So! I am desperately trying to catch up on the summer blog posts but I’ve been stymied in the past few weeks because I’ve been busy studying for the “Life in the UK” test. This is just another wonderful aspect of the UK immigration process where I’ve got to answer all manner of insane questions about the UK to get a little certificate to add to the £3,000 ($3,750 USD) “indefinite leave to remain” application. By far the most enjoyable part of preparing for this test has been quizzing British colleagues, family members and housemates and shouting “deport” every time they get a question wrong.
How hard can it be you wonder? Here, let me give you a little taste of the topics covered:
1. How many members are there in the Northern Irish Assembly?
2. What happened in 1485?
3. What was the name of Henry VIII’s first wife?
4. Who plays in the Ashes?
5. Who is the patron saint of Scotland and what day is he celebrated on?
6. What is Skara Brae?
7. How many boroughs are there in London?
Luckily it’s a multiple choice test so after a few weeks of practing with an app it’s not too difficult. I took the test yesterday and passed — in under 6 minutes — yes everyone I am still the nerd you know and love!
Anyways back to late July… after the boys’ week with Ann and Steve in Pembrokeshire we prepared for our trip to New Jersey via… Iceland! Aled and I had always wanted to go to Iceland and with Morgy’s interest in all things volcanic, it made the perfect stopover.
We found a great place on Air BnB in the middle of nowhere…
That is our lovely log cabin about 1.5 hours east of Reykjavik, in the middle of the “Golden Circle”, an area known for a handful of Iceland’s most famous geologic sites. It was a few minutes’ drive from a tiny settlement called Geysir.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess what was there: a geyser named Strokkur which went off every five minutes. We’ve mostly got videos of Strokkur and all of them are refusing to upload so here’s a view of the area from our deck…
We never tired of watching Strokkur and the geyser became a sort of friendly presence in our holiday as the week progressed. It was nice to be able to watch it at different times of day and in the evenings when all the tourists had gone. There were also some nice geothermal pools by Strokkur which reminded us a lot of the ones you can see around Rotorua on the North Island in New Zealand.
Not far up the road from our house was another highlight of the Golden Circle, the Gulfoss waterfall.
Not much to say here except WOW THAT’S A LOT OF WATER!
On day two, we went to pingvellir National Park, where you can see the mid-Atlantic ridge (the place where the North Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating). Here it is… Morg is running right up the centre!
You can see quite a few tourists in this photo can you not? I’m afraid to say that we were, at times, a bit unimpressed by the high number of tourists at the famous sights. Busload after busload sort of starts to detract from the enjoyment… but with our rental car we were able to get off the beaten track and find some very quiet spots to relax…
… for five seconds 😉
Over the next few days, we explored other parts of the Golden Circle and I have to say it reminded me a lot of our road trips in New Zealand.
It’s not surprising… both Iceland and New Zealand are small, relatively remote islands with small populations and beautiful landscapes. There were definite similarities in the attitude towards conservation and a strong sense of national pride in the natural beauty. I also felt extremely safe in Iceland like I used to in New Zealand (from people sort of danger anyways). Our Air BnB host joked that the last time a house was broken into in our area was 1979. Another interesting tidbit I learned is that geothermal water heats about 90% of Icelandic homes — fantastic!
Back to the sights… Off the main tourist routes, we came across some quirky spots, such as “the cave people”, a little house built into the mountain where a family lived in the early 20th century. You can see it if you look past the Icelandic flag in this picture:
We visited an awesome crater called Kerio (actually it’s spelled with an Icelandic character that looks a bit like a “d” but I can’t find any fancy character symbols in this blogging tool)…
Look at these amazing colours!
Here’s a close up of some of the rocks– some incredible colours and textures!
We also enjoyed some very delicious ice cream at Efstidalur Farm in Laugarvartn. (There were two flavour choices that day: vanilla or strawberry.) Morgy was making some very funny faces which are not representative at all of what he’s eating – this photo just makes me laugh!
For me, the highlight of the trip was definitely the drive along the south coast. We passed a number of absolutely stunning sights, starting with Seljalandsfoss waterfall:
You can walk behind this waterfall:
If you carry on past here, you see some absolutely gorgeous coastal scenery:
Then you come to another stunning waterfall called Skogafoss. It looks surreal from afar:
You can hike up the side of it:
Or walk straight up to it:
Carrying on along the south side, we came to Solheimajokull glacier.
Annoyingly children had to be 8 years old to don crampons so we just walked straight up to it and had a look. The shapes were pretty awesome however given the state of the planet there were also some depressing aspects to this stop when we saw how much distance lay between the “danger – don’t walk on the glacier” signs and the actual start of the glacier 🙁
Onwards to the black sand beach at Reynisfjara where you can see some really impressive basalt columns. Cool right?
I just want to make you aware of how tricky touristy photos are… this is what you can’t see in that photo above…
…the 100 other tourists wrecking the view of that fantastic sea stack in the background! Honestly this beach was freaking amazing but there were just too many people on it. But do you blame them? There were puffins in the water too!
And so ends a beautiful day on the south coast — one last iconic pic of this area:
So that was nearly the end of the holiday in Iceland except for the somewhat anti-climatic whale-watching tour out of Reykjavik — although I do love these cold weather jumpsuits! Perfect for the cold-blooded lizard I have become!
See the minke whale on the horizon there? You may have to squint a little bit I’m afraid!
A few fins were spotted closer to the boat later on in the trip but by then we were sick of trying to photograph the shy minke whale. Clearly the experience was not as spectacular as the Elding brochure (credit: Elding Whale Watching). 😉
So that was Iceland folks! Hilariously when we ask Morgan what his favourite part of the trip was he says “the jacuzzi”:
Noted for next time darling!