Thursday, March 6, 2014

Iceland Day 8 ~ Journey to the West.. of snow storms & bus-stopping side winds.

TRAVELLOGUE: Onwards to the ulu ulu West! (Then again, which part of Iceland wasn't ulu?)

The bench, and Leif Eriksson's.. hotel.

Yeah... By now I was Iceland-numb already.  It was like drifting from snowy plain to snowy beach to yet another snowy city.  But didn't mean I didn't enjoy every single moment of it.  My laziness (in not reading up and practising the pronunciation of the Icelandic names) meant that I wasn't truly prepared for what was to come.

"OK, this morning let's go and see that Hallsgrimkirkja Church further up," said Adrian.  Yes that was a good idea. Let's see how it looked in the morning.  And also to explore the inside of the church, something which we couldn't do last night.



We might have set off a teeny bit early.. The brains weren't exactly awaken yet.. And one of our poor victims, Kai Sing, walked Aaaaaaallll the way down to the main road before remembering he had forgotten to return the room key.
"Welcome To Facebook," he must have mumbled in his heart.  And off he went back to the apartments.  Again.



Last night while exploring this Hallgrimkirkja church, we saw a nice hotel directly opposite the front yard of the church.  It said 'Leif Eriksson Hotel'.  We all marvelled at the (relatively) grander hotel and wondered out loud to Adrian how come we never got to stay there.  That was when Alex enlightened me with the story of Leif Eriksson, the Icelandic explorer who discovered North America first.  And Alex went on to tell us how during his school days, each scout team would be named after a famous explorer.  Very interesting indeed.

The old Hallsgrimkirkja church.. the typical Gotham City look.
And the famous red tuque with matching red door decor.


Inside the Church

Inside the church, every one of our boys and girls were shooting in hushed silence.. 
Serene asked me: "Eh, shoot what ah?"
I could only shake my head and pointed up and down hoping to direct her all over the place.

With my point and shoot, I was literally just shooting at the air.  Michelle was very carefully shooting near the doorway.
Eddy was outside.  "Where's Michelle ah?" he asked.
"She is inside," we replied.

And deep in the belly of the Lutheran church, everyone else was crouching on the central aisle aiming upwards.









Forgot to crop away all the ling ling long long at the bottom.. I was too awed by
the architecture of this shot of Serene's.









































































I had totally no lingam whatsoever.  So when one had no lingam, one shot those around him.  And I 'dong' 100 ISK into the money collection box and lighted up a candle.
"Nah, Hwa..." I passed to Serene. "Go light up this candle and make a wish.  I heard in this Church it is very 灵 one.  You wish, sure will come true one."
She nodded in believe.  And prayed very very hard for fulfillment of her wish/wishes.


The Journey to the West - in search of the Icelandic Scripture (maybe).

Here was that map of our trip from Reykjavic to Western Iceland.  The first part of that, there seemed to be some problem with my GPS and thus the route wasn't captured properly.  But thankfully the strategic few points were recorded for posterity.

Special mention was my pee-point at Anarstapi, and the Pang-sai point of our good muscle man at Snaefellsbaer.



Kaffihus at Hagkaup Servara

We stopped for another technical break, at the Kaffihus cafe together with this supermarket called Hagkaup.  After our experience at Jokulsarlon Ice beach, a few of us were interested to see if they do sell those long fishing boots.  And it turned out they did.  But we couldn't find the price.  Anyway if ever anyone were to return to Jokulsarlon Ice beach, he or she would need a pair of these.
The coffee at Kaffihus and the sandwich were very nice.  And funny, we actually had a lot of time because Adrian allowed us to sit down and chit chat quite a fair bit here, while Acrux and some of the other boys and girls went shooting outside in the strong wind.

Kai Sing was really pretty impressed by the kaffi...

... and some more Icelandic horses, yet again!

One thing I noticed about the Icelandic horses was, they were not affected by the cold, the wind and the snow at all.  Even when it was all white-out outside, they would just stood still in the middle of the snow, and continue chewing on their own saliva.  The most I saw was a herd of them standing close together.  These mammals were truly made for the ice.

Don't rush it. Slowly approach the lead mare. If she didn't run, the rest of the herd will come...

"Horses!"

Wah lau eh.. these people really never get enough of horses ah?  Porgrimur rolled his eyes upwards, and reluctantly stopped the bus.  He jumped off the vehicle and walked slowly to the single brown mare.
"Pol Pol... Pol Pol.." he gently called. "Pol Pol means food.  You just walk slowly to her.  If she doesn't run away, then the other horses will start coming to you here."
True enough, in no time, the rest of the herd were right beside the lead mare.  Another frenzy of lenses thrust into the muzzles of the horses, shutters clicking away, and everyone elbowed everyone to get into position.  It really wasn't easy.  This thing about shooting horses.  But the Icelandic horses were really the tamest and the most patient creatures I'd ever seen.

First time I saw such bright and expressive eye of a horse, as if she was thinking hard about these bunch of funny human.

"These are usually all female," said Progrimur. "There are no male horses here, because if there are, they will wreak havoc."
Well, the man was the expert.  We'd better believe him.  The horses kept nudging their muzzles into our pockets, our hands, our jackets.. as if they were looking for food.  I had one kept licking my glove.  It was a funny feeling, for a horse-idiot like me to come thousands of miles to have a huge, muscular but yet gentle Equine showing me some kind of animal closeness.

Serene and her brownie.
But they also had their mischievous side... as captured by Serene.


Here was a tender moment of me and the brown horse, taken by Kai Sing.
Photo: Courtesy of Kai Sing.

Mount Snaefell..

Our route on this day took us all the way west to the peninsula on the west-most end of Iceland.  And as we entered the tip of the peninsula, the first destination that we came to, was Mount Snaefell.  I really didn't understand the historical significance of this 1446m Mount Snaefell, until much later, that I realised the reason why it was so famous was because in the book Journey to the Centre of the Earch by Jules Verne, the adventurers found the conduit to the centre of the earth right here at the Snaefellsjokull glacier.  That made it so much more memorable.


There was a monument just next to Mount Snaefell.  And on the plaque it was written that this monument was to commemorate the deity of Mount Snaefell.  It was built by some father and mother of a teenagers who died from exposure somewhere here some time ago.  Something like that.

Michelle.. and the Mount Snaefell monument.
Even the rocky plaque depicting the history of the monument was placed under extreme scrutiny by the highly scholastic members of the troupe.  It was well documented in some medical journals that when overly-exposed to prolonged period of snow and wind, the human mind took on a more intellectual predisposition.  Must be some clinical signs of exposure here..


... and the Commando of Snaefellsjokull emerged from his snowy camouflage to take aim...


... and the 'Making of the Snaefellsjokull Commando'...

Something must have really tickled Yilin and Norman, while Yan Yan and Lai Peng continued shooting away...

Next stop, Arnarstapi...

So, what was this Arnastapi thing all about?  It was a small little fishing village that had seen her fair share of commercial fishing activities over the years.  Now it still remained an active fishing port, serving the private fishing vessels and recreational boats in the summer months.  More importantly, it had been a hub of tourist activities with many buying second homes around this area.
So... this one little solitary house must have been a summer home for some rich man from somewhere...

A rich man's summer home 吧...
... and what did the rich man have for dinner during those summer months?   He'd probably ordered some fresh geese from the dock...

Must be some Icelandic delicacies 吧, these geese...
And here at Arnastapi, I was REALLY desperately looking for a tree, a post, a block of ice, anything.. to cover me as my bladder was full to the brim.  But tried as I could, I found nothing.  And after recce-ing the land for a long time, I just had to do it somewhere..
The story below was a true story.  Every single word was verbatim... yam gong wor...


Snaefellsbaer Very Yam Gong... Desperately seeking toilets!

The snow kept increasing in tempo.  So did the wind-speed.  We came to this whole piece of white land which until this day I roughly could only identify it as Snaefellsbaer or something to that effect.
Our muscle man really had to go.. And fast.  And the toilet was locked tight.  And fate was that he travelled thousands of miles to this ulu ulu part of Western Iceland to have a taste of the Icelandic wind caressing his soft behind as the rear of the toilet provided the only coverage.
"Wei, guys! Don't go down first," laughingly said Adrian. "Let's give the man some privacy."
... a privacy that was very very soon after, sought by another member who needed to pee.  This time behind the OTHER locked toilet.  Man, this was such a memorable scene.  I kept pressing 'Delete' on my memory cells, but I couldn't permanently erase them.  Aiyah.. might as well show the picture lah.


Everybody walking over that hill...
"LET'S GO!" called Adrian.
"Go where?" I asked Serene.
"Don't know leh... they all are walking to that hill."
"Ok, let's follow them lah.."

 But alas, my broken finger, broken rib and busted ankle made walking really difficult.  I could only make it thus far, until the sign board here... and I had to stop to take a breather.


I grit my teeth and shuffled forward again.  However, in the blink of an eye, I made out a flash of kaki green galloping back towards me..  It was Adrian.
"Eh, why you coming back ah?  What happened?" I shouted out to him.
"Can't see a thing," he said, his eyes squinted tight and face flushed from snow hitting unrelentlessly.

Heng ah!  Sometimes it was good to be broken and to be walking slowly.  At least it saved me having to expend too much energy to find that the walk was in vain.  But to some seasoned globe-trotters like our good Derek, the walk was like a stroll in the local Cold Storage...



Finally...
At Hellissandur Hotel...

This place was really ulu.  A small little town, a few clusters of building.. a supermarket.. And a Hellissandur Hotel.

... the only thing that wasn't ulu was the price of the meal.  Maybe, like Namche Bazaar, in such an ulu place, meat was rare to come by.  Perhaps that was why bread was free and was repeatedly refillable. Haha...

Ondverdarnes - Of cliffs (again), of waves (again), of snow (yet again) and of a Viking Grave..

After a short rest, we made our way into the snow again, driving to another cape somewhere right at the tip of the peninsula.  When everywhere was snowing, the scenery would appear rather similar wherever we were.  But at least we gave it a shot.
Here was the Singapore Trekkers all lines up, very close to the edge, to shoot what they possibly could... and in the freezing cold again.

Towkay Kaan, Yan Yan, Landscape Queen Yilin, Hannah Babara, Serene the XMM, Teck Siang our champion, Michelle ma Belle and Leng Zhai Eddy.
On our right the cliff dropped right into the Atlantic Ocean.  And the waves crashed again and again onto the cliff with huge splashes.


As we walked down, I ask Serene to grab the shoe-studs.
"It's all so cold outside, let's just bring them along.  In case we come across frozen ice then we'd better wear them to prevent ourselves slipping."
The NTUC transparent plastic bag held both our shoe studs.
 It was so freezing.  Wind tearing down our outer shells, and snow flakes jabbing at our face.  Finger numbness had become a day-day phenomenon.  And we learned to use frozen fingers to adjust the camera settings.  Most of us had had our nose and face covered throughout the whole period outside, except for some who were born and raised in the arctic...

Michelle must have been really cold to have covered her ears like this...
Acrux and Adrian really nudged their tripods right to the edge of the cliff.  These are really hardcore photographers..
There were photographers and there were photographers.  Even if one used an iPhone to shoot, one could still, technically, be called a photographer still.


The boys and girls stood frozen, as if they were glued to the ground.  Kai Sing and Norman were very quick,  very soon they packed up their tripods, and walked towards the left of the cliff.  What a difference a change of angle made!  We found ourselves back on the frozen-ice-covered road making a curve to the right.  Then we came to this sign.  Wow, so this was where a Viking remains were found.

Yeah.. if we stayed here any longer we would have ended up like the poor fellow above..
"Hey the part in the middle of this road is very slippery because it's all frozen ice," I shouted back to Serene.  "Walk on the side where the fresh snow is."
Slippery road.. if the snow was any heavier, I probably couldn't see the road liao...

And we walked down, following in Kai Sing and Norman's footsteps.  Hannah was with us too. I turned back and saw our bus making a three-point-turn and now faced the direction where we came from.


So where did Kai Sing and Norman disappeared to?
This was the first time in my life I ever was able to follow some people by studying the footprints on the freshly laid snow.  Like a Red Indian!  It was so exciting, seeing how the fellows in front had walked..

Wow.. we walked right to this little beach side! And that wooden little stairs.. Here in Iceland, wood didn't seem to disintegrate, unlike back home in the humid Tropics.  Everything was made of wood.


Norman was right there following some footprints himself.
"So where ah, Norman?" I asked.
"Go down from here lah.  Neh, you see those footprints? Those must be Kai Sing's." replied Norman.

The Beach of the White Footprints..

And Serene discovered another little paradise within the snow-covered bay...

This was an interesting sight - footprints which were filled in with snow. Interesting indeed!
Google Earth Map of our GPS track to this Beach of the White Footprints...


The white footprints of the heart shape... we discovered them there when we arrived at it.
"Hey, who made these footprints?" I asked Serene.
"They are here naturally one," replied Serene. "When we arrived here they were already here liao."
And Hannah and I had some swell time shooting... and figuring how to adjust the setting of her camera.

Of white footprints in the shape of a heart...
I stood at the edge of the beach, and looked and looked at the scenery.  It wasn't a scene out of the Tropics.  And I didn't think I would be coming back here (at least not in the near future) to enjoy this view.  So I just took a shot.



A Failed Aurora Chase that night...
During dinner that evening, a few tourists from the next table were talking to our driver about taking our bus to follow us for our Aurora chase that evening.  Fortunately they didn't managed to, but simply followed us in their own car.  Reason was, the snow was falling so heavily that it obstructed everything in the sky.
We ended up having a drink courtesy of Adrian in one of the nice small bar.
We waited for a good half an hour in the bar before heading back.  And en route to our hotel, Adrian decided to give ourselves a one last chance, and he went recce-ing outside, but only to returned with a pained expression as he got hum-tum-ed by snow and wind outside of the bus, for the second time in the day.

Here was the video of that moment, taken by Eddy Chung. Thanks to Eddy for allowing me to use this video in this post:


CLICK HERE BELOW TO CONTINUE TO THE NEXT CHAPTER:
Day 9: Pushing through a snowy blizzard back towards Reykjavik