So, my Iceland adventure has officially come to an end. Although I’m sad that it’s over, I couldn’t be happier with the way it all turned out.
Things got off to a bit of a rocky start. When my boyfriend and I arrived in Iceland, our luggage had been lost and so I was without much of my running gear, toiletries and clothes.
Luckily, we got our stuff the next day. I was dreading having to replace all of the lost items, because things were just a bit pricey in downtown Reykjavik (we bought a hairbrush and tweezers and that cost almost $20!)
It was smooth sailing after that however, and the rest of the trip was like a dream.
On the drive from the airport to the hotel, I was struck by how very different the landscape was. Instead of the fertile land I’ve gotten used to living in Ontario and Saskatchewan, the land consisted mostly of volcanic rock in which nothing could possibly grow, for miles and miles. In the distance, we could see steam coming from the mountains and hills. We didn’t know what it was at first, but it turned out to be natural hot springs. They had an earthquake recently that cracked the earth and revealed a brand new hot spring – awesome.
Our first day there was spent wandering around Reykjavik and just soaking it all in. I immediately fell in love with the fresh sea air and the cleanliness of the place. It never made it over about 12 degrees Celsius, which some might find a little chilly but which I thought was wonderful. It was absolutely perfect weather for a marathon, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.
First I have to talk about this magical stuff called skyr. It’s a cheesy yogurt substance that is inexpensive, low-fat and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life! Why they don’t sell this stuff here is beyond me – it would be huge.
Then there was the whale watching tour. We had heard from another Team Diabetes member that he had gone on a similar tour and hadn’t seen a thing, but I wasn’t too worried about that. I was just excited about being out on the ocean – anything else on top of that would just be gravy!
Well, the tour was better than we could have hoped. We saw several Minke whales (or maybe the same one several times, who knows). One of them was surface feeding, which meant that it jumped right out of the water for all to see. Then we had porpoises jumping and swimming alongside the boat, and later on we saw dolphins! They followed us for quite a ways, and I don’t know a ton about dolphins, but they seemed to be having a great old time.
In the distance was a rainbow in the mist, with the mountains in the background – it was almost too beautiful to be real.
I always find a big part of the fun of a trip like that is listening to the reactions of people around you. I couldn’t understand a lot of it, because there were people speaking German, Japanese, Swedish, Icelandic, but there was one American woman that I couldn’t help but overhear. First of all, she was about forty years old and spoke like she was 15. You know the type: “Oh...my...god! Those whales are like, soooo cute!” The quote of the day was, “So...dolphins eat fish, right?” *Face-palm* I guess she really read up on the subject before the trip.
I burst out laughing, though she didn’t know I was laughing at her – I’m not mean, after all, but I did have this overwhelming urge to say, “No, dolphins only eat cats. That’s why the species is dwindling – they have a hard time finding enough cats to eat in the OCEAN!” But I decided to bite my tongue.
Another highlight was our trip to the Blue Lagoon, the outdoor hot springs. I was instantly enchanted by the colors of the place, even before I set foot in the soothing hot waters.
The water appeared to glow an unearthly blue, because of the silica in the water. The surrounding rocks and mountains just took my breath away, and I could easily have stayed there all day. I couldn’t help but think, “Does Tim Burton know about this place??” In case you don’t know, Tim Burton created Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice among many others, and this place looked like the perfect backdrop for one of his movies.
One of the Team Diabetes girls was swimming all by herself, and we asked where her man was. Apparently he didn’t like warm water, so he wasn’t going to try it. This was the same man who hated all the wonderful food we were served (including risotto and chicken) and grumbled that he couldn’t wait to get back home to have a nice, normal steak. It really made me appreciate my boyfriend, who is willing to try anything!
Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any more beautiful than that, we went on a tour of the countryside, and Iceland outdid itself once again.
We had actually paid for a tour of the geysers, due to time and money constrictions, yet we somehow ended up with tickets to see the geysers, the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and the parliament. Three for the price of one!
The geysers were fascinating, one of them exploding with water roughly 70 feet high every six minutes or so. I loved the way they let you get just inches away from the water, allowing you to get the most of the experience. You definitely wanted to make sure you were upwind from it however, or you’d be soaked in hot, sulphur-smelling liquid, which some people didn’t seem to mind too much. Not that we didn’t smell like sulphur afterwards anyway, but not as much as we might have, I suppose. There was one little tiny geyser, or maybe it wasn’t technically a geyser, but anyway it just bubbles away all day, and that one was my favourite. The ground was just bursting with life and energy all around us, and I felt very lucky to be there.
The waterfalls were spectacular as well. One thing I loved was this tiny, ankle-height rope that served as the only barrier between the spectators and the depths below. I guess the rope was not so much a barrier as an indication that you could plunge to your doom if you step beyond that. I kind of like the way they give people a bit of credit, and the freedom to walk to the edge of the falls at their own risk. They’re not as uptight as we are here in North America, where people tend to be way over cautious, to the point of being a little dull at times. That was also evident in the way the children played in Iceland. There was this one structure that was basically a climbing tower of bungee chords, where dozens of kids would climb and bounce around. Yes, there was a chance they could fall, and yes, they could step on each other’s fingers, but things like that teach kids to exercise caution and use their brains. It made me realize how much we overprotect our children around here. One kid gets hurt doing something, and it ends up being banned forever, just because of that one incident! I love it when kids are allowed to be kids.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet are the people. You can often pick out a genuine Icelander just by looking at them because they tend to be tall, thin, blond and beautiful. I’ve never seen so many gorgeous, icy-blond haired children in all my life!
Wow, I still haven’t mentioned Culture Night! This is basically a huge, city-wide celebration featuring street performers, fireworks, and then a whole lot of drinking. We didn’t do much of that because I still needed to recover, and we wanted to save our money for something that wouldn’t leave us with a headache for the rest of the trip, but we could hear the festivities going on long after we had retired for the evening.
Oh dear, I’m running out of room and I haven’t even talked about the marathon yet.
Running the marathon was an experience I’ll never, ever forget. The community was so supportive, ringing bells and shouting words of encouragement along the way. Granted, I couldn’t understand what most of them were saying because they were speaking Icelandic, but I chose to assume they were shouting words of encouragement. Some of them even spotted my Team Diabetes Canada shirt and started singing Oh Canada as I ran past. It was wonderful!
I have a whole new respect for people who run the full marathon. When I finished the half, which is 21 km, I felt like I couldn’t run another foot. I can’t even imagine doing twice that distance, yikes! The last three kilometres went on forever...I think it might be a joke actually. They put up the sign saying 3 km left, and make you go on for another 12 km! That’s certainly what it felt like, but crossing that finish line was one of my proudest moments ever, because I never thought I would be able to do something like that.
Once I had finished my run, my boyfriend and I went back to the hotel and he iced my legs and then massaged them. I must admit that I walked like a penguin, or maybe a zombie...I walked like a zombie penguin for the rest of the trip, because I was just a little stiff, but it was worth it.
Last was the victory dinner, featuring everyone on Team Diabetes. A woman who has had diabetes since she was a child gave a speech that brought tears to everyone’s eyes, as she explained how grateful she was to all of the people who helped raise money to try and find a cure. As a team, we raised well over $300,000, and I’m very proud to have been a part of that.
The trip back to Canada was a whole different story – I could probably fill up this newspaper with that story alone. In a nutshell, we missed our flight back (long story), had to stay overnight in Toronto (which was so hot and stinky after the fresh air of Iceland). By the time we got to the hotel in Toronto, it was about 4 in the morning Iceland time, so we pretty much hit the bed and fell into a coma.
But all is well that ends well, and we made it back home to Saskatchewan, which smells far better than Toronto, for the record, the following day.
I strongly urge you to consider joining Team Diabetes. You won’t regret it, and you don’t have to do anything so extreme as to run a marathon, or even a half marathon. You also have the option to run or even walk the 10 km. If you raise $6,100 for the CDA (and you have about a year to do so), they will pay for your airfare, hotel accommodations, welcome supper, victory supper, free breakfast every day at the hotel (and I mean, our breakfasts consisted of bacon, sausages, pancakes, these delicious round potato things that I couldn’t get enough of, crepes, pancakes, fresh fruit, eggs...but I guess that would vary a little depending where you go.) And if you can afford it, you stay as long as you want out of your own pocket, with your return airfare still paid for by the CDA. It’s great incentive to get in shape, it helps a very worthy cause and you get to visit an exotic country.
And if the cool climate isn’t your cup of tea, you also have the option to go to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Cayman Island; and Costa Rica just to name a few. Or you can stay right here in Canada. If you would like to sign up to become a part of Team Diabetes, go to
http://www.diabetes.ca/get-involved/supporting-us/team-diabetes/. Just think about it – if you decide to go for it I guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life!