Velkomin til Íslands

Welcome to Iceland

And so it begins

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We landed in Keflavik, Iceland Saturday at 6:20am. It was a beautiful, sunny day and fairly warm considering how close Iceland is to the arctic circle. We were zonked from the lack of sleep but super-pumped to actually be doing this. Upon collecting our luggage we noticed something was not quite right. My bike was not stacked neatly beside Leigh’s. It was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t even in the country. The airport staff informed me that Pearson (Toronto Airport) will definitely send along all your luggage but not necessarily on the same plane. Great way to start a bicycle trip around the world. Not knowing if/when/where it would arrive Leigh’s bike went into storage near the airport and we took a shuttle bus up to Reykjavik. I was fighting like mad to keep my eyes open so as not to miss anything. We eventually made our way to the little studio apartment Leigh found online and once settled, we began to explore.

Fueled on by mere fumes of adrenaline we made our way to the waterfront, had some tapas (thanks Rolie), and formed a plan for our stay. Sunday we were up and out to check out Reykjavik proper. There are bike paths everywhere. Smooth, wide, rolling blacktop for miles and miles (some paths designated as cycling only – not even pedestrian traffic!) so part of the plan is to rent bikes for a day or two. Soon we were set up and rolling along some of those sweet bike paths heading south to locate a geocache, specifically an earthcache near the residence of the prime minister. What’s this geocaching all about you ask? It’s modern-day treasure hunting and a great way to discover areas less travelled. Earthcaches have an educational component to them. I’m on a quest to find an earthcache in ten different countries. On the way back from my successful hunt we stopped in (for a couple of hours) to a local outdoor hot spring. Iceland is all geothermal and has many natural hotsprings. It was a little tough getting back on the bike after that! Day two was more epic. We rode north in not-so-pleasant weather to take in more scenery. It was windy, it was rainy and it was chilly but it was so awesome to be cycling in Iceland. At one point we left that smooth, wide, rolling blacktop to follow a trail of crushed lava rock across a beach-head and up a small peninsula. The trail eventually ended where the view was fantastic but the weather was poor so we took a photo and headed home. The cemeteries in Iceland are fantastic. We spent a good hour strolling through the elaborate grave sites of a cemetery near the studio apartment. Many of the graves had trees purposely planted on them which have matured to produce a beautiful landscape. When I die I want to feed a tree, just puttin’ that out there.
My bike finally showed up. We were packing up to leave when I happen to notice a mail truck across the road. The driver was having some difficulty managing the extra-large box but she was determined to get this thing delivered… to a house across the street. I rushed out to inform her that I was the rightful owner of the package and would be more than willing to carry it the rest of the (right) way. We weren’t planning a big bike tour of Iceland so instead of unpacking/re-packing the bikes for flight both were stored at the airport.

The next couple of days were spent with our first Warmshowers family. It was great to chat with Bjarni over Salmon Almandine (the man can cook) about life in Iceland from a native’s perspective. Everyone graduates high school knowing at least three languages. A lot of kids are also fluent in English due to it being the primary language of the internet. We hit another hot spring that evening (and the next) then watched a football game with the family.

Our last couple of days were based out of the Hlemmur Hostel located right beside the bus station. It has the friendliest and most helpful staff. From there we booked a tour of the countryside on Icelandic horses, a rare breed with five gaits (most horses only have three) although no matter what I did my horse was going to go his own way at his own pace. I’m pretty sure he gave me the hairy eyeball when I tried to convince him to pick it up a bit. We stayed in and around Reykjavik, which is only a fraction of what Iceland has to offer, but it was an awesome way to start our tour. We might have done some camping if the weather had been a little less wet and windy but we were out discovering something new everyday regardless. The landscape is unreal. I’m sure there is no other place on earth quite like it. Perhaps we’ll go back one day for a trip around the country to explore the smaller villages and Vatnajökull National Park.