Published: June 16th 2008June 16th 2008
Iceland is now our favorite location on the face of this earth.
Let me give you just a brief glimpse of this incredible country: 24 hours of sunlight, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, calderas, mountains, rivers, fjords, geysers, icebergs, swimming pools, hot springs, light houses, gravel roads, single lane bridges, reindeer, sheep (yes Ray—Sheep), Icelandic horses, humpback whales, seals, puffins, etc…
Lynne and I are presently sitting in a hostel in a small town in northwest Iceland. Grundarfjorour—situated in a fjord on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We decided to stay here after meeting our new friend, Ilari, while we were in Reykjavik. Ilari is one of the two staff members at this hostel. While chatting with him in Reykavik, he invited us to come visit with him, so we took him up on it. The town is really a spectacular place.
OK, so just what in the heck have we been up to for the last eight days? Based on messages and e-mails, some of you are extremely anxious for an update.
We spent a total of four days in the capital of Reykjavik. We spent the first two nights in Guesthouse 101 located right around the corner from one
Here we are
JUst like the map from the office in Kuwait
of the main bus terminals (Hlemmur). We then moved to the Reykjavik City Hostel for another two nights. I will add that the Reykjavik City hostel is a large most impressive hostel and it was a great pleasure staying there. We met some really awesome people from around the world and hope to meet up with some of them on our travels. Some special friends to make a quick shout out to include: Tyler, Tim, Sandra, Georgia, and Leila.
We also met some very colorful people and I promise I will have a special post dedicated to those colorful people we meet along the way. We already have some interesting stories about some of these folks, but will keep you in suspense until we gather a good collection of stories.
We purchased a 72 hour tourist card which gave us unlimited access to all city buses, museums, and swimming pools.
Let’s start with the swimming pools. Swimming in Iceland takes place all year long. It is perhaps one of the most popular recreational activities. Every town in Iceland has a pool complex. The one we used in Reykjavik was located right next door to the hostel (Laugardalslag). This
complex was rather elaborate with an Olympic sized lap pool, activity pool, wading pool, social pool, 5 hot pots, waterslide, steam room and tanning lamps. The hot pots ranged from 38 degrees to 44 degrees Celsius. I spent a bulk of my time in the hot pots and steam room.
Icelanders take their public pools very seriously and have very strict hygiene and sanitation standards. Every pool we have visited was absolutely sparkling clean.
Let me give you a quick rundown on the rules of using a public pool. First you take your shoes off prior to entering the facility or locker rooms. Next, you shower with soap washing all body parts without your swimsuit. After using the steam room, you must shower again prior to re-entering any of the pools. When you finish with the pools, you take another shower. You must completely dry yourself prior to entering the locker room again. I learned this after the shower Nazi chased me down for still being wet and going into the locker room. All of these rules are cool once you get used to them.
After sitting in the hostel and chatting with other people who have ventured around
Sunset at 11:30 PM
Iceland, we decided to radically modify our routine and agenda. We originally planned to move around the country by bus and set up accommodations as we moved along. The public bus system in Iceland is not perfect and still offers many challenges and can be very costly. Our next option was to take the organized tour route, but this is very costly and we have never been fans of the packaged tour business. We have seen too many tour groups get dumped at a location and hurried to get back on the bus to meet their next destination.
We decided we would rent a 4wd van and use this as our dining platform and sleeping accommodations as well. This option has proven to be the best choice we could have made.
We picked up a very details road atlas and headed out on our journey from Reykjavik. Our route would be a counter-clockwise course making a complete loop around the country. Our primary route would keep us mostly on Highway 1 with multiple side trips or blue blazes to see sights not listed in the guide books.
On the first night out, we camped in the van right next to
Skogafoss, one of many fabulous waterfalls. Our second night, we camped high above the beach near Stafafell. The third night out, we visited Krafla and stayed right in the midst of a lava field in a volcanically active area. Our forth night was an exciting one at that. We set up camp, south of Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city. There was a custom car festival in town and it was an absolute zoo so we decided to press on down the road. We scoped out one of the picinic areas along the road, had dinner and set up camp. There were multiple carloads of youngsters heading to Akureyri for the festival and they used this rest stop for a toilet break. Shortly after laying down, we heard a car pull up with the music cranked. We heard some voices then someone knocked on the window and attempted to open the van. I jumped to the roof then looked out the window. Outside was a drunken teenager looking at me and seductively sticking out her tongue. She was saying something in Icelandic, but I yelled at her to get the hell away. As I was fixing to jump out of the
Water Closet (toilet) on the streets of Reykjavik. This is a pay toilet.
van, her friends called her back to the car and they took off down the road. OK, so for those of you who may be worried, crime in Iceland is almost nonexistent. I never felt in danger, but was shocked about what this young wacko was doing. Nonetheless, we fired up the van and drove about another hour south so we would not have to deal with this type of excitement again. We found another picnic stop down the road and got a good night’s sleep.
I am choosing not to give you a blow-by-blow account of everything we have seen in the last week, but we are posting some photos showcasing some of the highlights and magic. I will tell you that we have never seen such magnificent sights anywhere in the world. Those items listed in the introduction are what we have seen in the short time we have been here.
I will share with you that prior to our arrival here, Lynne and conducted a lot of research on the internet and through multiple guidebooks. All of this research was great to help us understand what was available. One thing I have experienced is that
there are many hidden jewels in this country that are not listed in any guidebooks or the guidebooks contain outdated information. I’m not knocking guidebooks because they are a valuable source of information and we will continue to use them throughout this journey. The most valuable sources of information have been from other travelers and the locals. Other travelers have pointed out key tips on saving money and sights they have found by chance. The locals have given us tips on hidden jewels. For example, two of the guidebooks talked about a geothermal pool located in a cave that was unsuitable for bathing because of excess temperature. After talking with a local from a nearby campground she informed me that the water temperature soared after an earthquake years ago, but the temperature had come down to a reasonable level. She said the temperature was about 44 Celsius. Yes this was hot, but it was still manageable. I found the cave and went for a natural dip. It was awesome and I would have missed the opportunity if I put 100 percent stock in the guidebooks.
Driving in Iceland is a little unique. Some folks had warned us that the
roads were narrow and dangerous. Sure there are areas that are narrow, but these are no different than a mountain gravel road in America. Many of the bridges are narrow and only have room for one vehicle. The vehicle arriving first has the right of way. You just pay attention to the road ahead of you. Some of the mountain roads have been washed out and are impassible. This takes a great amount of attention because the washouts appear with little or no warning. Another hazard of driving is the abundance of free roaming sheep—they are everywhere and I have had to slam on the breaks when on decided to dart across the road at the last second. I quickly learned that if I honked the horn as I approached, they typically scurried away from the road.
Iceland is extremely expensive. Fuel is sold by the liter, but a gallon of diesel fuel cost $9.22 per gallon. We have completely busted our budget for this length of the trip, but it has been worth every penny so far. Each day we are getting wiser on how to squeeze every penny. For two nights, we picked up disposable BBQ grills
and cooked hamburgers. This turned out to be a very economical meal choice. We are stopping at the major grocery stores along the way to avoid the high prices of stores like the 10-11 stores where prices can sometime be almost doubled.
Let me give you a quick lesson about names of Icelandic towns and villages. Many of the town names begin with the region or area name followed by a name to describe that specify location. Sometimes it is a gusing game on the first part, but the ending typically describes the city. For example; Vik means inlet. Just as in Reykjavik or Husavik; both of these are locate on inlets. Other examples are:
Borg—City or Crag
Fell—mountain or hill
This will give you the idea.
Tomorrow, we venture out on part two of our excursion. We return to Rekjavik on Wednesday and will depart for London on Friday. We will update this as soon as we can, but getting access is more challenging than I originally thought.
Enjoy and Happy Father’s Day to all of you Fathers out there. Thanks for the Father’s Day greeting
Sharing the Road
Sharing the road with Sheep.
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As always, please feel free to send us a comment.
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