Iceland

Iceland
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.

 

Iceland

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.

 

Iceland

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 headphones 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 notably 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.

 

Iceland

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 cannot 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.

 

Iceland

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.

 

Iceland

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”.

Iceland

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