Iceland Day 2: Rough

Well today was a series of disaster, misfortunes, and failures. It’s now 7pm here as I write this and I feel exhausted and a bit demoralized. Today is one of those days that you just have to chalk up as “an experience” and move on. I know I’m tired and hungry and probably a bit grumpy for it, but jeezus.

The day started out with a 1 hour delay in JFK. It was already late, and now it’s just past midnight, into day 2. Interestingly this was the same plane I flew in from LAX in. I exited the gate, turned around, and saw I was already at my next flight. Delta over booked this one severely and were trying to get 10 people to give up their seats. This took a lot of time in itself, and it turns out maintenance apparently found something wrong with the landing gear. On the plane I just landed on. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. Imagine traveling all around the world, and what gets me isn’t some crazy storm off Niue, or flying into a remote Himalayan country, but landing at JFK.

Our flight finally took off, me starving from having no lunch, and it now being quite a late dinner. I’m seated next to two girls, Amaya and Alice, friends from the east coast. They’re in good spirits, in fact the whole back of the plane we’re in is cheery and excited. It helps the stewardess is giving us plenty of wine and joking about. The only problem is that I’m struggling to sleep on this flight. I can’t recline my chair for some reason, and the dinner we were given gives me some wicked heart burn. The flight is short too, less than 5 hours which isn’t enough time to actually get a good night’s sleep. I finally drift off only to be woken less than 2 hours later by the announcement that we’re about to land. It’s going to be more like an all nighter with a nap than anything else.

Of course the delay has a knock on effect, we arrive in Iceland late and the bus to the blue lagoon leaves just before we get out of customs. The next one isn’t for 3 hours… I convince the girls I sat next to to let me hitch a ride with them in their rental car. As it turns out that almost takes as long. The rental company isn’t there when we arrive and we have to call them. Twice. Both times he says he’ll be there in 15 minutes. After an hours a guy shows up and drives us down to their lot. As we load up, my backpack’s should strap comes off. The sewing wasn’t strong enough. This is seriously worrisome because I don’t want to be carrying around an inconvenient duffle bag the rest of the trip. I was so excited about this pack because it was just the right size at 65L. I then go to pick it up by the strap on the top, and that comes off in my hand as well. Now I’m sure the pack is a POS and I’m wondering how long until the other strap breaks.

We arrive at the Blue Lagoon, and it’s clear to me that the girls think I’m a third wheel. Fair enough. I find the FlyBus that I was originally planning to take and am told I can buy a ticket on the bus later. Perfect. I stash my things in their locker and get in line. The girls are there too and we chat briefly before saying good bye. This place is a real tourist trap, but the effortless kind where you’re kind of glad to pay the high price . The spa built around this artificial thermal lagoon is very very upscale with electronic wrist bands that do everything from act as a drinks tab, to the key to a locker, to the key to the swimming area. Icelandic tradition dictates that you must shower before going in a bath like this, and European tradition apparently also dictates that there should be no modesty. I always felt like I had long gotten rid of the Puritan hangs up when it comes to human sexuality. I still feel the need to cover up when changing though, something that logically makes little sense in the context of a changing room like this. Luckily I can take off my glasses and not really be able to see anything and go about my business in mostly ignorance, standing out like a prude showering in my bathing suit and changing like a surfer behind a towel. The lagoon itself is very pleasant though crowded. The water fairly warm, and the biting cold air making it undesirable to be anywhere else. Even though it’s noon, it’s 8C with quite the wind chill today. Buurrrrrr. I drift around the lagoon for quite some time until I’m nice and wrinkly. It feels good after 16 hours of flying feeling icky and unclean to just float there relaxed. I finally get dressed and snap some photos with my camera before looking for the bus. The scenery is kind of surreal.  All this black lava rock strewn around with this bright blue steaming water. Like something you would expect to see out of a science fiction film. All that’s missing is one of those green ladies from Orion. Yes I just made a Star Trek reference, get over it.

Here comes the next bit of misadventure. One of the bus guys misunderstands and sends me on the bus back to the airport. I start to realize this when we make a wrong turn. It doesn’t take long for the next bit of bad luck to strike. Not even 5k into the ride the bus starts struggling with gear changes and then stops working all together. Now we’re stranded on the wayside waiting for other buses to come take us on our way. One arrives and I confirm I’m on the wrong bus. Now it’s back to the airport… As we’re loading up our luggage the other arm strap snaps on my pack.  Great. Now I’m trying to be patient as my day starts to slip away. Checking out Reykjavik is seeming more and more like something for another day. As we’re on our way to the airport one of the passengers tells the driver in hushed tones she has diarrhea and can’t make it the 5 more minutes to the airport, so we have to make another stop. The fail train keeps on chugging, though it could be worse, I could be the woman about to board a plane with the traveler’s trots. Finally we make it to the airport and I tell the guy at the counter my story about how I was at the Blue Lagoon, and one of the guys from his company told me this was my bus, but he was wrong. He gives me a ticket to the BSI central station. I guess that’s a win at least, I expected to have to pay full price.

Fast forward 45 minutes and I’m now at the BSI station trying to figure out how to get to my guest house. The entire trip I’m nodding off. I ask the nice woman at the front desk and she says it’s too far for their shuttles and “out where we keep the schools” and I’ll need to do 2 bus transfers to get there. She marks it on my map. I have a serious thought about booking somewhere else and ditching my $100 reservation. I stop in at their internet cafe but there are no open rooms anywhere that aren’t 3x as much. I decide I’ll just have to put up with the taxi costs since they’d be less, I’m too god damn tired and frustrated to try the buses. I try to comfort myself with my first meal of the day, I’m starving and order a hamburger. That was a mistake. It’s the worst burger I’ve ever had, I’m not sure how you end up with something so incredibly salty like that, especially when it’s like ground beef. Where did the salt come in exactly? As I go to pick up my pack, the should harness itself rips like a piece of paper. Ok seriously? What the fuck! No one ever buy anything from Nebo Sport, ever. I’m feeling pretty tired, and grumpy at this point.

Oh but it’s not over. No, there is still a bit of frustration still to come! My taxi drops me off in this nice residential area. I’m at least happy about that. The front door is locked though and I ring the bell. No answer. I knock on the door. No answer. I shout. No answer. No one is there. Is the place closed? What’s going on? Is this going to be like that time for my parent’s in Belize where they reserved for a hotel that was closed for the season? There is a phone number taped to the door for the house keeper. I write it down and walk down the block looking for someone to ask to call the number. I’m seriously considering ringing doorbells now. I see these college age girls are getting out of a car and ask if they speak English. One of them thankfully volunteers. One thing I love about Iceland is everyone speaks English very well. I plead my case that there is no one there to let me in and I don’t have an Icelandic phone and could they please give a call for me. She says yes and rings the number. The man on the other line says he’ll be there in 5 minutes. I thank the girls and head back to my bags to wait. 10 minutes pass and still no one. I’ve come to realize that in Iceland how long they tell you until they’ll be there has to do with how urgent they think it is, not how long it will actually take them.

Finally he shows up and I have my room. It’s small and cozy, nothing to write home about, but it’s clean and has a bed, and right now that’s about all I need to feel like a win. I get my house keys because as it turns out no one stays to manage the place, guests call, get their keys, and then are left to their devices. As am I. My own devices in this case is to go look for groceries. I need a big bottle of water now, and maybe something to snack on and something for tomorrow. I find the grocery store, but apparently they’re closed on Sundays so I stop in at a gas station and get a bottle of water, a sandwich with looks to have only a scent of beef, and a thing of yogurt and retire to my room.

I save the sandwich for later, but the yogurt is getting eaten right away. Either I’m that starving or it’s really that good. The yogurt is super thick and creamy, not to sweet, and very tasty. I’m going to hit the sack early, like right now early. Tomorrow I get up at 6 because I want to make sure I can bus my way to the BSI station to catch my tour at 9. It’s still light out and will be for all but 3 or 4 hours and my blinds don’t really block out much so I draped a bath towel between them and a window to get things a tad more dark.

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One thought on “Iceland Day 2: Rough

  1. Striking colors in the photo.
    Travel always has to have some bad experiences, it wouldn’t feel like you had an adventure otherwise. The looong walk is classic. Also lost and confused, tired and hungry can pretty well be counted on. I am in favor of using the power of money to give yourself a break once in awhile. You are certain to have your share of unforgetably great experiences too.
    I hate to add this, but feel compelled….since there is a history of volcanic activity, if you are near the ocean and feel an earthquake please head for high ground.
    Love, Mom

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