Iceland – Land of the North

Ok.

So, we went to bed at a semi-reasonable hour last night.

I have a bit of catch up to play with the blog (as I seem to do every single bloody day. Sorry to those who are following, or at least trying to), so set my alarm for 6 am. Bec says that she wants to get up with me.

I’m like, no worries.

I get up and start editing, and doing things like request our next place on couch surfing etc. All the things that need to be done for a trip to actually work.

Bec wakes up a couple of hours later, all confused and asking why I didn’t wake her up again. This happens often. She will ask me to wake her up, then I do, and she tells me that she doesn’t want to get up yet, so I let her sleep, then she wants to know why I let her keep sleeping, and then she tells me to make sure that I wake her up next time.

The only flaw with this whole plan, is that I am not dealing with the real life Becka. I am dealing with the half-conscious, semi-functioning Becka that has just woken up. Otherwise, I don’t doubt her resolve to get up in the morning.

It’s always a bit of light entertainment.

 

Today, we are headed north.

Why, you ask?

We have been keeping track of the aurora forecast online, and the best chance we have to see the northern lights is on Wednesday night, and north of Reykjavik. So, our plan is that we will make our way up there, and stop where we want to stop. Take our time to get to our destination, then sleep in the car till around 11pm, which is when the clouds should start to clear up.

We leave at around midday after we finish dicking around and get the car packed. And by, “We finish dicking around”, I mean “I finish dicking around”, just to clear Bec’s name here

We are headed about another 3+ hours north, which judging by yesterday, is going to be a lot longer than just 3 hours. I mean, the 3.5 hour trip yesterday took all day to do, so I am assuming that today is going to be the same story.

We set out, and we are no further than 20 mins out of Reykjavik before we are inundated with new and just as mesmerising landscapes. The area we are headed is a bit of a peninsula, so we have to cross a body of water to get there.

golden-circle-2

There is a tolled route, and a not-tolled route.

We set the GPS to go through the not-tolled route.

The GPS took us through the tolled route.

Well ok then…

Just another $12 casually gone. Not even joking. Its mental hey. Everything in Iceland is expensive. Everyone acts like its totally normal. I mean, we were buying beer with the guys the other day, and here we are bringing out our scientific calculators and getting the whiteboard out to work out which beers we should buy to get the best value for money, and all these other punters are just cruising in, picking up a 6 pack and cruising out without batting an eye lid.

Oh.

That doesn’t sound impressive to you?

Right.

Sit down.

Well, the cheapest 6 packs we could find still cost us like $18 each. This was the VB of Iceland and it was still $18… Everyone else seems to think that this is totally normal. We are thinking, “Well, if we only eat breakfast every third day, we will be able to pay for the fuel to drive to the KFC. We wont be able to buy any KFC. We’ll just be able to smell it”.

A BURGER!

Get a load of this, right. A burger and chips at a restaurant will set you back 20 Euro. 20 friggin Euro. G’dammit. Friggin Iceland… Anyway. You get it. Iceland invented the word ‘expensive’, so that it could give a name to daylight robbery.

Back to the story.

We pay our $12 to use a tunnel, and that $12 made it the best tunnel experience of my life. We continually keep pulling over to photograph the scenes that strike. And again, as yesterday, we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the power and the awe of the mountains that surround us. Sometimes the shots work out. Other times, it doesn’t capture it. Either way, we are mesmerised.

golden-circle-4

Everywhere

I can’t tell you how many times I would be ducking my head beneath the window column to get a better view of a landscape passing us by. The idea that there are settlements so close to such unreal beauty continues to do my head in.

We get to this one spot on our drive, and to our left is an open field, and to our right, we are driving at the foot of a mountain. The winds are already pretty bloody decent. The roads are super icy. In Canada, the roads are covered in fresh salt on a SUPER regular basis. In Iceland, they just breed people tough. When we were talking with the car hire guy, he was saying that this year, they had 20 people crash cars because of the ice alone.

That was one of endless car hire companies.

There is just a constant layer of ice that covers the roads. So, with that in mind, when the winds come across the plains, treeless plains for that matter, and hit the car, your only saving grace is the little spikes that are embedded into the rubber of your tyres. That is it. Other than that, you are taking a one-way ticket to the ditch on your right.

We saw someone who had one of those tickets.

They were in the ditch.

It looked to me like they could have been having more fun than being in that ditch, but I could be wrong.

golden-circle-6

Just after our first snow storm of the day

Anyways, we are cruising along, and we see these snow clouds starting to roll in. How do we know they are snow clouds? Cos there is snow falling from them.

There aren’t heaps of cars on this road, but it gets so heavy that we decide to pull into some punter’s driveway and wait it out. It was the thickets snow I had ever even heard of. When we were in Canada, people told me “Oh wow. That was a blizzard”, but to be honest, we didn’t really see anything that I would have classified as a blizzard. This, however, was a different story. We could only just see in front of the bonnet of the car.

We actually couldn’t see anything hey.

That is a blizzard.

Or, as I put it when I was talking with Mitch, “A big boy blizzard”.

golden-circle-3

Icelandic horses huddling as the storm calms back down

We waited until it was safe again, and as sure as something that is never sure, the snow just stopped and it was clear again. Like, what the hell?… I mean, I lived in Melbourne for 3 years, and it was widely accepted that if you didn’t like the weather Melbourne, just wait 5 minutes.

Nah.

In Iceland, if you don’t like the weather, by the time you have looked down to check the time, it would be literally the opposite weather. You think I am joking. There will literally be a sprinkle of rain, and then out of nowhere, you will be in the middle of a torrential downpour, and I am not exaggerating.

We keep driving, and keep pulling over when we reach a visual overload.

The road we are on is getting increasingly more treacherous. Especially for a Hyundai i20. All the other cars we see are at least AWD. But, one thing I am glad about, the road we were driving passed through two mountains. No joke. It was worth the risk of getting stuck.

Despite the nagging voices of the wise and elderly in my life in the back of my mind, it was 100% worth it.

golden-circle-7

About to pass through the mountains

We just kept to a slow and manageable pace when needed, and every other time, would intentionally exceed the speed limit to get where we needed to go sooner. We passed through the mountains, and we are met with an open view, right into this bay. The road we are driving hugs the foot of the mountain to my right. The mountain to my left dips only momentarily, till it begins to peak into the next mount, followed by another low point, until the land raises again into the last mountain, where the road bends out of sight.

Its so tranquil.

Everywhere you look, the raw power and beauty of nature greets you.

This is the sort of place that you could easily tuck in and camp for a while. We keep driving down, all the while taking in our surrounds. In the distance ahead of us, we can see more snow clouds, and again, these ones look intense. We decide park up at the end of some guy’s drive way to wait it out again. When it was clearing off from the last snow storm, we saw that there were a few people who were brave enough to continue to drive through the storm.

Admittedly, they did have bigger and badder cars than us, but we didn’t want to be in a position where we couldn’t see in front of the bonnet again, and have someone rear-end us. We decided that we would make a date of it, so we cranked out the chips and dip, played the tunes in the car and played cards till it passed. We got a comparison shot so you can see how insane it was.

The first shot was the house and the mountain in front of us, and then the next shot was the exact same thing, except that it was in the middle of the storm. You can just see the shadow of the roof, not far from the bottom right corner of the second image.

dsc_9394

DSC_9400.jpg

You literally could not see a thing. And not to mention the wind. My God. The wind was mental. Literally hitting the car so hard that it was rocking it, and rocking the car side to side. Its seriously crazy the power of nature. The thing that astounded me the most, though was how unpredictable nature can be. That, met with the power of nature. Oooo sweet little baby Jesus… I do not know how people used to survive in these conditions.

Funny though, when the storm started to clear, we could see snow willy willys kicking up around us.

This was going to be the place that we tucked in for the night to see the lights, but there was one more place that was only 20 mins away, and this is the most photographed mountain in Iceland, so I couldn’t come this close, and then not see it. We crank the car back up, and off we go. It was cool to say that we got to see it, but it was way too dark, and raining by the time we got there, so this was my best shot, unfortunately…

If you were to search Kirkjufell, you would be inundated with  rainbows, pixie dust, unicorns, fluffy bunnies and cuddles. My picture, however is what makes babies cry for no reason.

golden-circle-9

Whatever.

I was there, and I have evidence now. You know its real too, cos people don’t own up to photos like this.

Bec couldn’t care less, and just waits till I finish doing what I need to do so we can go back and stake out till the lights come on tonight.

That is exactly what we do. We pull up, pour more soup, and slip in our sleeping bags to get ready for the night ahead.

golden-circle-10

 

 

 

 

11 pm comes around.

The alarm is set for 12, as that is when the sky is most clear, but I am wide awake now, and we are both cold. We crank the car up to heat things up a little more. It is minus 3 degrees, and we are in a steel box with wheels.

DSC_9445.jpg

What’s insulation anyway, right?

Bec wants to go back to sleep, but I don’t.

11 is when the clouds were meant to start separating, which means that 11 is when the auroras are meant to start happening.

I am fidgety as, but finally, the unintentional aggravation of Bec trying to sleep pays off, and this rich green hue begins to fill the outside around us. I lean right over the dashboard, and twist my neck to be able to look straight up past the top of the windscreen.

There it is.

Peering through the breaks in the clouds.

It is just one big ribbon of light, slowly snaking and shifting from side to side ever so slightly, constantly changing it’s form and always moving in a slightly new path. Our eyes are glued to the sky as we watch the northern lights for the first time. I didn’t get to ask her, but I have no doubt that Bec was glad I stayed up.

golden-circle-11

The same mountain from the snow storm

Unfortunately, this was going to be the best encounter of the lights we would have. The rest of our time in Iceland would be shrouded in cloud cover, and so tonight was really our only chance. We stayed awake for another hour or so. With the clouds gone, however, the light was still on faint.

This is one of the instances where the camera does the scene more justice than the eye does.

We keep getting glimpses of the lights, but we also have a 3 hour drive ahead of us before we can call it a night, and it is well past midnight, so we get started on our way home.

DSC_9427.jpg

Ok, so I may have given this one a bit of a hand in photoshop, but you get the idea

We will occasionally stop, park up the car, turn off the lights and turn our eyes skyward to see if there is anything that we were missing while we were driving. We do this more times than I can even care to count. All the while, the lights are still there, but no where near as vibrant or intense as the first time we saw them.

I drive, and continue to drive.

Bec is in and out of sleep, and I keep chugging along until we finally reach home.

This time, we make sure we dont have to fork out another $12 for the tunnel. This also means that we need to make a half hour detour around the inlet. It would be great to see during the day, but at night, everything is black, and were staring at volcanic rock, so good luck with that.

We get to bed, and it is time to sleep, and sleep, we do.

 

Come back tomorrow,

Billy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s