On the bus from the airport into Reykjavik, there was a crazy man beside me with a grizzly beard and crumpled pieces of paper poking out of the many pockets in his camouflage jacket. He sputtered about how he “got done” at Customs for having two bottles of duty-free whiskey too many. My sister rolled her eyes and made her “Well, DICKHEAD!” face.
Meanwhile, a nervous blonde girl was looking blank. She pawed through her swanky handbag, frowning to herself, as if she had no idea how she had ended up in Iceland and the answer was hidden beneath her Evian and breath mints.
“Do you have any idea where I could stay tonight?” she asked the bus in general.
“You’ve nowhere to stay?” asked Crazy Man, leaning over the aisle. “I can help. How much are you willing to spend?”
“Oh, money isn’t a problem,” she replied as she slopped on some lipgloss. “I’m here on my own, I’ve got no plans…”
I heard the voice of The Mothership on my shoulder, “Tell her to shut up! She’s giving him waaay too much information! And you know he has a collection of large knives in that duffel bag. She’s sushi tonight, I tell you…”
But one look out the window and I forgot to care. All the guidebooks crap on about the “lunar landscape” of this country, but all the cliches are true. Beneath dark squatting rain clouds was an endless stretch of lava rocks, all weird and clumped and covered in brilliant green moss. The silvery highway slashed through the middle of it, besides a still and inky ocean.
All this contrast and emptiness was overwhelming. Crazy Guy was bragging he’d been here five times before and was offering to show Blondie around town. I just wanted him to shut up so we could all let this strange place sink in.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around Reykjavik. Having squandered our money on the flights and following day trips, it was a case of a lot of looking but not much touching. We turned into painful squealing tourists, cooing over brightly coloured houses and weird boutiques.
After pressing our noses longingly against the windows of groovy coffee shops, we ended up at Hallgrímskirkja, to get a view of the city. Just as we got to the top, it began to chuck down and the bells announced it was 4 o’clock. Thrashed by rain and ding-dong-ing, we didn’t see much of the view but it was good fun anyway. The wind was so fierce our hair stood on end, mimicking the shape of the church.
Out the front of the church I saw a duck. It’s funny how you go crazy over a duck in a foreign land, especially when it’s a land so completely removed from your own. I used to roll my eyes at Japanese tourists in my hometown, squeaking kawaiiiiiiiii! over a fat old sheep with a daggy arse. But here I was crouched beside this duck, yelling to my sister, “You have to come see this Icelandic duck!”.
I don’t know what I expected, perhaps when it opened its beak it would issue weird glacial soundscapes. But no, it just gave me a withering look and said quack in the usual manner. I took a dozen photos anyway.
UPDATE: I’ve since been informed that this is obviously a goose.
Next stop was Bónus, where we bought our rations for the trip – a loaf of bread, four apples and a jar of peanut butter (along with the two-minute noodles and chocolate we bought from home, I am proud to say our entire food expenditure was a mere 400 kronur. Rawk!). Again, we embarrassed ourselves by running around the supermarket poking each other and saying, “Look at this Icelandic stuff! Hee hee!”. I even took an extra four Bónus shopping bags as souvenirs, which is quite sad. I wonder if Icelandic tourists in Scotland save their bags from Tesco? Maybe they would, if they had a little piggy on them, like Bónus.
Anyway. We rounded off our first day just sitting by the harbour, feeling the temperature drop as we ate like savages, dipping chunks of bread into the PB jar. I was just exclaiming how cute the Icelandic PB was when my sister pointed out it was American PB. Of course. Iceland is hardly the ideal clime for peanut growing, nor does it have the economic clout to lord over a country that does.
Still, it was a delicious meal, sitting there in the drizzle with really boofy hair, not quite believing we were up so high on the globe.