Sunday, December 21, 2014

Grotta Lighthouse , Viking Museum and chasing the Lights

19/12/2014 Clear

We had a late start but what a promising day it was ! The skies cleared and it was the bluest since I came to Iceland.

We got bus tickets at 10-11 supermarket at Laekjarta ( 9 tickets for 3000 isk ) and with friendly instructions from the counter staff, we managed to travel on public transport like the locals. The bus was punctual and very soon, we were at Hofgaroar, the stop nearest to the Grotta lighthouse.

It was not easy walking to thick snow, along the bay towards the lighthouse but the stunning scenery from the bay made us forget everything. The island outcrop , Arukey, glowed in pale pink and white. No words could describe what I saw.

It was about a 1.5 km walk to Grotta. Though it was low tide, I was uncomfortable walking across to the lighthouse on the lava rocks, for fear that high tides will catch us unaware. We spent a good 2 hours catching the morning light which did magical things on the lava beach, the island across, the skies and snow covered seaweeds. Sunrise almost happened but the clouds were at it again, which was a big disappointment. Mr G had lots of media exposure with my handphone camera, while the rest did their professional shots.

At noon, we got back to the same bus stop and hopped up bus 11 again. Before we knew it, we were back in town at MR where we transferred to bus 14. It was a one stop transfer but it took us quickly to our lunch place , Sea Baron. Scores of Chinese tourists were already there supping and we added to the party. Lobster soup seems compulsory and we ordered seafood kebabs ( scallop and blueling ) to go with it. The Icelanders were big on salt and the lobster soup was no different. H and I found it unpalatable, though admittedly the seafood was really fresh. At 5700 isk, it was considered a steal.

It was a short walk to the Viking museum, made long because it was difficult to walk on thick snow. The Maritime Museum was a handsome building at the bay, with its regalia of an old fishing boat and modern working ones nearby. The Harpa behind did not blend in.

It was a slow day at the museum, probably because it was a lovely day and most chose to be out instead of indoors. Still, it was a lovely place, informative and exhibits well mapped out. At 1300 isk ( H was free ), it was a well worth visit.

Just off the Sea Baron, we spotted the famous hotdog stand and tried one ( 3800 isk ). Not bad, even if the hotdog bun was nothing to shout about. It was probably the cheapest thing to eat for tourists and thus so popular.

Austurstraeti that eventually merged with Laugavegur is now a familiar road  to us. We love it for its touristy-ness , which meant lots of shops, lights and sounds. Sometimes, even in a DIY holiday, a little touch of civilization do wonders to the human soul !

It will be a long day because of the Northern Lights, so it was back to the Fron for a rest. A waste considering the good weather.

After a ‘home made’ dinner of smoked salmon sandwich and seafood soup, we even managed to write our journals. It was a custom we made some years back when H was still small. We encouraged her to write a travelogue and it has since been a family tradition.

Our travel agent , Sterna Travel, picked us in a smallish shuttle at 8.30pm and got us transferred to bigger tour buses at Harpa Hall, 4 buses in all. Sterna needs some brushing up on the planning and PA system in the bus but overall, we got what we wanted – to see the Northern Lights.

We saw our first mini lights at 10pm, so faint we thought we were imagining things. The other 2 in the family caught it on camera and our pictures had the rest of the tour mates coming up to check the pictures.

Our next stop was about the next hour, in another spot. It was a faint band, barely visible and though it was not ‘it’, most were sort of resigned to it. There were meteors sweeping past the sky and a whole sky full of stars. I learnt to recognize the Polar and Big Dipper.

By midnight, we were cold and tired. Excited noises were changed to quietness as most of us napped. We were woken up from lala land at 2am. The driver has got us into the midst of an awesome light show in the heavens! Green and pale pink shone upwards, sometimes making waves and at times remained still and diffused. For a vreif moment, 2 thin bands stretched across from east to west. I whooped and sighed, contented. Pat was afar focusing into the northern horizon and he completely missed it. The sky was now overcast and stars were few so I applaud that I could still get to see it under such circumstances. It was a wish come true!

Despite the spectacular show, most scrambled to the bus, tired out from sleepiness and frozen the -8C cold. H’s was not well, likely due to the cold earlier in the day. Good thing she caught the best show of the year before hibernating in the bus.

We dropped off at the big church, 3 am and zoombied. It will be a tough night, because the next program of the day would be a trip to Snaefellsnes at 7.30 am.

It seems that I will have to take a holiday from this holiday .

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