Sunday, September 21, 2014

FAREWELL SCOTLAND – HALLÓ ICELAND

Leaving Scotland and the Hebrides was a painful wrench for me. I really didn't want to leave Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis with so much left to do and see. I knew I would miss the hospitality and friendliness I had enjoyed so much. Also the mostly sunny, warm weather.

However, the welcome on board Iceland Air at Glasgow diminished the glumness and I began to anticipate my new adventure. The Boeing 757 was only half-full and our Premium Economy seats were big and comfortable. The flight departed and arrived bang on schedule and took 2.5 hours to Keflavik. I enjoyed flying over Skye and the Outer Hebrides on the way. Puffy white clouds dotted the skyscape and I was able to recognize a few of the Isles we had visited. I read most of the way and I munched on an Icelandic doughnut that was long and thin without a hole. Yummy! The flight was very smooth, and I'm delighted we are returning to Canada with Iceland Air. We will use this airline again from Vancouver to get to European destinations – it's excellent.

Keflavik














My first sight of Iceland as we came into Keflavik was a golf course along the coast. Not a tree in sight! Soon I saw the city hugging the sea. It was smaller than I expected. The airport is both civil and military. Immigration and customs were a breeze – no line-ups and just a walk through "Nothing to declare." I never saw a customs officer!


I had to change airports to catch a plane to Akureyri in northern Iceland. It was a 50kms journey to an airport on the outskirts of Reykjavik. Visitors can either take a shuttle bus or a taxi. Both are more expensive than I expected, but soon I learned that Iceland is about two and a half times as expensive as Canada.

This road journey was quite eye-opening. The coastal plain is as flat as a pancake with high purple mountains rising up from it in the distance. One, slightly closer, was a perfectly triangular cinder cone. The plain is covered in lava rock, some smooth, some craggy. All the rocks are covered with thick moss and lichen, which made me hope to see reindeer. And, yes, Iceland does have reindeer herds, probably imported and farmed. Wherever the land had been cleared, all you could see was cinders, looking like black coal.

The flight north was with Air Iceland (Flugfélag Íslands) from a tiny airport. We flew in a Fokker 50, twin prop plane that was small but quiet and comfy for the forty minute flight. The views through the clouds showed a desolate, wild landscape of mountains, deep valleys, glaciers, and winding rivers. The pilot said we could see the smoke and fumes from the active volcano, but I was on the wrong side of the plane. I did see an ice dome poking up through the clouds as we flew ever northwards. I've never been this close to the Arctic Circle before.

The descent into Akureyri was intimidating. As we lost altitude the mountain tops grew closer. Soon the plane was flying below them along the valley, lower and lower. Then I saw the sea and we were landing.

The town is a five minute drive from the airport and lies at the head of a long fjord. It is attractive with red-roofed homes and an astonishing church on the hillside.

By now it was 7:30pm and we were very tired and hungry. We dropped our bags at the Hotel Nordurland and found the nearest resto. We ate langoustines with gusto and then fell into bed dreaming of a day of rest on Sunday and maybe a walk around the harbour in the morning.
Akureyri, Iceland
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
IMAGES: All taken with my phone except for the last.  
                                                               © Photos by Pharos 2014. All rights reserved.