It’s time to round off the tale of Ben’s trip to Iceland…
Otherwise read on – the floor is yours Ben!
For our second day in Húsavík, I woke up early to tackle the urge to go running that I’d carried with me from home…
I run around a little bit (also see bottom), but I’d never run up a mountain before – that morning, Húsavíkurfjall was to pop my mountain-run cherry.
Using one of the local tourist hiking maps that wasn’t particularly accurate, I eventually scaled the mountain to the summit, from where I got a whole new appreciation for the Icelandic countryside: Looking out across the bay from the harbour, I could see the glassy sea that provided most of the trade and sustenance for the locals; turning 180º I could see nothing but undulating white-topped mountain ranges further inland. Although I was freezing my proverbials off, I’m glad I got to ingrain that image in my mind before making my way back down to breakfast.
Later that morning, Clare and I explored more of the local area on horseback and earlier when I mentioned a little horse riding, I literally meant we rode little horses – the Icelandic breed is isolated on the island (imports are forbidden and exported horses can never return) and are kept at around a steady 5’6 high.
Now at 6’6”, I’m not a little chap and it almost felt like I was just there to provide gangly stabilisers to a horse that knew exactly what it was doing by itself. However, it was a fantastic way to explore how diverse the countryside was, even in a small area – I’ve only ever ridden a horse once and that was when I was about ten, so I think it’s safe to say that even novices can enjoy that way of getting around.
After finishing with my steadfast little horse, we drove back to the harbour and got ready for our whale-watching tour. The experience that followed is easy to describe because of how much it can’t be properly described. It was incredible. I didn’t at all expect seeing whales in the water so close to me to make me feel anything like as moved or in awe as I was and as much as I thought that when I’d come to write this part of this blog I’d have loads to say about this bit, I really can’t put it into proper words. If you’ve seen whales before, Iceland is a nice place to do it; if you haven’t seen them before and get chance to, trust me and go for it. In Iceland, Gentle Giants are a good place to start (they organised the horse riding too).
This seems like a good place to point out that when planning activities in Iceland, especially if it’s during the summer, don’t be fooled by the country’s name – a combination of white snow, clear skies and blazing sun means that you can more than comfortably get away with wearing shorts and t-shirts for most outdoor activities. As with anything, I suppose, do a little bit of research before you head off and pack appropriately.
There was time for a bit of lunch and another wander around the town before driving back to Akureyri for our flight back to Reykjavik. We’d decided that for that night, we would take the bus back from Reykjavik to Keflavik, whose centre is only five minutes’ drive from the international airport. That way, we’d be close to get to our flight the following day and have time to have a look around another new place before then.
Clare and I can find enjoyment in most things, I’d like to think. We’re not a couple who need to have entertainment shoved in our faces and are always happy to go off and find adventure in strange places, which makes it all the more difficult to get this next sentence out: there is not a lot to do in Keflavik!
Perhaps we were staying in the wrong grey, concreted part of town (and to be fair, a tatty poster told us that we’d missed the annual Keflavik music festival, this year featuring Tinie Tempah, by only a few days), but we spent that last morning walking past the featureless buildings until we came to a restaurant for lunch. There was a small museum attached to the restaurant that gave us a few minutes enjoyment, but if anyone’s been to Keflavik and had a much different experience, I’d genuinely love to hear about it. I guess if you’re reading this with an eye to going to Iceland yourself, then I’d be forced to suggest not worrying too much about visiting Keflavik.
Having said all this, we at least had a laugh at our predicament before getting a taxi to the airport and heading home with the very pleasant and very young WOW Air (pocketing a bottle of Brennivín from duty-free on the way, naturally).
If you’re looking to visit a new country, I would recommend Iceland to anyone. If I had to summarise my advice, most of it would be the same advice that gets repeated on travel sites over and over: visit the larger towns, but get out into the countryside for a real experience. Don’t be afraid to try food and entertainment from the Icelandic culture. Make an effort with learning a few phrases of Icelandic, but don’t at all be afraid of any kind of language problem. It’s a beautiful, different country full of genuinely lovely people that will give you plenty of great memories. And not a frozen prawn ring in sight.
Thanks massively to Ben for his account of Iceland. Have you travelled there? If so, what did you think?
Just to remind you again: On the 18th August Ben is attempting something rather incredible in the name of charity – namely running 130 miles in one day, from our hometown of Barnstaple to Bristol! Crazy? Quite possibly. But brilliant, and also all for the awesome cause of Vision Aid Overseas.
And remember, you can also check out Ben’s music at BenjiOneLung.com