Three airports, two flights and the wind nobody told us about.
At a time when everyone was taking weeks off work and went to the sunny, hot seaside, we had something else planned. Something quite the opposite.
In July, we had a 12 day trip to Iceland. The trip with all of its details was planned almost a year before and arrangements made more than half a year prior to the day of our flight. The wait was hard, reading through every bit of information about scenic routes, Icelandic weather and trip tips we could get our fingers on, but when the day came, we were more than ready. Or so we thought.
We had two flights scheduled on July 18th from Vilnius, Lithuania to Keflavik, Iceland, with a transfer in Helsinki, Finland. One and a half hour on the first flight and three on the second. Not being able to sleep the night before, whilst having nightmares about things I forgot to pack, didn't help much, but damn it was worth it.
Right after crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, when we started noticing parts of land, it was immediately breathtaking. Because of the view (and probably the turbulence). It wasn't hard to recognise the patterns of the Icelandic land, with its mountains filled with streams of rivers and vast plains cut through by one singular road.
I was searching for volcanoes with my eyes, but to my amazement (disappointment) everything looked like a volcano.
Touch down. Panic. Everyone rushed out of the plane as if afraid for their luggage to be stolen.
After we got our oversized backpacks, we had to get our rental car. We have booked the car more than 7 months before, so nothing was expected to go wrong. And actually, the nice people at Geysir Car Rental got us a free upgrade, as our Nissan Pathfinder was not available. Luckily for us, we were packed and driving 10 minutes after with a brand new Toyota Landcruiser, ready to shred some F Roads (F is the marking for off-road/4x4 roads, in Iceland, also usually near or through an active volcano).
After a quick visit to the local shop, which was easily found, we drove up to our guest-house - Raven's Bed & Breakfast. A restored cowhouse by the sea, with a warm and caring hostess, named Hulda and her amazing looking old cat.
By that time we experienced something that was extremely unusual, unexpected and almost unprepared for - the ludicrous winds. If you find pretty sunny pictures taken in Iceland, don't, even for one second, think it's warm there. 99% of the time, even if the sun is shining and the sky is clear, the wind makes you feel as if you're an eskimo on the North Pole.
For a more realistic representation of the beautiful Icelandic weather, I asked Austė to pose for a photo (with Raven's B&B in the background).
As you can see, the only thing warm about this picture is the loving look in her eyes. Other than that, it was so freezing cold that we had to wear our snowboarding jackets, combined with thermal underwear in the hottest summer month. And we still spoke like people who had a speech impediment because of our frozen faces.
Although to be fair, our host - Hulda, mentioned that this was the coldest summer in a while so it was probably just our luck to have weather like that. Typical.
Anyway, after repackaging our luggage for easier access in the car, snacking a bit, we decided to go on a quick trip through the south western part of Iceland. While going to Grindavík (a south western town of fishermen) we watched the beautiful view of the Reykjanes Geothermal Power Plant. I remember thinking that the views around the road look like either the surface of the moon or mars, or both combined. In Grindavík we came across some Icelandic horses, who were not amused by the icy winds.
The interesting thing about Icelandic horses is that they are the only breed of a horse which when running, have a brief moment of 'levitation', when none of their legs touch the ground. Amazing, since I thought that's normal for a horse, but guess that's strictly an Icelandic thing. You live and you learn.
After Grindavík we continued our short first day journey through Icelandic frozen lava fields and tree-less plains until we reached an interesting place (I don't remember the name of it) of geothermal activity (hence, the plumes of steam and the warning sign).
It was getting late, but we decided to stop and check it out. A bit of off-roading and we reached a parking spot with an entrance to a wooden path, which went straight through the steam, coming from the ground. The steam usually goes upwards and does not interfere with a jolly walk on the pathway, but being lucky as we usually are, the wind had been blowing directly into the direction of the path.
We took some pictures, some video, but decided this was not enough. We didn't know whether the steam was burning hot or filled with sulphur acid (which is extremely skin-and-lung-burning, by the way), but we had to get that adrenaline rush. Wouldn't be a good story otherwise, don't you agree? So we went...
And we survived! Actually, we almost died from the smell (sulphur acid is known to sting like a premium fart, from a person, who had indian and mexican food before, if you're interested in a more graphical analogy). Other than the smell, it was warm and we didn't really mind it, but got ourselves very wet. Fortunately, all of us were wearing water-proof clothing, so that wasn't such a big deal.
After the adrenaline filled adventure, we decided to boil up some frozen shrimp we bought at the shop in Keflavik, so we fired up our primus (a gas powered portable stove) in the back of our jeep and did the cooking.
Then we packed up, gazed upon the beautiful steamy view and drove back to our bed and breakfast, ate the shrimp, did a shot of Lithuanian vodka each (for getting warm and sleep easier) and passed out while eagerly waiting for the adventures of the second day in Iceland.
You can also check out this short vlog I made from that day:
You can also check the high resolution photos with the settings I used to take them with on my flickr trip to iceland album.