It takes planning to organise a trip like this and with such short summers, accommodation gets booked up quite fast - it is wise then to plan well in advance. Although Iceland is a relatively small island, approximately the same size as Ireland, it takes time to travel around, especially if like me, you do not have the luxury of a car. I usually then choose one or two areas to explore in depth - this time they were the Northwest and the Northeast respectively - using in this instance Isafjordur and Hesteyri in the Northwest as base and Myvatn in the Northeast. I stayed in the capital Reykjavik at the beginning and end of the trip, and for a few days in between as the various bus and air routes that I used all radiate from here.
I prefer to stay at hostels in order to keep costs down, but even these are not cheap at an average of 5000 ISK (around £25) per night. Compared to hotels though, these are a snip. The other advantage is of course that you can self cater - important if you have a specialised diet as I do (wheat free pistacarian - if you don't know what this means, look it up). I shared rooms and met with some great people from all corners of the world but also found that doing so does not guarantee a good nights sleep as many of them snored and had early flights to catch. The positives as always outweighed the negatives, for choosing to use this type of accommodation meant that I had more funds to spend on other things, which is let's face it, the whole purpose of travel.
I started as always in Reykjavik being as it is the capital (in fact only) city, just 45 minutes from the international airport at Keflavik. I spent 2 days there before catching a plane to Isafjordur in the Northwest fjords, a relatively unspoilt area off the beaten track for many visitors due to is remoteness. I had hoped to be able to get there by bus, a convoluted affair which meant travelling first to Stykkisholmur before catching a ferry which then connected with another bus, but sadly the connecting bus was cancelled due no doubt to the increase in car rentals, leaving me with no option than to fly.
Isafjordur is a small town with a spectacular town on a spit of land at the end of a narrow fjord which is ringed by snow capped mountains. From there I journeyed on to Hesteyri, an abandoned village in the even remoter Hornstrandir Peninsula - one of Europe's last known wilderness areas. Less than 1 percent of visitors to Iceland venture this far, the majority of whom are backpackers who since this area has very little infrastructure, have to be completely self sufficient and prepared for pretty much anything. I know that I will never be one of them, able to carry 20 kilos of weight on my back for up to 7 days while scaling high mountain passes and crossing rivers, so staying at the Doctors House, which has been converted into a summer hostel, was for me the next best thing.
My time here was certainly an adventure involving walks through snow fields, across mountains and beaches as well as an impromptu embrace from an icy cold river - I misjudged the strength of the current and ended up toppling over and very nearly being swept into the fjord. Luckily the ranger, a burly Yorkshireman saw what was happening and together with his German friend, came running down and got me safely to the other side - freezing cold, wet and very scared. It was alright in the end which I guess is all that mattered, but the experience nevertheless taught me an important lesson about respecting the power of nature.
Being early in the year there was a lot of snow in those mountain passes, so I appreciated my hiking boots and walking poles, both of which were put to good use. This area also proved to be an excellent area for photographing and watching birds, the light having an altogether different quality to that here at home, being much drier and free from pollution.
After 2 days it was back on the boat and a return flight from Isafjordur back to Reykjavik for another 2 days, before heading on to Akureyri and ultimately Myvatn in the NorthEast. It was here that I spent the longest time (5 nights) as there is plenty to see with walking trails to various points to explore. A definite highlight was the walk back from the active region of Krafla across the lava fields and through lush green valleys on one of the warmest days of summer, and also the day trip to Askja in the highlands where I walked through ankle deep snow for 2.5kms to reach the crater which was still frozen and eerily silent.
After five days here in Myvatn it was back to Reykjavik again at the end of the trip for a further 2 days of exploring the city before going back to the airport via the Blue Lagoon.
High points of course abound, but there were one or two low points too - falling of course in that river, but also walking for an hour in the torrential rain on my birthday with no offers of a lift. It was worth it though to spend 2 hours reclining in the relaxing blue waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths. The sun came out by the time I had to walk back. This sadly affected my views of the car renters, whom I came to see as quite selfish in their own way - it is not a green way to travel and it does affect things for the rest of us who cannot afford or do not wish to drive. I have noticed a definite move in recent years away from the traditional method of travelling around Iceland with a backpack and bus pass towards renting cars, which I feel is a shame, as new services when they spring up are being geared more and more towards this market, making it more difficult for those who cannot or do not wish to travel in this way. I can see the advantages of renting a car, but at an average cost of £85 a day for a small automatic in high season before you even put fuel in it, this is way outside of my price league. Low season though , which is any time before the middle of June or after the end of August is more feasible I could have had a campervan during these things for just £70 a day, which compares very favourably with the costs for this latest trip, allowing for fuel and food. This then is something that is definitely worthy of consideration for the future.
I made the most of every minute of holiday time I had, so it was straight back to work a mere 12 hours after landing. I did wonder at the logic of this, but actually it turned out fine, as I had trained Coran well, instructing her with what food to get in and what laundry needed to be done so that I had clean work clothes for the following day and food for lunch. The staff and residents alike showed a keen interest in the trip once they realised where I had gone, even more so when they learnt that I had travelled alone. I think it helped more than one of them to change their perceptions of me, which is all good - I am no longer hiding who I am, but letting my light shine bright and clear, and for once it seems it is finally being seen.
I had saved for this trip for about 8 months, since last October, but now the bills are coming in, I have another reason to save, for our wedding is now less than 6 weeks away. We collected our rings today from the jeweller and will start to send the invitations out without the week - for both the wedding itself and the blessing one month later. Plans for both are well in hand. I have finally heard from my brother who said that he would like to come, although he is yet to text me with his address - there are still a few weeks though to go. This then is the start of a very exciting summer.