Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"I"CELAND!!


Dessert of ice – Iceland!



I visited the milky pristine country while on an assignment in Norway in 2015. There had always been a lot of discussion about this heavenly place and aurora borealis at my workplace. From my childhood memories of Geography, I only remembered it as a Scandinavian nation with snow all around and a hard life. I had never thought about a vacation in its capital Reykjavik in my dreams.
 
While I was in Oslo, a globetrotter senior at my office asked me and my friend for a trip to Nordic island nation-Iceland. The thought about the cold temperatures gave me a shudder. But my buddy convinced me to explore the place with the logic of once in a life time opportunity. After some contemplation and Google searches on items to carry, we agreed and checked the itinerary with him.

We purchased many items like balaclavas, ice jackets, gloves, synthetic lowers and lots of layered thermals. It felt as if we were not going on a vacation but on an expedition. I must admit, we over-prepare for the vacations always!

We boarded our flight to Reykjavik from Oslo on 7th March 2015 and landed after 3 hours. After freshening up at our B&B in Reykjavik, we headed to the reception on a lookout for a water bottle and a microwave (to heat our aloo parathas, over prepared you see!). The microwave was in the vicinity but the water bottles were too expensive. A tall, stunning receptionist came to our rescue only to tell us to refill our empty water bottles from the bathroom. We couldn't help but exchanged a puzzled look with him.

“The water is pure and drinkable from any tap in Iceland, even from the restrooms. Bottled water would be very costly and is not prevalent”, he answered with a smile to satiate our astonished subconscious.

Still perplexed, we purchased the bottled water and were amazed at the hygiene quotient of a necessity, which is turning into a luxury in our country. Next, we headed off to find a restaurant for lunch. To our surprise we found a ‘Ganesha’ eatery serving authentic Indian food and owned by a Mumbaikar. We thoroughly enjoyed the Indian savouries in the heart of Iceland and started off for sight seeing in the city. As we started moving away from the city, we passed through various meandering snow covered roads and posed for photographs near hardened lava which would have been once active and fiery. My friend murmered, “this place is even more beautiful than Switzerland, I could have saved my finances by not going there”. I chuckled.




Thereafter, we had a tour planned for an ice cave underneath a volcano. Equipped with gear, helmets and torches, we deboarded our jeep in the middle of nowhere and followed our guide to a small hole, the cave entry. A bit nervous, we slid through the cavity only to enter even a colder zone of icicles. The interiors were dark and ivory at the same time. 



We tried illuminating the ceiling which turned out to be a plafond. We learnt that it is the lava accumulated over thousands of years that was emitting numerous hues. We lived the moment and caught many more on our camera. Standing under the glittering rooftop and surrounded by icicles, I felt as if I was in a cave made popular by the mythical stories. Then our guide directed us out of the cave and suddenly asked us to lie on our back on the snow covered ground. I was amazed to see the clear black sky cast with thousands of sparkling stars and constellations. Within a minute, a snow blizzard followed. Our guide smiled and showed his t-shirt, it read “Weather changes every minute in Iceland”. 

Post dinner, we started off to chase Northern lights. With every streak of light, we hoped we had caught a glimpse of northern lights, to which our guide smiled and answered “These are only reflections of street lights. We need to move farther away from the city.” We hunted a lot but couldn’t see any that night.

The following day, after an Icelandic breakfast which consisted of oats, skyr, i.e., a protein-packed yogurt-cheese and coffee, we headed for the main attraction: the Golden circle tour.

It began with a visit to the Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which consists of long stretches of lava rock, and many volcanoes surrounding the park which have been dormant for the past 2,000 years.  It is situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in the rift valley that runs all the way through Iceland. This is the only country where this valley, the Mid Atlantic Ridge, can be seen above sea level, and nowhere is it more visible than in Þingvellir. Nature at its abundance made us ecstatic.

The second stop was the Geysir Geothermal Area. The area has many hot pools, clay pots, and the hills and soil are coloured vividly by the minerals of the earth. There are two famous geysers here. First, the Great Geysir which erupts rarely, but its neighbour, Strokkur, goes off every ten minutes or so, throwing water from 20 to 40 metres into the air. It was a breathtaking view to see boiling water reaching such great heights. There was a Icelandic shop opposite the hot springs. It boasted of handcrafted Icelandic goods and authentic restaurants. After a hearty lunch, I bought a small jar of Lava salt! 

The last stop was spectacular Gullfoss waterfall. We were awestruck at the enormous power of water. In the early 20th Century, foreign investors saw a huge amount of opportunity in turning Gullfoss into a hydro-electric plant. The owner of the falls at that time, Tómas Tómasson, had indirectly lent outsiders the right to do as they wished. These plans, against his wishes, started to go ahead; but were incredibly difficult to enforce with Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður, around. Eventually, the lawyer Sveinn Björnsson (First president of Iceland) whom she had enlisted in her protests managed to work with the investors to annul the contract. Sigríður has been immortalised in a stone memorial on top of the waterfall.

I just want to highlight that on the way from Þingvellir National Park to Geysir, we even made a short halt at Fontana Geothermal Baths which open out onto the lake, where it is possible to wade and feel tongues of warm water rising from the earth between your toes. 




Post dinner, the chase for the Northern lights began again. This time we were lucky and got a majestic view of aurora borealis, though for few seconds. On way back to the B&B, we made several halts for shutterbugs. 




As strange as it may sound, I made a firm resolve to revisit the place the moment I left Reykjavik.

With this, I cross my itchy fingers in the hope of finding a co-backpacker to visit the kingdom of my dreams - Iceland once again!

This is the ninth post in the series #AtoZChallenge.

Images Courtesy : The amazing DSLR that kept us company on the trip.

4 comments:

  1. Golly, reading this, I can completely understand why you're anxious to go back. It sounds amazing!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jz! Good to know that you liked it. Yes, the fresh and calm auro of Iceland is an invitation for every tourist including me :)

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  2. Great to see.. It soo nice Story telling Blog of our great Journey...

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    Replies
    1. Indeed Sandipan! All thanks to you for planning such a perfect outing :)

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