Letters from Iceland: Hiking (and Knitting) with the Elves Pt 1: The Group

This past July, I spent 10 days in Iceland. It was my second trip to Iceland after an initial 4-day stopover last January, on our way home from Europe.
This time though, I signed up for a structured pre-planned trip. The majority of my 10 days were spent as part of a hiking and knitting tour created and run by Hélène Magnusson called “Hiking with the Elves“.
I have been meaning to blog about the trip ever since I arrived home.
I want to record my experience, but I also want to share it with others who are considering a similar trip in the future.
Unfortunately, this has proven to be such a difficult post to write.
Part of the challenge is to try and capture the experience without writing for pages and pages. I’m sure that you, my dear readers, have better things to do that sit in a comfy chair,  with a glass of wine, snuggled up to your computer screen while you read through the novel that is my Icelandic blog post.
The other difficulty comes from the fact that the experience was so tremendous.  How can I ever hope to capture the magnificence and grandeur of it with mousy little English words?
I keep hoping that if I wait just a little longer to write this post, that I’ll gain more distance from the adventure, which will allow the words to flow freely…broad brush strokes instead of detailed dabs of colour.  But that isn’t happening.
The longer I wait, the more the story breaks down into an ambiguous impression: a stamp on my soul which has altered me forever but doesn’t lend itself to words or posts.
So, I need to write something.  A post to be edited later.  Part one, part two, etc.  Whatever and how ever many posts this turns into, it will only capture a small part of what was one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever had.
For this first post, I have decided to focus on the group who travelled with me.  There were 14 of us, all knitters, all hiking over mountains in East Iceland.  We came from all over: Iceland, Canada, U.S, South Wales, North Wales, and France.
If you have ever considered joining a pre-planned trip with others, perhaps you can relate to the nervousness I felt pre-trip.  Who would be on the trip with me? Will we all get along? Would I fit in? Would they all be incredibly savvy knitters, leaving me to be the awkward newbie? I was uncertain about the trip.  I had doubts about travelling so far, alone.  I also had doubts about spending so many days with a group of strangers.
But now, if someone were to ask me for advice, I would say to go for it!  Open your mind, jump at the chance and don’t look back!  The women in our group made the trip absolutely spectacular.  I mean, Iceland IS spectacular all on it’s own but the friendship and support of my fellow travellers is what carried us over mountains, still smiling and laughing on the other side, even when we were tired.  It’s what kept us up until the wee morning hours day after day, chatting, laughing and knitting (well, the fact that we had no darkness 24/7 didn’t hurt!).
After a few weeks of “oh my gods, what have I done?” (and a pep talk from B telling me how fantastic it was going to be), I took my own advice.

hiking with the elves 2015
Our fantastic hiking group, minus two: one hiker (who took the picture) and our awesome cook (who was hiking a different trail so as to arrive at our destination before us and get dinner started).

I went to Iceland to experience the country and meet people.  To make connections.  To open up to the community and the spirit of the land.  And I did.  From the moment I arrived, I talked to everyone.  I greeted people on the street, in coffee shops and when our group finally came together a couple of days after I arrived, I was on a roll and ready to go!
I had arrived at our hotel a few days earlier so as to have some time to wander around Reykjavik and adjust to the time change. The night before our departure, I was in the hotel wondering how I would identify those who were joining the hiking trip.  (In hindsight, I should have suggested on the Ravelry group that we all wear knitting needles in our hair or something!)
At one point, I was heading up to my room and was on the third set of stairs, when I heard a voice in the lobby on the first floor say “*Blah…blah…blah…KNITTING…blah…blah”.  So I ran back downstairs and stuck my head in the lobby.  “Did somebody say knitting???”
It was a member of my group.  She had rounded up four or five of us and they were headed out for dinner.  So I joined and had a lovely time getting to know half of the group over drinks. (Being ready and able to speak up and start a conversation with someone at any time, anywhere…was helpful.  Highly recommended!)
And so started an incredible week-long journey!
We hiked….
Hiking into the mountains on Day Two
Hiking into the mountains on Day Two

We knit…
We shopped…oh boy, did we ever shop!
IMG_5725 copy
Did we EVER shop!! Luckily, yarn weighs little and smushes into small spaces pretty easily!

We danced in the ocean….
Dancing in the ocean
We laughed, we cried…nope not a cliché…we encouraged each other, shared experiences and stories…and even blister band-aids! (Thanks, Susan!)
Even after the trip was over, those of us who were staying for a few extra days spent the remaining time wandering Reykjavik!
We practiced knitting tricks and tips in busy coffee shops….
Helene and I Stitch Direction
One of the handiest things Hélène showed us during a workshop to figure out which way a decreased knit stitch would lean. You need a few friends who are willing to lend their hands and then you can visualize which stitch should be on top. Doing this in public, in busy cafés, works quite well, as you can see 😉

Added our own knitted rows to the communal knitting projects outside the Handknitter’s Association…
Diptic Jane and I
Spent an afternoon learning to cook and bake Icelandic flatbread and meringue cookies….
Jane and I spent an afternoon with Heiða learning to make flatbread and these delicious meringue cookies filled with bits of black liquorice covered in chocolate! So good! Thank you Heiða for your hospitality! Had such a good time!
Jane and I spent an afternoon with Heiða learning to make flatbread and these delicious meringue cookies filled with bits of black liquorice covered in chocolate! So good! Thank you Heiða for your hospitality! Had such a good time!

And overall…just enjoyed each other’s company!
Helene Sue and Jane
Ladies, you all made my trip an experience I will never forget!!!
Hélène, thank you for creating this trips and guiding us into the spectacular mountains of Eastern Iceland!  (I’m already eyeing another of your trips!)
At the end, we decided to keep in touch via a Facebook group and I love knowing that in my future travels, I have people to go and visit in the US, Iceland, Wales and France!  (Sue, I WILL be visiting you one day! Promise!)
You get the picture, they were a fantastic group 🙂
Group Candids

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