Iceland - Day Four

Ah, bummer! Our last day. :-(   It was an awesome experience. I'll tell you what, the people who live here have to be extremely tough. This is NOT an easy place to live. But it's a cool place to visit!

So we had our last breakfast buffet, I had an open face sandwich and fruit, it was yummy. And I snagged a couple of their tiny little muffins (I think they were chocolate chip) on my way out for later on.

We had a list of things we had not yet experienced in the vicinity of our hotel and the airport so we got started knocking them off. But it was raining and VERY windy. I tried looking to see how windy it may have been and it looks like the sustained winds may have been around 50mph. I don't think I've ever experienced that kind of wind before. We saw a truck with the driver's door hanging upside-down like it may have gotten ripped from the driver's hand and flung open HARD. After seeing that I became very aware of what was happening when I opened my door. We actually opted to turn the car around to let out whichever one of us needed to get out, if the wind was blowing against the door it could not be opened and if it caught the door it would be torn from our grip, so we had to open only on the leeward side.

So we started with a trip back to the Gróttuviti lighthouse at the end of the peninsula that Reykjavik occupies. I won't continue to remind you of the wind but as you read this remember that extreme wind permeated everything we tried to do this day. It also included some rain and/or snow to sting our faces at times.

Next we finally got to the most-photographed landmark in Iceland, the Hallgrimskirkja Church right smack in the center of Reykjavik. It's an awesome structure even if it is made 100% of concrete. My focus in going was the trip up in the tower to avail us of some town shots. The uppermost part of the tower had openings to look through so the wind and rain came right in those openings. It was crazy! Very sturdy though, in all that wind I didn't feel the slightest movement being nearly at the top of the 244 foot tower!

We then aimed for the Harley Davidson dealership and found it closed. We found lots of stuff closed. On the way there we passed another JW spot, I think it must have been a depot maybe. We also hit a grocery store to pick up some souvenirs (up to this point we did NO shopping - cool!) and the Iceland Excursions office to pick up our little lunch bag that accidentally got left on the bus. We were getting comfortable driving around town.

Off to the Reykjanes Peninsula, home of the Blue Lagoon and the Keflavik airport. I wanted to visit the town at the end, Gardur, to get more lighthouse shots and then visit the town of Keflavik for some fishing marina shots. We also grabbed lunch before we had to get on our long flight home. We didn't mean to but we found a restaurant done up in 50's Americana decor, you know, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and red and white vinyl seats.

The flight home was fairly uneventful, bumpy, long, and when we were ready to land we had to circle around to allow time for the runway to become available. The picture at the beginning of this blog is tracking of our flight that's available to view on the seat-back screens at every seat. See? We had to circle around and this proves it!

Will we go back? We both agree that we'd love to see much more of this strange, extreme land. The next time it'll be in fairer weather though.

Iceland - Day Three

We didn’t get up and out as early as I was hoping to but Rick was having headaches and problems most likely stemming from a lack of sleep so that was more important.  He went to bed with a cool washcloth laid over his eyes and was snoring in no time.  So when we awoke at 8ish it was a good thing.  I did then, however, start pushing him to move ahead, get that shower, eat, etc. so we could get out before noon.

We had our buffet breakfast and headed toward Vik.  We retraced some of our travels from the night before and then we were in fresh territory.  One of the first new towns we passed through was Selfoss and I found a Kingdom Hall!  Rick doesn’t have to be told any more, he just pulled over.  It was a little baffling, though.  It was 10:30 on a Sunday morning and there were no footsteps or car tire tracks in the snow that had fallen overnight.  There wasn’t a sign so I couldn’t see when the meetings were held.

After passing the town of Hella we turned off the road toward Keldur.  It was a nice side road and we stopped and met some horsies.  I’m gonna call them horsies because they are small horses yet the people here get offended if they are referred to as “ponies”, yet being so small it’s hard to call them horses.  So horsies it is.  The ones we stopped to meet were wonderful!  They were clean and friendly.  We got to the Keldur area and found our first old sod house so popular here in past times.  We found out on our tour that they opted to use sod on top of wooden frames because they had cut down all the trees and hadn’t enough wood any more to build with.  They also used rock but the roofs mostly were what the sod covered.  The little place in Keldur was very small and situated right on a creek so it wasn’t a house.   Rick thinks it may have been a bath house.  I dunno.  (apparently we missed the main attraction here, some of the oldest houses in Iceland, I'll have to take better notes the next time!)

As we left that area and headed back out to the Ring Road as they call the main highway that circles the island we spotted some horsies playing.  They were rearing up and running and just having a good time.  We just had to stop and shoot the fun! 

Then it started to snow.  It got serious enough at one point that I was thinking we wouldn’t be able to complete our quest to reach Vik.  But Rick felt OK and we trudged on.  He was right, we went through rain, snow, graupel, and everything in between.  As we reached Vik it cleared and we had sunshine!

Before we got to Vik though we passed a neat waterfall, Seljalandfoss (all the waterfalls end with “foss”) and then another old homestead.  We’d planned to stop and see Skogafoss but decided to just shoot for Vik.  We’re so glad we did.  It was the strangest place to find in Iceland.  It was a beautiful black sand beach with rock structures in the water similar to our Washington coast “haystacks” and then we found the cliffs made of basalt columns.  I’m glad I researched all that because we never would have even known it was all there if I hadn’t.  It was the best part of the day.  We had to do a lot of exploring to find it all. Then Rick saw some other things that piqued his interest and we had to go find them too, all the while getting different shots of the beaches I just described.  We ended up on top of a cliff to see a lighthouse.  The car was rocking in the wind when we parked.  When we got out and attempted to walk toward the lighthouse it was blowing so hard I honestly didn’t think I could do it.  But I found a method and got out there.  It was a crazy drive up a switch-backed dirt road covered in places with snow but we feel that if you don’t make the effort to go the distance you miss the best stuff.

We tanked up the car (approx $7.50 / gallon!) in Hvosvollur, then continued on to Hella and tanked up ourselves; we got a beer, that is…

Then the drive got fun.  We hit some snow and the wind was fierce, so much so that even at 50mph the snow in the headlights was still going sideways.  It wasn’t sticking to the road, for the most part, but there were occasional patches of snow inches thick and yards around, so when you hit one of those doing 50 it was scary.  We had to knock the speed down a bit.  Having just had a pint of beer though, I quickly had to go to the bathroom.  It got worse, the snow and the need to pee at the same time, my need was becoming painful.  I finally told Rick to just pull off.  He found a side road with a spot to easily turn around and I relieved myself in all that wind and snow!  I was laughing hysterically when I got back in the car – it was such a weird thing to do!  Hey – everyone’s gotta go sometime!

Iceland - Day Two

This morning we got started with our complimentary breakfast buffet. We were actually the first ones to sample the full spread which starts at 7AM. They apparently have a “quick” buffet with the simple things like cereal and dried fruit available as early as 4:30.  When we got there, there were banquet trays with hash browns, eggs and sausage as well as an assortment of meats, cheeses, spreads, fish, juices, etc. It was one of the best “complimentary breakfasts” I’ve experienced.

So we ate and then caught our bus to the downtown area to head off on our “Golden Circle” tour. I hate to say that I didn’t catch the tour guide’s name, he did an awesome job of babysitting the 63 tourists on board. The driver was Gudnar, Rick caught that much.

Our first stop on the circuit was Thingvellir Park. The landscape on the drive was close to the same as already described from yesterday’s travels – snow-covered rocks but with more grasses and little naked birch trees. I know that they were birch trees because our tour guide shared a lot of information with us including topography, agriculture, government, history, natural flora and fauna, etc, etc. When the vikings arrived here way back sometime in the 8th or 9th century the island was 40% timbered and it’s now only 1.4%. Most of the damage was done early on by farmers and ranchers clearing land, settlers building houses and then using wood to heat their homes. So now there are very few trees.

We got out of the bus and walked around the Thingvellir area where the first parliament met back in 930. There’s a famous photography sight right there and we perused that. I almost just got back on the bus as, while we were standing on a breezy overlook, I was shaking and my teeth were chattering, it was about 5 degrees! But as soon as I started walking again I was fine so we did the walk together and I’m glad I opted to do the walk.

We went past one of our destinations and headed for another, Gullfoss. It’s a large cascade of waterfalls and the guide kept telling us how special they would be, being that they were partially frozen. Well, not so much. It was a nice walk and we had lunch in the area. The Gullfoss café was set up to accommodate bus tours with nice restrooms, a souvenir shop (with hats that cost more than the tour we were on) and a dining room. They made a big deal about their “lamb meat soup” that we could get a discount on so as to goad everyone into trying that soup. Well, I have no desire to eat any baby animals so I opted to just have a cup of cocoa and Rick got the soup. Our bill was 1700k after our 150k discount. That meant that bowl of soup was 1350k after the discount. That’s some expensive soup!

We headed back to the sight we’d already passed, the Geysir area. It was a mini–Yellowstone with bubbling pots, sulfur-smelling steam and geysers. The one that was putting on the show was pretty good about doing so on a fairly regular and very often basis. It would just suddenly shoot steam and water, sometimes just a few yards up, sometimes much higher! With a BOOM! when it did. And given that the air temp was below freezing we were warned to watch where we were standing so as to avoid getting a freezing shower. It also meant lots of slick ice to try to walk on. It was another interesting stop.

After that stop there were a few more but I was getting extremely sleepy and I wasn’t as interested so I stayed on the bus and snoozed but Rick got out. There was a church built in 1961 with a couple remains on the property of some old churches and whatnot. Next a caldera with a frozen lake in the bottom. Rick brought back pictures of that. People had walked on the lake and spelled out the words “Hello Friends” on the snow on top of the ice. We then drove through the town of Hveragerdi where the thermal pockets are plentiful and shallow so they utilize them in their greenhouses. Our last stop was a power plant with a paid exhibition for those who were interested. I again stayed on the bus and napped.

Once back at the hotel we got our car, a cute, red, bug-eyed Nissan Micra and started the nghtly routine of searching for food. But since we’d done it once already and was finally getting a feel for the lay of the land (and I insisted that we go back to our room and find out exactly where the subway restaurants were that we’d seen before) it didn’t take as long. Plus having a car to move about in was much quicker and warmer. So we found our Subway, got our sammiches and headed for the end of the peninsula that Reyjkavik resides on, to eat with a view of the Gróttuviti lighthouse. We had already missed the sunset (again) but there was still enough residual light that I could get a shot of the lighthouse out there.

We headed back to our room for a short breather, do some facebook, etc then back on the road to try to catch some Northern lights. I had an idea that we wanted to head east, away from the city and uphill slightly but still had a problem figuring out exactly what road that meant. We ended up on the road to Vik that we would be venturing out on the next day but it goes off in a south-easterly direction. We turned around after not too long though and headed up a hill on road 431/435. As we were cresting a hill we were scraping the top layer of snow off the center of the road so we had to keep our speed up and I saw it – green lights twirling and dancing in the sky! STOP! IT’S HAPPENING! We were actually at a good place to park so we whipped around, got out our cameras set up to what we thought we needed to get good stuff (although we both missed setting the right aperture) and started shooting. It was everywhere, sometimes all across the sky, flying by the moon, then there were little shooting spikes in another area, and the main spot was right near a cloud with big dancing swirls that turned pink as they neared the horizon.

Once we were completely and utterly satisfied with our 15 minute show we headed home and hit the hay. Tomorrow – Road Trip!

Iceland - Day One

Let's see, how can I describe our first day here in Iceland? How about...

Unexpected. It was dark when we landed and as it got lighter and we could see what surrounded us as we waited at the airport for our shuttle to the Blue Lagoon we were unimpressed with what we could see. It was cloudy, windy, very cold and everything was covered with a light blanket of snow. That sounds like what we should have expected but I guess having perused Iceland for so long I had become convinced it was not actually that way. The weather had also been leaning on the warmer and not-so-snowy for quite a while. The airport area resembled the lava rock beds of Hawaii and Maui, but covered with snow.

So you could almost say it was a mite anticlimactic. But as we finally boarded the bus and headed around a short bus route to pick up others headed for that other-worldly tourist spot we began to see things to make our photographic juices flow. The terrain in the Reyjkanes Peninsula was not described to any degree in anything I'd researched. Now I know why. Not a tourist's haven, a lava rock bed with a small smattering of trees here and there as well as a seaside town from place to place.

So we got to the Blue Lagoon and it was pretty much as described. Every bit as unusual and delightful. The beautiful robin's egg blue water looked so out of place and maybe even more so as it was surrounded by the black lava rocks covered with white snow. The water was only about 4 feet deep in most places, I had to crouch to stay submerged to my neck. And the air temperature was COLD! 20's!

We headed to our respective locker rooms and donned our swim suits. We wanted to get some pictures so we were outside in our bathing suits in that 20 degree weather running around, taking pictures. Amazingly, though, if we weren't wet it wasn't too intolerable. Our feet got numb and felt like rubber and we had to go inside and thaw them out but honestly it wasn't too bad aside from that.

Besides the huge hot tub aspect there was a hot waterfall and a smattering of "steam baths" at one area, as well as silica facial mask "centers" dotting the shore. The silica was in buckets inside a wooden box with a small scooper to pull some up to smear on your face. It felt like mushy oatmeal. The steam bath was 120 degrees celsius. I just googled that and it's 248 fahrenheit! Checked it in 3 places! Yowch!

Oh, I must mention the guy hanging around by the water, I'm assuming performing the duty of "lifeguard" being his job description.  Well, he was dressed in full winter gear but keeping very close watch in all areas of the spa. Neon green winter gear.

We wandered around, getting a variety of shots from different vantage points and then found a bus there to take us into Reyjkavik. The terrain remained about the same until we reached the town. Then it became someplace understandably inhabitable. There were hills, trees and just normal surroundings. All covered by snow.

The bus driver dropped us at our hotel and we settled into our sparse European style room. It's adequate but missing 2 things - a place to put our clothes and a clock. Fortunately with all our electronics we have the clock issue covered but our clothing remains in our suitcases. We unpacked all our bathroom items into the bathroom, as well as the food I brought along to be able to munch and replace one of those meals that turns out to be something I'd rather not eat.

Once settled we had a desire to go into town but lacked the means and the energy. Rick was especially wiped. So we had a 3 hour nap and was ready for the next free shuttle bus into town. We also arranged to get our rental car for this afternoon upon our return from our Golden Circle tour. So we got downtown and wandered around in the hilly, snowy, windy, frigid town of Reyjkavik - totally lost. We meandered and saw all kinds of stuff that we would have liked to have shot but the daylight was dwindling so we chose a spot to eat. Something very similar to what we would have done at home, a pub with a grill. And next door a club that turned on it's laser lights and disco-beat music at dinnertime (I'm assuming there were laser lights, we didn't go in, but laser lights have replaced disco balls in clubs of today).

After enjoying our cheeseburgers, fries and Viking beers we headed back outside to try to figure out how to get back to our hotel. After wandering to a variety of bus stops to try to figure out where to catch bus 19 we headed back into the Visitor Information store and the girl there told us we had to head back up the main tourist street, Laudevegur, to a bus depot referred to as "Hlemmer". When you say that out loud be sure you use the guttural sound of the "H". I think you got it. We found it and had about 15 minutes til our bus came. Once on board we deposited our 700 krona and the driver again delivered us right to our hotel door.

As the money goes, one dollar equals at this point approximately 116 krona. So it's almost a penny per krona. It's like if we said something cost 1000 pennies instead of 10 dollars. So whenever you buy anything it's in the hundreds or thousands. Our little loaf of bread we bought last night cost 229 krona. That's about $2 USD.

Time to spruce up and get ready for a 8 hour bus ride today. Then we get our car and get to really see the town!

About Me

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After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.