In Iceland: Jökulsárlón and the Iceberg Beach

I tried to drive here in January but it was impossible with the amount of light in Winter and the snow. This time, I was determined to get there, it was the first place on my list. The first place where I was heading.

I arrived at Jökulsárlón at 10pm so it was dark and the only thing I saw were a couple of icebergs illuminated by my headlights. I was knackered so I went to bed and when I woke up I saw the most amazing thing. A huge lagoon full of icebergs. It was amazing.PhoebeGill150916805

This place is incredible. It really is. I can’t wait to go back already! I once again feel like I missed something or I didn’t take enough photos of it. (I’m sure I did but I love going back anywhere in Iceland)PhoebeGill150916986

Top Tip:

When you are standing at the shore of the lagoon, the sun will rise behind you so it will be a bit darker early in the morning until the sun fully rises. For the best pictures I recommend around 10am (in September). Although, sunrise on the iceberg beach next to the lagoon is pretty gorgeous!PhoebeGill150916833There weren’t any icebergs close to the shore for me to get close to and try and get scale but when you see chunks of ice break off and float down stream it shows you the scale of these hunks of ice. Watching an iceberg float out to sea is just amazing! Seeing it rock like a boat and then stop. It is just awesome.PhoebeGill150916596I would love to do a boat tour next time. Going through the lagoon would be immense. It’s been a dream of mine to go to Antarctica like my father so maybe it would be like a teeny tiny version of that.PhoebeGill150916987I am so excited I got to see this incredible place. Definitely worth the wait!

Have you been to Jökulsárlón? Is there any place like this that you have been to? 

Happy Travels!

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In Iceland: Driving in September.

I have previously written about self driving in January but now I want to talk about what it’s like in September. September is that lovely time where the Summer heat is cooling off and it’s really pleasant light layer weather.

I think driving in September is perfect. It’s not likely to snow, although it is Iceland, where anything can happen but generally it’s party cloudy to overcast to raining. It’s pretty much like Ireland so it is definitely weather I can drive in. I thankfully got glorious weather! It was mostly sunny all five days except the last day that was raining all day with high winds.PhoebeGill1509181143

When it is dry and sunny, driving in Iceland is a dream. It’s open roads and gorgeous scenery. The only things I have to say is don’t get so distracted you don’t look out for oncoming traffic. Don’t stop in a small hard shoulder, where your car is jutting out on the road, to pet horses or take a picture. I know Iceland is breathtaking and yes, I wish there was one giant hard shoulder so you could pull off at any given second, but there isn’t, so you can’t just do what you want.

Driving in wind is kind of horrible, Iceland is known for gale force winds and passing through a pocket of strong wind feels like you will be swept off the road. My tip is slow down to where you don’t feel like the car is as unstable and watch when opening up car doors because people will not thank you if your car door smashes into theirs. And some insurance wont cover the damage if you hit a door or a door hits you. PhoebeGill150916702I found that people will go very close to you before they over take you on the roads. Even if it a completely empty road they will go really close. I never understood that. What I always do when someone is over taking me is when they have pulled out, I slow down. I don’t jam on my breaks but I slow a little so they don’t have to floor it or just incase a car suddenly appears. It’s just a nice gesture. Also don’t go really close behind someone, what if they want to pull off at a rest stop and take pictures. Don’t be mean!

I have written an entire post about petrol stations/gas stations so go check that out if you want to know more.

Driving is wonderful in Iceland and I definitely recommend you rent a car and go explore this amazing country for yourself! No schedules and no time limits. Just go.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: A Guide to Petrol Stations.

*Note that: A Petrol Station/Garage is what I call Gas Stations/Fuelling Stations.

When I read blog posts and articles about driving and fuel stations in Iceland it’s as if it’s a post apocalyptic world where there is no food or water for miles. It’s just not the case. It’s really easy to navigate around Iceland and to have enough fuel to do it with!

Sometimes you will be driving along and thinking there will never be a petrol station so I can use the loo or get a hot dog or fill the tank up the two bars that have gone down but there will be. If you are going along the ring road or any main tourist locations there is no need to panic!

If you are a 1 litre car to a 1.6 litre car than there are plenty of petrol stations around the place so don’t worry if you don’t fill up at every one. If you have a bigger engine I recommend you fill up every chance you get just to be sure as I haven’t driven one…yet!

How to self service:

Self service petrol pumps are in almost every station. Step 1: Go to the machine, put your card in and enter your pin. Step 2: Choose how much money you want to put into your car. 500 kr, 1000 kr, 2000 kr etc. Step 3: Choose which pump you want to activate. Step 4: The pump is ready, fill your tank. Then if you want a receipt than stick your card back into the machine and a receipt will print.

You will need a chip and pin card to use the self service petrol pumps. I saw lots of Americans frustrated at the pumps because there was no authorisation going through. This may be just for american cards but Irish ones work perfectly! I used two visa cards and although I got a call from Visa making sure it was me, everything was authorised and I was able to buy everything I needed. 

If you don’t have a card that works you will need a gas card. They sell them in petrol stations so make sure you have one before you go on a long journey.

Tips:

  1. Don’t hog the pump. The amount of people who’s cards didn’t work so they had to go into the shop, who left their car by the pump so no one else could use it was annoying. Don’t do it!
  2. Get a bacon wrapped hotdog. They are actually really tasty. Try not think of the nitrates though.
  3. Olis petrol stations have a really great website that allows you to filter the types of stations and facilities Olis have, so you can find the right station for your needs. I used this when I needed to find a vacuum cleaner to clean out my rental car.
  4. N1 stations are great to get a bite to eat. I really like their food sections and they usually have a nice sit down area. I always liked getting a cheeky donut, a ginger juice and a hot chocolate.

Hope this covers any questions you have before you go. If you have more questions leave them below! 

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Renting a Car with Kuku Campers

*Kuku have updated their fleet and mileage policies, so this is my opinion on a car that is no longer on their lot*

At first I said I want to go to Iceland. Check. Then I said I want to drive in Iceland. Check. And now that I am back home, I want to drive a 4×4 in Iceland. Thankfully there are lots of rental companies with lots of different types of cars and cars for different budgets.

If you want to read my 4×4 camper review click here!

Kuku Campers.

What I liked: 

They rent to people ages 20 and up. On their website in their FAQ page they state that they will rent to anyone 20 and older who has a full drivers licence. Excellent! This is probably the number one reason I booked with them. I have always wanted to drive in another country and Kuku could make that happen!

Independence. Having the freedom to make your own timetable. Not having to be back on a bus at a certain time was the best. Iceland shouldn’t have a timer. It should be enjoyed at your own pace. Being able to drive anywhere (with the exception of the highlands) was just amazing!

You can camp almost anywhere. Now I have heard it’s illegal to camp somewhere other than an campsite in a town that has one but one night I had to sleep in a petrol station car park. You probably should do way more research than I did on campsites and where to sleep but I just went with the flow. Also I must confess, I think I stole a night’s sleep at Skogafoss. I generally think if you are out of the way and not causing any damage or disruption to man or animal, you will be ok. But do more research!

Was pretty comfortable to sleep in. I decided that the first thing I needed to do was go to Ikea (5 mins away from Kuku’s reception) and get a pillow and duvet. Luckily the two items were less than €10 and they made all the difference! Once you get your pillow, sleeping bag, duvet situation sorted and you are in a pair of fluffy socks it can be very comfy! Do note though it does get horrendously cold. Like really really cold. Bring all layers. But once you find the right cocoon you will be fine.

What I didn’t like:

Difficult to get to. So taxi’s in Iceland are renowned for being very expensive. I think it would have cost €80 to get from the airport to the industrial estate Kuku is located. The flybus+ drops passengers to local hotels. I asked what is the closest hotel they could drop me to the street Kuku Campers is on and it was no where near where I needed to be. So that meant I had to ask them to pick me up for a fee of €50. Not so bad but I wanted to find a cheaper alternative.

Old car.  So I chose to get an A Category Renault Kangoo but then Kuku choose what camper you get. It was a 2005 model with 216000 kilometers on the dial. This is a 10 year old car and although I have no doubt that their mechanic is top notch, the car had issues purely for being an old car.PhoebeGill150916886 It had belt issues, which meant that when I started up the car a loud squealing noise would sound from it. Meaning everyone camping around me could hear it too. I felt really bad driving though a load of people most likely waking them up. The full headlights only worked sometimes. It would be pitch black and I couldn’t get the lights to click into place. At one point I had to jam it four or five times because I needed to be seen at 10pm on the isolated south coast road, it finally stayed on after that. Not only that but the main headlight bulbs had gone on one side.

Luckily I got all of the insurances because it was given to me with three cracks in the window. This just means you have to be extra careful that you don’t go into a pothole and make the cracks bigger. Stupidly I didn’t check the window when I was marking the sheet of all of the dents and scratches so I am probably liable for them. So if you are a first time renter check the windows! Thankfully they take on full costs of fixing it if you have the insurance.

It had a horrendous sticky gear box. I actually have a bruise on my palm because getting the camper into reverse was stupidly hard. I would lift up the button to get the car in reverse, put it in gear and it would bounce out again. Going into third when your supposed to be in first was all too easy and it made for a frustrating experience.

I didn’t notice this until I got home and drove my own car but the camper had incredibly ridged steering. I developed strained forearm muscles because I had to pull the steering wheel harder than my own car. Not to mention, in the wind it is actually painful to keep the car in a straight line. Icelandic wind is no joke, slow down and you should be ok.

Basically I think Britney is on her way out.

The look. I really don’t mean to offend anyone here but this camper was embarrassing to drive around in.  If you know me in my day to day life than you know that I am a very private, quiet person. I keep to myself and I try not get in anyones way. Kuku campers are the complete opposite of that entirely! On one side it had a haunting paint job of Britney’s iconic shaved head picture of her about to beat the paparazzi with an umbrella. This wasn’t a very good likeness and the paint is so light that it doesn’t really look like her. The other side said “I’m not that innocent” The two sides don’t really match up. Also as a solo female traveller it’s not the nicest thing to have on the side of your vehicle. Luckily Iceland is safe.

PhoebeGill1509181288I could laugh it off in the beginning but as more and more people were looking at me and reading the side of it, the more I just wanted to sink into the ground. I got very odd looks and not a lot of laughs.

Another thing that really irked me entirely was that everyone else got a new camper. Kuku got a new fleet of campers with smaller paint jobs and lots of logos so a passer by knows it’s a rental and don’t assume the person diving is a crazy woman with a weird Britney obsession! Actually when I first arrived at the reception I saw a new one and was quite excited because I thought I was going to get it but alas.PhoebeGill150917040

I don’t know if I drew a short straw or if they gave me an old one because of my age but I payed almost €700 for a camper for 5 days and by the end of it I hated the camper. Which is such a shame.

300km a day limit. *They now have unlimited kms* Now I know this to many people would seem a stupid thing to put down as something to not like. I am sure people can keep to the limit very easily but I was by myself and I love driving which means that I drove all day. I don’t regret how much I drove at all. I had so much fun but the limit was constantly on my mind. It is €0.50 per km you go over.

Cooking. Although the camper comes with everything you need, I hate cooking. I hate timing things and putting things together. It is irritating and because there is no way to keep stuff fresh the main things I eat, couldn’t be brought with me in the camper. I just decided to eat hot dogs from the petrol stations, they are cheap and pretty tasty.

Filling up the tank:

I thought petrol was going to be really expensive so I put more of my savings into my account to make sure petrol would be covered but I was very pleasantly surprised. I drove over 1500km and I really did not spend that much at all. I thought when I got home and checked my balance I would have to sit down but no.  I did’t have to top up that often and by that much each time.

Top tips!

  1. Cover your head when you are sleeping! Either with a blanket or duvet. I know it can feel very claustrophobic but if you have even a small barrier between your face and the cold it makes the world of difference. Creating a cocoon is very important when sleeping in a freezing cold van.
  2. I got an power converter from Lidl and it was perfect at charging my phone and iPod for the five days I was there. They have them but it is an added extra of €20.
  3.  Bring plastic carrier bags. For wet clothes, boots, rubbish they are the handiest things. You can pick up a roll for a euro.
  4. Have a road map. You never know if your phone is going to play up or you forget to charge it. I think Eason online have maps for under €10.
  5. I added a camping chair to my booking and I didn’t use it once. Don’t bother.
  6. If you unfortunately get a 2005 camper you will need a FM transmitter if you want to listen to your own music. If you don’t have one that’s ok. Icelandic radio is very current and even among the lava fields you will probably get one station that doesn’t crack. I sang my lungs out to the tunes they were playing.
  7. GoPro motor mounts don’t stick well to dirty spray paint. Mine fell off twice. Thankfully there isn’t much traffic in the west part of Iceland.

The big question is would I recommend them? The answer is I don’t know. I think if you want to drive in Iceland and you are on a budget

, look into it and see what you think. Definitely check or ask about the new campers. Also if they try to give you Britney maybe run away. Actually at that point you have already paid for your camper entirely so that might be a waste of money. I think the ethos of the company is great but my experience had some issues.

Would I use them again? Probably not.

It wasn’t all bad. I just want you, my dear reader, to be informed about everything. I am so so happy I got to see Iceland my way and I got to sing along to the radio and pull over anywhere I wanted and discover new things I would never have got the chance to. I definitely recommend you rent any car in Iceland. I just think maybe it should be a little newer.

If you have any questions please leave them below! Do you know any other companies that rent to under 25 year olds in any part of the world? Let me know I am always interested!!

Happy Travels!

In Life: Changing

I watch a lot of YouTube and I make videos, I know people talk a lot of crap in the comments section and go out of their way to make rude comments. I once commented on a random video, one person didn’t like what I had to say, went over to my channel and called me ugly. People think they are invincible behind a keyboard most of it I can ignore but there is one comment I just can’t abide.

“You’ve changed, I want the old you back”

What a ridiculous statement to make! I find it absurd. I love changing and I have done it a lot. From the time I was able to pick out my own clothes and wear makeup I was able to change how I was at any given moment. I have changed styles, I have changed how much makeup I wear, I have changed what type of music I listen to, I have changed what I am interested in, I have changed my opinions and my beliefs.

It’s not that I am fake or that I am easily influenced, I am still me but I try new things that are around me. I will do it all so I can see where I fit. Changing is scary but it’s also amazing.

People are incredibly complex, they are products of what is around them. There are so many cultures to learn from, so much history to think about. The world is filled with incredible things to see and do, listen to, eat and understand. I feel if you stay the same your entire life you aren’t giving yourself your best chance. Be a mix of everything you encounter, everything you take in.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind, question things, try to understand something new, experience something new. Changing is inevitable and wonderful. Don’t just follow along or if you do want to follow along, don’t ridicule people who are changing or trying something new. They are trying to fit in to where they belong. That is their path to find.

I am changing all of the time and it’s nice to think I don’t have to be one kind of person or have one certain mindset for the rest of my life. Things are going to change and that’s ok.

Thanks for reading my beans!

Let me know your thoughts on this thing! 

*I do want to add that if your path leads you to really damaging, dangerous things maybe don’t try them, maybe sit back down and try knitting or something.

In Wicklow: Falconry Experience with Falconry Ireland

So I love birds, they are fascinating and beautiful and the more knowledge I can gain about them, the better. I asked for a falconry experience for christmas. Falconry Ireland is where I decided to go. You can often find some great deals on GrouponPhoebeGill150716294How to get there: The easiest way to get there is putting the coordinates 52.801529,-6.255436 into a sat nav. The building is down an unmarked dirt road, off a number of unnamed roads. So definitely use the coordinates as it will get you there directly. 
PhoebeGill150716302

I went on the falconry experience for one but you are not alone, there is a large group of you. Whats included is a briefing on the hawks and the day, then a hawk walk, a falcon show and finishes with a showcase of the other birds that live on the property. PhoebeGill150716126First up the Hawk Walk. This is where we walked up to a field and went into a patch of trees and saw the hawks fly. We all got a glove and our guide, Jim, put a small amount of meat onto the glove and Vinny the hawk flew to us. I liked Vinny a lot. He also liked my Langy bag! Also it started to lash rain when we were out there which is why Vinny looks wet. PhoebeGill150716059

Next up the Falcon Show, this is where the guide and owner, Darragh Brennan, showcased the beautiful Lanner Falcon. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and we only got to see one dive but you could tell that they are incredible hunters! We then got to hold a lanner falcon and they are just stunning up close.PhoebeGill150716161

Lastly was the showcase of the other birds that live on the land. There are lots of owls, it was great to hear information of where they come from, how they hunt, their species quirks and differences. It was really fascinating.
PhoebeGill150716214Hedwig!! There was also a kite that flew around the property, it’s amazing seeing these birds swoop and catch food in the air. How some of them close their eyes when they eat, how inquisitive some species are. It’s great to get so up close with these birds. PhoebeGill150716275I think they had four species of Owls on the property. Eurasian Eagle Owl, Snowy Owl, Burrowing Owl and Barn Owl. All beautiful creatures. PhoebeGill150716184 You can tell the people who work here love and are dedicated to their birds. They are open on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:15 and are not open to the public because the birds are flown everyday for exercise and natural prey feeding.

Take Note:

  1. The Hawks do not peck or preen but they may land on your head, so maybe bring a hat. It also makes for great photos!
  2. Look like you are interested and Jim will put meat on your glove. People were giving me daggers because I stepped forward, to have Vinny fly to me, many times.
  3. If you get too close to the birds aviaries, they hiss at you, that is their safe space so keep that in mind when you stick a camera through the mesh, they may also bite.
  4. Bring waterproof shoes if it has been raining. The tour is 2 hours and you are walking through a field.
  5. Park your car to the left of the house by the field, don’t park to the right by the wall, a huge tractor came through with hay and couldn’t get pass.

I definitely recommend this experience, you learn a lot, they are incredible birds and it’s wonderful to see them in the open and flying. I really think is a great present to give someone interested in birds of prey. Remember to check out Groupon and get vouchers for you and a friend! Have you had a falconry experience?

Happy Travels!