Iceland 2017: Sept 30

I slept in thermals last night. I don’t know why it took until the last night in the van for me to think of that. Not only was I toasty for the first time this week but I also started to take layers off – I even took off my hat!

In the morning I got up, packed the van, put all my stuff away in my big bag, emptied all the rubbish out of the van and then wandered the campsite in the hope of catching Morris again so I could take a photo of him. No luck. So off I went, past the smiley-face traffic lights, past the local pool (I knew it existed!!) and up to Hveragerdi where I popped into the N1 petrol station for breakfast of apple juice and star crisps. It’s clearly a popular place to be. I accidentally bought half a loaf of out of date bread.

On the Ring Road, I stopped right up at the top of the Blue Mountains by the geothermal power station, did not get lost in Kopavogur, did get lost in Hafnarfjordur, made a quick trip into the Cintamani outlet (I love Cintamani but it’s so expensive!) and then into Ikea – I went in with a plan, I knew what I was after, I knew roughly where it was and I was in and out in under fifteen minutes, despite struggling with the payment machine at the end. I am now the owner of two European-plug 3-USB chargers. I dropped the van off precisely on time, got dropped off at the bus stop round the corner (so close it really wasn’t worth the van company getting out a car to drop me off) and hopped off the bus at Landspitalinn. On my walk up to the hostel, I met some people with a map and a bus number who wanted my help to get to a hospital I didn’t know existed. The best I could manage was to figure out which way the map was supposed to go and pointed out that they needed the bus stop on the other side of the road and then I shambled up to my own front door. Fortunately, despite it only being about 12.30, my room was ready so I dropped off my luggage, got my phone charge – although only at a precise angle and went to enjoy Reykjavik in the sun.

Sun! I’d gone to Iceland a week early! I had a much-needed lunch of hamburgerbraud and cheese and tropical juice by the pond, ran away from a wasp, came home to warm up, read, had a nap and then went out later just to wander and restock my food supplies. As I walked back, I noticed minibuses picking up for Northern Lights tours. The sky was a bit cloudy. I looked at my watch. Twenty-four hours ago I’d been standing outside at Akranes watching the Lights fade away and tonight they hadn’t even gone out.

I returned to my warm bed, with a ceiling and a real bathroom and was very glad I was out of the campervan.

Iceland 2017: Sept 29

Rain again! I got up, washed, dressed, did the washing up at last, emptied the van and went for a swim at Akranes. Well, to float around its hotpots. It was too wet and cold to go in the main pool. Icelandic pools may be geothermally heated but they can still be a bit chilly in 4-6 degree weather. I got out at 12.30 and drove down to Selfoss via Thingvellir, although I didn’t stop in the park itself. I parked in the car park up by Oxarafoss for lunch. I stopped at Selfoss just to check if the campsite was open and available and nice and then I went down to Stokksbakki and Eyrarbakki, across the big river and the iron bridge, past the big black beach. Next I went up to Hveragerdi. There’s a hot river up in the mountains behind the town and now there’s a car park at the start of the hike and a café in a hut. And lots of cars. So many cars. Parked along the road as well as in the car park. However, the footpath starts across a horrifyingly icy river (I stuck my feet in it to test) which rushes far too quickly and looks a bit deep for me to try wading across. There’s a bridge but it’s just a tree trunk and it’s very rickety. I chickened out.

Back at Selfoss, I parked my campervan and went to pay and then I met Morris – resident campsite dog, retired search & rescue dog. He’s collie-like but a bit fluffier. He’s very friendly but he’s also well-trained. He knows he’s not allowed to jump on people but he stares appealingly until they invite him by saying his name or holding out their hands and then he leaps. He’s a lovely lovely dog!

And as well as the dog, there’s indoor space. There’s a big common room/kitchen with heat and light and tables and a strong smell of supernoodles and lots of campers charging their phones and cameras and laptops. It’s cloudy and windy and damp so it’s nice to be inside for once.

Everybody in this room has exactly the same plastic Ikea cups and plates, exactly the same as the ones in the back of my campervan. Are they all renting their vans from the same company or do all the companies just go to Ikea and choose exactly the same mint-green plastic plates?

My Kindle has been plugged in all day but hasn’t charged. Maybe it’s the wire then? Maybe my phone will come to life when I get home and plug in a working wire.

There’s a campsite cat too. It came into the common room – mostly black, white face and legs and apparently either friendly or keen on trying to beg supernoodles.


Iceland 2017: Sept 28

More idiots. Only one other van was left when I got up and they’d locked the toilet block from the inside. Not the individual cubicle but the whole block. I tried the door and got a mumble from within. Ten minutes later, I did everything short of smashing the door down. Communal space! Warmth! Water! Toilets! Not your personal whatever-you-think-you’re-doing-in-there-for-so-long! I was so angry I drove off to Snaefellsnes without basic morning jobs like washing up my plate & knife, brushing my teeth or even getting properly dressed.

It was less rainy than it had been and eventually the sun came out. I did the usual itinerary – Bjarnarfoss, Radfelgja, Arnarstapi, Hellnar, Djupalonssandur, then I climbed Saxholl, a crater I promised two or three years ago to come back to. 486 red iron steps up to the top (or possibly 388 – I counted both going up and coming down and was out by a whole hundred between the two numbers) or a perfect crunchy red pumice volcano.

Give or take photo stops, it was straight down to Akranes. I caught the red sunset reflecting on the mountains behind Borgarnes and I finally got Snaefellsjokull silhouetted against an orange sunset by the time I was on the road into Akranes, after it had been sitting under a cloud for the whole day as I drove round it.

The campsite at Akranes is right opposite Snaefellsnes – well, it’s on the other side of the bay. I parked up, paid, spied a sign with the wifi password so I got out the Kindle to try out the Experimental Browser, after several days with no phone. As I stood outside the office, I glanced up while waiting for it to connect and spotted a pale green streak right across the sky above my head. Northern Lights! Within five minutes they’d turned to huge swooshes of white and green and pink, so close, so rippling, so amazing, more vivid than anything I’ve ever seen before. I caught them on camera, although for once they looked better in real life (which is the opposite of what usually happens). I’ve never seen the Northern Lights without a foot of snow, temperatures in the many minuses and I’ve never ever seen them while wearing sandals. However, it wasn’t too warm and when the Lights had faded away, I returned to my campervan, to my Kindle and internet, and book and went to sleep.

Iceland 2017: Sept 27

It rained overnight. Again. I splashed across the field in my sandals, washed up yet again and headed out to the wonders of the west. Barnarfoss and Hraunfossr first, then five minutes up the road to Husafell, the end of civilisation. It’s the pickup point for trips up onto Langjokull but it’s also somewhere between a village and a small resort, with a bistro and little shop, a country hotel and golf club, outdoor geothermal pool and a surprising amount of shrubbery. Barnarfoss is a proper active river, still in the process of carving out a small canyon from the rock. It’s all autumn colours and although it was grey and wet and miserable, the green and orange and yellow leaves were bright and vivid. Hraunfossar is fifty or so yards further west down the river, where water flowing through the lava field tumbles out of the riverbank and down into the river, although there’s no river on the surface for it to fall from.

Next I went to Reykholt. Snorri Sturlusson is an important figure in Icelandic history, not least because he wrote Egil’s Saga, one of the Eddas and Heimkringsla. However, I’ve never managed to be very interested in his museum. The interesting thing about Reykholt is Snorralaug, Snorri’s pool. It’s a fairly small shallow pool, better for sitting on the edge and putting your feet in than sitting in and of course, it’s geothermal and warm. Across the field/garden, down by the road, is something that looks like a normal duckpond but it steams. I did not go and stick my hand in the water I know nothing about. If you stick your hand in the steaming water back at Geysir, you’re likely to end up with serious burns. I picnicked again in the back of my van in the car park.

Deildartunguhver is having some work done – walkways and fences being built, mostly, to protect tourists from violently bubbling very hot water. It’s always hard to see what’s going on at Deildartunuhver because it generates a lot of steam but at the moment, you can’t see much of it behind fencing and machinery. The dog was still there – it lives nearby and it spends most of its life seeking attention in the Deildartunguhver car park. It’s getting a bit old now, its fur is quite matted in places and it’s starting to limp – it nearly got “rescued” by a tourist earlier in the year.

What next? Grabrok, the little crater at Bifrost. I don’t think I really went there to climb it but of course, I ended up climbing it. I climbed it in 2014 and I’d forgotten how many steps there are up to it – for this is a crater with a set of wooden steps up to the rim and a gravel walk around the top. It rained. It’s quite a spectacular little crater, overlooking a second crater and there’s also the ruined outline of what may or may not have once been a longhouse.

On the way back to Hverinn, I stopped at Borgarnes. I wanted to see if I could get a phone of some kind at the biggest settlement in the west (I couldn’t). I sat in the roadhouse with a hot chocolate I didn’t really want so that I could borrow their electricity and try to charge my phone. It had charged on Monday but then refused to ever since. Maybe there was something about the campervan it didn’t like. Whatever it was, it didn’t like it about the roadhouse either.  Since I like Borgarnes, I went down to the headland, near where I usually stay when I don’t have a van. It’s pretty down there.

By 8pm I was back at Hverinn, reading. At 9.30, I noticed the van parked next to me – right next to me – had been sitting with its engine running and its lights on for a long time. Much later, when they hadn’t turned either off and I wanted to go to sleep, I resorted to flashing my headtorch at them. It worked. They stopped it. Half an hour later, when they thought I’d forgotten, it all went back on. Engine rumbling, lights on. Enraged, I wrote them a message on my misted-up window. There’s not a lot of space so it had to be short, pointed words, easy to write in mirror letters. English, fortunately, has some excellent words for this purpose. They didn’t notice. I flashed my torch again.

At 5.45, I woke up cold and realised the engine was rumbling again and the lights were on. They’d been slamming the doors all night – at one point, I’d heard the side door open and close three times in under three seconds (yes, really!) and now they were doing it again. I’d spent part of the night fantasising about how I could destroy them – sugar in the fuel tank, was my knife sharp enough to slash the tyres, was there some way I could blow up the entire van with what I had in the back? – so in a blind fury, I climbed into the front seat, started the engine, put on the main beams and turned round keeping those lights on them as much as was humanly possible before driving to the other end of the campsite. I climbed back into the back and lay down. This end of the site was much lighter than where I’d been. In fact, it was brighter than those annoying lights switched on next to me. It took nearly fifteen minutes for it to dawn on me that my headlights are not automatic and I hadn’t thought to switch them off. I climbed back into the front again and tried to go back to sleep.

Iceland 2017: Sept 26

Tuesday’s blog starts Monday night, in a campervan, listening to the wind wailing. I’ve stayed on this campsite before: in the height of summer, there seems to be no one running it – I never found anyone to pay. There only appear to be two or three other vans here tonight. I would rather be at Þingvellir or Selfoss with their non-freaky campsites but I’ve been to Fontana & it’s gone 10pm and I don’t fancy a drive tonight.

I made a friend in the hot tub – Kathleen, from St Petersburg, Florida. She’s here on her own, driving around, making it up as she goes along. Next she’s off to Finnish Lapland.

At Geysir today – yesterday? – we all learnt why we don’t stand downwind of an erupting geyser. Because the wind will blow a very heavy shower of near-boiling rain straight at you! That said, the people who got soaked found it hilarious. And so did everyone watching.

My campervan is just a mattress in the back of a Davis Docker (d-something; I’m not going out to look now). There’s a sort of wooden cupboard arrangement above it which is very handy but reduces getting into sleeping bag wiggle room down to zero. Gets you warm, struggling to get into bed. To lie there at 10.30, not sleepy yet, listening to the wind wailing.

I woke up to find the campsite at Laugarvatn less weird than I had in the dark last night. It was a campsite. Toilet block with showers, washing up sinks, bins, children’s playground, hot water throughout – as you’d expect from a place whose hot springs literally appear in the stories of the Settlement of the country. These hot springs were where the ever-practical Vikings decided to be baptised, following conversion at Þingvellir in the summer of 1000AS. The water is cold at Þingvellir. I know, I’ve paddled in it. The only thing that’s weird about Laugarvatn’s campsite is that it’s unstaffed apparently all year round so there’s no one to pay and no notice up telling you to pay at a nearby amenity.

I made Þingvellir, just half an hour away across a high, desolate heath road, my first stop. It’s not at its most charming in the mist, cloud & rain. They’re now introduced parking charges – 500kr for a day, valid in all the assorted car parks. It’s an entrance fee, really. Even in the less than six years since I fist went there, it’s changed a lot. More car parks, more toilets, more facilities, more foothpaths. A lot more toilets.

After I’d wandered Þingvellir and made my first visit to Öxarárfoss, I went to Borgarnes via the WHale Ford. Partly because I didn’t want, at this early stage, to hand over 1000kr to use the tunnel but mostly because it was too early to go straight to Borgarnes. It’s a long way round the whole Whale Fjord. I stopped on the south shore and climbed into the back for lunch before driving on.

I was in the pool at Borgarnes by 3.30. For five minutes I had it all to myself, then other people arrived. I made a quick trip into the lane pool but although it’s geothermally heated, it’s not all that warm so mostly I just drited in the 37° hotpot. The 39° pot is ok but the 41° is far too hot.

I got out. I went to the campsite at the top of the fjord and got settled in. It was a bit early so I thought I’d have something to eat. First I had to wash my plate and knife from lunch. No washing up place. Toilets and showers locked. I rained fury and rage down on Borgarnes, my favourite place in the whole country and consulted my Guide to West Iceland. Unless I wanted to go back to Akranes, on the other side of the Whale Fjord, there was only one campsite likely to be open within two hours, near Reykholt, a place I know because it’s Snorri’ Sturlusson’s home. The campsite is actually in the next hamlet to Reykholt, attached to a little country café/bar/restaurant – which I’m also familiar with. I paid, was given my sticker and invited to “stay as long as you like”.

Instantly I revised my woolly plans. This was an interesting part of the countryside. Deildartunguhver, the biggest hot spring in Europe, was just across the fields, the steam literally visible from the campsite. Reykholt was two miles away, two spectacular waterfalls half an hour away. That was Wednesday’s itinerary then.

I walked down the road to take photos of the scenery, since it had now stopped raining. I made friends with three dogs, who followed me along the road and refused to go home. When I got back, I finally washed my plate and knife and had a chat with another visitor at the campsite. He was also washing up and while we discussed the insane price he’d paid for his Range Rover 4×4 converted campervan, he was holding a knife with a blade a foot long. We have a very similar knife at work; I know it’s nowhere near as sharp or dangerous as it looked. And besides, I had a knife in my hand too. The blade is hardly longer than my longest finger but it’s frighteningly sharp so overall, I seemed to be at the advantage if he decided to stop chatting and start attacking. Which he didn’t, and which I didn’t think he would anyway.

I got into bed at ten to eight and put down my book to have what turned out to be an extended nap at nine. There’s not a lot else to do in a dark campervan in the middle of the countryside in the rain.

Iceland 2017: Sept 25

This blog is literally coming to you from a hot tub. It’s 7.30pm & I’m in the raised pot at Laugavatn Fontana, which I’ve always found too hot but is apparently a great temperature for blogging. The phone is safe in a waterproof case and according to the LCD clock, it’s 11° at the moment. Warmer than Reykjavik and it’s hardly rained today.

Day started with early breakfast because I knew I had to pack. After I packed, I sat & killed some time because I wasn’t picking the car up in Hafnarfjörður until 12 and I wasn’t going to carry my luggage any further than necessary. Then the finger on the bottom corner of my phone felt hot. The phone felt hot. I pulled out the cable – smoking, black and melting. Fortunately, it didn’t quite kill the phone – or me.

I took the bus down to Hafnarfjörður, picked up my van & asked where I could get a new cable. Elko. Just Elko. They’re entirely in the metropolitan area I intended to avoid. I guess if you live somewhere like Egilsstaðir, you make a special multi-day road trip or a cross-country flight for a new cable. Or never use your phone again, I guess. I decided fate would find me one and off I went.

I wanted to get onto the Ring Road without driving through Reykjavik. Too much traffic, too many lanes, too many junctions. I’d looked up a suitable alternative on Google Maps. An hour to Selfoss.

Three hours to Hveragerði, which is ten minutes west of Selfoss. I got horribly, horribly lost in the suburbs. I did stumble across Elko & get a new wire, though. It’s Icelandic PC World – literally. Same layout, same signage, same KnowHow. Just a green frontage & a new name.

I did some shopping while I was lost, so lunch was in the car park at Hveragerði, in the back of the van.

I went to Geysir, watched at least a dozen Strokkur eruptions. Went to Gulfoss. Realised I didn’t fancy a long dark evening in the van so here I am at Fontana, blogging from a hot tub covered in fairylights. No wifi, though, so I don’t know when you’ll get to read this

Iceland 2017: Sept 24

It was grey and rainy and miserable again on Sunday so I walked down Laugavegur with a plan. It wasn’t early but being a Sunday, the only shops open were the tourist shops and the occasional cafe. That surprised me – as far as I’d seen, Saturday and Sunday opening hours were much the same. They definitely were at the swimming pool I was headed for, I’d checked. I planned to walk but it’s a long way from the city centre (and as it turns out, I didn’t actually know where it was) so I turned back & got the bus from Hlemmur instead.

There’s never bad weather for a trip to the pool. Laugardalslaug has an outdoor 50m pool, an indoor pool split in two halves, four hotpots, a seawater spa (a salty hotpot), a sociable pool, a play pool and a lagoon pool, not to mention saunas, steam rooms, slides and play equipment. I swan ten lengths of the outdoor pool, splashed around the play pool & sampled the cooler hotspots – 40° is more than enough for me. The sun came out. The rain bucketed down. The sun came out. And so on.

I took the bus home and had a late lunch, then I went into central Reykjavik for a bit of shopping & sightseeing. I’d eaten all the cheese so I replaced that but it wasn’t until I was walking home, enjoying a husky paddling in Tjörnin, that I realised I hadn’t got bread. Never mind. I didn’t need it for breakfast and it would only be another thing to carry out to Hafnarfjörður to pick up the campervan.

Iceland 2017: Sept 23

I woke up stupidly early again – too many people in the guesthouse slamming doors & spending forever putting their shoes on outside my door (sounds ridiculous: you can’t know how noisy this is until you’ve experienced it at 5.30am.

Eventually I had to admit defeat and get up. Breakfast was on offer at the mothership around the corner – no hot fresh rolls sadly but there was toast and real butter and the usual sorts of meat & cheese and cucumbers (who eats cucumber for breakfast? This is not a thing!) and hard-boiled eggs and so on.

Back in my room I was still plaiting my hair and trying to delay going out in the wind and the rain when housekeeping let themselves into my room. 9.30 is a bit early but I’ll bear it in mind for tomorrow.

I went down the road to the far end of Tjörnin, saw some nice dogs, decided I did need my waterproof trousers on after all (learnt that they’re warm & windproof too!) and went down to city hall where I watched ducks dabbling in the moat. I always like watching the birds in Reykjavik. Tourist information is now in city hall so in I went, only to find a huge relief map of Iceland on a table. It’s so interesting! To see where the mountains really are, to see how flat the south is, you can actually see the line of Laki craters, Herðubreið in the middle of nowhere. It was also very hot inside in full waterproofs.

Walking out of city hall, past the new (new! 1881!) parliament building, there’s not a hint to be seen that the Icelandic government has collapsed in the last week and that for the next month, until the snap election on October 28th, there’s no one in charge. Anywhere else in the world there would be anarchy & riots. Iceland? No sign anything’s wrong. Read about how that all happened for yourself.

I crossed Ingolfstorg, saw that the old TIC is now a boutique and went over to the Old Harbour. Unsurprisingly, given the weather, all the whale watching trips were cancelled bur moored were two actual whalers – whether current or previously, I don’t know. I tried to imagine a dead whale on the steep deck. How would you even get it on board?

The subsequent mental discussion about whaling and therefore the 17th century Danish trade monopoly took me down the road, through the roadworks & into the famous flea market. I’ve never been in there. It’s a lot like Wimborne market with more ring-necked jumpers, lava jewellery and dried fish.

Stopping in all the tourist shops on the way, I headed home. I was being picked up at 1.30 to go to the Blue Lagoon and I needed lunch and to pack. Figuring they were easier to put on damp feet than boots, I wore my sandals and nearly froze to death waiting for the minibus in the howling gale. I enjoyed the effect it had on the bushes, though. The top layer has turned a bright red. The lower layers are still yellowish-green. When the wind blows and the leaves turn, the entire shrubbery changes colour. It’s quite magnificent.

First job at the Blue Lagoon was exploration. It’s been expanded since I was last there. The in-water bar has moved and now the silica mud masks come from a facial bar rather than a wooden crate, there are two new bays and part of the cooling basin has been drained, leaving a kind of white silica beach. Other than that, there are minor changes, like a facelift. It’s not unrecognisable but “there used to be a kind of beach somewhere around here”, “why does this feel more open?”, “I think the bridges are new” – and most importantly, they’ve cleaned the floor! No more don’t-think-about-it sludgy hairy bottom. Very little gravel. It needed doing. I’m glad they’ve done it. I took ridiculous selfies and a greeter took & emailed photos of me too.

 I had a blue slushie and later, to stave off starvation pains, some crisps and the thickest richest hot chocolate ever. But as the evening wore on, it became harder to ignore the wind and the rain, especially as the sky grew darker. Soon, lying on your back in hot milky crackling water, looking at a heavy black sky with your nose & ears nearly frozen off in an outdoor pool, you start to question why you haven’t gone home yet. I gave in half an hour before I planned too, before I punched a tourist who was proudly declaring “Viking was disappointing” (it’s a tiny wool-making village which happens to have a black sand beach and a petrol station, what were you expecting of it?) and “Geysir doesn’t fire anymore. Why would I care about seeing it?” (I can’t even).

There is no clock at the luggage store where you shelter from the weather while waiting for your bus and I’d deliberately left my watch behind. Buses park opposite but you can hardly see what company they belong to, let alone the card destination signs, not in the dark with dazzling headlights on.

We came into the back of Reykjavik, past Harpa all lit up in blues and purples. Much to my surprise, we didn’t go to the bus terminal and get doled out into minibuses for once. Today the full size coach was taking us home, even up to bus stop 8 in the narrow streets around the big church.

I have asked all the gods, Norse & otherwise, for better weather. I may die in the campervan if this keeps up.

Iceland 2017: Sept 22

It’s ridiculous to leave home at 7am for a flight at ten past one. But by the time I’d got petrol, battled rush hour in Winchester and sat through four-way temporary traffic lights in Billingshurst, it was getting on for 11 before I arrived at Gatwick’s Summer Special car park. I have never liked leaving my car in a waiting bay & handing my keys to a stranger but this was official parking & it was right next to Long Stay, with barbed wire fences & gates and… it would have been a much better use of space to just make a traditional car park out of it.

I took the shuttle bus to the airport. Checked in, whizzed through security without getting searched, had a late breakfast of toast (toast with cheese wasn’t available until 12) in a pub actually literally packed to the rafters with men drinking pints of lager and yelling the Drunk Man Cheer.

At 12.25 my gate was announced. I fled & found my plane was Bláfell, Blue Mountain, a flat-topped volcano in northern Iceland. My favourite thing about Icelandair planes is the entertainment system, which I’ve never encountered on low-cost short haul European flights but my second favourite is that all the planes are named after volcanoes.

We were late boarding. We were late moving. We sat for twenty minutes on the edge of the runway – I was watching The Matrix & also watching the time counter on it. We were half an hour late landing at Keflavik, after heading right across Reykjanes and circling over Faxaflói back to the airport through heavy rainclouds – it had been beautiful clear sunny weather all the way to the south coast of Iceland & the couple next to me clung to each other all through the descent. We were late disembarking – staff shortage to operate the jetbridge. Has Icelandic tourism grown too much too fast? Ooh, I don’t know!

I got the bus into town. On the north side was a very bright double full rainbow the likes of which I’ve never seen before. On the south side was black sky & a window so heavily streaked with rain that you couldn’t see out. We stopped at Greyline’s terminal, tumbled into minibuses & went off to our corners of Reykjavik. They now deliver to a dozen tourist bus stops rather than to hotel or guesthouse doors. I’d booked bus stop 6 at the Culture House thinking I might want to have a look at Reykjavik on my way to my guesthouse. In the rain, carrying luggage. I hopped on a different minibus & went to bus stop 8, my actual closest.

Guesthouse Andrea is really an annex of Guesthouse Aurora, which is where I had to go to check in & collect keys and where breakfast is served. Andrea is a basalt-grey fronted house on a residential street in Asgard – the streets around the distinctive Hallgrímskirkja which are named after Norse gods. I’m on Njarðargata, named after the father of the Vanar, Frej & Freyja, if I remember rightly. I may not.

First stop after dropping my luggage was shopping. I was horrified to find my favourite big book/tourist shop has become a Hard Rock Cafe but Eymundsson’s is still intact, fortunately. Other things have changed – there’s something hugely different about the square outside the Greyline office too but I can’t put my finger on what.

Down at Tjörnin, the pond is still water rather than ice so the ducks, geese & swans are not confined yet to the one unfrozen corner. You’re also now requested to not feed them between 15th May and 15th August to help protect ducklings from seagulls.

I was getting hungry by now and it was raining so off I went to 1011 for food. Iceland is getting rid of plastic bags this month – I had my big bag and I’d also brought my Svalbardbutikken shopping bag. I have a mini kitchen in my room – well, I have a sink, a fridge, two hot plates & a couple of cups – so juice, cheese and bread were top of the shopping list. And star crisps, although I had to settle for red cheese as they didn’t have the green ones.

By the time I got back, having got lost in Asgard – Njarðargata is at 90° to Skólavorðustigur, not parallel to it – I was hot and then because the window was open, I was cold. Very cold. I’m going to freeze to death in my campervan on Monday cold. And I’d been up a very long time by then.

Sunday 7th: Reykjanes

I spent the first part of Sunday packing. My stuff had got scattered all over the place and even once I’d packed in the apartment, there was all the stuff that had escaped into the car. First stop was at the N1 at the end of the main road to get rid of as much rubbish as I could – I’ve been living out of the car for a week, eating most meals in the car. I’ve accumulated a lot of bread wrappers, plastic cheese wrappers and juice cartons and I haven’t been stopping religiously at a bin every day to get rid of it bit by bit.

Second stop was at the Geothermal Park in Hveragerði. I only realised yesterday that the hot river above town is a different place from the Geothermal Park which is in the middle of town and while I don’t fancy walking 40 minutes each way to see a hot river – they’re kind of abundant in Iceland – I was willing to drive two minutes up the road to visit the Park.

What’s interesting is that there’s a hot stream flowing through the Park – so hot that they sell eggs at reception for you to boil in the stream. Except not today. The stream is currently only at about 80° and it needs to be at least 90° to boil the eggs. Actually a lot of the Park was a lot cooler than I was expecting. There are two or three hot springs which have produced silica-rich bright blue pools – all totally dried up. All the bubbling mud pools, totally dried up. I did happen to catch one of the boreholes spouting – an actual working geyser! It’s too late at night now to find out how often it erupts, but I didn’t even know it existed so I’m pretty pleased to have seen it. It’s not as high as Strokkur but whereas Strokkur is one violent explosion, this one lasted quite a while and was definitely several smaller eruptions which looked like more steam than water.

The hot river is very decorative but the only things producing much steam or heat in the Park were the boreholes. Here’s the thing about geothermal areas – they move as the hot spot under the ground moves. New hot spots appear, old ones fade. And this one definitely looks like it’s faded.

Onwards. I drove to the airport via Reykjanes because the other option is to go via Reykjavik and that’s not an option. It’s one thing driving a left-hand-drive car on the open road. It’s quite another to try and negotiate a capital city, with lanes and traffic and lights and all that. Besides, I knew from yesterday that it’s one hour and ten minutes to the Blue Lagoon from Hveragerði via Reykjanes plus they always say twenty minutes from the Blue Lagoon to the airport. That’s an hour and a half. Whereas I know it’s forty minutes from Hveragerði to Reykjavik and then it’s an hour from Reykjavik to the airport. And I’m not entirely certain whether I’m counting those from similar points in Reykjavik. Either way, that’s a minimum hour and forty via the capital so my way is ten minutes faster.

Anyway. Off I went along Reykjanes in the sunshine. Stopped at Krýsuvík, where there’s another geothermal area. This one is much better. This one has its own car park and is free and more importantly, the ground boils and bubbles. It’s all red and orange and yellow, streaked with blue and green and white. I suppose it’s very ugly but in a way, it’s very beautiful. So many colours, so much heat, so much steam, so much smell. Blue-grey bubbling mud, orange and white steaming hillside, signs warning of potential steam explosions. If you’re in the south-west of Iceland and want to see something geothermal, Krýsuvík is a much better option than Hveragerði. Of course, if you’re in the north-east, Hverir, just outside Mývatn, is even better.

Off I went again, now heading straight for the airport, or rather in the direction of the airport to see how early I got there and whether it would be possibly to pop to the pool in Keflavik. And then my car pinged and a message appeared on the dashboard: loss of pressure – front left tyre. What was I supposed to do? Stop and check it but this wasn’t a road I could stop on. I slowed down and drove until I found a junction. These roads are rarely used – no one would mind if I made a quick stop in their junction. I hopped out and examined my tyre. It wasn’t flat or obviously damaged. I squeezed it and then went to squeeze the front right tyre for comparison. They felt much the same. I was 14km from Grindavík, the only settlement since Þorlákshöfn, a tiny harbour barely fifteen minutes out of Hveragerði. In other words, the only settlement for an hour. I couldn’t just sit on the side of the road. I had to get to Grindavík.

I drove slowly. I had a vague idea that sudden movements and sharp braking might not be good for my tyre, whatever was wrong with it. I wondered if maybe a bit of speed might be good for it. From what I remember of my physics, if it was warmer, the pressure would increase. Maybe if I could heat it up, it would re-inflate itself. But I decided that wasn’t a good idea and continued driving slowly and steadily. Fortunately it’s a quiet road and there were very few cars following to be annoyed by my lack of speed. I made it to Grindavík in one piece. I knew from yesterday that there was an N1 roadhouse in town and I went straight there. But this wasn’t somewhere I could get help. It’s just a café with a couple of petrol pumps out the front. I got out the car’s manual. It explained the warning light I’d had sitting staring at me for 14km and it said exactly what I knew it would say. If this comes up, stop immediately, do not continue driving. It also, helpfully, had a few things to say on the subject of tyre pressure. That if the pressure is low, the tyre will flex more and if it flexes it will get hot and it will explode. If the pressure is high, it will get hot and it will explode. In short, my tyre was about to explode. And I knew that. I’d driven 14km with two images alternately flashing before me – Richard Hammond’s 2006 Vampire crash and the lady who hit the bridge on my last afternoon at Kimco. If the tyre burst, it could go the way of the Hammond crash and that would be all kinds of bad. Or at best, it could be like the bridge lady and that would be very expensive. I’d ignored both scenarios long enough to get me to Grindavik but I was still 23km from Keflavik. I needed to do something – in a tiny sleepy fishing village on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The N1 provided the news that three streets down was an OB petrol station with an air pump. I drove down and tried the door of the kiosk. No one in, of course. It’s Sunday and anyway, all fuel stops in Iceland are completely self-service, pay-at-pump jobbies. There probably wouldn’t have been anyone there any other day either. I wandered around and found the air at the side of the building. Ok. There was nothing visibly wrong with the tyre so I would have to assume that it was gradually losing pressure over time, as tyres do, which is why they need reinflating sometimes, and that it had simply dipped below the car’s accepted standard. I would fill it up. I consulted the manual again to find out what pressure it should be. It didn’t tell me. I flicked through several places and eventually discovered that there should be a sticker inside my door. There was but all it showed was a little picture of a meter next to each wheel, with no useful numbers. And by now I had barely an hour to get to the airport and either I was stuck in Grindavik with a non-functioning car or I had to risk an enormous crash. Not that I panicked and overreacted to this ridiculous warning. I eventually found the important sticker on the inside of the fuel flap. Three rows, two columns, three numbers in each box. No clue. And then at that moment, as I stood there with the manual in my hand, the fuel flap open, looking distressed, a car pulled up.

Icelandic men come from two moulds. One is the Norwegeian stereotype. They’re tall and slim and blondish and usually wearing a lópi. The other is the Ólafur Darri Ólafsson type – that’s Iceland’s most famous actor. He was the drunk helicopter pilot in the Ben Stiller Walter Mitty thing that thinks you can predict eruptions and that Eyjafjallajökull is next to Stykkishólmur. He was the policeman in Trapped recently. Apparently he’s in the BFG. Anyway, he represents the second mould of Icelandic Man – largeish, hairy and helpful. This man was the second kind. His other half was driving and he was half-leaning out of the window, which is why I took him to be there to help me. He wasn’t but the moment I asked him to, he did. He found the right number on my sticker, programmed the air machine, attached it to my tyre (I unscrewed the cap – I’m not completely helpless!) and it was done within a second. He also pointed out that my left mudflap was a bit wobbly, which I knew and warned me that when I returned the car, they might try to charge me for it. Immensely relieved to have my tyre fixed, I packed up my manuals and headed off.

The warning was still on but that didn’t surprise me. The manual said it would need to be reset, it wouldn’t just vanish. I didn’t entirely want to reset it in case something went wrong with it but on the other hand, if I reset it and it immediately came back on, then I’d know something was still wrong with the tyre. On the other hand, when I reset it and it didn’t come back on, it just made me worry all the way to Keflavik that I’d forced the car to believe there was no problem when there still was. The drive to Keflavik was every bit as slow and careful as the drive to Grindavík.

I paused on the corner at the airport to fill up with fuel and empty my rubbish. Everyone else had the same idea. There are three bins there – all full, plus one big industrial bin. I ended up dumping stuff in there, an armful at a time. I’d only done half of it in Hveragerði in the morning, not wanting to put a week’s worth of rubbish in one petrol station bin. And then on to the Hertz dropoff. The nice man (ODO-style) had a look at my windscreen, wandered around the car checking for obvious damage, checked the mileage and the fuel and that the tyre warning light didn’t come on and then gave me a receipt and sent me away. Not a penny for the mudflap, not a penny for driving too far (as had been in the process of happening to an American as I walked into the office), not a penny for nearly exploding a tyre. However, their shuttle bus had broken down two days ago and I had to walk to the terminal.

By the time I’d walked the 200 yards with all my luggage, I was hot and angry. There were too many tourists in the airport, not enough trolleys, not enough check-in machines and then the machine gave me a middle seat in the middle of the plane. I’m 99% sure I chose my seat when I booked the tickets – window seat in the penultimate row. It also gave me the option to change to the one and only other unoccupied seat in the plane. Middle seat, one of the last three rows. I declined and I wish I hadn’t because I was in the exit row and therefore none of my luggage could go under my seat where I like it. However, because there are now too many planes we were taken by bus most of the way to the cargo terminal where our plane was sitting on the horizon. I managed to get on the first bus and I managed to get to my seat long before most people in the vicinity which meant that for once, I had first pick of the overhead lockers. This is the problem with sitting at the back – by the time you’ve fought your way through, a lot of the lockers are full. Not that I mind sitting with my stuff under my feet.

The screens were a bit defective – on the way out, I’d watched 45 minutes of a film before we even hit the runway but today the screens didn’t even switch on until we were up in the air. The flight tracker mode didn’t work at all – the little plane sat on Keflavik for the entire flight and half the information was missing. But that was ok – I had a book to read and somehow that made the flight pass much quicker than watching a film and a couple of episode of TV that I’m not really interested in.

I found the M25 this year. Last year I somehow missed it and carried on along the M4 until I hit the outskirts of Reading. Everything else, I wasn’t quite sure which side of the M25 it was – is Slough inside or outside? Maidenhead? But I knew Reading was on the outside. This year the M25 was right there. The M3 was right there. And once I’m on the M3 I’m all good. The only thing distressing me now that I’m home is that there is nowhere on the way home from Heathrow on a Sunday night that will sell me a loaf of bread for my breakfast toast tomorrow. It might have to be the remnants of cereal I brought back from Iceland.