“Nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease, with carefreeness and harmony and love.”
The love and harmony that the aurora borealis creates, was the lure of our adventure, seeing the magic spread through the skies of Iceland was all we desired, and nothing else was considered.
We set off on a dismal day in London and landed in darkness in Iceland, rain pouring down -we could have for sure been back where we started. My name, waved on a card, in the airport and we were off on our adventure. Picked up by the most charming of drivers, full of wonderful tales of trolls, Christmas, 13 Santa Clauses and Icelandic history, he made the time fly by.
Endless empty land flashed before our eyes until eventually we pulled into what seemed like the outback. The wooden ranch of Hotel Ranga was our home for the next few days. Stepping into the freezing night air we rushed for the door, which creaked as it opened, the bright lights and warmth beckoned us into this rustic lodge.
Checked in, we followed dozens of walking boots as they stomped up the corridor from a day of adventure, before we turned off to our room. Wooden doors and features, this was our very own rustic temple in Iceland.
The excitement of, “will we see the Northern lights,” filled my mind every second but the important business of food needed to be addressed so it was back down the corridor into a very busy restaurant – full of dreamers like us ready to see the skies come alive. A glance at the menu and thoughts of skies were a distant memory for a moment. The menu was incredible something for everyone, for the adventurous pallets: Reindeer and Puffin and for the more conservative like myself an ample portion of fish and chips.
The manners and charm of every person we had met so far was overwhelming, and this was not about to change. The waiters where kind, patient and offered wine advice with every course and the manager oozed charm with tales of the hotel. He made you feel like you were dining in his home.
I, of course, asked when we would expect to see the Northern lights, the reply: “they came at 9.15 last night – listen for the bell and come to the front when you hear it”, were the instructions. It seemed simple enough all we had to do was wait. Full of excitement we went back to our meal. Each mouthful was perfection, good hearty food but cooked with refinement.
Our night went on and it was time to head back to the room but not before we ticked our room number at the reception. This was the very old fashioned but effective way of making sure all guests that wanted to be woken if the skies came alive, would be.
Sadly a night of blissful sleep went by without a single Northern light in sight.
We woke bemused it felt like 5am as the skies were dark but a sleepy-eyed glance at the time shocked us into waking up. It was 9am and a busy day was waiting for us. Dressed for certain cold we waddled in all our layers to breakfast. Fit for all 13 of the Icelandic Santa Clauses: there was everything from fruit to green tea or for the hunter gathers of you a full cooked breakfast buffet.
Today was a journey into unknown. Now 10am and barely light we were driven off into the wilderness. This was the beginning of “The Golden Circle Tour” with South Coast Adventure. A long drive on empty roads with snow and mountains for company we finally made it to the first of our destinations. With literally no idea what to expect we stepped out of the car the icy air took our breathe away and so did the view of Þingvellir National Park.
These spectacular views whisked us along the path with the snow and ice as we wondered along the trail taking it all in; the air bitterly cold there was a strange emptiness the ethereal magic of nature was so unexpected.
As the cold air consumed our bodies it was time to warm up in the car and carry on the journey once again. Now with a vague idea of where we were heading I sat back once again to watch the mystical landscape flicker pass the window. Finally we pulled into the most unexpected of location. First the, brave Icelandic horses weathering the storm greeted us and then taking a left turn and we found ourselves in a giant green house.
All I could think was where on earth are we?
Pushing the heavy doors open, we were greeted by and electric storm of lights. tThis was a fully functional tomato farm called Friðheimar. To the left were rows and rows of budding tomato plants ready to flood Iceland’s market place and to our right tables to take in the experience.
Having never totally experienced a green house on this scale before, we found ourselves hypnotised by the lights for a moment.
Finally settled in the restaurant section we were severed an array of tomato-based products, Bloody Mary’s, tomato soup and the best pasta I have ever tasted with of course tomato sauce. The food was exceptional, beautiful flavours and tomatoes like you have never experienced them, even in an ice cream form. The experience was strangely peaceful, eating delectable food and watching nature work at its finest.
With the light fading we were off again. This time to the impressive geysers at Geysir and the breathtaking falls at Gullfoss where nature controlled the surroundings, the power and beauty of the waterfalls was mesmeric and if it were not for the cold we could have stood for hours, glued to the waterfalls nature proving us with the ultimate cinematic performance.
Finally to the Geysers. They where abstract wonderments of nature boiling water of around 125 degrees bursting from the ground to create a fountain of steam and water going off every couple of minutes. We stood and watched for a while surprised each time when a burst happened – no man made venture could ever recreate such powerful beauty.
Geysir’s water jets are considered to be amongst the most remarkable natural phenomena in Iceland. Many a traveller has journeyed far to behold them. More often than not the earthquakes in southern Iceland have stimulated Geysir. The explanation for their behaviour is that as the water boils it converts into steam and since the steam occupies far greater volume than water the water above in the channel is thrown high up into the air at about 23 m depth in the Geysir pipe the water is at 120°C temperature. It is in equilibrium with the pressure of the water above in the pipe.
With that knowledge now ingrained in our minds, and with exhausted frozen legs, and fascinated minds, we headed back to our Icelandic home, eagerly awaiting the warmth and another delicious meal. The Northern lights, seemed very unlikely as the rain battered down on the car but it no longer seemed so important Iceland’s nature had already exceeded all expectations.
It was frozen outside but with brave hearts we rushed in our dressing gowns to the hot tubs, woolly hats poised on our heads, it was un-expectedly relaxing and well worth doing to complete the experience. The Northern lights did not appear but as darkness consumed the lodge Vikings were made. We had been told of an old Icelandic tradition where drinking a shot of Black death Vodka and eating a square of rotten fermented shark called Hákarl (which many consider it to be the most disgusting food on earth), would make you become a Viking. I stand today still not a Viking and shocked by the horrendous smell one that small bit of fish can produce however my travel partner stands proud as a Viking.
In darkness we woke again this time to head to the Blue Lagoon or hot springs. Our time at the Hotel Ranga was at an end but not before the manager Þór Jakobsson so kindly drove us on the hour and a half journey to the springs. We were treated like royalty as was every other guest staying there.
Having read and heard so much about the Lagoon our expectations were high. Þór shared stories of his youth and how he had swam in the lagoon before it was a tourist destination. Having heard his beautiful stories walking up the enormous tourist machine that it had become seemed slightly sad. But without the tourist element I am sure we would not have experienced it at all. Set in the surreal surroundings of an ancient lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula, it is geothermal wonder.
Inside it is a very slick operation, towels, dressing gowns, flip flops and a wrist band and your in the conveyer belt to the changing rooms. Outside is freezing and the a lagoon perfect temperature to relax and enjoy. We slapped on our mud masks and wobbled around from one end to the other. There were plenty of people in the pool. The experience was great but not overwhelming we were very much in a hot pool with lots of others, but if you travel to Iceland it is an experience to try for sure.
Our journey now complete we had one very over priced taxi to the airport and the whistle-stop tour of Iceland was all over. Broken hearted to have not seen the Northern lights but overwhelmed by the magical nature of Iceland and all it has to offer this is a bucket-list journey for certain.
“Not all those who wander are lost”.
Where we stayed: www.hotelranga.is
The Golden Circle Tour: www.southadventure.is
Flights with: www.easyjet.com/en