Things I learned from camping in Iceland

Here are some random tips and mumblings we learned from our time in Iceland…enjoy!

Take everything you can from the free from the sections at a campsite – food, fuel, paper products they are all usually there

Doritos ‘Cool Ranch’ are called ‘American Cool’ although the flavor isn’t as strong (or I just haven’t had Cool Ranch in years)

Tea is your very best friend and I have never consumed more than during this trip

You can easily spot a camper v. a hotel/guesthouse occupant at any tourist site. One will look perfectly showered and wear maybe one layer with a jacket while the other is bundled up with multiple layers and the beanie and hood stay firmly on

Local swimming pools are a godsend, with the varying degrees of hot pots and clean showers they are a lifesaver, plus all have waterslides, score! Oh and they cost about 5 USD and you get the same geo-thermal waters that other tourist spots charge way more for. And the biggest plus, they have hair dryers or adjustable body dryers.

At all the pools we went to the drinking fountains (or bubblers for the Midwest folk) never shut off, I guess they don’t have to worry about droughts here.

People who bike around the Island are just plain crazy. Between the steep hills, the wind and the rain you have to be out of your mind. (And remember this is coming from the girl who runs long distances, sold almost everything to travel and has camped in more places in the last 10 months than in the last 30 years)

As you near the end of your trip you other campers will ask you how was your time, and you will respond with an ‘I survived’ and you will both nod and completely understand that statement, maybe only those that biked around will understand it even more.

Everything is so damn expensive, shop at Bonus stores to save a few dollars and try to get crafty with planning your meals. For meat eaters, there is no such thing as small portions so if you don’t have a fridge/ice chest you will spend more and have to throw food out, so you will probably be like us and survive on eggs and pasta.

Some tent campers/backpackers will use the common areas as their own home when it is really cold, rainy or windy or all of the above together. If there is no common area, bathrooms are also places to call home and have your meals. Ewww!

Sweets are really good here and for a nice dessert, I always looked forward to my evening Speltvöfflur m/hunangi

Kids here are pretty damn tough, rain and wind, it doesn’t matter they will still be out playing and probably in a pair of shorts

Exploring Reykjavik

2 September 2014

While I have enjoyed our time here in Iceland, it has no doubt been one of the hardest places to travel for me. I have very mixed emotions as the scenery was so spectacular and the people very friendly that I feel a bit bad wanting to leave so much. But camping and cold weather for a few weeks I feel the need to move on and defrost. Although oddly enough today I was walking around the campsite in a tank top and leggings (but I knew I would be getting warm with the car heater!)

We saved our last day for exploring the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. We arrived downtown in the late morning and soon started exploring the area. Our first stop was at the uniquely designed local church, Hallgrimkirka. It’s hard to describe the church so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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We then wandered along the main street of downtown Reykjavik popping into shops along the way and still suffering from sticker shock. It was then time for lunch at we grabbed our first Icelandic hot dog at Baerns Beztu, made with both lamb and beef before taking a peek at the Harpa building.

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Iceland’s largest building

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After walking around for a while we decided to make our way to a coffee shop and relax for a while so we stopped in at Reykjavik Roasters for our second cup of coffee in 14 days, whew! The weather was being its normal self raining on and off throughout our time in the shop. We took advantage of one of the breaks and headed back up the hill for our next adventure.

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We had heard the local cemetery was a cool place to check out, but we could not find an open gate so we just could peer thru. With so much bright green moss, it did have a beautiful feel.

With the temps now reaching a hot 9 degrees Celsius we thought we should head to the local swimming pool, Laugardalur, to relax before our flight. The light rain and hot pots were a nice way to end our trip. And there were a few unique features at this pool too. First the most amazing, the waterslide had a few different lighting features, plus you’re essentially going down a waterslide into a giant hot tub, American kids are really missing out. And second they had a hot pot with Atlantic sea water that was piped in from a borehole just down in the harbor. I would highly recommend hanging out at the local pools over the tourist lagoons. At the end of the day they are both geo-thermal waters but one is in a pool vs. being outside in a ‘lagoon’ and for two people you save about $100 by going to the local pool.

After fully relaxing at the pool we made our way back downtown to grab a quick dinner before driving the hour out to the airport to catch our flight to Italy.

Today’s Travel: Grindavik to Reykjavik along the 43 to the 41 to the 40 then back to airport along the 40

Accommodations: AirBerlin AB3929. Airplane sleep is still the worst

Today I learned, volcanic rock is very porous

1 September 2014

On our last full day in Iceland we didn’t have much on the agenda other than driving out to the nearby Raufarhólshellir lava tube so after a relaxing morning hoping for the rain to stop, we hopped in the car and hit the road. As we drove out to the cave we passed thru more lava fields. Now after 13 days of driving thru so many lava fields you might think they would all be the same, but this could not be further from the truth. Each field had its own unique traits and all were beautiful to look. Although today with the rain and fog visibility wasn’t the best. After about 45 minutes of driving we pulled up to the lava tube strapped on our headlamps and were climbing down the entrance.

You would think getting underground would result in the rain no longer getting you wet, but with volcanic rock above our heads, we learned that the rain drops while not as frequent end up accumulating and result in large drops falling on your head. Plus there were multiple sections of giant holes where the lava tube had collapsed so the rain could not be avoided despite all of our attempts to try to get out of it.

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We had also planned on trying to get up to visit the Kerið crater, but it wasn’t meant to be. After wandering in the rain for just a short while today there was no way I was going back outside.

A celebratory cheers on our last night. "To surviving Iceland"

A celebratory cheers on our last night. “To surviving Iceland!” Oh yeah…and a six pack here costs about $25.

Today’s Travel: Grindavik to the Raufarhólshellir lava tube via the 427 to the 38 to the 39

Accommodations: Grindavik Campsite

On the tourist route

31 August 2014

Now that we’re back within a short drive of Reykjavik we are fully surrounded by tourists again. It’s amazing how much of this country is entirely empty of people and then at a few designated spots you are surrounded by tourists. Our morning stop took us to Geysir, where the dark black clouds added a nice contrast to the landscape and for a little while the patch of blue skies and sunshine warmed my back, ah a short respite from the wind and rain. I don’t think I have ever appreciated the sun more.

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Geysir

Then it was off to Gullfoss, the waterfall more power full than the Niagara Falls (according to the placard) and on this windy day, when I had to hold on to tight to the car door and almost saw a small child get blown over by the wind, it seemed even more intense.

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From Gullfoss we made our way to the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths where we stopped in just long enough to laugh at the prices. 3200 krona to sit in a hot pot by a lake outside?!?! Seriously, I can understand tourist pricing but that was just too much for us. There was also apparently some good ice cream to be had in Laugarvatn, but with the wind and rain Adam took a pass.

So we got back on the road to Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir). At this national park you can see the rift in the earth’s crust from where the North American and European continental plates are slowly drifting apart. We wish we could have explored the area more, but with the pretty heavy rain we decided we’d rather take a quick look and stay somewhat dry then get soaked and be cold for the rest of the day.

In between the two  plates

In between the two plates

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Full town name is Kirkubjark

Full town name is kirkjubæjarklaustur…$10 to anyone who can pronounce that

Since we still wanted to warm up from this afternoon’s rain/wind storm we made our way to a local swimming pool just outside of Reykjavik called, árbæjarlaug. We saw the exit for Arbaer off the highway and once in the small neighborhood we stopped at the gas station, which is closed on Sunday’s before making it to the video store (I think) to ask for directions. The teen behind the register then proceed to give the most vague, but easy for me to understand. He basically drew with his hands on an imaginary road in the air the route to take. While I got back in the car to describe to Adam what had happened and that I think I know where we are going he just started to laugh and said, ‘well now you know how it is to get directions from you.’ But I got us there no problem, however even with city signs at both ends of the block with arrows towards the pool, there was no specific sign tell you to drive down the long driveway at the curve in the road behind the soccer field to the actual pool. Thanks again signs in Iceland for getting 80% there and then hoping we would just figure the rest of it out.

And in other great news, now that my toes warmed up and I can feel them I realized I didn’t break my toe when I stubbed it at Fjallsárlón, but jammed my nail into the side of my toe and created a painful blister. Once I released the pressure from the blister my toes were back to feeling normal (and maybe wearing 3 pairs of socks then putting on shoes isn’t the best for a sore toe).

Today’s Travel: Uthlio to Grindavik via highway 37 to Laugarvatn across the 365 to the 36 to Þingvellir back on the 36 to Reykjavik to the 1 with a stop in Arbaer then on the 1 to the 41 down the 43

Accommodations: Grindavik Campsite. Hands down the best campsite in Iceland, if every site was just like this one, camping here would have been much easier. This had a large, new, clean and most importantly warm kitchen/dining area. More bathrooms and showers than I have seen at the last three sites combined, hot warm from all the facets and clean, did I mention the place was clean?!?! Oh and for anyone just starting out on their camping adventure this is the place to stop and load up on free stuff since this is last camping spot for many during their time here.

Things that don’t fly properly

30 August 2014

Are you wondering what they are? Well they are puffins and planes that make a harsh landing.

With lots of places to see on the agenda today, even with the rain we decided to hit the road early in morning. Vik is the southernmost point on the island making it the rainiest, so I guess this is the norm. We did a quick back track from town to Hjörleifshöfði, however with the rain, fog and low clouds we didn’t see much. But we made it to the small lot looked out the window and realized we weren’t going to see much and there was no point in getting wet to see what we could also see from the car.

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From there we drove the few kms back to Vik and made our way to Reynisdrangar, or the Three Trolls, are great big black basalt sea stacks on a beach just west of Vik. According to legend, there were 3 trolls who tried to pull a ship to shore, but took so long they were caught by the sunrise and turned into the 3 rocks you see today. So of course we had to get a closer look and there was no better place than Dyrhólaey.

We drove back thru town for a quick stop for some pictures at the local church in Vik before making our way to Dyrhólaey.

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While we had heard that the puffins had left the east fjord area for the year and that this was also a spot where puffins nested, we didn’t have much hope that we would see them. But as we got out of the car and looked to the cliff out in the distance we could see that there were lots of birds that decided to call this place home. Once close enough we could see that these were puffins. And in that moment of excitement, a large wave decided it was a good time to roll up on shore and while I got out of the way Adam was way to enamored to noticed the shrills and people running by so he got a free shoe cleaning. The puffins were beyond hilarious to watch as they look like they have no business attempting to fly. It looks as if when they’re flying all that is running through their heads as they’re tirelessy flapping their wings with their feet dangling below them is “oh god…I’m flying, I’m really flying…I hope I don’t crash, how am I flying?” Seriously if you haven’t seen a video of them before, they’re highly entertaining.

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Karma for laughing at Adam when he got his feet wet

Karma for laughing at Adam when he got his feet wet

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The night before we had overheard to fellow campers talk about their night sleeping next to a plane crash site. This reminded Adam that he had wanted to check this out so with a quick tripadvisor search we found some good directions on how to get to this site. It is just off highway 1 after the 222 when coming from Vik and you will see a farm gate and a sign telling you the road is for 4×4 only. But our camper did just fine; along with few other non 4×4 cars we saw make the journey down lava rock beach. We did see one car that followed the rules and as we got to the site we saw them start their journey back to their car. As we were pulling back out on to the main road there were just a few meters from their car. And as per usual we spent plenty of time there taking pictures. The plane is an old US Navy C-47 that crash landed (everyone survived) back on the beach in 1974 and after the Navy came in and removed the vital parts it was left to the elements. The end result is a stunning sight as the gray metal starkly stands out against the black sand beach.

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Next up on our itinerary was a visit to Skógafoss. This massive waterfall doesn’t appear to be that large from off in the distance but as you approach in the spray from the crashing water reaches out a good 100 meters which along with getting everything in the surrounding area wet creates some pretty rainbows when the sun is shining.

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We then made an attempt to find one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, Seljavallalaug. Pools here are a pretty big deal and since we love going to them so much we thought we should find the first one. We knew it was in the Seljavellir and when we found a swimming pool we thought we had found it. However the pool we found looked like it had closed years ago. Plus at that point we had both forgotten that finding this pool required a slight hike off road across a few creeks and thru rocks, but with the names of places so damn hard to say it is easy to forget when you are at a spot all the tricks and hidden paths to make your way to the actual place you want to be. Next time I will have to learn the language.

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We then made our way to what has to be one of the coolest waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. What makes this waterfall so unique is that you get to walk to the side and then behind the waterfall.

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While Adam made a second loop around the waterfall to capture more photos I headed back to the car as my injured toe was in pain especially after I stubbed it against a rock. And as someone who hates to take advil, I had already taken the daily limit.

We tried to find Gljúfrabúi, another waterfall we had heard about but after a few searches on local maps, we gave up on our search and were back on the road to find our campsite for the evening.

Today’s Travel: Vik to Uthlio via highway 1 (with a stop in Hella for groceries, yes it might not be a word, but it is a place) up the 30 with a stop at the Brautarholt campsite that was just too rustic so we continue on up the road and somehow missed the cut thru so we hopped on the 349 then down the 35 to the 37

Accommodations: Uthlio Campsite. Well we passed by one rustic campsite to stay at another

More glaciers, glacier lagoons and mossy lava fields

29 August 2014

Today we learned that no one is out on the roads in the morning. We packed up at 7:30 and arrived at Jökulsárlón at 8:15 and along the way we encountered all of two cars, but lots of sheep in the road. Apparently they have learned that most Icelanders and most campers aren’t early risers so they use this time to wander and cross the roads. Just a few kilometers past our campsite we came face to face with a group of about 8 out on a leisurely stroll across a small bridge. Once they realized we were coming their way one group started running towards us, crapping along the way, and for a spilt second one looked like he was about to jump off the bridge while the “smarter” ones just ran back to where they came from.

Arriving at Jökulsárlón just after 8 meant we had almost the entire place to ourselves; there were about 6 other people there when we wandered down to the shoreline. It was so peaceful to just look out at the pieces of glacier ice floating out to the sea and the glacier in the background extending beyond where we could see. This glacier is just utterly massive. As we were enjoying this quiet spot, the silence would occasionally be broken as chunks of ice broke off with a loud creek then splash.

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By the time we left the tourists with the helicopter drones were out (oh, how I hope they regulate these as I will now have to wait even longer for people and drones to get out of the perfect shot), and the peaceful serenity we had experienced when we first arrived was long gone. As we were about to get in our car to leave, we noticed two guys who were stripping down to their bathing suits. We of course stopped what we were doing to see what craziness was about to transpire. We walked up right as they were recording their ice bucket challenge and were calling out their friends that they were nominating. With the formalities taken care of they soon took off jogging towards the water and dove into the freezing glacial lagoon.

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They managed to swim out about 25 feet to an iceberg then made their way back to shore with teeth chattering from the cold. All we have to say is that to anyone who thinks they’ve seen an impressive ice bucket challenge I would say this one tops them all.

After the crowds came to Jökulsárlón we made our way a few kms down the road to head to another glacial lagoon Fjallsárlón. While Jökulsárlón gets all the fame, Fjallsárlón was even more spectactular. The lack of crowds creates a peaceful atmosphere and with the water not flowing quickly out to see the lagoon appears to be at a perfect standstill which creates amazing reflections of the icebergs and surrounding mountains.

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Boots with the fur

Boots with the fur

While at Fjallsárlón I did manage to stub my toe badly on a rock as we were walking around the lagoon. Here’s to hoping I didn’t break anything.

As we traveled further along the road the landscape changed once again and just when I thought there were no more glaciers one would be just around the corner. Although these ones were further back from the road and didn’t quite make it down to the valley floor. Also, at one point the surrounding lava fields took on a whole new dynamic, they looked like small mounds with perfect points at the top, someone in the car may have commented that we are now going thru the boobie fields.

As were we driving a little further down the road we saw a group of cars pulled over at a driveway so we decided to stop and see what the attraction was. We walked up the driveway and soon encountered a small grouping of old turf houses and a church.

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We soon passed by a large rock formation in the near distance that we had to check out so we made a quick U-turn to get a better view. Orrustuholl was a large rock plateau jutting out of the surrounding mossy covered lava field. It made for a nice quick hike as we walked out through the streams to get up closer to the formation.

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As we approached the town of Vik where we were staying for the evening, the scenery became miles and miles of mossy bright green lava fields. At that point I was toasty warm and took a quick nap and was woken up once we arrived in town. With such a busy day already completed and a sideways drizzle coming down we spent the afternoon cooped up in the campground common room trying to stay warm.

Today’s Travel: Lambleiksstadi to Vik via the 1 with a few glacier stops along the way

Accommodations: Vik Campsite. The campsite itself wasn’t crowded but the common room was popular with backpackers stopping in to make meals before they hit the road again. With the rain and fog the mountains and ocean in the distance weren’t really visible and with all the rain the campgrounds were very soggy. And for the first time there were large bathroom facilities with three showers and six toilets.

We are in glacier country now

28 August 2014

We figured a great way to start the day would be to hang out in the Sundlaug (aka swimming pool) and soak in the hot pots (aka hot tub with thermal waters) so we drove into Eskifjordur (the next town over) to start our morning off right. Really when it is so cold out while camping there is no better way to regain feeling in your fingers and toes. After our nice soak and taking a few laps, we were on the road for a long day of travel (about 260km).

We decided not to drive along the coast so we headed back toward Reydarfjordur and took the tunnel road. Thankfully this tunnel road was two lanes and not nearly as creepy as the one outside of Olafsfjordur. As we saw the light at the end of the tunnel we made it to the next fjord. The mountain side had be cut out in the same slanted patterns as the one prior but here the fog was really starting to roll in.  Driving just a few more kilometers down the road the scenery changed again and were surrounded by mountain tops that just shot up out of the coastline and high above the cloud line. As the fog and clouds danced around the tops we were able to catch a glimpse here and there of the peaks that had the sharpest points. For most of the drive we couldn’t see the tops but it didn’t take away from the massive scale.

Iceland Fog

Driving along the main highway we noticed a group of cars had pulled over and just next to them was a group of rams. This was our first sight of rams with some really large horns so we too had to join the group and pull over for some pictures as well.

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Within a few minutes the others had driven off and it was just the two of us and one ram as his three buddies decided the food was better a few meters away. And this ram was one chatty Cathy. He kept ‘baa-ing’ away so we decided it would be fun to talk back and every time we stopped he started again like he thought we were really having a conversation it was hilarious and we could not stop laughing.

Talking with Sheep from Amy Hicks on Vimeo.

Soon enough another traveler came over and I am sure she heard us as she approached. So she tried to ‘baaa’ at him so he would look up and she could snap a picture, but clearly this ram wasn’t buying it. And as we walked off laughing we giggled about how the other lady didn’t own her ram speech. She was just doing it half assed and he could tell.

Back in the car and on the road for another long stretch we stopped for cake and coffee in Djúpivogur at a cute little café in a red house.

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We had heard about it from another traveler and after being on the road for awhile it was nice place to stop. But our budget took a hit as it set us back $13. Having a splurge here isn’t for the budget conscious.

Along this coastal route we once again found ourselves making another stop along side the road, this time to check out the black sand beach. I of course tried to do some cartwheels on the beach, but as soon as my hands landed in the sand they immediately sunk and inch or two and I completed the worst cartwheel of my life and my wrists weren’t too happy. And with the road nearly empty it was also a good time to take some shots inspired by postcards we had seen from the center of the road.

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We then found ourselves traveling thru another tunnel and this time we were greeted by a series of glaciers; three to be exact. And just past the tunnel there was another black sand beach that almost created a little jetty, so of course we had to make a stop.

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As we got out of the car a group of sheep who cautiously went by trying to pretend like they weren’t even there. And maybe it was due to the long drive, our desire to always act like a kid or the fact that they were trying to move by without being noticed that we decided to chase them. It really was Adam’s idea as I didn’t want to freak one out and have it come after me, but after he chased them unharmed I got in on the fun. And of course, Adam being the better photographer than me he was able to capture a series of shots to create a fun gif of me.

Chasing Sheep

We wanted to make a stop in the town of Hofn to grab some groceries, but stopped traffic and flashing blue lights in the distance let us know there was a big accident so we turned around and started our way to the campsite. We were hoping to break up the monotony of our all pasta all the time dinners. Another night, another boring pasta dish; it is the thought that in just a week we will be having marvelous meals in Italy that makes these camping meals bearable.

As we drove further along the valley just as you would lose the view of the one of two glaciers looking out the passenger window, two more just pop into view. There were so many times that I simply did not know where to look.

Once we got settled into the campground and since it was still light out and there was a glacier in our backyard, about 10km away, we could not resist getting close. We hopped back in the car to Flaajokull (who they hell would walk in this cold, this late?!?!?) down the bumpy gravel road about 8km before making the short walk up to the glacier. We didn’t walk all the way up to the glacier itself as it was one of those it looks about five minutes but in 25 minutes you would still be making your way there.

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Cooking our boring pasta dish

Cooking our boring pasta dish

Today’s Travel: Reydarfjordur to Lambleiksstadi via the 92 (up the 92 to the pool) to the 96 to the 1.

Accommodations: Lambhus Campsite. Out in the middle of nowhere with a view of three glaciers out in the distance this has to be the most quintessential Icelandic campsite. The facilities are just enough to get you buy and of course since we aren’t near thermal pools the showers are paid.

Northern Lights

27 August 2014

Since we are in fjord land and having no real plans we decided we should go check out the fjord just behind the ridge. This turned into a three hour tour along the 953 looking out at the Mjoifjorour. Now I thought we had seen lots of waterfalls in the past few days but this fjord takes the top prize. At first we were stopping every few meters and soon realized that this drive would take forever if we kept up this pace.

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Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

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The end of the fjord

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As we drove back out the fjord, we thought it would be fun to just start snapping away at as many waterfalls that we could that weren’t too far in the distance. And at this point we were getting lazy too, so I would just roll down the window and snap away.

After three hours on a dirt road, with some very bumpy patches, I was glad I was wearing a sports bra and to be back on a paved road. That and we could be out of the car for awhile and Adam’s deafening sneezes would no longer be making me lose my hearing. It was a big step today as he finally admitted he had a cold. After waking up on our third day not feeling well, he has been trying to tell me it is not a cold just his body adjusting to the cold weather. The moral of the story here is that cold weather can give you a cold, we always thought that wasn’t the case but now we know it can happen.

While making dinner we started chatting it up with a fellow camper. Of course the topic lead to the Northern Lights and how two guys she met the night prior set alarms to wake up four times in the middle of the night to try to catch a glimpse. And of course there was nothing. At that point I stated ‘there should be a camper’s code here, that if you see Northern Lights you should wake the whole campsite.’

Well it was just our luck that we had our little chat that evening, as around 11 we heard a few knocks on our door. We were both in a deep sleep and at first we thought it was someone coming to collect camping fees. But quickly realized we had already paid. It was only a few minutes later well after the knocking stopped that I had remembered our conversation and thought there might be some Northern Lights. So I pulled back the curtain and looked out the front windshield and I didn’t see anything; we were both so cold that we thought it would be better to just stay in our somewhat warm beds. By that point all that movement in the cold woke my tiny bladder and surprisingly Adam’s too since it was so early I knew it would be a restless sleep so we decided to get up. When I opened the van sliding door, coming up from the mountain and going up over the camper was two very faint light green looking bands,  I looked at Adam and said, ‘What is that, is that the milky way?’ to which he quickly responded, ‘no, that is the Northern Lights.’ Holy crap!! That specific band was painted across the entire sky west to east (and the sky here is really never ending). As I stepped out and our eyes adjusted more you could see the lights more clearly. At some points it seemed to separate into two and then rejoin again, just moving back and forth. As the particles swayed back and forth it was like someone was guiding a ribbon thru the air. I quickly ran to the bathroom while Adam set up the camera and when I came back the sky had changed patterns again. It soon became a fun game of look over that ridge and look over there as they constantly were showing up then disappearing. Sometimes they would be so faint that you weren’t sure you were really seeing anything and other times the sky would light up with the bright green reflection.

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I think after all my complaints about the cold; Mother Nature threw me a bone and put on a show with the Northern Lights. While it wasn’t as crazy as I have seen in some pictures there were a few times where there was a long trail across the entire sky. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe it, it was just so damn cool to watch.

Today’s Travel: Seydisfjordur to Reydarfjordur via highway 93 to the 92 (for a quick stop at the Bonus) to the 953 (and back out) to the 92.

Accommodations: Reydarfjordur Campsite. Located just before you enter town at the side of a small waterfall and small pond with lots of ducks, this site was a welcomed change of pace. It was nice to once again be one of six campers. These bathrooms and showers were some of the nicest we have seen and the hot water is free! While community room didn’t have a kitchen, it did have a US style washer and dryer. Yeah for dry clothes while running one cycle!

The most beautiful roads

26 August 2014

With the kindergarten just next door to the campsite and the elementary school across the street we realized that this is a country of night owls. The day was starting just after 9am. But I have to say seeing the group of kindergarteners all bundled up in thick parkas and scarfs going out to play on the hilltop above the campsite in the rocks was beyond adorable. Who needs a jungle gym when you have volcanic rocks?

We were on the road just after 10 and with our handy pamphlet ‘Walking to Drangsnes,’ we easily found the trail start. And for the first time there was point of interest marker at the start too, I guess I need to keep a better eye out for these signs and hope that there are more of them along the way so we don’t always have to back track to find places we want to go. Drangsnes itself was a pretty impressive waterfall that over time has cut a nice narrow canyon that flows out to the sea.

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The hike we walked followed the ridge of the canyon down to the water and it felt nice to get out and stretch our legs again. After walking for about an hour and a half we hopped back in the car and drove along the beautiful cost stopping every now and then to photograph the scenic rock formations located right off the shore.

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After driving along the cost for a we hopped onto Highway 917, which has to win for the craziest road we’ve taken so far. Holy crap the hill climb and descent are crazy, and the views well, just superb! It was like some thought, ‘hey this is a beautiful area, let’s just create a road.’ And when I say road, it is all gravel and many sections very bumpy which made it easy to understand why this road is unpassable in the winter months.

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The way up

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The way down

The way down

At this point we had made it to the northeast side of the island which is known for having some pretty good puffin viewpoints, so after stocking up at the grocery store we stopped in to the information to ask about the puffins. While we read that they leave mid-August we were hoping that maybe a few would leave late or with the world’s ever changing weather patterns that they would still be around. I guess they really are creatures of habit so our trip to Borgarfjordur to see the puffins was scrapped.

At that moment we decided to make our way down to where we were spending the night at Seydisfjordur and see what we could find to do there.

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Along the way we passed by Gufufoss waterfall which makes the cut of the top 10 tallest waterfalls in Iceland, unfortunately the lighting was horrible so we don’t have any good photos. We had also read up on a hike just outside of Seydisfjordur that led to a stunning viewpoint over the fjord. Somehow, even though we were both looking for any sign or turn out, we missed the path to Bjolfur. Once we arrived in Seydisfjordur and looped around one section of town about 5 times before driving to the other side of town to find the information center (I swear we followed the arrow of the main road, but with about three side streets and driving until we were out of ‘town’ we didn’t find it easily). I guess we should have known to make a turn at one point coming from the other side, clearly we need to work on our Icelandic logic. I ran in and asked the older gentleman at the desk where Bjolfur was located. His first response was ‘that is a difficult hike,’ thinking that might scare me off. When I didn’t hesitate, he walked me over to a map and in giving me a once over and by his look I think was skeptical of my hiking abilities. Once he confirmed that I had a car, he then pointed out that just past the monument before the second ridge (yeah, descriptions given in landmarks is how I prefer directions, although ridges and rivers usually aren’t my type of markers, I am used to turn at the Taco Bell) there was a turn off and we should park there and hike to the outlook. While the map I picked up at the last visitors center said it was 1 hour, he told me it was 2 hours one way. Ah, different stories from different people, it must be the Icelandic way. But the old man, looked like he knew what he was talking about so I trusted his advice. I informed Adam of this and we realized hiking Bjolfur was another plan that we were going to have to scratch.

We set up our camp, which for the first time was at a very crowded campsite, and we were off to explore the small town.

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As we wandered around we noticed out in the distance a couple walking down from a waterfall. With all of our other adventurous plans scrapped for the day a nice walk sounded nice. We cut thru a lot and found that this was an actual trail, for at least most of the way up. Once the maintained portion ended we continued on all the way to the bottom of the falls where we found a rainbow with a beginning and end.

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I didn’t dare jump into the falls to find that pot of gold, maybe next time! There were plenty of cute little shops along the way and one where Adam picked up a new beanie from a group of ladies just chatting and knitting away. Fun fact, as part of their schooling Icelandic kids learn how to knit; so pretty much anyone and everyone here could knit you a sweater, beanie or socks. I am still on the hunt for some socks at a reasonable price and these ladies only had pairs made for giants or small children.

Today’s Travel: Vopnafjordur to Seydisfjordur via highway 917 to the 1 to with a slight detour south on the 92 (the big red dot on the map covered half the roads) to the 94 and down along the 93

Accommodations: Seydisfjordur Campsite. I don’t think campsite locations can get much better. Situated near the water in a valley with two towering mountain tops and more cascading waterfalls that I have ever seen, this site is beautiful. And as far as facilities go, they have a nice kitchen/seating area with a small stove, laundry and they bathroom are big (2 showers and three toilets) for each gender – the largest by far, the only downside was they charged for hot water, but at least it wasn’t thermal water.

We love geo-thermal lands

25 August 2014

After yesterday’s rain and cold temperatures, I am over being cold. If I had the money I probably would have just re-booked my flight to Italy and told Adam I would meet him there on the 3rd. While the country is absolutely beautiful the weather is not for the faint of heart or those who aren’t completely prepared (I think I fall into the latter). I guess it is time to suck it up and get more comfortable with the cold and enjoy.

Our first stop for the morning was a visit to popular (and for good reason) Godafoss Waterfall. This was the first time since Reykjavik that we had encountered what could be considered a large amount of tourists and even then there were only a few dozen people. The waterfall itself was stunning and impressive in the volume of water that crashed down.

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From the waterfall we drove onto the Lake Myvatn area again and stopped at Dimmuborgir which is a giant old lave field where some of the tubes and vents have collapsed into unique formations.

Along the way to Lake Myvatn

Along the way to Lake Myvatn

After we parked the car and started walking up to the entrance, a midge decided he wanted as much carbon dioxide as he could have and dove straight into my mouth hitting the back of my throat, I tried to cough him up, but it just wasn’t going to happen some I had a nice second breakfast.

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The landscape of Dimmuborgir stretches on for what looks like miles so we just explored a small section of the area for about or so before making our way back to our car.

While we didn’t stop at the blue pool in Myvatn (long term travel = trying to be cheap) but we did stop across the road to snap some pictures of the thermal pool there. At 100 celsius this pool was not for swimming, tea maybe if you like sulfur and want to burn yourself in the process, but it made for a cool sight and the sound of the large volume of water flowing out of the steam vent was almost like standing next to a jet engine.

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We then continued along the road to Heverir which is full of bubbling mud pots and pungent smelling sulfur. At this point another carbon dioxide loving midge decided to fly up my nose. At this point I was hoping the winds would pick up so these little pests would go away. I guess my choice is crazy winds or bugs attacking. The landscape at Hverir was laced with all sorts of colors from the buildup of different elements escaping with the thermal steam and made for an visually entertaining if not smelly sight.

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It’s amazing to think that there are only a handful of places on the earth that you can see sights like this and we’ve now seen two between Rotorua, NZ and here. When we get back to the states we’ll have to plan a trip to Yellowstone so we can see all the volcanic activity there as well.

After getting our fill of sulfur we made our way up to Viti Crater. This crater which you can drive right up to has some crazy beautiful thermal waters at the bottom of a small caldera. With Askja is closed this will have to suffice as our crater lake experience.

Geothermal shower anyone?

Geothermal shower anyone?

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On our way out of town we wanted to check out Dettifoss waterfall, but Mother Nature has decided our plans for us and it was not to be. With the pending eruption of Bardarbunga all the areas north of the volcano have been closed.

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There is approx. 150-400 meters of glacial ice sitting above the volcano so once the magma touches ice, well I am sure you passed fourth grade science and can figure out what happens next.

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As we were approaching the town where we’d be spending the night, we saw a sign for Bustarfell with the point of interest sign next to it. Since we didn’t want to miss anything cool and so far those signs have lead us to some good sites, we decided to check it out. The road took us up and over the ridge to another beautiful valley when we thought that maybe the lookout point was a point of interest. However we kept on driving thinking that could not have been the spot. And we were right; Bustarfell was an inn and a museum. You should have seen the looks on our faces, ‘what, we took the longer way just for this crap!’ But the road out was lovely and we got to see the stunning coastline across the way and knew we would have to explore that area on our way out of town. When we got to the campsite we had a good laugh as there was a flyer for Bustarfell, touting that it was one of regions only turf roof homes and had period style furnishings.

In the evening we took a walk around town, which took less than 10 minutes, and the place felt like a ghost town. The shops were closed and outside of the few cars we saw drive by you would have thought no one lived here. We found the local info center which was the front section of the café/restaurant and we picked up lots of great maps and brochures about East Iceland along with some small guides that a local had put together on places to go for hikes. Finally we found a place where there are a few short hour/hour long hikes. It has really been a challenge to find short trails. Most of the trails here are for trekking, ie 3-5 hikes where you can book huts along the way. Or maybe this is a sign that we are moving away from the desolate no man’s land of Iceland to the more populated and well-travelled routes.

Today’s Travel: Heidarbaer to Vopnafjordur with a stop in the Lake Myvatn region. We took the 87 North and looped around the way we came into town to the 85 to the 845 and back on the 1 to Godafoss. It was then back on the 1 where we came in further south on Lake Myvatn up and back down the 863. We were then on the road to the next destination which had us back on the 1, with a quick stop at the 862 to see that the road was closed, to the 85 when a point of interest sign caught our eye and we jumped on the 920 into town.

Accommodations: Vopnafjordur Campsite. We picked this site based on the facilities the campsite guidebook said this place had. However it was all just one big exaggerated truth. While the town itself had the facilities, like a place to buy food, wine, cooking facilities, this campsite just had two toilets, a shower, and three sinks for doing dishes. Although looking across the water at the snowcapped mountains while brushing my teeth, wasn’t too bad.