Iceland Day 5: Windy drive
We left our adorable little cottage by the sea after a breakfast of yogurt w/ granola cereal & OJ to finally make it to the big city of Reykjavik, where nearly 2/3 (or 200,000 of 320,000) of the population lives. First, we had a few stops to make.
We topped off the tank with $5000Kr on 95 Octane. Yesterday’s winds were crazy strong and lil Spark knew he had an uphill battle today.
Our first attraction was Deildartunguhver, the largest hot spring in Europe. From that description, you’d think it was big. It was not. It did appear hot though, and it made bubbles a few feet in the air, and there’s a giant pipeline that sends all the hot water to a town 74km away within 24 hours without losing much heat, but I think it really made it onto our itinerary because it’s on the way to a pair of cool waterfalls - Hraunfossar & Barnafoss.
This pair is really one destination. The lower Hraunfossar is really many waterfalls (I counted 78!) within a 1km span. It was super cool! It stumped us, however, as to where the water came from…. Typically, waterfalls are a drop in a river, or are made up of melting snow down a mountain, etc, but Hraunfossar comes out of a rock wall (and not a high one at that) and INTO the river - so odd! Then, Barnafoss is upriver a bit and has a couple small falls coming out of the rocks and into the river as well, but what impressed me here, was the turbulent turns in the river. It was crazy fast and sloshed all around. It definitely looked dangerous, but it made me want to travel down it in some form - kayak, raft, or barrel.
We ate lunch in Borgarnes (not at a gas station!) and I tried the lunch special - a local, white fish in a tomato sauce, side salad, fries, and a creamy celery soup. The soup was fantastic, the fish was good and it was about time I ate some fish in Iceland, but I wouldn’t say it was my favoritest meal ever. Still need to eat some lamb stew before we go.
We looked into visiting the Icelandic Settlement Exhibition (which is why we were in Borgarnes in the first place), but vetoed spending an hour in a basement with an audio guide. Are we horrible tourists? We did have a nice look around the gift shop. Which reminds me, Ryan lost his hat. His most favorite hat that he’s had since high school. It’s black, and oh so warm. He last remembers wearing it on the Day 2 hike. If anyone makes it to the Vatnajokuill National Park anytime soon, can you check the lost and found? Ryan has been sad for days - and his head is cold.
We were supposed to hit another waterfall on our way into town (Fossatun, a waterfall said to be guarded by a troll woman named Drifa), but somehow GPS skipped it and took us directly to Reykjavik. Hopefully, we’ll get a final waterfall in before we leave this country - I don’t think the 100+ we’ve seen are sufficient.
To redeem itself, GPS took us through a tunnel. A $1000Kr tunnel that was carved underneath the river/sea. It was 6 km! My ears popped so many times and my chest got a little uncomfortable. We went down, down, down, for so long - it was like we were scuba diving - and then we were at the bottom for maybe 3 seconds before going up, up, up again. Ryan was rather impressed by the volume of water above us and appreciated the tunnel standing firm.
Once in Reykjavik, we checked into our Reykjavik City Hostel, went to an open grocery store (success!) and settled in for the night. We shared the kitchen with some messy German people, but were jealous that they had black beans (we haven’t found any in the last two grocery stores - only bbq baked beans, garbanzo beans, dried pinto beans, or black-eyed beans (peas)). We found 2 “left behind” beers in the community fridge, so we claimed them in our “private” basket - woo hoo!
Iceland Day 6: What Fire Alarm?
Brandy and our roommate (some Swiss Lady) awoke to the fire alarm set off by horrible cooks in the kitchen. Should have known since there are 50 high school kids in our city hostel here on holiday. In my own defense I slept with ear plugs in so that I would not hear Brandy snore like a banshee. Brandy woke me up and said we need to go outside and 10 seconds later the alarm had shut off. Since I was up it was time to start the day. We had a light snack of our pasta that we cooked last night. Round two was not nearly as tasty as dinner but hey, we could have eaten Gu’s again. We rallied in Spark to the Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran parish church in the main part of town. It was very windy and super cold. If I had my Bula hat I would be wearing it… Just sayin’. We took outdoor pictures and went inside to see the massive pipe organ with over 5000 pipes. It was large and the man playing it was a master of the profession. We did not go to the top for viewing although at 73 meters it would be a great view of the city. From the church we strolled down to the Harpa (Concert Hall) a half mile away thru the main section of town filled with tourist shops, 66’ (“keeping Iceland warm since 1926”, but not good enough to replace my hat), restaurants and bars. At the Harpa, it must have been national take the school kids to visit because there were literally hundreds of kids running around and boat loads of coaches in the car park. We strolled throughout the venue, saw the massive concert hall and snapped many photos from its all glass structure. It resembles the architecture of our Seattle’s Library. We then traveled down to the Aurora Reykjavik museum via the waterfront to see the northern lights. About a 40 minute stroll. It was 1600 Kronor to see the exhibit but well worth it. It reviewed the history, scientific explanation, and showed a film on a 7 meter wide screen that a local guy created using a time lapse of the lights from across the country. It was then a little after 2pm and we needed real food. Brandy had been wanting lamb stew for two days, and I decided I wanted fish & chips (yep, branching out). After a 30 minute stroll, we finally found a place that had both. It was pretty good, hot and fast. It was also my first ever picture of food (although Brandy doesn’t believe me - Bali, maybe Bali?). After snacking we strolled down Laugavegur, similar to Vancouver’s Robson Street, and again visited the local shops, took pictures and headed back to the car. We then drove to the Perlan which is the geothermal holding tank for the citys water which they put an observatory and rotating deck with a restaurant. Since its on the hill its a great vantage point to see the whole city. I video taped a loop around the building and had a hot cocoa with Brandy in the cozy chairs. We headed back to the Hostel to shower, pack and make dinner before heading out for a quick pint before our early flight to Paris in the morning.
Dinner was a train wreck but it was a little bit of food before we would be drinking. We jumped back into the car and drove downtown to a bar that was recommended by the girl that ran the hostel, Hurra. It was supposed to have a DJ and dancing Icelanders. Well, it was either closed, or it was the sleepy pub next door to the sign - not sure. We found ourselves in an Irish pub, named The Dubliner (like at home!) that had 20 or so locals having pints and an Icelandic man singing a array of crowd-pleasing tunes. It was our first pub outing in Iceland. Brandy had the local Gull beer and I had the Kilkenny Irish beer. We only had one since we had to get up at 5am and it was already 11:30. We didn’t make any Icelandic friends, but two new characters entered our lives - the Lego men that Kim gave us before our departure. One has an afro, a microphone, and rollerskates. The other has a turban, a flute, and a snake. Disco-man and Snake-tamer might become recurring characters - it’s been confirmed that they at least made it back from the bar. By the time we arrived back at our hostel we had a new roomie who was already sleeping so we had no idea who it was. We were fast asleep for our early morning departure to Paris.
Iceland Day 7: This is the day we lost the book.
Our Swiss roomie (finally learned her name: Christina) was catching a ride to the airport with us, and woke Brandy up at 4:45 am, which was 15 minutes earlier than we’d set the alarm, but it worked out. The 3 of us headed to the airport in Spark without much traffic and it took us about 30 minutes to get there. Then, it took Sixt about 25 minutes to check-in the car. Annoying, but we were super early, so no worries. It was so chilly and took so long that we kinda forgot to give Spark a proper goodbye, but we Christina rallied out since her flight was a tad earlier. We arrived at the airport and we completely bypassed the check in (didn’t even see it since we came in the side door) and went right to the counter. Turns out that was only baggage drops, so Brandy waited in line and I went back to check us both in. I used the Itinerary book Brandy made and I left it at the kiosk. Boo. Book down. It contained all our flight info, hotel reservations, itinerary, and contact numbers for medical insurance and credit cards. The information is available online, but the book was super handy, esp since we can never seem to get online. We are now off to Paris and we are both excited for the new city. While Brandy made friends with the lady in the middle seat from the Mt Rainier area, I typed away and googled a bit on the plane. After 20 minutes I was done and passed out.
Final thoughts on Iceland:
It was super pretty and we’d totally recommend it! We’d love to come back at other times of the year as well to experience it differently. The long, dark winter nights would be a trip and the skiing is supposed to be great! And, then in summer, you can hike the volcanoes, and do some river rafting and other activities that weren’t quite open yet, and I imagine it’s much more green than brown. We loved the Spring though. Few crowds meant we had the waterfalls to ourselves. We’ll definitely be back.
Back to these Icelandic Horses…. We learned that they have 5 gaits, whereas other horses only have 4. This 5th gait is supposed to be surprisingly comfortable, which is why there’s so many tours to ride them. I don’t really know about all that, but they were fun to look at - so many colors too.
There’s reindeer. We failed to mention this fact on Day 3 when we left Hofn, but it was fascinating. We’d seen roadsigns of an animal, but couldn’t figure out what they were - moose, elk, in Iceland? Then, we saw them from afar, like white wildebeests. Can’t be. Then, we saw one up close as he was thinking of crossing the one lane bridge as we approached. Do reindeer come in white, I asked? Googled it, and apparently they do. Awesome!
Outside of Reykjavik and the N1’s, we really don’t know what Icelanders eat. The grocery store is never open, if there is one, and there are no other restaurants. We saw no cows or pigs or chickens (not sure we’d see this at home either though since they live in the big factories), but maybe they import the meat anyway? We saw no veggies, just a lot of hay - I mean A LOT of hay. What are you doing with all that hay?
Commonly, words are 10-15 characters long. As previously mentioned, the longest was 21 letters for the textile museum. Seems I was mistaken and there was a tie - with the National Park sign, Vatnajokulspjodgardur. We had so much fun just reading the street signs!