Wednesday was the day that South Iceland’s winter truly arrived! We awoke to a howling gale as well as snow obliterating all views from all windows of the hotel. This was a remarkable storm. A quick check on the web told us that the whole of Iceland was at a standstill; this is not normal! Nobody was going anywhere. My heart sank; what a shame, all these lovely Trefoil ladies, looking forward to a fabulous day and we could go nowhere – except perhaps back to bed! However, the spirit, support and understanding was remarkable from everyone. But it really did look like we were to be hotel bound all day…or were we? Games were played, stories were told and I set to work to see what could be rescued to make for a good day, if at all possible; it was not boding well. The whole of Reykjavik city was at a standstill with every rescue team, police person, fire brigade being called out to assist; this will be a most memorable day for all Icelanders as well as 20 Trefoil ladies for years to come.
I held a Briefing Meeting at breakfast time, a follow up at 10am and then one at 12.15pm. All the time I was planning that something could be rescued. I was in frequent contact with our fantastic Icelandic coach driver, Jon Ragnar Olafsson (of GT Coaches, Selfoss) , who was so very helpful, most kind and tremendously caring. We hatched a plan; there was a “window”, we might be lucky; maybe we could get out for some hours; fingers were crossed. At all times, complete security of our group was considered with no element of chance being entertained; we planned to travel to Gullfoss and then on to Geysir (missing out Thingvellir). Remarkably the roads were clear of snow in this one area of Iceland. Web cams were consulted and it was all systems go.
The Trefoil ladies were told of the situation, fully and honestly, debate was encouraged but we were all up for heading out at 12.30pm. One lady did then say that she might like to stay in the hotel; both Jon Ragnar and myself talked her through the situation and she changed her mind – she was going to be part of it as well, after all; brilliant, I was very pleased about this. And, this lady has now returned to the hotel, exhilarated, delighted and extremely pleased to have been part of a most memorable (and a World Record breaking day – honestly!).
We had a BALL! What a special day it turned out to be. A stop at Faxifoss waterfall was added in as a little “starter bonus” to get the ball rolling after our picnic lunch eaten indoors at the hotel! This is a delightful waterfall (with fish ladder) and was much appreciated. The falls were frozen and cameras were clicking like crazy – what a sight. Faxi means “horse’s mane” and the waterfall just looks like the flowing locks of a horse’s main (well, it does when the water is water … and not ice!). But, as I suggested, it was as nothing as they would soon see at Gullfoss; prepare yourselves! And Gullfoss was utterly incredible! The wind was full force but we managed the visit to the lower car park to allow all to enjoy it fully. A few “super intrepids” (3!) and myself walked to the upper viewpoint platform too and I carried a few cameras to take pictures for ladies who preferred to head to the cafe and gift shop! The cafe was very welcome – the understatement of the day! Hot drinks and slabs of cake soon revived everyone (and a wee bit of retail therapy didn’t go amiss).
Then it was on to the Geysir area for the hot springs and shooting geyser Strokkur – wow, all this heat amongst all this cold! But it was doubly spectacular, magnificent, wonderful. Now, to the World Record mentioned earlier. We were the ONLY coach to have visited Gullfoss and Geysir today, 6th March, 2013; this is unheard of; never in the history of Iceland, since the settlement in 874 AD, have these “honeypot popular” places been so empty! Only our coach, only our group were there today; our driver is very proud of this Icelandic record, as are we; we are now in the annuls of Icelandic history! Then it was back via Laugarvatn to marvel at the new (and very classy) Fontana Spa beside the lake (that is half frozen/half open water due to one area having geothermal water bubbling up from the lake bed). As a final additional bonus we made a stop at Kerid Crater, one of a crater row; the colours, tones and textures were sublime (and again we had the world to ourselves – this will never happen again!). But the excitements and experiences of the day were still not yet over – can the Trefoil Guild ladies take much more?! I am not sure if I can! Of course! In the morning I had asked the hotel staff if we might perhaps visit the hotel’s stables and riding ring – no problem (in Iceland, “it just all works”). So, off we headed to see the sturdy Icelandic horses once we got back to the Eldhestar Hotel. They were in superb condition, were super friendly and were contentedly eating. Everyone looked for “their horse” – each room in the hotel is named after a horse rather than just having a number; there were many happy reunions!
So, quite a day! So many stories to tell, so many experiences to relive; be prepared, all friends and relatives of the Trefoil Guild ladies, you are going to be subjected to many Icelandic tales (and a thousand of photographs) on their return to the UK. The stories will not be embellished, no need; the reality of the day was simply amazing, no need for embellishments!
So now all are chatting after a superb meal (leek flan starter, baked salmon main course and a delicious desert of Skyr, traditional Icelandic yogurt and blueberries … and for the “youngsters”, home made “Smartie enriched” ice cream! Tomorrow? Who knows; let’s wait and see. Jon Ragnar and myself have plans up our bulging sleeves; we’ll do our best! Await the next Blog posting. And, by the way, this Blog only briefly outlines the delights of today -you haven’t heard it all by a long chalk! There was so much more! Godan nott.