World Tour: Iceland's Golden Circle & The Northern Lights.

What a hectic day it started out for me.

I left Akyreyri (Northern Iceland) with a travel mate I met yesterday. We were heading back to Reykjavik by plane, as we were on the same tour. We agreed to meet for cab back to the airport. And I was waiting as she came flying down the stairs of the hotel to tell me she had lost her passport.

EEK!

The room got turned upside down that she was staying in, as did her bags. She is a UK citizen, so it wouldn't be difficult for her to get back to Manchester, England on Monday. But it was a reminder that you should always carry a few photo copies of your passport and credit cards, and keep them separate from your wallet. You should also make sure someone back home has copies of these things, in the event that everything of yours gets lost or stolen.

After I was back in Iceland's capital (Reykjavik), I had to quickly catch my tour bus for the Golden Circle tour I signed up for when I booked this trip. I knew it involved a lot of time on a bus, between visits to a few sites around the out areas of the city. But the trip started out disastrous...

It was very cloudy. And very snowy. And I had forgotten my booking number when I checked in at the tour office. But that turned out to not be that big a deal - as they really just needed my name. But they did give me grief for a moment.

Grr!

Then I got on the bus. And I was amped. There were a few buses leaving at the same time. And my bus wasn't that crowded. So I had a whole seat to myself. SCORE!

Then my happiness at the idea of comfort while on this six-hour tour was quickly crushed. My bus had a flat tire. So those of us on the bus had to switch to one of the other buses also doing the Golden Circle. So off to the other bus I went, which was of course crowded. I sat down next to an older woman and smiled. She rolled her eyes at me.

"Wow!" I thought. Then a guy from my bus sat down directly behind me in an empty seat, to which he got a more vocal disapproval from his seat mate.

"What's going on?" said the grumpy old man next to him. His wife, who was sitting next to me said she didn't know. So called up to the guide at the front of the bus.

The guide explained about the flat tire, and that more people would be joining this bus to accommodate everyone. The man muttered something under his breath about that not being fair...

"For $9,000 Krona, I should get my own seat!" he said.

I ruled him out of my energy exertion. And I fell asleep as the guide explained we had about an hour's drive ahead of us to our first location.

"This is going to be incredibly dull," I said to myself. It was starting to get dark, even though it was only 1:30pm. The cloud coverage and snow added to the shortened daylight hours made me realize that they should have started this tour much earlier in the day.

Clearly, I thought, they have no idea what they are doing.

But off we went. And I can't even tell you what our first stop was supposed to be. It was so cloudy and snowy, we couldn't see jack shit. But the guide warned us, "Once we leave here, we won't be stopping for another 90 minutes. So please use the bathroom here. And the bathroom at this location costs $200 Krona."

I am used to European cities charging you to use the bathroom. But many people were not.

"I have no cash!" one woman cried. But she realized she was in luck when she got to the bathrooms, as they took credit card.

Back on the bus, and back asleep. We arrived quite a while later - in increasing darkness - to Haukadalur to see some geysers...



These were pretty. I was able to get a few shots off of them. But it was cold. And after five minutes outside looking at them, we all ran to the gas station up the street to quickly grab a snack.

"You can't bring any food on to the bus!" the guide reminded us. So I quickly threw back a small coffee - realizing it was the first bit of food I'd had all day.

Back in the bus, and off to the Gullfoss waterfall. "You'll only have 30 minutes to view the waterfall and eat dinner at the cafe nearby. We're running behind!" we were told.


People complained aloud, while shooting the waterfall, how there was not enough daylight to even capture it properly. I was able to get a few nice shots due to my new camera...




We had a nice almost full Moon to work with as we were winding down the tour. The camera I bought is amazing and foolproof for shooting.

Overall, I thought - as did others on the tour - that this was waste. It wasn't so much the cost... It was more the time we had put in to the day, only to spend a few moments at each location and have to shoot in darkness.

"I'm definitely not recommending the Golden Circle to anyone who comes in Winter," I said to myself.

Back on the bus, lulling myself to sleep as I stared out the window.

"At least I'll have the Northern Lights tour to do when I get back to the hotel tonight," I said.

That's when the guide and her shriek-y voice came over the intercom...

"We just got word that all Northern Lights tours are cancelled this evening due to the cloud coverage."

Half the bus moaned. Clearly, we had all signed up for it. In fact, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Iceland right now. I am told the lights are easier to see the closer to the solstice you are.

Off to sleep I started to drift. As did everyone else. After some time, though, the guide came back on the intercom...

"We are stopping the bus off to the side of the road here, everybody," she said. "The clouds have cleared. And you can see the Northern Lights!"

I've never seen so many people (mostly older) move off a bus so quickly.

At first I couldn't really see them. But as soon as I pointed my camera in the direction of the sky where they were located, that's when the magic happened...




I even got some of the reddish-purple colors! Those are more rare, I'm told. It was amazing! Totally unexpected! And completely redeemed the trip, in my eyes and most other people's.

We all clapped for the driver and guide when we got back on the bus, and thanked them for looking out for them and letting us stop - even though it wasn't supposed to even be a part of this particular tour.

The guide smiled at us and said, "In Iceland, we know very well that you have to recognize the small moments. You have to use the small moments."

Trip one on the World Tour almost done. And already I'm reminded with a lesson.