Sept 19 The Arctic via Iceland & Paris: Part 2 Iceland – S E of Reykjavik

Having had a most enjoyable time in Paris and managing to get to Charles De Gaulle Airport on time we boarded our Icelandic Air flight to Reykjavik which is 50 kms from the actual airport, this is situated down on the coast at Keflavik.

Flying over the Thames Estuary –

Flying into Keflavik

Our trip from hereon was organised by Leo Van Heukelum of Unique Destinations – The Palms Sir Lowry Road Cape Town 021-462-7032 or 073 145 2191 Unique Destinations – we used Leo before in 2015 when we toured In Argentina & The Antarctic – also using Quark Expeditions who do the actual tours; QUARK – and I have to say that both he and Quark came up trumps yet again. The attention to detail and the advice and information that Leo has is superb. He will never short-change you – Highly recommended –

So armed with all the info and fact sheets we would require we boarded a fly bus at the airport giving our reservation number to the driver – I think it fair to say that the whole of Iceland speaks English – Population about 360,000 of whom apparently 250K live in Reykjavik – Iceland had something in the order of 3.5 Million tourists last year so a popular game could be spot the Icelander LOL.

We were dropped off at our hotel “The Storm” which was close to the Seaside Promenade and a comfortable walking distance to the actual old town of Reykjavik. The hotel was welcoming, starkly bright & “Scandinavian style” & spotlessly clean. Good facilities. Breakfast was included but we needed to find dinner for ourselves.

Let it be said here first and foremost: Iceland is an insanely expensive country as virtually everything is imported – at the current time the ISK (Icelandic Krone) is 1000 ISK = R 117 worthless South African Rands and virtually everything costs in excess of 10,000 Krone – To quote someone I know; “Those noughts, those noughts, someone should do something about those noughts” LOL – quite so – calculate back at your own peril and risk of unhappiness. It is what it is – fortunately Paris had prepared us for this, (oh yeah?) – we knew it would be an expensive trip overall.

The main purpose of this trip was that Lin really wanted to see and experience The Northern Lights; and I, of course, wanted to photograph them. So just like the Antarctic, if we were going to go all this way to be on a boat I wanted to do something else as well which is why we elected to spend a week in Iceland plus some more days on the way back so we could see and experience as much as we reasonably could. There was insufficient time to take the drive all around the island and Leo cautioned that it would be a race and thus better to go South East and then North West and in retrospect – as usual – Leo was correct. We came this late in the season as there was a much better chance of seeing the Northern Lights but the trade off was that the weather could be a bit iffy and indeed we experienced a lot of rain, high winds & cloud which, it has to be said, was a disappointment.

So first night we took a walk all along the sea front past the very eclectic concert hall to the old harbour and found a “Fish & chips” restaurant where naturally I had Cod & Chips LOL – Wine is extremely expensive so we settled for the local Gull Draft Lager which was very good but pricey all the same – alcohol is – the cheapest place to buy is the duty free at the airport when you come off the plane BTW.

They seem to love these steel structures all over Iceland, this sort of reminds me of Viners Stainless Steel Cutlery circa 1970’s

The Concert Hall

Old Harbour Area

After dinner we walked around the old town which was very busy and lots of youngsters on the prowl – party time starts late here – Lots of fashion shopping here too – womens shoes 30/40 K Krone = R 4000 – as I said not a cheap country.

Around Town – Wool shops (natch) everywhere

Breakfast next morning was good and we had to get to Hertz to collect our rental car. Hertz proved to be…. well…. Hertz – Take it or leave it – the same the world over – We could either wait for about 2 hours for them to collect us from our hotel – a distance of about 2 kms or take a taxi – as we had to get down to Vik along the coast that night we needed to get a move on so we took a taxi. I would point out that it was pouring with rain. Arriving at Hertz (Maybe HURTS would be a better name for this bunch) they have a Nissan soft off-roader 4×4 for us instead of the Toyota that we requested – take it or leave it – they also con you into taking windscreen insurance which of course is “extra”; and sign here that the car is in perfect condition. This you are supposed to observe standing outside in said pouring rain – and the car is dirty inside and out. Their rep, (take it or leave it), disappears back inside and you are left to fend for yourself. No instruction book in the car (never is) and so eventually you work out what is where and off you go driving a left hand drive car, on the wrong side of the road, (for us) – in driving, poor visability, rain – Oh Boy.

There is little aggression on the roads and people keep to the speed limits which are low, lots of cameras, I get to thinking – hell most of the other people on the road are probably tourists like us too – given the number of us, that must really piss off the locals – all these people not knowing where they are going in cars they are not familiar with.

The roads in town are good – out of town, which does not take long to get out of, the road is a narrow two lane road with no hard shoulder and with a camber to the outside. Not fun – hence the low speed limits. It’s amazing to consider that the Icelandic people have built the most spectacular bridges and tunnels but the main ring road is still so poor.

Steam vents in the countryside – no shortage of hot or cold water here

The drive is pleasant and unhurried and we encounter huge quantities of water in both rivers & waterfalls, we go into little villages on the way and all is quite serene – one almost expects to see a troll appear. We are heading for Vik down on the south east coast and Hotel Katla – we go to Black Beach – self explanatory – and Diamond Beach – ice cubes & shapes everywhere off the glacier and down into the sea.

The narrow main road – no hard shoulder with camber –

The first of many waterfalls

Lots of small churches – many on private farms

Black Beach

The Tundra is like walking on a 5 star hotel carpet –

Waterfall from the Glacier

And so onto the Glacier & Diamond Beach – the weather was miserable but the rain held off for a bit of photography – All of these spots are over-run with tourists – just like us – and of course one does go to all the main places because they are spectacular, but I am sure there is far more off the beaten track if one has the time and money to go again – we did manage this when we went up the N West side of Iceland – and it was good to get away from the tour coaches which take up all the car-parks.

And so on the other side of the road down at “The Beach”

Up the “River” looking back at the Glacier

And so the route back via the Reykjavik By-Pass to head North West to Borgarnes and Stykkisholmur.

The Tundra – soft & spongy to walk on

Selfoss, a fairly large town on a fast flowing river natch – changed money at the bank here – zilch security – you can leave your car with stuff in and would need to be extremely unlucky for it to be broken into – what a pleasure –

A small town to the north of Reykjavik – Mosfellsbaer –

A dormitory town for the over-spill of Reykjavik which is bursting at its seams – lots of new developments taking place – a country on the move –

A Typical new development – all the space in the world but cram people into as small an area as possible !

Wherever there is a town there is a woolen shop –

And out the back a fast flowing river with the usual waterfall –

PART 3: – N West Iceland to follow shortly

PART 1: – Paris Trip Report at:PARIS TRIP REPORT

Iceland PHOTOS Part 1: Google Photo album at:PHOTO ALBUM