Hello everyone! It is Saturday, September 29; Day 5 for us here in Iceland. It has been a quick first 5 days but each day has been amazing.
Tonight we are in a small town on the east coast, about half way up the coast, on the end of one of the fjords, Neskaupstadur. Don’t ask me, I can’t pronounce it either. I tried to pronounce a few things along the way and ended up sounding more like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets than a tourist in sync with the local culture. I honestly thought people in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries spoke fast, but wow, hearing people speak Icelandic here, it is on another level. It sounds like when you speed up a recording, not with a funny voice, just the speed. Impressive, but also absolutely impossible to pick up anything. I wish I could understand any of it… but alas, no. But, it is true, almost everyone here speaks pretty good English. There are the few inevitable speeling mistakes on the menus and hotel signs, but other than that – their English is delivered with austere precision.
Something I have noticed throughout this breathtakingly beautiful country is the perfectly calm demeanour all Icelanders have at all times. When they are friendly they are stoic. When they are maybe annoyed at my questions, they are stoic. When we have probably insulted them in some horrible way when we tried to pronounce something in their language – nothing. I am sure they have a trigger and I probably don’t want to figure it out!
Anyway, getting back to the start – and sorry if there are a few overlaps with the last post, we started off in Reykjavik with a super early arrival! Yeah! Nothing beats travelling when you have had little sleep, it is super early in the morning in a different time zone, you have two small children, lots of baggage, have to catch a bus to the rental car, it is pouring rain, it is dark, the shuttle to the car is crowded and… then you have to wait for a while to get the car, oh and then you have a 45 minute drive in the dark to the city. Anyway, we survived that – but not my favourite introduction to a new country. It all worked out and the next two days in Reykjavik went just fine. Marianne even escaped for a couple hours of salsa dancing! I know shocking isn’t it!! We will have a bit more about the big town later, as we will revisit the capital at the end of our trip in Iceland. Maybe we will get to see more than just the big church and the waterfront on that trip.
Day 3 – escape to the countryside! After two days in the city (with 1/2 of one day spent looking for random items in strange stores all over Reykjavik) we headed out on the start of our exploration of Iceland. First stop – a random pull out on the side of the road, with a whole bunch of cars. We had no idea what was there, as it wasn’t in our guide books, but 20 cars stopped on the side of the road couldn’t be wrong, right? Well we did the well rehearsed tourist shuffle from the car, to the sight where everyone was standing and staring… only to find it was a field…? We weren’t sure (and still aren’t) what the attraction actually was. There were some old rocks in a pile on the ground behind a barely standing fence and a small stream bubbling away under an impressively designed highway culvert. Maybe they were all engineers on a conference about culverts? Or fence critics? Not sure. Anyway, I think it was one of those critical mass things. The first car pulled over to take a pee, then another stopped because they stopped, and so on until it looked like it was a pumpkin patch on a Sunday in October. Anyway, we bought into the hype and came away with confusion, a few muddy shoes, and some great pics of a rainbow. Onward we trudged, after that needed stop after a brutal 25 minutes of driving… I mean we had to go through round-abouts, look at volcanos, and listen to the girls ask for the iPad at least 3 times.
I won’t go through everything we did on the first few days of travels, but we stopped by the place of their first parlement. It was also right on the mid-Atlantic ridge! So it was a cool crack in the earth, with history! Not downplaying the significance to their heritage, but I am bored with our politics at the best of times, not sure I could spend much time focussing on their ~1000 year old political parties. Anyway, great spot if you are into that, or just into geology! Next stop – after our first narrow road drive – was Geysir! The original geysers – where the name came from for the rest of them! We saw mother earth shoot a few hot and steamy loads of her superheated fluids all over the eagerly awaiting crowds – and then she rested and did it again! The pungent sulfur smell was rampant, but the crowds either didn’t care, or were all friends of hard boiled eggs. Either way, great time – we filmed it too! But really it is a lot of standing around waiting for the money shot and then when it happens, it is over in about 5 seconds. All-in-all it was a lot of waiting for a stinky mess!
So after mother nature gave us her best shot, we headed over to another of her wonders; the Gullfoss waterfalls. No, there are no seagulls falling over cliffs – and yes, I was slightly disappointed as well. Apparently, it refers to the golden (‘gull’) colour of the falls when the sun hits them. Anyway, tough to get sun through clouds and pouring rain – but still amazing. I snuck in a Geocache here as well! my second in Iceland (an earthcache – which means you need to learn stuff about the site to log it). Overall, the falls were impressive – but as we are finding out, if there is more than 500 m of walking, bring snacks – it is somehow the magic number for when kids get hungry. It is also the optimal distance to declare you have to pee, after utterly refusing to go 5 minutes before.
Anyway, we heard that Iceland had some pretty cool waterfalls – and after seeing Gullfoss, so we decided to check some more out. I think I read somewhere that Iceland has 10,000 waterfalls, well I think that person must have stopped counting somewhere around day 3 of driving the country, as I have seen waterfalls so often it has gone from, ‘Wow, look at that waterfall, cool! We need to hike all around it’, to ‘Waterfall, nice’, to ‘Can we just drive up close for a picture?’ to ‘Oh look, … another spectacular thundering waterfall, … yeah, but don’t stop’. Iceland, goddamit, you are ruining the magic of waterfalls! But you make some awesome ones!
The rest of day 3 was driving to our next AirB&B – a small place in a barn on a ranch near Hella. Turned out to be just fine and they had horses! The girls loved petting and seeing all the horses. They are becoming obsessed with horses… oh oh!
Day 4 – Driving along the south coast. Hella to Höfn (which apparently is pronounced like the sound you make when you unexpectedly hiccup while inhaling… ‘hup’ … yep, just like that sound you just made).
More crazy beautiful, astounding waterfalls. Even saw one that was flowing up. Yep. The winds were crazy strong and blowing the waterfall back from where it came. Like screw you gravity – get out of here with your downward crap. Not today. We did some drive by tourism, like any good tourist does, and we saw a few things that were awesome. We weren’t sure we would even make it to Höfn (yep, you just did that sound again, didn’t you?) because of the wind storm that hit the island. Crazy thing here, they measure their wind speeds in metres per second (m/s); yep they have such crazy wind that regular old km/h isn’t good enough… nope. So we were expecting to drive through winds of up to 40 m/s. Yep, 40 m/s = ~140 km/h; but luckily the winds were fine, a couple of breezy sections, but nothing too bad. Car only started to get pushed completely sideways across the road twice, but nothing serious.
The two coolest things we saw on our trip yesterday were the black sand beach and basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach (and the mega waves because of the storm), and the glacier lagoon, on the way to Höfn. I’ll go into more details about those in the next post. They both deserve more details, along with the Lava museum/exploration centre, the viking village, the Fabio horses, and our drive up along the fjords of the east with the awesome tunnels!
Until then. This was M, part of the M4 consortium.