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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Back from Iceland

A funny thing has happened during the last few months, the more time I spent playing Farmville, a virtual farming game that I am ashamed to say I became rather addicted to, the more I lost the ability, or perhaps the impetus, to write. I hope that it proves to the latter rather than the former, but I guess only time will tell. Now that I am back from Iceland, there is certainly much for me to write about.

How do you begin to describe such a life changing experience? I guess at the beginning, although where the beginning is, I am no longer sure.

During the weeks and months leading up to departure, I certainly had a lot on my plate - with problems both at home and at work. With work it was mostly to do with feeling taken for granted - it started when I became aware that my boss had rostered me to do some overtime without asking whether I could. There were other things as well which increased the stress levels, not getting a pay rise, working hard at my second job as an exam invigilator, being asked to undertake a distance learning course for which I wasn't paid, and being asked to attend meetings on my days off, meaning that at one point I worked 13 days in a row. Add to the mix the constant abusive phone calls from my sister at all hours of the day and night, and worries about the forthcoming trip (the first I had undertaken of this kind in 9 years) and the stress levels became almost intolerable. It was not surprising that I was tired and irritable with everyone, and was not sleeping as well as I might.

Iceland did little to solve that problem, with the 24 hour daylight, but once there and once I had recovered from the journey (a series of delays meant that I did not get to my room until 3am British time), and had some rest and recuperation in the hot pools at the famous Reykjavik swimming pool, I began to feel better and more grounded, and litle by little the stress levels dropped away.

My first day after arrival in Reykjavik was spent pottering around the city and getting my bearings, in preperation for the second day where I took the long distance bus to Skaftafell National Park which is in the south eastern corner of the island, via the highland route that goes through Landmannalaugar. Compared to the hikers and back packers on that bus, I felt very middle aged and very out of place, but comparing yourself to others is a useless exercise and once there I enjoyed the freedom of walking the various trails out to Morsdalur where the glacial river crosses the foot of the valley, and around the Skaftafellsheidi loop. This was an unforgettable day spent climbing the summit of a very steep and very winding hill. When I got to the top and finally caught my breath, I looked out over the most magnificient view I have ever seen - a series of low cloud formations hovering over the edge of the glacier, as I heard the ice creek and moan making sounds that I thought as I approached, were distant thunder. Well after an experience like that, and an hour and half walking back down that mountain following the outline of the glacier, I didn't think things could get much better, but they did.

I travelled back to Reykjavik at the end of the second week and the following Monday flew to Heimaey in the Westman Isles in a blaze of sunshine which remained for the length of my stay. Three sun soaked days walking the length and breadth of the island, which reminded me in many ways of Lundy. It was a bitter sweet time spent walking among the graveyard of buried houses from the volcanic eruption in 1973, and walking around the beautiful blue green island, sitting on black volcanic sands and watching and listening to the myriad of birds - the calls of the curlews and the oystercatchers as they fluttered past on the breeze, circling round and round in the air to protect their young from my trampling feet. The climb up the radar mast at the end of the airport runway on the last day was exhilerating, sliding down the scree slope at the end on my backside which sent gravel and rocks flying everywhere. Walks around the volcano to see the remains of the buired houses, which are beginning to be excavated were no less so, but in a different way.

Following my departure from Heimaey at the end of the trip, I spent three days in Reykjavik, a city which I have got to know now very well indeed - time was spent at the geothermal beach, at the city's swimming pools, visiting the various museums and shopping for books and DVD's among other things, to bring back home. I also went to see the famous Geysir and Gulfoss waterfall, and of course Thingvellir National Park - no visit to Iceland would vbe complete without spending at least half a day here. The trip was rounded off by a visit to the Blue Lagoon, whose relaxng waters I cold spend hours in, before heading back to the airport at Keflavik and back home.

It feels strange to think that just 2 days ago I was sitting on that aircraft among a large group of noisy students waiting for take off, and 3 days ago I was on the bus somewhere between Geysir and Skalholt on my way to look at the ancient and very important church.

This holiday represented so many things to me - not only a break from work, but also from Lundy, and the opportuinity to prove to myself that I can still do many of the things that I used to enjoy so much. It was a chance to get that old confidence back, to get out in the open air meeting new people and doing new things, pushing through those barriers of fear and uncertainty, barriers which have now been removed.

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