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Posts Tagged ‘northern lights in iceland’

Listen, if you want to be blown away by sheer, unadulterated extraordinary amazingness then this is a tour you HAVE to do!! Þingvellir Nature Reserve was fantastic. (pronounced Thingvellir) The unadulterated wild beauty, sheer vastness and wildness of the landscapes amaze and delight. Everything was covered with a new fall of snow, bright, blindingly white gorgeous snow. Everything was fantastic.

visiting ideland for 3 days

pure beautiful white snow

And so to the place where east meets west; the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plate. Whoaaaa. If we had thought it was windy before, we were in for a real surprise at this place!! Fair blew us off our feet it did! People were being blow over, hats were sent flying through the air and if you took off your gloves to take photos, you made damn sure you held onto them tightly till they were safely in your pocket.

visiting iceland for 3 days

The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates…primeval beauty

It was fantastic. Exhilerating. Awesome. Visceral. Extraordinary. Primeval! Have you ever looked into the bowels of the earth, into an abyss that is millions of years old, at rocks that have been flung up from the middle of the earth by the powerful forces of nature, black and menacing and totally fascinating. I was enthralled. The North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates stretch hundreds of miles across the planet, ever moving, ever shifting and shaping the land and the seas – slowly year on year, it inches further and further apart, the gap widening but not gaping; it’s filled with a constant upsurge of lava and rock that creates new landscapes just as amazing as the current. <insert : Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain. It’s the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge>

Walking through the gap was beyond incredible.  It looked so menacing and yet so majestic, aeons of history; we are but a nano-second of existence in comparison to these rocks.  After a fairly short time to explore we set off again and travelled along the road that took us from one continental plate to another. OMG!!!! Never in my wildest dreams. Beyond description.

visiting iceland for 3 days

these little houses are built on the rock and earth gap that separate the two plates!!! courtesy of StopandThinkPhotography – copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

And then what to my mind was the most amazing of all….I can’t even begin to explain how thrilling it is to stand and watch a geyser exploding in a rage of heated water from deep within the bowels of the earth!! Thrilling, exhilerating, amazing, mesmerising….I could go on and on.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Strokkur Geyser – wow!!!!

I stood for the whole 45 minutes we were stopped in this area just watching that geyser rising and falling, teasing you as it rises into a dome of awesome blueness, then dropping again into a steaming hole, bubbling up and disappearing, bubbling up a little closer to the edge and gone again and then suddenly with a whoosh that leaves you gasping it explodes dozens of feet up into the air; a raging mass of boiling water, so hot it would kill you within seconds. Awesome!!! I was entranced. Only coz Cémanthe phoned me did I not get left behind….LOL I could seriously have stayed all afternoon. At least I would have been warm 😉

insert : <Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often>

Then we visited the Gullfoss Waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland…..I don’t even know how to describe this majestic, magnificent sight.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

what a landscape….how do you describe something so amazing

It doesn’t flow over the cliff and into the bottomless gorge; it roars, thrashing and flinging it’s way over the edge and into the abyss. A tumultuous mass of turquoise blue water, channelled into one narrow race, the rest of the vast falls frozen over. And it was C.O.L.D!!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

me and CJ at Gullfoss Waterfall…wow!!!

Freezingly, mind-numbingly, bone-crackingly cold. As you can imagine we stayed for as long as we didn’t freeze to the spot and then ran as fast as possible over frozen ground back to the warmth of the bus.

Three days of the most amazing adventures.  We went out late at night to track the northern lights, rushing from one place to another, freezing our asses off for 15 minutes and then racing back to the warmth of the restaurant, a mug of hot chocolate, hands over the heater…defrost and back out again for another ‘freeze your extremities why don’t you’ escapade in an endeavour to see the northern lights.

visiting iceland for 3 days

me dressed for chasing the northern lights in the middle of the night…in Iceland 🙂

Cémanthe and I managed to find a hollowed out nook amongst the rocks where we huddled together shivering and laughing, our noses frozen, our eyes drained of fluids by the raging winds that managed to shuck down any opening it could find as our buttocks froze on the hard icy ground. I have NEVER, EVER, NEVER known such cold in my life!! Even on the coldest, snowy day in the UK, it doesn’t get as cold as that!!! Indescribable.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

you won’t find the aroura there!!! it was as cold as it looks

So did we get to see the northern lights…..well yes we did!! Only we didn’t know we had till we saw the photos Cémanthe very cleverly managed to take.

visiting iceland for 3 days

the northern lights, courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

They looked for all the world like a grey shifting cloud….and no-one; namely the bloody guides, thought to tell us that that was the auroura!! I mean hello!!!! I have yet to discover if everyone sees a white shifting cloud or if it was just us. No-one got all excited, so I’m guessing it wasn’t just us that were unknowingly looking at the northern lights without realising. As we were about to leave, suddenly everyone did get all excited and we all piled off the bus and raced over to a narrow gorge and there in the distance were…a cloud of grey shifting clouds….the aroura apparently!!!

visiting iceland for 3 days

finally, the real deal…only seen once on camera …photo courtesy of StopAndThinkPhotography copyright @justcemanthe on instagram

Sorry of I sound underwhelmed, but they were NOTHING at all like you see on the brochures, or the pamphlets, or in the zillions of photos we have seen, taken by ‘other’ people. It was only when Cémanthe looked at the images on the camera did we realise that yes, those were the lights. Where were the blues, and greens, and pinks we were expecting to see? I am going to have to go back or go elsewhere…..like Norway!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020 a Norse explorer.

 

Leifur Eiríksson c. 970 – c. 1020

a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

 

 

episode 3 to follow tomorrow 🙂 #3DaysinIceland

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Exactly a year ago yesterday Cémanthe and I landed in Iceland!!! 🙂 In fact at precisely this time last year we were haring around in the dark trying to spot the Northern Lights!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

you won’t find the aroura there!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

flag of Iceland

prelogue (is there such a thing?)…this article was started on the 14th January 2014….but I never got round to finishing it…..so here it is…..
It all started a few months before in 2013….seems longer somehow, when CJ phoned and suggested we plan a trip to Iceland!!! Would I like to go to Iceland to see the northern lights and go whale-watching?….uhmmm…hell yes!!! Iceland has been on my dream list for years!!  and before I go any further, may I say OMG!!! Wow, what a country!!!

Although I initially uhmmed and ahhhed, dying to say yes but eventually said no (finances), but after much discussion (and I really was very keen to go) she persuaded me to be sensible and so we set the wheels in motion. Unfortunately visas and red-tape and money got in the way and had to be shifted, causing more than just a little bit of stress… Now what should be a simple process of booking the flights, hotels, excursions etc and just going….is not that simple on a South African passport. I have to apply for a visa every time I leave the UK to visit another country…..and that is a ruddy mission… So I won’t go into all the boring details…suffice it to say it was stressful in the extreme and we almost quit along the way…it’s also very expensive and bureaucratic!! Imagine!! But we persevered and survived and traveled to what is now my 2nd favourite country in the world….sorry Ireland and Italy…I still love you….but….have you been to Iceland?

visiting for 3 days in iceland

fresh snowfall….stunning vistas

#3DaysInIceland.

The first thing I can say about the country…is that it is well named!! 🙂 It is icy! However, we can forgive that, as it was after all, the middle (almost) of winter!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

do ya think it may have been cold?

Other than that….I can’t think of sufficient descriptive words to describe just how amazing the country is…but let me try…amazing, delightful, wonderous, awesome, spectacular, magnificent, incredible, beautiful, surprising, freezing, pretty damn exciting, welcoming, exquisite, extreme, visceral, wild, steamy, stunning, quirky, fantastic……you get the idea!!! I was totally bowled over and if it wasn’t for the fact that I adore London, I would move to Iceland 🙂 Iceland is beyond extraordinary. It is the quirkiest, coldest, most visceral, wild and now the most northerly place I have ever visited.

visiting iceland for 3 days

Hah!!! Wish you were here!! well actually, I was on my way to Iceland 🙂

So on the late afternoon of the 8th January, leaving from Victoria Bus Station, we made our way to Travelodge at Gatwick and checked into our room….cozy cozy….It was basic but awesome…the excitement was mounting and being so close to the airport was well amazing.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

and we’re on our way!!!! 3 Days in Iceland

CJ to her credit had decided to check us into a hotel near the airport for the night since our flight left really early the next day, and it was better than trying to not only get up at sparrow-fart, but also to negotiate the travails of the London transport system and subsequent railway journey on the day…wayyyyyy too stressful.  All sorts of things could go wrong and more often than not, do….especially when you HAVE to be somewhere at a certain time…like an airport where no plane waits for no wo/man!!…no cry!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the New Media Angel being social 😉

I love to be surprised and astounded when I visit a country and Iceland did both…in buckets full. My first sight of the island was out the window (yes hooray we had a window seat); my heart thrilled at the sight. It is one of my dreams/goals to visit 100 islands and now I was just about to land onto the next! whoo hoo!! By the time we did land I already had about 20 photos mostly of the clouds and the ocean and the sun shining onto the wing of the plane…we left really early in the morning and raced the sunrise…getting there just ahead of the sun getting to its zenith for 66 degrees north in winter! Not very high I can tell you!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

racing the sunrise…….

What a fabulous 3 days we had….

Day 1 we were up really early after spending a night of almost sleepless excitement!!  We arrived with plenty of time to spare after a really easy hop to the airport by cab…better than walking in the rain…yup, it was raining; to be expected really as how it was winter and this is the UK…..which you wouldn’t think this year (2015) it’s been so unseasonably warm. But back to 2014….and then onto the plane for #3DaysInIceland.  To our delight we had a window seat! I love the window seat! The plane, if I recall, took off on time and we were on our way whoo hooo!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

2014.01.09 UK 🙂 okay!!!

Lots of photos of the sunrise, clouds and the UK disappearing beneath us, then a hop, skip and bumpy ride across the top of Scotland.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Scotland!!!!

The flight was quick, soon enough we were flying over that tiny little island in the vast blue ocean as we craned our necks to get the best view ever and whoaaaaa…. suddenly we could see land!!!!….Iceland was beneath us. We peered out the window with much excitement pointing out volcanoes and glaciers and lots and lots of snow-covered mountains.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

wow!!!! Iceland

OMG just writing about it now….albeit a year later I am almost in tears just remembering how thrilling it was to see Iceland for the first time. I was also <bizarrely> hoping to see the volcano exploding. Yeah, I know…go figure right!! But it didn’t and we landed safely into what has to be the most mind-blowing travel experience ever!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Iceland!!!!!

Once off the plane and through customs without any hassle (whew!) we left the customs area and tried to find our way out the airport…. oh my gosh, how do they pronounce those words. First of all I don’t read Icelandic <a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse > and after much miming and gesticulating I ended up in a queue while CJ went to the loo. So while I was standing in the queue some woman kept asking me if I wanted a baggage label…uhhmm no I just got off the plane for goodness sake, why do I need a baggage ticket to leave the airport?!  All the time I’m thinking “weird considering we only had hand-luggage!” …hmmmm, LOL and hahahaha, as it turns out it was the queue to get BACK onto a plane; going where? Who the heck knows.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

I challenge you to pronounce those words….the Icelandic ones!!!

Fortunately Cémanthe came back from the loo before I boarded (LOL) and rescued me with much hilarity!! Then it was negotiating a foreign language again to figure out where to go for our bus to Reykjavik. (btw, never ever when taking a coach to your hotel in a foreign country, decide to wait till you get to the hotel before you go for a pee!!! – If you need to go….go before you leave the airport!!) LOL…enough said on that subject!!
Do you know, that after a whole year, I still can’t quite believe that I have been to Iceland!!! Extraordinary!!

Finally we found the right bus and clambered on board and off we went and even though it was still early in the day, it was already getting dark…the days are like about 3 hours long!!! What a landscape!! Oh my word. It’s wild, visceral, primeval…it grabs you by the guts and shakes you right out of any complacency whatsoever. I have never seen such landscapes before….towering mountains covered with brilliantly white snow, vast plains covered with brilliantly white snow, rivers frozen over, treacherously icy roads <I could barely look out the front window watching the driver>….shivers up the spine!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

views from the tour bus

We stopped off at a number of hotels to drop passengers off and finally reached our own. When we did finally arrive at our hotel, it was to discover under-floor heating, comfy beds and lovely hot water straight from the underground thermal springs! Loverly juberley. Climbing off the bus you are immediately frozen to the spot!!! Jeezuz, I have never known such cold. Grabbing our bags we ran helter-skelter into the warm, welcoming embrace of a heated hotel. Whew!!

Our room was comfortable albeit very basic, but it was WARM!!! and luxury of luxuries it had underfloor heating. Marvellous. I had died and gone to heaven!
But, first things first….With no time to rest, we dropped off our bags, we donned as much clothing as we could reasonably get on, wrapped up warm with leggings, thick socks, stocking, trousers, vests, tops, jumpers, scarves, jackets, the new faux-fur lined gloves and hats I bought at Christmas time and headed straight out to explore. Reykjavik is fantastic!!! Quirky houses, old architecture, fantastical sculptures, stunning modern architecture and a fabulous cathedral that sits atop the hill dominating the skyline…..demanding that you look “here I am!!!”

visiting for 3 days in iceland

Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark

Did you know that the sidewalks in Iceland have under’floor’ heating? I kid you not. They are heated. How fab is that! Of course the heat is provided free by mother nature and all the Icelanders do is pipe it off and utilise it all. Perhaps we should arrange to have a volcano under our island then we can give the finger to the energy suppliers that overcharge so heavily. Insert <With the widespread availability of geo-thermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity>. hmmmm.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

eerie green lights of the poly-tunnels

….with much looking back over our shoulders to note landmarks for getting back to the hotel! We walked along icy streets and once again my poor brain had to cope with looking out for traffic coming at me from the wrong side of the road…I cannot understand why it is that people feel the need to drive on the right side of the road….that just seems wrong somehow 😉

Iceland….wow! what a stunningly beautiful country. Breathtaking in the extreme; never mind that we had scant breath for it to take due to the biting cold that snaked it’s way into everything and into our bones. Sæbraut, the sea in the centre of Reykjavík was just stunning….. just exquisite. I can’t explain to you how absolutely extraordinary the landscape really is. By now the sun was beginning to set and the snow-covered mountains were tinged with pink and lilac and creamy yellow…..never in my life have I seen such beauty….words do not pay adequate homage.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

indescribable colours, Sæbraut, the sea in the centre of Reykjavík

We slipped and slid along the promenade, along icy roads to the edge of the bay making our way gingerly to town, or as best we could anyway. The snow-laden landscape leading down to the sea; delicious shades of blue, pink, lilac vie for attention….I have never seen so many shades of blue – frozen to the bone we stood and stared.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

heading out to explore mid-afternoon

Quite frankly I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful – the colours, the snow-covered buildings….for someone who loves snow, I was in paradise…pure and simple. We took hundreds of photos. The snow was almost knee deep in some places and treacherously slippery but we staggered along looking for all the world like two drunks fresh from the pub!!! I would so have loved to explore further afield but trying to stay upright on that ice was exhausting and we only made it as far as the opera house which was, thanks to the underground heated pipes, blessedly free from ice.

What a sensible idea. From there we staggered into ‘town’ and took a stroll along the main street that runs through Reyjavik. Finally we made out way into the centre of Reykjavik, which although not very large and could fit into London’s left pocket, is charming!

A delight of quirky stores stocking some of the most bizarre items you could imagine. There was a huge polar bear (stuffed of course) stood outside one of the stores.

The clothing is marvellous….I would so have loved to buy some but it would have been just to warm for our climate <bizarre I know, but it is real cold-weather clothing>.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

how colourful is that!!

Oh my gosh, the shops are a delight with goodies to buy, some of which challenge the imagination….I have never seen such amazing things in my life. Then went for supper at ……wait for it……and Italian restaurant. I know right? WTF…we’re in Iceland and we go for Italian LOL….but…let me tell you, I did not know what the menus said since they’re mostly written in Icelandic, I couldn’t understand the accent and I wasn’t prepared to order something that turned out to be roast polar bear, or stewed seal, or pickled porpoise….no way hosé I wasn’t eating local this time around, so stuck with what I know….boring right…typical bloody tourist LOL!! (yeah, okay, I know….eat local!!) but we were in sore need of something hot and frankly it was less scary to order Italian than trying to figure out what the Icelandic menu was offering.

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the Italian Restaurant

Bellies full we went shopping for breakfast goodies and stuff to eat during the days ahead. Loved their little supermarkets and milk is milk and bread is easily identifiable, as are vegetables <not that we had many of those>, and cheese is cheese no matter what country you’re in. It’s good fun shopping in foreign supermarkets, they are so completely different to the UK (or SA), and yet quite similar. The brand names are not anything at all that we are familiar with so trying to decided what to buy is quite a challenge…..but chocolates, crisps and sweets look the same in any language 😉 Although we did buy fruit too!!

Then it was back to the hotel for an earlyish night…we were way too excited to sleep immediately. And we still had a midnight excursion to go on…..yes we were heading out to see the Northern lights!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

the closest we got to ‘northern lights’ 😉

Cémanthe had booked us on an excursion the next day to the totally unpronouncable – Þingvellir Nature reserve; <insert : a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland>, then the Gullfoss waterfalls and the North American and Eurasian rift. OMG!!!!! Seriously!!!

visiting for 3 days in iceland

incredible landscape

day two to follow……

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