Last week I began the story of my misadventures (or lack thereof) in Iceland, twenty years ago now. And about a month. When I wrote last week I wrote about arriving, the shock of being alone in such a … treeless place (clearly this is in my mind as I look at photos and there is vegetation, but this is the impression the place left on me) and the bizarre effect of a night under the midnight sun.
As I said, I did little tourist stuff in Reykjavik, and instead filled my days doing little except catching a couple of movies and chilling at the very comfortable hostel. Oh, and cooking for myself because of the cost of things! To give an idea, I was way over budget for every single day in Iceland. My budget was a measly $50AUD, which today sounds crazy but in Western Europe, with my Eurail pass, I had been able to keep to that budget.
The hostel was around $30AUD a night, so I still had $20. I was generally foregoing breakfast, so you know, $20 for two meals, local transport, an activity like a movie, it just didn’t come close.
I headed into Reykjavik a few times, saw the Hallgrimskirkja Church, which was modern if not particularly interesting. I wanted to get out of Reykjavik, and came up with a basic plan to visit Akureryi in the north and another place in the west. I bought some sort of bus pass which allowed me to take in both and return to the capital, it was a couple of hundred bucks if not more. At the agency I remember seeing for around $700AUD a tour including flights and accommodation to Greenland, and I seriously considered it before deciding that that would drain money from the remainder of the trip to the point where I would have none well before I headed home. Part of me regrets not doing this still today.
But in the end it was a decision to head north and just see if I could find something a bit better that could wake me from my malaise. I was very flat and unmotivated at that point.
The bus trip north took a few hours. There is a ‘ring-road’ which basically circles the country, although it doesn’t run along the extremities for the entire journey. On reflection, I would have liked to have done the whole road. And since leaving Iceland I always considered that the way to see the place is with a tent and a hired car. Well, not so much keen on the tent!
Akuyeri was the best experience of Iceland for me. I met some people at the hostel there and we hung out, played cards, and went out one night for the whole night – like we actually returned after 7am and then I recall sleeping the whole day.
It was a small, cute little town on the northern coast, and I stayed two or three nights there. I also played a round of golf there, not something I normally do (actually I have played a round of golf twice in my life, and neither has been memorable) but a newly found friend was desperate to play golf in the middle of the night, and I thought ‘Why not? It’s a bit of a novelty’. Few rounds of golf finish at around 11pm. It was a pretty open golf course and there were some adorable horses around.
Well, from there it was back towards Reykjavik in the south. I was headed to a place I can’t remember the name of in the west, but the bus didn’t meet up. We stopped at a service station and I THINK what happened was the weather was awful, rain set in, and the bus was slowed down and missed its connection. But I got off anyway, thinking to make the bus for the next day.
Well, the hostel was a few kilometres away, so I walked through the rain. I had been told how easy it was to hitch in Iceland. But I walked 95% of the way to the hostel before someone pulled over and gave me a lift. In the pouring rain! There weren’t a lot of cars, but there was one every couple of minutes at least on that lonely road. I don’t have any of my diaries from this trip, but my goodness I remember that walk like it was yesterday.
The hostel was warm and nice and there was no-one sharing my room. I read all night. I slept in until 11am, passing the time for my bus west (not accidentally). The owner of the hostel then kicked me out as they were full that night! Seriously. I thought I would chill there for a day. Instead, I was given a lift back to the service station and took the bus back to… Reykjavik.
I’d only been away four or five days, before returning to my hostel in Hafnarfjordor. This time however there were a couple of Aussies there and we hung out for the remainder of my time in Iceland.
We did the tour to Gulfoss and Geysir one day – these hot springs that spurt water up into the air, and on another we visited the ‘Blue Lagoon’, which is a hot springs which is more like a spa. I actually got to see something near Reykjavik, and even went in there and tried Icelandic McDonald’s, which was, to say the least, expensive!
I think that, when up and motivated and in a good place, I could travel loosely without plans. But if I had attached Iceland with a firm plan first-off, well, I would have got so much more out of it. And I needed to budget double what I did, if not more. To have a car would have been brilliant, and in the middle of Summer, the roads looked very easy to navigate – for starters, there are so few of them and they almost exclusively single lane except close to Reykjavik.
I would love, one day, to return to Iceland and attack it properly. It has to be summer, I can’t imagine how depressing the place is in winter! I imagine there are some interesting Game of Thrones tours available these days too. And heck, I’d throw in a couple of nights in Greenland because when else would I be likely to go there?
It was not a waste going there, but I still regret the way I was and how I approached it. What I saw and did, well, I could have done in 3-4 days instead a full two weeks. It’s hard to keep going when you’re travelling non-stop for months on end though.
Thanks for reading today, and as usual – May the Journey Never End!