Simon Benson & Alison Edwards
In Iceland (Part 1)
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|Iceland - by Alison
it is a week since we landed here in a country about the size of Tasmania or England, with the population of Geelong. What the guide books don't tell you is that the locals are unfailingly polite and friendly and speak excellent English. This is important because Icelandic is totally incomprehensible apart from recognising the endings of place names signifying 'bridge” or “glacier” or “river”. This is not so helpful because I can generally tell I am crossing a river but what I need to know is “where am I?”
Simon drives and is coping well with gale force winds, the wrong side of the road, and narrow roads. I am the designated navigator and I am learning to cope with Icelandic labelling. I keep at least three maps and guides open at a time, and have a low threshold for admitting I am wrong and needing to backtrack. Every house, shed, abandoned farm, stream, river, bridge, inlet, hill, mountain, waterfall, or any feature of any note has a name – e.g. Kirkjubaejarklaustur. I did make one praiseworthy discovery, and gthat is one guide booklet has roadside stops markedand these have been excellent when we end up nowhere near a town.
The rest of what you read or know about Iceland is correct. It is stunningly beautiful, amazing, full of natural wonders and quirkiness. There are fumaroles, glaciers, and mountains; snow-topped and beautiful. There are wild flat expanses of glacier meltwater silt plains, threaded by waterways; and equally wild but post-apocalyptic-looking expanses of volcanic ash and lava, some with wooly hats of lichen; but around Eyjafjallajokull, just moon rock barren. We have walked and walked but eased our muscles in a hot stream. We have photographed a hundred special things a day but we have not made time to label any photos yet. Te long daylight hours mean mean we tend to keep going too long. Luckily, nothing here opens before 10am.
Quirkiness? Just take a look at some tourists snorkelling in the rift between tectonic plates at Pingvellir, clowning about in dry suits as the water temperature is 2 degrees. Most petrol stations are completely automated and we have yet to conquer actually buying any diesel at one, despite the help of locals; we have to watch out for Australian-style manned ones. Any lost item is just left for the owner to pick up, and cars are left unlocked as the locals value honesty highly. Our airbnb host in Reykjavik told us about a visitor who reported being mugged to the local police; he described the attack in great detail but the police didn't believe him, because the locals don't behave like that. It turned out he was lying, hoping to make a claim on his insurance.
It is technically summer now but “it is late this year” as you can tell from the number of layers we are wearing in the photos. Te wind is a killer though – sandblasting you when you walk on a beach and wild enough to to rock the van enough to spill a full saucepan off the stove!
It is only a week since I heard that Dad died, and I find myself thinking now how much he would have enjoyed this type of road trip; even if the hiking was beyond him.