I think that if you dug a hole in your Melbourne backyard through the centre of the earth, you would actually come out in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere south west of England. Iceland isn’t that far from that spot and I feel as though I am close to being on the opposite side of the world, if not at the exact point.
It was a long trip, but I’m here and it’s now about 4:00 am on Thursday and I’m wide awake. It’s been light all night – at the moment, it looks like a bright sort of twilight.
I was back at Tullamarine airport at 3:00 pm on Tuesday and ready to depart at 3:30 pm. My first flight from Melbourne to Singapore took nearly 8 hours . I tried to stay awake so that I could keep my body clock adjusted but I must have nodded off for a few minutes at some time as the landing cards for Singapore were on the arm rest of my seat and I don’t remember anyone bringing them. The stop over in Singapore was short and I just had a quick stroll through the airport shops and then back through another security check (one of umpteen) and on with the next sector.
The next flight from Singapore to London took 13 hours. I had a quick dinner with a sleeping pill after coffee and then had about seven hours sleep. I’ve long ago given up trying to sleep on planes and I find that a sleeping pill helps me to sleep, and if I time it correctly, at the right time to be ready for my destination. I woke up somewhere over Iran, snoozed for a while, and then watched some movies.We landed right on time at 5:05 am.
Transferring from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5 at Heathrow was easy. There was a bus ready to depart and it took 18 minutes to drive around the airport perimeter, through a couple of tunnels, and under the nose of one of Singapore Airlines new A380s. I remembered once doing the same thing under the nose of a Concorde when they were flying. There was nothing remarkable about having 2 hours in London, except that it provided a little time to recharge batteries – on my computer, not mine. Although my batteries were also getting a bit tired by this point. The queue at the security point was much shorter than what I remember from last time.
Then I had a 2 hour flight to Oslo with BA. This was quite straightforward. I could see a number of oil rigs in the North Sea and as we flew along the Norwegian coast, we passed over the little town of Kragero where Jill’s Great Grandfather came from. I could recognise the fjord and the islands from our previous visit. We flew directly over the city of Oslo to the airport and then I had a stopover of 4 hours before my flight to Reykjavik. This meant another of my umpteen security checks. Once again, it was out with my plastic bag of liquids, off with my jacket, and “no, I don’t have a laptop computer”. (The most rigorous of these checks had been at London, where I also had to remove my belt and shoes. I wreaked my revenge with my smelly feet, which were ripe enough by then to assault anyone within 5 metres).
Oslo airport is nice and modern – good shops and lots of cafes and facilities. I found the service desk and collected my boarding pass for the next flight and then tried to talk my way into the British Airlines lounge, but they wouldn’t let me in. Instead, I found a disabled toilet where I had enough room to change some clothes and feel a bit more comfortable after travelling for so long. Finally, I bought a beer and sat at a corner table in the bar band listening to music on my Ipod. The half-litre of beer cost $17, so my next challenge was to make it last for as long as I could.
My final flight was on a very crowded Boeing 757 of Iceland Air. I reckon the total trip took about 33 hours. No wonder I feel as though I am at the end of the earth!
I could only see a little of the Icelandic landscape from the plane as it was very cloudy, but what I could see, hinted of a very desolate and cold landscape. This was confirmed on the 34 km bus ride into town from the airport. For most of the way, it was a flat landscape of recent (geologically) lava flows. Flat and barren with lots of exposed rock. There were no trees – just grass and moss, but large swathes of blue / purple lupins. They obviously thrive in an alpine type of environment. The outskirts of the city looked quite new and modern. Lots of square Scandinavian style apartments, good roads and open spaces.
I am staying at a little guest house near the centre of town It’s name, Baldursbra,is Icelandic for Chamomile. The lady who runs it is very nice and personable. When I arrived, there was simply a key and a note in reception saying “Bruce –you are in the Soley (Sun) room”. No check in formalities or registration needed, so I found my room on the second floor, unpacked, and had a very welcome shower. I spent some time in the guest lounge and found the password for their wireless internet connection and had a free beer. They have a strange work-around to avoid the liquor licensing laws. The beer is free, but you pay 250 kroner to rent the glass. That’s whole lot less expensive than Oslo Airport. There are about 100 Icelandic Kroner to the Australian dollar, so conversion is easy. They must get a few Aussies here, as the ‘Little Aussie Battler’ was prominent as one of the published currency exchange rates at the airport bank. (Even the bottle of wine on Icelandic Air was a Lindemans from the Barossa Valley!)
My arrival coincided with a national holiday for Independence day (from the Danes in 1944). We were all given an ice cream on the plane as a celebration. Last night, I walked for about 500 metres into town for dinner and the town centre was alive with people everywhere. They were just packing up from having a street carnival. I was impressed with what I might call the ‘simple openness’ of this town of about 200,000 people. I’ll have a better look over the next few days.
Today, I’m off on the first of three one-day tours, so I’m happy with an early start to be able to get my things together. More about Iceland soon (with pictures).