Day 1 – To Iceland!

Our flight from Manchester was at 7 o’clock, meaning we left the house at around 4am. I had around two hours sleep mainly down to trying to take control and tame an overweight suitcase. All those warm clothes take a lot of space up! Bearing in mind I had started to pack a week ago.

The flight was pretty smooth, and being in the morning we could watch our approach to this mysterious island of vast lifeless plains, pitted by mountains and volcanoes.

Keflavík airport looked like your typical stark building you’d expect in harsh conditions – though the inside was astonishing. Great use of volcanic rock and glass, and the arrival and departure areas seemed as one – simple poles and strap fencing to mark the boundary between arrival and departures.

I booked the car pickup for 10am, thinking all along that the Easyjet arrival time was incorrect (8:30 am). Iceland, I kept saying to people, is GMT. Correct, but they don’t follow daylight savings time. At this time of the year, the UK is just about in DST. Anyway, I thought we’d arrive 9:30 am local time, with half an hour for delays and baggage pick up. So in Iceland it was actually 8:30 am. Thankfully, the guy from Blue Car Rental had been tracking our flight, and was there with my name on a board (like in the movies!).

We picked up our car after being talked into the Sand & Ash protection (SAAP) product that, until the recent eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, was probably nearly always declined. Horror stories of the guy who said ‘no’ to SAAP, who subsequently got caught up in the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, had his hire car stripped of paint… thousands of krónur of damage… etc. Anyway, we sat in the car for quite some time trying to figure out how to start this bloody Kia Cee’d. After a while I tried a few combinations, turns out you need your foot on the clutch, and turn the key. So what about retrieving the key from the ignition? Another five minutes passed… push the key in and then turn. Really intuitive design.

I insisted that we travel by map, rather than sat-nav. Our first destination was the Blue Lagoon, which is very close to the airport. We set off on our way, but after wasting at least half an hour driving around what I think was Reykjanesbær, completely lost – I headed back to the car rental place with my arse in my hands.

We eventually got to the Blue Lagoon, after the sat-nav tried to direct us down a thin path running parallel to a power station. The Blue Lagoon is a great tourist destination and should definitely be visited – but probably only once. The architecture is fab. Same sort of feel as the airport, with slabs of thin volcanic brick, thin windows which accentuated the height of the building. I name this style ‘bleak chic’.

Entrance to the Blue Lagoon is a cool 11,500 Kr for two people. About £60! This clearly paid for the space age lockers that were in the changing rooms, which I wanted to take a photo of, but, as you have to shower naked (it’s the rules), there were too many middle-aged Germanics with their little cocks flopping about for me to warrant taking a photo in there. It was an interesting situation to find myself in. Typically British person who’d find the situation of walking around with my knob out rather embarrassing, but the stiff upper lip of ‘get on with it’ overcame the embarrassment. Before I knew it, walking from the changing room to the shower with all these naked knobbly men was a walk in the park (actually no, you’d get arrested for that sort of walk in the park but you get me right?).

The lagoon is ace, there’s no doubt about it. The temperature varies depending on where you are, but it typically averages 40°C. Which, believe me, is hot. Sometimes even uncomfortable. Even though it’s hovering around freezing outside. The water is actually blue, I kid you not. I’m guessing that’s to do with the amount of silica .

Peculiarly, the lagoon is a by-product of a power station. It’s just run off for the geo thermal power plant next door. But it’s clean, and good for you, and bloody warm! I’d definitely recommend it, but as I’ve said, it’s very, very expensive and took a big chunk out of our small budget.

After finishing up at the Blue Lagoon, we took our rock-hard, matted hair and refreshed bodies on to the Route 1 ring road, toward our destination. Not so far form Reykjavík, we stopped off at a 1011 supermarket. We bought the bare essentials like bread, pizza, cakes (huge cinnamon swirl covered in a caramel slop), Mountain Dew… yes! Iceland has the real-deal Mountain Dew (unlike our shitty energy drink). So a market of 300,000 people in comparison to the UK’s 60 million is clearly more important! The total bill? A massive 7,500 Kr (about £40) – for two bags of shopping!

We filled up at the nearest town to our destination, which was called Blönduós. At this point Chloe was behind the wheel, and very carefully exited the roundabout to the Olís petrol station, on the wrong side of the road with a car approaching.

We got to Skagaströnd, which is where we were staying. A small town of 300 people, a crazy-looking church and a weird mural of a fisherman’s wind-battered face. The log cabin was pleasant enough – small, warm. Just a microwave and hob though. So we grilled that expensive pizza and garlic bread, the latter of which became solid and inedible. Went to bed at 10pm!

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