Iceland 2014 Day 1 – Mosfellsbær, Northern Lights

Hello Iceland!

Hello Iceland!

[Here is the photostream of Iceland 2014, for those who prefer pictures to tell a story. 🙂]

For once, a trip that food was not the main focus 😛

We took a very early easyJet flight out of London Luton Airport and arrived in Keflavík International Airport around 10am in the morning and it was cold!!! Hubby managed to find the Gray Line Iceland ticket office real quickly while I went to grab brochures, and we caught the bus that was leaving in 5 minutes time. The minute we stepped out of the airport, fresh cold air with a slightly sulphuric smell hit us!

Gray Line Iceland was very efficient and the big bus dropped everyone off at a central point, where everyone was re-directed to the different mini buses to be transferred to our respective hotels.

We reached Hotel Laxnes past noon, checked in and rested a while before going to a nearby recommended restaurant for lunch. It started to rain while we were walking and it got even colder! But along the way, there was a lovely river, and it was something to distract us from the cold.

Lovely and serene

Lovely and serene

We took the lunch special at Kaffihusið Alafossi, which was a buffet spread of some salad, soup, lasagna, fish and rice. The fish was really delicious!

After lunch, we went to check out the little waterfall behind the restaurant and the wool shop next door. I had converted incorrectly and thought that everything was quite affordable, until hubby said that I forgot to add an extra zero behind… Haha!

As we had booked a 3-hour Jeep tour for the northern lights later in the night, we figured that we probably should go back to rest first, so we went back to the hotel to nap till dinner time.

Hotel Laxnes

Hotel Laxnes

Happy couple at balcony!

Happy couple at balcony!

Dinner was a simple KFC meal because it was the closest place to the hotel.

And we had strange FB comments on why the hell were we eating KFC after coming so far! Well beside the fact that there really wasn’t anything else to makan at this ‘ulu’ place, there was FREE Wifi!! Haha.. Typical Singaporean!

It would become apparent later why we had chosen this hotel which is 15mins drive out of the city centre.

Simple KFC meal

Simple KFC meal

We ordered a meal that came with a juicy burger, 3 spicy drumlets, a wafer biscuit, coleslaw (as we didn’t wanted fries) and a drink of choice. I chose Applesin because I had never had it in Singapore before.. Haha… It was a nice orange drink that wasn’t very sweet!

By 8.30pm, the skies were pitched dark (it’s winter when night starts around 5pm) and we were ready and waiting for our guide to turn up… But he didn’t show up… Finally, hubby went to the hotel pub to enquire (reception closed by 6pm) and was told that the guide had called to say that he would be 30mins late 😦 We went to check the aurora forecast while waiting, and were horrified to see that the forecast had changed from 4 (active) to 1 (quiet)!

Finally, at 9pm, our guide arrived with his big 4-wheel-drive Jeep! Yippee! But first, we had to go to a gas station for him to pick up a cup of coffee, as he already had a full day bringing other tourists to the glacier during the day.

We started our tour by going up a mountain for the night view of the city. It was a bumpy but rather fun ride up! We were impressed by the amount of lights in the city centre! It almost looked like Singapore at night.. And they have like around 190, 000 people living in Reykjavík, while we have 6 million? Lol!

We spent quite a bit of time here, as we were waiting to see if the clouds would clear. We were told that there are 3 conditions to see aurora:

  • Patience – Controllable condition, as what the Hokkiens say: Tan Ku Tio Woo (等久就有)
  • Clear sky in pitch darkness – Semi-controllable condition, given that we are free, to a certain extent, to drive around to find the clearest sky furthest away from ambient ground light
  • Aurora activity – Non-controllable condition because it totally depends on your luck!

It was a starry night, but we only had a hazy view due to the clouds. Our guide pointed out a very faint line that we were unable to make out, and said that that was the start of northern lights.. We were like.. Huh? After a while, our guide declared that we should try another location.

So basically that was how northern light hunting was done, driving around in search of clear skies, or a ‘hole’ in the cloud as what the guide said, and hoping that the lights would appear (through the ‘hole’)…

It was slightly better at the second location, at least this time, we were able to make out the faint white lights … They almost seemed like clouds! But straight and sometimes a slight curve. We stopped at several locations, but each time, it was about the same. Our guide tried really hard to find the northern lights, and kept reminding us that “at least we saw something”. I guess that meant that we would not be getting our next northern light tour for free, haha…

But it was ok. The jeep tour was supposed to be more relaxing and we could hide in the jeep and just roll down the windows instead of hanging outside and getting blown away by the winds, as compared to the bus tour. Frankly, we were really too tired tonight to be braving the cold (we didn’t actually sleep because we checked out in the morning and was stoning in the hotel lobby until 2am when we took the train to London Luton Airport to catch the 7am flight)!

Finally, our day ended close to 1am, where we returned to our hotel and collapsed almost immediately in bed…

[Pardon the lack of pictures because although the iPhone 6 camera is better than many phone cameras in low light situation, it’s still after all a phone camera. 🙂]

Useful Links:

  • Gray Line Iceland – One of the 2 big day/bus tour operators in Iceland, the other being FlyBus. Lots of well-equipped (and high-tech with wifi which doesn’t always work) buses and very knowledgeable guides. Prices among the 2 big ones are quite similar.
  • Hotel Laxnes – Beautiful hotel just outside Reykjavík city centre, highly recommended (Haholt 7 · 270 Mosfellsbaer · Iceland · Tel: +354 566 8822 · Fax: +354 565 3366 ·
  • Aurora Forecast – This is the official Aurora Forecast of Iceland by the Icelandic Met Station
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