Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Planet Iceland - The beginning

This travelogue has been on my mind from the time I was back from a magical and strange land but it took me almost a year to get my mind back on track into writing about this epic trip before it remains ONLY in my memory. For the initial few months after the trip I kept admiring the pictures but later, my mind itched to write and words just wouldn't flow. I wasn't sure, what to write and how to explain about a trip which definitely was a dream which we had ( my husband and I) had worked on, so that it comes true. Iceland, as a travel destination was NEVER on my list. In fact I hardly knew about this place unless I was forced to see various pictures and videos of the Northern lights, which can also be seen in Iceland. just like other countries close to the Arctic belt. 

So, what is it that made me come out of the phase of procrastination?????

Well...... it was a little bit , a lot of push from my partner, an old blog post surfacing up and a promise that I had made to a little someone. 

It was one of own my older blog posts( Living our dreams together on Valentine's Day), where I had to imagine a situation where I had been granted a wish of my choice for Valentine's Day 2015 and how I would utilise that wish to make it special for my partner. Back in 2014 and 2015, it was only and only Iceland that was on my husband's mind whose photographic and explorative eye exclusively wanted to go to places which are unique and are filled with natural wonders. I was quite a novice in travel planning 4-5 years back so, for me it was easier to imagine and write about Iceland, than to attempt planning for the trip or even thinking about executing it. I did a lot of research and compiled a beautiful post for Valentine's Day, won accolades for it and even forgot about the content after a while. The irony here is that, in reality, I never showed it to the Valentine for whom I had written the above travelogue conjured completely out of my imagination. 

2-3 years post that we both sat down to reconsider if we could plan a trip to Iceland in November. We discussed extensively with our travel planners( Pick Your Trail) and were about to book tickets when we suddenly dropped the plan and changed our destination. Going to Iceland in November( one of the core winter months) had its own challenges. The only advantage of going during that was longer and darker nights which increased the chances of sighting the Northern Lights. After a careful risk and benefit analysis,  my husband dropped this plan with a heavy heart. That's how New Zealand happened and that place washed all the gloomy feelings away. We stopped discussing about Iceland and decided to leave it to time. After a gap of 2 and half years, (late 2018) again my husband brought up this crazy idea of going to Iceland during winter. After being with him for almost 5 years now, I had gotten used to contradicting his statements which did not seem to be serious. I told him to not waste time thinking about a plan which was not going to work out. He took a week's time but meanwhile he had already done his background work. He was not just planning but serious about executing the trip this time. He started considering September as a good time to go to Iceland instead. Now, this seemed reasonable to me and if we planned well we could also make our 5th anniversary special. And, that's how it all began.

Thanks to Pick Your Trail for helping us create a trip itinerary keeping in mind our interests and giving us the flexibility of choosing our hotels and suggesting what could be done when we are in Iceland. They also created a WhatsApp group chat with constant day-to-day reminders so that we could not miss out on anything important. Oncet the flight tickets were sorted we went ahead and got the VISA done. We chose a mixture of Airbnb and hotel/ motel like set-up for the trip which could match with the other activities in our itinerary. We had to do this part by ourselves , which was a good learning experience , especially when we were applying for a Schengen visa. Our challenge was to pack smart, as the airlines had told us that only one baggage per person would only be allowed for check-in and we could just carry a minimal weight in our cabin luggage. We made a list of the items and even the number of clothes that we exactly needed for trip and kept everything accordingly. Decathlon was our go to place for shopping regular travel wear and also the winter+water-resistant wear. We had some thin fleece jackets and woollens which we could use as layers below the thick jackets. Layering was the key, as we had read in many websites and blogs. The weather could be a mixture of rain+ wind+sun as September was a mid-way time between the summer and rainy months and the beginning of winter in Iceland. Seeing many blogs mention more about the rain being persistent during this month, made us feel a little irritated as we had to even carry rain jackets. We did not have any specific water-proof shoots etc, but a pair of good sturdy shoes from Decathlon each and open sandals were what we had kept along with multiple pairs of socks. I wanted to flaunt a lot of beautiful t-shirts that I had but after going to Iceland, I ended up mostly in one jacket which was the go-to outer wear clothing for the maximum part of the trip. This probably was a good decision because packing minimal helped us manage our clothes better, we could carry stuff while coming back without increasing our luggage weight and we managed to wash our clothes in most of the places where we stayed. Gloves, jackets, sunscreen, medicines, shoes, socks, t-shirts, water-resistant/comfortable pants, grocery items like rice, poha, Maggie, instant soup/noodles, spices, etc with a very useful and multipurpose lightweight, microwave safe plastic cooker and light weight re-usable cutlery and tiffin boxes. The microwave-safe cooker was the best investment we had made for the trip as cooking a on-pot meal was quick and easy for us. Being lacto-ovo-vegetarians we we able to adjust to eggs, dairy and bread but it would not help us sustain for a one week in Iceland as we both love our food and cannot manage by having just soups and salads apart from eggs. So, these hacks saved us the trouble of hunting for vegan/vegetarian food in Iceland. We did our bit of research about what we could purchase after going there from Supermarkets and also utilise what we had got with us. Packaging of food items that we got from Nilgiris was good enough to even withstand the in-transit air pressure. These were some of the go-to places for grocery shopping that we banked on during our trip : Nettó, Krónan and Bónus. This website : Guide to Iceland, gave us most of the relevant info related to trip. Keeping Google Translate handy in our mobile which could convert Icelandic to English and vice-versa helped us to prepare well for the trip by learning to pronounce some basic names of places in Icelandic. Having heard that the language is tough, we practiced spelling and understanding few Icelandic words while we were sitting at the airport waiting to board the flight. Overall, these small key points made us feel a lot better during the trip. The rest what we did was based on everyday's exploration which will unfold in the upcoming blog posts.