To Iceland, 11th August, 2012

All the good weather I’d been experiencing so far on this trip came unstuck in Iceland.  I checked the forecast a couple of days before we arrived to find out that it was to rain heavily on both the Saturday night, and Sunday night, with rain and showers in between.  On arrival at Keflavik International Airport it was raining fairly heavily and the fog was almost on the ground.  Oh! well, all good things have to come to an end, sometime.

Iceland is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain and has a population of 309,000 people – and it’s a relatively young population.  One in five Icelanders is 14 years old or younger.  The fertility rate is high at 2.1 which makes it one of only a few industrialised European countries with a birth rate sufficient to sustain stable long-term population growth.

Icelanders refer to each other by their given name, not their family name.  Consequently if you want to check out the Icelandic telephone book, it’s listed alphabetically by first name.  Equality between the sexes is very high and income inequality is amongst the lowest in the world.  Iceland is consistently ranked as one of the top three best places for women to live.  The constitution explicitly prohibits the use of noble privileges, titles or ranks.

Iceland lies on a join in the tectonic plates and therefore is an active volcanic area.  As a result the majority of the country is barren lava beds, mountains, glaciers and ice fields.  Only one fifth of the island is vegetated. With many fjords, the coastline of Iceland is long – 4970km.

When we arrived in Iceland, we were supposed to have a tour of the town and pay a visit to Blue Lagoon, a thermal pool resort on our way to the hotel.  We scotched that idea pretty quickly partly due to the weather and partly due to the fact we had been on the ‘road’ since our 05h30 wakeup call plus an hour in a time zone change.

The Grand Hotel Reykjavik is modern.  The rooms were big and airy but the plumbing was again a challenge.  Why do the Europeans make something that can be so simple, so difficult?  I could not get hot water in my shower.

Now, that didn’t mean I couldn’t clean myself up.  The bathroom had a bath, so a bath it was, the first for me in decades.  The bath also had a shower head on the end of a wandering lead, the excess lead being wrapped around the taps.  I got water into the bath, but I couldn’t work out how to get water up into the shower part of the apparatus.  Sitting in my nice hot bath studying the scenery, and my navel, I spied a funny little bit on the end of the nozzle from which the water comes.  I played with this to find it moved up and down a fraction, enough to change the direction of the water from filling the bath to flooding the bathroom floor because the shower-head was pointing up, not down.  I’m not sure I got off on the right foot in Iceland, as into the bargain, the head cold that hit the African bus caught up with me!  Or, was it the huge changes in temperature from being inside to outside in these climes.

I still couldn’t get hot water next morning so down to the front desk I went at 05h30 to ask for directions on how to break the ‘code’.  One of the guys from the front desk went up while I wrote an email or two in the lobby (free WiFi in lobby but you have to pay if you log on in your room) and came back down saying everything was working OK.  Must be some Icelandic trick I hadn’t worked out, or, was he spinning me another Nordic legend?  I needed to go up and try again before it was time for breakfast.

Fancy that, he was right!  Even so I couldn’t get hot water straight away, and it wasn’t because it took time for the hot water to get through the pipes.  Each of the twisty bits of the tap have a black rocker button.  If this is activated when the twist is at its maximum, it allows the twist to become greater.  On the flow side of the tap, this resulted in a flailing shower head that wet everything within its now much greater range, including me if I stood too close, which I had to be, to be able to reach the bleeding taps!  You’d have thought I’d have learnt from my earlier experience!  The other side of this complicated tap allows the twist to go further to get water that is hotter than the faded numerals indicate.  Of course you need a greater temperature than the faintly indicated 32-42 degree range and by depressing the rocker button, water at an acceptable showering temperature is achieved!  How depressing to think it took two lengthy attempts on my part, and for a guy to tell me that it was me, and not the system, that was at fault!  Without sounding too pious, our system for bathroom taps at home is so simple.

Anyway, I was now clean and ready to explore this country of Iceland.   D

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