I’ll have more to say, and tons more pictures in a few days, but after my first trip overseas, I learned a few things:
My luggage sucks.
Generally in the US, I try to pack everything into my small roller bag and one small duffel with a shoulder strap. This time, I was transporting 50 pounds of course materials, plus warm clothes and heavy boots, and I ended up with a couple of very heavy, awkward bags to lug around foreign airports. Fortunately, Icelandair allows two free checked bags, but once we switched to Air Iceland and Air Greenland, everything over 20 kilos worth of checked bags cost extra, and only one small carry on like a computer bag was allowed. I need to rethink my luggage! There’s a sentence that I never thought I would need, had you asked me a couple of years ago.
Always take two functioning credit cards.
Earlier this summer, a grumpy Chinese lady in a airport coffee kiosk at SFO had a hard time getting my United rewards VISA to swipe, so she bent it a little bit, lengthwise, right in front of me. Somewhere between Seattle and Iceland, the chip fell out. I had it in Seattle when I bought some Icelandic currency, and when I tried to use it in the duty free shop at Keflavik, it was gone. In the US, this is probably not such a problem, but in Europe, everything runs on the chip cards. Some places would let me swipe it after three failed attempts with the chip, but that trick didn’t work everywhere. Meanwhile, back at home, another brand new chip card was sitting in my desk drawer, because I didn’t think I’d really need two… D’oh! Also, it would be really helpful to learn at least enough Danish to know what the credit card machine is telling me to do.
Using foreign currency is fun.
When I got to Qaqortoq, I realized that the broken chip card was going to be a continuous pain in the ass, so I called back home to the credit union, warned them that I was overseas, and started taking Danish currency out of the ATM to pay for everything. Which turned out to be more fun than using the card would have been anyway. My expense report is going to be a little complicated though, in US dollars, Euros, Danish Kroner and Icelandic Krone. Also, about foreign currency, I won’t buy it at the currency exchange at the airport again. I paid too much for the ISK I bought there; it would have been better to simply use an ATM in Iceland.
I love flying on small, noisy prop planes and helicopters.
Once it was time to leave Iceland, I had to get to the smaller, domestic airport in Reykjavik itself for the flight out of Iceland. We got on an Air Iceland twin prop DeHavilland Dash-8, which took us to Nuuk. The next morning we got on another Dash-8 belonging to Air Greenland, which took us back east and south to Narsarsuaq, and then we got in a small Bell helicopter which took us the rest of the way to Qaqortoq. The helicopter flight was especially fun. Next time, though, I will bring ear plugs for the Dash-8 flights. The first couple of times we sat forward of the props, and the noise was pretty mild. On the return flight to Nuuk, we sat aft of the props, and the noise during the ascent was pretty loud. Still, very fun, and very short takeoffs, too, which seemed almost eerie compared to flying on large jets.
More in a few days, once I get pictures sorted out…