Iceland is awesome!


The worst thing about getting older is becoming vague, I mean, sometimes in the middle of a sentence I…..

Is this happening to you? Do you spend hours looking for your glasses which you finally locate on top your head? My synapses are definitely not firing on all cerebral cylinders. For example, it recently took me an hour and a half to watch “60 Minutes”.

Clearly, I needed urgent help so immediately booked a trip to Iceland. Why? Well, it’s been scientifically proven that leaping into cold water helps stave off cognitive degeneration – and nowhere has colder water than Iceland. It’s a country of ice and fire – glaciers and volcanoes, freezing fjords and hot thermal springs. There’s not many countries where you need to pack a bikini and a balaclava. Having half lobotomised myself when shoving a Covid testing stick up each nostril, reversing my mental decline became even more pressing. But once in Iceland, my synapses would be zinging and pinging like an over-active pinball machine.

But arriving in Reykjavik my enthusiasm was short-lived. I dipped one toe into the Arctic Ocean and recoiled. I’ve got good legs; shame I was going to have to amputate one from frostbite. The water was so cold my breasts were chattering. “I think I just broke a nipple,” I said to my companion. We quickly abandoned the wild and windy coast for Iceland’s most glamorous spa hotel – “The Blue Lagoon Retreat”, which offers brain-cell-restoring cold plunge pools, but with a warm, thermal lagoon within leaping distance. I spent the rest of the day plunging into the cold pool, then defrosting in the 39-degree billabong. I dived into the cold pool so often that by evening, a career in astrophysics clearly beckoned.

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s top tourist spot. Smack bang in the middle of the 800 year old lunar landscape of black lava fields, the mineral-rich, geothermal seawater gushes up from Jules Verne depths of 2,000 meters, filling the natural spa with water made bright blue from the white silica mud. As if floating in one of the Wonders of the World: wild arctic sky above, tectonic earth below, wasn’t magical enough, an aquatic masseuse suddenly swam up and started kneading me with mineral oils. At least I hoped this was a mermaid massage and not preparation for some ritualistic sacrifice to a Norse God – I was in Viking territory, after all!

Another excellent way to maintain mental agility is to get out of your comfort zone and master new skills; which is why the next day I found myself driving a snow mobile over a glacier. Weedy Aussie that I am, I’d worn so many thermal layers that the guide had to hoist me onto the snow mobile using a block and tackle rig. Just as he was rolling his eyes at this “hopeless, middle-aged Mum”, and searching for “L” plates, I pulled down my helmet’s visa, revved the throbbing machine between my legs, then scooted off across the pristine snowscape, hollering – “Just call me Bond, Jane Bond.”

My second glacier experience proved even more exiting, albeit accidentally. Half way to Langjokull’s Ice Cave, our super jeep turned out not to be so super when a wheel imploded, bogging us down. Our driver waved a shovel around in a manly way, but there was no denying it – we were stranded on a 960 square mile glacier with no help at hand.

Now, a lot of thoughts cross a girl’s mind at this point – namely, which of my two companions to eat, when starvation set in. The first hour passed pleasantly enough. I mean, how often do you get to bask atop a glacier in complete solitude? But as I gradually lost all sensation in my fingers and toes, I started to wonder how long I could hold out, marooned on this huge, slab of arctic icing, before uttering my Titus Oats-esque “I may-be-gone-some-time” wandering off into the wildnerness speech. Speech? As if. My lips were novocained from the cold. In fact, the fog had become so thick that when taking a gulp of air, I chipped a tooth.

Just when rain, hail and panic set in, a big rescue truck hoved into view full of handsome Vikings. As you can imagine, I had no trouble thawing out. Or is that Thor-ing out? My flirtation was only slightly impaired by the fact that when I batted my eyes, my ice-laden lashes snapped off like the teeth of an old comb.

But Icelanders take these misadventures in their insouciant stride. In a country described as being “on the edge of the world’ and with such extreme weather conditions as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, midnight sun, followed by winter months walking around by braille, intermittently dazzled by the Northern Lights, locals expect the unexpected. It’s all part of the thrill of enjoying mother nature’s magnificence.

It’s no wonder so much of “Game of Thrones” was filmed in this awe-inspiring landscape. Every turn in the road reveals the most mesmorising panorama of untamed, untouched wilderness – all registering high on the “oooh-ometer”. I “ooh-ed” at the cascading waterfalls of the Golden Circle, especially the spectacular Gullfoss Falls, which puts the gorge into gorgeous. I “ah-ed” as the Stokkur geyser shot 30 feet into the air at ten minutes intervals.

But without doubt, the most “ooh-ahh” moment of all was my trek into the mountains to see an erupting volcano. The trail of climbers ahead resembled ants crawling over the vertebrae of a dozing dinosaur. Passing Fagradalshraun’s sizzling hot lava field, I took advantage of the smouldering hot rocks to toast my cheese sandwich.

Fortified, I strode on to the find the source – a great, gaping mouth in the mountain’s side, spewing out steaming, iridescent marmalade. The sight of lava oozing down the mountain’s flanks was so jaw-droppingly other-wordly, I felt sure we’d arrived at Mordor. I found myself glancing around for Gollum – if only to help me with a human sacrifice I had planned for the loud-mouthed Texan from our tour bus. Forget the cheese sandwich; a Texan Toastie really would have added to my seismic enjoyment.

Iceland is a very ejaculatory place –volcanoes, geysers, hot bubbling mineral Rmud pools, oh, and the world’s biggest penis museum. I suppose size really does count when your museum is dedicated to that particular appendage but as I made my way there from Reykjavik’s Borg Hotel, I began to wonder if the PR blurb meant that the penis museum was the biggest in the world, or if the museum housed the world’s biggest penis? The Blue Whale, for example. I imagine the tip of that beast’s mighty member would enter the female of the species at six pm and the base of the shaft about half past ten.

Questions crowded my cranium. Who had donated the specimens or had they been collected in the field? Who curated the short, or rather, long list? Would it be okay to make jokes about “entry” fees and how size is just a “phallucy”? Or would they see these feeble penile puns, coming, so to speak.

But the Icelandic Phallological Museum turned out to be a serious, scientific study of the male member, from humpbacked whales to humans. Yes, one man, Páll Arason, has given a new meaning to “organ donor” by bequeathing his member. His pickled phallus now nestles between donations from an elephant and a polar bear.

Needless to say, there’s very little ‘small talk’ in the café afterwards, despite the “Moby Dick” beer and penis-shaped pasties.
Iceland is also famous for another well-hung attraction – fermented shark. I’ve swum with sharks, hell, I’ve even dated a few, but never eaten one. “Hákarl” is cured with a particular fermenting process, then hung outside to dry for four to five months.The fishy flesh has a very strong ammonia smell. A local advised me to pinch my nostrils whilst taking my first bite and then swig a sip of Icelandic schnapps called “Brennivín” to enhance the experience.

Well, let me just say that a sip is not going to save you. It would take more than a gallon gulped at speed to numb your tongue. After rolling around on the ground, sobbing, tears streaming down my contorted face, my tonsils were no longer on speaking terms with my intestines.

Shell-shocked, I was now dreading the rest of Iceland’s gastronomic offerings. What next? Whale blubber burgers and reindeer balls? Actually yes, these things are on offer, but so too is the most scrumptious and innovative gourmet fare.

Icelandic food is among the healthiest in the world. The crystal clear air and water, the free range livestock, the wild fish and chemical-free fruit and veg provide the most delicious ingredients for inventive chefs. And with all those hot springs and steaming lava, the fish, when caught, land slightly poached, and the sheep arrive off the mountains already slow roasting, sous vide.

The delicious dining at Reykjavik’s Rok and Fishmarket also expunged all fermented shark memories from my traumatised mind. The Retreat’s Moss restaurant’s delectable degustation menu took my palate on a journey from the mountains, river, farms and fjords to the oceans, serving up a whole aquarium of hand caught scallops, cod and lobster.

At the Torfhus retreat, a traditional Viking themed collection of moss covered cottages with private basalt stone hot pools, ‘mad genius’ Chef Toti delighted we diners with his gastronomic pyrotechnics, bringing fire and ice to his cuisine in the most imaginative ways. I inhaled his hearty, yet creative cuisine with gusto, after a hard day of horse riding.

Which segues me nicely onto my favourite Icelandic experience – cantering around Torfhus on a Norse horse. Small but hardy; gentle but resilient, these famous Icelandic ponies have a fifth gear, called a Tolt. Half trot, half canter, it’s the smoothest ride imaginable – outside a carnal encounter with George Clooney.

Yes, geographically Iceland is volatile; but the people are as gentle as their horses. For example, all those big, strong Icelandic macho men, believe in elves and knit their own jumpers. Iceland is also the cleanest, greenest, safest and most peace-loving country in the world, with an unarmed police and no official army. It’s not just one of the oldest democracies, but also voted in the world’s first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, in 1980.

So, after all that cold swimming and adventuring, did I achieve my goal of brain cell stimulation? Okay, I didn’t exactly come home with an Einstein level IQ, but on the airport Covid testing form, where it said ‘Sign” – I didn’t write “Scorpio with Gemini rising.” A result, wouldn’t you say? Oh, and I haven’t lost my glasses – not once.

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