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Travel

Northern Lights Hunting | Iceland | Part One

I felt the anxiety bubble inside me as we drove to the airport. I was excited, obviously, but I also felt nervous. The usual travel worries ensued. I worried about chargers and cameras and toiletries and warm clothes and being late. The list could go on, but my biggest fear was apprehension.

The northern lights had been at the top of my bucket list for a long time. Always mesmerized by its natural beauty, the Aurora Borealis has intrigued me to the point of booking a trip to Iceland on a chance I might see them. A chance. And therein lies the apprehension.

We arrived at Birmingham Airport to board our plane journey to Reykjavik with Icelandair. It was a Monday afternoon and I couldn’t help but feel lucky to be heading to the land of ice while others are back to their routine and starting their working week. I took one last breath of the misty city air before boarding our flight. Breathe out and say goodbye.

Icelandair were incredibly hospitable. Just a taster of what was to come in terms of an Icelandic warm welcome. It was 3:30pm when we eventually touched down on Icelandic soil, and my anticipation for the days ahead grew even stronger. It was almost a similar feeling to a longing nostalgia, though I had never been here before. The moment I stepped off the plane, I took another deep breath- tasting the air of a new city. I imagine my lungs are jars collecting the air of the places I’ve travelled. This one tasted fresh with a hint of sulphur.

We took the FlyBus to our hotel, admiring the breath-taking scenery along the way. We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Cabin, and proceeded to check in. Before our trip, I had been repetitively checking the Northern Lights forecast online to assess our chances. We had been booked on the northern lights hunt with Reykjavik Excursions for the following night, but the weather looked poor and overcast, so we managed to rearrange it for that first night. We dumped our bags, ate dinner at the hotel and met our coach driver in the lobby.

11:30-something PM. Darkness- besides the moonlight beaming onto the snow-topped mountains in Thingvellir National Park, the sky and our surroundings succumbed to nightfall and nothing out of the ordinary appeared to light our way. The sky itself was clear and we started to do some constellation spotting to pass the time while we waited. Waited for the famous light show everyone had come to associate with Icelandic winters. Time seemed to run away into the darkness as we stood huddling into ourselves trying to keep warm. I had worn every item of clothing I had bought with me to Iceland. I felt like a matryoshka doll, layer upon layer hiding that small child version of me in the middle that wanted to jump and scream with excitement. When it got to the point that I couldn’t bend my fingers anymore, I retreated back to the coach to get warm. When I got on, the coach was full and it appeared everyone had given up, until our guide jumped on and said something had appeared in the sky. Immediately we rushed off the coach. Was it finally happening? Was I going to see the northern lights after all?

I looked to the sky to see a greenish hue to what looked like a rain cloud in an arch over our heads. We were told on the way by our guide that some people are disappointed when they see the northern lights because they expect them to be as we see on all those pictures and postcards- vivid green and purple streaks lining the night sky, but apparently they just show up better on camera. Standing there, seeing a vaguely green smudge above me, under all those layers, I stopped jumping and my heart sank with disappointment. I couldn’t help but feel cheated by all those images. I had dreamed about this for such a long time, and I had clearly gotten lost in my own expectation.

Everyone was about to give up for the last time on that frosty January night, when out of that arching cloud a bright speck of green started to break through. It was small but it lit up the whole sky with its luminosity, and then suddenly, it was everywhere.

I climbed on top of an icy mound to escape the crowds of people who stood in awe. I immediately wanted to take as many photos as I possibly could to capture it while it was still here. The lights moved around the sky, following that first arch. I kept turning my head to see where they had danced to next. Their movement slow and powerful, there was an eerie, almost extra-terrestrial feel to this gift from the sun that was met with both screams of fear and excitement by the crowd. At one point it appeared that the whole sky had turned neon green, and I just couldn’t believe my luck. I crouched down to the floor, huddled to keep warm, and I took a moment to bask in wonder. It has fast become a poignant memory for me; one that I will cherish for the rest of my days.

The wait was worth it.

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Categories
Travel

Packing for Iceland

I’m going to Iceland!!!

And it’s going to be cold. Colder than I’ve probably ever experienced before, but that’s OK, because it’s Iceland!

Iceland has been on my bucket list for a while. It’s pretty much what dreams are made of for travel lovers. Adventure, nature and a funky little capital city to boot- what more could you want?!

Although I’ll only be going for 3 nights, I’ve been planning ahead what I’ll be taking on my trip. Ya know, just to make sure I come back with every single one of my toes. These little piggies are staying put!

If you’re planning on taking a similar winter holiday trip and have got no idea what to take, below I’ve listed a few packing ideas based on what I’m hoping will be a well-prepared, successful trip!

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Jumpers (your most snuggliest)

IT’S SO FLUFFY! That is exactly what you need to be saying when packing for a winter trip. Pack the warmest ones you can find, even if that means wearing a Christmas jumper in February, DO IT. Jumpers with polo necks work great because they double up as a scarf.

Thermals everything

For the first time in my life I own a pair of long johns- and I couldn’t be happier. Seriously, you need to go all out on this one. You will not regret it.

Walking/Hiking boots

I’m going to be heading out on the Golden Circle tour; it’s likely to be windy, wet and slippery, so me and my clumsiness are not taking any chances. These bad boys have a sturdy sole to keep my feet firmly on the ground.

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Accessories

Scarf. Hat. Gloves. Backpack. You get the idea.

Coat

Probably the most important thing you will need. Preferably windproof and waterproof, and a fur hood so you can look good too. Ski coats are also great. Your choice of coat really depends on the destination, so choose wisely. If you’re planning on being more adventurous on your trip, you would be better off buying one from Mountain Warehouse or North Face to really suit your needs.

Camera!

Now on to the fun stuff… a camera is pretty much an essential item for me. Whether that be my Canon 600d or my Fuji Instax Mini- taking photos of new and beautiful locations adds to the fun of exploring a new destination. If you are heading somewhere where there is likely to be snow topped mountains and you resist the urge to take even one photo.. HOW?!

Travel Journal/Book

As well as a small notebook that I take with me on all my travels, I’m also taking this one by Axel and Ash. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on it for a while and finally received it as a gift this Christmas (I’ll be doing a whole post about it in more detail soon, so keep your eyes peeled!).

I also find it imperative to bring a book with me when I travel. I love reading and there’s nothing better than finding a local cafe, drinking a nice cup of hot chocolate and reading a good book.

And.. don’t forget your passport and money! You might just need those.

So that’s pretty much all I’ll be taking with me to Iceland! Apart from the usual toiletries too, of course. There will be lots and lots of hand cream involved to fight off that winter dry skin!

I’ll be posting more on my trip to Iceland over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!