Tails of a Travelling Cat
The iceland edition
Greetings, humans! Welcome back, we’re still in Reykjavík and for once that’s where we’re staying! The day started off early again at 6:30. We left the hostel to find it had snowed overnight and was still coming down. I’m not a fan of this. It’s like rain but colder. Temperature fluctuations don’t really affect me, but I’ve heard they are a bad thing. We walked through the snowy streets of Reykjavík to catch the #1 bus to Vellir, getting off at Akurvellir. The double L is pronounced ‘tl’ as in ‘little’ and as I explained yesterday vellir means field and a lot of places in this area end with it. It was also close to Hafnarfjörđur, the Viking heartland I explained about yesterday.
So, we got off at Akurvellir and although it was now 8:30, it was still pitch black. Well, I exaggerate, the city streetlights were bright enough.
We knew the volcano Thrihnukagigur lay to our east, but in the dark, we couldn’t see it, so we got the compass out and headed where it told us.
Quickly, it became clear we were just walking through a nature reserve in the dark, but the paths were clearly defined and the streetlights just about reached us. After a lot of walking, we found a sign explaining about Ástjörn (a lake) and Ásfjall, it was a nature reserve for some of the rarest birds and plants in Iceland. We saw a few birds, though only from a distance and so it was hard to tell if they were rare or not – a lot of them were brown (at least those we saw when it got light enough to determine colours). You’ll notice pictures of birds are largely absent from this entry, mostly because Charlie’s useless at photographing anything that moves, as we’ve learnt in previous editions. Anyway, we were walking through the park in the dark. The paths led us around a hill and after we found the lovely sign, we discovered one of the paths (or perhaps more accurately a track) was lit by streetlights. This seemed a bit odd but as good a bet as any and so we followed this one for a bit, winding our way around a slightly larger hill (much too small to be called a mountain) and, after reverting to a non-streetlight lit path, we reached the top of Ásfjall, with stands at a mere 127m tall! It has a very distinctive square cairn and a stone circle on top, it was behind this beautifully made cairn that we sheltered as we attempted to take some pictures that focused on the surrounding mountains and not just falling snow. The wind was getting up as we walked down the other side of the mountain (ok, hill, it has to be at least 600m to count as a mountain).
We wandered over this second smaller hill and the day started to show the first signs of lightening (about time too!) at 10am as we rounded the hill and continued eastwards towards the next line of hills to cross on our way to the volcano. We crossed our next hill with no problems, as we descended we could see a giant lake (oh horrors!) in front of the next hill. At least we could see our mountain/ volcano in the distance now. We passed the lake on a real life road that cars used (civilisation!) although we didn’t see any on it. However, there was a digger digging by the side of the road. I thought we were leaving the lake behind, but no, Charlie wanted to have a look at it and there we discovered a picnic bench had been flipped over by the force of the wind. Oh, did I mention? It was getting quite windy now. We then started to climb our final hill, but the wind kept getting stronger and stronger. When Charlie could no longer walk in a straight line and was in danger of getting blown off the path, we decided with great regret it would be too dangerous to climb the mountain/ volcano in such strong winds and poor visibility from the snow blowing in Charlie’s face.
We took a final picture of the mountains as proof of how far we got, then turned around and were practically blown down the hill. I was bouncing around like a bouncy thing in Charlie’s bag and we were both very relieved when we reached comparative shelter. According to the weather app on Charlie’s iPod, 30mph winds were happening in the city but out here on an exposed hillside, it might have been even stronger. We re-traced our steps back to the square cairn to take in the sights in the daylight and they were spectacular. Literally breath-taking because the wind was up again and breathing wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Mountains, covered in a white dusting of snow ringed us on three sides. As long as I didn’t look west (the dreaded Atlantic Ocean) I was happy. There are no words to describe this beautiful wasteland so for once I won’t try and will just show you all the pictures instead. Well, not all, my selected best ones as usual.
After lunch on the sheltered side of the square cairn (to my disappointment, this was the one facing the Atlantic), we headed back down to almost sea level where we’d started. Unbeknownst to us in the dark, we’d walked quite close to one side of Ástjörn, so this time we went the other way around it. As you can imagine, I was not a fan, but Charlie enjoyed it, especially because part of it was frozen (I don’t understand the appeal). I was soon made happy though as between us and the lake arose jagged moss-covered rocks, perhaps the result of an earthquake.
There was also what might have been solidified pyroclastic flow which was nice and interesting. Having thoroughly explored this, we decided it was time to get the bus back. We walked back to the hostel via the ocean (why?) but at least we could see some of the mountains north of Reykjavík, Viđey and Lundey (Puffin Island). We returned to the hostel to warm up where we (well, Charlie) spent a few hours chatting to our roommates, we’re sharing with three (!) Americans and one Icelander. Well, we’ll be heading off to dinner soon, then I’ll report back on our evening.
So, we headed back to Kaffi Vínyl for dinner. The wind which had tried to blow us off the hill earlier was even stronger in the city now. As we crossed a road which led directly to the sea, a huge gust of wind sent us staggering first one way, then in completely the opposite direction which made no sense to me, I thought the wind was meant to pick a direction and stick to it! Also, I told you the water is dangerous, would anyone believe me yet? What would happen if the wind blew us into the ocean, huh? Huh? Oh, and not only was it blowing a 30+mph gale, oh no, it was also raining torrentially and we quickly learnt Charlie’s rucksack wasn’t as waterproof as we had been led to believe. It was horrific! Not only was my beautiful pink and stripy tail soaked and dripping, Charlie’s souvenirs got a big soggy and our paperwork (including our itinerary) turned to watery mush. At least our boarding pass and Flybus ticket survived, even if the itinerary didn’t.
So, anyway, we finally arrived at Kaffi Vínyl, both grateful to be out of the storm. After warming up a little, Charlie ordered a Portobello mushroom burger with cheese, gherkins and pickle with salad and fries (which turned out to be crisps – interesting). Strangely enough, these were also the exact same toppings as were on Charlie’s burger last night. An Icelandic speciality perhaps?
Anyway, the main was good and Charlie quickly ordered pudding – chocolate muffin with peanut butter icing and chocolate chips. Because this was so amazing and we had been walking all day (well, ok, Charlie had), we ordered a second pudding, chocolate brownie with cherry mousse (although it could more accurately be described as a hybrid of jam and jelly). This was just as good as pudding 1 and we left Kaffi Vínyl to brave the storm again. Although we looked our hardest on the way back, we were disappointed not to see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis to give them their proper name), although being right in the city isn’t the best place to see them.
We made it back to the hostel without being blown into the Atlantic or the oncoming cars (I don’t know which would be worse) and discovered we now had a fifth roommate, this one from China so I think in all we quite well represented the Northern Hemisphere in terms of nationality.
Well, bed time now, tomorrow is only our journey home but, as you shall see, it became a bit more eventful than just that!
Until then, folks. Chesh.