Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chris' Week In Iceland Part 5

After returning to Reykjavik, we were mostly spent. The next day we compensated for this by sleeping in and spending a relaxing afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, a hot spring spa/resort about 45 minutes south of Reykjavik. Blue Lagoon People Relaxing At the Blue Lagoon
The waters contain a silica based mud which is supposed to be good for your skin. We all gave it a try, some more eagerly than others. ;-) Besides the pools, they also had hot and dry sauna, a walk up bar, and a waterfall. It was relaxing and yet tiring at the same time. :-) By a strange chance of fate, I ran into the photographer Art Wolfe there. He was doing a workshop at the pools outside the resort and seemed surprised when an almost total stranger approached him there. After we got home, we had but a little time for rest because we had an evening whale watching tour set up. The boat company (whose motto is "Meet us, don't eat us!" because tourist driven whale meat consumption is on the rise in Iceland) took us out in the harbor. Amber On the Whale Watch Boat Icelandic Flag
You'd hardly know it was 10 o'clock at night... Icelandic Night
We passed an island with a bunch of summering puffins, which was honestly a little uninspiring after the bird cliffs in the West Fjords. After a while we came across some Minke whales feeding and followed them around for a while. They look mostly like this: Minke Whale
Then we turned around and headed home. We got to sleep as soon as we got in because the next day we had: The Golden Circle Tour! This tour is pretty traditional to do if it's your first time in Iceland. We got on a tour bus around eight in the morning. And they drove us through the interior, past geothermal plumes: Geothermal Plume
Old volcanic craters: Volcanic Crater At Kerið Noelle and Will At Kerið
until eventually we got to our first major stop on the tour: Geysir, from which the word geyser is derived. As you might expect, they have a lot of geothermally fed springs and hotpots and the like: Geysir Pool Hot Spring At Geysir Geyser Plume At Geysir
There was a short lunch and then back on the bus to our next stop, Gullfoss, aka the Golden Falls, probably the most popular waterfall in Iceland. Will At Gullfoss Amber and Noelle At Gullfoss Gullfoss
The last main stop on our trip was Þingvellir (Thingvellir), where Iceland first held its Alþingi (All Thing) or Parliament almost 1100 years ago. For hundreds of years, the Icelanders ruled themselves until they fell under the control of the Norwegian and Danish kings. When they became independent again near the end of World War 2, they met again at Þingvellir to start their new country. Þingvellir is in a large rift valley where the North American and European continental plates are pulling apart, so it is geologically of interest also. Þingvellir River
The valley is sinking away from the plates because not enough magma is filling in between the plates as they pull apart. North American Plate
This is the location where the speakers used to meet and debate: Will, Amber, and Noelle At Þingvellir
This is the Drowning Pool where women convicted of crimes such as witchcraft or adultery were executed by drowning in olden times. Men were beheaded or hanged. Drowning Pool
After a quick stop at a rest area after Þingvellir, we made the long journey back to Reykjavik, dozing in the summer sun.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chris' Week In Iceland Part 4

After driving pretty much all night in the Westfjords, we started to enter territory that looked inhabited (and possessed of hotels). Our first stop was a bit of a bust, although several signs said "Open" we couldn't find anyone there to give us lodging. Morgan called the Hotel Edda, a few miles down the road and they assured us they had a.) rooms and b.) someone there to rent them to us. We rolled into what I believe was Saelingsdal around 1 or 2 in the morning and crashed for a few hours there.

The next morning we continued our drive along the west coast on our way back to Reykjavik. We first drove through a seaside town (aren't they all?) that a lot of pink items around town. The ones that caught my attention and forced me to get Morgan to stop the car were the pink sofa and tv (+ remote) in a small park.

Pink Art?

We passed also through a lot of lava fields, which are everywhere in Iceland. These were covered with moss, as are many of the lava fields. To my surprise it's quite thick and quite soft!

Icelandic Moss Covers Lava Rocks

These buildings were at a museum of fishing history (I think) and the sign said they were the last of the traditional sod covered fishing houses in the area. I believe this was the village of Hellissandur.

Fishing Village Houses

Across the road from the museum was a convenience store that we stopped at before heading out again. By chance, we saw an advertisement for a local lava tube cave. Noelle gets really, really excited about caves. Her enthusiasm (and our lack of agenda) convinced us to stop and see what was up. We get to a small dirt parking lot on the side of the road a few miles down where the people at the convenience store told us to go and there's nothing really there, just a few cars. While we're wondering if this is the right place or not, a van came up with cavers in it to give tours.

So we paid our money and got helmets to go down in the cave:

Into the Caves

The rocks look formed by water, but the flowyness is just pahoehoe lava that's hardened into place.

Inside the Cave

There were a couple ladders down, like this first (7m) one:

Exiting the Cave

The cave has two main galleries and the tour takes about 30-60 minutes.

After we emerged into the now oppressive heat and humidity of the surface (it was about 40 degrees underground), we went down the road to have lunch in one of the national (state?) parks in the shadow ofSnæfellsjökull

Snæfellsjökull

the volcano made famous in Jules Vernes' Journey to the Center of the Earth. There are a couple of stone pillars where we ate, which I have determined are Lóndrangar. The nearby cliffs are steep and impressive.

Troll Head Cliffs

I had thought there was some story about the rocks having to do with a Troll or Troll Head, but I don't see any supporting info on the internet.

Anyway, after lunch we headed back to Reykjavik, without much incident except that a lady in front of us had a flat tire, so we stopped to help her repair it (she didn't have a jack) and to help with traffic. There were also some Icelandic horses in the field nearby. So, horses!

Icelandic Horses

We got into Reykjavik too late to return the car to the rental agency, so after dinner some people decided to go see a movie. I decided I could do better than Transformers 3 and elected to stay home and enjoy the rain behind our apartment and the almost night of midnight.

Rainy Evening In Reykjavik

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chris' Week In Iceland Part 3

The next morning, afternoon really, we piled into the truck and headed out to see the Western Fjords, the area of northwestern Iceland. Morgan was nice enough to drive.

Canonical Backseat View of Morgan While Driving

This was the view from the back seat. :-)

Iceland's countryside was beautiful. There were lupins everywhere,

Seaside Lupins

along with other flowers

Iceland Flowers

rushing waterfalls

Icelandic Falls

and beautiful seaside views

Westfjords!

We had hoped to take a ferry across one of the fjords, but we also wanted to go see the bird cliffs at Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Icealand, which turned out to not be doable in the same day, so we went to Látrabjarg where we saw many puffins up close

Puffin Self Snuggle

Puffin!

Scanning the Fjords

as well as a plethora of razorbills (relatives to the puffin)

Razorbill Glare

Razorbill

The cliffs themselves were quite steep and scary and impressive.

Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs

but that didn't stop us from going right up to the edge:

Morgan Contemplates...?

On the drive back we stopped to take some pictures of the Icelands oldest steel ship, the Garðar BA 64 which was beached by the side of the road for some reason.

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We spent a lot of time driving through fjords as we missed the ferry, much of which I don't have pictures handy at the moment, although we did see an arctic fox, which was pretty cool

Arctic Fox

Arctic Fox #2

We drove on and on for what seemed like forever through the largely empty West Fjords, including an area where they were replacing the road. Finally we found a hotel that was open and had room for the night, so we crashed there.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chris' Week In Iceland Part 2

The next morning we piled into our rented SUV and headed to the northwest part of the island, where the wedding was to be held.

On the Road In Iceland

There were a lot of sheep on the way.

Road Sheep

Icelandic sheep wander the fields for the summer. They're very cute. We traversed a lot of winding roads until eventually we made it to Suðureyri, where Solveig is from, and where the wedding would be held. There was a pre-wedding party that evening, but Noelle and I were too pooped from traveling to attend.

The next day, while some of our group went to the local hot spring fed pool, Will and I climbed up the hillside of the hill that made half of the fjord.

Suðureyri Harbor

It was a tough climb, but we made it up eventually and made it back in time to get cleaned up for the wedding. It was held in a beautiful Lutheran church in town.

The Bride Enters!

Solveig and Vigfus Kiss

Things went perfectly and everyone was happy.

Morgan and Will

Morgan and Amber

Afterwards there was a reception that went until all hours.

Wedding Favors

Wedding Candles

Bride's Bouquet

Wedding Presents

Noelle at the Wedding

We waited at the reception hall for a while until the Solveig and Vigfus drove up.

The Bride and Groom Arrive At the Reception

Another Kiss

They came inside and the reception started in earnest! Some people from our table:

Laura and Haldor

Guðren and Snorri

Will

Amber

The cake was delicious!

Wedding Cake and Cupcakes

Afterwards there was lots of celebrating and storytelling and toasts. I made a friend:

I Make A Friend

Eventually, though, the party had to end and we, exhausted, had to get some sleep, midnight sun, or no midnight sun.

End of the Evening