced with “crouch, touch, brace” and the funniest thing was the little old lady streaking down the aisle at the end. I am sure there is lots there I forgot to mention as well as some I may have missed myself through tears of laughter. Chatted to cool Kiwi guy Alistair who is working with international cricket in Cook Islands. Watched the end of Wall Street, which was literally one minute, then started Paper Heart but screen died so then watched Beautiful Kate. All smooth through Brisbane. Had a quick chat to Rhiley and Brad and now checked in and waiting the last few hours to get home. Picked up by Raelene, Rhiley and Bradley which was exciting and then headed out to John, Mel and Madis for dinner. Was great all the kids remembered me 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 29


Iceland SheepIceland Sheep
Iceland Sheep

I can't tell it's head from it's butt, can you?
Iceland PonyIceland Pony
Iceland Pony

But don't let it hear you say it's not a horse :)

14th September 2010

Bloody awesome, Chris. I would love to go on an adventure like this. So glad you did it! :-)

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