Category Archives: Traveling

66.5N, here we come!

On board a Twin Otter to Grimsey for the night and to officially step into Iceland’s only bit of territory that lies within the Arctic Circle.

The most laid back airport experience ever.  We watched the lone ground “crew” carry our checked “baggage” (our packs) out to the plane and stow it before calling our flight at the one “gate” (door). The mystery of how the guy at check-in seemed to know who we were, without even asking our names, was cleared up when we were nearly the only passengers on board (one other).

Shortly after takeoff, a window in the next row fell out.  It just plopped in onto the seat.  Thankfully, the outer window held, or it would have got very windy.

Two days in Reykjavík

We made it!

It’s a whole different season here.  We’ve skipped fall and gone straight into early winter.  It’s colder than I expected, and that’s a little alarming, to think how wild the weather might get over the next two months.  Icelanders so far have only winced and made dire comments about cycling at this time of year.  But the Northern Lights should be good.  They’ve already shown.

Day one: after a predictably sleepless, and crowded,  flight over, the usually drab ride from Keflavík to Reykjavík was beautiful in the dawn, with the mist rising from the dry grass and the column of steam over Bláa Lónið.  We wandered around the city, getting groceries, overdosing on sugar at the first bakari we saw, and finding the best value ever on sim cards and the most pleasing cell phone service ever (from Tal), so we are all mobile-ly connected.

Totally demoralized vis-a-vis Icelandic.  So much for enhanced eavesdropping; I can catch scant words per conversation.

After a long nap (I slept through HW reassembling his bike) and on a late search for something to eat we saw our first Northern Lights- a band of green that circled the whole sky, but faded quickly.  We found ourselves gravitating to the things we did first on our last trip, and ended up at Gamla Smiðjan again for exceptional thin crust wood-fired pizza.  Their menu is full of interesting topping choices like cream cheese, peanuts, and bananas.

Sunrise is about 7am and sunset 12 hours later.  Temp +4C.  Not so bad, but coming from uncomfortably hot weather, it´s a contrast.  The locals are still eating plenty of ice cream, and there are still many cute cats out and about.

Day two:  another familiar spot for breakfast (premium waffles at Perlan), another beautifully sunny day.  We took our bikes out unloaded for some sightseeing (the harbour, Hallgrímskirkja, and Einar Jónsonn museum), then discovered that the water slide at Laugardalslaug is for grownups.  In fact, it’s sort of scary, with parts of it blacked out completely and disco lights in other parts.  At 500 kr. admission, Laugardalslaug is officially the best value in town, after the free walking tour of course.  Unfortunately, Toby doesn’t do those free walks after Sep 14.

Finished with the exceptional soup and salad buffet at Kryddlegin Hjörtu, my favorite meal maybe anywhere in Iceland, I think.  Awww, stuffed with good food.

Finally sinking in that we are actually here.  Against all odds, including a few daily odds thrown at us in the last week of traveling.

Simplest of transactions conducted in Icelandic: two.  Conversation by necessity in Icelandic: one.  Times chickened out of attempting Icelandic even though I thought I knew what to say: countless.  Humbled by communicative expertise of barely verbal toddler: once.

After trying to learn their language, I’m just in awe of how well they (nearly all) speak English, which is supposedly not so easy to learn either.  Clearly it will take more than a dedicated year to speak Icelandic half as well as the average Icelander speaks English.  That’s just depressing.

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Æ, þad mikið um að vera!

I’ve been learning Icelandic.  Rather, now that we’re going, I’m cramming with a vengeance, trying to make up for a year’s procrastination.  Less than three hours a day is nearly no progress, and I’ve spent upwards of six hours (up early/up late) trying to feel like I’m getting somewhere.  It is hard.  It is so hard (and I usually put an obscenity in that sentence), I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more difficult with my brain.  Nothing in school, nothing at work, not even writing websites in HTML in 1991.   It requires such a complete concentration that time just flies, while the subject matter and exercises do NOT.

Icelandic is so different and complex that it makes a passage of Spanish or French look positively relaxing to me now.  After hundreds of hours, no exaggeration, I am probably able to make a sentence as elaborate and clear as I was able to in Spanish on my first day “studying”.  There is a little improvement.  I’ve got a vocabulary learning system that shows me the words I knew last time I checked, and now, and every time I run through my list of words, there are more that have become naturally available to me.  I’m glad for that, at least, because my overall progress is positively slothish. Continue reading Æ, þad mikið um að vera!

We’re going to Iceland

I have failed.  I have not finished the online story of the last time we went to Iceland, before we’re going again.  Even though it was getting a bit ridiculous to travelogue a trip we did two years ago, it was a mission I was determined to accomplish.   We have such great pictures and adventures from 2010.   I’m gonna let it go, though.  Oh well.  I don’t finish all my projects, I guess.

Although my brother and I were smitten with Iceland the first time and planned to go again in 2012, time trundled right along and 2012 showed up without us having produced any concrete plans, like tickets.  The pressure built; if we’re going to go, we have to start making it real… Then all this unexpected upheaval happened, which made Iceland recede into the distance and off the priority list so the likelihood waxed and waned.  Just when we’re getting back on our feet, H.W. and I got some welcome fall work that lands right when it would be ideal to be in Iceland.  So it seemed to be on the outer edge of possibility.

I wanted the relief of saying, Oh, let’s just go next year, but when I thought about waiting until next year, I got a knot of sadness in my chest.  Besides, if things go according to our plan B or C, we’ll have animals and gardens to care for, so now is the time to travel.  Even though it’s neither ideal timing nor convenient, I figured I’d rather just go while the going was possible.  My brother concurred, H.W. shrugged (he doesn’t know what there is to get excited about yet), and so we’re going.  It’s on!

Just when I surrendered all planning, because nothing, ever, at all, went according to plans, the probability field seemed to tighten up and now plans seem to be working again. We get things done, less falls through, it’s safer to have an expectation… I think it’s safe to make plans again.

Here’s hoping!

We’re going late in the year, in the rainy season, possibly well into the cold weather.  Oh well.  We’re cycling around the island, hopefully doing the ring road, plus all the good stuff that isn’t on the perimeter.  We’ll be camping all the time, like last time, and this time we’ll know all the things that we can miss and many that we must do.  And we’ll have more time, not be racing around everywhere to “fit it in”.

Bicycle travel will do that for you.  Slow things right down.

This time, I’m taking my little Rite in the Rain journal, and I am NOT making grand plans to write an illustrated diary of our every moment there.  No way.

Iceland II preps

I’m getting mentally prepared to make Iceland 2.0 a reality.  We’re tentatively planning to go again in early autumn this year.

It’s a three pronged attack.

1.  prepare physically (plan is to cycle tour the Ring Road plus) by bicycle training and gearing up.

2. study hard at learning the Icelandic language (one of the more challenging of the world’s languages, IMO, up there with Zulu).

3. finish my travelblog(ue) about our last trip to Iceland (which is now quaintly dated but still rewarding and satisfying to revisit in memory as I work on it).  Really, it would be too embarrassing to not be done describing the last trip before embarking on the next.

Fortunately, I’m rabidly motivated to do all three.  My keyboard is set to Icelandic and my heart is tilting all my memory towards it.

Unfortunately, there is no time, there are more pressing agenda items, and, because of the long-term fruition, these are all things which are easy to get shunted for the projects that dominate the here-and-now.

So I’m dredging up old learned techniques for “finding the time”, like those pitched at new mothers.  “Set priorities; collect scattered moments; let the housework go; fit into existing routines”, etc.    Aside: one suggestion I’ve always remembered for its strange perversity is “Use your grocery basket to do bicep curls while you shop”.   However, all these techniques usually devolve into “stay up later”, and “get up earlier”.

Good advice about bike touring Iceland:

http://userweb.eftel.com/~wheelbuddies/iceland/

http://www.masterlyinactivity.com/ivan/iceland.html