A few years back, I took a trip on a whim to Costa Rica with a girl I barely knew. It was about as good as travel gets; quixotic adventures, beautiful forests, picturesque beaches, interesting encounters, free tequila. We even got to watch endangered sea turtles lay eggs on a moonlit beach. We met a nice couple on that beach walk who were planning to drive their rented car to Liberia the next day, and invited us to join them. We had planned to take the bus to the Santa Elena cloud forest. There wasn’t really any reason we couldn’t ride to Liberia and take the bus from there to Santa Elena, but we decided to stick with the plan, and declined their offer.
Then it turned out we couldn’t take the bus until the following day, and ended up spending an extra 24 hours lounging at the pool in the surf resort where we had been staying. Nothing wrong with lounging by the pool in a surf resort, but we were kind of done with that, and the whole day felt like purgatory. Ever since, “Should have gone to Liberia,” has become a personal code for lost opportunities.
In my experience, every trip, no matter how well planned or how spontaneous, loses a day to Liberia syndrome.
Before coming to Iceland, I had been working up my courage to rent a car on Monday and drive to Borgarnes, where much of the action in Egil’s Saga takes place and the Settlement Center commemorates the early days of Iceland and the sagas, as well as the town of Reykholt, where Snorri Sturluson lived and committed the Eddas to writing. Then the ice on the Golden Circle tour convinced me to stay in town instead. But I should have gone to Liberia.
Monday I woke just in time to go to the morning yoga class. I rushed out into the dark and walked down the waterfront. Fifteen minutes after the class was supposed to have started, I was still looking for the studio. I found the spot where it should have been, but no luck. I went to the coffee shop across the street and asked if they knew where the yoga studio was, and the barrista said, “Oh, I don’t know if there is a market for yoga here.”
I went back to the waterfront. It was about 9:15, so I thought I’d take some pictures of the sunrise. I took one shot and got a message that the camera’s memory card was full. Fortunately, I had a spare, but by the time I found it and switched them out, my fingers were numb. I decided to walk up to Perlan and visit the Saga Museum. It was supposed to be far, but since my plans had collapsed, I had plenty of time.
I wandered in the general direction of the museum, and found myself at the bus station. On the advice of my roommate Amandine, I bought a 48-hour Welcome Card and since bus fare was free now, asked which bus to take to Perlan. Following the sales ladies’ directions, I went to the stop for the 18 and waited. And waited. And waited, for about 20 minutes (which I later discovered was about the same amount of time it would have taken to walk to the Saga Museum). Finally the 18 came and I boarded. After a few stops, the bus got on a highway, and we quickly left the city. I began to suspect I was on the wrong bus. When I started to see livestock, I was convinced. I pulled out my map and studied it intensely. Well, the long story is tedious, so I’ll just say this: I had missed my stop and was on a bus that ran a cloverleaf route around all of the suburbs of Reykjavik. I almost got to Mossfell before the bus finally turned around and backtracked to Reykjavik. Around 11 am I got off at the right stop (which was the second one from where I originally boarded). By then I was starving, and discovered the museum didn’t open till noon anyway.
After eating some museum cafeteria-quality pizza, I looked for the entrance to the museum, which is inside of Reykjavik’s cultural equivalent to the Space Needle, “Perlan” (the Pearl). I couldn’t find the door. I asked a salesperson at the gift shop, and they said, “It should be open at noon – oh, it is noon. It should be open. Right there by the sign.” I sat down under the sign, and waited till almost one. The museum never opened.
Spurning the bus, I walked all the way to the Airwaves Media Center, where I got my wristband. I asked if I needed vouchers for any of the press events I had signed up for (vouchers seem to be big here) and was told no, that I was on the list.
From there, I walked up the hill to the National Museum. It was closed on Mondays.
Deciding to cut my losses, I walked back to the hostel and spent the afternoon transcribing interviews. I got an email from Airwaves reminding me to pick up my Blue Lagoon Chill voucher.
The day wasn’t a whole loss, though. In the evening, Amandine and our two new roommates from Australia, Emily the photographer, and Melissa the newly-retired ballerina, invited me to join them at Laugerdalur, the local swimming pool filled with geothermal water. At first we worried that my bad luck was infecting the group when we discovered that the next bus to the pool didn’t run until 8pm. But the half hour standing in the cold only made the hot water even nicer. We all soaked under the full moon in a pool filled with hipsters and old folks and even the cutest little Disney mouse of a toddling boy anyone had ever seen. We talked about music and dance and wonderful words like the Japanese mellow-mellow-yo and Danish hoogly (sic) that just don’t translate into English; that awful semi-shaved haircut Reykjavik hipsters sport, and made catty comments about people who go swimming in full makeup until our fingers were all pruney and our faces flushed. When we couldn’t last any longer, we returned to the hostel for snacks at the KEX bar.
Finally, somewhere around midnight, mellow and full of pricey Icelandic beer, I slipped under the covers. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought to myself, “I should have gone to Liberia. Oh well.”