Day 14 and 15 The Land of Fire and Ice

Day 14 and 15 have purposely been ‘blip’ days in the sense that we haven’t done an awful lot, except sleep (in a real life bed!) and begin to prepare for and think about Toronto.

We’ve chosen to do 9 months of travel, but two weeks is all you need for a transformational trip, should you be willing to experience it fully. In no way am I suggesting that we were the perfect travellers, because we learnt very quickly that we’re far from it, but we had high expectations of Iceland and were not let down one bit. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that are attached towards to this place, so I apologise in advance for the wall of text, though you must be used to my writing by now. I’ll try and use headings or something.

Icelandic People:

I’m writing this very cautiously as I’m aware that sweeping, generalised statements aren’t always a good idea and you could never try to sum up a whole group of people. However, I’ve noticed a couple of things about the culture here, and have tried to be as observant as I could. The people here appear to take very good care of each other. I can only imagine what several months without decent sunlight may do to someone, and doubled up with the remote nature of most of Iceland, I can imagine there was a little necessity for this. The joy for us is that this seems to spill into the way we are treated as tourists. When another camper tried to pay for his shower, I overheard the owner reply “you’ve paid in honesty, so put your money away”. When asking for closing times at the nearest swimming pool, a shop owner decided that he wasn’t sure, so he proceeded to Google the number of the building and ask them for me. When we arrived at the airport, we hadn’t bought the correct bus tickets, but the woman behind the desk took one look at our backpacks and said “it looks like your luggage is heavy, so no extra charge”. When Dan bought himself and I much needed cups of tea, the bartender waved his hand away before Dan could pay in full. I really could go on here, but I think I’ve made my point. Displays of generosity and kindness happen left, right and centre here and I hope this never changes.

 

Tourism:

Even before arriving, I was incredibly curious about the effect of tourism here because, at times, the tourists can outweigh the locals. Yes, tourism brings money, but in countless cases it’s been at a high cost. The few times I managed to ask Icelandic people how they felt about it, their answers were graciously positive, saying that they enjoy the interest they’ve been receiving. One campsite owner did reveal that they had seen a group of campers leave human waste behind after they left. Apparently it was far from in the middle of nowhere as well; in fact, it was right next to a very reasonably priced campsite. If you can afford the plane ticket to Iceland, then you can afford to stay in their campsites, which mostly cost very little. If you have the thought capacity to book a holiday in Iceland, then you should have the thought capacity to realise that no one wants to step in your shit. When speaking to Ben, the French man from day six, he seemed very sure of the idea that tourism in Iceland was going to have a very negative effect on the culture, with Icelandic people being so generous and tourists continually taking advantage. I hope that he was catastophizing here, but there was enough solid evidence to give his claim some weight. On the most part though, we found it a joy to be mixing with people from all over Europe and America, so I think there will always be enough good tourists to outweigh the bad.

 

The Countryside:

“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.”. It’s true. You are spoilt rotten by the natural sights here and its impossible for them not to have an affect on you. I’d be lying if I said I spent every hour completely absorbed by them, as other thoughts creep in and steal your consciousness for a while, but they always brought a sense of comfort, even in the wind and the rain. The wildlife were more curious than afraid of you, and sometimes they ruled the roost. One chap I’d like to make a shout out to is this one:

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This was not a human changing room – this was a sheep shelter!

But in all seriousness, Iceland provides you with the daylight, beauty and space to heal should you need it. It’s powerful!

Cost:

Not sure why I decided to end on a practical one, but hey ho. Iceland is an expensive country, but it does not have to be expensive to visit! I cannot emphasise enough that the best things about Iceland are, in most cases, possible to experience for free as long as you have feet and shoes. We have estimated that we have spent about £750 each for two weeks here, including flights. Consider that we spent this amount during a time when the pound has fallen, and that we have not attempted to be the most frugal travellers, by eating out several times and buying too much food at the grocery store. The biggest impact on your budget in most places will always be accommodation. We had some rough nights camping, but it mostly proved to be a joy, and with a camping card, you’re onto a winner!

 

Before I finish, I want to acknowledge one last observation. You know how pigs supposedly have 30 minute orgasms? Bonus is one of the leading supermarkets in Iceland and is almost unbeatable for price, and seems to have honoured this fact by drawing a cartoon of a pig in this state and using it as their logo.

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Day 12 – Poutine Anyone?

Today we had our first real chat with an Icelandic local. I met Halldor in the kitchen of the Olafsvik campsite, and within minutes of talking to him, he confirmed what we have already been suspecting about Icelandic people. We were both at the stove cooking, when I asked him where would be good to go around here. I was only expecting a short reply consisting of a couple of places before we returned to cooking our food in silence. What actually happened was he called his wife to fetch the map of the area and proceeded to sit with us for the next hour to go through each destination nearby and how to get to it. He was very animated when telling us the history of each attraction, and soon we were joined by his wife and two of his children. Warm is the best word I can use to describe his family, and they were clearly very close. Even though we were only 60 minutes into knowing them, I had to ask for his Facebook so I could keep a connection with both him and Iceland.

So our day was spent travelling around the tip of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that there was something beautiful to see every five minutes of this journey. Firstly, we came across a dormant volcano that has erupted 3000-4000 years ago. What was now in the centre of that volcano was grass, and all that remained from the eruption was the crevice itself and the volcanic rock. Its amazing to think that what would have been such a fiery scene was now completely peaceful. There was no indication of that volcano ever erupting again.

 

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Secondly, we came across both mine and Dan’s favourite attraction in the peninsula. In 1948, an English ship crashed onto the Icelandic coast, and just like with the DC plane, Iceland decided to leave the wreckage where it was instead of moving it away. What now remains are rusty pieces of metal strewn across the pebbled beach. We’re used to seeing the old being knocked down and replaced by the new, so its strange to see something man-made being changed over time by nature.

 

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We also came across some stones that Icelandic sailors once used to determine whether a man was eligible to be an oarsman. Turns out Dan could be one (just)!

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The last place we spent time in was the Arctic Tern breeding ground. The first thing that hit me here was the noise of the birds. Clusters of birds all gathered around the cliff edges and made nests, and the scene was bustling, with squabbling, feeding and calling out to each other. One feature of the Arctic Tern, is they have a long tail, which bobs up and down as they land, so you would see hundreds of these tails going up and down as you looked across the cliff. I doubt we’d have seen as much of the peninsula, had it not been for Halldor.

As we returned back to the campsite, we noticed a significant increase in tents and camper vans. It turns out that the main campsite on the peninsula was full, so over the course of a few hours, a backlash of campers returned to stay at Olafsvik. Everyone seemed in good enough spirits, but it did leave us feeling anxious as to whether we’d be able to sit in the kitchen or use the stove. We were very lucky as two seats became available almost as soon as we walked through the door. We took them quickly, and like the true Brits we are, immediately began making tea. The stove at the campsite becomes noticeably weaker the more it is used. We asked the campsite owner about this, to which she replied “yes, it does seem to get tired at the end of the day”. That one comment made us all feel a little sorry for the stove and how much work we were putting it through, whilst completely relating to its struggles as well. It’s beginning to seem really charming how easily they shrug off the petty issues. I actually wish we were allowed to talk to customers like that in the UK!

At out table were two other couples; one couple in their thirties and one in their fifties. Dan began the small talk this time, by asking the guy in his thirties how nice his yoghurt was. Believe it or not, this actually became a full five minute conversation about stevia and how crap a substitute it is for real sugar, and how Skyr yoghurts are amazing and everyone has to try one. It turned out that both couples on our table were Canadian, so we quickly steered the conversation to our advantage and asked them advice on what to do in Canada. It was perfect; the couple in their thirties were from Toronto, and the couple in their fifties were from Montreal. They were extremely helpful, and I’m sure between us, we could have easily planned the next two weeks of our travels. The younger coupler had both emigrated there; the man had emigrated from California and the woman (thought I’m not sure) had emigrated from Cuba.

The man’s dry humour quickly came out as he described pledging an oath to the queen as making him “want to slit his wrists”. And the woman soon matched him by saying how we become so quickly addicted to the monthly paycheque that, before we know it, it’s “time to die!” –  She almost sang those words! We knew we’d like them from then on. The man was a software engineer, just like Dan, so their conversations dipped in and out of work from then on, and the woman was a project manager. She put my career worries into perspective by telling me outright that I should never consider an office job and that it was soul destroying. They both told us how they attempted to cycle the ring road, but began on the hardest part and decided not to. Fair play to them for evening attempting it, they had managed to tour all of Cuba previously on bikes which is amazing.

The older couple were also ambitious with their trip, by hiking one of the steepest trails in Iceland. Not only this, but the weather was extremely foggy, and at one point they needed rope to guide them. From both the photos they showed us and the way they described the hike, they appeared extremely relaxed, with only the woman mentioning that it was one of the harder hikes she’d done. They said they would make time to go out and do it more often (as if we were unimpressed with what they already did), but they had four month old grandchildren that they were eager to get back to. This steered the conversation towards motherhood quickly. It will always stay in my mind how both the women became immensely passionate when discussing the issue. It was obviously a topic they had a strong opinion on, and for all their Canadian politeness, they couldn’t resist speaking over each other.

The project manager was all for NOT having children. She loved the fact that any time off she had could be dedicated to travel and that she did not have the responsibility nor the ties that children bring. She loved other people’s children for sure, but knew from early on that she did not want to have any of her own. The older woman described having children as “getting the opportunity to discover the world again” by seeing her children grow and learn. She insisted that it was one of the best things she had ever done and all the work and challenges that go with children were completely worth it to have them in her life. You could not fault either of them for their persuasive ability, and both of them lacked regret with their choice in equal measure. It’s a massive topic that I’m grateful they were willing to share their views on in such a candid manner.

Day 11 – The Tree Surgeon and the Geo-Technologist

Today is almost drawing to a close, and the last 24 hours have been very good. Yesterday, our opinion or Langbrok grew and grew and I can saw without a doubt that it will probably be our favourite campsite from our entire Iceland trip. The owners were two ladies and a gent who were also in a folk band together, and created a very friendly atmosphere. They also practiced their songs in front of us, and gave us the opportunity to finally speak to locals and hear local folk music live. When it started to rain, they remembered that we put washing out and went over to remind us – it was that personal! The grounds itself were also kept really clean and cosy, and we never had to fight for amenities!!

We drove for around 4 hours to get to the next campsite, where we’re currently at. We’ve decided to do another 2 days here, as there are showers and the campsite looks clean. It even has a stove! It still amazes me what a slight change in surroundings can do for how you feel and how willing you are to talk to people. In this campsite and Langbrok, if someone came down to sit near me, I’d feel the urge to speak to them and I’d assume that they’d want to do the same. In Vik, I’d assume that they had no choice and would continue to ignore them. Vik was the London Underground of campsites, and where we are is more like Yorkshire. We decided to go for a swim, as swimming pools in Iceland seem to be everywhere. We’re currently in a village of no more than 1000 people, yet there’s a swimming pool. It’s been recommended to us to go swimming from the beginning and it was worth it. Not only was the pool itself clean, but it was surrounded by smaller heated pools of different degrees for your preference. You could also see a beautiful waterfall from the heated pools as well as a magnificent building that I can only assume was a church. There was no time limit to how long we could stay, and we only paid 750ISK (£5) to be there! We were the only tourists there and a few Icelandic people, but I couldn’t pluck up the courage to talk to them. If Wales had become so populated by tourists that they outweighed us at nearly 4 to 1, I would probably just want some down time with my family every now and then.

Map to Olafsvik

After we got back from swimming, we got chatting to an Austrian couple, who have said will read this, called Magdalena and Florian. I’m always struck by how easy it is to talk to nearly everyone here because of the fact that they speak English, but this pair spoke English so well, that only their accent gave them away. They were from Austria and were both studying. Florian’s masters was in something called ‘Wood Technology’. As soon as he told us, you could almost see him bracing himself for the questions he must have known were coming. And luckily he was ready to laugh at them, because I really needed to know how much like carpentry his course was, and if he’d ever made a chopping board. Neither of them took themselves seriously at all, and didn’t mind when I kept asking horrendously ignorant things, like “how similar is Austrian to German?”. Turns out Austrians speak German, so not very different at all. They had not long come back from a five day hike along a glacier, yet from the way they spoke about it, you would have thought they’d just been for a stroll. I can’t imagine doing anything so strenuous, but they shrugged off their easiness about it, saying it “wasn’t all up and down”. From the beginning, there seemed to be something very familiar about them, and I got the impression they felt the same way. When in Vik, I took a day off from walking anywhere and sat down in the communal area to write this blog. I’d pretty much decided to not talk to anyone for the entire day, and just wait for Dan to get home from his glacier walk. Except I did speak to someone at one point. I needed a wee, so I looked up from my laptop and asked the people across the table from me to watch my things whilst I went to the bathroom. They politely obliged, so to thank them I returned and continued to ignore them for the rest of the day. Turns out those people were Magdalena and Florian. I’m grateful that they thought that was funny!

Just when I started to feel ashamed for how ridiculous it was to be so anti social in one camp and so willing to talk in another, Magdalena quickly agreed that Vik took it out of her as well. When you have to fight for some sink space, people generally become threatening to you and you’re not so willing to ask how their day is going. I wish you two all the best, and good luck with becoming a tree dentist Florian!

Day 10 – Dutch Courage

I did think very highly of Vik as a campsite and I love that we gained a good story from the place. Towards the end of our stay though, the place was falling apart. I may have mentioned this before, but it is the only campsite for a good 50-60 km in every direction, so if people want to see all of the awesome sights near Vik (various waterfalls, glaciers, the crashed dc plane, the black sand beach etc), then they either have to stay at Vik campsite for cheap or at the hotel for a high cost. Either that or travel a great deal to and from the place. This meant that we had a good 500-600 campers all fighting for four showers, one washing machine and two sinks in which to wash dishes. All of this and the camp owner seemed to have lost the plot since the electricity shortage and just wasn’t around much. So the place was becoming too dirty to be healthy. That and there were a good amount of campers who didn’t respect the idea of staying quiet at night and frequently hogged the dining area and the plugs. We were ready to move from there, and there was no one around to charge us for the last two nights we were there even if we did want to pay.

Where we’ve ended up now is a campsite called Langbrok. It looks adorable from the outside, and so far the amount of amenities seems heavenly. It’s a breath of fresh air! I was told by a German lady staying here that this campsite is frequently used by Icelandic holiday makers and not so much tourists. I really hope I get to meet a few Icelandic people tonight. The campsites have mostly been good experiences, and there’s a few that I can’t rate highly enough, but you can tell that Iceland is struggling to cope with the massive increase in tourism over the last few years. Not to hold that against them – there’s 300 odd thousand of them and over a million tourists per year now. You could see a few campers trying to create a more co-operative culture within the campsites, by offering food they no longer needed and leaving behind half full gas canisters and boxes of washing powder. There was even one lady going round the tables and wiping them down for other campers to use, but more will need to be done soon in order to improve the standards of camping. I don’t want to labour this point too much, but I’m currently writing this in a room buzzing with flies and I feel more content than the end of our stay at Vik.

Map to Kaffi Langbrok

Apart from the camping situation, we’re currently going over old turf in the sense that we are now going back over the same patch of ring road we travelled on before, but Iceland is still popping up with amazing sights. We saw the crashed dc plane today and its crazy how it’s survived the amount of wind and rain there. Iceland must have claimed many ships and I’m sure more than one plane over the years, but this one ended up becoming a tourist attraction and it was bizarre to see.

I was just enjoying the scenery in the campsite at about 6pm, when I noticed two men sitting outside on the porch. They talking in a foreign language in quite lulled, relaxed tones with two beers, like you would sit with an old friend. Whilst we were making use of the WiFi in the bar, we noticed they kept popping their heads in every so often for another round. I estimated they’d had about four rounds before coming inside. Once the sun had begun to set, the owners had a good idea to put the TV on, and I’m sure if you’ve been without TV for a while, most of you will agree that it becomes fascinating again. I noticed that it was an American show, about some over dramatic people trying to survive in the terrible conditions on a campsite with healthcare nearby 24/7. There was one scene where the shows doctor was considering whether to pop a zit or give the contestant some anti-biotics. The thought made me feel queasy and I must have audibly gone “eww”, because I then heard a voice say “I thought women liked popping zits?”. I’ll give it to this guy that he had a good opening line when speaking to strangers. This man and his friend then sat down at the same table and began talking to us. It didn’t take us long to learn that they were two Dutch men, who became friends in the army 26 years ago. Since then, one became a biology teacher and one became a German teacher. The biology teacher said he’d often come to Wales with his classes, to show them some of the wildlife, but also to let them practice their English. He loves Wales! The topic then somehow turned onto bird watching, and that’s where it remained for most of the evening. With the help of YouTube videos and Google and the biology teachers knowledge, we identified most of the birds we’d seen since being in Iceland. I’m aware that it may not sound the most interesting topic right now, but consider the fact that we were tiring of the same conversations about our trip, how long we were there for and where we were going next. I don’t begrudge that and anyone who wants to give us their time is more than welcome, but this change in conversation felt really refreshing. On top of that, he had an obvious passion for the pastime, which was infectious. His friend didn’t seem quite as passionate about bird watching, but had a lot to say about Iceland and the campsite. You’d want people like these as tourists! At some point in the evening, Dan asked them where their tent was set up. Apparently all of those beers on the porch were drunk waiting for the light drizzle of rain to stop. It didn’t stop all evening, it just became heavier! It was now 11 o clock at night, the temperature had dropped a great deal and the visibility had almost gone. It wasn’t them I saw the next day first, but multiple layers of their tent stretched over some railing, in an attempt to dry it. After Vik, I’d begun to feel really withdrawn socially and started to see other campers as just other people in queues, so I’m grateful for their easy conversation and for sharing their outlook on Iceland and travel with us. I hope your tent situation improves!

Day 9 – Recharging

I was wondering whether to broach this topic or not, seeing as this is going to be a public blog and I have no intention of making it private. I’ve talked to a couple of people, and decided I’m hardly being the most edgy person out there by discussing it. This week, I have seen more boobs than my entire life before! And I can’t generalize it to one particular country, the whole of Europe seems to have a looser idea of modesty than we do in the UK!

In the blue lagoon, you had to have a naked shower, and the cubicles were often full, so women of all ages were stripping off and going for it. In one way, I was glad I didn’t know anyone in those changing rooms. It helped knowing that I wouldn’t have to make eye contact with any of my friends naked. In all of the campsites, there’s been glimpses here and there of women who weren’t too fussed to bear all in the toilets or shower blocks. This morning definitely took the biscuit though. I was having a shower, minding my own business, when suddenly the curtain was pulled back. A taller woman with a thick German accent wanted to know how hot my shower was. Don’t get me wrong, she was actually quite polite about it. If she was asking me to pass the salt at the dinner table with the same tone, I wouldn’t think twice about obliging. But in this situation, neither of us had a stitch on and I wasn’t sure how to reply. Was she expecting an invite?? I can’t tell you for certain my reply, though it would have been something like this  – “n, n, no.. sorry!”

Other than that, my day has been very relaxed and at a slow pace. I couldn’t be happier about that. I’ve been able to recharge and am now ready to keep the pace going tomorrow. Dan decided that he hasn’t had enough excitement yet (I doubt the men’s showers are as racy), so he decided to go for a glacial walk. I’ll nag him to describe his experience here soon! So today was mainly sitting, writing this and people watching. I wish there was a way of people watching that let you have a good stare without completely creeping the subject out (quite rightly!). I’ve tried sunglasses, I’ve tried watching from a distance. So, please, if you’re anywhere in the world and you see this out of the corner of your eye;

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please don’t be alarmed. I don’t want to kill you, I just like watching you eat.

This evening, we went to eat some lovely food out in a real Icelandic restaurant. No we didn’t eat whale and we finally took some foody pictures. The reason they’ve been lacking so far is because you wouldn’t appreciate 8 photos of hot dogs and noodle and 6 photos of pasta and pesto. But here they are!

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The starters were joyful!

 

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I hadn’t eaten since this morning with porridge, so I had to get stuck in!

 

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The pizzas were awesome!

 

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and Dan was looking lovely!

Day 8 – Heading west

So we decided on two things today. First, we would abandon our attempt to travel the entire ring road. It wasn’t the easiest choice as it felt like we had failed in some ways. And plenty of travelers manage to do it, so why were we struggling? Firstly, we didn’t plan as much as we probably should have. We definitely wasted time trying to plan and move at the same time. Secondly, we decided that  spending all our time on the road instead of at destinations was not what we wanted. At some point, we’d have had to lose the better  part of some days to travelling, and enough of that would come later. Thirdly, setting up a tent in a new destination every night was becoming grueling and I didn’t want to do that anymore. It was a relief to find that Dan wasn’t keen on doing that either.  Camping can be tiring enough without doing that, and it was only leaving small windows to actually enjoy our surroundings, with the  worry of finding the next destination and setting everything up again once we were there. We’re still discovering a great part of the west of the country, and we’ve loosened up a lot of time for ourselves to relax a little, so I’m relieved more than anything.

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Our second decision was we would spend two whole nights at the same destination tonight and tomorrow night. That is absolutely blissful, especially with rain on the way. It was also the campsite at Vik, one we knew had decent enough facilities and after our experience at the glacier campsite, we wanted a bit of familiarity.

Tonight, something happened which really reminded us that we were in a less populated country than our own. At about 10pm, I was in the washing room, thanking god that a washing machine was free. But then, right in the middle of the wash, the machine suddenly stopped. It was just a little irritating. I then noticed a French boy next to me trying to revive the tumble dryer. And then there was a wall of noise coming from over the wall – the dining area. It became very apparent quickly that the electricity had gone off. That meant no lights, no  charging of phones, no free WiFi. It was really interesting to see a wave of heads pop up from their phones and look around! Naturally,  it wasn’t long before people were heading to the office to try and ask the campsite manager if he knew what was going on. When we got to the  door, there was nothing but a note that said “Feeling sick, gone home. Be back tomorrow.”. That note told us that the campgrounds were completely unmanned. There was no contact number on the note or anything!

So, I figured that it would make an awesome story for me and Dan to save the day, so  we decided to go to the neighbouring hotel and ask the manager to help. It wasn’t long before we realised we were being followed by another guy,  trying to do the same thing. It turned out the guy was Irish, and after trying to find the trip switch himself, he had the same idea as us.  Once we arrived, we immediately felt out of our surroundings, as there we were – a bit smelly and dirty, next to a grand piano and underneath  chandeliers. Seeing as we were at the desk together, I tried in vein to make small talk with the Irish guy – asking him where he was from and so on. I can’t even remember the answer, but for some stupid reason I decided to reply “cool, we’re from Wales. So don’t worry, at least we’re not English”. Because mild racism always wins people over. Not only did the Irish guy seem completely unimpressed with me, but before I could even turn around I heard  “hey steady on now!”. An English guy was right there. Since we’ve been here we’ve met a grand total of three English people, and one of them happened to be right behind me during the only time I say anything discriminating against them.

So there we were; An English man, an Irish man and a Welsh man (and lady). I’d failed to connect with one stranger and I’d offended the other, so I decided to bow out of any conversation and shut up. The Irish man appeared to be getting bored of the situation very quickly and started fidgeting, whilst the English man came down on the man at the  front desk very heavily for not responding as we’d hoped. To be fair, when we asked if he knew the manager of the camp ground, his reply was “I knew the previous manager – nice guy!”, so was definitely not as helpful as he could be. Me and Dan decided to just listen to the whole thing unfold. Eventually the desk worker agreed to lend the English man his phone to ring 112 (the Icelandic emergency number). It may seem a bit far fetched ringing the Icelandic  equivalent of 999 because of an electricity shortage, but we decided that, with over 500 campers without electricity, the chances of someone getting cardiac arrest was actually reasonably high. Turns out the person at the other end of the line already knew of the situation and had sent someone over to fix it. Did the sick campground manager know about the situation? Is that why he went home?? Anyway, within about an hour, the electricity came back on and  everything resumed back to normal, including our washing.

Day 7 – Heading east

Today we decided to see the famous black sand beach. There was a lot of black sand. It was also beautiful, with massive cliffs hanging over the beach and  huge rocks that looked so close to falling away from the cliff and crash into the sea. They put barriers up, stopping us from venturing down onto the  actual sand itself. I don’t mind – I figured that the rocks must prove to be a hazard and I can imagine tourists trying to take away samples from the beach. We attempted to make a three and a half hour trip to Hofn, the next main town with a decent campsite.

Unfortunately, we were really tired and weary  from all of the travelling, so the journey was proving to be difficult. Dan was strongly suggesting that we just pull over, and camp up somewhere. I googled the idea. Mainly, I was worried about the legality of it – turns out it is legal, provided you don’t camp on someones property. I was also worried about the strong wind that was threatening to knock the car off course. How were we going to be able to put up a tent in that. The terrain as well was not proving to look very camp-able. The thing that finally swerved us back to a campsite were some of the web pages I found, asking me genuinely  were I was going to defecate and what I was going to do with it. I imagined several scenarios in me head – squatting, only to find hikers nearby screaming, having to bag it up like you would a dog, driving the next day trying to ignore the smell of our own waste in the back of the car. I didn’t want to be one of those tourists who would shit in the middle of nowhere and not care about it. As one of the websites pointed out, what if all one million of last years  tourists decided to shit in the middle of no where? Can you imagine trying to hike across a country, swerving in between not only cow, sheep and horse poo, but the one million shits left by human travelers. So we decided to go to the nearest campsite.

The nearest campsite had a massive advantage of being next to a stunning glacier. And it took complete advantage of this. It charged 500isk for a five minute shower and provided no communal area to cook and eat. Hot water was a fair walk away and the campsite itself was 3000isk for both of us. Not only the cost,  but the ground was proving impossible to dig our tent pegs into. As much as we enjoyed the glacier the next day, we would not return to this campsite, and  it definitely played a role in fueling the decision we made the next day.

Day 6 – The Golden Circle

Day six began with a much clearer frame of mind and I felt rejuvenated, if still a little daunted by the prospect of hopping around so much. I  decided that, in order to fix myself completely, I needed a cup of tea from the small campsite restaurant. It definitely helped. It also helped to get talking to someone new again, and this time it was the bartender. A 21 year old Polish guy who completely shamed me in my knowledge of  politics across Europe. As a UK citizen, I should try to be more aware that other countries tend to know more about our politics than I do of theirs. That and the fact that they know English puts them at an advantage in my opinion. At least now I know that Poland was a very prosperous country from the 8th century all the way to the 17/18th century, when wars started happening, and communism took place. I also learned that most European countries have both a prime minister and a president. They’re all as crooked, mostly more so than ours. Another thing that struck me about this guy was how hard he had to work. As much as we complain about our working situations, he had to reduce his sleep to 5 hours an night in order to fit in work, uni and a  little amount of time for himself. But he always emphasized that he thought it was worth it. He’ll make a good lawyer!

We saw one of Iceland’s most famous Geysers and a beautiful waterfall, of which I’ll include photos! Iceland is amazing for the variety of scenery it has. Its not just beautiful, but its boiling and freezing, mountainous and flat. I can’t imagine any of the other countries we’re going to be visiting topping Iceland for its natural beauty! In the evening, we arrived at a campsite in a small village called Vik. The campsite manager immediately struck me as looking like that guy in The Fast Show.

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He was wearing an England top and seemed less interested than he should be about taking our payments. I’ve noticed that campsites in Iceland work on a sort of honor system, relying on the campers to openly own up to whatever facilities they have used and pay for them. I had already had a shower without paying for it as no one seemed around to charge me, and I got the impression that we could easily have parked up, set up a tent and driven away the next day without paying and he would be none the wiser.

Whilst we were sat down in the communal area, we decided to be brave and try and cook pasta on our little stove we’d rented. The guy who rented us the stove assured us that as long as it wasn’t completely broken when we returned it, we wouldn’t be charged. It wasn’t long before a man sitting across from us felt we could use a little advice on how to use the stove. His name was Ben, and his partner next to him was called Tiphany. Ben was an engineer and Tiphany was a journalist for a local Parisian paper. I thought I’d share with Ben the fact that I’d noticed a lot of French people at the campsite. Ben was quick to reply, “I hate it. I wanted a holiday away from French people, not to be surrounded by them”. He may have put it more politely than that, but that was the gist that I got from him. As a means of making small talk, I asked him how he found learning English, because he was very obviously fluent in it. We agreed that English is very easy to begin learning (not that I’d remember), but then it becomes increasingly difficult with all of the rules. I replied to him saying how stupid I thought some of the rules were. Ben was quick to dismiss the idea that it could be stupid. “I will not allow it to be called stupid. These rules all have a reason and a history to them, so they should be respected”. When reading this, you might think he was a bit sharp with his tone, but he wasn’t. He was just passionate about language, and was telling us about how some people were trying to adjust the French language so it didn’t include accents. In Britain, we have a whole monarchy to keep up tradition, so it seemed bizarre to get rid of some of the traditions in the French language.

I noticed that Tiphany was engaged in the conversation, but wasn’t speaking an awful lot. When she did talk, she apologized for how little she knew English. To put her at her ease, I told her the one sentence I knew in French and how there was no excuse for me not knowing more. They were very kind about that. As part of a couple, its very easy to form roles within your partnership. The louder one and the quieter one, the organizer and the fun one etc. etc. What I really liked about Ben was he obviously had faith in Tiphany, and purposely did not translate for her. When asking about her job, he was actively as interested as us, and was encouraging her to tell us. Turns out her English was just fine, and her job sounds amazing, interviewing one of her favorite artists being her highlight. When talking about our travels, both of them were incredibly interested for brief acquaintances and repeatedly said what an amazing opportunity it was and how much they’d like to hear about how it’s going. I was amazed by how much support we got from family and friends, so it was a really lovely surprise to get it from them as well. When telling them about where we were going, Ben very audibly groaned when we said we’d be staying in the USA. I knew from listening around that there were some American people in the room, but that didn’t stop him. “I think Americans are very proud” he said within full earshot. Just like with the French, I asked him if he minded being overheard. He had no qualms about this whatsoever. In a world were being PC is the way and opinions should always be said in the most diplomatic way ever, it was very refreshing to see a man in the middle of a packed room being happy to offend most of the people in it. I hope it is coming across that his nature was just very real, and that he was very likable and positive as well. As a couple, they complimented each other well.

Day 5 – Hiking for hot pools

Day five will stick in my mind as the day that I got a big bout of homesickness. It’s ridiculous how it happened. Dan was drinking from his water bottle and it squeaked in the same way my cat back home does, and that was it. The rest of the day was spent enjoying it less than I should have, and I felt generally just low. The weather didn’t help an awful lot. Whilst on a 6km round hike, we were met with pretty heavy rain and not the  right equipment to deal with it. The goal was to visit a natural thermal river in Iceland, so we didn’t consider that staying dry going to and from it would be preferable.

As soon as the weather cleared, so did my spirits a little. I enjoyed the end of the hike, but I definitely wasn’t reset. It may seem strange getting homesickness only 5 days in to a 9 month trip, but I’m mostly only away from home for short bouts. I tend to stay in one place long enough to become used to it. By this point, we have stayed in three different places and I am feeling the strain. Dan was lovely and understanding and hasn’t drunk from his bottle in front of me much since.

Day 4 – Starting “The Ring Road”

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Today we begin our journey around the ring road. It will involve ten days of camping and a lot of travelling. I hope that finding this daunting  just makes me normal and still fairly adventurous. It will involve camping at different sites each night! Our first campsite however, was awesome. They obviously understood the needs of people travelling here and there and provided free washing machines and dryers, and created a  culture of people leaving behind things they don’t need such as food, toilet paper and gas for others travelers to use as they wish. I did see one guy go up to this pile with a bag and fill it, so it will never be a fool-proof system – someone will always take advantage!

This evening, we went to one of Iceland’s most famed attractions – the blue lagoon. I’ll try to provide pictures for this to show you how awesome it was, and warm!! As much as I love seeing sights and going places, it’s always the people that stick in my mind. I remember very clearly meeting this couple in the water. They were a Liverpudlian couple and were (or the guy at least) passionate about yachts. They were both in their 50’s and the lady, Doreen, was telling us about a career change that she had made only a few years before. She went from being in a job that she hated, to becoming self employed with Avon and growing a team that would be the fourth largest selling in the UK. As changing careers is something I’m considering, it was really refreshing to listen to her. It was nice to hear, if anything, that it is possible to find a job you love no matter how far along your career you are. It means I have time. The gent, Graham, considered himself to be a glass half empty kind of guy, yet he completely supported her move, buying her a laptop and being the steady wage whilst she got herself set up. I think he should give himself more credit!