Reykjavík, Iceland

Burned With Desire.

It was rather nice waking up around 8am with no hangover and a good eight hours sleep, even though plenty of beer and rum was consumed between a few of us the night before. It’s one of the great things about Iceland in January. There is plenty to see in a very small area and it’s dark till 10am and so little point getting too carried away until then. It’s then dark by 4.30pm and so there is plenty of time to kick back and relax in the evening, all of which makes a change from long travel days. It would appear though that one visitor to Iceland couldn’t cope with the short days and one can only assume he was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder when our guide stopped him from killing himself. We had just begun a trek which would take us into some hills where we would eventually find a hot river to bath in. Another lone tourist had the same idea, only instead of bothering to go to the river, he stopped at the nearest warm looking piece of water he could find. When we reached him, he was wearing nothing but his boardies, all ready to jump into a natural hot pool much to our tour guides horror as she ran over to the chappy to tell him he couldn’t go in the hot pool. We didn’t think much of it until on the return journey we went over to the hot pool to see what the fuss had been about. Right now you are thinking of a warm body of fresh, steaming water in the ground. But no. This was a pool of bubbling hot, grey mud and when I say bubbling, imagine a pan of water on the stove bubbling away. The kind that would make your skin peal like a banana should you decide to dip part of your body in it. Bloody tourists!

Bloody tourists aside, we continued with our trek up into the hills which where venting steam here, there and everywhere. The weather had drastically improved on the day before which made the whole day much more enjoyable, especially when we arrived at the river for a swim. Taking into account the fact that it was still only about 2oC, stripping off for a swim wouldn’t seem like then brightest idea for a lot of people but lets face it, how many opportunities does one get to jump in a warm river in the hills of Iceland in the middle of January!? I had never done anything like it before and I probably never will again. The only thing that would have made it better would have been snow. The river is heated by warm water (from hot natural springs) flowing into it at various points along the bank, so long as you lie in the right spot its bloody lovely. Unfortunately it was more of a stream than a river and wasn’t deep enough to allow one to get fully submerged but it was still comfy enough to stay there for forty minutes or so. Having the balls to get back out into the cold in order to get changed was the big challenge! I haven’t really sold the trek! It was awesome and I wish it had gone on for longer. Hopefully the pictures will go some way in showing how beautiful it was.

We woke to a white landscape on our final full day! Finally Iceland had made an attempt to live up to it’s name and wow, how her appearance changed. As with any snowy country, the snow was awesome. A good sign of awesome snow is that you cannot make a snowball out of it because it is so dry and powdery. Also, life continued as normal and our guide continued to drive at speed down the roads, overtaking when necessary as though it was a bright sunny summers day! Our first stop was a glacier who’s name is so complicated to spell and say that I will just refer to it as…… a glacier! I have seen many glaciers in my time and I never get bored of them. The one thing they all have in common is that they are shrinking, fast. I’m not going to get into a debate about global warming because whatever the argument of the cause, it’s happening and, happening fast! We still haven’t accepted there will be consequences further down the line. One of those consequences for me at least, is that people won’t be able to experience magnificent landscapes like these. I’ve skydived over a glacier, ice climbed on a glacier on New Years Eve, hiked on a couple of glaciers, hiked in parks full of them. A bit like when I rant about destroyed coral reefs, glaciers are another beautiful environment that we won’t get to see, much likely sooner rather than later and that makes me sad. Anyway, back to it. We tied some metal spikes to our feet and headed for a stroll up to the top of the glacier and it was jolly wonderful! Ironically the best time to visit is when it has rained as the glacier shines crystal blue which would have been the case only a few days ago but I wasn’t going to complain as the snow covered surroundings were beautiful. Apparently up to 700 people visit daily in the summer. When we were there, there were probably 50 people which was more than enough!

Everyone loves a waterfall and the rest of the day was spent visiting a trilogy of waterfalls, all magnificent in their own right. One was a bit like Taylor Swift, tall and tidy! The second was average although it did overhang the cliff which meant we could walk all the way around it which was pretty damn good I have to admit. The third was also kind of unique in that you had to walk along the river through a gap in some rocks to see the waterfall behind said rocks, almost like an open cave. The water had calved a narrow channel back into the cliff and then spent some time hollowing out a bigger space further back. I couldn’t get any pictures due to the force four wind and rain created by the falls but hopefully you get my drift! Soaking wet but, surprisingly warm we piled into the minibus and made our way back to the cute little city of Reykjavik for our final night.

The trip was advertised with a large emphasis on the Northern Lights and for the two nights we were at the farm stay we were supposed to go off for a walkabout at night to get a good view of them. This failed to happen for both nights because it was cloudy and wet or snowy. Also the intensity of the Northern Lights very much depends on the mood of the sun and during our stay the intensity of the Northern Lights was at 2 on a scale up to 9 which, is blinding light I would guess. Some of the guys got lucky. One lass saw them from the plane on her way over from the US. Two others got a wee show from their hotel balcony in Reykjavik on the last night while preparing for a night out. I was watching some **** on the news about Trump at the time I think! The thing is I don’t really care that I didn’t see them. Of course I want to, but now I have an excellent excuse to go to Finland, Greenland or somewhere else to see them. Also, it was a fantastic little trip with great people, a great guide and, lots of great outdoorsy activities and sights. I wouldn’t change that one bit. One day, I will be sat in a hot tub with a beer, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow when out of the blue the sky will light up and it will be epic. From experience, epic things always happen when you least expect it.

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