The Land of Fire and Ice… and Optical Illusions (Part 1)

posted in: Frugal Travel, In the Mayhem | 1

It’s known as the land of fire and ice as the pure white snow sits on the shoulders of mountainous volcanoes and black sand dances on the shoreline. After spending my spring break traipsing around this island, I’ve concluded it’s not only the land of fire and ice but the land of optical illusions.Iceland

For starters, at the airport, you will exit your plane and find yourself in the middle of the airport surrounded by tourist shops and food areas. Your eyes will light up as your heart skips a beat as you spot the coffee. After all, it’s 6 am (2 am at home) and you need coffee before beginning immersion with the locals. You’ll get your coffee and head to the cashier where she will demand to see your boarding pass in a dry monotone Icelandic accent. When you inform her you just landed and there for, currently just have the stub of your boarding pass in your pocket. She will promptly reach out and take your warm hot coffee out of your hand and place it out of reach all while informing you of the policy requiring a boarding pass to purchase food upstairs, and you are to buy items downstairs. She will take no pity on your foreign status causing a great deal of confusion on your part. You’ll rebound when you spot Dunkin Donuts on your way out of the airport, where you are allowed to make a purchase.

You’ll pick up your rental car and hop on the road to start your journey on the frozen tundra. You’ll quickly encounter your second optical illusion, speed limit signs. You’re from a country insistent on doing things differently, so your standard units of measurement are useless here. Your public-school education will also fail you in this area because math is hard and you no longer possess the agenda you carried around school where all the conversion charts you needed were stored. The little yellow circle sign with the number 90 inside a red circle will confuse you. You’re not actually going 90, but more like 60. You’ll adjust to this illusion by the trip’s end, but it will take a day or two.Iceland 005
In efforts to fight jet lag and possibly consume more coffee, you’ll explore the city of Reykjavik. It will rain a little, but this was expected and you brought a coat. You find the greatest little café that has converted their bar into a bookshelf, stacked 4 shelves high. You’ll contemplate staying here longer than necessary but will need to get on with it at some point. Maybe it’s the jet lag, but you’ll savor every last bite and sip of your breakfast. Now that you have refueled, you’ll meet optical illusion number 3 when you start to pay and they want 8,452 kroner. Your mind is not equipped to handle the term “thousands” from a cashier. (If I ever live where that is the status quo in my life, please remind me of my humble peasant beginnings.)

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Long Live The VIKING!

After a day of exploring, you’ll eventually leave the city and what was once a drizzle of rain is now a blanket of snow and your visibility is around 10 feet. Your mind will not know how to process this sudden weather shift. You’ll laugh because this type of weather would send your hometown into a massive panic, yet here you are, driving around Iceland like it’s no big deal.

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No big deal, we can drive

An hour later the sun will be out because that’s just how Iceland rolls.You’ll get your bearings since you saw nothing on your way to the guest house.
The exploration continues on Tuesday and you notice it’s a tad bit windy outside. You think it would be neat to see the coastline, as you’ve noticed the towns aren’t near the shorelines and you’re curious. So you drive to the port for the ferry where you meet gust of winds over 25 mph and observe a sea that will kill you if you fall in. Now you know why people don’t live on the coastline in Iceland.

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Ocean of Death

You’ll continue on your journey where you come upon the parking lot at the “beach” and realize it’s the parking lot to go see the infamous crash-landed airplane by the water. You’ll think this a fun little stop along the road to your glacier hike. Oh, how wrong you are in your thinking, my friend. You’ll see the yellow trail markers lining the path to the shore. It can’t be too far you think, but your time in Iceland is still young and have not grasped the concept of these optical illusions.

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No worries, they all survived.

You can see the end of the shoreline, but have no clue how far it is. In America, you park fairly close to your beach, but not in Iceland. The wind will continue to pick up and you’ll start walking at an angle to avoid falling over. Eventually, you make it to the plane and take some cool pictures. You’ll stand on the black sand and take in snow-covered mountains in the background.Your mind won’t know how to process this breath-taking view.

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Where’s my finisher medal?

You’ll start the trek back to the car, knowing good and well it’s a long one. You’ll be wrong in thinking it will be against the wind and therefore, an easier walk. It is in fact, harder. You’ll demand to know where the warning sign for the distance and the wind are and feel compelled to warn others. You’ll see a small child and think “Oh , he’s not going make it”. You’ll go as far to read tripadvisor reviews demanding to know why no one mentions its 2.5 miles ONE WAY. You’ll wonder where your finisher medal and dry fit t-shirt are upon returning to your car. 

You’ll eat your lunch in the car and realize if you don’t leave now, you’ll miss your glacier hike so you’ll panic as you try to figure out the GPS. Optical illusion number seven, street address and coordinates. You’ll drive through a new landscape as the black sand fades and moss-covered boulders appear. This is where you’ll understand the troll myth lore and be convinced it’s real.

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Land of the trolls


You’ll continue to panic about missing your tour time, but you can see the glacier on the horizon so you must be close. You will have no clue how far away it truly is, as the flat landscape has altered your depth perception greatly. You’ll arrive at your tour just in time, only to be told the wind is too strong and you can’t go on your glacier hike.

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Is it 2 miles or 20?


And to think, it’s only day two…..

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The glacier I didn’t hike

One Response

  1. Elaine Pinkerton
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing your adventure. Can’t wait for Part II!

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