Iceland part II – the southern half

Back in Iceland after the ‘Family, friends and free trains’ break which Anthony realises are aligned almost perfectly with the Formula 1 mid season break.  No there is absolutely no connection between these events. I think the weather froze our blog juices hence the delay in reporting back since our return to Iceland.

Our flight to Reykjavik feels like the movie Night & Day

The weather greeting us back to Iceland…

As we leave the terminal at Keflavik airport, very quickly our memories of warmer climes faded as the reality of the local summer temperatures hit home. We have realised that we are fair weather people and that our exploring should be limited to suitable climes, for us anyway.  Perhaps we are like the dinosaurs and need a minimum temperature to function, I guess that is why we live in Brisbane. The first evening back, we were had dinner with our friends Kristjan and Asdis again, such generous hosts and sadly we must say good-bye again.

Streak and Storm are recovered from the storage graciously provided by friends in Iceland and with a little work, Anthony successfully replaces the left hand instrument cluster with the aid of the BMW assembly/ instructions. Before obtaining these, he had found various incorrect ways to remove the original part online, from those who had struggled to do it without the aid of the correct instructions. Perhaps they should be made available by BMW for those who are unable to get to an official dealer – there is not one in Iceland.

After a month of riding in the rain and cold in July, and with temperatures even lower now in September, we decide we’d cut our time in Iceland short and try and catch a ferry back to Denmark a week early.  We are in luck and we are now due to leave on 4th of September.  We watch the weather radar very carefully and plan our exit from Reykjavik so that we can avoid the brutal winds that usually lash the south coast around Vik.  I really wanted to return to Þingvellir National Park and despite the overcast weather, we returned, twice!  Anthony is very accommodating.  We had visited this park in March 2018 ( https://2slowspeeds.com/2018/03/03/iceland-the-last-chapter-for-now/) and it was my urge to revisit this area in particular that brought us back to Iceland.  Iceland is divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift and Þingvellir is the only place on earth where the Mid-Atlantic rift is above sea level, with both edges clearly visible.  Western Iceland such as the Westfjords and Reyjavík, are on the North American tectonic plate, while areas to the east of here, such as Vatnajökull glacier and the East Fjords, are on the Eurasian plate. To think that the 2 rift walls are now 4cm further apart than when we were here last… Can you imagine?!   How awe inspiring to see nature at its rawest!  I had hoped to camp in the area but due to the massive increase in travellers to Iceland, the impact of too many thoughtless tourists leaving trash behind and walking over the delicate moss, camping in Iceland is now restricted to designated camp sites – not our preferred kind of camping – and seeing it was raining and we had a lovely warm apartment in town… Maybe another time!

Stopped for a walk on our way to Þingvellir Nat’l Parlk

Nesjavellir geothermal plant

At Þingevillir Nat’l Parl, with the fault line in the background

Þingevillir Nat’l Park

The North American wall of the fault line in the background

I just love those mossy rocks, in a forest in Reykjavik

This was in March 2018

And now in Sept 2019

The latest street art, in the middle of a construction area

Finally, on the last day we gave ourselves to leave Reykjavik to make it comfortably to the ferry, we have sunshine!  The decision to wait in Reykjavik for an extra day is finally vindicated, we awake to bright sunshine and clear skies.  We could not ask for anything better and we are off.

Heading out of Reykjavik

I quietly hope that all the information on the weather site (en.vedur.is which shows wind, rain and temperatures) is accurate as I have been told and have read horror stories about the wind around Vik, with motorhomes being blown off the road etc…  

Seljalands waterfall

Icelandic farmhouse dwarfed by an old volcano

Typical icelandic village church

Reynisfjara beach, geology reminiscent of Staffa in Scotland

Reynisfjara beach, Iceland

Freezing but happy on Reynisfjara beach

Reynisfjara beach, Iceland

Admiring Reynisfjara’s cave

Heading towards Skatafell, Iceland

We bypass the usual tourist Ring of Fire circuit, having done it last year and we make it to Skatafell by the end of the day, having stopped along the coast, around Vik and through the windy stretches under clear blue skies and manageable wind.  Three reasons to relax now:  the windy part is over, we have time to spend a whole day tomorrow to hike around Skatafell, and Katla volcano which is overdue for an eruption, stayed asleep for us.  I had read that Vik residents regularly go through evacuation practice:  Katla usually erupts every 20 to 90 years and has not erupted violently for 101 years.  Iceland’s last eruption occurred in 2010.  Prior to that Grimsfjoll in Vatnajokull glacier erupted in 2004 and Hekla volcano erupted in the year 2000. Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes and erupted in 1947, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. So again, it is likely Hekla will erupt soon.  

Luckily, the campsite at Skaftafell is huge and pretty empty.  There are no showers which is fine for but nowhere for me to leave my camera battery recharger.  We do use the cafetaria to recharge our electronic equipment for a shortwhile but that is not sufficient for my camera.  Sadly on this trip, I found out that my usb device on my bike was now faulty and I have not been able to recharge while riding.  And the 4 new batteries I bought at the start of the trip, while they have the same specifications as the original Panasonic ones, only last a third of the time…  that means that the one time on this trip that we’ve had blue skies and fabulous scenery, I have not been able to recharge my batteries so have had to use my phone camera while walking to save the Panasonic one for riding.  This I came to regret to next day when we hiked towards Vatnajökull glacier’s Skatafell outlet. Very much first world problem, but this trip has shown us how dependent on power we are.  Time to look into solar panels for our top boxes maybe.  

The view of Vatnajökull from our campsite at Skaftafell

The next day is spent hiking.  An absolutely glorious day. From Vatnajökull glacier, around 30 outlet glaciers flow from the ice cap of which Skaftafell is one.

My clotheshanger as I strip on our hike up

Skaftafell glacial valley

Skaftafell glacier

Loving our walk around Skaftafell

Hiking in Skaftafell Nat’l Park

What comes with clear blue skies?  Clear night skies. And yes, that can mean Northern Lights.  And it did!!  We saw them our first night at Skatafell, but only lightly.  They were more like light cloud, but the dancing around gave them away.  The second night, which went down to 3 degrees and was floody breezing, was great:  we saw clear the bright green dancing lights.  I was happy.  It was magical.  After a long hike our bodies needed the warmth if the the sleeping bags but I couldn’t help but keep checking.  That means partially crawling out the sleeping bag, opening the tent and re-cocooning myself up.  After doing that half a dozen times, I gave up, telling myself I was content with what I saw.  Time for sleep.  Then around midnight, some campers a distance away became rowdy, laughing and screaming.  They’ll calm down eventually I thought to myself.  As it continued, I suddenly wondered whether the shouting was about the lights.  I crawled out again and my oh my!!  It was now pink and green!  Thank you Iceland!  Thank you nature.  A dream come true.  Absolutely magical and truly mesmerising.  And no, I have no photo.  I didn’t even think of taking a picture, I just kept watching.  

We’ve now had 2 days of blue skies, hiked around Vatnajökull National Park, saw the northern lights, we are content and feel ready to leave Iceland.  We have a very leisurely ride back to Seyðisfjöður.

Leaving Vatnajökull Nat’l park

Jökulsárlón, Glacier lagoon

Höfn, Iceland

Our last bit of dirt road in Iceland

Waiting for the ferry at Seydisfjöður

We eventually board our ferry in for our 3 night, 2 full days crossing, via the Faroes.  Not sure how we scored this cabin!!  The view from our window and the tv, showing the view from the ship were identical!  Lucky the sea was calm as it could have been interesting being top and front of the ship.

A room with a view – our cabin

The window top left is our cabin’s

Arriving at the Ferroes

The highlight of this crossing though was catching up with our Feroese friends who drove an hour to Torshavn to see us.  Not only did Unn and Jørgin come but their kids Rannvá and Rani left their friends to be with us.  That is what keeps us travelling, the connections we make.   

Unn, Jørgin, Rannvá and Rani

Unn and Jørgin took us to Kirkjubøargarður which we hadn’t managed to see.  It dates back to the 11th century and was the episcopal residence and seminary of the diocese of the Feroes.  The legend says that the wood for the houses came as driftwood for Norway.  The farmhouse, now a museum, is still occupied by the 17th generation of the Patursson family!  Magnus cathedral nearby was started in 1300 but never completed.

Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands

With Unn

With Unn

Still haven’t seen those skies in the Faroes!

Just before returning to our ferry, Unn gives me a bag of carefully and thoughtfully chosen Feroese souvenirs.  Any mention of Feroes will forever remind us our wonderful Feroese family.   Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to show them around Brisbane…

– Anne

So that’s why they call it Iceland!

After a stellar performance in delivering multiple blogs from the Faroes, well in my view anyway, the silence since we arrived in Iceland must have seemed deafening, to those on their couches. The last few days have been full for us, mostly wondering how to dodge more rain and cold and blogs have taken a back seat, so here goes…..

We are up early in our cabin after a luxurious night sleeping on a calm sea yet again. Are we lucky or what?! Fog or mist clouds our view on the TV screen from the bridge of the view ahead. Good thing they did not have that technology on the Titanic! Cabins need to be vacated an hour and half before arrival to allow the crew to prepare them for the next guests, so up and packed for us. Unlike the Faroe Islands, everyone is getting off so we gather up our gear, still damp from yesterday’s windy downpour and ensconce ourselves with a fellow traveller, Ralph, whose path we crossed from time to time in the Faroes.

Then we are down to Streak and Storm, remove the anchor ropes, load up and wait to dock. Motorbikes with knobbly tyres surround us, I believe they are heading for the centre with its gravel roads, river crossings and other challenges while we are taking the more sedate route anti clockwise around the country. I doubt our paths will cross and so far they have not.

Just as efficiently as we boarded, they have us off into a cold and wet Seyðisfjordur, the port in Eastern Iceland where we will start and finish our circumnavigation of Iceland. The first thing I notice is the trees, something we missed in the Faroes, which had virtually no trees, the second is snow a few hundred meters up the steep grassy hillsides, that explains the cold, snow near sea level in summer, whatever next… Now I know why all the UK motorcyclists head south from the Eurostar, they can get this kind of weather in the UK in winter.

Happily settled in the local coffee shop, these map apps are very good at locating them, we look at the weather forecast for the east of Iceland, rain rain and more rain it appears and sub 10 degree celsius weather predicted. Not our preferred riding weather and the alternative of heading south sees more of the same. With our gear still wet, we stay overnight to dry out and then set-off northwards.

Not sure I want to see the winter menu.

Seyðisfjödur

Seyðisfjödur


What a wild and windswept place, perfect.


Past the cyclists, they are crazier than us, although one we spoke to thought that those who walked were the crazy ones. Down the temperature goes and over the pass at 5 degrees, a hot drink and warmth starts to fill our thoughts and we make barely 80 kms / 50 ml before we find a place to warm up. Today will be a short riding day. We reach Möðrudalur, the highest working farm in Iceland, and probably the coldest and here we will stay. As we walk back from our room for dinner, who should appear but the cyclists, they have peddled the same distance as we have ridden, although we arrived about 7 hours earlier. My hat off to them, but not for me.

Möðrudalur

Typical Iceland creek, Möðrudalur

Very cute Arctic Fox cubs who just ignore our presence at Möðrudalur

Anyone seen the keys?

Anne is always willing to show those interested how Streak works

In the wilds, happy and together

Still grey the next day, but onward we go without the rain, we are thankful for small mercies. I am taken by the ‘fresh’ nature of the land, both the verdant greens and the volcanic activity that rents or covers the landscape we ride through – coming from Australia, an old and worn land, the recentness, if there is such a word.

Alaskan Lupine was introduced in 1945 as a way to add more nitrogen to the soil

On our way to Dettifoss – a lone house in the middle of lava flow

Dettifoss, Iceland

Dettifoss, Iceland


Hverir geothermal area

Þingeyjarsveit district – with some of the reforestation

Practicing for winter already

We chose to take a 7.4km tunnel linking Mivatn and Akureyri – what surprise that is as the temperature increases from 11 degrees to 34 mid-way – not the best experience for Anne being claustrophobic! We find out that Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel construction hit some difficulties when they hit a stream of underground, boiling geothermal water.

34 degrees in the centre of Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel is unnerving


We arrive in Akureyri from where in February 2018 two dedicated BMW riders drove their car 400 km to hear our presentation on ‘the Stans’ we were making at the Iceland BMW motorcycle club AGM. Then they drove 400km home to be at work the next day. We really hoped they enjoyed the presentation! We are catching up with one of them, Joi, while we are here on Sunday.

Saturday night we are eating at a local restaurant when our neighbours, seeing our clothing ask if we are the RTW motorcyclists meeting their friend Joi tomorrow. Of course we are. We spend time chatting and learn that Kristjan and Joi are friends and motorcyclists from childhood going on a road trip together the day after next. Connections again.

Kristjan and Gitte whom we met at the restaurant


Joi and Gudrun

Akureyri city centre

Typical Icelandic church

We spend longer in Akureyri than originally planned for some bike maintenance issues on both bikes. Stefan, whom we met at the Motorcycle Museum, has kindly let us use part of his Velaverkstaedi garage for us to work in, away from any potential rain and gives us hand at times.

They don’t make things easy to get to


I had wondered the last time we were in Iceland, in February 2018, about the lack of trees around Reykjavik, and have since learned that it was a combination of natural disasters, volcanic activity, and clearance for sheep farming and timber for heating and charcoal that denuded the landscape. It is believed that when the first settlers arrived, around 25% of the country was forested, This was reduced to 1% within three centuries. Later volcanic activity covered large areas and strong winds also eroded the soil. Until 100 years ago, many Icelandic people had not seen forests. At the present rate of reforestation, it will still only cover 1.5% by 2050. A reminder to us all, man’s actions cannot always be quickly remedied. See https://hmdecozine.com/2014/01/21/iceland/ if you are interested in more info on this topic.

Example of the erosion


It snowed here last week, mid July – notice the reforestation


From Akureyri, we continue our way westwards, stopping at Hvammstangi for the night.

You come across all sorts of travellers – each to their own

Skagafjödur

Dry fish sculpture at Hvammstangi, near Haðlan Kaffihús

Hvammstangi

Our home in Hvammstangi

Walking through a new forest in Hvammstangi

The plan was to spend a week exploring the Westfjord region but more forecast rain put us off and we decide to head to Snæfellsness National Park instead. What a special place, especially Djúpalónssandur, or the Black Lava Pearl Beach.

Walking down to Djúpalón


Djúpalón

Amazing lava at Djúpalón

Remains of British trawler Epine wrecked in 1948

So many amazing lava rock formations at Djúpalón

At Djúpalón

Anne in her element at Djúpalón

We have seen, experienced and learned so much since we arrived so instead of writing a ‘novel’, here is a simple list of things that have become normal for us over the past couple of weeks but are worth a mention or we might forget about them:

  • The smell of sulphur when taking a shower can be strong in places
  • Hot water from taps is extremely hot here
  • Night time is still light enough to read in summer
  • You can’t see the stars at night in summer
  • The tiniest villages exist everywhere especially in tiny coves accessible to fishing boats
  • Hellnar

  • The tiniest village will always have a church
  • Hellnar

  • Life here, at least in the countryside, revolves around fishing or sheep farming and Icelandic horses
  • Icelandic horses are a prized and unique horse breed with 5 gaits

  • Whereas sheep in the Faroes are kept predominantly for meat and therefore would be seen with long strands of wool hanging off their bodies, waiting to snag against a bush to be removed, sheep here have a beautiful fluffy coats for the prized Icelandic wool garments
  • The Icelandic language is the closest to original Old Norse that was spoken by the Vikings and has a number of unique characters such as ð (th as in ‘this’) and þ (th as in ‘thing’)
  • The power of nature can be seen and felt throughout Iceland with its numerous volcanoes, moss covered lava, waterfalls, wild coastline, geothermal activity noticeable with steam coming out of the ground, wildflowers growing out of lava rock cracks
  • Grábrók, Iceland

    Inside Grábrók – where’s Wally?

    From Grábrók

    Moss and flowers

    Kirfjúfell

    Gotafoss

    Wildflowers everywhere

    Magical nature

  • Many legends of trolls, demons, and prophets exist around the origin of numerous rock formations, islands, canyons
  • Elves might live here, so do not disturb

  • Everyone speaks English in Iceland
  • Winds can be ferocious here – thank goodness for Cape Town riding experience
  • No need for wind turbines when there is so much geothermal energy
  • Iceland is heaven for hikers and nature lovers
  • Don’t think of earthquakes when you’re in one of the many long tunnels
  • Sheep are as stupid as kangaroos, running out right in front of you at the last minute – thank goodness for good brakes
  • Staying connected is tricky when you camp and need to recharge your devices
  • Too many devices?

  • There has been a lot of “chatter” in our heads as we work hard on staying positive in the relentless grey, cold and windy weather
  • Snæfellsjökull glacier, the entrance to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is right behind us, in the cloud…


    Anthony won every game!

    Anne jokingly trying to recreate a brilliant photo a friend took at this place under clear blue skies

  • It is amazing how excited we can get when the low cloud and fog clears, even if only briefly, to reveal impressive scenery
  • Helgafellssveit

    Skagaljfjorur


    We finally saw the top of Snæfellsjökull glacier – such an exciting moment!

  • Green is so vivid even under grey skies
  • Grundarfjördur

    Grundarfjördur

    Grundarfjördur

  • Birds chirp all night
  • We definitely prefer wild camping to organised camping but nature is so fragile and precious here that we decided to respect the Icelandic government request not to wild camp unless absolutely necessary
  • Iceland is expensive
  • It’s been fun repeatedly bumping into Ralph and Charlotte since the Faroes and making new connections
  • Nice catching up with Charlotte

  • We have enjoyed our time but the weather has been a bit of a challenge – yes, that’s why they call it ICEland! – we are especially disappointed to have had to decide to skip the Westfjord region this time
  • Too much low cloud!

  • It is Anthony’s turn to pick the next holiday/trip destination!!
  • A hot tub anyone?

A bit of trivia: we have now ridden Streak and Storm in 50 countries.

Just a couple more days here, time to catch up with our Icelandic friends, store the bikes in Reykjavik for a month thanks to these friends here before special time with family.

– A&A

“Five years”

A phrase from the David Bowie album, “The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” that resonates with me is a fitting title to this relatively short blog entry.  It really has been five wonderful adventure filled years since the first tentative blog entry I made back in April 2014.  Who would have thought, certainly not me, that we would still be blogging some five years later, even if no-one is reading anymore. Two RTW trips, two shorter trips to Spain/France and Southern Africa, albeit in a 4WD, have taken place in this time totalling over 62,000 miles / 100,000 kilometres.  We cannot say what the future will hold or how long we will travel by motorcycle, but 2019 will see the 2slowspeeds on the road again motorcycling to new and interesting locations.  Not as far flung as previous odysseys, as we will only ride for a couple of months this year during the northern hemisphere summer due to Anne’s work commitments. We also wanted to spend more time in one or two locales rather than sometimes seemingly continuous riding to meet a visa or seasonal weather limitations.

So where to this time?  As you know we are warm/dry weather riders who like a hot shower, good food and cold drink at the end of the day. Well I am, Anne is made of tougher stuff. So logical places for this year would include, Spain, Italy or Greece, but no, we are off to the Faroe Islands and Iceland in July and August.  We fell in love with Iceland last March when we visited and presented to the BMW Icelandic Motorcycle Club at their AGM. The lure of the dramatic landscape, the apparent isolation and potential for camping have added to an irresistible call.

Love paper maps!


We said we would come back, and we are.  We are looking forward to meeting with and hopefully riding with some of those we met and especially our loyal Icelandic blog followers.  We will also get the opportunity to camp which did not feature nearly as much as Anne would have liked on our RTW trips.  We are furiously planning and booking flights and ferries.  We know that wet/cold weather gear will need to be packed but at the end of June we will be airborne from Australia and ‘Streak’ and ‘Storm’ will be on the road in early July.

– Anthony

Iceland, the last chapter, for now…

I thought I just needed just one hand to count the number of places I have visited in the world, until I got to 8, that have touched me to the core like Iceland has. People, family and new friends have often called me back to a place, but the country and culture of Iceland has had an impact that has taken me by surprise. I just hope I can do it justice here.

Kristjan had another 2 full days planned for us, leaving us enough time to ourselves too – having travelled together in the past, we understand each other’s needs which is great. Many thanks to Kristjan for all the great photos of us here – it is great to have some decent ones of us for a change rather my terrible selfies.

We start our third day with a fresh snow cover, higher clouds and a promise of clearer skies later. The mountains are so pretty. On our private Golden Circle tour today, our first stop is Kerid crater, a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland. It is so bitterly cold we just make a dash from the car park to have a quick look, photo and return to the warm car. We are pathetic.

Kerid crater, Iceland

Our next stop is most unexpected: a tomato farm. A family farm turned into a successful tourist destination with the best tomato soup and fresh bread you’ve ever tasted. I love how they have their polinating bumble bees on display – reminds us how vital bees are to the world food bowl: despite all our technology, we are still hugely dependant on these beautiful creatures. The “display” bees are rotated so no bee is permanently locked away. After our warming soup, we carry on our mystery tour.

Fridheimar tomato farm, Iceland

And we thought it was cold at Kerid crater?, The Gullfoss falls, on the Golden Circle route, were something to behold. Beautiful, awe inspiring but the whipping wind went through every layer and left us feeling as if we had nothing on. My eyeballs felt like they were freezing.

Gullfloss, Iceland


Blaskogabyggo, Iceland

This is when we first noticed how many tourists were already flocking to Iceland that early in the year. What must summer be like? Kristjan had told us that 2 million tourists visit Iceland a year now – it might be much higher this year. Not sure how the roads will cope…

We visit geysers, which most considerately of them, erupt every few minutes to enable us get a few photos. It is incredible to see how the force of Strokkur geyser lifts the water into a massive rounded bubble before erupting several metres into the air.

Blaskogabyggo Geyser about to erupt

Blaskogabyggo Geyser, Iceland

Driving around Lake Pingvallavatn, in Pingvellir National Park, I suddenly ask Kristjan to stop. It is not easy to pull over here, but he does. I need to get close to the stunning moss, walk a little, stop and listen. It is truly magical.

Pingvellir National Park, Iceland

Pingvellir Natinal Park is the site of Iceland’s first parliament, back in 930. It is still the Prime Minister’s week end lodge. It is refreshing to see how, once again, there is no apparent security around this property.

Walking up to view Pingvellir National Park, Iceland


See the Prime Minister’ week end home and local church below to our right.

Pingvellir National Park, Iceland

Pingvellir National Park, Iceland

Pingvellir National Park, Iceland


Pingvellir National Park, Iceland – church next to the Prime Minister’s week end lodge

After another full fascinating day of discovery, we get to Asdis and Kristjan’s lake lodge. A ‘lodge’?! The lodge is stunning in its simplicity (and comfort) and the way it sinks into the landscape, and the view from it is breathtaking. I take endless photos, contantly amazed by the gently changing hues of the sky as the full moon rises and the winter sun sets in the distance. Asdis was already there when we arrived, having brought all the food for dinner and breakfast, not forgetting the fresh flowers, in the wheelbarrow that waits at the car park as there are no roads to the handful of lake lodges. We didn’t know about the lack of road and feel a bit silly having brought our little wheelie bags!

Kristjan carrying our wheelie bags

That evening with Asdis and Kristjan was so special. The most serene place, warm hospitality, delicious heart warming food, simply spending time there is a priviledge. And travellers are never short of stories to share!

Sunset on lake Pingvatlavrn, Iceland

Asdis and Kristjan on lake Pingvatlavrn

Before we arrived in Iceland, I had downloaded an app on my phone that gives the predicted Aurora Borealis KP index, which can go from 0 to 9. Our time in Iceland was predicted to go from 1 to a maximum of 2 = very low chance of seeing it. So on my street art meandering walk, I stopped at the museum so that I could at least learn more about it and see some stunning videos. Tonight, by the lake, with a full moon, the prediction is a 2, so better than 1 and I can’t help but brave the freezing cold several times to scan the sky all around us. I can say we officially saw it as we saw dancing formations but there was no colour. While I would still love to see a full blown colourful Aurora Borealis, it was nevertheless exciting to see.

The next day, we meet up with more of Kristjan’s friends and talk about our trip with him before we drop him off at home and drive ourselves to the Blue Lagoon. Thank you Kristjan for trusting us with your car! Hope you didn’t get any speeding fines…

The man made Blue Lagoon (geothermal spa) is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in. The Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the sulfur and silica rich water. (Thank you Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Lagoon_(geothermal_spa)).

I have to admit I had to force myself to go into the spa as the last thing I felt like was to take my clothes off it was so cold outside. But I am glad I did. It was very eerie to be moving around in hot water, outside, where all you can see is a few metres around you because of the thick steam just above the surface. The photo taken from the restaurant above the pools doesn’t capture the amount of steam at water level. Also strange is to glide up to the bar for our free drink where the staff are standing in full winter gear while we are cooking in water! Definitely worth a stop and my psoriasis on my legs calmed down for a good 2 weeks after that visit.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Back to our appartment to change before driving to Asdis and Kristjan’s home for a farewell dinner they organised for us with a few of their friends. It was wonderful to meet them and get to know some of our followers. Asdis, I cannot thank you enough for the sumptuous dinner and for making a special lobster soup without cream just for me. I cannot imagine I will ever have another lobster soup anywhere near as good as yours.

And so our trip in Iceland has come to an end. What a full trip, so many new memories and experiences. Of course, having Kristjan taking us on these private tours, providing lots of history and Asdis and his hospitality and generosity knowing no bounds, made our time in Iceland all the more special, incredibly enjoyable and interesting. Kristjan and Asdis, our evening on the lake with you will remain a highlight of our time in Iceland. Thank you both – hopefully you’ll make it to Brisbane one day so we can try and return the favour.

The Sun Voyager sculpture, Reykjavik


Despite the absolute bitter cold, for us that is, I feel a strong urge return to Iceland to walk the land, to hike and camp (not in winter though). To take our time, listen to and watch the stunning landscape. Maybe the elves and pixies talked to me too?

– Anne

Reykjavik – the people’s voice

Today, day 2 in Iceland, we have a glacier cave tour planned. We have been told we don’t need to put our ski trousers which we brought with us as overclothes will be provided so we only add an extra, thin thermal layer. We arrive in plenty of time to meet our bus at the pick-up point and chat with a young couple waiting for a different tour. The sun is just barely up at 8:20am and it is freezing. Buses come and go calling out various names, some passengers are here, others not. Eventually, we start wondering if we are at the right meeting place. The young couple go off one way and we go another while new passengers arrive where we’d been standing. We find another meeting spot at the opposite end of the long curved hotel, about 400 metres away. People there are as confused as us, one elderly couple showing me their booking form and asking me if I had seen a bus with their tour logo – we hadn’t. I eventually return to Anthony who is at the first meeting spot and here comes that elderly couple’s bus. I run back to get them. After waiting 80 minutes and feeling frozen to the bone, we decide to return to the apartment and let Kristjan know. Apparently a bus came twice looking for us! We are obviously not cut out for organised tours. Kristjan is very disappointed for us but we had spotted some fantastic wall art on the way and I am now looking forward to discovering Reykjavik’s street art. It is all new to us so all’s good, we are more sorry for Kristjan.

A bit of research before I set off on my own, leaving Anthony behind to thaw out for a few hours.

I read about Council worker Jóhann “Jói” Jónmundsson, a warden of a tunnel’s toilets in the early 1990s, who used to dutifully clean and clear the passages of graffiti. Every time the walls were cleaned off, new graffiti would appear. One day, Joi noticed that some of the works were quality art and came up with a deal. He would allow artists to paint the walls so long as they followed certain rules: no violence and no porn. Since then, Reykjavik has had a few festivals that have delivered fabulous artworks such as the 2016 joint Berlin festival and Wall Poetry.

I love walking around cities, stumbling across unexpected gems, finding amazing artwork down little lanes or behind gates. I always learn so much about a place that way.

What became quickly apparent, from the artworks, whether wall art of sculptures, and from what I have read on various street signs, is how powerful the voice of the people is here. Icelanders not only speak up but have revolted on numerous occasions over recent generations. Of course, this free spirit and determination is not a recent attitude, descending from a people who fled Norway in the 800s and more recently decided to leave Denmark to form their own nation in 1944, it is in their DNA. Having read informative street signs on historic sites across the city and talking to Kristjan over the next few days – his knowledge of history, his own involvement in various issues, adding his account of the Pots and Pans Revolution (during the 2008-9 financial crisis when the people of Iceland rallied against bailing the banks out) to what I had read – is fascinating. I keep marvelling at how strong this tiny nation of just 330,000 inhabitants is and love how this tiny but mighty nation has fought for what it believes is right. Food for thought…

Here’s some of Reykjavik’s street art.

Reykjavik street art, Ægisgata St

Reykjavik street art, Ægisgata St (Close up)

Reykjavik street art, Ægisgata St

Reykjavik street art, Ægisgata St (Close up)


Corner Laugavegur/ Klapparstigur streets, Reykjavik

Street art, Reykjavik

Street art, Reykjavik

Hafnarstræti, Reykjavik

Hafnarstræti, Reykjavik

Wall poetry 2016, Reykjavik


I didn’t expect to find a bit of Brisbane here, but here it is. Photorealistic murals by Brisbane artist Guideo van Helten based on photographic portraits of Icelandic actors:

Guideo van Helten works, Vesturgata/Ananaust St, Reykjavik

Guideo van Helten works, Vesturgata/Ananaust St, Reykjavik

Guideo van Helten works, Vesturgata/Ananaust St, Reykjavik

Guideo van Helten works, Vesturgata/Ananaust St, Reykjavik

Guideo van Helten’s work, Reykjavik

Later that afternoon, Anthony and I meet up for a hot drink. Having walked the streets for the past 3 hours, there is just one shop I want to go into: a small pottery studio. It is good thing we don’t buy “things” anymore. I fell in love with Kogga Björgólfsdóttir’s works. It is also lucky we didn’t visit this studio later in our trip as I fear I might not have been able to resist bringing a little bit of Iceland back with me…

Kogga ceramics

Instead I left a little of my heart behind as you’ll understand in part 3 of 3 on our trip to Iceland.

– Anne