16.08.2016 - 17.08.2016 14 °C
At this point, I think it is important to mention that we all now smell faintly of rotten eggs. The water of Reykjavik has a fairly strong sulphurous odour (particularly when the hot water tap is used), which is slightly disconcerting when you are trying to clean yourself or your dishes. The smell seems to contradict the concept of cleanliness – but if it’s good enough for Icelanders, it’s good enough for us.
On Tuesday we did what we nearly always do when we end up in a new city – we went on a walking tour. Our guide had a rather dry sense of humour (which worked for us – maybe less so for some other tourists) and we got an overview of Icelandic history and culture. We were particularly impressed by the power of the spoon and pot protest, surprised that Iceland only became independent from Denmark in 1944 and amused at how well one volcano eruption could be turned into a tourism marketing strategy. We had the opportunity to practise speaking some Icelandic – would you believe that “Már á Á á á” is a grammatically correct sentence?
After lunch we headed back to Hallgrimskirkja and caught the lift up to the ninth floor for glorious views of Reykjavik, and then enjoyed a coffee in one of the oldest coffee shops in the city. We joined the Icelandic football team for a hotdog, and while the mustardy sauces were nice, sometimes you just want tomato sauce on your sausage in bread.
From there, Belinda had convinced Pat that we were booked in to a very exclusive art gallery with an exhibition of masters. He wasn’t particularly keen, but peer pressure sorted that out. And we even told him that we needed to leave Harald at home and take a taxi because there were so many “toll roads” on the way to the art gallery. The taxi arrived faster than any taxi we had ever ordered in Australia, and we managed to tell him our destination before Pat got in the car. The taxi driver had never heard of this “art gallery” but took us to the street we told him, which turned out to be a rather industrial area with no “art galleries” to be seen. We convinced him that we would be able to find it and got out (after he gave us a discount – must have been the Australian accent) and started wandering the street aimlessly. The taxi driver then returned, got our attention and pointed us in the right direction after doing some Googling on our behalf. Legend. We walked towards the “art gallery”, the roller door went up and revealed Iceland’s first whisky distillery! Happy birthday Pat
We had the most entertaining tour from Páll – very relaxed, very informal, and very informative! My favourite quote from the afternoon was “we can keep talking, but we shouldn’t forget to drink as well”. We tried the full range of whisky, gin, sloe gin and aqua vit, finishing with the ‘sheep shit smoked’ whisky – reckon that would be a winner in the Australian market!
We lashed out and had dinner at a semi-posh restaurant nearby, and it was worth every kroner. Another taxi took us home, and he was just as much of a legend as the first one. We had birthday cake (caramel biscuit flavoured Vienetta) and that was Pat’s birthday surprise done and dusted. You can have another birthday any time you like, Pat!
Wednesday morning started with a trip to the visitor information centre to check whether Harald would be up to the challenge of certain roads, and there we encountered our first ever Rude Icelandic Person. You would expect a certain level of friendliness and helpfulness from someone whose job it was to assist visitors, but no. Not even the Buccheri charm could wrestle a smile from her lips, and in the end she dismissed us from her presence by saying “Is there anything else I can not help you with today?” Right. Sorry to have troubled you, madam.
We stopped in Selfoss for fuel and tried again at another information centre – we got a cool reception, not quite rude but not exactly friendly or helpful either. At least our questions were answered this time, and we continued on our merry way to find some natural beauty. Seljalandsfoss cheered us up immensely – even though it was raining, it was hard to be miserable in the presence of such an awesome waterfall, one that you could walk behind as well! Just 500 metres down the road was Gljufrabui, deceptively hidden within a cave but totally worth walking across rocks in the river to get to. It felt like such a secret, other-worldly waterfall and we even had the privilege of having it all to ourselves for a little while (quite the special occasion in peak tourist season). And then Pat bought everyone a pink doughnut, which was also quite a special occasion.
A short trip down the road we stopped at some old turf houses (definitely elf country) and then arrived at Skogarfoss, a campsite for many and photo opportunity for many more. Just another spectacular waterfall I’m afraid… ah it’s a tough life. We climbed 421 steps (or thereabouts) to get to the viewing platform up the top, but the best views were from down below or off to the side. Simon decided to see how close he could get without drowning – for those of you playing at home, he got VERY close but also got VERY wet. We had basically spent the day admiring waterfalls and being varying degrees of wet on account of rain and/or waterfall spray… and even though every time we got dry (thank you, Harald, for your seat warming facilities) we promptly got wet again, we had an excellent day of waterfall based exploration.
We checked into our cosy cottage for the night and headed to the local supermarket for supplies. Icelandic bread seems to come as a half loaf or a double loaf, and we enjoyed guessing whether or not we were buying flour or bread mix. The young boy who served us fairly threw the food down the conveyor belt at us, and seemed like he would rather be somewhere else. Don’t blame him really. I’d rather be looking at waterfalls than serving annoying Australian tourists if I was him.