Iceland 2005 (Day 9)
On 19 August 2005 Catherine and myself flew out to Iceland for a ten night touring holiday round Iceland. We drove round the country and saw many an exciting and interesting thing. This is one of many blog posts about that holiday – it’s now day 9, our penultimate day on the holiday, and we’re back on the road to Reykjavik
On the road again
I’d like to say that I started the day with a hangover. I’d like to, but two cans of 2.25% lager don’t exactly go to your head so I felt fine.
Our instructions gave us two options for the day. We could get from Selfoss to Reykjavik (a journey of 60km) the long way, or the short way.
If we took the short way, we could take in the nearby Eden centre (hmm), then drive back to the capital, making a long detour out to the Blue Lagoon.
If we took the long way, we could see some exciting landscape, an exciting church, some exciting mud pools and get to the Blue Lagoon the easy way.
Well actually there wasn’t any promises of excitment, but we took the long option anyway.
In many ways I pretty quickly regretted it. For starters, we ended up travelling over lots of gravel road. Our previous days experiences fresh in the memory, I was driving very slowly, which meant just travelling the 40km to our first stop, took a serious amount of time.
And what a first stop it was – Strandakirkja church.
Strandakirkja Church is the only church in Iceland that just… well… exists. It’s history is that built by the crew of a boat that ran into a storm. They vowed to build a church if their prayers for help were answered. According to the story, an angel appeared and guided them to the shore. The church was built on that land.
To this day, seaman pledge to donate money to it in times of distress. Which is why it’s one of the richest churches in Iceland, despite not actually having a parish that it is supposed to serve.
One of our guidebooks said it was "well worth a visit". Bods’s guide to Iceland says… "there are nicer, more interesting churches". I only really took a photo just to say we’d been there…
Back on the road, and back to driving very slowly – barely getting above 20km/h in some parts. We had some extra fun. Our drive across sparsely populated lava fields, was also near the cost, and at one point our lovely little gravel road was actually right on the edge of the water. And I mean right on the edge as in nothing much in between you.
Now imagine that yesterday you’d skidded on the road. And that today you’re very nervous. And now if you make one false move, you could be in the water. No, this was not fun driving.
Thankfully we didn’t get wet and we arrived at the Krísuvík mud pools in good nick.
We dutifully walked round amongst a few coachloads of other tourists, but to be honest, they weren’t as good as the excellently stinky mud pools at Myvatn, so we didn’t linger too long, and headed back on the road, for some more driving.
The Blue Lagoon
After a pretty dull morning, we arrived at the main event. The Blue Lagoon is famous worldwide, so if you haven’t heard of it, what rock have you been living under? It’s probably the best known geothermal spa in the world – not bad for a place which is essentially filled with the waste of the neighbouring geothermal plant.
We stayed in for a few hours – the water being lovely and warm. White gunk was taken from buckets and slapped on faces and other body parts like there was no tomorrow. We moved around from hotter areas, to slightly less hotter areas. To the area with the white gunk in buckets, to areas where there were no buckets. It was lovely.
Back to Reykjavik
Feeling much refreshed, we had little to do but drive back to Reykjavik. Shame it was on one of the main roads on the Iceland, and quickly moved to being a four lane highway. Oh and as we approached the centre, we got lost and ended up going the wrong way on the ring road. Thankfully we spotted this error before we got back to the beginning, but in many ways it was a close call.
It made driving in Selfoss a few days earlier look like a picnic. A really nice picnic with scotch eggs and flasks of ginger beer. But after a relaxing afternoon, there was no way to get too stressed, which is probably a good thing.
Goodness knows how long it took us, but we finally got to the Guesthouse Isafold where we’d stayed the night before. We took our luggage in, and bade farewell to old Snot Green Yaris, and admired our room. And what a room.
For some reason we’d been put in what looked like it must have been someone’s old granny flat. It had its own kitchen, it’s own en-suite bathroom, and something we hadn’t even come close to having all holiday. It had a king sized bed.
Food, and drink
We’d hoped that we’d be in town early enough to be able to walk to the top of the church tower, but even before we started jumping up and down on our huge bed, it was getting close to the 5:30 closing time, so it was decided to leave it until the next day. It was Sunday night – we’d be back in London tomorrow.
After consulting a few guidebooks, we wandered back down the same streets we’d been down several days earlier. We’d picked an interesting sounding restaurant – affordable, yet originally designed by Terrance Conran. Unfortunately it had also disappeared without a trace. Either that or the address we had was wrong.
We were however near to what is apparently Europe’s best hotdog stand, although it wouldn’t be until our return to England that I found this out. Instead we walked around a bit, peering at menus in bar windows, looking for something both affordable and interesting. Several places did we try, but either they’d never heard of a vegetarian, or it was the kind of food you could get better, and cheaper in Blighty. Still, like one guide book said, the one thing you don’t go to Iceland
I was still smarting from my lack of seafood in Selfoss a few nights earlier – given the fishing heritage of Iceland, you’d think you’d find some decent seafood – which is why we ended up returning back to Á Næstu Grösum, the vegetarian restaurant we’d visited on our first night in Iceland. So no fish, but at least we knew it would be tasty. And indeed it was – falafal, salad and bread washed down with Rapunzel organic beer (a snip at £6 a pop) went down well.
So it was our final night in the country. We were in Reykjavik. Party capital of Europe. On a Sunday night (there’s a funny story about that which will be revealed on day 10).
We’d had a good holiday, we’d got used to the prices of things. For most of the evenings we’d been pretty tired, so hadn’t even contemplated a night in a pub – the prices would give you a heart attack anyway. But it was the last night, and we decided, well, what the heck. We had some money left. Yeah, why not?
Yes. We went to the pub.
We went to The Dubliner, which as you might guess, is an Irish pub. Thankfully not a tacky one – there were even Irish people in there. It was quiet, friendly and Led Zepplin was playing. We supped a pint of Kilkenny, followed by some pints of Guinness. And blow me, it was good Guinness. Maybe it was the fact that we’d been on limited amounts of rather naff Icelandic lager for most of the holiday, but that Guinness went down a real treat.
As did the next. And the next. And slowly the money went low. And still more Guinness was desired.
What happened next should act as a warning sign in any country, but more so in Iceland. Yes, the money situation had gone so low, I left Catherine in the pub in search for a cash machine, where I promptly withdrew about a tenner (not forgetting the two quid fee from the bank) And then came back. And had more Guinness.
Not long after I’d returned, lots of Italians turned up. It was about half ten, and our quiet Irish pub was suddenly heaving. A band appeared. It was great.
We left relatively early by Reykjavik standards – around half eleven – feeling happy and merry, and walked back to the Guesthouse Isafold, collapsed on our king sized bed, and prompty went to sleep.