Friday & Saturday: Heathrow to Egilsstadir

On Friday evening, in a bus stop in Heathrow’s long stay car park, in the pouring rain, I made a wondrous discovery: that the 100 litre duffel bag I haul my camping stuff to Iceland in every summer was light enough to hoist onto my back. Not hugely comfortable and I couldn’t carry it long distances but clearly I’d achieved either a miracle of packing or I’d forgotten a lot of stuff.
There is a person on the shuttle buses at Heathrow called an ‘air porter’. This person attempted to grab my bag out of my hands and carry it off the bus for me, which I’m not having – that’s my big heavy bag and I’m going to haul it around, don’t you dare assume I can’t lift my own luggage. And then I put it on a trolley because it’s a bit heavy.
Having been prewarned at check-in that my gate would be a B-gate, I decided to go down that tunnel to the satellite terminal before our gate was called, making me the first by far to be there when it was, giving me a long time to watch the Singapore Airlines double-Decker being loaded and to see the interesting uniform of their stewardesses. Our plane (Laki, which I was pleased with because Laki is a volcano with whom I’m personally acquainted) was delayed by about half an hour and it was nearly ten by the time we took off. I watched the first episode of Fortitude – skipping through the bit where the murder victim is found – and half of Kingsman before being distracted by coming in over Reykjanes and seeing Snæfellsjökull silhouetted against the sunset on the horizon.
Things have changed with Greyline. You now get delivered to their bus terminal in the east of the city before being decanted into minibuses for delivery to final destination. I’d opted to go to Lækjatorg, the downtown square where this usually happens to avoid it and it happened anyway – because the car park is now a construction site/archaeological dig. The minibus driver helped me hoist the bag on my bag – impossible alone from a pavement although fine on a raised surface like a bench, chair or bed – and I scuttled off up Laugarvegur, witnessing the rúntur, the way Icelanders get drunk in the street until crazy hours on Friday and Saturday nights, for the first time ever – I’m not usually downtown at 1.30am.
My guesthouse was locked but I’d been given instructions to get in – I coped with the coded key box but then struggled to spy the lift. My room was on the fourth floor and overlooked Eymundssons, the big bookshop on Skólavordustígur, and Esja just visible behind.
On Saturday morning I was up earlier than I really wanted to be to go into town and get some breakfast. I popped down to Tjörnin, the Pond, to find the birdlife was not in feeding position at 8am, and then I went to say hello to Esja, and popped into the Greyline offices to check that I could get a Stræto bus to the airport from right there at Lækjatorg before going back to eat and pack.
No, the Number 12 doesn’t actually go to the airport. It goes to five minutes walk away. The driver stopped the bus for me – since I obviously had no idea where to press the button and then he gave me directions.
Five minutes with a 16kg+ bag that isn’t really designed to be worn means two stops and arriving exhausted, sweaty and with pain in shoulders, only to find check-in literally does not start until half an hour before the flight, which gave me over an hour to watch an Akureyri flight and two Ilulisaat flights board and take off, plus have a selfie demanded by a man in a tutu skirt and some kind of tuxedo wetsuit who was being filmed by his mates and was on ‘a mission’ of some kind.
My flight was five minutes late taking off but made up for it with some good views. We crossed three glaciers – I recognised Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull but I swear the first one was the wrong shape and too big to be Eyjafjalljökull and therefore must have been Longjökull, except that’s not a logical route at all. You know when you’re flying over one, even when all you can see is cloud – turns out a massive sea of ice affects temperatures around it and especially above it – the plane went ice-cold every time we flew over one. Nature air-conditioning the plane.
We landed at Egilsstadir, as expected – or Fortitude Airport, if you prefer. No polar bear on the conveyer though. We stood in baggage reclaim and looked at our bags on the truck parked next to the plane thirty yards away – no actual hold on the Fokker 50; it had all just been behind a screen in the back of the plane – and waited for it to finally be delivered to us. Then we waited ages at the Hertz desk while the one employee was busy dealing with a stolen car. Don’t know why anyone would bother stealing a car in Iceland. It’s not like you can get far with it and you can’t hide it anywhere.
I have a dark silver/grey Golf, a bit of a step up from the three-door Aygo or similar I ordered. Actually, I was expecting a Hyundai i10 – all the hire companies were using Hyundais last year. Golfs do tend to clatter a bit, even the petrol versions but my real problem is the electronic handbrake. That and getting used to a wrong-way-round car and not being certain of the speed limits when there’s always someone following me.
I made a detour (got lost) round the residential back streets of Egilsstadir before finding the campsite. I paid for three nights and was given the ever-exciting sticker to put on my guyropes. I put the tent up – such stony soil. I don’t have a single peg in half as far as it should be – and then went off to the pool.
I’d forgotten how naked the changing rooms are but at least I was in the right place (in Tallinn, I was in the wrong place) and off I went to the water – the pool, of course, is outside. Two hot pots, a lane pool and a slide (which was closed). It was lovely for a while but then the hot pots were too hot and the pool was too cool so I got out. I stopped off at the supermarket for some basics and then more or less went to bed.

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