For a long time Iceland was under the rule of Norway, Sweden-Norway-Denmark, and then Denmark …
Iceland’s flag is an inverse of Norway’s (Red cross with white border, on a blue background).
Iceland is the 18th largest island in the World.
Iceland has only around 400K people (Keep in mind they had qualified for 2018 Soccer/Football World Cup).
Iceland was uninhabited till 9th century. Then settlers (farmers) came in …
Iceland’s economy is based on Tourism, Fishing and Geothermal Energy. GDP is around 30 Billion USD.
Iceland has a glorious Viking history, during 7-9 AD.
Iceland does not have an Army. It has a Coast Guard though.
Norway and Denmark continue to have a lot of influence over Iceland.
Currency is Icelandic Kroner (ISK). One INR is around 1.72 ISK.
Almost 90% of tourists visit only the “Golden Circle” (South/South-West Iceland). We will be going all around Iceland along Highway-1 (“Ring Road”), around 850 miles in total …
Icelandic names are something! Pronunciation is impossible … Instead of French, Spanish Etc. as 2nd language, India should start with Icelandic 🙂
Almost 2/3rd of the people in Iceland live in Reykjavik.
Obviously, Geo-Thermal Energy is big here.
Horror-Start (My notes from 09/21/2019 (Sat))
1 day into my vacation, I am still in India 🙂
India loves me so much that Emigration is not allowing me to leave. Kidding aside, I have gone (or am going) through, easily my worst airline experience ever.
On time to MAA (Chennai International Airport)? Yes
Relatively on-time departure and arrival at DEL (IndiGo) (New Delhi International Airport)? Yes
Smooth Terminal change, Check-In and Emigration? Yes
On-time boarding of Lufthansa LH761 (Airbus A380) to Frankfurt? Yes
Great going, is it not?
Wait time inside the plane, with seat belt on, while the plane is at the gate = 3.5hrs
AC status in the plane during this time = Off
Condition of passengers = What do you think? 😉
Flight ultimately cancelled? Yes
Quick Re-Entry into India (back to Immigration)? No
Quick checked-in baggage retrieval? No
Streamlined Lufthansa on-ground service? No
Smooth re-booking and recovery? No
So, where am I? Still in freakin’ New Delhi! Though I was pretty cool through the ordeal, had to take out some aggression somewhere. Where? Gym!
What had happened: Lufthansa ground crew did a great (!!!) job in getting the A380 ready for its International flight, by leaving faulty AC systems. The German pilot, correctly, after a 3.5hr attempt at getting it fixed, cancelled the flight. The Lufthansa ground crew were then thrown to the “Wolves” (600+ angry fliers) 🙂 What I heard some of the passengers say to the ground crew …
Wonderful 2 weeks in Iceland
No:48 – Iceland: gattokaran.com: Mission-193: One step at a time …
Land of “Fire” (Volcanoes) & “Ice” (Glaciers) …
Land of the Midnight Sun …
Volcanoes, Geysers, Glaciers & Lava Fields …
Most sparsely populated country in Europe …
First International multi-member (non-Family, non- Colleagues) trip 🙂 I made the trip with two friends. With each of us busy with the challenges of our own lives, it was not easy to come together with others, especially on International trips. But we have known each other since 1989! We have shared hostel rooms and have been in touch over the years. We represent 3 different Industries, and live in 3 different Countries.
So here goes … A trip that has been booked almost an year back. The last time we were together on a trip was in 1993, I think … Gulp! 26 years back!
As you can imagine, I had lost 1.5 days in my transit 😦 I arrived at Reykjavik late on 09/22 (Sun) night.
Day-1 – 09/23/2019 (Mon)
We were blessed with some great weather for the 1st few hours, in Thingviller National Park. I actually walked around in T-shirt for a while.
Day-2 – 09/24/2019 (Tue)
Day-3 – 09/25/2019 (Wed)
Day-4 – 09/26/2019 (Thu)
Day-5 – 09/27/2019 (Fri)
We had our first Glacier Trek today.
Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”)
Have not been too enthusiastic about “seeing Northen Lights”. When my buddies went out to hunt for NL a few days back, I had skipped it (Was sleeping peacefully).
You need clear nights and it is best to stay away from well-lit areas. We had noticed that yesterday was listed as a good day to see NL (as per a website dedicated to NLs). After dinner, we set off for what we thought were secluded and dark areas. We did catch the elusive NLs and hope to catch more of it over the next few days. Apparently, there were some even more colorful flashes of NL as well which I did not see personally (was indoors as it was quite cold outside 🙂 …
Day-6 – 09/28/2019 (Sat)
Today was our day of travel from Vik to Hofn.
Day-7 – 09/29/2019 (Sun)
Today we went for the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Tour.
Adam and Tamara were the guides. Both are natives of Iceland.
There were Seals everywhere. Some of them were not scared by the approaching boat.
We saw several icebergs breaking off from the Glacier. There is a bullet sound when it happens and as the iceberg falls into the lagoon, it creates waves.
The Glacier is 200 meters deep and Lagoon is 300 meters deep.
As we all know, iceberg has only 10% of itself exposed and 90% is below the surface. Tamara, who was our boat’s guide deftly avoided the icebergs.
The Blue Icebergs are the fresh ones … Not exposed to the elements that much, yet.
A portion of the Glacier was black, with Volcanic ash.
We also saw a huge 75m iceberg! (As estimated by Tamara) …
When we were still (I.e. Boat was not moving), it was okay, but when the boat was moving, the wind chill was something.
We had totally clear skies. It was so sunny that I got a severe tan (I saw Adam wear sunscreen). Imagine getting sun tan in Iceland … I guess it is the UV near the poles.
Tamara talked about her friend’s 90 year old Grandma who claimed (to a TV channel) that “boots” was the biggest invention during her lifetime, as opposed to Moon landing and other Technological advances. She apparently had her 1st taste of Tomato at 17 years of age, for her birthday. That was how harsh and unforgiving life in Iceland was.
Tamara also talked of an incident where all the able-bodied men from the town went to kill a marooned whale (for food) and their boat capsized and they all drowned. In one shot all able-bodied men died.
Again, the pace of the Glacier breaking off is amazing … Should bring Donald Trump here 🙂 (There is zero doubt that Ice Caps and Glaciers are melting. The Million $ question is: Can Mankind do anything to reverse the trend?)
Glaciers move at “10-25cm per day” pace …
This particular Glacier Tongue is 21km long and our boat ride was for 7km to the edge of the Glacier.
Adam, after checking if there were any children in the tour group, cracked some adult jokes 🙂 Iceland has more women than men. He said that cousins date sometimes. He is from Hofn.
Next up was another Glacier Trek, this time at Skaftafell Glacier Park.
The trek was along one of the tongues (of course, with a really unpronounceable name!) of the mighty Vatnajokull Glacier.
The overall tour was for 4 hours, of which, 30min was for the bus ride to/from the trek location, 30min instructions and fittings. Rest was all action! 🙂 We got some significant time on the Glacier.
Anders, one of our 2 guides, is from Denmark. He had worked in Congo with Pygmies, traveled through Tanzania, worked in Guyana for years, as a travel organizer. He is trying to get Artic experience. He is in Iceland for Winter. With all his Tropical experience, he was not getting jobs in colder locales 🙂
The main guide was a Czech Guy..He looked very comfortable on the Glaciers. Both of them were very fit and lean.
I think we got at least 2 hours on the Glacier.
In between, the Czech dude showed us how to do an IceAxe pose. It was funny to see people struggle to hold their weight vertically.
The tour group consisted of Europeans, Americans, “Gujju” Desi Couples Etc. (I am bad with languages. My friend, whenever he hears another Indian language other than Malayalam, says it is “Gujju”. It could be I guess)
There was Fog and light rain … But since we were dressed right, it was okay.
The Glacier is melting at an alarming pace …
The Czech guy said, in his estimation, Iceland Glaciers will disappear in 200 years 😦
Shoes with ankle support is a must. Else one has to rent for 1000 ISK. One guy, with what looked like a decent trekking shoe with decent ankle support, was forced to rent one.
Day-8 – 09/30/2019 (Mon)
Day-9 – 10/01/2019 (Tue)
On my way to Iceland, Lufthansa ensured that I missed my paid-for booking at the famous and hyped-up Blue Lagoon @Reykjavik.
Since then, I had my eyes on Myvatn Hot Springs. We reached Myvatn area around 15:30. The entrance fee was 4500 ISK (We got lower rate as Winter Rates set in on Oct 1st 😉). We had to rent towels for 800 ISK and we also bought beer, which they serve at the Hot Springs. We get lockers in the Changing Room (Obviously, separate for Men and Women) which needs a coin to operate (Coin can be collected from front desk). We have to take a full shower without swimsuit and then we are good to enter the Springs. It was so freaking cold (0C) that I literally sprinted right into the Hot Springs. The temperature ranges from 35C to 39C in various parts of the huge pools. The depth is a consistent 3.5-4ft. We all stayed with only our heads above the hot oily water, as it was really cold outside. Around 70% of the people were Asians/Chinese. We did not see any other Indians in the pools. That feeling of cold air and hot water was amazing. When the beer came (We have to show our beer armband to the staff, who will then bring the beer to you), we used a rock in the pool as our “table” … After an hour and a half in the pools, we showered, dressed and returned the towel and coin/token. We had a hot coffee to warm off …
Day-10 – 10/02/2019 (Wed)
Day-11 – 10/03/2019 (Thu)
Day-12 – 10/04/2019 (Fri)
Horror-End (My notes from 10/05/2019 (Sat))
Getting back from Iceland – Courtesy Weather Gods & Lufthansa 🙂
After the pricey ($$$$) dinner at Grillmarkadurinn (Reykjavik), I bade my friend goodbye (He even took a photo of me driving away), and drove the Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 to Keflavik Airport (KEF). About 6km from KEF Airport, I stopped for Diesel. The pump was quite isolated. It was all dark except for the lit pumps and I did not see anyone around. As I got out of the vehicle, I tried pulling on my thick jacket and BOOM! I flew and fell down on my booty, as the open jacket acted as a parachute. The winds!!! It was amazing. I could not even pull out the Diesel pump … After a massive struggle, I somehow managed to fill the tank and once again headed towards KEF. I had slight trouble in locating the rental vehicle return location (Budget/Avis) and also had to deal with the winds/rains getting into the KEF terminal. The moment I entered, I could sense something was wrong. There were some 300 people in a single long queue. It turns out that the flight from Frankfurt to Reykjavik (Lufthansa, LH 868) was delayed at Frankfurt (FRA) itself, due to the Gale force storm in Keflavik, and had not even taken off. As I feared, within an hour, it was clear that all flights were getting cancelled or delayed heavily (14hr in my case) due to the Gale force weather outside. I had to call Lufthansa Customer Care to get the confirmations for my new route and new flights. Once it was sorted out, I started looking into how to get back to Reykjavik town (Where my friend is already having a room, as his flight was the next day) which is 50km away, and that too in this weather. Since many flights were cancelled, it was mayhem at KEF Airport. Lufthansa finally decided to put up everyone in an auditorium and were arranging buses to take the stranded people there (Obviously, I did not take that option). It was dark, raining, and above all windy like hell. Taxis were far few at midnight and the weather was not helping. There were 2 American ladies from a cancelled Iceland Air flight who had coupons from the Airline for a taxi to the town. When that taxi came, at the suggestion of the taxi driver, I got in as well. In that rain and wind, he was driving as if he were racing in Formula 1. He tried to get chatty but alas, I was not at all in the mood. Meanwhile the taxi meter was chugging along and I was curious what he would ultimately charge me, as there were 3 of us. The ladies got dropped off first and then when my turn came, a negotiation session opened up. After a lot of back and forth, we settled at 12000 ISK (Meter said 22000 ISK, considering the distance and the odd time). Obviously, as most Taxi guys do, he fleeced me good … 🙂
As soon as I reached the hotel room, I booked FlyBus (by Reykjavik Excursions) to KEF airport at 08:00 since my rescheduled flight was for 12:40 (At that time).
After a few hours of sleep, I noticed that the Gale near KEF was still on. Still, in the rain and wind, I did the bus trip (Got all wet and cold in the process) to KEF. Waiting at the bus stop in the rain and heavy wind was just surreal. Once I reached KEF Airport, I noticed a further 2hr delay to LH 869 (KEF to FRA).
When I checked in, Lufthansa gave me a “Meal Coupon” (Worth 2000 ISK). I used it for some light lunch before boarding the flight. After 14hr of when I should have actually taken off from Iceland, the plane finally took off …
My overall experience with Lufthansa (To and fro) has singlehandedly ensured that Iceland will NOT enter my Top-5 at this time, for no actual fault of Iceland. (I must say in this particular case, unlike the trip to Iceland, it was the Weather Gods who did me in and there was not much Lufthansa could have done except for being more precise and efficient under pressure).