02/09/2023  |  iceland
rugged terrain in katla iceland

Rugged Iceland

Katla, Iceland

Photo © copyright by Michael Buckley.

Iceland trip 24 March to 12 April, 2022.

On 24 March I flew to Heathrow airport for a full day of site seeing and an overnight stay in England. I visited London and found it very interesting. I visited Buckingham Palace and a few other sites. Then, I walked around the nearby park and ate some tasty fish and chips at a nearby restaurant.

The day was uneventful except for the time I spent on their transportation. At the hotel ladies suggestion, I took the train from my hotel near Heathrow airport to Picadilly Circus. When I bought the ticket, it said train and bus? However, it didn't work when I put the ticket in the slot to open the gate. I asked the attendant, and he graciously used his card to let me through. Then, after riding it downtown again it wouldn't work to get off. So, I asked another attendant and she looked at my ticket and told me it was only for the tram and bus but let me through anyway!

Then, after a short site seeing day in London, I tried the bus with my ticket and asked the bus driver if his bus went back to my hotel? He said the buses only go about halfway until late at night! So, I went as far as I could and headed back to the subway! I tried to get my ticket, but my card kept coming back to me. Finally, it wouldn't come back to me and was stuck! I asked the attendant, and he said that I had put my card where they put their notes! There was only one machine that had that slot which was not marked! The right slot was below the machine! So, he said he could get someone to get it for me, but it might be around 3 hours, so I said I'd wait. It actually only took about 20 minutes when a lady came and went behind the machine to open it up and retrieve it for me. Soon after I used the right slot to get the right ticket but as usual it didn't work so the attendant let me through the gate with their card again!

The next day I had to wait in line to catch the bus to the airport. There was a long line and the bus filled up before two old ladies in front of me could get on. One lady said to the other, "We just got turfed off that bus." LOL. Then, I went through Heathrow airport and flew to Iceland without a mask! It was only a 3-hour flight. When I arrived, I caught a taxi to an overnight hotel however the driver got lost and stopped at a church and had to look at the address again to get to my hotel? After I checked in, I went for a walk and ate a burger at a nearby restaurant. Then, I tried to get some sleep however I heard some guy talking to a lady in the hotel in the middle of the night and they were very loud and probably drunk but she sent him packing!
The next day we picked up our camper vans. It was called Happy Campers, but I know one person who was not such a happy camper! More on that later. The vans were nice if you upgraded the size. You could cook and fold down the back seats to sleep. It also has a separate heating system to keep you warm at night, but I thought it was quite noisy, so I usually turned it off once the camper was warmed up.

I met Casey, who was our guide for 6 days mainly chasing the Aurora and seeing several sites around Iceland. Amazingly, there were 4 others on this trip, but they were all ladies. One was from Switzerland, Petra. The others were from the US. The twins were from Chicago and Palm Springs. Then, there was Charity from CA. We all had the same camera, the Nikon D850. One of the best cameras on the market.

The first day we drove clear out to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to see an iconic Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall. We ate dinner at a really nice restaurant, and I ate the red fish with a typical Iceland desert which was very tasty! They also serve horse which we all passed on. The waiter was very lively and funny. He said they were all crazy because they live on an island! That area is a really beautiful location, but it was too cloudy to see the Aurora. However, Petra and I stayed there overnight while the others drove to a campground. There were no bathrooms at the site. Also, I lost my phone and Charity tried to help me find it. We used my laptop to locate it and it said 25 feet away and then about 8 miles? I had already looked around the campers, so we drove back to the restaurant to check for it. However, they were closed so we gave up. Amazingly, when I woke up the next day, I walked around the campers and found it in the snow! I count my blessings for that!

The next day we did a lot more driving and stops for photos along the way to our next location where we bought some food at a large grocery store and ate dinner at a nice pizza restaurant. I had seafood pizza with lobster which was delicious! We stayed at a campsite which was not too impressive. The showers were not so great compared to the others. You have to pay to stay at each of the campsites. The most impressive site of the day was Skogafoss, a high and huge waterfall you can stand in front of. We took unique pictures of that site that day with a double rainbow in front of it!

The next day we visited Seljalandfsfoss, the waterfall you can walk behind, and I found out that I should’ve brought a rain cover for my camera and a good towel because I got soaked! I took many photos, but my camera got soaked. It was hard to try to keep my lens dry and shoot pictures! Also, my skies were washed out, but Petra was a life saver and showed me how to change the settings on my camera to fix that. After that, we went to another camp site in the Skaftafell mountains that was much nicer. They had nice, new, clean showers and bathrooms. Everyone stayed at the campsite but Petra and I decided to drive over to Glacier Bay because it looked like the weather might clear up over there so we could see the Aurora. We drove through a snowstorm which was one of the highlights of the trip for me! We stayed overnight in the Glacier Bay parking lot which had signs of being prohibited! This happens a lot to night photographers, we just have to be sneaky! We didn't see the Aurora, but we did see Glacier Bay in the early morning before the crowd showed up!
We took pictures there of the floating icebergs at Glacier Bay and the broken pieces of ice from the icebergs at Glacier Bay. Then we ate some really tasty cod and chips from a food stand. Next, we drove over to Hofn where there's a very scenic spot of a Viking Mountain next to the seashore! There is a fee to drive out to that spot. We took several shots from the land area and then along the seashore because that creates a nice reflection from the beach. My boots got soaked while shooting there even though they were supposed to be waterproof! We spent the night at Hofn and ate at another nice restaurant. I had some of the tastiest lobster I've had in my life! It was at least 12 or so pieces of lobster which were long and skinny in a type of creamy hollandaise sauce.
The next day the weather was dreadful, and we didn't think we'd get to see the Aurora without some kind of clearing. After a brief argument between Casey and Petra we ended up staying at a spot near Skaftafell instead of driving far away and looking for clear skies. We walked up a mountain next to another beautiful mountain with glaciers below it. While we waited, we started to see green stripes on the horizon, then a little bit of purple stripes. Then, suddenly there was several places of green waves traveling in different directions and swirling together like a living thing! It was truly an amazing site! The others left around 11pm however Petra and I stayed a couple of more in case it came back but it didn't reappear. Instead, just some green colors that stayed behind the mountain but nothing spectacular.
The next day was uneventful. It was a long drive back to Keflavík but the girls stopped to take pictures of the Icelandic horses again. We drove the long way around the city to avoid rush hour traffic. We checked into the Light House hotel for the groups last night. Then, we went to the Light House restaurant for our last meal together. The girls lived it up with wine and nice dinners, but I went for fish soup and water and left early because I was not feeling well. I lucked out with laundry; I asked the hotel attendant where I could get it done and she offered to let me use the hotel’s laundry room! I finished washing it in 2 hours.
The next day I turned in my Happy Camper van and without any problems. I accidentally left my vitamins and medicine in one of the drawers.
Then, I picked up a 4x4 rental car and drove to Vik for 2 nights. The weather was nasty, rainy and overcast. The highlight of those 2 days was a trip to two ice caves near Vik. The caves weren’t much to speak of however the landscape was amazing! I took several pictures of that area. I also tried to get some more shots of the seashore near Vik however it didn’t turn out very good. It was cold with very strong winds and plenty of tourists despite the inclement weather!
From Vik I drove back to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and stayed in a tiny house right next to the famous landmark. I got a few more shots of that area while the sun briefly poked out during my stay however it never cleared up enough to see the Aurora at night. I spent 2 days there and drove around shooting more landscapes, seascapes and a few more horses.
Finally, I drove back to Keflavík thinking it was my last night in Iceland. However, after I checked into my hotel, and I was enjoying a nice meal at the restaurant I saw an email on my phone from the Iceland Covid test site confirming that I was positive! It was the first time I’ve ever had it. According to Iceland law, I was supposed to isolate for 5 days starting the next day and retest on the 6th day!
That night it was clear enough to see the Aurora so I went over to the Light House and shot a few hundred pictures of the Light House and the spinning light with the Aurora below it. I took so many that I can possibly make a video. I was isolated because I was alone!
The next day I turned in my rental car and picked up another one at the airport. Then, I checked into a nice resort about 40 minutes from the airport for a 5 day stay! I remained isolated most of the time however I went out for a burger and fish and chips on 2 occasions. I didn’t take very many photos then but did some blogging about the trip. I also watched some Netflix, the laptop came in handy after all.
I was very relieved to see a negative Covid result and be able to fly back to Las Vegas. My new flight had a short layover at Heathrow and a straight flight to Las Vegas!

Overall, a very enjoyable trip that I would recommend. I would add one important note. Be very careful with the rental car companies. Two of the three car rentals said my car had damage and the insurance covered one of them but not the other even though they told me I had full coverage? That part was somewhat frustrating, and some friends tell me it often happens over there.

Posted in Trip Reports and tagged iceland, iceland blog, blog.