Iceland! Why Iceland? Then that incredulous stare like I had just told them I was going to Mars for vacation. Iceland has actually been high on my list for most of my life. From the time I was six until age 10, National Geographic had frequent features on the growth of the island of Surtsey off Iceland's south coast. Then, in 1973 Eldfell erupted, disrupting the lives of the 5,000 residents of Heimaey in the Westmann Islands. Iceland has always been synonymous with geothermal technology and energy independence. I had never met anyone that had been to Iceland, but I had seen pictures in magazines and that was all I needed.
Now, simply having a destination on a list and actually getting there are two very different issues. Any place with 'ice' in its name is not going over big with my wife. Research on the weather didn't help much - Iceland averages 190 cloud free hours in the month of June. That's only 8 days, or about 25%, and those hours could all fall between 10pm and 4am for all I know. My next move was to order a DVD from the Icelandic Tourist Board. That was a good move - Great video with pictures of hot springs, hot pools, people in hot pools, geothermally heated buildings with warm comfortable people in them, hot water and steam pouring out of the earth. Just in case, I also purchased a case of hand-warmers, four pair of wool socks and boots. After careful negotiations I was finally assured that I would be making the trip with my wife rather than by myself. This was important, because I really wouldn't have gone without her!
We began collecting information on touring Iceland in October or November of 2005. Launa Rae found a friend at work that had been there in 2004 and loaned us her travel guides. Another friend, a cartographer and collector of all things travel, had a travel guide and a couple of other books. After a trip to the book store, we were armed with just about everything available on Iceland outside of Iceland, and it was a stack only about 4 inches high. Even though all this information was no more than five years old, we found it woefully out of date on a number of points. Sure, they claimed, Iceland has one of the highest standards of living in the world, but most roads outside Reykjavik would be dirt, even the main highway, the island's lifeblood, Highway 1. Travel around the island would be fraught with delays - one lane roads and bridges, washouts, potholes. Hotels would be scarce, gas stations spaced in such a way you had to time it just right to make from one station to the next without running out.
So, we went into this with maybe a bit more sense of adventure than was necessary. I figured the first thing I needed to nail down was accommodations. A quick search for hotels in Iceland came up with an interesting concept - Icelandic Farm Holidays. The concept seemed simple enough - Farmers all around the country have nothing to do in the summertime, so they entertain guests in converted outbuildings. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Iceland's tiny population does double duty trying to keep the country's economy afloat. The growing tourist industry desperately needs accommodations all around the island. This is an ingenious solution, although I'm guessing it adds significantly to the burdens of raising sheep, horses and cattle..
OK, so you get the idea - There's more to Iceland than ice, snow and volcanoes. So, let's check it out!
On to Reykjavik