Iceland summer 2012: Keflavik

Being picked up at 9.30 meant I actually had a good long slow lazy morning. I finished my packing, read for a while and dragged my suitcase outside and up the steps to find my minibus was already there.

I was delivered to the ticket office with my ticket already in my hand – I’d successfully kept it safe for ten days! – and waited for the airport bus. There was a big cruise ship in the harbour opposite. It had been there for at least a day and looked far too big and shiny to be in a place like Iceland.

The coach, when it arrived, was clearly the flagship – all wooden floors and walnut inlay and cream leather and red velour – the effect slightly spoiled by the rows of blue LEDs along the ceiling. I read and marked more Poetic Edda and tried to eat chocolate chip cookies without getting too many crumbs on the floor – it was the first morning I hadn’t had breakfast, as I’d finally run out of mini cereal packets and I was starving by ten o’clock. I successfully checked it using the machines – usually the first machine doesn’t work but the second does but this time it all worked fine first time. I just slotted my passport into it and it printed all the paperwork I needed. I dropped off my big heavy bag – 22kg, just about within Icelandair’s weight limits and went out to see the sculptures when they weren’t under snow. I hadn’t realised the dinosaur egg was in the middle of a fountain, even if the fountain wasn’t switched off. I hung around departures for a while and then decided there was very little keeping me there, whereas there was plenty to entertain me on the other side of security. I am a master of getting through security now and I think it’s been a year since I’ve been searched, although they did search me pretty thoroughly at Innsbruck.

On the other side, the first stop was the tax free counter to reclaim the tax on some of my shopping, which I immediately spent on a breakfast of bread rolls, my favourite overly-sweet Icelandic apple juice (probably not actual Iceland apples, though – it’s a matter of practicality, apple trees take up too much room in the greenhouses to really be worth farming there) and some Honey Loops and then I spent a while going through the various shops before I settled down with my netbook for an hour while all the shops closed for lunch.

Eventually I decided to wander down towards my gate. No luck – I was boarding from somewhere completely different this time which involved going through proper official passport controls which weren’t opened. I went backwards and forwards for a while, had some food sitting at a table in an abandoned café, went back to the main shopping area and then settled down with a lot of Americans and Canadians waiting for the passport gate to the American flights to open too. It seemed there were no flights either coming in or going out between about 10am and 4.30pm, at which point there was the London flight and three or four US flights all arriving and then leaving again pretty much at the same time, which explained why the airport had been such a ghost town for a few hours. I’d have arrived later but the airport buses had been a bit awkward with times and I’d had a choice of the 10am bus which would get me there a bit early or the next bus which might have been a little closer for time than I was comfortable with.

Just after 3, the passport gate was opened. I went through, had a quick look around the small shops on that side and then discovered that flights were starting to arrive and I could start collecting planes again. I collected nine in all – Askja (a volcano in the east Highlands that has a fantastic little geothermal lake in the side of the main caldera), Grímsvötn (a volcano under Vatnajökull that eruped in 2011), Hengill (the active volcano near Reykjavík where the geothermal power stations are), Oræfajökull (a volcano I don’t know of), Eldborg (the pretty crown-shaped volcano near Snæfellsnes), Skjaldbreiður (the original Shield volcano near Þingvellir), Surtsey (the newest island in the world, the second-newest volcano in the Westman Islands), Katla (the big bad one under Mýrdaljökull that’s overdue), Krafla (another volcano I don’t know) and Keilir (the perfect cone on Reykjanes).

Once I’d finished darting around trying to take photos of them all, it was time to board. We were clearly on a bigger plane this time. I was right at the back again but this time, the last six or so rows were sectioned off from the rest of the plane and it was quieter. There were enough spare seats that people were invited to find somewhere more comfortable if they wanted. I was reasonably happy where I was. There was a non-English speaking person sitting on my row but not quite next to me and he wandered the plane most of the flight.

While we waited to take off, I took photos of the in-flight magazine of the pages where all Icelandair’s planes are listed. With the nine I’ve got today, plus Eyjafjallajökull which I got last time, I only have five left to collect: Grábrók (a volcano I don’t know), Hekla (the other big bad overdue, near Landmannalaugar), Herðubreið (another one I don’t know), Magni (and another, although I do know it shares its name with one of Thor’s sons) and Snæfell (not actually Jules Verne’s one – “Snow Mountain” is a good enough name to have been used twice and this particular one is north-east of Vatnajökull).

This time I did watch the Hunger Games on the way back. I turned the sound up so I could make out what they were saying and soon realised I had a race against the plane as to whether I’d have time to make it to the end before we landed. For a while, I seemed to be in the ridiculous position of landing with less than two minutes of the film to go but then we had to do a big loop just east of Oxford (I’d turned on the maps on the screen belonging to the empty middle street so I could watch the film and the route at the same time) and that meant it finished ten minutes before we hit the tarmac. It was dark in London. That was new. I hadn’t seen dark for a while, only inside the volcano or when the curtains were closed in the common area of the guesthouse. Coaches only going every two hours, I had some time to kill before I got on mine. I got something to eat and watched something peculiar at the Olympics across the bar which later turned out to be the steeplechase.

We left Central Bus Station at 10 and it took maybe twenty minutes to get to T5 via T4. We then sat there for a very long time. For a while I entertained myself watching the light and water display of the fountains outside the main entrance but we were there so long that they got switched off. It transpired we had a problem with one of the tyres. Someone was coming out to fix it, they’d be ten or fifteen minutes and it would only take ten minutes to fix and then we’d be underway. No. Soon a lady was sticking her head in and saying we might have to change coaches later. Then the luggage came out of the hold and was put on trolleys. I watched it from my window, now starting to get properly fed up because it was eleven at night by now, I’d had a long day and I didn’t want to be in the UK at all, let alone still at Heathrow after all this time. The luggage was wheeled away and I picked up my stuff, preparing to change coaches. The luggage came back. I had no idea what was going on, whether we were coming or going or staying, starting to think about reclaiming my suitcase, finding another pod and spending the night there before making my way home in the morning.

At long last we were indeed put on another coach and an hour and a half after we’d first departed, we were finally on the road. I could see the moon – something else I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Almost everyone got off at Bournemouth, leaving just me and one other man, who got off at Frizzell’s Roundabout, leaving me with my own private coach for the last ten minutes. Richard met me at Poole and brought me home and I finally got in at ten to two in the morning.

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