When you live in a country that has a seemingly perpetual winter for 10 months of the year, a healthy sense of humour helps you get through it. I can relate having lived in Edmonton. You really need to keep your spirits up when Vitamin D is on short supply.
Perhaps this is why Icelandic people have a good sense of humour. You got to just laugh. There was no shortage of funny signs and quirky places in Iceland. Each one was a delight to discover.
Wow Air was a great flying experience. Despite the strict baggage requirements, they reminded me a lot of WestJet but better. Funny signs throughout the plane, the terminal and in the inflight magazine made flying fun and not a drag.
I avoid going into American or Americanized restaurants and shops when I’m abroad. When I’m in another country, I want to explore the local food and culture. But this was an exception. In Reykjavik, we couldn’t pass up the chance to have a quick lunch at a very unusual place: The Chuck Norris Grill.
I love Chuck Norris jokes. (Really who doesn’t?) I’ve never been so distracted in a restaurant… every wall I looked at, I laughed out loud. Plus, the food was very good. The “sauce bar” was out of this world.
By the end of the trip, we really just had to laugh at ourselves and all the silly things we went through. Stress and anxiety ran high in some of the moments, but they really added to our adventure. This isn’t meant to be a Debbie Downer kind of list but rather a record of all the things that went wrong while we were in Iceland. Perhaps it’ll bring a laugh to you and serve as cautionary tales.
While in the Lake Myvatn area, David, Thomas and I wanted to get a closer look and possibly hike up Hverjall Crater. We entered the area on a gravel road and immediately were warned about getting stuck and having to pay a lot of money to get help if we got stuck. (Had I known what would happen, I would have taken a picture).
Bump. Bump. Bump along an uneven road.
We passed the parking lot where other cars had parked. The owners cleverly continuing on foot. We saw another sign: Super Jeeps only. Don’t enter with an SUV. The nag within me said, “I don’t like this idea, let’s turn just park here.” The boys wanted to push further in. We continued along. Deeper snow was further ahead.
Then we sunk in. Tires spun. Gravel and snow flew everywhere. We were stuck.
We rushed around, digging out the snow around the wheels. We collected volcanic rock to stuff under the wheels to provide traction. We emptied the car of all our luggage to make it lighter. Thomas and I pushed while David tried to get us out.
After about an hour of a few attempts, our hand were freezing cold, our pants wet and soaked through, hope was lost. Tourists continually walked past us with faces of pity and likely thinking: those stupid tourists ignored the signs.
Thank God there was still cell phone service! We called the national emergency line. They connected us to a local tow company. After 10 minutes on the phone trying to tell them where we were, help was coming. Turns out when you try to pronounce an Icelandic name phonetically, it sounds NOTHING like that in reality. David ran out to the nearest road side which was kilometers away and luckily someone drove him out there. Thomas and I waited.
About 45 minutes later, we saw a super truck coming toward us. He stopped. His wheels spun. And for a split second we really thought he would get stuck too!
Fortunately he didn’t. The 50+ year old man set up the cable to the hitch of our Durango. And after some attempts and an anxious wait, our truck was out of the gigantic ruts.
In the end, the towing fee wasn’t too expensive. Certainly not the crazy amount the signs had us believing. We asked the tow truck driver to follow us back to the road … just in case.
An important lesson was learned that afternoon: you should always listen to your nagging wife.
That wasn’t the end of our troubles. A few days later we found a nail in our tire. No problem we thought: let’s change it with the spare. Well, except the spare was the wrong size. Definitely useless. Even if it was the right size, the lifting jack was seized and couldn’t be removed from the car.
We called the rental car company who put us in touch with a local mechanic. We were fortunate to be in a relatively decent sized town and at a large gas station with Wifi to wait it out. He came, removed our tire, took it away to repair and came back with it ready to go. That tire made me nervous the rest of the trip especially when we ventured off road later on.
But the tire wasn’t the problem, it was the gear box! While in Reykjavik on the second last day, our not-so-trusty Durango revved too high and didn’t shift its gears properly. Not wanting to take any chances, we called our rental company again and they swapped it out for us. No paperwork. No look over. And don’t mind the aesthetics, they told us…it was in a car accident and just came back from the body shop.
Now let’s see… some other funny and minor unfortunate happenings. Iceland was on strike for two days while we were there, so we missed the opportunity for an iceberg lagoon cruise in Jökulsárlón. It also meant we couldn’t order chicken for lunch at the Chuck Norris grill. At one of the guesthouses, our clothes got stuck in the washing machine. The owner had to call a guy to drill out the door. She was kind enough to wash and dry our laundry, so it wasn’t too bad in the end. We lost a number of things: my fleece toque, David’s mini tri-pod and Thomas’ sunglasses. I thought I lost Thomas’ phone causing a day of anxiety and guilt… you can’t imagine my relief when we found it in the back of the Durango after unpacking for the night.
And sadly, no Northern Lights. I couldn’t believe that there was still twilight at 2am. It didn’t even get dark enough to see stars.
Despite all the setbacks and unfortunate series of events, we were sure glad to have people there to share it with and be able to laugh about it both at the time and even still today. In addition to the beautiful landscapes, good food and interesting architecture, these are the moments that will make it one of our lives’ most unforgettable trips.