For the first time in what seems like a lifetime (actually around 6 years) I am on holiday and writing to you from Iceland. It is a strange reality, despite the fact I am only here for four days, I actually miss my girls. They spend all day every day driving me completely insane and as soon as they are out of sight I’m busy wondering what they are up to. Nevertheless, Darcy is with my mum, Mila is with her mum and Daddy is really, really cold.
From the moment you fly over the Icelandic coast, the beauty of the country is outstanding. On the descent, the transition from cloud to snow is almost seamless, and the ratio of civilisation to snow is so large that there is the constant feeling of eerie isolation. Even from the plane, the towns and cities are so covered in a blanket of snow that they are only identifiable from the tiny moving vehicles circling round. I was expecting it to be cold when I walked out of the airport, and as England gets that award winning 3 cm’s of snow each year, I had it in my head the temperature would be similar to an English snow day. I was wrong. As I walked out the airport doors the first thing I felt was the freezing cold air fly straight up my nose to the point where it hurt. In my suitcase were some thermals, but not wanting to boil on the plane I hadn’t bothered to put them on in the hope I could make it to the hotel without them. Huge mistake, the second I walked out the door, my balls ran screaming and nestled themselves somewhere in my stomach refusing to return back to place until I was significantly warmer.
Everyone in Iceland is friendly, I am not sure whether it’s prerequisite of citizenship, but the people just appear to be genuinely kind and considerate. Maybe its the law here, I am not sure, but even if you were attempting to cross the road on a busy duel carriageway, the next car to see you WILL stop, without fail. There is one glaring exception to the friendly population – bus drivers. The bus drivers in Iceland, hate everyone, everything, and as a breed, are totally insane.
You would think, in a land completely covered in ice and snow, there would be a certain vigilance when behind the wheel of any vehicle let alone one carrying various unassuming members of the public hoping to make it unmolested to their next destination. On an Icelandic bus, this assumption could cost you, at the very least, your front teeth. I am perhaps a little cynical when it comes to people, but in my head, the bus drivers are working on a point system. Ten points if you can make a toddler fly from one side of the bus to the other. Twenty point if you can make anyone head-butt the seat in front of them (an additional 5 if you can draw blood). Thirty points if you can catch someone in the doors and then pretend they aren’t there as you progress down the street despite the screaming and banging on the windows. And fifty points if you can help and elderly citizen on their way to the afterlife (an additional ten points if they slide down the centre of the entire bus first).
Whats more worrying is that despite the propensity for savagery, buses seem to be the number one preferred method of transport in Iceland. There are hundreds and they run every ten minutes so as long as you dress correctly (ice hockey body armour) its pretty easy to navigate your way around.
If you are planning a trip to Iceland in the future, there are some obvious choices with regards to days out, but before all that happens, its important you remember that Iceland is possibly one of the most expensive countries in the world. The beer is £7 a pint as a standard, a McDonalds equivalent will cost you £20 for a meal, the buses are £12 day pass and the taxi’s aren’t even worth considering. In the middle of the day, a taxi taking you 10 miles will see you no change out of £100. These are just normal run of the mill every day prices, when you start to venture to the tourist destinations things only get worse…
Iceland is home to some natural wonders that you don’t want to miss out on. I didn’t get round to them all, but wasn’t going to miss the Blue Lagoon natural hot springs. It is without a doubt the most surreal sensation I’ve ever experienced. Outside, its -11 degrees C, and in the middle of nowhere is water, naturally sitting at 40 degrees C.
I was bobbing around with my body feeling like its in a bath, and my nose and ears freezing cold. So odd, but not to be missed if you can help it, the water is supposed to be rich in minerals and depending on what you’re willing to spend, you can pick from several different face masks, drinks from the water bar and if you want to really push the boat out, there is a whole spar offering various treatments. The extras in this place require a small mortgage, but if you can afford it, its worth trying the LAVA restaurant while you’re here. The food is awesome and looking out on the the springs is pretty breathtaking.
The Northern Lights are the signature Icelandic tourist attraction. Aurora Borealis (the official name) is one of the natural wonders of the world and if you’re lucky enough to get a glimpse, a staple for ones instagram collection. The problem with them is, you can’t really book in a naturally occurring wonder. The Northern Lights are a stubborn bitch, and turn up whenever they bloody like. After a bus journey into the mountains and a tour guide who was clearly on commission trying to convince us that you can only take a picture of the lights with a certain camera app that costs £2, we waited in the coldest temperatures ever for four hours. Four hours of wondering whether my eyes were playing tricks on me, four hours of running back to the coach to warm up for two minutes then running back to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Every hour, more buses turning up with more and more Japanese people (according to the tour guide, 70% of all their tourists are Japanese to the point where the tour itself is delivered in three languages: English, Icelandic and Japanese) until, finally at about midnight someone shouted ‘somethings happening’.
After wading through what seemed like the entire cast of Rush Hour 2, we got to a good position and looked up to the sky. Five minutes past, ten minutes past, 15 minutes past and patiently we waited looking at a small glow emanating from behind mountain in the distance. Any minute now this glow was going to erupt into a magnificent display of colour and magnitude deserving the title of natural wonder. Then, out of nowhere a voice shouted ‘right everyone back onto the buses please’. I thought it was a joke, and I wasn’t the only one, over the general murmur of disapproval various (very British) shouts of ‘was that f***king it then?’ echoed over the crowd. I had to laugh, all that waiting and anticipation and what did we see? The very faintest glow from behind a silhouetted back drop. Kind of like what you’d see if you managed to pause the first millisecond of The Lion King before the sun rises. According to the tour guide, it is literally a lottery on how well you will see the lights, and tonight just wasn’t our night. Fortunately, your ticket to see the Northern Lights is valid for two years to be used as many times as necessary to see them in all their glory. So if you don’t manage to see them, you can go back the next day free of charge and continue to do so until you do see them. This news didn’t cut a lot of ice with me (no pun intended) seeing as in order to utilise this offer, I would have to book another set of flights and a hotel to go with it – tomorrow morning we fly back to England.