Lofoten Islands, Norway - Dave Banks

Iceland - Visit No. 2

It was a long time in coming, but I eventually made a return trip. It was to celebrate my mothers 70th birthday. After seeing the photos I took during my first visit, she wanted to visit Iceland, so this was an ideal reason to go. I wanted to visit the glacial lagoon at Jokulsarlon, so we had to wait until April for that particular coach tour. We settled on the 6th April 2011.

The camera gear had changed dramatically in the 7 years I was last there. The main cameras were a Canon 1Ds and 1D MkII and the candid shots were taken with a Sony HX5V. No more wondering how much film and what film speeds I needed to take. I just took plenty of memory cards.

We didn't get off to a good start, we were due to take off from Glasgow at 14:20, but the plane had a technical fault which couldn't be resolved after several hours of trying. We disembarked from the plane and were treated to a 3 course dinner at a nearby hotel at Icelandairs expense while they flew another plane down from Iceland to pick us up. The meal was very nice and they did their best to minimise the disruption to passengers who were flying to America. They were really good and couldn't have done anymore under the circumstances. We eventually took off at 22:00, and it was nearer 1 AM when we got to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Leifur Eiriksson, just up the street from the hotel on our first visit, directly opposite the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. We had to be up early the next day to get picked for our glacial lagoon trip, due to the distances involved, it was going to be a very long day, 14 hours in total.

The weather was warmer than the last time we were here, around 4C, but it was overcast and rain was forecast for our stay. It was raining in Reykjavik when we got picked up. Since it was the start of the season for that particular trip, there were only 6 people on it. As a result we got a small 24 seater mini-bus, so we had plenty of space. As we headed south, we could see that Iceland had changed a lot. We didn't see this on the way from the airport as it was dark. The road infrastructure has improved dramatically, with 4 lanes per carriageway and flyovers replacing roundabouts in Reykjavik and improved intersections in rural areas. The rain was on and off as we headed south and it gradually brightened up the further south we went. We stopped off at the Skogarfoss waterfall, saw the devastation caused by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and stopped at a lava field that was in the initial stages of being colonised by mosses etc.

Our driver/tour guide was really good, he told us loads of facts and interesting stories on our journey. As we approached the glacial lagoon it started to rain, it was torrential, and the weather had looked so promising just up the road a bit. But we were in luck, we drove through the rain and the conditions at the lagoon were fantastic. Sunny, with white clouds and the darker rain clouds were in the distance and made a good backdrop against the snow covered mountains. We only had an hour there, and it felt like 5 minutes, time passed far too quickly. I could have spent all day there and I didn't have enough time to photograph the icebergs on the beach.

Our journey back to Reykjavik was long, the winds really got up and we ended up driving through a dust storm. The mini-bus struggled in the strong wind, so progress was slow. We stopped off at Skaftafell to see the remains of a bridge washed away in a flood, at Vik for our dinner and at the Seljalandfoss waterfall as the light was fading. We didn't get back to the hotel until after 22:00. It was a long day, but well worth all the effort.

The next day was another organised coach tour. This was the Golden Circle tour and our "coach" was an all wheel drive truck with studded tyres that had been converted into a bus. The weather was really poor, if it wasn't raining, then the visibility was poor due to the mist. The geysir was difficult to see against the skyline, as it merged into the mist. I had seen it all before anyway, it was mainly for my mother, I was a bit disappointed that she didn't have better views of it.

The souvenir shop at the Garden of Eden place had gone, so the tour went to a geothermal power plant instead. The place looked more like a modern office block than an industrial plant with its modern interior design. The tour was very interesting and explained how they tap the islands natural geothermal resources, but the stench from the hydrogen sulphide gas was over powering at times. The tour guide says you get used to it, I don't know how you can ever get used to that, it was so strong at times it almost made my eyes water.

We spent the evening walking round Reykjavik taking photos and eventually found a restaurant that looked interesting and had a table available. The food was excellent, and it finished the holiday off perfectly.

The flight back to Glasgow was via Manchester, which was a real pain as it added a couple of hours onto the journey time as we had to get off the plane, walk for miles through the airport to go through security, just to get back to the plane to get back on it. Totally unnecessary as we had already gone through security in Iceland.

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