Finally, it was time to go north. To give my already cold arse it’s first taste of a northern winter and expensive beer. As much of a pain in the arse flying frequently can be, the simple check in these days is crackerjack. Check on online before you get to the airport, get there, do a self check in and print your own label tag for your pack, chuck it on the belt, scan it and off she goes to the planet of bags, somewhere in the depths of the airport. An easy way to do things, especially in Scandanavia, where everything is organised, quick and easy. Even if it is below the zero degree dipper and you’re freezing your arse off, and it hasn’t yet occured to you to chuck your thermals on because you forgot you actually own any.
It’s not a bad way to land in a new country you know, hopping on a bus and driving past lava fields for an hour before arriving in town. Oh and the snow. It was magic to see all the fairyfloss puffy white stuff again, memories of snowboarding in Andorra came flooding back, where I lost a snowboard down a mountain and ended up with a heavily bruised tailbone. I was excited to just be here, in the land of Sigur Ros, waterfalls and volcanoes. Walking off the coach into a calm minus two evening, snow falling everywhere (as an aussie who’s grown up in forty degree, bushfire summers, it’s an exciting thing to see snow, especially when it’s falling) I loaded up my gear and trudged up through the ankle deep layer of crunchy whiteness, and ice covered footpaths to Dave’s crib. Dave was hosting me in his comfortably sized apartment for a few days, which was conveniently located a short 5 mins from Reykjavik’s heart, which made my late night/early morning rambles to and from the city quite easy. A gentleman, he spilled the secrets of Reykjavik over a cup of tea and enlightened me on Icelandic custom.
Right, so I was hungry and when I’m hungry, I become a miserable old grumpypants. So my answer was Bæjerins Beztu Psylur (english would be towns best sausages). At 400 kronor a pop, roughly $4.50 AUD, I came, I saw and I conquered. Well 4 of them anyway. Old Billy Clinton and Charlie Sheen had come to lovingly embrace a dog in and around their mouths here as a matter of useless fact. Served with tomato sauce (ketchup for non aussies), remoulade, mustard, crispy fried onions and fresh onions, the delicious lamb buggers made the cold, snowy air much more bearable. Noting the noodle restaurant I walked past, as well as what time the lunch specials were spread around town (hey man, I love to eat, and I like to do it cheap), I skated down to the docks.
Boats. Really it all started in Reykjavik. Actually, the boat thing manifested in the Netherlands by the canals, but was more effort conscious in Reykjavik. I made a conscious effort to walk down to the docks at first light in freezing weather, where in the Netherlands it was effortless to see boats just about anywhere. I was pertly surprised that they didn’t have boats on wheels back in Oranje. But anyway, here I was, wandering about the docks on my first night, walking into the “restricted” areas without anyone even saying boo. Or Argh! Actually there was no one there at all except the seafarers the following morning. Viewing the docks from near the Harpa, it was a light carnival on the water, with the ship lights painting rainbows on the water, boats bobbing gently up and down on the black water, while my hands fell captive to the icy grip of a freezer thief.
Dawn came at 9.30am, and with it, the discovery of the thermals i had packed 2 months ago. Wowser bowser, what a difference a good set of wool makes! Back to the docks I went and on the way stopped by the Sólfar (also known as a dreamboat, an ode to the sun) before the raiding tourists came in their hoardes to destroy a fellas peaceful morning. It’s a cool scenic spot to stop by when the sun’s going up, as it looks over the mountains, Esja and Akrafjall to the north. Down the road is the Harpa concert hall, a funky architectural feat, which is free to walk around, and a great pitstop if the weather is fanging your face off or if design and architeture turns you on. So much glass and shiny stuff are in this place, and with stairs almost randomised it reminds me of a modern day version of M.C. Escher’s staircase. Somehow the colours complement each other really well, especially during an icy, snowy winter, it’s almost like a purpose built equality version of warmth and cold.
Towards the western edges of the harbour I walked past huge liners on massive stilts being welded and repaired, ratty old timber sailboats with deep hulls awaiting some TLC. Seaman were laying off ropes and throwing onboard the last of their gear. Catching sunrise over the water while a few boats were making their way out to sea was a pleasant and peaceful experience. I think the majority of my time in Iceland was spent on the docks, watching all the going’s on or eating seafood soup. Two of my favourite things, one quite newfound. What I hadn’t bargained for was how much a trip on a tour in Iceland was going to cost me, especially if I was going to spend 3 days just doing tours, which if anyone happens to read what I write on these blogs, I immeasurably dislike doing. It was here or Norway where I was gonna blow some dosh, and choosing the latter I found fun in other ways, like eating bowls KFC (korean fried chicken), walking along the water down to Videy Island and back, and of course making new friends.
The most interesting person I met in Reykjavik was Louisa, a pretty, redheaded dane from Copenhagen who taught me that spontaneity makes for some interesting stories. I had forgotten how to be spontanious somewhere along the line. The essential core of me, which had slowly been making an appearance after a long absence, was coming back. Anoting effortless decisiveness was nuzzling it’s way in. It had been pushed and hidden away while at my every day of the week job at home. Ah it was great going back to old me again. It wasn’t about the bars we visited, the shots we drank (or the beer that could’ve been cold cat wee) the tattoos or the piercings. Louisa had fired the rusty old dutch engine up again -I was able to make a decision spontaneously without a regret, to live in that particular silky little moment, not umming and ah’ing for an hour wondering if my life was going to end because I picked the wrong bar to visit, or the wrong body part to get tickled with a needle. It was nice to be getting in touch with my roots again, having a go without a care in the world. My reknowned knack for curious decisions was back. So was I.
I didn’t do a whole lot of the adventurous stuff I’d had ideas on doing in Iceland, purely for the fact that to find any decent hikes outside of Reykjavik without a car and avoiding tour buses packed with sardines, was proving difficult, especially since the bus services there run less often in winter (there is no trains), I realised that this part of the trip and winging the situation hadn’t worked out too well in my favour. I had come underprepared to an Icelandic winter, and found myself wanting. I had resolved in my head that I had to return for a month in a warmer season, with a car, so I could run about without a reliance on the limited public transport system without busting my arse to get to places just because I was on a short time constraint. Rushing is never fun… unless it’s to be the first in line for a meal.
Skipping through Keflavik airport early the next morning, I hopped on my flight to Oslo, a little annoyed with myself for achieving much less then what I had planned to achieve, but also happy that I had learned a thing or two about myself and how I was already going to tackle Iceland on my return. Sometimes it’s really easy to trap yourself in your travel adventure, and pressure yourself to feel like you have to achieve things and go places all the time. You can forget to take it easy and remember it’s your own adventure, so you can travel how you want, when you want without the pressures of having to always ‘do’ stuff. It’s a constant battle for the first months of travelling for a long period of time. You blast all this energy into every day, and then all of a sudden you’re rooted. It’s about the balance. And riding the freedom boat. Laters sailors!