Iceland

My good friend, Jenn, and her wife went to Iceland for their honeymoon earlier this year. I’ve asked her to write about their experience as my first guest poster. Although it has taken me entirely too long to get this posted, here is what she had to say: 

 

Cold, Wet, Miserable and the Best Premarital Counseling We Could Have Asked For!

Highlights:

 The waterfalls

-The geysers

-The mountains

-The land

-Myvatn hot springs

-Laugarvatn hot springs

-The historic sites

-The snorkeling

-The museums

-The Yogurt

-The Coffee

-The Brennivin (local spirits)

-The Cheese

-The pyroclast (a geology-geeks dream)

  

 

The sucky parts:

-The rain

-The wind

-The fact that in April a lot of stuff is closed or is only open limited hours

-The snow

-Stripping and washing in front of strangers to use the hot springs (I kept my eyes on the ground    the whole time)

-Did I mention the rain?

-The GPS in the van did not work very well

-”Camping cards” do not exist

-Our camper van company was NOT marked on any signs at the airport.

 

Where we stayed (in our tiny camper van):

-Thingvellir (2 nights)

-A closed campground on the east coast (nope, there was no gate blocking us from getting in          so we parked and stayed)

-Myvatan next to a Pizza Parlor and near a cute picture of a cow in the view of a dormant    volcano

-Blondous

-Selfoss Guesthouse (4 night)

 

 

Things I would have done differently:

-Not rented a camper van

-Waterproofed my hiking pants

-Waterproofed my wife’s backpack

-Brought extra gloves

-Brought more snack items

-Had a smartphone (though my wife had hers)

Things we were glad we brought:

-Base layers

-Insulated food jars (aka a thermos)

-dehydrated meals (recipes at the end of the blog)

-Hiking pants that were at least water resistant

-Power inverter (like a power strip that plugs into the cigaret-lighter of a car. We didn’t have to worry about converting to European prongs or voltage.)

-My wife’s smartphone

-A waterproof map

-Water bottles

-Polarized sunglasses

-Wine

-Camera

-Quick-drying towels

-Wool socks

-Boots

-Multi-tool

-Gravel insurance (we spent $100.00), but after a semi threw a rock and cracked our windshield, we were glad we had it. The windshield would have cost us $1,000 dollars                 otherwise.)

 

Things we should have left home:

-Tripod

-DVDs

-Extra camera gear (give or your take your passion for photography)

-Air mattress

-Anything cotton

 

Things that made it harder:

Boy did it rain! It rained or snowed almost every day we were there, and there were numerous times we were soaked to the bone and had to make do. Also, the wind made it harder, because when cooking outside it took forever to even get water to boil. Basically, we spent our first few days cold, wet, greasy and muddy. It also didn’t help that in April things are still shut down from the winter, though there are websites to help with that.

 

Things that helped:

We were both glad we packed base layers, my dehydrator meals, oatmeal, cereal, and the commercial freeze-dried meals so rather than living on gas-station hot dogs, we could eat filling food! Also, my wife being able to drive a stick shift in a snowstorm helped, because she got us up some steep roads and over the mountains in the eastern part of the island. My wife’s smartphone was a life saver as it helped us find places to stay because the GPS in our van was not worth shit! And our insulated food jars helped us have hot meals more often and kept our coffee warm!

 

 

Our Story

February 18th

So a year in the making Iceland, the trip of a lifetime with the woman I love, my teammate, my guardian, my hiking buddy, my culinary Guinean-pig, my fiance. What the hell do you pack for Iceland? What will we eat? What will we see? Is it cold? Is it hot? Do they speak English? How will we get around? What can we do there? Well, that among other things went through my mind over the last year of planning and preparing for this grand adventure. And we happen to be planning the trip from Summer of 2016 – Spring of 2017 and we have the amazing thing called the Internet!

My first idea was that we would hostel around, but by October my beloved had found Rent.is, a camper van company that would rent us a small van that had a bed, table, chairs, stove, cookware, fridge and water tank for what it would have cost us to rent a car and drive hostel to hostel.  So that knocked out two birds with one stone and took a swing at a third as I now had my kitchen to cook in. And what does a couple with a gluten free member eat in Iceland while on the road? Well, that was the next question.

So food cost is a little more expensive than in the USA and we will be hiking almost every day we are there. We could take things like Mountain House meals, but that would be expensive, but I happen to be a food nerd anyway, so I had nine months of experiments to do. The mission was simple; the main meal of the day must be gluten free, calorie dense, remotely healthy, tasty, and oh yeah…we can each only bring in six lbs of food without being taxed. Dehydrator to the rescue!   My mother in law to be let us borrow her dehydrator for several months so whenever we planned to hike more than five miles I made us a meal to take with us. And so I got adept at taking the leftover veggies in the fridge and cutting them up for dinners and snacks.

What do you pack? LAYERS OF WOOL AND SYNTHETICS! Cotton kills! Okay…simple enough. We spent a year picking up base layers, wool socks, and polyester as we went through our year. As you will see my beloved and I went different routes. My fiance loves REI and Amazon, so from boots to base layers, to pants, coat, gloves and such, her gear is mainstream because that is what it is designed for. I am more eclectic; boots and hiking pants from the military surplus store, because the tactical grade is tough and is designed to work in many different environments. I got polyester sweatpants from Meijer, wool socks from Field and Stream, coat, scarf, and gloves were gifts from family, and base layers from Amazon and Dicks Sporting Goods.

And basically, from here most of the questions will be answered, with some recipes, pictures and just my own weird thoughts.

 

 

February 25th 

So here I sit in February trying to pound out a few ideas for the blog, that I really want to write, I have the dehydrator going with mushrooms and applesauce on it. I pulverized a batch of dry kale into powder and have a few meals ready and a notebook with the dinners I am planning with two meals checked off as in I have the bulk of it ready. I also have a Rubbermaid bin full of things we might need or use, first-aid/ emergency stuff, books, mini spice rack, spikes that slip over boots, print off of our plane tickets, passport and such. I’ve got my well-broken-in hiking boots sitting on the floor near my trekking poles and my day bag, and a laptop of ideas. I am so excited to go! Waterfalls, hot springs, hiking, Viking history, glaciers, horseback riding, whale watching and most of all carefree time with my beloved.

I am also pondering how I need to get some “camp suds” aka bio-degradable soap because as part of my research I am watching a crap ton of video’s about other peoples adventures and one person noted how they bathed in streams and then showed her shampoo that was clearly not eco-friendly. Come on if your going to bath in water that might end up in someone’s tap at least use stuff that breaks down. Another thing I need is another pair of polyester base-layer bottoms or as they are commonly called long-underwear and I should get another pair of hiking pants, I also need to get taco seasoning for trail taco’s, I need to dehydrate some apple sauce for fruit leather, get and cook some lean pork for pulled pork night, and for pork stir-fry night, dehydrate a jar of pasta sauce and probably do some more ground meat for pasta night. As you can tell our dinners are going to be six to seven nights of dehydrator meals, plus I plan to pick up some lamb steaks for lamb night and I figure we will get cheese, and lunch and breakfast stuff that does not require much prep when we are there.  I will put recipes later on in the blog. Would it be easier to do things like Mountain House or MRE’s? Probably, but my fiance is gluten free and dehydrating allows me to save stuff from the fridge that might go bad in a day or two anyway.

 

 

March 12th

Less than 3 weeks to go till Iceland. Work is starting to aggravate me more. Boy, do I need this vacation! I love my regulars and getting to sling drinks, but the more excited I am for this trip the longer the days get. This will be the longest break from work I have taken in six years.  So on this day as I toss a batch of jerky on the dehydrator to put with dried veggies and minute rice (boiled rice) and we weigh our food bag to meet the tax-free limit of what you can bring (3 kilograms or about 6 pounds each). I am put at ease by the fact that we are really doing this!

 

March 15th

16 days till Iceland. Have I mentioned how much I am looking forward to this trip? I can’t wait to smell the air, drink the water, and leave my stress of work, wedding planning, and life behind and just absorb every moment of Iceland! And while we are talking about my “life” I guess it is a good time to talk about me.

I am a 31-year-old barista, degree in Psychology, wife to be to my “wife to be” who graduates grad school soon. We will be married in May, so this is actually our honeymoon. I was raised in a small town in the cornfields of Ohio. My culinary skills and work ethic have provided me with stable employment, but it is nice to know my spouse will provide the bread while I make toast and stuffing out of it.  My fiance is gluten free so you will see that reflected in the coming recipes, I am a lover of wine and cocktails so you might read that to.  We have spent the last year hiking local parks so we can build up our strength and refine and test our gear. I’ve actually got exercise induced asthma, but an inhaler helps with that and…hmm what else? I am a total nerd! I enjoy studying pre-Abrahamic European spirituality.  I am 5’8, athletic build. I can read a map, but I can’t drive a stick-shift vehicle?  Yeah, I think that is enough for now….

 

March 25th

7 days to go. Tomorrow we do gear checks and will take some photo’s, hopefully, do a comparison of gear for the blog. Today before work (second job to pay for this trip and for our wedding) I am cleaning out my car so people are less likely to break into it while it is in long-term parking. I am getting it checked out for the 800-mile drive to Boston and I am starting to clean the house and wash what I have left to wash so we can pack it tomorrow.

 

March 26th

Cleaned the house, mopped floors, vacuumed the living room. Laid out the gear I am taking and wow…I am taking a lot of stuff. But not as much as some.

My gear list for 9 days:

-trekking poles
-2 pairs hiking pants
-boots
-all the wool socks I own
-gloves, scarf, hat
-3 base layer bottoms and tops
-laundry bag (mesh)
-9 days worth of undies and bra’s
-backpack
-plastic tote for backpack to fly in
-food bag
-insulated food jar
-swimwear (for hot springs)
-flip-flops
-2 hoodies
-2 pairs of sweatpants
-spiked shoe covers (for hiking on ice)
-1 pair jeans
-2 water bottles
-duct tape, space blanket, para-cord, hand warmers
-no rinse shampoo
-bio-degradable soap
-quick dry towel
-sunglasses and string
-camera and memory card
-headlamp and batteries
-car-power adapter
-guidebook, map, and tickets for excursions
-day pack
-1 quart TSA baggy (hand sanitizer, toothpaste, lip balm, and mini-alcohol)
-go-girl/ she-wee
-first-aid kit

 

March 31th

I woke up at 4:30 am just because I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to make sure the house was clean, the trash was taken out and the cat was cuddled, plus I offered to open the shop before my trip. So I got to work, slung coffee and got so many well wishes from my guests as I mentioned I would be out for the next 2 weeks on my honeymoon. I am so lucky to have the guests I do. They are all really sweet. My boss let me go by 9 am, so I got on the road, turned on a good audiobook and drove from central Ohio to almost Syracuse, New York without stopping. Stopped, gassed up, stretched, stretched, stretched. And repeated this two hours later. It rained almost the entire ride.

 

…That is until Vermont…my GPS is dumb as shit…yeah so picture a Honda Civic driving by a sign that says “trucks chain up” on a state route (2 lane roads), up and down hills in the dark, white knuckling it all the way through a snow storm….then my GPS drops me a block away from my final resting spot. So after getting stuck in one drive way (did I mention there are 4 inches of snow on the ground)? I finally make it to my Aunt and Uncles. My Aunt has a glass of Sonoma Pinot Noir and dinner waiting, I am so lucky.

 

April 1st

I get up around 7 am, clean off my car and get stuck on the road after having to rock my car out of my Aunt and Uncles driveway, then I get stuck sliding on their road…simple enough I dig snow down to the pavement, get traction and get moving. Again more white-knuckle driving until I hit Interstate.  It is very pretty for what little I see. I listen to NPR and then when I am half way to Boston, with a few hours to spare, what happens? Low tire light!!!!! I pull over, gas up and look at my tires. One looks low. So I find a tire place, they check it and say they can’t find any leaks…Wow…okay. I take it that this is my ancestors giving me a “send off” on my first trip outside the USA.

I stop at a Starbucks and park…$20 to park for one hour. Umm, yeah…to someone from Ohio with a poor public transit system I nearly puke at the thought of $20 for an hour of parking.  But I get the info I need from the web (again, I do not have a smartphone).  I pick up my fiance from her conference, we drive around Boston a bit, then head to the suburbs for lunch and we stop at another Starbucks to chill out before our flight.

After parking and getting to our gate, it is pretty smooth sailing. We get on the plane, toast with mini alcohol bottles and chill out.

 

 

Early April 4th

Day 3 in Iceland. This has been a major trip of ups and downs. We are learning a lot about travel, about ourselves, about proper clothing and about Iceland. The first thing learned, don’t rent a tiny camper van in the off-season of Iceland, as not many campgrounds are open.  2: don’t go with rent.is as they do not mention it on their website that their company is not marked on any sign and the information people at the airport don’t know who they are.  I am sure it would be better if it was the summer, but there are few campsites open and this “camping card” is nowhere to be found on the island. Furthermore, most stores don’t open until 10 am, so bring snacks and your first 3 days worth of food.

– If you try this route anyway be prepared for constant wind and rain. Live in your rain pants, moister-wicking base layers, and boots. Be prepared to be soaked to the bone as you drive around the island.

– We have both learned we can survive with less hygiene and on cold food and that we won’t kill each other over reeking. But on the plus side we stopped at a grocery store called Konna and I got some lamb steaks, bacon, butter, bell peppers, the famous Skyr yogurt, some cheese, chips, and paper towels, so I will at least be able to cook us a good meal sometime!

– Have I mentioned stuff is not open past 6 pm? For the ladies, my “go-girl” (aka silicone funnel that helps you pee) has been a real lifesaver, especially when we pull into camp-sites that were open on one website, but closed in real life.

– When they say the weather shifts…well Ohio or Alabama have nothing on this! In 3 days we have seen sun, wind, rain, wind-driven rain, snow, wind-driven snow and almost white-out conditions!

Lesson learned? Don’t go in April…just don’t….

 

Later April 4th

Now that I am done bitching for the moment, I must note how beautiful this country is. Ever seen the Rockies? Or the Appellation mountains? Or Hocking Hills? They have nothing on this country! The snow-covered peaks and the calm bays (some of which have fish farms), and the black sand beaches take me back to my childhood of long family road trips through the badlands and into Yellowstone. The high peaks remind me of pictures my father took of Alcapitan and his photo’s from Alaska. This is why photo-junkies come here, for the breathtaking, awe-inspiring views…

We summit-ed a steep peak in our camper-van on the 1 on our way to Egilsstadir (did I mention how pretty it is). Followed by a descent into a valley which took us to Egilsstadir where we stopped for fuel, to use the “water closet” (aka restroom) and have our breakfast of the famous “Skyr” yogurt (pretty tasty, definitely a must-try).  And then the shit really hit the fan…you know what a level 3 snow emergency looks like? Or for those of you not in Ohio, think of hurricane force winds, on a mountain with snow and ice.I am so thankful for my gear-head of a fiance/ wife (this is our honeymoon after all). She was so brave and so strong driving us up and down mountain passes through the almost blinding snow.

We passed one head-on collision of a van that was pushed by the wind across the road into another van. All passengers were safe. We drove by a bus on the side of the road that we have no idea how it got there and at some points were inching along behind other smaller vehicles through blinding snow.  Though for what it is worth we have a strong hypothesis as to what “cairns” (ancient square stone structures about a meter/yard high) are for. Since these rock stacks are evenly placed every 100 yards or so, we think they were used to navigate the place we went through and while we stuck to the road it was nice to see them as they pointed the way.

When we finally got out of the mountains, we started to see steam rising from the grounds near the road. Yeah, we are in hot spring territory! We finally made it to lake Myvtan and the spa. Talk about an oasis!  You get out of the snowy mountains in the east to turn down this road in the middle of nowhere to see all these cars, grab your swim gear, pay the fee, strip naked to shower (and look at the ground the entire time as it is not as much fun as it sounds), put on your swim-clothes and then run down bone-chilling stairs and hop in a concrete hot-tub!  But boy is it worth it, even as your head freezes, your body soaking in the hottest pool or the main feels amazing, your pores clear out, your bones and muscles release and you are left soaking in mineral-rich water that makes you feel amazing. Then getting out of the water for a cold run to the steam room. The Myvtan nature-bath is an amazing oasis in the snow for a sore, cold, stiff traveler who survived driving the 1 over a snow and wind-beaten mountain.

With help from the (assumed) Manager of the spa we found a campsite and were soon joined by other Americans we had met at the spa (all who had gotten camper vans by various companies). The “happy dance”-worthy feature of this campground was between a gas station and a pizzeria (as the spa manager described it) FULL KITCHEN!!!!!! We walked into the “dining hall” and I saw a stove, a counter, and a sink and practically danced and sang my way back to the van to grab the cooking gear and some lamb steaks, bell peppers, butter and instant mashed potatoes. So I seared the lamb in butter with my magic 3 spices (salt, pepper, and garlic powder), sliced up and sauteed the bell pepper the same and made the instant mash for a wonderful dinner! I love cooking for my beloved and this was a welcome chore after two days in country and barely being able to boil water. We sipped sparkling wine and relaxed leading me up till now when I can catch up on the blog.

 

April 5th

I canceled our trail ride last night because of the weather. We didn’t want to put ourselves, let alone some horses through the storm, snow, and cold. Though it seems the horses out in the pastures don’t mind. We slept in, relaxed, got up and I made us bacon and scrambled eggs with cheese and bell peppers. While I was cooking I chit-chatted with a fellow traveler from Canada who was snapping photo’s of everything and we talked politics, especially noting how Canada’s prime minister was a sweetie and a hottie! Breakfast was good, we finished drying our swimsuits from our time in Myvtan bathes and plotted our day. A simple day of driving and stopping as we liked.

We pulled into a convenience store to use the restroom, I bought some candy and noted to the cashier that the town was cute. He thanked me form the compliment and noted he had a farm not too far from here. Which just goes to show that farmers having part-time jobs is very common as agriculture sometimes does not pay all the bills.

Another stop we made was off of a smaller road for pictures near the bay. I walked down to the water and I can now say I have put my hand in the Greenland Sea. I also checked out a board that noted there was a seasonal living history village in the area that interpreted the life of the local Norse people.

We pulled into a campsite at Blönduos, where the gentleman at the desk was nice but the restrooms were gross, but we had our campsite. We drove on to see what there was and try and find another hot spring, only to have a truck coming toward us throw a rock at our windshield and cause a 35 cementer crack. My fiance nearly ducked, so after driving along, turning around we e-mailed the rental company and they said it should be okay but would double check with their safety-specialist. We stopped at a grocery store and got clear tape and dried the crack and tried to tape it so no water gets in, freezes and cracks it more. Did I mention it rained all day? Another day of being cold and wet.

But on the bright side, we came back to a clean restroom. On another downside, someone pooped in the parking lot next to us and it took me forever to get the stove to cook our dinner (taco night). A few things I learned though: if the stove has a hard time staying lit, change the fuel can and make sure you have a  good wind block. I ended up putting the whole thing in a sink beside the restrooms and soon my ground meat was re-hydrated, the seasoning packet was in and the cheese melted.  So at least we had 2 good meals!

 

April 6th

Many of the roads around, behind and ahead of us are closed, because of the storms, so we have decided to head up the coast into the western fiords just a bit. This land continues to be beautiful while its mountains, streams, sea-side, and rocks. We hit a few patches of sun as we travel, but still more rain. We ended up camping back at Thingvellir and the reception desk closed just before we got there…and while part of me pains to say this “free night of camping it is!” If they had a box that said “to camp after hours deposit 2500 krona”, we would happily have done it or as my wife suggested if they had an electronic gate for after hours, we would happily have paid. But when the season is gearing up and they don’t even offer ways to pay to those who honestly want to, many will take advantage of it. In the USA most campers want to get as much site-seeing out of a day as possible so 9 am – 5 pm just don’t work as a window to pay. Even a couple of Canadians at the campground that night noted the same.

 

April 7th

We get up and cook the last of our eggs and bacon and head to the “law rock”. I had read about Snorri Sturluson last fall in a book called “The Song of the Vikings” and so had heard of this law rock. They had some very informative boards that talked about how in the early medieval days, to rough the renaissance every year, for two weeks this was basically their “court of appeals” and disputes could be settled and the overall politics of the land could be settled. This was also a national gathering place for celebrations such as their constitution being presented by the King of Denmark (their king at that time) giving more power to elected officials. And after WW2 when they became a republic and to mark their millennium of there being people in Iceland. We also saw where we are going to be meeting when we go snorkeling later this weekend.

As we drove down the road toward the southern coast I realized how this country is becoming a little be more familiar; at least the roads are. We drove down to Dyrholaey to hopefully see puffins….sadly no puffins, but we saw many shorebirds, we drove back up the coast to see Skogafoss and got soaked, had lunch and then drove to this parking lot seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I grabbed my hiking poles and we both bundled up, the rain either blinding that I put on my sunglasses, then my glasses fog up so I have to take them off and be blinded again. About halfway down the trail, we asked some people coming back what is down there. It was the WW2 plane.  So to note there are no actual signs saying “this way to WW2 plane” or how long of a hike or that there are no restrooms. You park in the middle of nowhere, hike two miles or so down a trail marked with the same markers used on the edge lines of the 1 and see the shell of an American WW2 Naval plane. Was it cool? TOTALLY! Is it worth the hike? Questionable….make sure to bring water and be prepared for a four-mile hike in the sand.

We stop by Oddi just to see what there is to see. It was the home of Snorri after all and there is a church. Snapped a picture and off went, to be followed by snapping pictures of medieval house, a swing by Bonus mark (the famous grocery store with a happy pink pig as it’s logo) to pick up more eggs, lamb steaks, some veggies, some bread for me, and we pull into “The guest house Selfoss”. This place is even better than the campsite at Myvatan. It has a kitchen with a hot-water machine, it has decent showers, a topographical map of Iceland (which explained the high winds as we drove the northern mountains) and hot tubs. While it continues to rain we eat good meals of freeze-dried back-packers food and sip Valopucielo (Italian red wine) for our nightcap.

 

April 8th

Activity for the day? REYKJAVIK! So our big day in the city, after a breakfast of sauteed bell peppers and mashed potatoes (the easiest and quickest thing I could cook with some degree of nutrition) we headed west on the 1.  My wife wanted to see the Phallus Museum, something I was not interested in, so she parked us and I jumped in the back to work on my blog while she went. After half an hour she was back and she stated how any lesbian would find such a museum too short and very unsatisfying.  But after that disappointment, we parked, walked by city hall and found an amazing hotdog stand. Forget Chicago, forget Varsity’s in Atlanta, this dog was SO TASTY from the fried onions to the sauce, to the toasted bun, it was the most amazing dog I have ever had! Pylusuhusd rules!

(****Notation: we went back 2 days later, waited for them to open and after they had yet to open a half hour after their noted time on Facebook, we gave up and walked away. So are the dogs good? YES…but reliability is questionable.)

****Back to that day: And what made it even more special was this little old lady and her granddaughter sitting there having ice cream. Lily and little Lily were having grandmother-granddaughter time and Elder-Lily mentioned there was a blues festival going on that day and her home-town-pride beamed from her very kind smile.

After lunch, we went to the Saga Museum which is a head-phone guided tour of early Icelandic history. After hanging up coats, they hand you head phones and a recording plays in the language of your choice and you are guided through a big room of manikins and scenes that describe the first European settlers, the early Pagan days, the Abrahamic influence in both Catholic and Protestant phases. After the tour, they have an area you can dress up and take a picture dressed as a Viking. The most notable seen is probably the most famous of a woman holding a sword under and exposed the breast. And what it actually was is the story of an early heroin who scared off attackers by showing her breast and holding a sword under it.

After this, we went to the famous cathedral and saw the statue of  Leifur Eiriksson, which was actually donated by the USA in the 1930’s to mark Iceland’s 1000 years of being colonized. We headed back to Selfoss and my beloved took us out to dinner at Tyrggvaskali. We each had a beautiful lamb dish that included carrot puree and potatoes. We also sipped the local spirit called “Brennevin”. It is an amazing spirit made from a potato mash that was then infused with caraway (think rye in flavor). We then headed back to our campsite to sleep.

 

April 9th

We are awake by 6:30 am and I make us pasta and meat sauce for breakfast so we have a good filling meal because today is a big activity day; dry-suite-snorkeling. We dawn our swimsuits, topped with warm base layers, topped with thick wool socks. I prepare pulled pork in one food jar and fill the other with hot water for mac n’ cheese after our dive. Soon we are on the road back to Thingvellir to meet our guides and gear up.

At the dive site, they ask what are in the states “standard questions” of a heart condition, pregnancy, asthma and can everyone swim. Apparently, that is a new thing here as two people had died the month before. My wife and I note we had taken our asthma medication and were good to go, but one guy in the group is told he can not dive as he can not swim (my wife and I ponder why he didn’t read the “must be able to swim” on the website.

After safety checks were done they hand out quilted insulated jump suites for over our base layers, followed by the actual dry suites which are very tight around the neck, wrists, and feet. For added protection against water getting in, we put rubber bands on our wrists and choker collars. We get hoods, gloves, goggles, and flippers and walk 200 yards to the actual step off point.  THE WATER WAS SO CLEAR!!!! I barely need to kick to keep moving, between being so buoyant in the suit and the current, a few occasional hand movements keep me moving.  Looking straight down it was like flying over a cathedral of stone! The walls descended deep underneath us and boulders up to the size of cars lay at the bottom.  It was amazing! This is where North American and Eurasia split millions of years ago. The water was so clean and crisp and it tasted great! The guides even noted the water was actually glacier water that had filtered through lava for 30 years.  Sadly my sweetheart realized this was not the activity for her…just not a fan of snorkeling.

After we geared down and Val checked a fellow tourist for hypothermia (my beloved Doctor wife to the rescue!), we had lunch (pulled pork) and headed to Laugarvatn. Laugarvatn is on the edge of a lake between Thingvellir and the great geyser. The official pool is called “Fontana” and is smaller, mostly made of concrete, but what it had that Myvatan did not was a short path down to the lake for an icy plunge. After enjoying the hot water for a while and seeing several locals do it, I raced down the path and dunked up to my neck in the cold water. Getting back into the hot spring was a very refreshing experience! After a while, even my wife did it and is glad she did!

After we got dried off we drove the sections of the golden circle we did not do the first time around and decide to go back to Rekyavik to have drinks and walk around the gay district (the one block). We stopped at Bravo which is right next to Iceland’s only gay dance club and have a drink. I got a pint of “Viking Stout” and my wife had a bottle of cider from Denmark. The place is cute and friendly. The bathroom walls are covered in superhero comics and while they don’t make cocktails, they do have shots. And as I people watched I saw what I was wondering if I would catch while on vacation…I see a scarlet and gray ball cap…yep a Buckeye. As my wife pretended not to know me I walk up to the guy and say “Hey, I don’t mean to bug you, but I have to say “O-H” and he smiled and replied “I-O”. He noted that in his short time in Iceland he had gotten four “O-H”s and that really does show that no matter where you go your bound to find a fan of The Ohio State University!

That night Val has the leftover pasta and I have the leftover pulled pork.

 

April 11th

Our last full day in Iceland. We woke up to rain and biting wind, I make bacon and eggs for breakfast and we decide to go to the “hot river” (I am not feeling the best this morning), but when we get there it is a two-mile hike up and it is below freezing again….So we hop back in the van, grab some local ice cream and drive south to the coast. The wind picks up more and it starts to snow as we drive along through more boulder covered areas. We turn off one road where the potholes are as deep as basketballs and see one guy with a popped tire. We turn around and drive on. After a while we turn off to go up into Krisuvik were we read a sign about an old church and after a little more driving, see geysers and bubbling mud pots as well as the rocks around them. The water is scalding hot and the whole place smells of sulfur.

We drive further up the coast and the wind gets heavier, we see a few more geologic features and start to get into industrial areas where they actually harvest the hot water to make electricity.  We head to Keflavik and find the only coffee shop with de-caff coffee in the entire country. We both enjoyed a latte, before driving by the famous “Blue Lagoon”. Yes the water is blue, yes the mud is white and yes it is basically Icelandic Disney land.

Dinner was lamb chops and our last bottle of wine. An Oregon pinot noir I had been saving from my first trip to Oregon a few years ago. I sell my last two beers for a hug a piece to two people from Missouri who had just got in country. We chat with some nice folks from France and chill out in the van for the night.

 

April 12th

Our last few hours in Iceland. We pack up, clean up and get everything ready for the day.  We head back to Rekyavik, park at the big cathedral and walk around the town for a while.  Our hope is to get one last hot dog from the stand we visited earlier and as we are early, we walk around for a while, we head down to the wharf and read about local shipwrecks on boards. We also see a small locomotive that use to do the heavy towing of carts and wagons. In the distance Iceland’s great coast guard ship the Odin. After a while, we headed back up to the hot dog stand. Facebook said they opened at 10 am, so we get there and they are not open. Simple enough, it happens. We walk around some more and swing back fifteen minutes later and not open. We walk around a bit more and a half hour later… still not open…no sign saying “sorry we have no water” or something understandable. Just not open. Another reason we will not be giving them a good review. Icelandic people are laid back, we get that, but in a tourist area? Come on!

The rain starts to blow colder, I get a really good waffle or as they say in Icelandic a  “Vöffla” as my sweetheart headed to the van to double check things. We just decide to give up on Rekyavik and just head to the airport. A fill-up of fuel and a luggage cart later I am holding onto our gear as my beloved returns the van. Thank the ancient ones we got chip insurance. We spent about an extra hundred on it, but with the crack in the windshield, it saved us $900.00. My sweetheart walks back to the airport, meanwhile, I change my shoes and re-organize my gear.

The lines are pretty short, security is a dream! They x-ray our stuff, nonchalantly give our stuff a quick glance and basically give us a look of “why did our machines go off? I am two minutes from lunch”.  A shopping spree at the duty-free store and we both leave with lots of lovely booze for the plane trip and to have some of the beloved Brenivin at home.

We have an almost two-hour wait to get on our plane. Recounting the trip we look at each other realize “if we survived this without hating each other then our relationship can survive anything”. A few drinks down later and we are relaxed. Our trip takes us within eyeshot of Greenland. Yeah. it pretty much looks like glaciers with a small rim of land. Our plane touches down just as three other international flights get in. It takes us two hours to basically say “We have cheese and here is my clean boot”. Finally, we get back to our car and pay almost 200 dollars to get out. It could be worse.

we get on the road and at this point, my fiance is tired, hungry and can’t sleep in cars. We grab some Five Guys and spend the night at a Red Roof. My spouse-to-be says she has never seen me enjoy a cheeseburger more, we shower and crash. Next morning we are on the road early, we hang out with extended family for a bit at the half-way point and are home by 10 pm.

I really want to end this blog by saying “it was magical, I can’t wait to go back, we loved it!”, but I can’t. It was cold, wet and miserable. The people of Iceland are kind, the sites were amazing, but April is not the time to go, a camper van in April is not the way to go, and there is a difference between water resistant and waterproof.  I am sure other people do this and have a blast, but all I can say is what I have told family and friends  “it was cold, wet, miserable and the best pre-marital counseling we could ever have”.

Recipes:

 

Dinner 1: (meat, veggies, quinoa)

-1/3 cup dehydrated veggies

-1/4 cup dehydrated pork

-1/4 cup quinoa

-2 tbsp butter

-Salt/pepper to taste

Pre-warm insulated food jar, add all ingredients into insulated food jar, add enough hot water to barely cover, add butter, secure the lid, shake, let sit for 1-2 hours, enjoy!

 

Dinner 2: (Pulled pork)

-1/2- ¼ lbs pork loin cooked, shredded and dehydrated

-1/2 bottle BBQ sauce dehydrated

 

Pre-warm insulated food jar, add all ingredients into insulated food jar, add enough hot water to cover, let sit for 1-2 hours,

-Can be parried with fresh fruit, chips, or mac n’ cheese cups…enjoy!

 

Dinner 3: (Lemon Pepper Chicken and Rice)

-1/4 cup minute (boiled) rice

-1/3 cup dehydrated veggies

-1/4 cup dehydrated chicken

-1 tbl lemon-pepper seasoning

-2 tbls butter

-Salt to taste

Pre-warm insulated food jar, add all ingredients into insulated food jar, add enough hot water to barely cover, add butter, secure the lid, shake, let sit for 1-2 hours, enjoy!

 

Dinner 4: (Tacos)

-1/3 cup ground meat dehydrated (we used beef and turkey combined)

-1/4 cup dehydrated peppers and onions

-1 taco seasoning packet (your favorite brand)

-Cheese to taste

-1 bag tortilla chips

 

At camp: In a pan over high heat add meat and veggies and enough water to cover, simmer till water absorbs, sprinkle in taco seasoning and enough water to make sauce. Sprinkle in cheese and use  as dip with chips

 

On the trail: Pre-warm insulated food jar, add meat, veggies, seasoning, and cheese into insulated food jar, add enough hot water to barely cover,  secure the lid, shake, let sit for 1-2 hours,  use as dip with chips, enjoy!

 

Dinner 5: (Pasta night)

-1/3 jar of tomato sauce dehydrated (your favorite brand)

-1/4 cup dehydrated ground meat

-1/3 lbs pasta

 

In a pan reconstitute sauce and meat (adding hot water as needed), boil up pasta, drain pasta, combine with sauce and enjoy.

 

We also brought:

-4 store-bought freeze-dried backpackers meals

-3 cups gluten-free oatmeal

-4 mini boxes cereal

-2 gluten-free mac n’ cheese cups

-2 regular mac n’ cheese cups

-2 fruit leathers

-Gluten-free pancake mix (we didn’t use)

Ashley Written by:

2 Comments

  1. VLZ
    November 11, 2017
    Reply

    As the aforementioned wife, I just want to say I really enjoyed Iceland. I went with appropriate waterproof clothing, which made a huge difference.

  2. Ayleen
    November 9, 2017
    Reply

    Loving your posts!

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