So for Thanksgiving (and as a belated anniversary trip) we went to Iceland for the first time. And some of the things I’m going to rattle off will be familiar to people who know more than I do (about Iceland) which is probably not hard but I’m writing this more for my own benefit (and later recollection).
At the start of the winter in addition to being cold it is unbelievably dark. The sun doesn’t rise until about 10:15 and then for the hours of the day that are technically daylight the sun never seems bright. It always hovered around a dusk or dawn. Around 4:30 the sun would start to disappear again and it would be pitch back by 5:15. On the shortest day of winter (Dec 21) the sun is only up for 4 hours. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of what it’s like waking up in complete darkness. While I can’t imagine the struggle of dealing with that as a permanent resident the challenge of dealing with it for a few days with something that was kind of exciting and interesting. It added to the feeling of other worldliness.
We arrived on Thanksgiving on an “overnight” flight (the short duration of the flight makes this a little painful because at no point during that first 36 hours are you going to get adequate sleep – the only advantage this had for me was training me to be a cat napping master on the bus in between our travel spots). Another sort of interesting element of this trip for me is that I planned very little. Other than booking the tour and getting us a hotel for our last night I planned and researched nothing. As a planner this was a weird exception and I wholly enjoyed have ZERO expectations and just showing up to see what would happen.
After getting through customs and a hilarious interaction with the ATM (periods, commas, foreign currency and sleep deprivation make for an interesting situation – luckily the ATM didn’t allow R to take out the $1200 US he initially attempted.)
We found a shuttle bus to Reykjavik and it dropped us at Hallgrimskirkja (the crazy church in the center of the city), to wait for our tour to collect us. Our tour would be broken into two mini-tours. With one guide picking us up and taking us out to the West Coast and then returning us to Reykjavik before the second two-day tour started. We headed out of the city about 90 minutes give or take and made our first stop in between a waterfall and a mountain at Kirkjufellsfoss (I only remember this because I took a photo of the sign).
We headed to our adorable little hotel to unpack, decompress, and have dinner with our tour group at Hotel Rjúkandi (it ended up being the best food of the trip at their restaurant).
We arrived at the end of the first day thrilled and exhausted. We’d stepped off the plane into an amazing trip. Our guide Erla was awesome, funny, quirky, full of interesting stories (Iceland’s only serial killer!, Fairies!, Trolls!) and an eclectic playlist of alternative music (NIN, Alice Cooper, Tears for Fears, etc…). The landscape was mind blowing. Volcanic rocks, mountains, ice, beaches. Literal miles and miles of nothing but expansive breathtaking natural beauty uninterrupted by people, structures, cars. It was the most “empty” uninhabited place I’ve ever seen. We did our best to stay up until 10 pm that night (local time) and passed out with our twin beds pushed together and our weird individual blankets (apparently this is a Scandinavian thing – you think they’d understand the need/desire to steal body heat from another party).
To be continued…..