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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Walking In Iceland 1: to Reykjavik

links to: introduction - next day

Dick Phillips Walking Tour, Iceland 1977

I have a lot of pictures like this, of people carrying rucksacks, although mostly in more spectacular surroundings. Actually, this is not as unspectacular as it first seems. The distinctive spire of Hallgrímskirkja, built in the image of the rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape, reveals it to be Reykjavik. We are trudging from the airport bus to the youth hostel. Neville and I do not know the others yet.  

1977 Iceland notebook

Wednesday 24th August 1977

We underestimate the driving time to Glasgow. It leaves little time to spy on other rucksack wearers in the airport building. There are hardly any to be seen. Like us, they are probably creeping around in plain clothes trying to spot the others and weigh them up. The only one we see bears an uncanny resemblance to our friend Gavin, who was going to come, but couldn’t.

As we assemble at the Air Iceland desk, a trekking company rep. arrives with a letter to Neville giving him responsibility for organising the rendezvous. They choose him because he has been to Iceland before. Good choice. He likes organising things and is good at it. All he has to do is make sure we all get on the plane and don’t get lost when we get off.

Our party is twelve. From the rendezvous responsibility list I see that six are on their own. There is just one girl. I am keeping quiet about the list. It is addressed to me as well.  

As we wait at the departure gate, a choir of American teenagers begins to sing. Their harmonies ring around the large acoustic space, a magnificent sound, but thank goodness they’re not going on the walking tour too.

My first ever air flight. I can’t see out because I am in a gangway seat. Be careful not to let on it is the first time you have been in an aeroplane. Avoid displays of excitement. Do not lean across to take hundred of photographs. Do not gasp as the acceleration thrusts you back into your seat. Seasoned air travellers assume an air of detachment even when the ground appears over their shoulders at an alarming angle. Seasoned air travellers show no fear even when the plane is landing. So why do those American choir kids sound so scared?

Stamped Youth Hostel card, Iceland, 1977
We have to spend two nights in the school annex of the Reykjavik youth hostel before the walk proper begins. We had to join the YHA in preparation.

After an evening wandering around Reykjavik, I can see why Neville has no intention of spending all day tomorrow here as well. You can’t even get a decent beer because of prohibition. He has therefore hired a car for a trip into the interior. It sounds preferable to visiting Hallgrímskirkja. 

Nowadays you might also seek out elves, walk to the stainless steel sculpture of a Viking long boat, and visit the penis museum. No, you wouldn’t. You would still hire a car for a trip to the interior. Tomorrow: Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.

(next part)

29 comments:

  1. What a superb YHA type stamp - I'm envious. I have a lifetime's collection of them - old fashioned and yet wonderful mementos.
    I have never been to Iceland and for many years longed to go - now less so, having been to Norway where the scenery was sublime but the weather less so!

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    1. I have rarely stayed in them. The fancy one is Reykjavic at the start of the holiday. Fljotsdalur was at the end of the walk. I also went to Norway with friends, but spent far too much time in the car in the days when the roads were poor and there were a lot of ferries across fjords.

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  2. I'm looking forward to seeing Iceland through a visitor's eyes. My own eyes were those of a temporary four year resident. Rather too long to be a tourist!

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    1. I'm not sure I would want to stay in Iceland through the 24 hour winter nights.

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  3. I enjoyed this first part of your story. Looking forward to Part 2.

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    1. Thanks. Part 2 not yet transcribed. Will take a few days. Maybe next Thursday to keep to the right days.

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  4. Iceland has been on my bucket list for over 40 years. It should have been doable from UK and we even contemplated sailing there, but now I seem to be getting further away again. So I'm looking forward to every episode of this tale. F

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    1. There might be a lot of episodes. It's surprising how much you can write in a notebook in the evenings in the Icelandic wilderness.

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  5. What an wonderful trip this is for you and the others. That first flight is rather exciting isn't it? I have discovered that some flights are better than others. I am looking forward to your trek into Iceland!

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    1. I was in my twenties so a little embarrassed I'd never flown sooner. I find it's usually the case when doing anything new. You don't want to let on.

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  6. Being an apparently confident first time flyer rings a bell for me, so many years and flights ago. Of course I wasn't but my act was good.

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  7. Reminds me of taking Laura on her first flight, as an old gramma. I gave her my antidote for plugged ears, which is swallow, swallow, swallow. Recently she went on her first solo flight and came back with a sinus infection. "I didn't swallow!"

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  8. I'd love to visit Iceland someday. Hallgrímskirkja would be at the top of my list! All the surrounding streets are named after Norse gods and goddesses apparently. Equal time for everyone!

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    1. Andrew Petcher on WordPress is good on his trip to Reykjavic, including Hallgrímskirkja and the penis museum. Evidently, they even have elf penises.
      https://apetcher.wordpress.com/2019/04/15/entrance-tickets-hallgrimskirkja-reykjavik-2/
      https://apetcher.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/iceland-phallological-museum-and-dodgy-groceries/

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  9. Can't wait for the next chapter. I remember my first flight as a child, to a Torremolinos that was still an old village. The plane took off across the sea and we just missed the mountains.

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    1. I'm sure the pilot knew what he was doing. Or maybe not, some of the things you hear about.

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  10. Prohibition? I had no idea you could not have a decent beer there in the 1970s!
    When it comes to doing something for the first time, I am rather the opposite of you and announce that fact freely. It usually leads to everyone being extra kind and helpful towards me.

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    1. I think it was until 1989 that beer was prohibited in Iceland. They also prohibited keeping pet dogs in Reykjavic.
      In my twenties I thought I was the only one who hadn't been on a plane multiple times.

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  11. Perhaps the American choristers were scared because although they professed a belief in The Almighty, underneath they were not at all sure. I also slept in youth hostels when I toured Iceland - beginning with Reykjavik which your loyal readership may like to know means "smoky bay".

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    1. At least they didn't start singing again. They were good, but yes it was all sweetly religious. If we'd been hijacked they could have just started singing and the hijackers would have jumped out. Thank you for apprising me of the meaning of Reykjavic. Which other hostels did you stay in?

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    2. I've just read your June 2012 post.

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  12. Dear God. A penis museum???? Off to google.

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    1. www.phallus.is (if you must)

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    2. it goes without saying, Tasker. In Korea there is Haesindang Park. (if you must)

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    3. No. I'm not going to look.

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  13. I enjoy your style of story telling. So far so good - take-off and landing considered.

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    1. Thank you. Most of it is from the diary. One could write large amounts of rubbish in the middle of nowhere in Iceland in 1977.

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