We said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts, Mark and Jane, and boarded our 10:40pm flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. We landed around 1am, but it was closer to 2:30am before we had checked in to our hotel and were ready for bed. I am told the sun sets at midnight and rises at 3am, but it was definitely still light out by the time our heads hit the pillow.
Our first day was spent ‘sleeping in’ until 9am. This is a sleep in as defined by Joseph, who is one of those chirpy morning people. Admittedly, I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be so got up and enjoyed a little complimentary breakfast. There were some interesting Icelandic treats waiting for us on the table. I couldn’t decide between the brown cheese or the bowl of slimy anchovies so I opted for toast. With full bellies we headed out on what turned out to be a long day of walking around Reykjavik. This city is the capital of Iceland and has about 120,000 residents. The greater Reykjavik area holds two thirds of the population so it is definitely the place to be in Iceland. With the exception of a few hotels, most buildings are no more than three stories tall and the downtown area is clean, quaint and totally walkable. There are lots of cafes, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating but the thing to do when the sun is out is BYO beer to parks downtown.
On our second day we headed out on the first of our three organised tours. Originally we had rented a car with the intention of seeing the sights ourselves. That plan changed with delays caused by our visa issues and rebooking the car turned out to be the same price as booking cheesy organised tours. As one of our tours was whale watching, it would have been a little difficult to do in the Hyundai Gerbil we would have rented. Anyway, the golden circle tour took us on a 9 hour journey through some pretty spectacular scenery. We visited the place where the Vikings formed the first democratically elected government 930AD. They would come from all over Iceland once a year to make new laws, settle disputes and have a general chinwag. It all sounded very civil until we saw the ‘drowning pool’ where they would drown womenfolk for various crimes. The pool was quite shallow so the women were put in sacks and held under. This was apparently the more humane method of capital punishment. In addition to brutal murders, this place was also one of three locations in Iceland where you would see the separation of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. The plates move apart about two centimetres a year. As cool as it was, I thought the scenery would be a little more dramatic than what I witnessed. I expected the earth in between the plates to be sinking into a field of liquid hot magma before my very eyes. We continued on to a cool waterfall and geyser field. We finished the day with a church and a tour around Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant. The plant produces 80% of Reykjavik’s hot water and 20% of its electricity. The hot water thing was a bit strange. Basically, there are five huge tanks sitting on a hill near downtown Reykjavik that hold a total of 20 million litres. This plant pumps hot water from the ground and along 27km’s of pipeline to these tanks for Reykjavikian use. After getting home from a long day and showering, I found out that Iceland’s hot water kind of stinks like rotten eggs.
Whale watching is on Joseph and I’s “things to do on this trip” list. With Iceland being one of the top ten best places in the world to do it, there was no argument. Our ship took us out into the middle of ‘something’ bay (it sounded like flaksafund, but my Icelandic spelling is a little rusty). It was here that the wind blew with a certain arctic frozenness that made my eyes water. The bitterness was totally worth it though because it wasn’t long until our first humpback whale popped up to say hello. We chased him around the bay in the boat, trying to get a clear photo. Eventually, he had had enough and went down for a dive, showing us his big, old tail before disappearing. It was an incredible experience, Joseph would have liked to have seen a ‘whaley jump’, but we were both chuffed disembarking the ship. After our frosty whale adventure we headed down to the Blue Lagoon. This is probably Iceland’s most popular tourist destination. It is basically a hot spring with a very fancy spa and restaurant built around it. The water is a milky blue colour and just the right temperature. Whilst we waded around the giant pool we noticed large vats of white mud. This mud is apparently pure silica very good for you. So Joseph and I applied it liberally all over our bodies and laid in the sun like elephants whilst it dried. Three hours at the Blue Lagoon and we were feeling revitalized and ready to say goodbye to Iceland and continue our journey into Europe. Look out Copenhagen!