Iceland Part 2
This is the second and final post for our Iceland adventure. It has been a truly amazing country and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something unique. It is especially well-suited to science nerds, amateur photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts as it is full of waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, tectonic plates, geothermic activity, and lots and lots of sheep. The variations in the landscape as you drive around the country has been astonishing. We saw rolling hills, steep cliffs, insane mountains, volcanic lava fields, sprawling lakes, black sand beaches, and everything in between. I am going to miss this country.
What We Did
Day 5 (7/28/16): After getting some local pastries we left Stodvarfjordur and headed for Dettifoss, yet another famous Icelandic waterfall. From there we drove to the Myvatn geothermic area. It is an amazing place that contains the vents of Hverarond, steaming mud pools of Namsfjall, the Viti crater, to name a few. We also drove around the Myvatn lake and took a decent hike through some old lava fields to get to the Gjastykki fissure, a hot spring located in a cave. After leaving there, we drove to the Godsfoss waterfall and climbed around on the rock formations surrounding it. Finally, we drove to Akureyri, the so-called capital of the north, where we headed out for a night on the town before stumbling back to sleep in the tiniest apartment in the city.
Day 6 (7/29/16): After sleeping in a bit, we left Akureyri and began the four and a half hour drive back to Reykjavik. Our only stop on the way included a brief detour to see the country’s hottest hot spring, which regularly reached temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius. Once we arrived at our place in Reykjavic we decided to treat ourselves to our first real dinner out. At this point we had grown tired of the sandwiches and ramen noodles that had sustained us for the entirety of the trip thus far. We decided on a restaurant called Islandisk Barinn, and ate until we were feeling fat, happy, and ready for bed.
Day 7 (7/30/16): We awoke somewhat late and headed out from Reykjavic to see some of the sight on Iceland’s famous “Golden Circle”. While he main sights on this tourist laden path include a waterfall called Gullfoss, a geyser, a hot spring, and a stop at a national park, we opted to stick with the geyser and the waterfall. We had already seen the national park during our snorkeling excursion and we were feeling a bit hot-springed out. We stopped at the geyser first and saw it spray giant jets of water over 100 feet into the air. We even hiked to the top of a small hill to get a better look and to get a great 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Next we drove to Gullfoss, yet another impressive waterfall in Iceland, before returning to Reykjavic. Once back, Katie and I split up from the boys to explore the town and listen to a local and before returning to make our first ever travel family meal of salmon, zucchini, and potatoes. After finishing dinner, we went out to get a few beers and say goodbye to a city that amazed us all.
Day 8 (7/31/16): We drove from Reykjavik to the airport. Then we boarded a flight to our next destination, Nice, France.
What We Learned:
- In Iceland, anything natural that emits heat smells really bad. And I mean this. It smells extremely bad, like a skunk that rolled around in rotten eggs, sprayed the surrounding area, and then died and started rotting. This was especially true at Hverarond, which we nicknamed “The Earth’s Butthole.” The geothermal areas of the north east are not for those with sensitive noses. At one point the smell was so over-powering I started gagging. The high sulfur content in the water and mud holes is responsible for this pungent odor. And a word of warning, Iceland harnesses the power of this geothermic activity to power the country and was part of the water supply. So, in Reykjavik, you may notice your shower or warm tap water smelling of sulfur as well. I guess it’s just the cost of clean energy.
- This may be an obvious one, but I forgot it once or twice on our trip: if you get close to a waterfall, you will get wet. And the larger, and more powerful the falls are, the wetter you will get. We all learned this the hard way when we hiked down to Dettifoss, the most powerful one in the country. We didn’t realize that by trying to get a good picture, you would also get an unexpected shower. We all came back soaked.
- Try the lamb. It is amazing and probably the most organic meat you will get anywhere. This is because when the sheep have babies, they are raised in barn for two weeks to get a little bigger before being released onto the mountainside. And when I say released, I mean it. They are simply let out of a barn, free to wander the hills and mountains at their leisure with no fences, no water troughs, and no human-provided food. They live entirely off the lush grass and readily available glacier-fed streams that blanket the country. They also have relatively little disease given that they are not forced to dwell in close quarters (in fact, you rarely see groups of more than three or four of them together), and they have no natural predators. Then, when the warmer seasons are ending, people in the country go out into the hills and herd the sheep back to farms to be sorted via their ear tags. Not a bad life for a sheep, and man can you tell when you taste them. J
- If you are looking for a cheap drink in Reykjavik, go to Bar 7 between four and eleven for their happy hour. At 400 ISK a pint (about $3.50), you can’t beat it. Be warned that seating is limited though, as it is quite a small place, but compared to the beers priced at 800 to 900 ISK at all the other bars, it is well worth your time.
- On more than one occasion, after repeatedly forgetting knives, the boys were forced to make peanut butter and jelly using their fingers…..Yummy.
- While wandering around Reykjavik, Katie and I stumbled upon a local band playing on the street. They were definitely characters; the drummer was shirtless, the lead singer was barefoot and wearing those round seventies glosses, and the lead guitarist was a bigger guy wearing a dress.
- While they had good beats, their lyrics could use some work. Two of their songs were “If you like to groove, if you have the moves, come to party town”, and “we’re like the wind, high on ourselves”.
- One slightly scary moment we witnessed in Reykjavik was seeing a little girl fall through a sidewalk. No joke, she literally stepped on a piece of plywood covering a hole in the sidewalk a construction crew was working on, and I guess the plywood became unbalanced and flipped over, sending the girl plummeting into a hole deeper than she was tall. Thankfully, her father snatched her out of it fairly quickly and she appeared unharmed, but it was scary none the less. So I guess watch where you walk…