February 24th 2018
Only about a month before I left for Iceland did the idea even enter my consciousness. My girlfriend and I seem to be attempting to out-adventure each other. This was the biggest gamble yet, and neither of us called the bluff, so we booked our very cheap Wow Air flights for February 24th 2018 and I went into research mode.
There were a few things we absolutely had to do, like an ice cave tour to the inside of a glacier, and see a few waterfalls. The research component was so much fun, but had its heartbreaking moments when we realized it wasn’t a good idea to do the Ring Road (the highway that encircles the country) due to the time of year and the length of our stay. Iceland’s weather can be temperamental, and getting stuck in the north with an upcoming flight could be disastrous. Also, it really demands more time to explore than we had! If I return, which would be in the fall, I will rent a car and do the Ring Road and camp for at least two weeks.
Kai and I left Muskoka around 8:45am on Saturday the 24th. We drove to Barrie and stopped at a wal-mart (I think I’m only banned from the local wal-mart) because we needed swimsuits, which we both forgot. I got a top to wear with some underwear which I will return, and Kai got shorts to wear with a tee shirt. We grabbed lunch and dropped off Kai’s cat at a friend’s when we got to the city. My mom’s cousin allowed us to park Kai’s car in her driveway for the 9 days we would be gone, so we didn’t have to pay to leave it somewhere in Toronto. It was a lovely visit and Joan actually loaned us the money for the transit fare because we didn’t think to bring any change! She even gave us enough for the trip back. Thank you, Joan!
We walked to Main St station and took the subway to Kipling, then the ‘Red Rocket’ to Pearson International Airport. While we were on the bus, we checked into the flight. We worried about being late but we needn’t have, we had tonnes of time because we didn’t have any baggage to check.
Wow Air is a very barebones airline with minimal customer service, which comes into play almost immediately. The good thing about them is that because you pay extra for a carry-on, you save a lot of money if you don’t bring one. So we only packed our ‘personal items’ and basically stuffed backpacks to bursting and wore as much clothes as we comfortably could. Turns out it wasn’t comfortable at all – most flights are freezing but this one wasn’t so we were overheated (yes, even me!).
We bought some small bottles of Ice Wine to give anyone who ended up hosting us. Our plan was to use the Couchsurfing app to find hosts or to do hostels or AirBnb. While waiting for the plane to board, I grabbed us subs because there’s no free food offered on the 5.5hour flight to Iceland. As we boarded, we realized our seats weren’t together. We were both in the middle seat, me in the row behind. Kai asked the people in our rows if anyone would trade so we could sit together, and one woman agreed, which was so generous because she gave up an aisle seat for a middle seat.
So, the plane had ‘technical difficulties’. It got to the runway and sped up and then completely stopped. We were pretty much in the dark the entire time! We sat on the tarmac for more than 2 hours waiting to hear anything. We were so uncomfortable – the overhead compartments had been full so our packs were under the seats in front of us and there was no room. Eventually we were de-boarded and waited in the airport for three more hours, not knowing if we’d even get to fly that night at all. We were given food vouchers for $12, which from Starbucks bought me a drink and a slice of lemon loaf.
We finally boarded around 11pm. We gave the woman who traded seats with us one of our ice wines for being so nice. The flight was interminable. We were uncomfortable, hot, and cramped. I slept jerkily but couldn’t get settled. I just wanted to arrive!
In truth, the lateness wasn’t relevant to our trip plans because we couldn’t pick up our rental car until noon anyway, so waiting in one airport was no different than waiting in the other. Once at Keflavik airport, I wandered around and tried to buy stuff at the duty free but I didn’t realize you could only buy things on your way out! So they took my stuff. LOL
Kai and I were a little short with each other because we weren’t sure where to go for our rental and we were tired and hungry. We found our way to Budget and picked up our Hyundai i20, a cute grey hatchback. Because it was so much cheaper for a standard, and to only have one driver, only Kai could drive, which caused a few issues later but overall was worth the savings.
Our first mission was to get to Reykjavik and do a free walking tour with citywalk.is. It began around noon and we valiantly hunted for a parking spot and finally found one. Our tour guide was Sarra and she was awesome. She was so funny and informative. We learned a lot about Icelandic history and the historical and current culture. The wind was truly blasting us, bitter with sideways needling rain. It rained the entire time we were on our tour, about two hours. She had a lot of great tips and information for us about Iceland. How they are nearly entirely sustainable in their energy due to the geothermal heating, what their 37% tax rate pays for (university, for one thing). How swimming pools are part of their dating culture. The impact of tourism on the economy and on the local people. It was really informative. We donated $20CAD to her at the end.
After everyone left, we were in the city hall and they had heated seating by the window which looked out over a lovely pond just covered in cool ducks and swans. We took the time to look up Couchsurfing for that night, but another guide had told us that it was fairly impossible to couchsurf in Iceland anymore. It’s so high in demand, even in the off season, and tourists were taking advantage of it by acting like it was a crashpad and not the intended purpose of a cultural exchange. So we had to move on to AirBnb. We put out a request and headed back to the car once we’d warmed up.
It was about 5:30pm and we hadn’t slept or eaten. We went to the cheap grocery store, Bonus. We bought some bread, cheese, some ‘caviar’ paste in a tube, and chips. After that, we tried to find WiFi so we could check on the AirBnb, but we couldn’t get it at the Harpa, which is the stunning concert hall. We eventually grabbed WiFi at a gas station, and Kai was in foul form because the apps on her phone were being difficult. She did eventually ask for help and we got it sorted. We were good to go to the AirBnb so we began to make our way ‘home’, just outside downtown Reykjavik. It was an adorable studio bunky with a bed, a table and two chairs, a loveseat, and a bathroom. It was VERY warm which was good for a while but then we opened the window. The wind was howling!
We ate dinner, and then talked a bit about our shortness and frustrations. We agreed to try to do better and especially try to make sure our needs are met so we are not on such short fuses in the future. It was about 9:15pm when we finally went to sleep.