day 8: journey to vík í mýrdal

ef þú vilt vita hvað maður er að gera hann að konungi. – “if you wish to know what a man is, make him king.”

– country landscapes greet us on our way to vik –

after 7 days in the really ‘hectic’ city of reykjavik, it was time to put the brakes on our whirlwind, gust-laden segment of our iceland holiday.

our next port of call?  The village of vik – iceland’s southernmost township which is 180km away from Reykjavik.

after a late night out in concert with sigur ros and their ditties still haunting our heads, we grudgingly wake up, gobble up a quick breakfast at our hostel and wait for our ride to vik.

we get picked up in a mini-bus and then hauled over to a smaller van 10 minutes away, filled with other equally sleepy, bedraggled tourists.

why?  because 8:30am in iceland in early november isn’t like 8:30 am’s in other parts of the world.

here, it is still pitch dark and requires a pair of sturdy night vision goggles if you’re going to find your way around. any vampire worth his blood should think about moving here in the winter. transylvannia is soooooo old school.

aaaanywhoo, a couple of minutes later, we’re cruising on the main ring road (route 1) to vik.

our guide for the tour is ratna, a friendly, chatty 50-ish year old chain smoker who gets my vote as iceland’s best tour guide, which i will explain later. he starts us off by telling us a little about the sights we can barely see around us. hello? night vision goggles please!

at around this time, a light winter rain begins to drizzle upon us, leaving us with very little to see.

having trudged this route before on my glacier tour a week prior, i decide to catch up on a few winks.

at this point, ratna doesn’t even make an impression on me as i choose sleep over landscapes.

skogafoss…blah, blah, blah….geothermal pipes…blah, blah, blah….icelandic sagas….blah, blah…selfoss….blah, blah, blah…

everything ratna said went over my head until skogafoss. everyone got off the van for some snaps and i was still fidgeting with my gloves, trying to get them on and he casually asks me where i’m from.

i reply, quite enthusiastically that i was from malaysia, all the while thinking this would only be the prologue to a reasonably lengthy explanation of where my country was, its people, culture and weather. such is the burden we bear as asians travelling to the west where people are not so geographically well-versed about the continent and the many countries that make it up.  that’s what i thought. i wasn’t, of course, ready for what was next when ratna keenly responded in his thick icelandic english accent  ‘ah! malaysee-ya. yes, i believe we send our pilots there on training exchange programmes.’

whoa! ok! now THAT was certainly unexpected. scratch the prologue, people! we’re right smack in mid-plot here! i was nicely surprised – one, because ratna had heard about my country and second, malaysia, a hot, tropical dense wetland and his, have actual relations?! coooool!

“malaysee-ya is very hot no? how’s iceland treating you?” he enquires. “cold, but I’m taking it all in since we don’t get this weather back home. in fact, i’m enjoying it!” i laugh as my feet struggle to keep warm.

and that was what impressed me about ratna, he was a walking, talking encyclopaedia who, unlike all our other guides, would take the time to chat with his guests, learning about their countries and cultures, then trying to bring all that back and tie it all in with his speeches on iceland.

skogafoss was a photographer’s nightmare that day. even with a shower cap to protect my camera from the rain, it was just too cold and rainy to take a decent picture. what you’re seeing below is just the semi-decent ones before my lens filter began fogging up. gah! wanna see how bad? click here.

- a stream fed by the skogafoss waterfall -

– a stream fed by the skogafoss waterfall –

to top it all off, the waterfall that had charmed my socks off a week prior had transformed into an ice queeen. there was hardly any water flow  as most of the falls had iced over. well, it was -2 degrees so i wasn’t surprised.

– skogafoss transforms into a total ice queen –

after skogafoss, ratna brings us back to solheimajokull. yes, the very same glacier we almost got blown off a week before.

– solheimajokull actually looked stunning a week later –

this time, however, we did a gentle walk around it. what a relief! because of this, we were all finally able to take some nice ‘arctic explorer’ photos of ourselves around solheimajokull, as opposed to the last time…..

20121105_115934

– finally a decent oicture of myself at the solheimajokull –

after a pleasant hour out at the glacier, soaked in light rain, we trek back to the van. the van hobbles and bumpity-bumps its way out of the glacier area before we are on the road again.

- a picturesque view of the solheimajokull glacier snout -

– a picturesque view of the solheimajokull glacier snout –

45 minutes later, we find ourselves at the N1 gas station next to the village of vik i mrydal where we have a spot of lunch.

after our bellies are filled up, ratna offers to send me and my friend to vik hostel where we will spend the next 2 days or our trip.

see, we decided to break our tour up to take 2 days to enjoy the sights and sounds of vik hence why we got dropped off halfway through the tour signaling another phase of our winter adventure here in iceland….

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