Trip of a Lifetime – Iceland
And so it was that I left London via Stockholm to go to a little island out in the middle of Atlantic Ocean known as ‘Iceland’. And what a strange, confronting and challenging 2 weeks it would turn out to be. What can I say about this country? It’s well, not over-endowed with trees. That’s a start. Or people. A population of around 300,000 on the entire island back in 1999 if my memory serves me correctly.
I flew into Reykjavik in the afternoon, and after passing through customs was soon on a bus towards the capital. My hostel was not IN Reykjavik, though, but in a small town/suburb called Hafnarfjordur around 10-15 kms from the city centre. It was small as I said, seaside, had a supermarket and a Dominos (or similar) pizza and maybe a small restaurant, and well that’s about it! But for a time it was home for me.
I had 2 weeks in Iceland, and very little in the way of a set itinerary. Whilst the city hostel was booked out, very few people stayed at the Hafnarfjordur hostel. Perhaps they were unaware of its existence, but it had three floors, 4-bed dorms, a kitchen on every floor and was spotlessly clean. It was fantastic and you know when you share a 4-bed dorm with only one other person, it’s almost your own room.
Now, I had a $50 a day budget and it was over $30 for the bed, but that was really a great price to be honest in what really was the most expensive place (country) I’ve have ever spent time in. With a supermarket in easy walking distance, well, I could make dinner for less than 10 bucks. Maybe 7 ish even. But fair to say – not a great help to the daily budget. Clearly, I was going to blow my budget sky high in Iceland, or stay put and play card games every day for two weeks at the hostel.
Well, what happened then? I made a lot of small pizzas from stuff bought at the supermarket to keep my budget in check. Which didn’t last long. The price of the bus passes were expensive but not as much as buying the individual trips. I think I got some sort of ‘East Iceland Pass’ which lasted a week. I went into central Reykjavik where there’s an interesting church and McDonald’s was phenomenally expensive. Okay, exaggeration, but 1999 I had never paid $13 for a ‘value meal’.
So, this is where I was really in a bit of a malaise as far as this trip went. I felt very unmotivated and down. I spent loads of time getting my diary up to date – I was more than 2 weeks behind I remember and it was some serious work. Everything seemed so expensive as well, and to be honest Reykjavik didn’t capture my imagination the way it had when I was planning.
I went to the tourist information centre to try and get inspired. I nearly spent a whole lot of money taking a tour to Greenland. It was twice the bus pass price but still pretty reasonably priced, considering it included a flight to another country and accommodation. But in the end I decided to hear north. There were a few places that I hoped to go, but needed someone to go with me I guess as I’d need a tent.
I had to think about what I wanted to do in Iceland, but I did book a day trip to Gulfoss (a waterfall) and Geysir (water spurts out of the ground directly up randomly. It’s kinda cool). This day trip lead me to believe that there were no real trees on Iceland. At all! But it provided me with photos and was interesting.
In the end, I took a bus to Akureyri, the biggest town of any note in the north of Iceland. This was the best part of my time in Iceland. There were surrounding mountains still with a touch of snow (although the weather was around 18 degrees most days I was in Iceland and sunny) and I met a couple of nice people at the hostel there (again spotless and a great hostel) so we went out one night, all night, to a club. The night started earlier playing golf. Oh yes – it is truly eerie in Iceland in the summer, the sun doesn’t set. First night I woke at 2am and presumed it was time to get up!
Well, I played a round of golf (extremely badly) which finished at around 11.30pm. It’s so bizarre! And there were these great little ponies nearby I remember, but as for the night out, I don’t remember much about that! And no, not in a good way….
After Akureyri, I headed south with a view to going to the east coast as a guy I’d met had sad a town there was great. However, I misread the bus timetable and didn’t get the connection, and was stuck in a small town that appeared to be petrol station and little else. There was a hostel 5km out of town, or maybe 8km, and I had no choice – I had to walk. It was, of course, raining. I tried to hitch, but every car zoomed past with no compassion at all. I had my big pack on in the rain of course. Then 500 metres from the hostel, I was picked up. Pft. That’s all I can say. I couldn’t even say I walked all the way.
This was the real low. I told the hostel owner I was staying probably only one night, but decided the next morning I would stay another. No good, she had guests coming and turfed me out. Strange, as I was the only one there and it would have been fine if I’d said so the previous night. Then I mentioned I had a travel website and the owner said I didn’t have to worry about a taxi, for a small fee she would drive me back to the bus stop. And she did. And I reviewed the hostel poorly. And I went back and spent the rest of my time in Iceland in Reykjavik/ Hafnarfjordur.
I was welcomed back at the hostel and made a couple of new friends. We went to the ‘Blue Lagoon’, a hot spring/spa kind of thing which really is a must in Reykjavik even if it’s not your sort of thing. We saw movies (Austin Powers and Star Wars again) and tried not to spend too much.
Well, that’s how I spent a full two weeks in Iceland. I spent over $300 above my daily budget (epic budget fail!) and was pretty down for a lot of the time. But all trips have peaks and troughs I guess, at least ones that are over several months. Have you ever had that sort of malaise come over you on a long trip? Please comment!
Soon I was queuing up in the airport to leave and head to Sweden! I had an interesting time ahead in Stockholm, a wedding in Germany and an amazing train ride ahead in Norway coming up!