Land of waterfalls and lava and black sand beaches. Unfortunately for us, also the land of wind swept pouring rain for part of the trip. Even a gore tex rain jacket was no match for the rain that slid down the jacket and soaked my jeans.
Having said that, standing in the area between the North American and European plates, aware that they are separating one centimeter a year, and gazing over a landscape that once teamed with ancient people gathering for a yearly conference made the rain a mere hindrance. Soaked jeans and socks did send us back into Reykjavic to change instead of forging on to see a famous geyser.
Our tour of the south coast the next day brought us to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall where you can follow a path behind the waterfall. I use the term “path” pretty loosely. It’s an amazing experience, but also rocky and slippery. Makes sense. It’s behind a waterfall. Hiking boots would have improved my traction, but there were helping hands to reach out to assist my climb. One of those things that you’re happy you did in retrospect, but at the time, you’re questioning your decision.
Iceland is vast and largely empty. Except for the sheep. The sheep graze on open fields and seem oblivious to the tour buses that snake past on roads carved out to accommodate the hoards of tourists that are relatively new to area that once belonged to farmers and sheep alone. You drive past lava fields for miles on the way to the next amazing destination. This is turning into a travelogue which was not my intent. Travel books describe the glaciers, volcanoes, rock formations, black sand beaches far better than I can. And I haven’t even mentioned the Blue Lagoon. We forged in spite of the wind driven cold rain that soaked our heads. The water in the lagoon was as warm as promised, but the surrounding elements caused us to retreat inside much more quickly than we otherwise might have.
I like the legends. At the Black Sand Beach, there are two awesome land formations that rise out of the water. Legend has it that they were two trolls that lingered too long into daylight and were turned to stone in place. Easy to suspend your disbelief while standing on the wind swept beach backed by cliffs and gazing out into the never-ending sea.
Happily, we had a few days favored by sun to wander around Reykjavik and explore the museums and to view the world from the top of the justly famous Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. And to frequent the restaurants. Seafood and lamb rule, and are uniformly well prepared and wonderful. Also expensive. Actually very expensive. Once I figured out the conversion rate, I was a bit startled by the cost, but at least the quality was there.
This is rambling on way too long, but I have to mention the airport. The experience deserves its own blog entry. Picture wind driven rain (I seem to use that expression a lot!) Then picture planes originally schedules to depart for Boston, New York, and Chicago at adjacent gates within fifteen minutes of one another. Enter a weather delay. The Chicago people were instructed to move to another gate. We were all standing so close to one another that they had to form a single person line that snaked through the existing throng.
Once we were cleared to enter the plane, the real fun began. We boarded a bus that took us to the plane, and were required to climb the stairs on to the plane. The heavy plastic sides that were put up didn’t quite block the wind and rain. People were surprisingly good humored about the whole experience. What else was there to do? By that point, we were all just happy to be leaving. I did hear a lot of muttering that there had better be lots of alcohol on board.
Weather did impact our trip, but it was still full of amazing experiences and sights, and I’m grateful that we were able to take advantage of the opportunity to be there with friends who knew the area well. Grateful that we went and very grateful to be home.