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Iceland Road Trip day 1 - 3

ICELAND | Monday, 2 December 2019 | Views [73] | Comments [1]

Day 1 – 26Nov19

Newcastle - Sydney

We weren’t 100% sure whether we were going to be able to travel as planned as Vanessa had had to have surgery  to replace  her spinal cord stimulator  a little over 3 weeks ago. Thankfully her specialist, a very wise and patient man, saw the merit in her having an adventure and  at 5pm clearance to travel was granted. Everything was go ,go ,go from that point as we wanted to catch a particular fast/slow train . We almost missed our train to Sydney thanks to the  taxi not showing up but after another call to the company a taxi plus pizza arrived just in time to take us to  the train station. Note to self -install Uber app…….. . thankfully we had an uneventful trip which allowed David’s heartrate and cranky meter to settle. Arrived in Sydney and on to Mascot where we stayed at the IBIS hotel with a 1pm check out rather than rush.

Day 2 – 27Nov19


We relaxed all morning at hotel then short trip to international airport. Flying with Qatar. Went to checkin with the intention of upgrading to business class based on research as prices should be cheaper.  Found that the cost was AUD$2450 extra each which was more than expected but after a quick group huddle we upgraded. I was concerned about Vanessa as the trip was going to be 16.5 hrs just for the Sydney to Doha leg.

The service was excellent and the bottomless glass of wine as well as a cocktail Vanessa rejected was going well with the food.  All was going well until we hit turbulence that lasted much of the flight so it was more like being on a ship at sea in a medium swell than on an aircraft. This made it hard to sleep despite our turned down beds and Qatar pyjamas.

The flight arrived late so our time buffer was almost consumed on arrival at Doha. It also turned out that our next flight was at the opposite end of the terminal! At overweight office worker and post-surgical procedure speed we raced to our gate. We  made it to our gate just  as passenger  were being boarded onto the aircraft. The Doha-Copenhagen leg was expected to be 6.5hrs and there seemed to be  a large number of passengers however once on board we realised that the aircraft was less than half full with most of the centre seats unoccupied.

We had been in this situation a few times in the past. The trick is to change seats as soon as possible and claim a row of four seats so that you can sprawl out and sleep . This is achieved by pushing up the inner arm rests to make a nice bed.  I had a plan but looking through to the opposite side of the aircraft in our row I could see a young, athletic looking, female Scandinavian also scanning the seats. It was going to be a race. The starters  ` gun was the seatbelt sign turning off after the aircraft had taken off. That is the rule. I blinked she jumped. Foul move.  She was in my row before the aircraft had taken off. She should have been red carded but the umpires weren’t looking. Luckily I had already anticipated this as a possibility so adhered to the rules and jumped into a couple of rows ahead , arm rests up, laying down, blanket on, 3 pillows stacked as a headrest, eyes closed assuring the claim. Actually was asleep in minutes… Woke up to find Vanessa asleep in the same seats we had at the start. In reality whilst David slept I ate lunch consumed a cocktail and had a glass of wine whilst watching two movies. I also walked down the aisle of the plane intentional /accidental brushing my nails on his feet. Now back to the story……What was interesting was most of the passengers had also made themselves comfortable. A quick breakfast of not quite business class quality food and we landed at Copenhagen.

Strange airport is Copenhagen. Somewhat lost in time. There was a strange lack of serviceable bathrooms between the aircraft and customs which I suspect is why the locals used them on the aircraft right down to less than 10 minutes before landing much to the concern of the air stewardesses. It turns out that Copenhagen airport is quite long and our SAS flight terminal was near enough to the opposite end of the terminal from where we landed. We even got passport stamps on the way!

  Copenhagen to Reykjavik. Flight was with Scandinavian Air Services (SAS) and a 3.5hr flight. The air stewards were straight out of the cliché Scandinavian stereotype and were fun, constantly smiling and stumbling over their English. They even got excited and got their cameras and started taking images of the mountains when we crossed Iceland on a surprisingly clear day. The ground was snow covered when we landed and we were hoping not to have to walk outside as we still had our summer clothing on but I guess we could have pulled on our expensive/ complimentary  Qatar pyjamas.  Luckily it was a covered exit from the aircraft to the terminal. Even more lucky was our luggage turning up as we were expecting it to be late given the late flight into Doha.

Next step was the car. We expected to pickup from the terminal but it turned out that we needed to catch a bus to the blue car rentals. The cold outside was a bit of a shock at -4 Deg C waiting for the bus. It was time to start dressing for the cold as the t-shirt was not working. We rented a duster 4wd: an islandic vehicle which was manual. I vaguely recall driving a manual vehicle. Actually each time we hire one overseas it turns out to be a manual gear change vehicle.  The tyres were studded to reduce slip on the icy roads.

It took a while to figure out how to get the duster into reverse. The secret is that there is a mechanism just under the gear knob that needs to be lifted before selecting the reverse position. Not obvious.

 All going well. We had a car and switched on the handheld GPS only to find the maps that I had preloaded were not working.  Vanessa and I had a debate about whether we should hire a GPS unit from the rental company. I did not want to do so as we already had a GPS, a laptop and a printout of step by step instructions to get to our hotel in Reykjovik. Restrospectively not the best idea and it was probably my stubbornness and a little jet lag. So we set off without a map or GPS following the road signs and the other degree of difficult was driving on the opposite side of the road as Australia. Things still going well despite the minor setbacks. Well until the step by step instructions named a turnoff that did not have a road sign. We ended up somewhere on the other side of Reykovik. My blood was starting to boil. Vanessa was not used to the hand held GPS and we needed to stop. We found a carpark and I setup a manual track on the laptop and transferred it to the GPS. It was easy for me to follow but there was not enough detail for Vanessa and we lost the track. I turned off and by luck we ended up close to the hotel and tracked it visually using the last waypoint as a direction beacon.

We were very glad to arrive at the first hotel Reykjavik. It was time for some sleep. The hotel had a hostel feel about it. We liked it. Vanessa was exhausted after the travel and driving ordeal. I can be a little intense sometimes when frustrated. We unloaded and were in our room and asleep within 30mins. We woke about 2am and for some reason decided that we were more competent at navigating and headed out to look for Aurora Borealis as the sky was clear. We spent 1hr in the car trying to make sure we would not get lost. Driving out we missed our first major turn and ended up somewhere in the suburbs but were able to back track and I was able to navigate out to the blue lagoon region. There was no visible aurora for us so we headed back towards our hotel but got hopelessly lost twice. The first time was in the suburbs and the second in an industrial park. It was clear that we needed to stop and come up with a solution. I loaded in a track from the laptop to the GPS with numerous weighpoints from our impressively lost position. The local drivers were not tourist friendly and beeped impatiently at us when we were slow to move at stoplights. We managed to just navigate our way back but it was really was not a positive experience. I now disliked Reykjavik even though it was us who were creating the problem. We went back to bed and slept for one hour before breakfast.

Day 3 – 28Nov19

Reykjavik to South Iceland.

Breakfast was mostly continental although cereal was available. I like the solid breakfast with meat and cheese when travelling.

It was cool in the morning. The weather was clear and there was ice on the footpath and on the car widows.  We packed up and I had setup the GPS with a new map and weightpoints but it was not routable to still difficult for Vanessa to use.  We had lost faith in the GPS and just navigated using signs to get out of the city area which worked well. We picked up the ring road easily and chose the south path. We found a Bonus supermarket and loaded up for our car trip around Iceland and filled up the fuel tank. The trip was starting to improve.

We drove the route 1 south and came across a geothermal energy plant which  we visited. It was surprising to find that the thermal water was supplied to Reykjavik for heating. We followed along through the mountains to towns fed by thermal springs. There were steam vents coming off the mountains. We cross the river at Selfoss and stopped to view the ice in the river. It felt cold as the breeze blew across the river into us. We were parked in a very popular drive through hot dog  fast food outlet where getting out of your car was the least desirable option. After feeling the cold wind we could understand why the locals were reluctant to share the outdoors.

 The next stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which was impressive as were the numbers of other tourists. We were quite surprised at how many people were travelling in late autumn. Apparently you can walk behind the waterfall. Perhaps it should have been caveated as a summer activity as the path was slippery with ice. Will leave that one to the enthusiastic selfie crowd.

The sun  is rising at 10am and setting at about 4pm at the moment.  It was time to head to our accommodation with the sun setting. We stayed at a AirBNB called Mountain Queen Angelica. I had created a GPS mark to ensure that we would find the location. It was on a farm situated at the base of the mountain range with a large rock half, with disused cave houses against the sides, situated halfway along the 200m drive way, with harvested farm paddocks around. We stayed upstairs in the red room with a view of the mountain, rock and a hint of the ocean. There were a lot of fulmars living in the rockface of the mountain, flying around and lots of squawking. The hosts’ girlfriend, Timea, from Slovakia, was warm, intelligent and welcoming and was waiting for us to arrive. She spoke with us for quite a while on various topics including the local attractions. It was exactly the experience we needed after our navigation stresses that had made the start of our Iceland holiday such a challenge.

The weather was still excellent with no clouds in the sky. It was cool and certainly felt colder than the temperature indicated. Our first night in Reykjavic was -8 deg C which was much cooler than the –2 to +2 deg C temperatures that we were encountering.

We were both still struggling with jet lag and in bed by 6pm. The affectionate fat ginger cat accompanied me later in the morning in search of an  aurora but we were both unsuccessful.



Let’s hope the GPS dramas end here! 😳

  Sam Zok Dec 7, 2019 11:17 AM

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