Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Iceland {Part II}

Day 3
  • Head East along Ring Road for more waterfalls, beaches, cliffs, and glaciers
  • Visit Skogafoss (waterfall), Dyrholaey (coastal bird sanctuary and cliffs), Reynisfjara (black sand beach), Vik (beach town)
  • Camp in Skaftafell National Park
Fun facts:
  • In Icelandic LL is pronounced TL and J is pronounced Y as in 'yes'. Now you can say Eyjafjallajokull!
  • Foss means waterfall and jokull means glacier!

view of Eyjafjallajokull from our campsite. 

beautiful day

approaching Skogafoss

perch, rainbow

river above the foss

Dyrholaey coastal bird sanctuary

basalt arch

basalt caves at low tide

Reynisfjara black sand beach

the town of Vik

lunch spot

Bacon Man means hot water is nearby

first views of Skaftafellsjokull

campsite in Skaftafell National Park

Day 4:
  • Pack up camp, morning hike in the park, hit the road.
  • See Svartifoss, Skaftafellsjokull, and Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.
  • Drive some of the East fjords.
  • Camp in the highlands, in Iceland's largest forest.

Svartifoss in the distance

Vatnajokull glacier tongue in the background

onward to the glacier lookout point

thar she blows

glacier at eye level

on to Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon

the blue glow of the ice was enchanting

we watched many of these ice blocks float right out into the ocean 

back on the road, when suddenly...

 ...I whine about being hungry, prompting C to look for a place to stop so we can cook up some lunch. He chooses a random turn off - a dirt patch with a decent view (which, frankly, irks me because there are tons of nice rest stops with picnic tables all over the place and I'd rather not squat in the dirt to cook if we don't have to). He parks and jets off down the hill, out of sight, to stretch his legs as L and I get lunch going. Not 2 minutes later he comes sprinting back to the car with something to show us...

...tada! Personal, secluded hot pots with changing area and everything. 

positively serendipitous


Lagarfljot, home to the famous worm monster (think Loch Ness)
We camped near this lake but, somehow, I neglected to take a picture of our campsite; maybe because it was fuhreeezing up in the highlands or maybe because Iceland's largest forest (4600 acres!) didn't impress these Colorado denizens quite enough. Surely it was the former. Although, even the humble Icelanders joke that a person lost in one of their forests should simply stand up to find their way out. Ha!

More to come.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Iceland {Part I}

There are only 2 responses you get from people when you tell them you're going to Iceland. It's either:  "Oh, man! That's so cooool. I've always wanted to go!" (the desired scenario wherein you instantly proceed to feeling proud of how cool you are and what great life decisions you make) or it's: "Why? What is there to see in Iceland?" (wherein you try to defend your love of looking at geological features and vast, uninhabited landscapes in torrential rain and do love that, right? ). 

Then comes the slew of rumors, assumptions, and misconceptions that people always have and expect you to answer because you are the authority here. The top 5 being:

1. It's really cold there, right? Mmm, yes and no. It gets cold in the Winter, but probably not as cold as you'd think because they're right in the North Atlantic current, the continuation of the Gulf stream.

2. Didn't their economy just tank? Yep, the economy crashed big time 2008 but the government didn't bail out the banks. They're in recovery mode now

3. Do people live there? Um, yes. Although with 120,000 of the 319,000 residents living within Reykjavik city limits the greater island can feel pretty deserted.

4. Don't they believe in gnomes/elves/trolls/fairies/goblins? Some folklore seems well-woven into Icelandic culture, but if they believe they're not admitting it to you.

5. What is there to do there again? ...sigh... 

Before the trip I had worked up a pretty romantic view of the place in my heart and mind. So much so, in fact, that as we got closer to leaving I was worried that I had my hopes set a little too high; that no experience could live up to the one that was unfolding in my brain and pressing ever more forcefully on my amygdala.  (It's easy to do with the endless supply of video footage and photographs that the internet affords. May I suggest: Exhibit 1,  Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3)

Thankfully, I am happy to report that Iceland lived up to even the highest of my lofty hopes. We stayed for fifteen days, but I could have stayed longer. We saw a lot, but I want to see more. We have done it once, but I cannot wait to return. 

I will be blogging our trip in a multi-part series. How many parts, you ask? There's no way of estimating that at this stage in the game. A LOT. And it'll take A WHILE. How long, you say? You should know better than to ask these sorts of questions. You're in now, and that's the only sure thing. Sit back. Settle in. 

Day 1: 
  • Arrive @ Keflavik airport - 0630, go through zero customs checks, acquire maps, get money, locate car rental. 
  • Hit the road. Meander West and South along the coast, then East toward the Ring Road (Hwy 1) the google maps links in the photo captions if you wish to see where we are.

Fun facts:
  • They speak Icelandic in Iceland! (a Norse/North Germanic language)
  • They use the Icelandic Krona! (today the exchange rate is $1 = 123 kr)
  • The island is 39,770 sq miles! (about the size of Kentucky)

black sand at the continental shelf separation (moving apart at a rate of 2cm/year)

rocks near the Reykjanesvirkjun (geothermal power plant) runoff

Gunnuhver geothermal vents

Arctic lupine, tourist.

Valahnukur lighthouse

coastal cliffs

you're at the Blue Lagoon. in Iceland. in case you wound up here by accident.

black lava rock, white silica

entering Raufarholshellir, a 1360-meter-long lava tube cave formed about 5000 years ago (the only time we used our headlamps)

inch-thick moss. 

Hekla (volcano) 

river cross inspection

campsite #1 - Fjallabak nature reserve

Day 2:
(note the pace at which we are progressing.)
  • Explore Landmannalaugar, one of the most spectacular places I've ever seen.
  • Learn to pronounce Landmannalaugar
Fun facts:
  • You can camp anywhere as long as there aren't signs posted prohibiting it - even on private property! (we saw no such signs)
  • In July the sun set at about midnight and rose between 2 and 3 am! Never got dark enough for flashlights.

C helping L across a frigid stream

boiling water sputtering up from the ground

the plant in the foreground here is a species of thyme and it is everywhere.
the flowers are edible and tasty.

hot spring


a random stop along the road to stretch our legs

national flower - Holtasoley (aka Mountain Avens)

discovered this massive waterfall during our stop

walking behind Seljalandsfoss at 1 am

We pulled off the road just East of here to camp for the night. End of Day 2. Stay tuned.