I had been pretty anxious and tense for the few days leading up to my departure, and as I waited at the gate in Adelaide to board the flight to Kuala Lumpur, I was feeling very very nervous and a little bit sick.
Once I was on the plane, and settled in, I had a bit of a respite, as I had successfully completed part one of my journey. The whole way I was swinging between “Its really happening, wow! Here I am, its all so realistic!” and “Oh, I’m having a dream or something, right?” it was a strange feeling.
Kuala Lumpur was of course very hot and humid, even in the airport, and i had to remove my big woolen jacket and scarf as soon as possible! I arrived at 3pm and spent most of the 8 hour stop over walking about the airport, which was quite large, and well laid out, so I never felt i was going to get lost. There were several TV lounges, each showing something different (movies, sport or news) where you could go sit on a couch and chill, so I watched most of spiderman 3 at one point. other than that I went for a quick wander inside the jungle boardwalk, which was this big circular glass enclosure in the centre of the airport. It was lovely and warm in there, and I could hear birds nesting in the trees high up, as it was open to the air.
The rest of the time, I lounged around in these leather deck chairs they had looking in on the jungle boardwalk, and at one point, when i was craving human interaction, I struck up a conversation with four Scottish retirees, who had just finished a tour of Vietnam.
I also saw this briefly, and thought it sold glace fruits or something, when I looked closer, I was a little disappointed to see…it was only durian. So I decided to pass on that.
After a lot of waiting, chatting to strangers and writing in my journal, at around midnight it was finally time to board the flight to Amsterdam. I was seated next to a couple from Malaysia who were going to holiday in Morocco. I dozed fitfully during the flight, and reluctantly ate the very late dinner and very early breakfast that they served us. Both were delicious (especially the breakfast of cheese filled omelette and sausage and fried mushroom and tomato) but my appetite had been pretty much non existent since a few days before my departure from Adelaide, i assume in relation to nerves.
We arrived in Amsterdam at 5:55am. The airport was massive, and largely empty at that time of the morning. One of the people I chatted to the night before at KL (a retired British guy who was heading home from a photographic safari) caught up with me as we disembarked, and helped me to find the baggage claim and transfer desks.
I liked Schipol right away, it was big but cozy, easy to navigate once you worked out the signs, and there were so many exciting looking shops! As i sat writing in my journal, I saw this family greeting a relative, complete with a happy dog sporting a “Welcome Home” balloon! It was so adorable! I realised shortly afterwards that the airport had a number of shops devoted to welcome home gifts, which I thought was just lovely. They had huge garlands of balloons and banners and even flowers and soft toys!
As i still had several hours before i could check in and go through security, I wandered past a small shop and up to the balcony bar, where I enjoyed second breakfast of fresh orange and strawberry juice and Stroopwafels! My Dad recently visited Amsterdam and was raving about the wonder that is Stroopwafels, they have two layers of wafer, with caramel inside and they are pretty amazing.
My favourite part was the ingredients list which informed me that my breakfast item was in fact “34% stroop!”
At 10:30 I checked in with icelandair and went through security. I don’t know if it was the lovely golden morning light or something, but all the airport staff were so cheery and friendly! The girl at the security point was so jolly, and joked with me as I took all my camera gear out of my bags so it could be scanned separately. It was a nice change from the sour faced staff at Adelaide airport security!
After managing to get money out at an ATM and then exchange it for Icelandic Krona, in preparation for my arrival in Reykjavik, it was time to board the flight. During the three hour journey, we followed the sun, resulting in a drawn out, yellow tinged sunset, which lit the whole cabin and glowed in my chest, creating a feeling of calm like I hadn’t felt for a while. The lack of change in the light put me in a strange headspace, and I really felt as though I was passing through some kind of portal into another dimension. At one point, a hostess came past and offered me apple juice, which turned out to be the most delicious apple juice i have ever tasted! It seemed like it had honey in it, which just perfectly complemented the golden hour in which I found myself. I sat and sipped my drink and watched Scotland pass by below, through stutters of cloud.
As we neared Iceland, the weather became more volatile, and there was some pretty bad turbulence as we came down. The whole of the country was wreathed in cloud, and there was this incredible moment as we broke through the cloud, where the landscape unfolded below me and I felt this utter terror and wonder and exhilaration as I saw the black, snow-covered mountains loom up like something from a nightmare. It was…unreal.
Once we touched down (I almost cried when the hostess said over the speaker “Welcome to Iceland”) I made my way to baggage claim and then headed out to catch the flybus into Reykjavik, as the airport is about 50 minutes from the city centre. I had some momentary confusion before I worked out that they drive on the left here, and so of course it appeared the door to the bus was in the drivers side, and the driver was sitting in the passengers seat!
On the way to Reykjavik, I chatted to the girl next to me who was from Finland and was visiting a friend. She explained that she was studying social justice, and had spent a large portion of her life in Africa.
By the time we reached the BSI terminal in Reykjavik, it was well and truly dark, but I caught a taxi with no problems and made it safely to Inga’s house, the woman I had organised to stay with via AirBNB. Inga’s house was small but warm and clean and white, such a wonderful relief after the discomfort of trying to sleep in cramped dark planes! She gave me tea in a big handle-less cup (like a milkshake cup?) and we chatted for a while in the cozy loungeroom.
At what seemed like midnight, but was in fact 6:00, I had a shower, and learned that the water here is incredibly sulfurous. It makes for weird smelling showers, and apparently tarnishes silver! The bed in my room was soft and warm and cloud-like, just as a European style bed should be!
I recall thinking “I bet I’ll be asleep as soon as my head hits the…”
– Em xoxo