It has been a while since I wrote. The weather has been cold, foggy and wet not conducive to doing much. Ross goes for the paper every day and sometimes I go with him (not as often as I should), I mostly stay in bed and read!! If I do go with him it is to feed the ducks on the pond. The sea is a constant source of interest as it thrashes against the beach, sometimes it keeps me awake. So, we go shopping, sometimes go out to lunch. Do house work, read and watch the TV, all very exciting. I am definitely not going to be in England for winter next year.
We caught up with a good friend from Melbourne and his daughter in Arundel at a lovely pub on the water. It was the same day as Pete and Elpie got married, so we raised a glass or two to their happiness.
I have organised the coming year with accommodation and travel plans. We leave here and travel around Ireland for 3 weeks. We are catching up with one of my water aerobics friends and with a missionary who was a friend of my Great Aunt (the nun I was named after). Father Norman is now retired at 96; I think it is time, he retired. He kept working up until he was about 93 and then it got too much. It will be good to see him again. We are staying with the Missionaries in the castle so that will probably make for an interesting email. After Ireland, we are booked into Berlin for three months (1st May to 7th August). Then back to England and seeing more friends in Galphay. This is not the friends whose house we used, but another group they are staying in the B and B owned by Elaine and Barry next door to the house we stayed in. We are booked into Fountains Abbey, a National Trust property. A little expensive for us but I wanted to stay there and Ross is indulging me. From the end of August to October, we plan to go down to the Devon and Cornwall area for a few months. The its somewhere like Tenerife for next winter. So, that’s this year sorted. If you are planning a trip to this side of the world you know where we will be. We are also happy to travel to see people.
The excitement 3 days in Iceland to see the Northern Lights.
So, off we went. Not a bad trip there; we got the seats at the front next to the exit so lots of leg room. Tall chap in the seat next to me who had requested the seats. I just booked mine on line and then made a little fuss when they had been changed explaining that I had booked them for Ross’s legs.
We arrived in Reykjavik, and with out any difficulty found our bus for the 60 mins into town and our Hotel. Very nice not special. We decided After settling in to go to the beer garden (inside) for a beer. Chatted to a group of English people doing the same as us. I think the whole hotel is booked by people on packages. The weather was a little grim. As the hotel dining was on one of those places to eat list we decided to eat there. We had a pleasant if a little expensive meal.
We found out that Iceland does not use Euros (the are not in the EU, silly us) so we have no money!! Credit cards are marvellous.
The next morning, we had a super breakfast but it finished at 10:00 and on the dot of 10 all was cleared away!! Checking outside to see what the weather was like I met up with my neighbour from the plane also doing the same tour as us. They (4 of them) were worried the cruise to see the lights would be cancelled as the weather was rough so he had booked them on a land tour to see the Lights just in case (good thinking), but I thought I would take the chance.
Ross and I put on a few more layers of clothes and our wet weather gear and went to walk into town. It was a pleasant walk in gale force winds along the sea front, Slowly the cold worked its way through my 4 layers of clothes and my skin. So, we ducked into the concert hall to get warm (with all the other frozen tourists). After looking around and being suitably impresses we walked outside and promptly got almost blown off our feet. Looking up we saw the Hop on, Hop Off bus and Hoped on, (they take Visa so we were OK). We decided to do the whole tour and then get off at a place we wanted to see. Sitting up the top we had a great view and it was very exciting with the wind and rain trying to take the canvas roof off, to think they go around with no roof in the summer!! We saw all the sites of Reykjavik. A most impressive place. 85 - 90 % of their heating in the houses is from hot water from the thermal springs and they also get their electricity from harnessing the steam. Iceland in 75% Lutheran so we saw a few churches. The main church has a lift to the top of the tower (civilised).
We jumped off the bus in the town intending to walk to the church for a look, but had got off at the wrong stop for some reason. We were at the docks area. So, we wandered around and saw the Volcano experience. In we went - it was raining again. We saw two documentaries on two eruptions. 1973 and 2010. Iceland has an eruption every 5 years or so, these two were special.
In 1973 there was an eruption which was along a fissure, just outside the main fishing village on an island off the mainland. The eruption was so close to town that everyone had to be evacuated by the fishing fleet which luckily was in port for the night. Volunteers were left to try to save the village. The film of the fire spraying into the sky was amazing and so scary. The ash was a huge problem as it slowly but surely was crushing the buildings or covering them to the roof line and boiling them. The gas fumes were a problem and was the cause of the only death. The volunteers spent their time hosing down buildings and shovelling ash from rooves but still they were losing. Eventually they received a batch of water cannon and started hosing down the lava flow which was encroaching on the fish factory. This fish factory was, and still is the biggest in Iceland an of critical importance to the economy. The water started cooling the lava and the volunteers spent 5 months fighting the flow. At the end of the 5 months they had saved the fish factory the lava was feet away from it and most of the town. Although everything was buried roof deep in ash. They lost around 400 houses mostly collapsed by the weight of the ash. Within a month, the fish factory was in action again and the clean-up was progressing all the ash had to be removed and buried or it would just blow back so the clean-up itself was a phenomenal task.
In 2010 the volcanic eruption was the one most of us remember when the ash was a hazard to planes. The reason this was so was because the ash was full of silica glass particles that would not only choke the engines but also sand blast them. The beginning of this eruption was not unlike a normal one and the photography of people watching the lava spewing meters into the sky is amazing everyone was watching this spectacular occurrence. The problem was then the eruption got stronger. People had to leave the vicinity and the ash got into the upper atmosphere. We were very impressed by these documentaries and have even more respect for volcanoes.
Lunch was now critical so into the centre of town a beautiful area and into a gorgeous wood panelled restaurant that also took visa. I decided to try puffin. They assured me that they were not protected in Iceland and that they caught nets full during Puffin catching season. The waitress did offhandedly mention that there were no Puffins on Westland any more, but do not worry plenty on the other islands. Well I loved my puffin it was a gamey tasting meal very delicious. I can understand why there are no puffins on Westland, they ate them all!!!! As we ate our lunch fish soup for main, we watched the rain pour down, so it was another drink. Eventually we gave up and decided to catch the bus back to the hotel. On the bus, we got the news all tours were cancelled including land tours.
Back at the hotel we stood in a queue to rebook the cruise chatting to everyone and comparing notes. The Golden Circle tour seemed to have been the only real success (and our lunch). One lady did say she has never been as cold and wet as she was on the Golden Circle tour, which I think made lunch the winner.
The next day it was a trip to the Blue Lagoon thermal pool. So, we all met in the foyer and read the storm warning which said the road we were going to travel on would be closed for a few hours due to the wind!!! This looks good. The bus turned up on time and we all trooped out to get on. As we went into the wind I got blown so hard Ross had to grab me and pull me into the lea of the bus, as he went to get on the bus he got blown and had to hang on to the door to stop himself going down the street. That left me blowing away. I wondered where I would end up. Then a hand grabbed my arm and I was saved. My rescuer was the man from the plane. The 6 of us had a great chat on the bus to the pool and became quite good friends. The Thermal pool was great very well organised. Everyone was given a bracelet, inset with a swipe card, with the card the lockers were opened and closed, drinks, food and souvenirs could be purchased, and payment was made at the end. Then the bracelet was used to exit by placing it in a slot. Very efficient and all by Visa.
The pool was huge and very warm. The wind was brisk and very cold so, we stayed deep in the pool. Silica mud packs were available so I tried but did not look 23 when I was finished although Ross said I look 63 but better!! We found the pool bar and sat in a warm current drinking beer and watching the steam rise. It was great fun. After a few hours, we both were a little wrinkly, so caught the bus back to the hotel.
Surprise, Surprise all tours had been cancelled. Standing at the tour desk was my mate from the plane and wind adventure. He had booked both land and cruise tours both nights and all had been cancelled. I said to the tour desk clerk we should hire a car and just go to a patch of clear sky. You could he said there will be clear sky for a few hours but not were the tours go. Next thing we know we had book a private tour for 6 people (our new friends and us) and we were off to find the Northern Lights ourselves. The time came and we piled into the car all excited Debbie was singing “I’m so excited..” and we were all optimistic. The driver said he had seen the lights on his private tours earlier in the week. About an hour later we stopped we could see the sky, stars and the moon (not good – the moon hides the lights), we were on a beach by a lighthouse and all gazed expectantly into the sky, the wind blew. We waited, the wind blew, we got colder. We walked down to the lighthouse and there in the sky were some grey banners. That’s it said the guide that will in a few minutes explode into colours……….in a few minutes it started to snow…………cloud blew in…………………rain took over………………no sky. We got back into the car. Well we tried!!! It is now 10:00 we have an hour trip to the hotel. It is cloudy and we must be up at 4:00. We all agreed that although we saw nothing we had done our best and did not begrudge the “wasted” money.
I would go back to Iceland anytime, I want to see more of the country. I would like to go in summer to, even though there are no lights then.
Home to England. There were 6 very tired people on the plane, all seated together again in the exit seats. Not much talking a bit of sleeping. Our lovely air hostess happily told me that last week she had gone for a walk before bed and seen a fantastic Northern Lights show in her street, she said she takes it for granted a bit. I felt like throwing her out the emergency exit, except she was very nice.
Do you realise we had spent 3 days in Iceland and never got any Icelandic Kroner, well done visa!!