Experience of a lifetime - Iceland

February 25, 2018
by Santhosh
in stories from fellow Nomads

After celebrating Christmas and New year, it was time to start preparations for the Iceland expedition. Important thing would be the Schengen visa and getting equipped for the adventure in snow. My 2 friends who were supposed to join me on the expedition had to pull out at the last minute and I was left all alone in my vehicle. Days passed by quickly in anticipations and preparations and the departure date of 10th Feb came sooner than expected.

My flight to Reykjavik was booked via Oslo and in total it was a nine hour flight + 2 hours stopover at Oslo. As usual kept myself busy during the flight and yes, I had arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland by evening along with another expedition team, the couple from Dubai, Johnson and Sheetal. The start was not good as Johnsons suitcase didn’t arrive at Reykjavik and we had to proceed without his luggage. On arrival at the airport, we were greeted by the representative of Nomadic Road who transferred us to Hotel Centre plaza in the city centre.

Will remember the moment we stepped out of the airport for a long time. It was snowing and windy and felt like a jolt in the face and then realized that this is what we have come here for. The journey from the airport to the city felt so heavenly watching everything covered with white snow. On the way the driver told us that the hot dog stand is one of the things on the must do list when In Iceland and was courteous enough to drive us there on the way to the hotel. The hot-dogs were really good and we ended up having couple of them each, standing on the road side in -3 degrees temperature.

At the hotel we met up with Venky who was ready with all details, the room keys and the goody bag. In the evening we ventured out as Johnson had to do some shopping because of his lost luggage and also we wanted to taste something Icelandic for dinner. It was snowing all the time. The minus temp is fine, but the wind chill kills. Dinner was at the authentic Icelandic restaurant called Ostabuddin. We had Whale steaks, lamb steaks and Duck legs with locally brewed wheat bear. We were slowly getting used to the icy conditions and the walk back to the hotel almost had us frosted. We were supposed to meet at the lobby after breakfast at 8.30am the next day. I was lucky to be sharing my room with the famous Rally driver Sanjay Takale from Pune (Don’t know how lucky he was as he had to put up with my tractor sound type snoring Hahaha)

Day 2 morning caught up with the other participants in the lobby, checked out of the hotel and were picked up by our Icelandic expert Kristjan Erling Jonsson. He drove us to the place where we would see and meet the monsters who would be our driving companions for the next 5 days. The first glimpse of the Land Rover super defenders had us awestruck and we were just staring at them with open Jaws. The high lift and gigantic size of the tyres was mind blowing and the excitement was building within knowing that we would be driving these mean machines. The next one hour was spent briefing about the expedition, the vehicles, dos and don’ts and hazards on snow. Also lots were picked up for the vehicles and I was Christened nomad 2 for the rest of the expedition. After signing the indemnity bonds, insurance papers and other documents we were handed over the keys for the defenders. We loaded our luggage in the respective vehicles and after a customary small prayer we were ready to roll. Our convoy consisted of 5 participant vehicles and 1 lead vehicle. For all of us it was a first time experience driving these super defenders and it took some time to get accustomed. Slowly and steadily we were heading out of Reykjavik city savoring every moment of the beautiful morning landscape. Kristjan and Venky were very skeptical about telling us the itinerary for the day. They had information that a huge storm was approaching the direction in which we were heading. The Radio was kept busy with first-hand information from Kristjan about Iceland, its weather, its terrain, its history, etc. The guy was very knowledgeable about his country I must say. As we were out of the city limits now, the view around was absolutely mesmerizing, A pair of eyes were not enough to savor the beauty around. Due to the storm warning, many roads were closed for public as a precautionary measure. Also, the exit we were supposed to take from the high way was closed. As we were driving vehicles equipped for these conditions and some influence from Kristjan, the cops lifted the barriers and we were allowed to continue our journey. From a distance we could see the storm setting in. Our Scheduled stop for lunch was at the tomato farm at Fridheimar. The journey became more thrilling as the snowfall increased and the winds picked up. We had reached the farm by the time storm grew up in to a full fledged blizard. It was surprising to see Tomatoes growing in a green house in the midst of the snow filled terrain. The green houses were heated up to the required temperature from the hot water from the Geo thermal pools and big halogen lights to compensate for the sun light. We were taken around the farm and explained how they farmed tomatoes right from the soil to the tomatoes reaching the market. They grew 3 varieties of tomatoes and we were given the cherry tomatoes to taste. Post lunch, the convoy started moving. It was a real challenge even to reach the cars from the restaurant. In an hour the cars were completely covered in snow. Personally, I was not sure whether we could continue our journey looking at the ferocious storm. We were lucky to be witnessing the absolutely mesmerizing raw nature in its wildest form. A few minutes after the start, due to poor visibility Nomad 5 veered of the road and got stuck in snow not once but twice. During the second time when they went off the road, total electrics of the car blew off and the car became lifeless. They had to be towed to the nearest town and the car was left there and a replacement car was called for and meanwhile the guys hopped in to my car with their bags. We reached Hotel Gullfoss, our stay for the night. All guys seemed to be well stocked up with spirits to fight the cold and the snowy conditions. With ample of time available, it was good to speak to the participants and get to know each other better. As we hit bed, there was no indication of the storm mellowing down.

Day 3 surprisingly we woke up to clear skies. But the storm had dumped snow in heaps everywhere. The forecast for the day was good, but there was a storm looming on the horizon by night. So without wasting time further, we checked out of the hotel after a sumptuous breakfast and the convoy got rolling. The radios were kept busy with some really interesting questions from Sumesh and Sundeep and some entertaining banter from Sumeet and the rest of us. Our first stop for the day was the famous Geyser Strokkur. Geyser is a spring which ejects water turbulently into the air with a bang accompanied by steam. Normally the geysers are 15 to 20 m high. Sometimes they can throw up to a height of 40m depending on the volcanic activity. It gave immense pleasure watching the geysers rise, photographing them and posing in front of them. The sheer breath taking beauty around the area was a real treat for the eyes and a field day for the shutter bugs. After spending ample time at the geysers we proceeded towards the Gullfoss which is a waterfall located in the Canyon of Hvita River. Gullfoss is also one of the most popular tourist attractions of Iceland. Getting down to the view deck was like an adventure as the staircase was completely buried in snow. The view of the falls, because of the regular rain and the melting of the glaciers is a treat to watch. After a few photographs we decided to move on and got to our vehicles. The customary roll call meant we were rolling towards our next destination and that too the most exciting one. We would be driving on the second largest glacier in Iceland. We were all fully pumped up for this experience. It was not at all easy to drive in deep snow even though we had deflated the tyres to 6psi. We would literally get stuck if we veered a bit from the tracks. Even low gears wouldn’t help initially. Once we got the hang of it we seemed to moving ahead and the convoy gathered momentum. As we got deeper into the glacier, we could see nothing other than snow all around. When we reached a certain place where it was level, we got to get off the convoy and drive on our own. We couldn’t drive any further into the glacier as the low 4 gear of nomad 3 was not engaging and it was highly impossible for us to continue the journey with a high 4 gear. So we started our return journey from the glacier with heavy hearts. But the joy of seeing and driving on this gigantic glacier was really over whelming. We reached back to Gullfoss for a late lunch and then proceeded to our destination at hotel Hrauneyjar. The roads had been cleaned of the snow and we felt it very difficult to drive due to the wet and slippery conditions of the roads. The weather god was patient with us and waited for the storm to blow until we reached the hotel. The conditions worsened even before we could off load our luggage and we had a coat of snow on our jackets. The warmth in the hotel was welcoming after spending a full day outdoors. Also got to meet the all-women’s team called the Euro Arab north pole expedition who were in Iceland for their training and were staying at the same hotel.

Day 4 was like a disaster. The storm had dumped so much snow all around, we had to literally walk in 3 feet snow to reach our vehicles and dig out our vehicles. But our lion hearted guide Kristjan wanted us to proceed. Even the diesel pump which was frozen worked with Kristjan’s magic and we were able to re-fuel. With absolutely no view of the road, and with help of the view markers on the side of the road, we began our journey towards Landmannalaugar which is famous for its natural geothermal hot springs and the surrounding spectacular landscape. But the snow was letting us go through at a snail’s pace. With many times our vehicles veering of the road and getting stuck in snow and Kristjan rescuing us, Venky decided to take us back to our next destination by nightfall. We were a dejected lot when he announced that we were turning back and returning to the hotel from where we had left. The disappointment was so much that even at the end of the expedition I could hear the guys say, we could have pressed on with the driving and reached Landmannalaugar. The packed lunch we had carried had to be eaten in the hotel itself. By the time we had lunch, the storm had simmered down and we began our journey through the snowy roads to our revised destination, the secret lagoon. Along the way we got to see some volcanoes which could erupt any time, Geo thermal power plants, The man made canals dug through the volcanic rocks carrying water out of the hydro power plants, completely frozen rivers, etc. . We were a given a 2 hours break at the secret lagoon to enjoy the hot springs. Secret lagoon natural hot springs are located in the small village called Fludir. It has been kept natural and unique to get the true Icelandic feeling. The warm water stays at 38 – 40 Celsius all year round. Also there is a geyser around which erupts every 5 minutes, but was elusive the day we were there. Even though the pool is hardly 10 meters from the changing room, it’s an adventure getting to the pool, dashing through in -6 Celsius with only swimming trunks on. But the feeling was heavenly wading through the natural hot waters. We had a real good dinner at a restaurant in the same village which is just few minutes from the lagoon. After dinner, surprisingly we could see clear skies and expectations of experiencing the Aurora Borealis rose. Even though the probable chances were less, nobody can take a chance with mother nature. With high hopes we reached our hotel for the night, hotel Fljotshlid. Once settled in the room and after dinner, at around 10.30 we were told the Aurora Borealis were on. We rushed outside to see this eagerly awaited natural phenomenon. In the beginning it was just a faint green light across the horizon, but we couldn’t believe what the camera could see through long exposure shots. With the expertise of Charles our film maker, we got amazing shots on the cameras. It was a feeling of certain achievement that we witnessed this natural phenomenon through our naked eyes. Since there was some distraction of light near the hotel, we moved to a darker place away from the hotel from where we could see more clearly and got some amazing pics with the defenders in the back ground which would create memories for a life time. We already were told about the weather forecast and the snow storm that would strike the area by morning. Thankful for the clear skies and the aurora borealis, we went to bed fully satisfied.

Day 5 when we woke up, as expected the storm was blowing in full force. With wind speeds at 235km/hr, it was impossible to venture out of the hotel. As we were staying in the same hotel for the night, we didn’t have to pack our bags and check out. All we could do was wait for the winds to die down and let us move on. As soon as the conditions improved we got into our vehicles and were prepared for a day of sightseeing. But on the way, came to know that the authorities had blocked all the main roads because of the amount of snow deposited on the road. So we went to town and spent time at the lava exhibition centre waiting for the roads to open. The lava exhibition centre is a place developed by the geological department explaining about earthquakes, volcanoes, history of Iceland, the number of volcanoes that have erupted including movies of volcanic eruptions. I must say we were privileged to visit this place because of the road closures. Finally by 2 pm the roads were opened up and we started rolling to our desired destination of the black sand beach of Skogar. On the way we could see the volcanoes that erupted earlier named Eyjafjallajokull (which blocked the air traffic of europe for a week in 2010) and Hekla. Can say Kristjan is very well informed about his country from the details he was blurting out on the radio. If not for him, we wouldn’t even be able to pronounce one name properly since the spelling is so different from the pronunciations. For example, his own name Kristjan is pronounced as Christian. Our first stop was at the black beach. Taking a detour from the highway and driving through snow we reached the magnificent black beach. The sand is completely black because of the volcanic eruptions earlier. We felt that the complete beach was laid for us as we were the only people around. After some fantastic photo shoot and driving on the beach we drove towards Skogafoss falls which is the most famous falls in Iceland. This falls which is 15 mts wide and falls from the height of 60 mts. You can walk right up to it if you are prepared to be drenched and it is just overwhelming standing next to it. It was fantastic to watch the half frozen falls from so close. 527 steps lead up to an observation platform above Skogafoss if one is up to it. With my weak knees, it’s only imaginable. But Sumesh and Sumeet did the climb and came down winners. This falls has been featured in many movies, music video and TV series. Also heard that it was a background for a song from Sharuk and Kajol movie called Dilwale. Helping to recover a stranded bus, we lost precious day light as we were supposed to visit another water falls. We were supposed to stop by the Seljalandfoss falls where you can walk behind the falls, but Kristjan surprised us by taking us to a hidden falls named Gljufrabui falls, where not many tourist venture. With the light quickly fading, we had to make a dash to the falls. The scene we witnessed was so breathtakingly serene and is difficult to explain in words. Gljufrabui falls is 40 meters high and in front of it is a big rock almost covering it, making it difficult to see the lower part of the waterfall. It is a gorge covered on all sides with a crevice in the rocks where the water flows out. To enter the falls, we had through wade through the water stepping on slippery rocks to reach the falls. The spectacular views of the falls are completely mesmerizing and you will need a few minutes to get over it. By the time we got out it was completely dark and we had to return back to our hotel after refuelling the vehicles. Dinner was arranged at the hotel itself and it was fun with everyone on the dinner table sharing their experiences. To make things more interesting, Charles made a rough cut of the video of the expedition and showed us on TV in the lobby. It was a wonderful feeling to see the videos and pics with ourselves as the actors. Truly satisfied we went to bed knowing that next day was the last day with the defenders which had become a integral part of this exciting journey.

Day 6 was an early start. Venky & Kristjan had arranged a visit to a farm of one of his farmer friend. Most of them opted out for the farm visit and preferred to sleep for little bit longer. Being me, I wouldn’t miss any opportunity of visiting a new place or doing something different even if I have to compromise on my sleep. Every minute spent at the farm was worth it. These people are for name sake called farmers. They are drivers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, horse riders, etc all put together in one. We were surprised to know that on an 11 hectare farm they grow 250 tonnes of potatoes with only 3 people that is the lady owner of the farm and 2 helpers. They also have horses, sheep, goats, etc and only 3 people work throughout the year. They have their own full fledged garage and workshop to repair all the farm vehicles and machinery. As told by the lady, she is the only person who still goes to town in a horse ridden carriage. It was nice knowing details and culture of the Icelandic farmers. Saying good bye to farm we left for a town Hella where we could meet with the other members of the convoy and proceed to our next destination again a waterfall. Urridafoss waterfall is not famous for the height it falls from. The fall is small, but the amount of water that falls is big (360m3/sec) The river below the falls had frozen completely and the water was just disappearing below the frozen river. It was a good place for a photo shoot. Charles got some amazing stills and breath-taking videos from his drone, the best one being the group photo. Lunch break was at a good local restaurant Triggvaskali at Selfoss. One thing I can say is over the past 6 days, we were never disappointed with the food. Where ever we ate the food was top notch be the burgers, steaks, fish, etc. On our way back to Reykjavik, Kristjan and Venky thought of making up for the lost sight seeing on day 2 due to the storm and decided to take us to the Pingvellir National park. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates. When you cross these big fissures, it’s like you are crossing from one continent to the other. This is the fault line between Eurasian and Atlantic tectonic plates. As we were proceeding to the park just after crossing the fault line fissures, we found that a car was stuck in snow on the narrow road and we couldn’t go any further. We somehow found enough place to turn our defenders and just started to move back to the main road, some Korean tourists in a small car came and got stuck in the snow in front of us. Now we were sandwiched between two stuck cars. There was no way out. So we decided to push the car right to the top and succeeded in making way for our monster defenders. We had lost 2 precious hours in this bargain and again we had to skip visiting the park as we had to reach Reykjavik by night as some had an early morning flight out of Reykjavik. We reached the garage in Reykjavik, handed over the defenders of whom we had grown fond off, and proceeded to the hotel storm for our night halt. Once back at the hotel, we decided to go for an exotic Icelandic dinner at the Icelandic Gastropub. The dinner started with a refreshing shot of Icelandic Brennvin. We ordered some local wheat beer to mix it up. Then we were served smoked puffin, minke whale, traditional Icelandic Flatkaka (raw fish), Horse Carpaccio, Ling, Icelandic lamb rump steak and for desert it was cream cheese skyr cream. It was like a farewell dinner as the 3 goan’s who accompanied us for dinner were on flights to different destinations early morning. Once back in the hotel we bid goodbye to our new friends we made on this trip and retired to our rooms. Johnson and I had planned to stay back for 4 more days and explore more of Iceland which this expedition didn’t cover.

Day 7 began with breakfast at the hotel and the hunt for a good SUV rent a car started. Iceland was in its full capacity due to the holiday season and Chinese New Year holidays. Every hotel room was booked and every good SUV was taken. After making several calls and visit to few rent a car companies, the land rover discovery was the best vehicle we could find and hire. It was miles apart from the defender full of options and luxury. It was past noon we got the vehicle and without wasting further time we were in it on an unguided and unplanned trip for the next 4 days. Before leaving Reykjavik, we decided to visit the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja Church. The 74.5 mt tall tower and church took 40 years to build and is beautiful piece of architecture one can view. The church tower is centrally located and can be viewed from any part of the city. The Church features, most notably a gargantuan pipe organ. This organs stands at an impressive 15m high, weighing a remarkable 25 tons and 5275 pipes designed to reproduce powerful notes of melody. After a quick lunch at a Thai restaurant, we left for our next destination Vik, a small seafront village in the south of Iceland. As usual it was snowing heavily and we had to drive carefully as there was no Kristjan to rescue us if we veered of the road. It took us a good 4 hours to reach Vik and to check in at the Iceland air hotel. The food at the hotel was above expectations and it was a goodnights sleep in the comfortable room.

Day 8 was going to be an exciting day. After breakfast, we checked out from the hotel and proceeded on some sightseeing. Our first stop was at the Reynisfjara beach. This is a complete black sand beach risen from the ashes of lava. Iceland has several volcanic beaches, but Reynisfjara black sand beach is hands down the coolest with its black sand, the insane basalt columns, lava formations, towering cliffs and caves. At some time it was ranked one of the 10 most beautiful non tropical beaches in the world. The black sand isn’t the only lava creation at Reynisfjara. Opposite the sea is an enormous natural pyramid made of basalt columns that looks like a staircase to the sky. This basalt cliff is called Gardar. It’s hard to believe that nature did this perfectly shaped and placed basalt rocks. The Reynisdrangar, the basalt cliffs that rise from the sea is another spectacular attraction and a good photo spot. Also the Halsanefshellir cave at the bottom of the Gardar is featured in the movie Noah. You can never leave this place where nature’s handiwork is at its best. But we had to leave as we had booked for the ice cave tours at 2 pm and it was another 2.5 hours away from Vik. So without wasting any further time we were on our way to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. The road to the lagoon is so beautiful with the coast on one side and mighty Vatnajokull Glacier on the other. We reached on time and checked in for the glacier and the ice cave tours and had enough time to take a bite for lunch. The view of the glacier lagoon is surreal. The blue floating icebergs in the lagoon makes it more special. With the melting of the glacier, the lagoon is steadily growing in size and the amount of icebergs in the lagoon tells us that the glaciers are tearing apart and falling into the lagoon. It was time for the glacier and ice cave tours. The site of the modified Unimogs in which we would travel to the glacier added to the thrill. We had a good mix of people in this vehicle and our guide too was hilarious with lots of stories and explanations. The ride on the glacier was very bumpy and we could be thrown out of the seats if not holding. The view on the glacier was spectacular and the entire glacier was laid out before us. We had stops at a frozen lake where the scenes for game of thrones were shot. When we reached the first blue ice cave, we were given helmets and crampons to wear. The crampons were so helpful to walk on ice that we regretted not having them previously. The first glimpse into the cave had us startled. Even though it wasn’t very deep, the crystal blue ice roof of the cave was shining like a diamond. It was crowded down there but there was enough place for everyone to stand and pose for pics. The ice turns blue when it lets the sunlight filters through it up to a certain depth. After spending some time in the cave appreciating the beauty and the wonders of nature, it was time for us to be back in the unimog and travel to our next destination on the glacier which was a bigger and deeper cave. After a small hike from the vehicle to the mouth of the cave, we were shocked seeing the entrance of the cave. It was completely different from the blue ice caves. It was pitch dark inside the cave as the thickness of the ice didn’t allow the light to pass through it. The ceiling of the cave gave a feeling of someone was there and had carved the designs on it. The entrance provided great photo opportunities for the shutter bugs. Without a hand held bright light it is impossible to navigate inside the caves. The chilling streams that flow make it more difficult to walk around. The deeper we got into the cave, the darker it became. At one point the guide put off the light and believe me, you will never make your out without a light. These phenomenons are rare to see and we felt privileged to be there and experience these ice caves. The journey on this glacier and the sheer beauty of the 2 types of ice caves can be termed as a once in a lifetime achievement. It was dark by the time we reached the glacier lagoon and we had no clue of where we were going to stay for the night. Our guide told us that there was a hotel 14 kms from the lagoon known as the Gerdi guest house where his girlfriend was head receptionist and told us to try our luck there. It was a small hotel, but very comfortable. Hence we decided to spend 2 nights at this place. For our good luck the skies were clear and there was a good chance of catching the Aurora Borealis again. We were told that the glacier lagoon was the best place to watch the northern lights. So after dinner at around 10pm we were able to see the great natural phenomenon again. We were ready by then, just took our cameras and accessories and rushed to the lagoon. There were already plenty vehicles there. We too found a nice spot and parked our vehicle. The view was stunning. The horizon on the north was completely lit up with green light. We were also lucky to see the dancing of the lights and the different movements. Just couldn’t imagine we had spent 2 hours in the open in -6degrees just watching the mesmerizing scenes and capturing them in our cameras and we only left when the lights started fading. Completely satisfied to the core, we went to the hotel and had a good night’s sleep.

Day 9 was at leisure. We decided to explore up to the town of Hofn. So we left the hotel after a late breakfast and hit the road. It was pleasure driving the road with ocean on one side and glacier mountains on the other side. On the way we got to see some wild Reindeers grazing and were able to get some awesome pics. Seeing real reindeers was again one of the first times that happened on this trip. Being Sunday, most of the town was shut. We visited the bay area and a pair of eyes were’nt enough to savour the beauty of the place. Just couldn’t decide which areas to photograph. Next we went to the area of hot bath tubs. In certain areas due to the geothermal activity, water from the bore wells come naturally hot. Someone came up with an idea , buried huge round shaped bathtubs in the ground and filled them with the natural hot water . The area is not manned and a box is kept there to put the fees in. People come, put money in the box and spend as much as time as they can in the hot tubs and leave. We felt it was too cold for us to get undressed and relax in the bathtubs. Back in town we had lunch at the famous lobster restaurant called Humarhofnin Veitingahus. This is the first time I had so many lobsters at a time. The preparation was excellent and it went very well with the local Vatnajokull beer. To add to the experience the staff was very friendly and suggestive. As the weather forecast had suggested a heavy rain storm in the evening and we didn’t want to get caught in it, we left Hofn early. On the way we had to stop at many places for photographs as the sceneries were irresistible. We drove past our hotel to again visit the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon again to see the seals swimming in the lagoon that I had missed out on the previous day. The joyful nature of these seals makes it a pleasure to sit and watch them and they almost pose for pics when they are swimming at the sides. Once out of the lagoon you just have to cross the road to enter the beautiful diamond beach. Huge chunks of crystal clear ice that get washed out to sea from the lagoon get deposited on the black sand beach. When sun light fall on them they glisten just like diamonds and hence this beach is known as the diamond beach. It’s amazing to see this view on the beach and I don’t think we will get to see it again. Once back at the hotel, I sorted out the luggage and kept ready as we were on the penultimate day of the tour. We decided to leave early next morning as we had a long way to drive back and had to see some places we had missed.

Day 10 began with an early morning breakfast and 8am departure. Tonight we were booked in at the Geo hotel in Grindavik near the blue lagoon. For a change it was a rain storm last night and not a snow storm. It was still raining in the morning when we left. The rain had completely changed the Iceland we had seen for the last 9days. Most of the snow had melted away and we could see the yellow grass on the black lava mountains. Due to the melting snow, we could see waterfalls all around the mountains. It was mesmerizing to see all this difference in one night. Also the temperature had changed from -6 to +6 degrees overnight. The roads were very slippery and sometimes the water from the road side was flowing on the roads which made it more dangerous. So very cautiously we began our journey. Our first stop was at the Fjallsarlon. This amazing place is a couple of kilometres from the highway. It amazingly has some blue ice deposited all over. The view from the highway itself attracts self-driving tourists. This site is not common and one of the most beautiful places I saw in Iceland. But due the rain the snow was melting and the road was very slippery. But worth every difficulty to see this beautiful place. An hour’s drive from there took us to Skaftafel, a wilderness area in the Vatnajokull national park. This area is famous for its hiking trails and called a hikers paradise. As time didn’t permit any hiking for us, we decided to visit the Svartifoss water falls which tumbles over black basalt columns. But to our bad luck, the road to the falls was closed due to the slippery conditions. We got out of the car to get some photographs and had to immediately hop back, as the road was so slippery and it was impossible to walk on it. Disappointed we turned back and continued our journey towards Vik where again we had to visit a missed place. We went to the peninsula of Dyrholaey which is on the right side of the Reynisfajara beach. We had seen this place from the beach on our first visit, but due to time restraint couldn’t go there. So we made it up on our return journey. The place is heavenly and you can go right up to the edge of the cliff. The main attraction here is gigantic black arch of lava rock standing in the sea at the end of the cliff which gave the peninsula its name. Dyrholey means the hill island with the door hole. Skogafoss was our next stop for lunch. At the base of the skogafoss falls, we picked up some juicy burgers for lunch. The view was very different to what we had seen few days back. It was tempting to get the view of the falls from the top by climbing the steps, but time restraint forced us not to try. But Johnson was adamant he wanted to see the hidden falls of Gljufrabui in day light as we had seen the falls in the fading light of dusk on our last visit. So we proceeded to this place and enroute we got to see some amazing scenes of water falls turning into mist and flying away into the air instead of falling downwards due to the speed of the wind. Had witnessed this phenomenon in some video, but got to see it in real and captured it well in my camera. Passing by the Seljalandfoss falls we reached the hidden falls, did a quick dash towards it, absorbed every inch of its beauty and rushed back to the vehicle as we were losing time and had to reach the blue lagoon by 6 in the evening for our appointment at the pool. With only a few stops for photos, we reached and checked into Geo hotel at Grindavik on time. In a few minutes, packing our swim wear we rushed to the blue lagoons which was only a 9 minute drive. Again it was the same experience of undressing in warmth of the changing room and rushing to the pool in minus temperature. But once into the blue water of the pool, you forget everything. Surrounded with amazing nature, the blue lagoon is an oasis of relaxation. Blue lagoon is the most popular destination in Iceland. Nearly everyone who visits Iceland works a trip to the blue lagoon into their itinerary. The water is blue due to the excessive silica content init. Also on a counter they provide you with silica to put on a mask on your face and body. There is a swim up bar where you can get cocktails and beer and the best thing is you buy these drinks with the wrist band which you get when entering the spa. All purchases are recorded on the wrist band and you pay at the exit when you hand over the band. After spending an hour in the blue hot water, we got ready and went for dinner at the blue lagoon restaurant which we had booked much in advance. The dinner was awesome with great ambiance and good service. As the always the beer suggested by the waiter was of great taste. I had some 7 brands of beer in Iceland and still can’t contemplate which the best was. We were finishing the tour on a high note. Got back to the hotel, did the final packing and put the bags in the car preparing for a 4 am departure to the airport.

Wow, still feels like a dream. 10 fabulous days I spent in Iceland had exceeded my expectation. This has by far been the most exciting holiday I have been on. Really, would like to thank Venky for putting up this Iceland Expedition. He as usual was very co-operative, much organised, very polite and all the very’s I can say. He took the feedback on his chin and vowed he would work on them. Kristjan, the real hero of the trip, without him I don’t think we would have reached anywhere. A man of words, good sense of humor and his never say die attitude made our days with the defender very memorable. Charles, wow man. You are too good to be 22 years old. Usually I wouldn’t take any 22 year old seriously. But you are a master of your profession. The pictures and videos are the best anyone will get to see. Also you being a good human, it was a pleasure meeting you and look forward to see you on many more expeditions. Also the bonding we developed with the other participants over the days of expedition can never be forgotten easily. Sumesh and Sundeep from USA in Nomad 1, Johnson and Sheethal from Dubai and my travel mates in Nomad3, Satish and Sanzil from Goa in Nomad 4, Sumeet from Goa and Sanjay Takale the international rally driver from Pune in Nomad 5, you guys will be remembered for ever for being partners in crime in my best ever holiday. So, with every inch filled with memories we reached the Keflavik airport which was a 25 minutes’ drive from the blue lagoon, handed over the well behaved land rover discovery to Hertz and boarded our flight to Oslo from where we would be catching a flight to Dubai. I must say the journey was not at all boring. I had so much material in my cameras to watch and refresh my memories. Reached Dubai at midnight and went home a very satisfied man.

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