22.09.2015 - 30.09.2015 6 °C
A travel day today. After our amazing full buffet breakfast at our hotel in Bergen we returned the car to the airport and then caught our Icelandic flight to Reykjavik. We are now two hours behind Norway, so arrived at a decent hour. After getting our luggage we see two doors. ' goods to declare' and ' nothing to declare'. We chose the latter and just ended up in the main airport area. No passport or customs check at all.
The rain was pelting down and the cold wind punishing us as we drag all our luggage across the parking lot and down a road to find our car rental company. That's what happens wen you go for the cheap company, they don't have a pickup service.
We were given a Nissan micro that has seen better days, over 100,000K already, but it works for us. After spending a great deal of time getting directions to our hotel, one of the fellows handed me a GPS, " here, it's free ".
We must have sounded pretty pathetic, but grateful for it for sure. (Our GPS does not include Iceland)
It was programmed in spanish and I could not figure out how to change the language. Good thing I know a bit of Spanish, I got us to the apartment without too many u turns.
Reykjavik is so much bigger than we imagined, over 100,000 people but confusing ( to us) street names and lots of one ways. The GPS was very valuable for the city.
We have rented a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen and a block off the main tourist area. We are happy with it and after settling in for a few minutes we head to the local grocery store two blocks away just before closing. The prices in this particular store are quite reasonable but reading the labels is a bit of a challenge. We asked various other Icelandic shoppers for help, which they all gladly did.
The rain has eased off so we walk for a few blocks to check things out. Even this late in the season there are a lot of tourists. We hear quite a bit of English spoken, Americans and UK. All are bundled up in parkas and hiking boots etc. It is a bit cold, but not as bad as I imagined and there is not a lot of the wind at the moment that Iceland is famous for. I think however, the downtown area is quite sheltered.
We had an early night and dinner in our apartment.
An explore Reykjavik day. The shops have amazing knit and gift wear. There are a lot of original designs as many designers live in the city. I tried on a few Icelandic wool sweaters, but found them very itchy. At $300 or so a sweater I don't want to have it sit in my closet because it it too scratchy to wear.
Lunch was at a raw vegan resteraunt. Some of the menus in other resteraunts have smoked Puffin or whale and reindeer on them. Iceland is so far ahead of other countries in many ways, but still hunt the the endangered fin whale for meat. Green peace is trying to convince them otherwise. We saw one of their ships in the harbour
Well we will not be dining on any of those delicacies
We walked and walked for hours. It was a cloudy and at times a bit of drizzle, but overall not bad day. We stopped at an information area to get a map and recommendations of what to do. He pointed out a museum of Vikings, which we walked forever to get there. It was a good overview of the history of Iceland, but left us underwhelmed. Turns out it was the wrong museum. Dam
Walking along the waterfront to see the Harpa concert hall. It is very impressive architecture and a controversy locally because it cost so much to build.
Dragging ourself back to the apartment after so much walking, we have a rest and then head out again at 9:30PM ( my bedtime!) to catch a tour to see the northern lights.
Two large busses head north to an area without lights and settle into a parking lot that was provided by Ben Stiller when he made his movie " the secret life of Walter Mitty". It was after watching this movie a couple of years ago that was one of the reasons for us to decide to come to Iceland.
Damn it was cold. I look like the Michalin man, I have five layers on. The stars and moon are beautiful in an almost cloudless sky.
A hundred people and trying to find a spot to set up tripods or get their "spot" for the best shots. It is so dark. Even with the moon. I use my little flashlight for a minute or so, but we are told not to use any light at all. Climbing over lava rock covered in this slippery moss like covering in pitch black with camera gear is challenging. Apparently there are 2,000 different kinds of moss in Iceland.
After an hour and a half they reveal themselves and dance in the sky for a few minutes, disappear, and then return again in half an hour.
By this point I can't find my flashlight and my tripod has come away from my camera. I did my best but my photos have a lot of ' noise' not having the tripod, but it was exciting all the same. They were not as impressive as the ones I saw when I lived in Fort Mcmurray, but tonight I saw the northern lights in Iceland.
We never got home until close to 2AM, way past our bed time. We slept well.
Back in the car today for a tour of the Golden Circle Route. I figured out how to change the language on the GPS to English which made it much easier. The route takes us North of the city and we took in three of the favourite stops, and a few of our own as well.
I am so frustrated with the fact that you can't pull over to take pictures very easily. There are pull outs and view points now and then, but so many amazing sights that you can't stop and take pictures of. The roads are narrow and there is not a shoulder, only a one foot drop onto loose lava rock.
Our stops today included this church at the side of the road that we thought was very unique
Iceland has a number of active volcanoes. A great deal of Iceland is heated by geothermal plants situated around the island. This provides heat for homes, hot water and hydro. They heat the roads in the winter as well which is brilliant. There are many hot pools around and you can see steam vents coming out of mountains and hills everywhere. We stopped at this plant just outside of Reyjkavik.
Some vents on a hillside
The national park, Thingvellir. ( sometimes spelled with a P )
Even the bathroom had a great view.
Geiser, similar to Yellowstone.
The scenery keeps changing all the time. Today there was barely a cloud in the sky and it was almost warm out.
What a fantastic day.
We checked out of our apartment and drove East. On the way we took secondary roads past many huge farms and saw lots of sheep and the gorgeous Icelandic horses. Sorry for all the horse pictures but I can't help myself.
These guys came running up to me from the back of the field when I approached the fence. They were so curious about me and we had a great long conversation. The highlight of my day. Icelandic horses are smaller than others and the only horse you will see here, as they don't want or allow cross breeding. Some have eyes are dark with a blue horseshoe at the bottom.
Kerio crater was our first planned stop. This crater was formed about 6,000 years ago. We walked around the rim of the crater which took just over half an hour. Iceland is similar in some ways to Hawaii, being that they were formed by volcanoes and relatively young in age. The major difference of course is the weather which is the reason the vegetation is so different.
Our last planned stop of the day was Seljalandsfoss. A waterfall that you can walk behind. Another stunningly beautiful setting. We should have done the walk first however. Duh... Walking behind a waterfall you just may get wet! Most of the other folks were wearing full rain or snow gear. I am in my three layers of fleece. My raincoat was left the car.
The noise from the waterfall overhead when you were behind it was thunderous. My photos are a bit hazy however, it was hard to keep water off the lens.
Cold and wet we walked a ways down to another waterfall that was in a cave which was very cool.
The tour busses arrived just as we were finished which was great timing.
Our hotel tonight is on a gravel road up the hill overlooking the black sand beach in Dyrholaey. There are a number of small adventure groups staying here. It is just perfect and we are here for two nights. Dinner in our room of the rest of our grocery store purchases.
I woke to hear the Icelandic wind and rain howling outside. I opened the curtains and it did look cold and miserable.
I went back to bed.
At 8AM we went to the main area for our wonderful included breakfast. The weather is getting worse. Visibility is about NIL.
10AM we decided to go it and brave the weather. We are west coasters after all. We had hoped to go horseback riding, but that won't be today.
We headed further East towards the glaciers and past what was probably incredible scenery. Maybe tomorrow.
At one point I decided to take a picture anyhow so doug stopped the car but I could not open my door. The wind was well over 50km an hour and blowing towards my side. I opened the window and my SLR camera just went " nope. Not going to take a take a picture in this".
It would do nothing. I took out my underwater camera and took two pictures, then rolled up the window. My hair and face was soaked. And I haven't even gone outside.
We are getting the real Iceland experience today.
We kept driving and saying " I think it is brightening up" it reminded me of camping in Tofino in the rain and being optimistic. It just kept getting worse.
One of the stops I wanted to do was a farm from the 1700 s, with small homes made into the hills and covered in turf. There is also a little church there. I found this on tripadvisor and they said even though the gate is locked and it says private property, you can park the car and go in. I double checked with our hotel manager and he said we can go ahead. The name is Nuppsstadur farm and church.
We parked the car and braved the gale force wind and rain up the road. I tried to put a poncho on, but it just flew around I thought I might get airborne. I felt kind of strange going in a place that said private but glad we continued on.
We had the place to ourselves and when we arrived the rain stopped for a bit.
The church and a key in the door, with instructions, so we went in and saw a very tiny plain wooden church. We had a glimpse into what it must have been like to live as a farmer in Iceland with the cold wind raging. I can imagine when it is snowing and the dead of winter what it must be like.
The waterfalls are going sideways because the wind is so strong, we have never seen anything like that before.
Back in the car, drenched and cold, we continue on for another hour to see the glaciers and icebergs at Jokulsarlon.
The landscape changes every half hour or so. Sometimes it is glowing green with the spongy moss on the lava rock. Then it looks like you are on the face of the moon. Black volcanic lava rock of various sizes for as far as the eye can see,
Then a few bright yellow tufts of grass will appear.
We pass a couple of the glaciers and then a half hour away from our destination the weather is getting worse and visibility is diminishing. We decide to turn around as we won't see anything anyhow. We make the drive back to the hotel and put dry clothes on before enjoying dinner in our hotel.
What a difference a day makes. I woke to a beautiful almost cloudless morning so we rushed to have breakfast and check out. We are very close to Dryrholaey, a popular attraction. The weather changed every ten minutes from sun to rain, but our time on the beach we lucked out to beautiful sunny skies and not much wind.
It was so beautiful, the waves were wild and crashing on the long black sand beach. This is a nesting place for the Puffins, but we did not spot any today. We spent quite a bit of time here, having great conversations with other travellers from New Zealand, Turkey and Argentina.
We drove to the other end of the beach, ( 40 minutes drive) and had a nice lunch in the resteraunt and then walked that beach as well. This one had sea stacks and very interesting rock formations and a cave.
As soon as we left it started to rain again, on and off all afternoon as we drove back to Reykjavik. The landscape changes constantly and at timesyou would think you were on the prairies, with miles and miles of farmland.
We have never seen so many horses and sheep as in Iceland.
We arrived back into our same apartment in Reykjavic, dropped off our things and then walked around town for a bit. Laundry and working on this blog tonight and then heading east tomorrow.
Not a great start to our day. I had some oats soaking overnight and went to heat them up in the morning by putting boiling water into a larger bowl and then the smaller bowl inside. The outside bowl exploded into a million tiny pieces all over the kitchen. I am so lucky it didn't hit my face or eyes. It was unreal. The nex t couple of hours we were picking up all the tiny pieces.
I went down to the laundry room to get the vacuum cleaner I saw there. I plugged it in and the circuit blew, all the kitchen and bathroom lights were now out. I went out to find the 24 hour store to buy some paper towels . The cleaning lady finally came to the building at 930AM. I went down to explain, she didn't speak any English. I used charades to explain, she gave me a hug and said..." It's okay"
I used my iPad and translated the details into Icelandic and went down to make sure she understood. She did not speak Icelandic. Polish.
I redid the iPad and she said...yes yes... It is fine
We packed up and went to a coffee shop for breakfast.
Our drive West took us, once again, though some different sceanery. It was, unfortunately, a rainy miserable cold day again.
We picked up a hitch hiker who was a young man from the Czech republic. He was working in Iceland as a chef and was telling us that he and a friend went to Nepal after the earthquake to help rebuild schools and then had a fundraiser on Prague selling their photos to raise money for Nepal. He was heading for a vacation to Canada in a couple days so asked us a few questions. He told us that there really isn't any crime in Iceland, but that could change because more and more people are moving here from other countries. Iceland is expensive but they pay workers a good wage. Tipping is not done here.
We arrived in Grudafjour, and find that again I have booked us into a youth hostel. It is quite nice however, overlooking the harbour and a well laid out communal kitchen to use. We need to leave our shoes downstairs in the entry as it is Icelandic custom not to wear shoes in the house,
After making some lunch we went for a drive to a nearby Stykksholmer and looked around. It is another small fishing village and I am sure it is quite beautiful on a clear day.
Next to our hostel is a little resteraunt that is in a restored home overlooking the water and quite lovely. We popped in before we went for our drive to check out the menu and I said , sorry but I am a vegetarian and there is nothing on the menu. He said the chef would make me something, so we said great, see you at 7:30P
Doug ordered the blue cod and he said it was wonderful. The presentation of both dishes was very beautiful. I was given quite an assortment of different vegetable dishes and it was delicious. One of the best meals we have had for quite a while, and quite reasonable too. For Iceland.
I was woken by the full moon shining into the room at 4 AM. The wind was howling but it seemed to clear off the clouds so that was great. We quickly had breakfast and packed up to explore the area. By the time we got outside the dark clouds had rolled in and the wind and cold rain was back. It was that way all day....just wait for 15 minutes.
We were on the west fjord side of Iceland and decided to do a circle route of the area. This is our last day in Iceland and we are so glad that the weather is cooperating. ( nice most of the time). Our first stop is to climb up a hill to get a picture of these two waterfalls with the mountain in the background. They are called Kirkjufell.
No rain, but dam it is cold and windy! I have on my Moreno wool long sleeve shirt, a fleece vest, a Moreno wool sweater, my windbreaker rain coat and another fleece over top. I also have ear muffs, gloves and a scarf. I am still cold. But not freezing.
The hike is worth it, a great view and we were the only ones there. We saw lots pull into the parking lot, but not venture further.
A dirt road across the peninsula has some more interesting scenery and we reach the other side to look for Lysuholl ranch for our 11AM horseback trail ride. There must be 50 or more horses in the nearby corral but ours were in the stable ready to go. I picked out mine on the Internet when I made the booking , she has a long Icelandic name, but I call her Maystar for short. She is so beautiful, a Carmel colour with long blonde hair. Icelandic horses are so gentle and easy going.
Doug agreed to come with me which was great. There were two German girls, 20 something's, working there for six months and seemed more interested in chatting to each other than taking care of the riders.
We waited about a half hour for four others to arrive, two couples from New York around our age and ability which was nice.
Off we go, across the fields towards the beach. Rain, sun, strong winds and freezing hail. At one point the horses stopped and said...nope. Just gonna wait right here.
But weather usually doesn't last long and the worst was the hail and that was only around 10 minutes at most.
It was a great ride, about an hour and a half, and on the way back I asked if I could trot or canter, which I did and that was wonderful.
Back in the car to continue our circuit. There were a number of viewpoints on the route that we stopped at, did some hiking and walking about at places. One was a great set of trails near a black church.. It was a perfect way to spend out last day here.
Instead of spending the night back in Reykjavik, I changed to a hotel near the airport to make it easier for our early morning departure. It is a self serve hotel. You pay in advance, $99 CAD which is a great price for here. They send you a code to get into the door, an envelope is inside with your name on it and keys, and that's it. Nice big clean room. Perfect
4AM was early to wake up, but we left shortly after and dropped off the car and then checked in for our flight to Stockholm. The airport was insanely busy at 5AM, but we managed to find our way around and I am now writing this on our 2 1/2 hour flight to Sweden.
Iceland was so diverse, unique and just plain awesome. We are so glad we went.