It’s not easy to plan a cross country trip, in a foreign country, leave alone traverse isolated roads. But all you need to keep in mind – before a trip it all makes sense, during it – there will be moments of doubt, after it – only bliss. Iceland is not what you’d think it’d be. For starters, the name can be a misnomer at times, especially in the warmer months of summer. In winter, the country is covered beneath a sheath of ice, but in summer it’s nothing what you’d expect it to be. With an eclectic capital city, rolling hills, vast stretches of barren land running parallel to glaciers and ugly stretches of mounds; Iceland can be both captivating and terrifying. Elves, Vikings, sagas, skyr, and Salmon on rye bread; what’s there not to love about Iceland? In the past, a trip to Iceland would have cost a small fortune, but after the economic meltdown in 2010 and infamous volcanic eruption; it’s become more accessible to budget travellers, although per dime costs still average on the higher side.
Day 1: Reykjavik
We had two weeks in hand, the first week was planned to visit our family and friends in Europe, while the second week would be our getaway to Iceland. The month of June is perfect to visit almost any part of Europe, especially if you prefer green to white and love sunny days. The flipside might be the hordes of tourists. Unlike other countries in Europe, Iceland doesn’t have cheap connecting flights. It’s best to book tickets at least 3 months prior to your trip. During peak season, costs increase and you might end up spending double the cost.
Our airline, Icelandair, from Brussels to Keflavik International Airport was scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The flight time is approximately 3 hours. To get to the main city, you could either opt for a private shuttle service or a flybus. Basil had pre-booked our Flybus from Brussels. But you can make a booking at the counter, at arrivals. We picked up a salmon sub and headed towards our bus (location). In Iceland the weather is unpredictable, and to our luck it started to rain. Fortunately, we had just two backpacks and it wasn’t a trying task to hop on. The bus made a halt at shuttle service point, from where we had to hop on a smaller carrier. We were dropped on the main road, Saebraut – opposite our hostel.
During peak season, make your reservation prior to your arrival. After proceeding with our check-in formalities we were shown our dorm room. The cheapest room was a 16 bed multi-bunk mixed dorm. Basil hadn’t specified we wanted to sleep on parallel beds and therefore we were allotted beds, on opposite sides, of the big separating wall. It was my first hostel/dorm experience. I’ve stayed in a hostel, while studying, but never traveling. A mixed hostel was a new experience. We placed our valuables (passports and money) in the smaller backpack and locked it in a locker. The backpack was shoved under the bed. On Day 1, I chose to sleep on the lower bed. Basil had to sleep on the upper bed, on the other side of the wall. It was approaching 5 pm and we decided to step out.
With local fast food joint, Aktu Taktu and a petrol pump bang opposite; KEX’s location couldn’t be more perfect. But the highlight, would have to be the long promenade, which runs parallel to the sea and Mt. Esja in the distance. A walk along the promenade (away from KEX) takes you to the harbour and whale watching tour companies. A small detour road joins you back to the tourist streets of the city. By late evening, the sun was still shining, but we were beginning to feel tiredness creep slowly. We ate a basic meal at Aktu Taktu. We realized, soon enough, eating here wasn’t a good idea, considering the cost and the big portions. By 9 p.m. we returned to our dorm. There were more hostel mates now. We tried to sleep, I covered my head, in an attempt to shut out the light. Somewhere in the night, the man who was making weird animal shapes with balloons asked me if he could draw the curtain. I was having a tough time sleeping anyway, so I nodded. It was hard to sleep when people constantly open and shut the door through the night. I hoped the next night would be better.