Travel Back Thursday – Intelligence

Iceland, Travel

In Iceland we did a lot of driving and hiking – and we saw a lot! We headed off South to a town called Stadur, where our non-English-Speaking-campsite monitor indicated we could stop at the N1 gas station to get more information on the Western Fjords. The lady who helped us at the gas station was beyond any expectations I had and provided us with great advice and info! I had wanted to drive a bit up into the fjords and then take a ferry onto one of the branches where it is almost entirely a national park. However, the tourist seasons seems to have ended last week, so a lot of sites, restaurants, and ferries are shutting down! So, the ferry that I had wanted to take is no longer running…she did suggest a route for us to take in order to tackle the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

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After a few hours of driving along the coast, we reached the town of Stykkisholmur. The town was rather cute and had two excellent looking restaurants: one that was closed (probably for the winter) and the other was so busy they weren’t really concerned about us at all! Oh well! We had a lovely lunch of stoners (ie stoned wheat thins) and tubes in a farmer’s field instead! It was kind of funny, actually, because not long after we parked, a herd of cows came up to check us out and walked around the car! Ironic as we were eating beef jerkey!

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

We totally slept in today!! Actually…I totally slept in today, which means that Darren also got to sleep in! Funny how that works!

Quick breakfast trying to use up extra food and then off to the mall…I know that I am not cool enough to really buy anything here, but it seemed like checking out the mall would be a good thing to do! We spent only a couple of hours there and I didn’t really do any serious damage…2 t-shirts from Esprit (like I couldn’t get those at home!) and a soft-shell jacket that was 65$ off and was therefore not even 25$…which made it worthwhile, I figure!

We visited the Harpa, the big glass concert hall, because I really wanted to go see something if there was something happening tonight. Unfortunately, there was only a random-looking show, no orchestra or anything, so we opted out. Instead, we wandered around downtown and found this really awesome restaurant called the Laundromat Café. It had awesome food – we split a breakfast-like dish and were totally full…the best deal for the food yet! It was a very hippie, relaxed atmosphere as well, which was fun! It was a busy place!

More wandering led us to witness an impromptu rap-club concert in the central square. These three people set up their own speakers and randomly started to dance/sing(ish) in the square! It was kind of odd, to say the least, but cool in the fact that they have the freedom to do that without any apparent permits or anything! And, it made for good ice cream cone entertainment (although the ice cream was excellent regardless of entertainment!).

We did one last grocery run for Fanta Limon and Bugles (shows where our priorities are!) and headed back to the tent to pay for one last night and attempt to pack! Hopefully early to bed tonight before a full day of traveling tomorrow!

Back to reality soon….

Until the next holiday!

-Allison

Friday, September 2, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

This morning I managed to sleep in until 8:45! That’s like a record for me. I tried to let Darren sleep, rather unsuccessfully, as I got excited about the things I wanted to do today!! I decided that we should each get a “Reykjavik Welcome Card” that would give us admission to all of the city pools and museums for the day for only 1900 ISK.

We headed off on foot for the zoo! It was a cute little zoo that included horses, cows, and sheep…which I thought was a little over the top considering we saw sheep by the thousands grazing all over the place the entire time we were driving around the country! We also saw the seals and sea lions and they were a hoot! Their pool was being cleaned, so they were all basking in the sun (yes, there was sun this morning!) and they were hopping awkwardly around! I have never seen these guys move so much and I couldn’t stop laughing! It was pretty awesome to see – definitely the zoo highlight!

Then it was off to the Reykjavik Art Museum…it was a display of the artist Asmundur Sveinsson. He was a well-known Icelandic artist and many of his statues are well-known. The one, “the water carrier” is of a person bent over carrying two buckets of water. I am sure I’ve seen it somewhere before. It was an interesting display with lots of information on him as well as a special section about Louis Pasteur and his pasteurization process. The museum was created when Asmundur Sveinsson passed away and is actually located in the unique house he built and lived in.

Next was a Lutheran church (that I later discovered is the main religion of the country…About 80% of the Icelandic population is Lutheran) that was really interesting because of the four spires and copper roof. We went into a second Reykjavik Art Museum where there was an exposition about the artist Kjarval. His work was mainly paintings and depicted scenes from all over Iceland.

We walked up the hill to the PERLAN building which was previously a water tower. It has this awesome glass dome that can be seen from everywhere in the city – consequently, it has a great view from the balcony around the dome! We enjoyed the (windy) view before heading down towards the university area.

The National Museum of Iceland was also included on our lovely card and we spent over 2 hours learning about the settlement of Iceland. It was really cool to visit the museum after we had already toured around the country because it was easier to relate to and understand the information presented having already seen the locations! The artifacts were cool to see and I am glad that I now have a better understanding of the Icelandic history.

Walking back through the centre, we decided that eating out would be a much better option than couscous at the tent! Darren finally got his fish and chips he had been craving and I had some (not so great) soup! Good seafood however, regardless!

We went for our almost-daily swim in the pool that is right next to the campground and hostel. It was super busy, but an interesting people study! I managed to do a few laps, but my eyes are now paying for it! Goggles will be appreciated on Tuesday!

Night

-Allison

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

It was rainy and gross when we woke up this morning…not much of a change lately and I miss the blue sky and sunshine! When it began to rain in the middle of the night I brought in our shoes that were out under the fly, so they wouldn’t get wet…and in with the shoes came a bunch of spiders!!! When I woke up this morning there were a couple of spiders on the walls, and then one in my shoe and my shirt! Uggg! I felt spiders crawling on me for hours to follow!

We packed up and ate breakfast in the car in order to avoid the wind for a while! Then we headed off to see a few sights. We stopped first at Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring. This spring produces 180L of hot water per second, and is therefore the largest thermal spring in the world!! The temperature of the water is 212°F. The water has been used for central heating since 1925 and is now pumped to a few different towns – a total of 74Km – which is the longest in the world! At the water’s final destination it is still 149°F! The plant itself produces 62 megawatts of electricity as well as the hot water output! Pretty crazy use of resources! I wish we had hot water coming out of the ground in Edmonton like they do here!

From there we headed East to the town of Reykholt where the saga character Snorri Sturluson was ambushed and murdered at his farm in 1241 by orders of the King of Norway. The farm is no longer there, but there is the hot pool where he is said to have bathed as well as a partially restored tunnel that connected his home to the hot pool. Snorri’s “Heimskringla” (History of the Norwegian Kings) is his work that tells the history of Norway – that would have been lost had it not been for him.

Next were the waterfalls near Husafell. The largest waterfall in the area, Barnafoss wasn’t really anything in comparison to the many mini-waterfalls that appear as if from nowhere, out of the rock and fall into the river below. They continue on like this for over 1 kilometer and are beautiful! It is so bizarre that the surface can appear so solid and then there is water pouring out of the side of the rock!

We did a little off-roading here to go find Iceland’s largest lava cave, Surtshellir. It runs 1.5km long and has a few spots where it is open to go down to visit it! I was a tad freaked out by the concept of walking around in a cave, but it was neat to see how long and connected the tunnel is. Apparently, the caves were known during the Saga age and there were a band of outlaws that lived there. The farmers had to get rid of them! Kind of cool…I don’t think I could live in a cave, however…way too cold and dark!

From there we headed off to the Hvalfjordur. There is now a 5km tunnel under the water to avoid the 40km route around the fjord, however, Iceland’s tallest waterfall is at the very end of the Fjord, so we did the long drive. We stopped at a gas station and read a bit about the whaling industry back a long time ago and it made me nauseous! Whaling was a big thing here and they killed over 1000 per year for a number of years. The movies they were showing of the process were just stomach turning. So glad that they don’t do that anymore!

We were going to camp in the fjord somewhere, but couldn’t find a camp site! Instead, we decided to do the hike up to Glymur waterfall, which is Iceland’s highest waterfall at 198 meters. The hike was awesome as it was more like an obstacle course than a hike! There were stairs made from tree trunks, a cave to go through, a river to cross using a wire, and ropes to climb up the side of the rock. One point even required to ‘crawl’ up the rock using my hands! It was a fun hike and the waterfall was impressive.

The weather is still not great, so we decided to head over to Reykjavik and camp in the campground in town because then we’d have use of the hostel’s indoor amenities as well! It is kind of weird to be back in the “big city” after almost two weeks in towns of less than 1000 people! Yeah!!

Night

-Allison

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

It was hard to believe, when I woke up this morning, that it was still August out! It definitely feels like late fall here, and by the work the farmers seem to be doing in the fields, I am sure that winter is on its way! I plan on having some heat in Edmonton next week, so it had better not get any ideas from Iceland!

We decided to skip breakfast this morning because we were both still full from out awesome seafood last night. Instead, we packed up and headed up the Snaefellsjokull glacier on the F570 road – have to make sure our rental car (that is insured for those F-roads gets well used!). The road wasn’t nearly as awful as our trusty little book suggested it would be. The unfortunate thing was that the wind was blowing so hard and the fog was so thick, that even at the top of the road we weren’t really able to see the glacier! We could see little bits of it that came down lower, and we got out of the car to walk a bit on the glacier (bragging rights, of course!), but there was no view at all, which was disappointing!

On the way back down, we stopped at a location called Songhellir, or “song cave”. The cave has a small entrance, but is a huge dome inside with remarkable acoustics inside. There were engravings on the walls that dated back to the 1800s and the location was said to be used in the Saga age by Bardur Snaefellsas. It was neat to see, but was a tad creepy with all the fog around today.

From the base of the glacier, we backtracked a bit in order to see the Dritvik area. The car turn off wasn’t marked, but a hiking trail was, so off on our feet we went. The footing here is definitely not superb, so we picked our way on the lava-moss trail for almost an hour before we reached the coast. The little bay was beautiful, and it was easy to picture how over 200 men worked in the area with about 60 fishing boats all summer. Glad I wasn’t the one doing the fishing, but it was beautiful to see with the waves, beach, and green cliffs!

Because our walk out to the water was rather unpleasant because of the lava rock everywhere, we followed another couple to a beach, and eventually car park – and walked back on the road! Kind of cheating, but we had the chance to see some other sights as well, so it was worth it! We saw the beach at Djupalon where four boulders are present. They were used to test the strength of the fishermen and weigh 155Kg (Fullsterkur – Full strength), 140Kg (Halfsterkur – Strong enough), 49Kg (Halfdraettingur – Half strength), and 23Kg (Amlodi – weakling). Lifting at least the second heaviest was a requirement for the fishermen from Dritvik. Darren was able to lift all of them at once; my hero. Also on this beach were the remnants of a steel ship. The ship was from the 1940s and was caught in a horrible storm where only 5 of the 19 crew survived. The washed up pieces from the boat remain on the beach as a sort of memorial to this disaster.

After our mistake-hike, we headed off to Malarrif where there are two huge stone pillars. The larger is called the “Christian pillar” and the smaller the “Heathen pillar”. There is said to be a story with the devil in regards to the pillars, but I actually don’t remember! Regardless, the pillars were cool and the views of the cliffs and rock were breathtaking!

It was then off to the town of Hellnar. There is a really cool cave/hole in the wall on the beach here where the light plays tricks on your eyes (it looked as though there was water in the bottom of the cave when we looked from up on the hill, however, once down at sea level, it was obvious that the tide was not yet in, and the water was much lower than what was previously thought!). The rock formations here were really cool – layer upon layer of rock from the ground up to the top of the cave and arch! Beautiful view, yet again. Darren and I stopped for a hot chocolate (the most expensive one I think I’ve ever had in my life…this trip is breaking all sorts of records!) at the little hut on the beach because the view was so spectacular. Most expensive hot chocolate, perhaps, but also the best view drinking hot chocolate as well! Definitely worth while!

The town of Arnarstapi was a quick stop. There is a rock formation of a fisherman that sits on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The statue is of the Deity of Mt. Snaefell, Bardur Snaefellsas. In the saga, it is said that he was a descendent of giants and men. Later in his life, he became more giant-like and disappeared into the Snaefell mountain. However, he didn’t really disappear because he became part of the mountain. The artists who made this made it in honour of a 19 year old that lost his life on the mountain in 1928.

Our last stop of the day was to a little farm called Olkelda, or “Ale Spring”. The water that comes out of the ground here is natural mineral water (it tastes exactly like club soda!)! Kind of cool. We were a tad disappointed, however, because we thought it was going to be a naturally carbonated HOT spring instead of a cold spring! Oh well!!

We made it into Borgarnes where we had no problem finding the camp site. We then went and found the pool and had a nice leisurely time there in there several different hot tubs! I now want a lane pool like this at home, however; at the end of the 25m, there was a view of the ocean…I could go for that!

It was slightly drizzly out, so we made Canada meets Japan (ichiban noodles, chicken noodle soup mix, and bacon) and ate it in the tent while playing cards! All in all, a lovely evening!

Later

-Allison

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

It has been a dreary day since we woke up this morning. Thankfully it wasn’t windy or rainy for breakfast this morning. It was nice to cook and eat outside enjoying the river view from our campsite.

We headed off South to a town called Stadur, where our non-English-Speaking-campsite monitor indicated we could stop at the N1 gas station to get more information on the Western Fjords. The lady who helped us at the gas station was beyond any expectations I had and provided us with great advice and info! I had wanted to drive a bit up into the fjords and then take a ferry onto one of the branches where it is almost entirely a national park. However, the tourist seasons seems to have ended last week, so a lot of sites, restaurants, and ferries are shutting down! So, the ferry that I had wanted to take is no longer running…she did suggest a route for us to take in order to tackle the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

After a few hours of driving along the coast, we reached the town of Stykkisholmur. The town was rather cute and had two excellent looking restaurants: one that was closed (probably for the winter) and the other was so busy they weren’t really concerned about us at all! Oh well! We had a lovely lunch of stoners and tubes in a farmer’s field instead! It was kind of funny, actually, because not long after we parked, a herd of cows came up to check us out and walked around the car! Ironic as we were eating beef jerkey!

Before leaving the town, we stopped in a Lion’s Club run shop. The locals have a handicraft store, where the prices are much more reasonable than most of the other shops that we have visited. After much deliberation, I ended up buying these 4 glass plates each with a picture of a flower, puffin, horse, and mountain (actually the Snaefellnes glacier) on them. Cute little dessert plates – and I actually made up my mind because the artist was in the store – I am such a sucker for meeting the people who make these things!

We also visited Helgafell, or “Holy Mountain”. It is a 73m high hill that, if climbed not looking back or speaking, will grant three wishes to the climber! The wishes have to be made facing East, at the grave of Gudrun Osvifursdottir. She is the heroine of the Laxdaela Saga and lived out her last years here as a hermit. The view from the top was lovely, as it overlooked the Breidafjordur bay. There are about 2700 islands in the bay! It would have been a little better if it hadn’t been so windy or cloudy, but we did our wish-hike none-the-less!

Because it was only just after noon, we decided to continue on to the next town along the peninsula, Grundarfjordur. It was rainy, cold, and the campsite looked uninviting, so we proceeded onto the next town, Olafsvik. It is one of the larger communities with just over 1000 people! The town was actually established as a trading town in 1687. The wind was not that great here, either, but the camp site has great facilities and there is a pool in town, so we decided to stay.

After setting up our tent in the least windy location we could find, we headed off to the pool. It was an interesting experience, as it looked like it was previously a gymnasium – the wood panneling was still on the walls, and I am sure that the hot tub was located in what was formerly a storage closet of some sort! It was an impressive re-model! The pool itself was only about 15m long, but they had good equipment, so I was able to get some lengths in! I am definitely starting to miss my work-outs!

It is now raining, and we are sitting in a restaurant for dinner (better than cooking in the rain and wind at the campsite!)…we’ve been hanging out here for over an hour because the kitchen didn’t open until 6pm! Ahhh…small towns! Quite the experience!

Hopefully another dose of awesome seafood for dinner!

Later

-Allison

Monday, August 29, 2011

Iceland, Travel, Uncategorized

We had a relaxing morning because we didn’t really have a plan of where to head off to today. We “slept in” (ie I made it to 8:15 before I woke up!) and then walked up to a bakery we’d seen yesterday. We tried these caramel cinnamon bun things along with hot chocolate for breakfast – a nice change from granola and oatmeal!

Because downtown opened up at 10am today, we headed off to look at a few stores that I wasn’t able to go in yesterday. I am definitely not cool enough to wear the clothes that they consider fashionable here! They were those “diaper pants” and leggings most of the time it seems – neither of which I could really pull off back at home! Impressive styles here, for sure, however, nothing for me! It was fun to look, however.

After a while at the bookstore/internet we walked back to our car to find a parking ticket! Never received one of those at home, so seems right that I get one here! It was for 20$, and was because we didn’t have a “parking clock” on our dash! The time zone said parking free for 2 hours, and we were parked for 1h 45min, however, they put these manual clocks on their windows to indicate the time they arrived at the free parking, and we didn’t have one! No honors system here…uggg…so we went over to the tourist information centre to ask where to pay the ticket! The lady there kind of made it better, because she said that the parking attendant likes his job too much! I would have to agree.

Because of the parking ticket we got to see city hall (boring) as well as a local bank, because as it turns out, parking tickets are actually paid at the bank! And, the best part (if there I one to be had from receiving a parking ticket for not really doing anything wrong in the first place) was that for some reason the ticket turned out to be only 1350 ISK (about 13$). Apparently there is a discount if you pay your ticket fast or something! Go figure!

We made it out of Akureyri alive and headed off West towards the town of Saudarkrokur. It is the region’s administrative centre with a population of 2600, the second biggest town next to Akureyri. We didn’t spend much time in the town, but continued on out to the tiny town (ie it was one house and a campground) of Reykir. This place was right on the ocean, on the tip of the fjord with towering green cliffs along the side. The view was awesome, and as a bonus, there were natural hot springs with no one nearby! After a walk on the beach to find some ocean-polished quartz stones, we had an awesome swim in the two hot pools by the ocean. Definitely the quintessential Icelandic experience!

As we were driving along the highway, we followed some escapee Icelandic horses for a while! It was fun to see them run around!

The campground in Saudarkrokur looked kind of ugly, so we decided to head off to the town of Blönduós. There are only 800 people living here, but it is apparently an important fishing village right on the coast! Yeah! The campsite is beautiful, right next to the river, and we’ve already walked around the little island in the middle of the river!

Off to play cards and eat something called Smamal (I think it is chocolate mousse for dessert!).

Later

-Allison