Amy, Nicole & Sonny
Like all things in this world, Iceland, I would imagine, is a place that not everyone would find awe inspiring. We, however, did. Here's the best we can do in words and photos to describe an experience that was indescribable.
We flew into Keflavik airport on 4 May, 2006, greeted by friends - Sonny & Nichole - who had arrived the day before us. Our capacity flight from Sanford to Iceland was a long and cramped seven hours and we were able to snatch about two hours of sleep over the duration. Despite the 6AM local time and accumulated exhaustion, there was a rush of exhilaration when the wheels hit the tarmac. We were told it would be like flying over the surface of the moon and while neither one of us can attest to that it was a completely foreign environment. We followed some travel advice and resisted the urge to sleep, immediately going onto the locals schedule. For anyone interested, to avoid jet lag, get onto the local time zone of wherever it is your flying into - if you arrive at at 6AM stay up all day and go to bed that night, if you're getting in
late at night, hit the sack as soon as you get settled in. We never experienced any jet lag as a result of doing just this.
Our first five hours were spent switching out rental cars and wading through the bureaucratic redtape involved with our lodging. Sonny is in the US Navy and Nichole will be entering after graduation, so they were able toget permission for us to stay on base with them, saving us quite a bit of cash considering Iceland is ranked the second most expensive country in the world, only after Japan.
We were able to explore our surroundings a bit, going into Keflavik to check out the harbor and landscape. At various points we encountered pieces of sculpture crafted out of metal or the rocks themselves. Not wanting to push ourselves too much the first day we grabbed a late lunch and headed out for the Blue Lagoon. All of Iceland is a hotbed of volcanic and geothermal activity. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal, mineral, seawater pool that stays around 100 degrees F (37 degrees C) year round. Its waters are said to have curative and restorative powers and while you are swimming
in the milky blue water surrounded by black lava rock, a light rain, stiff wind and air temp in the forties, it is an easy thing to believe. The entire lagoon is a spa and Amy was able to get a massage that was done in the water as she floated. We were there all afternoon and into the evening but sunset didn't come until nearly half past ten on that first day and not long after the sun went down we were dead asleep.
The next day we were up early to do our own driving tour of what is known as The Golden Circle. The simplified description of the circle is that it is a roundabout tour of some of the most breathtaking, unspoiled scenery and natural wonders that can be seen in the southwest of Iceland. The long version is something like this. We drove north along the outer edges of Reykjavik(more on this city laty) to the small village of Mosfellsbaer where the Alafoss wool factory is located. This was the only time we ever encountered a single person who did not speak English (A quick joke--If you speak three languages you are trilingual, if
you speak two you are bilingual, and if you speak one you are American). Amy bought an Icelandic woolen hat and scarf which was a particularly prescient decision for our day ahead.
We continued on toward the Geysir taking pictures the whole way. For every photo we have posted, there are ten more of landscape we have resisted placing on here. The directions we obtained for the trip said was a shortcut but we were warned not to attempt it until at least June as the road was completely unpassable and dangerous. I must say in our defense that the roads outside of the major towns are alternatingly paved and unpaved stretches of, at the most, two lanes, and the map we had been given was unreadable (see photo). The roads are not marked in the way we are accustomed to in the States and as we drove onto what seemed to be just another unpaved portion of the highway we were supposed to take, it became increasingly apparent that we were instead on the impassable shortcut in our rented Toyota Corroll. Obviously we made it through alright though it was doubtful for awhile. We finally connected up to
Keflavik metal sculpture on shore
the road leading toward Geysir, with only the car a bit worse for wear.
At some point it became overcast and a sporadic light rain started up. As we drove towards our destination the fields were steaming from fissures and hot springs and we could see the Geysir erupt even before we got out f the car. There are two large geysirs here though we were not able to see the more impressive of the two. It goes off rarely but fortunately, the second, erupts fairly frequently and was an impressive display by our standards. We took a small tourist break to wrestle with a troll (see photo) before driving on to Gullfoss.
In Icelandic foss means waterfall and Gullfoss is the golden waterfall. When we arrived we parked and descended toward the canyon that Gullfoss empties into and walked along a ridge toward the top of the falls. It was an impressive display of nature and even more exhilarating since there was only a thin rope at knee level as the only warning to safety. At the head of the falls there is absolutely nothing between you and the power of Gullfoss. We were cold and wet
from rain and the mist of the falls by the time we made it back up to the cafe where we had the best mug of hot chocolate either one of us has ever had. After warming up a bit and contemplating what we had just seen, we headed out for our last sight, Kerid, a large crater lake of extraordinarily blue water formed by volcanic activity.
We got home in time to have dinner and call some friends who had been out in Reykjavik the night before. She and her boyfriend gave us some club recommendations and we went into the city to check out the local nightlife. There are only around 300,000 people in Iceland and about 225,000 of them live in Reykjavik. We were able to find the area of town we were looking for with minor difficulty, parking the car and joining the crowds of people walking around the streets. In Iceland there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving. You cannot drive if you have anything at all alcoholic to drink. Like the rest of our trip there were an incredible number of people walking and riding bicycles. We found a club and Amy
had one ten dollar beer (this was the cheap one) and we spent the rest of the night dancing and people watching. In Reykjavik, a lot of clubs don't open until after 11PM. On the weekends, if you have the money, there is an energetic and hip nightlife. Being poor we got home early by Icelandic standards about 2 or 3AM and tried to catch a few hours sleep before our last day.
On our last full day we were up early to drive the few hours north to Snaefellsjokull glacier (jokull being glacier in Icelandic). Again we were amazed at the absolutely gorgeous countryside we drove through on our way up. We finally reached the glacier and paused briefly at the apparent warning sign (see pic) but continued on after having no idea what the Icelandic words meant. And thus, we attempted to drive our previously mentioned rented Toyota Corolla up an unpaved, rocky, narrow mountain road. We made it a few kilometers before we finally got stuck in the mud (see pics). To make a long story short we never made it to the glacier itself for fear of either destroying the car or death. Still, we
Keflavik rock "sculptures" you see everywhere in Iceland
had a great time as Sonny had never seen snow before so he and Nichole were throwing snowballs, making snow angels and trying to use the car mat as a sled. The wind was fierce but no matter where we looked the view was breathtaking. Looking out at the Atlantic Ocean toward the arctic was incredible and it was hard to leave.
That evening we spent exploring Reykjavik and wishing we had more time to spend in Iceland. After dinner we went back home to pack and woke up early the next morning to catch our flight to Copenhagen where we began the next part of our journey. We'll post our travel blog on Sweden and Denmark soon.
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