September 15-16 - Iceland Bound: The
serious planning started back on January 27, 2017 when I created the Facebook group 99s to Iceland. Susan Larson and I talked
about going on this trip with other 99s. I do not even recall now how we got started on the idea but it had been something
on my bucket list for a long, long time.
We had been counting down the days and finally September 15, 2018 arrived.
I drove up to Pembroke Pines the day before to spend the night with Myra to break up the drive from the Keys. Saturday morning
we departed for Fort Pierce to pick up Kim and make our way to Orlando Airport for the direct flight to Reyjkavik.
We all prepared in very
different ways. I was packed, re-pack, re-re-packed, etc. weeks ago. Myra started gathering things then got it all together
in the week leading up to the trip while Kim made a 3 page list and gathered everything the night before and the morning of
departure. But we were all in this together now.
We boarded Iceland Air for the 7 hour flight. I have never been one for sleeping on a flight and the excitement of
finally going to Iceland did not help. We sat together in a row with me at the window. We passed a few clouds leaving Florida
and through the Carolinas - think Tropical Storm Florence - but as it got later the sky cleared. It was already night time
and I tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Perhaps I dozed briefly but not nearly long enough. Soon I found myself gazing out the
window seeing the urban lights below. I checked Foreflight to see we were over PA. Still a long way to go.
As time droned on the urban lights became fewer and farther between and the sky lights became the dominant feature. Stars.
Nothing bit stars. We were out over Labrador Newfoundland and the ground clutter of lights was nil. I started to wonder of
the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights as we approached Iceland. It would be dark; but would it be clear enough.
3 hours to go we were approaching the Labrador Sea. Still stary but Foreflight gave me the hint that maybe our luck for a
clear approach would not hold out.
As the darkness of
the night begrudgingly gave way to the early morning glow, I realized there would be no joy on the lights tonight. We will
wait until we land. Very soon the faint image of land appeared as we descended to the Keflavik Airport. With
lightening speed we were through passport and customs and on our way driving around the peninsula southwest of Reykjavik.
We elected to follow the sea side road after making a breakfast stop at the viking museum.
The coast line was rugged with many lighthouses punctuating our view. This is a volcanic
region and there are many remaining craters and interesting formations lending itself to the name 100 Craters area. We stopped
at a geothermal region for a brief walk before heading to the hotel.
Tonight is a single night in Reykjavik.
We head out to the south east tomorrow for more adventures. Since we had been up for quite a while, we decided to have a nice
sit down dinner and selected Skólakbtú. Kim had the Icelandic lobster and Myra and I had seawolf. The meals
were nothing short of amazing and our waitress, Linda, was a gem. She gave us lots of tips for getting around Iceland, suggested
some yummy food options and watched all of our food allergies and sensitivities so we did not have to discover what an Icelandic
hospital looks like.
As tired as we were, we headed back out on highway 42 south to the dark area to hunt for northern lights. As the
evening got darker, it also cleared so we were optimistic. As optimal as conditions were, there were no lights to be found
and exhaustion got the best of us by 10:30 pm so we packed it in for the night. Tomorrow is another day.
September 17 - Hecic day: What a beautiful start to the day. Clear skies and cool temperatures.
Our only wrinkle seems to be Kim’s right eye. She feels like something is in the eye or it is scratched in the white
so her eye is swollen and uncomfortable. It has been examined by Dr. Terry (like that did a whole lot) and flushed. We will
pack it with ice today and see how it goes. Hopefully there will be a medical clinic along our way in Hella where we plan
to stop tonight.
Fortunately, we did not need the medical clinic. Kim finally got the eye cleared although
the story is not over yet. We started the day at Pingvellir, and ares with great historical significance to the country. This
is where their governance really first began. It is also the location where the Euroasian and North American tectonic plates
are coming apart at the rate of 1mm-18mm per year. We hiked over the the Oxarfoss waterfalls, saw the scenes for the area
of first parliment and say the fissure. In all it was a two hour hike through beautiful scenery to boot.
headed out to Geyser next. Although Geyser seldon erupts - at least not on schedule - a neighboring geysir is quite regular
in its eruptions. Funny though they they are very quick blasts althougth they do happen every 5-10 minutes - just not helpful
for pictures unless you are quick on the shutter. From there we headed to Gullfoss. This is billed as one of the most magnificent
falls in Iceland .... and there is no doubt about that. The water cascading over the fall created a thunderous roar and a
cold blast of wind to go with it. Off in the distance was one of the larger glaciers. In all it was quite breath taking....
but something tells me I will be using that phrase often for this trip.
Our last stop, as it turned out, was to the Secret Lagoon, a hot springs
in Flurdir. Very much off the beaten path, very much private and not so crowded and much lesser well know than the Blue
Lagoon. The atmosphere was very tranquil, the water was heavenly and we we had a really nice chance to relax after the run,
run, run of the day. We grabbed a quick bite to eat as we had planned a sight seeing flught from Bakki Airport. As we made
our way down highway 30 and over to the Ring Road we saw the weather coming in. The rain was coming down in sheets creating
an awesome FULL rainbow! We called the flight company to update them on our time only to hear that the weather was too bad
for them to fly so the mission was scrubbed. We will try a flight at a later time if weather and other conditions permit.
This gave us a chance to check out a local grocery story in Hella where we are spending night 2.
Since we missed
the Northern Lights night one (whether or not they made an appearance is a mystery) we signed up for the "call me if
the lights are o n" call from the hotel in Hella. It is much darker out here as compared to Raykjavik so we have a good shot. The skies are cleared now so our
fingers are crossed again. We still have another 11 nights after this to hope to see the lights.
September 18th - the blizzard: We departed out of Hella after
a really nice full breakfast. We were a bit tired as we received “the call” for the northern lights in the middle
of the night. Of course we, along with all of the other hotel guests, ran out into the cold of night to see the green waves
swell with color then roll across the eastern sky. I am learning from seeing the lights on several occasions that they are
never the same twice. All the better for viewing this spectacular display of nature.
drove along highway 1, the ring road, toward Vik. We stopped at the cliffs and crunched along the black sand beach to the
basalt columns that stood defiantly against the harsh sea “breeze” that buffeted the shore line. I picked up a
small vial of the pebbled black sand. We wanted to go to Vik but our appointment time for snowmobiling on the glacier was
upon us and we had to return to the base camp.
At the base camp we suited up in bright orange snow suits, doned balaclavas and helmets and
boarded an SUV for the bumpy ride up the mountain to the glacier. The ride itself was an adventure. During the summer months
when the snow retreats, they have to drive guests to the glacier. However, after the annuals snows, there is ample snow to
leave from base camp and snow mobile the whole way up. It was slow going for the 30 minute ride over ice, a river, steep terrain
and loose rock but we made it to the glacier area where the snow mobiles were parked. Our guide, Pape, prepared our snow mobiles, gave us some instruction and off we went.
The initial part of the ride was benign and we had lots of chance to look at the vastness
of the glacier and see part of the area where the volcano had spewed in 2010. As we continued farther up the glacier we encountered
light snow and the wind started picking up a bit from the east. We came to our first photo and gathering spot. The snow rate
was picking up and now starting to accumulate on the wind screen. We departed for the next leg.
Almost immediately on departure, the couple who joined
our group tipped over and Kim and Pape had to go fetch them and right the snow mobile. They proceeded a little slower after
that .... or could it have been the wind and snow. By this point the wind was howling; the snow was blowing and falling in
large flakes and visibility was dropping. We could see each other because of the brightly colored suits but distinguishing
anything else was quite difficult. I had to wipe the snow accumulation from the visor on my helmet every couple of minutes.
We got to our turn around
point and stopped for a snowball fight, pictures and a little geology from Pape before heading back down. I was cold standing
there, especially my hands which were now away from the heated handle bars. The snow suits were pretty good at keeping the
wind off but they seemed to leak a bit and I felt wet spots in various places - one being around my turtle neck shirt.
With the blizzard raging -
Pape described that as a typical winter day and here we are in September - it was time to head down. Fortunately about half
way down the blizzard moved on and we were left with a stiff breeze and lots of sun. The weather is ever changing here and, as we say in Florida, if you
do not like the weather just wait 10 minutes. Nothing could be more true here. On the positive side, the brief rains followed
by intense sun makes for some spectacular rainbow opportunities. We have already seen 3 full rainbows and numerous partials
including the rainbow terminus close in front of us. (Note: due to time constraints, we did NOT go look for the pot of gold!)
We had an equally bumpy ride
back to base camp. On the way back Pape mentioned a “bad storm” coming in from a low east of Iceland. I have been
watching the storm warnings and my ears perked up to this news that HE was concerned about the wind and possibly winter conditions.
We finished our adventure all looking like we “had an accident”. The suits leak at the neck and crotch so we were
pretty wet in a few choice spots. I was happy to have a seat heater in the car.
We continued in to Vik for some retail therapy, a
warm building and a supply stop at a local grocery before heading to Hunkubakker Guest house. We arrived close to 6 pm and
the host told us about the canyon a few km up the road. We dashed off to the canyon before our 6:30 dinner reservation. Amazingly
enough, we met the couple from the snowmobile trip there at the canyon!!!
Dinner was another amazing culinary experience. The house specialty was lamb so we all decided
that was the ticket for the night. We were delighted. The lamb was flavorful, not gamey and soooo tender. We ate too much
then headed to our cabin for the night. With overcast conditions we opted to sleep tonight and try for lights another night.
19th- Southeast coast: I awakened to the symphony of sheep and a cool morning (7 degrees C or about 44 degrees
F). Our plan is to spend another day on a glacier hiking with a guide. The winds were already picking up a bit and the flag
at the guesthouse was snapping smartly in the wind. It might be a good day for my rain gear, if nothing else, to be used a
a good wind break. I will fish them out of the suitcase for handy access.
We headed “straight” to the National Park
where the glacier hiking would,take place (names and correct spelling to follow at a later date). I say “straight”
as we are finding that each hour of driving requires at least double the time. The scenery is so picturesque that we seem
to make a stop at every turn. Nestled up against the mountains are small farm houses or colorful villages; waterfalls - both
large and intimate - dot the landscape; sheep are roaming the street sides; terrain is different; vegetation is different;
the ever changing weather is different - all unique and incredibly beautiful. Today was no exception.
What was a bit not so wonderful
was the wind. We converted the 24 m/s into mph for a whopping 53 mph wind. No worries, however, as it died down to 44 mph
by evening. Driving today was a bit wild at times with the car being buffeted in the unprotected area. What really gave us
pause was the bicyclist we passed who was actually canted to the side to compensate for the cross wind!
We arrived at the glacier
hike HQ and were fitted with out crampons and hiking ice ax. A group of 15 of us, lead by guide, Rob, headed off to the glacier.
There was quite a hike to even get to the glacier as it has been in retreat for a number of years, most rapidly after 2010.
We doned our crampons and headed up, single file behind the guide. It was quite a slow pace even though the incline was not
too steep. This was a hike billed as “easy” and it was just that, beautify and leisurely. We passed moss that
grew up on the mountain and the glacier year round. The little paddies were called mice and they did not really plant themselves
but just laid on the ice. We passed crevices, mostly small, but some large enough to be quite dangerous. Fortunately for us,
the winds on the glacier were not bad as we were on the leeward side. It was a bit cool, however.
got to eat glacier ice, drink glacier water and play around with some selfies before entering the ice cave and heading back
down. The views were incredible and the experience of hiking up the side of a glacier for me was almost surreal. We finished
our hike all too soon and continued on our journey. We stopped at the Ice fields where large icebergs had calved off the main
glacier then made our last black sand beach stop before arriving at the Brunholl Guest House.
We heard about some great restaurants in Höfn
so we headed there for another yummy dinner and sunset over the harbor and glaciers. The wind continued to howl. Unpacking
the car was a challenge and I found it nearly impossible to open the guest house door. Hopefully, it will subside a bit tonight
but the receptionist at the guest house suggested we avoid the mountain road tomorrow as it might snow and the winds will
still be quite high. We will take the fjord road and see the lighthouses.
September 20 - Blown Away: We got a late start for the morning
which was unfortunate as we ended up with lot of ground to cover and really cut ourselves a little short. After leaving the Brunnholl Guesthouse we headed back to Hofn to stop at the shops and see the town with a bit more time before heading
out on the Ring Road toward Seydisfjordur for the night. Once again, we were blown away by the scenery: waterfalls, mountains,
fjords, rainbows, rainbows and more rainbows. But we were also blown away by the wind: the highst wind along our path was
28 m/s or 61 mph. Yes, we were driving along the coastline in these tropical storm force winds. At times I was actually steering
sideways to compensate for the crosswind.
Quite uexpectedly, we stopped in the little sea side town of Djupivogur where we saw sculptures of eggs representing
all of the birds of Iceland. The national bird had the largest egg and all others were of equal size. After wandering the
town and picking up a few trinkets we were bakc on the road winding our way through the little towns and fjords. The winds
were howling and buffeting the car at eery opportunity. The scenery was quite different from the south lands where we had
been. Lots of jagged rocks and steep cliffs, landslide areas, wind blown waves and lush flowery meadows gave us quite a view.
And, yes, more water falls!!!
As we turned on to the final highway leading
into Seydisfjordur, we started going up the mountain. I found this a bit odd as this was a sea-side town. The more we climbed,
the colder it got. By the time we reached the top, the snow started falling. We now know why we were advised agains the mountain
pass route. This is the second day we have seen falling snow in September in Iceland. We arrived in Seydisfjordur around 4
pm and had dinner as we had not really had a meal since breakfast. This is billed as the most picturesque town in Iceland.
And I am sure it is. But with the high winds, came rains and low clouds. The wind was blowing the rains sideways .... when
you could see it through the low hangind clouds. The evening cleared a bit and we were able to drive aroun for some photos.
The town is full of colorful houses snuggled up against the mountain side. There are numerous small waterfalls cascading down the side and into the fjord below. Very beautiful
but even more so, I am sure when the sun illuminates the houses.
21 - Winter Wonderland: This is not particularly a theme that I would have wanted for the day but you take what
you get. We knew the strong low was blowing in and had been warned not to take the mountain pass to Seydisfjordur. Check. But that quaint little town sits along the seaside at the
bottom of a mountain and there is only one way in and out - over a mountain pass. Getting in was not too bad because the winds
were not howling and the snow had just started falling. With the downpours and windy conditions in town all night, we could
only guess what was coming.
I checked the road conditions and the road out conditions were “unknown” but the web cam showed snow.
Myra and I got out early to drive around town and get the comparison shot and to test out the 4WD to make sure we knew how
to engage it. We decided to leave it on as the trip out of town is a climb up the hill.
We listened to a local lady at breakfast as she spoke
with a other couple from the US. They were driving a Yaris and she advised them not to go that the conditions were not suitable.
She told us to be careful. We finished our breakfast and prepared ourselves for a slow trip.
We saw a white car take off ahead of us and we were
glad to have someone else blaze the trail. About a quarter of the way up the rain changed to sleet and quickly to snow. As we neared the top it was blowing snow. We lost track of the white car ahead of us on several
occasions as the snow was blowing so hard it created near white-out conditions. Myra kept track of the yellow road markers
and we stayed well away from them and we crept onward. The white car ahead of us was now behind two others. We passed another
car coming in the oposite direction who was stopped and stuck in the ice. The white car ahead of us pulled over. Out jumped
4 young men to push them out. We still had 2 cars to follow. As we crested the mountain we knew the danger was not over as
we had to come down and it was clearly slippery. Myra engaged the downhill gear reduction button and we made our way safely
to the bottom. But were not not fully in the clear.
We topped off the gas tank in Eglisstadir and continued on “clear” roads. This
meant that they were not caked with snow but it was still a rain/snow mix for the next part of the journey. No rainbows today
and not too much stopping for vistas along this section of road. We knew we had more snow covered roads and as we went higher
in altitude, the snow was falling harder. The road to Dettifoss was closed as impassible so we took the alternate route 862.
It was not much better and very similar to the road conditions coming out of Seydifjordur except the road was relatively flat.
We finally arrived at Dettifoss
to a parking lot FULL of cars. We were stunned by the number of tourists driving around like us crazies. If we thought the
drive was treacherous, we found the walk worse and Myra dropped out at the top of the hill. The slush had already frozen,
it was still snowing and the winds howled making the normally 5 minute walk seem like an eternity. I am sure it was at least
20-30 minutes of slippery footing and small streams of running water with no discernible path. Thank goodness I bought rain
The falls was magnificent and worth the effort to get there. Had the conditions been better it would have been nice
to linger, hike the to the bottom and bathe in the mist emanating from the beast of a waterfalls. But snow already caked my
glasses, I was freezing so it was time to go. On the walk back we encountered our Israeli friends again and had a brief reunion,
laughing that our paths are crossing so frequently.
I needed some warming so we headed toward Myvatn for lunch. Our 2.5 hour driving day had
already consumed 5.5 hours. I was hoping for hot soup and found home made lamb soup, mmmmm so good! We decided to finish the
touring part before heading to the guest house for the night. We took a brief walk around the craters, took the short path
through the lava maze filled with stone trolls and headed to the natural hot spring for a soak. It continued to snow the remainder
of the day through our soak. By 7 pm we were ready to get to the guest house to relax and re energize for the next day.
September 22 - A whale of a
tale: After 3 days of snow - one being quite heavy - we were elated to have a forecast for today of no precipitation.
Happiness was but a fleeting thing when I walked out to the car in the snow to find the car caked in snow and ice. The car
was not equiped with an ice scraper and I chose not to use my lone credit card for the job so I just started the car and ran
it until I could see out of the windows. We loaded everything and headed to breakfast where we overheard the local hotel owner
comment that the snow is an anomalie. They occasionally get a light dusting this time of year but never a snow storm the likes
of what we have seen. She advised us to be careful as we set off for the sea side town of Husavik.
We were more hopeful for better weather in Husavik until I called the whale watching business
to see if our 10 am tour was still on. They indicated that they canceled the 9 am tour and felt it likely that the 10 am tour
would fall by the wayside as well. By the time we got there, it was snowing again and the tour was called off. At least the
winds had died down to only about 10-15 mph. The rescheduled us for the 3 pm tour with the hope that the forecast would pan
out. We headed out to the Asbyrgi Cliffs in on of the nationals parks that also contains Dettifoss. The trip us quite a nice
drive, mostly along the rugged coastline. Although there were scant areas of black sand beaches, most of the coast here had
cliffs that dropped into the ocean or darn close to it. It was an easy drive even in the rain.
We arrived at the cliffs and spoke with the gentleman at the visitor center. He gave us a nice orientation and pointed out
a hike that was mostly through the woods and would not be as impacted by the winds in the valley between the cliffs. We drove
the 5 km to the trail head, stopping numerous times along the way which has long by now become part of the drive. (We have
yet to complete a 3 hour drive in 3 hours as there are too many gems and treasures to see along the way.) This was the first
real area outside of the city that we saw real trees that were taller than we were. The fall colors were fully aflame in the
valley, brilliant reds, sparking golds and touches of green against the gray backdrop of the cliffs. We are coming into fall
in FL as well, today being the first day if my calculation is correct, but we see nothing of this sort of color in the Keys.
By the time we arrived at the trailhead it was snowing again and bitter cold. We dressed for the cold but it was wet and biting.
We decided to forego the walk (a real pity as the area would be beautiful if the temperature were about 30 degrees warmer
and the precipitation would cease). Besides, it was already 11 am and we needed the hour to get bak to town and have lunch
at one of the local restaurants before boarding the 3 pm boat for whale watching. Again, even though we were back-tracking,
we managed to find half dozen or so gems that were hidden from us on out northerly trek.
Lunch in a fishing town consisted of the catch of the day - baked cod - with salad and barley. But the barley was
mixed with orange colored something that looked like cheddar cheese. Seeing as I am a dairy free person, I had to inquire
to learn it was carrot juice ... and quite tasty I might add! During lunch the snow returned with a vengence, dropping epic-sized
snowflakes on the sidewalk. We were pretty much reisgning ourselves to the fact that there would be no whales for us today.
We wandered about the town until the cold got the best of me and headed to Godafoss, the next waterfalls on our list.
Godafoss translates to "falls of the Gods" and it would seem fitting that it be
the most magnificant of all of the falls of Iceland. IMHO, it was. You could see it from the distance and it seemed quite
large then but as we approached, we saw the horse shoe configuration and noted that the side we were on, where we stood, cold
have easily been IN the torrent of rushing water if the rains had been a wee bit heavier. I approached the falls as close
as I chose to dare the Gods and was captivated by the power and beauty of this beast. The mist danced about our heads almost
taunting us to try to grab it. But common sense got the best of me and I just hoped to be able to traverse the slippery rocks
and not create the "Funniest Videos" $10,000 moment.
Our last stop was the hotel in Akureyri. This seems to
be a town larger than all others thatwe have seen except Reykjavik. We are close to a pedestrian walking area and choose to
head out for a walk and a little more retain therapy. After being in the car all day the walk felt pretty good, actually,
even though it was a little cool. I did fine until it started drizzling so I abandoned Kim and Myra as they wandered off for
Tomorrow the forecast is sun. We will see .....
23 - The Long and Winding Road: Today was our longest driving day: 5 hours planned which translates usually into
+ several more hours. I was not disappointed. We set our promptly after breakfast an headed northish into the Trollaskagi
peninsula. Our first stop was the beautiful town of Siglufjordur. Well, that is not quite correct: our first stop was immediately outside the town of Siglufjordur. As promised, we had sun today and, oh what a difference a day makes. We
found the reflections on the still waters that we had hoped to see in Seydisfjordur but were missing due to the high winds,
rains and generally cloudy conditions. With clear blue sky today we got a taste of beauty in the next level. Siglufjordur
rivals Seydisfjordur for the most picturesque town in Iceland. It is another fishing village town that has recently undergone
extensive renovation. The houses are brightly colored, there are a myriad stuates and other art work strategicaly scattered
about the town and the snow capped mountains added the icing on the cake. Being Sunday morning, the only thing open was a
local coffee shop in the gas station!
We continued on through little towns with a brief stop as Hofos to see the fjord-side outdoor
swimming pool which had to be a hot spring. Even the hearty Icelanders cold not be in the water outside for an extended time
in freezing weather. Yes, still freezing even with the sun. We are told winter arrived waaaay early this year. Glaumbaer was
the next stop. There is a unique turf roofed museum that houses artifacts of life in Iceland many years ago. The building
itself is quite interesting and I imagine fairly warm with the door closed. Today the door was open ushering in the cold along
with it. The configuration was somewhat akin to a Keys styled shotgun house missing the back door. There was a long skinny
and low hallway off which were the many rooms - parlor, living area, storage areas, working areas and skeeping quarters. Each of the rooms
had many artifacts of traditional Icelandic life.
With our stops being few and far between and the towns being small and smaller lunch was
at another gas station cafe grocery store all rolled into one. We had a bowl of lamb soup. Quite tastey but certaily not the
best meal of the trip. We were looking for airports along the way as one of the goals was to take a flight over the country.
Since this looks to be our last fully sunny day, we thought it might happen. We passed 2 airports but ot a person or plane
to be seen. It was quite obvious to us that the airports were certainly underutilized in these outlying areas.
on to the Vatnsnes peninsula we stopped at the Borgarviki Fort which was a natural for that the Vikibgs used to defend against
the enemy. It was strategically located atop a hill overlooking the valley below. The outer walls were still present although
much of the remainder was in ruins. Apparently, the Vikings lost their last battle. Continuing along highway 716 - and I will
address the "highways"; in a bit - we found the Hvitserkur rock formation which is said to resemble a dinosaur,
troll or a number of other things. I thought it was a gorilla bt it was interesting none-the-less. In the same area was supposed
to be a colony of seals but Mother Nature being what she is, the seals were nowhere to be found across the peninsula in spits
of our other attempts to locate them.
The "highways", ahh, yes..... The Ring Road is in really good shape. Paved and wide with the exception
of the occasional single land bridge that you pass. Some of the secondary highways are not quite as wide but paved. Then there
are the others. We have already lost 2 pieces off of the car that we know of and I have not hit anything yet. We had some
sheep dart out in front of us. All Myra could do is yell "Sheep!"; and I knew what was happening. I swerved to avoid
them and fortunately did not hit any of them. Our second sheep encounter found sheep on the road well in advance of our arrival
(as opposed to popping up from a ditch like the first set did). We were able to slow and video the sheep as they ran down
the road ahead of us and finally exited into the field. (Video and pictures on Instagram and Facebook). The other issue with
the highways is the potholes. The speed limit remains 90 km/hour so you end up on a giant slalom ducking and weaving around
the hills and curves. After 10 days of driving we know that you look for directional signs at the cross of the T rather than
on the legs where you are driving lest you miss your not so obvious turn on to the road for the next point of interest. Overall,
however, driving is fun and PLEASE, if you make this trip, purchase the expensive but "thank goodness we bought it"
no deductable insurance. In addition to the lost parts and pieces, I can assure you that we have many new scratches and dings
from the rocks flying up at us from every direction.... and were were NEVER off road!
So we ended the day in the Hvammstangi region at a very
nice guest house that features Icelandic horses. Myra and Kim may try their hands at horse riding tomorrow but with my shoulder
replacement surgery looming I am bypassing that adventure. We did make a stop at the local wool factory and had a tour of
the operation which was not functioning (being Sunday) but we did have the opportunity to see their goods and purchase some
Icelandic wool products direct fro the factory. Dinner was at the restaurant over the seal museum overlooking the fjord.....
and not including dinner our 5 hour drive over the long and winding roads of Iceland only took us 10.5 hours. Yep, that's
September 24 - The Road Less Traveled: Our day
started very late today. Kim and Myra wanted to ride the horses but that did not happen so everyone decided to go to the Islandic
Seal Musuem which was very interesting but put us even father behind schedule. The weather was a mixed bag this morning: first
sun then clouds and rain, then came the winds. We had some shelter in the Museum while we learned about all the varieties of seal that inhabit the Iceland waters. For me, the
most interesting exhibit was the seal that had the tracker installed on his back. The tracker showed the path of the seal
over the span of several months. I could not believe how far he traveled then returned to the same place then ventured off
Our plan today was for the Westfjord today and visit a few
sights. The first was the smallest village in Iceland, Bordeyri. There was not too much there noteworthy for us so it was
a quick stop and keep going to Holmavik. It was already 2 pm by the time we arrived in here so we decided to stop in
what appeard to us to be on the only restaurant in town, at least the part we came through. As it turns out, this restaurat
supports the Museum of Witchcraft of Sorcery for Iceland. We finished another outstanding meal and headed to the Museum to
learn about the history of the withchcraft in Iceland. There were 21 people burned at the stake - only one being female. Some
of the spells were recanted and a host of other information about witchcraft and beliefs back in the 1600s in Iceland.
The lady at the restaurant, a native, told us it was only 1.5 hours to Djupavik. I guess she did not realize that we would be traveling highway 645 to highway 643.
was another day for rainbows. We have seen more in the last 10 days than I have seen in the last 10 years including two full
rainsbows and a double rainbow along the highway just today. At every turn one seems to appear just withing reach only to
fade off as a new one takes its place.
In order to get to Djupavik
you HAVE to go across highway 643. It is the only way in and out. But you can get there via highway 61 or 645. We took the
coastal road, 645 and increased the travel time from 1.5 to 2.5 hours. The first part of the road was not bad (see comments
above about the highways, our last wild ride being highway 711). But all the while we were driving the wind and rains were
picking up. They started at 18 mph gusting to 26 mph this morning but by now they were 36 sustained gusting to nearly 60 mph.
By the time we turned on to 643 we knew we would have a long slow trip ahead of us.
The road was narrow, more so than most, and it hugged the mountainside like it was saying goodbye for the last time.
The potholes were deep enough to swallow the car and they were quite numerous. Fortunately there was little to no traffic
and I was able to remain on the wrong side of the road closer to the hill and farther away from the cliff to the ocean. Peering
over the edge there was much wood strewn about. We commented that someone or multiple someone lost their loads on this section of highway. As we continued, the weather worsened and there were water spouts trying to form next
to us. We stopped briefly (Jim Cantore would not have approved of that move) to observe this weather phenomenon and the blowing
spray as it danced across the waves crashing into the beach. We still have 25 km to go and we were heading up the mountain
side now. The rain was blowing sideways and at times the winds were pushing the car quite violently but we pressed on. Then
it started sleeting and snowing again and we encountered the patch of road still covered with ice and snow from the last blizzard
only 2 days ago. We kept going. We had 10 kn to go. Now we had to come down the hill and Myra engaged the down hill gear reduction
button again. It was a long slow crawl down the mountain but with the wind buffeting us so badly we had no other choice.
We saw no towns yet, no sign of life and actually lost sight of the surrounding mountains for a period of time. Seemingly
out of nowhere a person appered walking on the road and we knew we must be close.
Rounding the bend the factory came into view. The Hotel Djupavik is at the old herring factory. The old womens dorms
are converted to the hotel and there are other houses in conjunction with the hotel. The guest list was light for the evening
so they gave us one whole house to use! Outside of the factory is an amazing waterfalls that was also used in the factory
when it operated from 1935-1954. It was the most modern factory for its time and employed 300 people in the summer months
when the full complement of workers was present. There was a conveyor belt system the brought the fish from the boat into
the top of the facotry for processing. Djupavik translated means "deep bay" which was a perfect spot for the factory.
The ships could come in all the way to the factory to unload their catch; the fresh water for the boiler was right there
at the waterfalls so water did not have to be piped in and there were many farms around where young men and women eager to
make their own way and break family farnming traditions clamoured to come to work there.
In the end, the factory closed and the population of the town started shrinking. There were only 46 people left as
full time residents several years ago but now there are 3 people and 2 dogs; and these are the owners and manager of the Hotel.
They gave us a private tour of the herring factory this evening. For two hours we learned of the fishing industry, the history
of the area, the people and were able to ask many questions that had crossed our minds throughout our journey. We were truly blessed to be able to come to the Westfjords and even more so to stay
at Hotel Djupavik, especially noting that only about 10% of the tourists make it to the Westfjords.We have come on the road
less traveled and have been transformed from tourists to travelers. It was an effort but the rewards of the beauty of
the area and the uniqueness of Djupavik paid off in spades. Oh, and remember all of the lumber that someone dumped over during
their drive down highway 643? A trucking accident was not the case at all. The lumber is drift wood that had floated over
through the ocean current streams from Russia. This area is known for its drift wood. Now the night is clear and the Hotel
Manager indicated that he would come knocking on our door if the Northern Lights come out. With all the rainbows from today,
we are feeling lucky.
September 25 - Road Warriors: Another long driving day ahead
with nearly 3.8 hours scheduled, no stops. We departed just before 9 am, saying goodbye to new friends and a quirky Hotel
Djúpavik. It quickly became my favorite in spite of our not seeing the Northern Lights on a clear night.
The forecast was sleet and the skies were
overcast so we prepared ourselves for the nearly 2 hour trek back over highway 643. Not long after our departure we came across
the rockslide area that we had noted as looking ominous the day before. Sure enough there were several large rocks, but scattered
about enough for us to maneuver our way through. Just another km or so and we found a gaping hole in the road. Not a standard
Iceland pothole but a hole large enough to actually swallow the tire and put the bumper on the pavement. We inspected the
road for the best way around and carefully passed on the cliff side. We were fortunate there was no rain here and the
winds were “only” about 15-18 mph and much better for driving this narrow precipice.
Other than the potholes and bumps, we made our way past Holmavik and onto highway 60 with
relatively little trouble. Then ahead of us, the road was closed as a hydraulic excavator was laying new culvert pipe. Myra and I looked at each other wondering which direction
we should take. We consulted the maps to see there was no other way through. By then, the excavator began to move and we figured
he was opening our pathway through construction. No problem. A bit farther up the road and another road feature was crumbled,
perhaps from the snow, rains and sleet from the past few days.
Highway 54 on the Snæfellsnes peninsula on the way to Stykkishómur was a doozy. Probably one of the
worst yet for pot holes. I checked the car when we stopped to make sure the tires and hub caps were still intact.
Stykkishómur is another picturesque town with brightly colored houses and a harbor.
Unlike other smaller towns, there are 3 churches - one small and traditional looking, one larger and more contemporary and
the other ultra modern. Quite a contrast to the traditional churches with brightly colored roofs we had seen in the rest of
We stopped for lunch at a cafe and bakery
then wandered the town hiking the island and stopping by some local artists shops. We finished this easy day at the volcano
museum. One of the exhibits was a jar 1/3 full of volcanic ash from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallojökull that fouled
air traffic for days. I picked up the jar of ash that I thought was sealed. As I turned the jar sideways examining the ash,
a pile of it dumped out on the floor. I was horrified. I asked the curator for a paper to pick up the ash that I had now gathered up in a small pile. He said he would scoop it and return it to the jar. Well, he missed the jar and dumped the ash
all over my rain jacket. We all burst into laughter as I carefully scooped the ash to finally return it to the
Tonight is an easy night at an modern designed
new hotel. We road warriors will hit the road again tomorrow for another long day of driving, hoping to stop at the shark
museum for a sample of hákarl. Kim will take one for the team and we have permission to post pictures of her gagging.
September 26. - We have come full circle: The sunrise
called to me this morning. This was probably one of the most spectacular sunrises yet in Iceland, partly because of the sheer
beauty of the sunrise and partly because we have not have the privilege of seeing many sunrises due to cloud cover and snow.
From the hotel we headed to the Shark Museum where a very animated guide talked about his life long family business of curing
Greenland Shark meat. The Greenland Shark is the only one native to Iceland. In ages past they were hunted by fisherman in
skiffs, like the grandfather of our guide used to do. Today they are a byproduct of another catch. The meat fresh is toxic
as sharks urinate through their skin. This helps keep salt in their bodies so they can live a short time in fresh water. The
skin is rough and used to be used for sand paper. The drying and curing process takes just over 10 months before the meat
can be eaten. Myra and Kim tried a piece followed by Iceland Schnapps or “Black Death”. Both are quite pungent
but the Schnapps at least has a better flavor and cuts the taste of the putrid shark meat. I passed on this experience.
We followed the coastline in the Snæfellsnes peninsula through a series of lava fields
and waterfalls. We stopped at the Snæfellsnes National Park and walked up Saxholl crater. The rock was a rainbow of
colors and the view spectacular.
Speaking of rainbows,
we saw our share again today. Although we had no snow, we did have off and on rains all day that produced a plethora of rainbows. The other thing of note today throughout our travels on the peninsula were that there are now trees. Through
out most of the trip the trees were conspicuously missing; but here they were plentiful and relatively "tall" by
We continued stopping
in the villages to check out oddities in each: monuments, signs and rock formations. We finally were able to see common seals
Our last major stop was in Borgarnes
and the settlement center where we learned of the sagas of the Vikings settling Iceland. The museum and the narration were
outstanding and well worth the stop. This brought us full circle in our understanding of how the country was initially developed.
Iceland had a violent past both from settlers and from its physical locatoin on the meeting of two tectonic plates. The thermal
features and glaciers that make this country so beautiful will ultimately be her demise.
We finished our day in Reykholt before going to our last excursion of the trip “Into
the Glacier” tomorrow morning. As for today, our 3.5 hour drive only took 9.5 hours. I was ready for that hot spring
soak - my last of the trip. We are nearly finished. Thursday night we had back to Reykjavik for our final night. We have,
likewise, come full circle in our travels having circumnavigated the country in 2 weeks. There is still more to be seen, more nooks and crannies
to investigate but the time constraints and the weather difficulties of this trip were just Iceland's way of telling us that
we must come back.
September 27th - Into the
Glacier: Our last full day in Iceland today hit a crescendo. We met our transfer bus is Husafell, a short distance
from Reykholt. The buses were monsterous white off-road vehicles with large tires and fortunately, a good heater. It was a
heat wave at 38 degrees this morning and we knew it would be colder on top of the glacier. So far we have snow mobiled on
a glacier and hiked on a glacier but today we would enter the tunnel and walk INSIDE of Langjokull glacier.
We arrived at the base camp for the transfer to the former NATO missile
launcher converted into a people mover. The technology on the vehicle was amazing with a system to inflate and deflate the
tires while moving. As the vehicle climbs up the glacier and with the varying snow pack conditions, the tires will be deflated
to as little as 7 psi to aide in traction on the snow. We inched our way up the glacier in white out conditions again. We
were in a cloud and it was snowing. Fortunately I was NOT the driver this time. Our professional guide team has a series of
bamboo stakes in the ground marking the path. Without the stakes, being in the cloud and with the snow blowing all you see
is white and it would be very easy to suffer the same spacial disorientation symptoms as pilots do when they fly VFR into
IMC. In about 30 minutes were were at the tunnel to the glacier. We saw a blue tarp and a lone guide digging out the tunnel.
It was snowing, cold and blowing outside and the opening to the tunnel was snowed in .... as it is on many mornings.
Once inside, the wind stopped and the temperature was a chilly 32 degrees as it remains year round inside the glacier. The
guide explained the differences between temporal glaciers and polar glaciers and their formation and more importantly, their
movement. The temporal glaciers that go th rough summer (warm) and winter (cold) "leak". The outside temperature
starts melting the snow and the water goes through the existing snow and glacier and into the tunnel, finding the path of
least resistance as water tends to do. We advanced into the first large chamber to don crampons again. These were not the
large spikes like the outside glacier hike but were a series of chains stretched across the boot for better traction. They
worked quite well.
The tunnel inside the glacier is "roundish"
and illuminated with LED lights inside the ice so we could see. As they were constructing the tunnel, using sonar, the unwittingly
came across a crevas and had to backtrack to finish the circular path. we learned about the layers if ice and their color
and meaning. We saw the ash layer from the 2010 eruption of Eylfellsjokull volcano and were surprised that approximately 5'
of new ice pack was added from 2010 to 2011. It was undoubtedly a long cold winter that year. We saw the machines used to
make the tunnel and remove the spoils. Our next chamber was the old chapel designed to hold quite a few people. There was
a design flaw, however, in that this chapel was in an upper part of the glacier and tended to leak more so the wedding parties
had a difficult time staying dry. The room was very white and light and the walls absorbed and deadened all sound.
We continued on through dryer parts of the glacier and the deep blue and older ice. The area
we traversed was only between 10-35 years old. We only scratched the surface of the glacier which continued some 200 meters
below our station. The second chapel was beautiful. It was deeper in the glacier and had the blue ice glow. The ice was very
thick and stable here although it had bubbles that actually helped the acoustics. We sang "Happy Birthday" to one of the tour participants to listen to how well it sounded inside (although I cannot say the customary
off-key rendition was pleasing to the ears). Our guide, Viktor, shouted into one of the ice bubbles that amplified the sound
but did not let it reverberate. Viktor continued the tour pas the "blue Lagoon" and the crevas. It was fascinating
to be safely inside the crevas and see all of the different layers without the panic of having fallen in. We finished the
tour marveling at the colors and layers, the evidence of movement of the glacier and simply the wonder of actually being INSIDE
of this magnificent gift of nature.
Our tour was over all too soon
and we removed the crampons and walked out of the tunnel to clear skies and the vista from the top of this world. All of the
other snow capped mountains were visible from our location and blue sky smiled on us. The white out conditions were no more.
We crept back down off the glacier to base camp and boarded the shuttle for the ride back to Husafell. What an awesome experience.
It is unfortunate that not manywill have this opportunity. We saw a little of how the glaciers are in retreat right now. Additioally,
in learing about the general movement of glaciers (not having anything to do with advancing and retreating) we learned that
this tunnel is currently placed in a location of slow movement. The different levels of the glacier move at different speeds
depending on the amount of weight, among other things. At some point the rate of movement will be faster than the workers
are able to clear the tunnel and the tunnel will no longer exist. The estimate a total of 10-12 years total fro the 2015 opening
of the tunnel. Our trip was well timed. I would hate to have missed this. As the glacier is public property it is up to the
government of Iceland to give the company another permit to create another tunnel .... or not. It is hard to say what will
happen in the future but one take away for me was that this country relies on the glaciers for their drinking water. All of
the cold water comes from the glacier and the tap water to drink is the best I have ever had. (Similarly, in most thermal
areas, all hot water comes from the hot springs and the sulfur smell is ever present when you turn on the hot water.) What
will happen in many years to come when the glaciers all melt? What would be the source of drinking water for these people?
We can only hope for a few more harsh winters to slow the rate to retreat and preserve this amazing natural resource.
The remainder of our day was spent winding down, looking for Glymur Foss the tallest waterfalls in Iceland. We got to
the trail head ... it was raining again ... and met a hiker who just returned from the hike to the waterfalls, indicating
the trip was 4 hours round trip. It was already 3:30 so we passed on this adventure, snapped a few pictures and continued
on to Reykjavik. En route, we had our 5th sheep on the street encounter only this time, the sheep herder was moving them in
for the winter. One was wedged under the guardrail scratching his back - how funny!
We finished the day with dinner in Reykjavik - good but
not my favorite by far - and an early night in. Tomorrow is another very long day. Flight at 5 pm with a 9 pm arrival back
in the US, clear customs and start making our way back home in FL. I will not make it to the Keys until Saturday but hope
to be back at Myra's house by early morning.
September 28th - Homeward Bound: Reykjavik greeted
us with rain and high winds this morning. Not the kind of day you would like to take home as your last memory although the
day will certainly create a lasting memory.
we arrived, I wanted to see the Bridge Between Two Continents which was out on the peninsula south of Keflavik. It should
have been an easy find but it was not. We had the opportunity today to see where we went wrong. The locals that we asked said it was “clearly marked” and
should be an easy spot. We set off through rush hour traffic to find it. We turned down the highway as directed and immediately
noticed that the scenery did not look familiar. There were a few oddball features - like monuments to each planet - that we
are sure we would have remembered. We had taken a coastal road upon arrival and we were nowhere near the coast so we felt
we must be on the right track this time. The other thing we did not know that we know now is the symbol for site or attraction.
The GPS gave us the 1 km warning and we started to slow to look for signs. Sure enough, prominently
placed is a sign for the attraction and a sign that probably said Bridge Between Two Continents ..... in Icelandic. If we
had been on the road before, no wonder we missed it. There was a small drive leading to the parking lot with the bridge in
view clearly coming from the opposite direction. But we were here so all was well.
The wind was howling and the rain blowing sideways. Bit we were here and we were going to
cross the bridge to stand between the continents. The bridge connects the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that
are slowly separating. I am not sure what will ultimately happen or when but I suspect there will be a violent event that
might lead to the demise of Iceland as we know it when it does happen.
We all jumped out of the car and braved the stormy conditions to get our photos and read the informational signs.
There is a tourist pose “holding up the bridge” that Kim and I did although the rocks were a bit much for Myra
with the wind and rain. We quickly ran back to the car, rain hear soaked but happy to have completed the mission.
With time on our hands we continued on and found the geothermal area and no swim zone hot
pool. We decided to go see Blue Lagoon just to say we were there. The place is massive and there were 4 large tour busses
and throngs of people. We were satisfied that we made the right decision to opt for the smaller hot springs with more intimate
settings and tons less people. We drove through Grimley, an industrial looking town, then headed toward Keflavik. I recalled
seeing a Duus Museum mentioned in the guide book so we headed over there. The Museum was not quite open but the restaurant
was and it was lunch time so we stopped for our last meal in Iceland. Kim had the lobster pizza and Myra and I had the lunch
buffet complete with REAL salad.
The Museum was an interesting collection of collections. The first building house a ship collection of more than 100 wooden
model ships built by one gentleman who passed away about a year ago. The ships were magnificent with every detail just so
right down to the fish nets and rigging. The second room house an odd collection of clothing and house goods - lamps, rugs,
tableware, etc. - made from unusual materials. The lamps were old books, the clothing a mix of, well, I am still not quite
sure, and a rug made out frayed of blue jeans scraps. There was a room or tow full of old household and other items used for
everyday work and living. The final room was a collection of baby buggies.
By the time we finished the museum, the timing was perfect to head to the airport. We got gas and dropped Kim and
the bags at the departure terminal then went to return the car. It took Myra and me several turns around the airport to locate
the return depot but we finally returned one very muddy car that had served us well over the last 2 weeks. Thank goodness
we bought the extra insurance as I am sure the car had picked up a few extra chips and scratches from the pothole filled roads
and lost the two pieces that we know of.
We were all in the terminal
at 2 pm for our 5 pm flight. I waited with the bags while Myra and Kim went to get the VAT tax refunded and we checked in.
The check in process was efficient and we headed off to find our gate. There is a whole separate screening for foreign travel
at the entry to Gate D. We made it through without issue until we passed through the final gate and Myra got randomly pulled
for full inspection. The officials directed Kim and me to meet her at the gate and they whisked Myra off to a private area
for a thorough examination. By the time we all reunited and used the facilities for the last time. It was 4:20 and time to
The scheduled departure of 5:10 pm did not
happen. The push back from the gate was delayed, we were in a long Congo line to the runway then we passed the runway and
taxied to the maintenance area for another delay. We finally lifted off 2 hours late for the 8.5 hour flight home .... with headwinds.
We arrived at Orlando airport around 11pm and breezed through immigration and customs. We hopped in the car about 12:45 for
the drive to drop off Kim then spend the night at Myra's house. We arrived about 4:30 am. I will finish my last leg of the
epic journey by car tomorrow morning.
Well, it was
not exactly "tomorrow" morning. It was today. I slept abouot 2-1/2 hours and was up and functioning. I had to made
a stop first then was on my way to arrive home in the Keys by noon.
Post script: In all we drove 3180 km in 13 days; experienced falling snow on 6 days; had at least some rain
every day, saw the Northern Lights once and only briefly. We were on top of 3 glaciers, inside 1 glacier and soaked in 3 hot
springs baths. We experienced temperatures from 28 degrees to 60 degrees with most days being 40 degrees or less for the bulk
of the day. We drove in rain storms, blizzards and saw a water spout try to form. We stayed in cities, villages, guest houses
and the very remote Hotel Djupavik which was an old herring factory converted to a hotel.
This was a bucket list item for me for many, many years. It is hard to believe it is finally done. Iceland is a magnificent
country with warm, welcoming people. They are both blessed and cursed with the geothermal and natural resources. I always
said when God made beautiful, he started with Alaska. Well, His second greatest work of art was Iceland. I am not sure what
lies ahead for this country. She is a ticking time bomb, as are most volcanic regions, but I feel as if this one has a shorter
This is a country to which I would like to return. Perhaps,
some day. I hope the changes will not be too profound by then. Our glacier guide, Viktor, said that he sees the changes on
the glaciers since he lives there. They are not subtle changes. I would like to experience some of the hikes that we were
unable to complete, see more northern lights, soak in all of the hot springs, see Seydisfjordur in the sunshine and see more
of the Westfjords. Everything in Iceland is a “must do”.
Favorite word - Snæfellsnes
Favorite Hotel - Hotel Djúpavik
Most picturesque town - Siglufjordur
Best guide - Elza at the Herring factory although all were outstanding
Best activity - Inside the Glacier
meal - Seawolf our first night in Reykjavik
Funniest moment - the curator dumping volcanic ash on my rain jacket
hot spring - Secret Lagoon
Best waterfalls - Godafoss
Best Museum - Settlement Center
Best buy - Icelandic
Best Travel Agent: Gunnar, Evaneos Travel, Iceland