An Iceland diary, by Dan Santillo
Tuesday 18th February 2014
I have always wanted to go to Iceland and I’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis, so when Lee suggested I come along I sort of had too! After a few discussions with Lee, I decided that my Dad and I would come although he could only come for the first 5 days due to family commitments. We had meant to go camping in the Lake District but that never happened due to a death in the family – this would more than make up for the missed camping trip! Despite having known Lee on Facebook for a few years, we met for the first time at a hotel in Manchester Airport the day before we flew to Iceland.
A very early start meant we began the trip tired – we would soon learn that sleep was a luxury we wouldn’t get too often! We were the first in the check-in queue before it opened. Very quickly, we were through security and at the gate a few hours before departure. After some breakfast, it wasn’t long before we were on board and on our way to an adventure of a lifetime.
A short flight later and we landed in Keflavik, were through security and out into the cold Icelandic air – and it was cold!
We were driven into Reykjavik and to our hotel. We checked in, or at least tried to. Most of us couldn’t check in until 2pm. However, due to the hotel overbooking, my Dad and I were ‘upgraded’ to their sister hotel, about 5 minutes’ walk away. Going by the breakfasts we got, it certainly was an upgrade – fresh fruit, porridge, flapjack fresh from the oven…….. We couldn’t check in until 2pm either so we left our bags and headed out into the city to have a look and maybe take a photo or two. We walked down to the sea front and ended up at the Sun Voyager, somewhere we would spend quite a bit of time! The lighting was a bit harsh so we left and walked to meet up with everyone at Lee’s hotel.
We had a discussion about the trip and then headed back to the Sun Voyager for sunset.
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The Sun Voyager at dusk
After a while there, we left and headed into the city where we ended up in a mostly empty sports bar. We were sat talking over a few pints when we got a text message from Kris who had gone to get some food – it simply said “Aurora”. Within 2 seconds flat, drinks were finished and bladders emptied before we all rushed back down to the Sun Voyager. Sure enough, the Aurora was there!
On the first night, we had ticked the most important box of the whole trip! The green in the sky gradually got stronger until it was pretty intense!
We spent an hour photographing it before we went back into town to get some food. A subway has never tasted so good – actually, it hasn’t as it was my first ever!
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Today started off as a misunderstanding – for me at least. We were of on a Whale Fjord Tour which I assumed meant Whale Watching – it didn’t! We were picked up from the hotel and taken on a drive into some of the most amazing landscape on the planet. The rivers, the mountains, the sea, the coast, the beaches, the water… I was in my absolute element! Our first stop was by a frozen river and waterfall at Laxa i Kjos. I was out of the minibus and down at the river edge within seconds, until I got called back by Lee who had decided she wanted me to write this blog.
After 15 minutes there, I walked to the other side of the bridge to find a mostly frozen waterfall. Wow! I soon set to work only to have my first equipment malfunction of the trip – my tilt-shift lens wouldn’t work and crashed the camera. Fortunately, the camera started working again after taking the battery out and putting it back in again – phew!
We all met back at the bus at the allotted time and drove onto the next place, another frozen waterfall. I’ve see a fair few frozen waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons so after taking a shot of the waterfall itself, I started to get a little obsessed with the micro landscape of ice and water. I rarely get to take photos for myself as I’m always concentrating on the commercial aspect and asking myself “Would someone like this on their wall?” and that influencing my decision to take the photo.
After a suitable amount of time was spent here, we were driven to a farm for lunch and fed a delicious soup.
Some people went into the sheep shed to see the sheep and came out smelling somewhat of lanolin! The wind was getting really strong by now and the bus was being rocked quite violently!
We drove away from the farmhouse and stopped at an old quarry or maybe a whale processing plant, it wasn’t easy to tell. My Dad and I headed onto the beach and decided to walk around the headland. The wind was gusting pretty hard. We reached where we were going and the wind started whipping up the water – it was almost like we could see the wind!
Then the wind started picking sand and small stones off the cliff behind us and raining it down on us! That meant it was time to leave – every so often as we walked back, we would have to suddenly crouch down and brace against the wind!
The shaky video is actually the wind blowing me around!
Back at the bus I emptied the gravel out of my camera bag. The wind had died down as suddenly as it had picked up so we went back on for a while.
When our time was up, we stopped at another frozen waterfall – this was out of the wind, which was nice.
Our final stop was at a frozen river on the edge of the fiord. How frozen it was I wasn’t sure as it was creaking and cracking with occasional pieces of ice being blown away along the surface of the ice. The wind was still brutal and difficult to stand up it but I kept at it and was rewarded when the sky lit up a beautiful colour.
I was last back to the bus and when I was on board we left. The road we had driven was closed due to the wind and the road along the coast to Reykjavik was too dangerous to drive so we had to take an inland road. The road was icy in places and at one point a gust hit the side of the bus when it was on the ice – it was fairly close to being blown over! Thankfully we survived and were soon on the road back into Reykjavik.