Iceland ! Why Iceland ?
Well to begin with I was inspired by a blog written by friend Richard Steel who together with fellow photographer Steve Round had spent 10 days there last year.There are some wonderful birds to see, one or two only found in Iceland as far as Europe is concerned , and they had taken some fabulous photographs. I could only aspire to trying to match their work, the likely hood being that I couldn't. Still, I was up for trying and so was my good pal and birding friend Mike. This would be our 5th photo specific trip we had taken together, it's become a bit of an annual event and 2017 is already in the thought process!
A week or two before travelling I wondered if we were heading for a disaster as the weather was still pretty dire, particularly at our chosen destination in the north, however, we had made this years choice and we were committed. The accommodation was booked and we would forfeit the cost if we changed our plan once we got there. Plan A it was then !
Although we took a 10 day trip last year, this time around we decided on 7. If the weather was bad it would be a trial in itself, besides Iceland has a reputation for being really expensive so I didn't want to push the price up too high. I feel guilty enough spending on trips for just myself as it is but I get full support from my wife Claire who prefers me to go without her rather than drag her to places that she doesn't want to go to. Ironically last year we had brilliant weather in Bulgaria whilst it was awful in the UK. I'm sure she'd enjoy the sights of Iceland but not in poor weather. Mike and I on the other hand want to be at our chosen destination at the right time which is the breeding season as that way we see the birds in their finest plumage.
Richard and Steve had had to endure really cold conditions in 2015 but armed with some good advice, both from reading the blog and from Richard himself, we were prepared for the worst. We both invested in thermal gear and I even went online and ordered some army surplus camouflaged waterproofs which at the price they were wouldn't matter if they got ruined.
We were set to go!
With two days before departure things in Iceland were hotting up, literally. Whereas only 10 days previously the roadside webcam was showing a white out, now the thaw was well under way following a few sunny days.
Even the weather forecast was looking optimistic too. We would get to Myvatn on Monday night and we were looking at the prospect of some sunshine . Bring it on, things had suddenly got exciting.
There was one thing though that brought about a certain trepidation. We had booked our flights with Easyjet and with a 6.25a.m. flight from Manchester we decided that we would leave home at 2.45a.m. Eeks ! Still better be safe than late. I love Easyjet because you don't have a weight limit on hand baggage so cramming as much photo gear in to the maximum sized bag would allow me to take my biggest lens, a 600mm f4 plus two smaller zoom lenses and two camera bodies and a host of other bits and pieces. We pay extra for a larger piece of hand luggage and reserved seat, and we also share a 3rd hold bag in which we can pack tripods, hides etc but the total cost for the two of us was a very reasonable £140 each.
A car was booked online through autoeurope.co.uk and was the best price I could find for a 4x4 Dacia Duster or similar. At £333 for 7 days it's expensive but we thought it would be an advantage to have a 4x4 if the weather turned against us. Besides, divided by two it doesn't hurt quite so much! As the insurance provided had a huge excess to say nothing of the lack of cover for sandstorm and under chassis damage, we took out a separate policy at a cost of £32 but this still didn't cover sand storms. We would avoid them if possible!
Richard and Steve had hired a camper van which turned out to be totally unsuitable as it was really a glorified day van. The idea was to give the flexibility to decide where to go at short notice and Richard advised not to book accommodation but follow the weather. I was more concerned about finding accommodation at a reasonable cost and looking at Booking.com it seems there were some ridiculous prices being asked. I decided to risk booking in advance with an option to cancel at a later date should we change our mind. In fact I booked the same dates in different locations too...just in case. At the end of the day though you still need to make a choice about a week before you are due to stay and the one thing that is unpredictable about Iceland seems to be the weather.
On the face of it though we were committed to paying 1020 Euro, roughly £790 for 7 nights having chosen to have single rooms rather than share but none had ensuite facilities.
All in all an up front cost of around £720 each with just food, drinks and petrol and a few extras to pay for.
Not at all bad provided the accommodation was acceptable but Iceland has a reputation for high prices for food and drink. We were about to find out for sure.