Ok, guys – Iceland got me. I actually arrived on Sunday, 29th September, but I didn’t find either WIFI or time to write my first impressions! WOW Air brought me to my desired destination – the Icelandic version of Ryanair. I can’t stop wondering about this tiny nation. How come they have a high class airline, Iceland Air and (!) a low-cost airline, WOW Air. They only have like 326.000 inhabitants, but two international airlines.
Ok, anyway, as I wanted to fly from Berlin, which is closer to where I started my journey, I chose WOW Air. I booked it online via Expedia and got my confirmation e-mail, until then everything went well. But the chaos started after I wanted to check in my luggage online, because the fees for luggage gate check-in is pretty much higher as it seems to be at any low-cost airline. After a long search at the website, which constantly switched to the UK version, I found the way how to check in online. The system asked for my booking number and my last name. I entered the number I found at my Expedia travel account. Or at least, I thought I was my booking number. When the system repeatedly displayed “Login not succesful” I got pissed of. Which fu**** number do they require? Well, after all I decided to call WOW Air to be sure. An Icelandic blanking line told me something I didn’t understand at the German number I dialled, after I got through they pretend to do not understand English. And the lady just hanged up … simply hanged up. Sorry, what? Ok, now I had to try it via e-mail. Et voila, after 27h I got an answer: The problem is not located at WOW Air, because the number is no booking number from them, but Expedia.
Ok, now I had to deal with them. After I searched the whole website (again) to find my booking number, I realised: I simply didn’t receive it from them. Once again I had to phone the costumer service. They finally could help me out by handing out my needed booking number. So, if you ever travel with WOW Air and do not book the flight over them, make sure your travel provider hands you out the required booking number for adding service to your WOW Air flight. After that thing was clear everything just went fine with WOW Air and I could calm down a bit. At first I was shocked by their unclear website and rude customer service. But the flight and service on board was totally ok.
At 14:40 my feet set on Icelandic ground. What a feeling. Iceland – finally! It welcomed me with relatively warm weather (9° C degrees, 49° F) – btw, I left at 23° C in Berlin – and some weak sunshine. Well, that varied a bit with rain and strong wind, but ok, that’s what I expected. What I didn’t expect was a heavy first autum storm on Monday. I had to stay the first night at Reykjavík as my scheduled long-distance bus from the capital to Þorsmörk only departs once a day. I could enjoy a sunny and friendly first day at the capital. At the evening my boss called me and offered me to fetch me up on 09:00 a.m., which turned out to be lucky. Because as said on Monday there was the first autumn storm. Wind so strong I’ve never experienced before and rain so heavy it actually could hurt the eyes. What’s no big deal in the city, can be a worst-case-scenerario out there at the Icelandic highlands. Rivers who are crossing the street everywhere after you left the Ring Road are getting huge within hours and can even challenge experienced drivers like Binni, my boss at the Volcano Huts. There were rivers we had to cross where I could see the water at the car’s windshield … That was crazy. And not feasible for the long-distance bus. On that day, there was no more public transport to Þorsmörk possible.
It took us 3,5h to get there, for 160km – totally different standards out here, not comparable. The street conditions are always depending to the weather. Binni told me, it might be because of my arrival the weather wanted to show his “best” side. Later that day, as some guests wanted to go back to the bus station, they couldn’t as the bus couldn’t manage to cross the river anymore. And besides that, the rain washed away the street. Only super-cheeps and especially prepared trucks could handle the street conditions. But only one hour later not even them were able.
When I read about the Icelandic weather, I was always like “Nah, this couln’t be so bad, they just exaggerate to make it more interessting”. But guys, they don’t exaggerate. I am here for two days and I already have deep respect for the nature and the weather. Hail, gale, snow, thunderstorms, rain storm, … only within 48h, changing within 30 minutes each! Einar, the cook told me that there are several deaths around this area each year, some of them because they underestimate the weather, like I did.
At least, this powerful nature can be used literally and I have to get used to “waste” energy: Letting the lamps shine, let the water run longer than its needed. On our way to Þorsmörk we passed Hveragerdi, a village where the houses need a cellar for cooling down the soil, otherwise the ground would be too hot for building a house on it. You can actually see steam coming out the earth everywhere.
The other volunteers here are really relaxed, what you need to be living at this remote place with capricious weather. We enjoy the luxus of a warm, natural hot pot and a small sauna and of course the natural movies: Polar lights. Although, the first presentation was a bit shy and short. But big movies are in repertoire, I’m sure.
When we hiked to our neighbour hut in Básar valley, we could see Hekla volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, Myrdaljökull and a far away a bit a glimpse of Vatnajökull. Insanely green hills mixing into the ice cold blue of the glaciers … in the contrast of the black sky which announces a new storm coming. At that moment, standing on the hill barely coulnd’t find my balance as the wind was blowing that strong, Iceland completely got me under its spell.