A Travellerspoint blog

Last legs

In the past week, at least 4 nights, I've gone to bed just after midnight. And each night, as I look out my window before pulling down the blind, a soft yellow blush sighs on the horizon. Yes, the days are long again, but spring comes with such slow effort to Iceland! Only now, at the start of May, is green showing, and the tree outside my window is feverisly clenching its buds, ready to burst with new fragrance at the first sign of warm rain. However, the bird that sings proudly from its branches has been building a nest in the opposite house for a while now...
The sunsets are extraordinary too! :
Sunset1.jpg
I went out at 5.30am one day, unable to sleep, and walked around in plain daylight as if it were a spring afternoon.

I've been on more trips than you can shake a stick at. Not least because I've had a feast of visitors! Took a simillar trip with both sets - South Coast - but each had a different character, thanks to the company.

Had to pause just then and read my last entry - couldn't remember if I mentioned when Eemeli's friend Niku came. I didn't. He did. We piled up a car with 2 Finnish boys and 2 English girls (a dangerous cocktail), and headed off for a fun-packed road trip. Made most interesting for me as I did probably one of the craziest things I've done since I got here - stripped off to my bikini and went for a swim in a stream. While it was snowing, really quite hard. Luckily it was a geothermally heated stream... but all the same, getting out and getting changed wasn't so agreeable!
InStream2.jpg

But anyway, back to the South Coast road trips with friends. First with my brother, his friend, Laura and Dave...all in one Corolla, half-driven by me. Its amazing how quickly you get used to driving on the other side of the road, and reaching down with the other hand to change gears and pull the handbrake etc...
I'm such a bad environmentalist - I love driving!
The oddest thing: driving a long straight road by the coast and wondering why I couldn't keep the car in a straight line. Eventually I figured out the answer - it was incredibly windy! With no trees to show you the ambient air movement, how do you tell?? Unnerving to say the least!
The best thing: driving with bright sun, clear blue skies thrown open above you, and the dazling glacier of Skaftafell national park in front of you. The stuff car commercials are made of!
I infused both groups with my feverish love of Jeff Who? (http://www.myspace.com/jeffwhoband) , the most fun, energetic, and entertaining band I've found while exploring the Icelandic music scene. If I knew a DJ in england I would make him play Barfly until clubs of people were screaming 'la la la laaa laa LA LA' like they are here. I love it. That song is my Icleand.
So we created the Concientious Killers (with their debut album Vandalism), were chased by evil ducks, ate Polo biscuits and Skyr until half-dead and had a good time.
Then dear Ria came, and we acquired Emma and Christien for a girlie version of the trip, full of admitting we were knackered after 10 minutes ascent of the mountain, talking about boys and all manner of rude things, and eating enough crisps to fill an Olympic swimming pool (but not out bellies!) :-D Having Ree made me realise how much I miss having her (and everyone else) around to just talk to. I can talk to people here, I have friends, but of course they don't know me so well.

I've also been to the Blue Lagoon 3 times this term! It's not that great - I probably wouldn't have been so many times if I didn't get student discount. Peronally, I think the Laugardalur complex in Reykjavik is better and much better value for money. I mean, it has a slide!

Went to the Reykjanes peninsula with the Uni - could have been awful (the weather is notoriously bad), but we were lucky. It didn't rain, but the coast provided some dramatic scenery... :
ReykB.jpg

Finally, I've just come back from Vestmannaejar, or the Westmann Islands - volcanic islands just off the south coast of the mainland. Only one is inhabited, and there was a sudden volcanic eruption in 1973 that buried 400 homes and built a whole new mountain, the appropriately named Eldfell ('Fire Mountain' - the general Icelandic word for volcano):
Waytothetop.jpgEld1.jpg
It makes for an impressive sight, the cone still rabid red, and its lava outpourings black all the way to the subdued blue sea. But it's a small island, so leisurely walks were taken around it, until here I am, back in Reykjavik.

Soon to be gone. Leaving here is a feeling more than melancholy, a sacred saddness that rises up in me when I'm alone and taunts me: 'shed a tear, little girl'.
I've learnt a lifetime's lessons here. When I come back, you can talk to me as before and you might never realise how much I've changed. But believe me, I'm not the person I was when I left you behind, when last I held you and smiled at you.

The sun is setting again, the burning sky is sheltered by wise, calm grey streaks and my heart lives in the song of the little bird outside my window, calling until the buds burst beneath his feet.

Posted by Lifandi 14:10 Comments (0)

On a clear day, I'll fly home to you...

Back in Iceland nearly 2 months.
The theme of this time period has been aeroplanes I think.

It all started when I tried to leave the country before Christmas. I don't think it wanted me to leave. The snowstorm at Keflavik was the worst I'd ever seen up to that point (although now I've been in worse, but that's for later). The problem was not (so much) taking off, but landing, which the plane that was supposed to come get us couldn't do. So it got diverted to the east and finally went back to...wait for it...Scotland. This all took a considerable amount of hours, me all the time enjoying the hospitality of Keflavik airport (and luckily the company of an Irish guy I'd met maybe 3 days before).
Then we checked the internet, and discovered the fog that was grounding air traffic in London. Well, I thought, maybe I won't be home in time for Christmas (this was the 21st December). Eventually, we were offered either a hotel for the night and a try-again-tomorrow, or a chance to get on a flight to London with another company to a different London airport. Fine, I'll get on that one!
"Mum?"
"Yeah?"
"I might be able to get on a flight to Heathrow, can you pick me up there instead?"
"Just let me know when you board!"
I boarded around 8pm, having been scheduled to leave around midday.
We applauded the pilot when he landed at the other end.
Back in Weymouth: 3am.

Christmas was...awkward. I didn't feel like I belonged. To see so many people all pushing about the streets. I loved seeing all my friends, but I was glad to get back to Iceland.
Flight back was seamless, and from the plane window Iceland looked like one giant glacier. The midday sun, still with a warm glow, slanted into view as the aeroplane banked, and glinted off the white expanse of mountains. Makes my soul calm.
In the first week back it snowed nearly every day, until it was up to the level of the time it snowed all night last semester. Me and Jukka made a GIANT snowwoman - she took us nearly 3 hours and we cleared the snow in our back yard :-)
Then Jukka left, back to Finland, and we haven't heard from him since. He was going to go to the Blue Lagoon then walking to the airport...who knows...I guess he made it...

Classes started, some new faces appeared, some old faces were absent. A new english girl joined our troop, so I'm not alone anymore. It's not necessary, but it is comforting.

Then we planned our great trip to Greenland.
Organised basically by one guy, this is how it's supposed to be:
http://kulusukart.com/information.htm
So we booked up, me, Eemeli, Sebastian, Elena, and 3 other Spainards, 27th Jan- 3rd Feb.
The day arrives very soon, and we race to the airport with the demeanour of excited children. We meet Johann, the guy who organises the trips, and he gives us several things to give to our contact in Greenland.
One he tells us to bury deep in the luggage.
"It's illegal to take this into Greenland, but we do it all the time."
So we're smuggling for the guy; we don't ask any more questions.
There's a slight delay on the flight, some dodgy weather at the other end, but soon we're on our way.
Our plane had propellers, and only holds around 20 people. But they did serve a light breakfast! I am terrified; I crush Sebastian's hand the whole way.
"Ladies and Gentlemen we will shortly be landing at Kukusuk. The local time is..."
What we (and he) didn't know was, he was lying. In fact, we descended into a low cloud that we had seen mountains poking through just before...then suddenly jerked right back up into the sky again. I've never felt so sick and disorientated in my life. I think it happened maybe 2 or 3 times; it was impossible to land safely.
So we flew back to Reykjavik.
The longest and worst plane flight of my life! I think I would have passed out or gone mad if I hadn't been with friends (thanks Sebbe!)
Back in Reykjavik, we dejectedly buy a pizza and go to bed miserable. No flights go anywhere on Sunday, so we have to wait until Monday at least.
Monday: Flight cancelled due to bad weather
Tuesday: Exactly the same thing happens as Saturday. We fly to Greenland....and back again. Now the Spainards have to give up - they have other commitments. They get refunds, and me, Seb and Eemeli decide if we want to try and go just the 3 of us.
Wednesday: Flight cancelled due to bad weather.
Thursday, 1st Feb: We finally make it to Greenland!

This was the one day of fine weather we had the whole week. No, that's a lie, it was fine the day we wanted to fly out the next Wednesday.
So, before Christmas, it seemed Iceland didn't want me to leave. Now it was clear Greenland didn't want me there!

But we did have a great time. The hut was awesome (although there was no running water - we had to fetch it every day from a well in front of the house). And it shook violently when the snowstorms raged. Snowstorms like this, on our second day:
P1080319.jpg

But we enjoyed it - after all, it was more extreme than we'd ever seen. When the storm calmed we walked for hours around the mountains around the village, and marvelled at the breaking sea ice:
Kul4.jpg

We even went back to the airport one stormy day just to mess around - and found it completely deserted. So we use it as a playground:
AirportMINE.jpg

Where else could you do that?
The villagers often wanted to offer us things, bone crafts, seal skin, a dip in their bath... foreigners mean opportunity. But most fun were the children, who we were ambushed by on more than one occassion. They were rough and unbreakable, we all flung each other around in the snow for hours.
And on the last day, our contact took us to the airport by dog sled (the weather had been too bad to go on the planned trip to the glacier this way).
All in all, it was one of the most memorable things I've ever done, and even though I had the equivalent of 3 terrifying round trip flights, I don't regret a thing :-)

Incidentally, you can see many more great pics from the trip here:
http://www.photobucket.com/albums/v14/Colossal/Greenland/

And also check out a video Sebastian made about our first semester!:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB-9FdcvNCc

Phew, my arms hurt, next time I won't wait so long before making an update!

Posted by Lifandi 10:32 Comments (1)

Winter in Iceland

-6 °C

The streetlights flicker off at 10.46am
The orange disc of the Sun finally reaches my room 2 hours later, and promptly starts setting again.
This is Iceland in the winter, and my god it's beautiful. I honestly think the things I see every day would make the happiest man jealous.
For example, this was the view of Esja a couple of weeks ago:
DecembEsja.jpg

And this was my department as I left it about an hour ago, after finishing my last exam:
Askja2.jpg

What better sight to greet you as you prepare for Christmas? At last I can have that Christmas feeling! Exams are over! I officially have nothing to do for the next 3 weeks!

But before I lapse into a description of my adventures over the past month, a quick thought again about the melancholy of winter here:
Although there are things about Bristol I miss, what I'll miss most here are the mountains. My walk to university every day takes me 5 minutes to the edge of town, and 5 minutes with my eyes directed towards the wide open space partially occupied by the small domestic airport and the university campus, settled into marshland. From here I can see the distant mountains, now so covered in snow they resemble a giant glacier advancing towards me every morning.
"Hello Mountains".

~~

I've been on a couple of trips despite the 'intense' revision *ahem*. Will came and we drove around the Reykjanes Peninsula and the Golden Circle, it's wonderful to see everything so frozen. It was really nice to drive through, but in the sky we could see small private planes, and just think how much nicer it would be to take a Sunday afternoon fly around Iceland? It must look spectacular from the air right now, but hey, I guess I'll find out on Thursday!
Incidentally, I am flying back this Thursday, and hoping against serious delay I fully plan to be in the pub in the evening, so please join me :-) I guess I'll send out a text...gee...I have no idea if I even have any English credit...
But anyway, pictures of this trip can be seen here:
http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v14/Colossal/Ice%20Will/

My second trip was last saturday and was the incredibly awesome 'super jeep' trip to a glacier. And it only cost around £50, where it would usually cost £120-£130 normally! It was perishingly cold, but of course totally worth it, a fleet of 5 jeeps full of students and slightly mad drivers (they all are here) hurtling around the frozen wastelands. On the way one of the jeeps suddenly went off-road to skid around on a frozen lake, and not to be outdone, the rest of us soon followed :-)

I've heard rumours of a 5-day trip to Greenland organised by the university in Jan/Feb. It costs ~£300, but do you think that's going to stop me? Hell no!

See you soon guys, I'll talk all your ears off soon with tales, but don't worry, I'll bring presents too!

Sjáumst (See you)!

Posted by Lifandi 08:18 Comments (1)

Snowed under

Awfully exciting you know, when 12 hours of snow falls on Reykjavik.
Especially after you've been out all day driving around the Snaefells penninsula looking at frozen waterfalls, grass laden with ice and mountains as white as glaciers.
And after you've been to see Bjork the night before reunited with her old band the Sugarcubes. In temperatures around -12 degrees C.
Which I have to admit is probably the coldest temperature I;ve ever experienced. And the snow that settled Sunday morning was the most snow I've ever seen. Actually quite a lot of it is still out there, getting a bit mushy and slippery, but still quite enough to make a snowman or ten.
So Sunday me and Sebastian went to the church round the corner which happens to have a reasonably tall tower, complete with elevator, and took pictures from the top:
Reyk.jpgMyReyk.jpg
Reyk3.jpgReyk4.jpg
And here's a quick picture out of our back door:
Snowgar.jpg

The trip around Snaefells was frankly awesome. Alina's friend Tuula came for the week, so we hired a car and Jukka joined us. Which did mean I was stuck with Finnish people all day. But they talked a lot of english just for me :-) And actually I've been trying to learn some Finnish, Alina taught me the numbers to 20 yesterday when we were swimming, and I can say 'How are you?' ('mita kuuluu?') and sweet dreams ('kauniita unia') and some other things that I don't know how to spell. I think I actually know more Finnish than Icelandic :-/
But yes, the trip was inspiring, when I uploaded my pictures I noticed that the whole album was just really blue. But there was other colours too, at once we were trapped in a white-out, so caught we couldn't even see the mountains around us.
You can check it out here: http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v14/Colossal/Snaefells

I'm afraid though that the snow has caused a fog on my brain and I can't think of anything else entertaining to describe to you.
But Will's coming this weekend, I hope there's snow for him too.

But only 3 weeks till exams, then 4 weeks until I'm home for Christmas. That'll be weird.

Posted by Lifandi 07:49 Comments (1)

I feel like feeling love today...

...which makes me sad of course, and also it's a little odd. The day is stormy and melodramatic, and everyone around me is losing their loves. Antje and her boyfriend broke up, Alina has been crying on and off all day after the fastest romance I've ever known with my flatmate Sebastian.
Never trust a German ;-)

So life has been interesting socially recently, but I got the adventure bug this morning. Probably why I felt like lovin'. Probably why I'm writing an entry. Unfortunately this country shuts down in the winter, which begins in September, and without your own transport it's hard to get around. Still 'if' the weather's nice, me and Alina plan to climb Esja this weekend. Esja is the proud mountain ridge that nurses Reykjavik. It's covered in snow right now. It's kind of like the ridgeway to Weymouth, completely different weather each side. Except much more impressive:
Esja.jpg

But Reykjavik does it's best to entertain you. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Iceland Airwaves festival. You pay about £60 and get a wristband. About 6 gigs happen every night for 4 nights in about 8 clubs across the city. The wristband gets you in everywhere. Simple.
Saw some good bands, Icelandic, foreign, British. Met the parents of a small band from Scotland. They follow them on tour. Eemeli suggested standing behind them during the gig so if the band was bad we could deride them. I told him it wasn't a good idea to anger a Scotsman. So look out for Call to Mind. And their parents.
Enjoyed a band called The End that were much better than the pretentious prats that followed them. Jigged along to the Go! Team. Rocked to local heroes Reykjavik! (The excalmation mark is part of their name). But mostly I enjoyed jumping around like a looney to the Kaiser Chiefs. After the trampling and stage diving the foreigners I was with looked scared. I told them this is how we do it in England.

Many birthdays right now (due to Valentine's Day as we once worked out). Eemeli turned 26 last week, Sebastian 27 on Monday, and soon Alina will be 25. Our parties consist of humble affairs of drinking and laughing at someone's house. It's a lot of fun.
I've also come to the conclusion I live in the best house, by location, services and atmosphere. Everyone's casual. As a house we generally go to bed around 2 and wake up about 12. Well, unless we have lectures of course *cough*
Weekends are different here too - going out begins about midnight and ends about 4 or 5am. I'm getting quite used to it.
I'm also getting used to correcting people's grammar. I do it in my head a lot at home. But here people want me to correct their grammar and spelling. I've become too well accustomed to guessing the words people are struggling to remember in our fair language. Although so often there isn't a word. English actually has a lot less words for things than other languages. In fact, english is a surprisingly easy language in ters of structure. The only difficult thing is pronunciation. Often people ask me why soething is said a certain way and I just say "I can't explain my language!"
But yes, if I do correct your grammar at any future point I'm sorry in advance :-/

While I remember!
For those of you who want to visit at some time, I have some good dates...
I fly back to Iceland after christmas on the 7th January, so co-ordinating a flight would be a good idea. You can get pretty cheap flights with BA, returns for around £80.
Laura and Dave have booked flights to come see me in my Easter holiday, 1st - 7th April (I think...hm, will confirm later...)
Co-ordinating with other people is a good idea so that renting a car is cheaper and we can drive around. 3-4 days is enough to see glaciers, waterfalls, basalt colums, volcanic plugs, the frothing sea, the rising geysir and virtually no-one else!
A couple of days in Reykjavik is also nice, one of the most fun things is the thermal pools. Hot water is free, as it is piped from rocks beneath us, so every 'swimming' pool is vey cheap and comes included with at least one hot tub, if not a multitude of pots at different temperatures (ranging from hot to OWOWOWOWOW!). In fact last the other week we swam in an outdoor pool with an ambient temperature of -2 degrees. Getting out hurts. But it'll be even more amazing in the snow.
Although I must warn you, all guests are required to shower naked before entering the pools. Some visiting Finns asked me and Alina what we found strangest about Icelandic customs. I said the naked showering. People just don't walk around naked in England. They said it happens all the time in Finland, with saunas and all those lakes. I guess it's liberating in a way *blushes Britishly*

Started planning all your Christmas presents. Found out I'm on the same flight back to Blightly with Elena as she's en route to Spain. Which means that, providing someone comes back with me at Christmas, I won't have to fly alone again. Phew.
Though we're already planning to 'do Europe' this summer, starting (of course) in Finland and driving back to England. Which means I can just book a one way flight and say "I'll be back in about a month". Travelling is freedom.

Ok, time to stop, I apologise if any of there words contained above are missing their 'M's, I spilt juice on it earlier and it hasn't been the same since.

Au reviour!

Posted by Lifandi 13:16 Comments (0)

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