The day after the hurricane was rainy and very windy. What can you do on a cold, windy day?
Take the bus tour of the Golden Circle, of course. The staff at the hotel can make reservations for you. They make arrangements for a shuttle to take you to the bus terminal where all tours start. Make sure you are on time because the buses can not wait for you. It’s a long drive out into the country where the bus will make several stops for seeing the more popular sites along this route. Some will experience very uncomfortable conditions especially in the cold rain. Being brave has a lot of meaning on a day like this. For the first stretch, you will be in the bus out of the uninviting rain storm. You may get only glimpses of the countryside that the guide is describing.
The rain would stop from time to time and we would see a vast, cold landscape of mountains, evidence of volcanic activity and farmland. Bleak but beautiful at the same time.
We did see houses along the way, but neighbors were not close. We crossed the North American Tectonic Plate. We walked between the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate at our first stop. The shop had various Icelanic delights of chocolate bars, flavored nuts and bread items, gifts and the usual assortment of magnets, phone covers, and key chains. There was a huge wall display of the tetonic plates around the world. For those that didn’t want to venture out on the icy walkway, this was an ideal place to spend the time.
Our next stop was Geysir and we waited in the drizzle for the geysir(geyser) to erupt, which it does every 15 minutes. It was right on time, but as the 25 mph horizontal wind gusts sent ice pellets to hit us in the face with stinging force, we hurried to the restaurant/shop a quarter of a mile away.
The store had something for everyone and plenty of toilets. A cafeteria was ready for all the travelers. We made our choices and proceeded to the check out and dining area. Many choices of soup, sandwiches, burgers and hot french fries made us feel right at home. They also had some Icelandic choices. The meal warmed us up, but didn’t get us dry before we left for the next destination which was quite a way down the road.
It was almost totally dark at 3 p.m., when we stopped at the Gullfoss waterfall. It was still raining and windy. I was the only one to stay on the bus. I made the decision that it was too dark for me to navigate down another hill in the rain. As I sat on the bus, the wind would rock the bus and I could hear the rain pelting the top and sides of the bus. While the bus driver did turn off the engine of the bus for a short time, I was very comfortable and did not regret my decision when the others returned wet and cold again.
A reminder here is that during the winter in Iceland there is only about 4.5 hours of daylight. The tours run approximately 6 hours long. The weather is unpredictable but the bus tours still go on. If there is a hurricane or snow storm predicted, all tours will be cancelled or cut short. Always dress warm. Bring a rain cape with a hood or something waterproof. There are no bathrooms on the buses and it is at least an hour between stops.
We made our way to Reykjavik where we were dropped off at our various hotels. Glad to be back, we quickly changed our clothes and decided where we would eat on our last night in Iceland. Restaurant Reykjavik was our choice. It is located in downtown Reykjavik. Our taxi driver, Steinie, got us there quickly and assisted each of us out of the van. We asked if he would be available to return us to the hotel. He said he would be off duty in 30 minutes but the taxi stand was just down the street. The sidewalks here had about 3 inches of choppy ice that was very slippery. We made it to the door safely. Our host took us on a tour of the buffet and explained each dish to us. We could have ordered from the menu, but we all decided on the buffet so we could try more of the Icelandic dishes. After a toast to our great adventure, we dug into the buffet. It was seafood. It was salmon raw and cooked several different ways, about 8 different herring dishes, mussels, pork, lamb, couscous, vegetables, and tusk (cod-like fish). I liked the baked and blackened salmon the best. I didn’t care for the tusk, herring or mussels. The lamb was very good and the pork was a little dry. The desserts were fantastic. A meringue with cherries, cake, cheesecake, whipped cream, and a whole bowl of caramel sauce. I just wanted to take the caramel sauce back to the table and eat it all. Everything it was so good. We even tried Brennivin, Iceland’s national drink and a very smooth vodka it is.
After eating, we walked down the street and took some photos of the ice rink and community market area then caught a taxi back to our hotel. We spent the rest of the evening packing our suitcases. We ate breakfast at the hotel spent the morning relaxing and some went out shopping. We had to leave for the airport by 1:15 pm, even though our plane didn’t leave until almost 6 pm. It’s a good thing as it took us a while to figure out how to print our boarding passes and self-check our luggage. We found a place to have a late lunch and then headed to our gate. We arrived at MSP Terminal 2, got our rides and headed home. Well, at least, everyone else did. That adventure is another story. Enjoy the photos. there aren’t as many as in past days. The weather made photos outside difficult but if you want to how it felt, you can stand in a meat freezer, turn on a big fan and have someone spray water on you. Would I go again? As we say in Minnesota – You betcha! My next trip will be either spring, summer or fall. Most likely spring or fall since there’s a chance to see the Northern Lights again and it will be warmer. I would spend at least 7-10 days or more so that I could see more of the country. Iceland is not a big country. The population is about 320,000 people. Two-thirds of the people live in Reykjavik, leaving one-third to live in the rest of the country. There is so much to see and do in this country that it is definitely one I’d love to return to. The prices are a little high which isn’t unusual for an island that has to import things. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, museums, shopping and adventure trips to entertain everyone. Watch for specials on hotel, airfare and tours or rent a car and drive or hike the roads yourself (not suggested in winter). Immerse yourself in the culture of any country you visit. It makes the experience so much better. Don’t be afraid to try things you’ve never done or eaten before. Most of all, be a gracious visitor. Say please, thank you, and smile. A smile can solve a lot of communication problems no matter what country you are in.