Friday, February 21, 2014

Cheykjavic before you Reykjavik

Last week, I left Percy for the longest span of time since he was born.  Four whole days.

Dawne (to Nala): Are you ready to be motherly?
Nala (to Dawne, all with her eyes): Not really. 

Headed to the airport where I met two, equally stoked friends, bundled up for Iceland.  Kelly, Becky and I decided to grab some cash before we left, and then before we knew it we were in Iceland. 

Kelly: I forgot to bring a tri-pod.
Me: WHAT!? You had ONE job!

When we landed I asked them to wait so that I could use the restroom, and the WC was the coolest bathroom I have ever seen.  Then we grabbed a cab, and as we handed the man our money, he looked a little weird.

Becky: Did we just pay you [the equivalent of $150) in 1's?
Driver: Heh, basically.  (it was more like in 5's). 

After dropping off our luggage at Center Hotel Klopp, we headed to "The Laundromat" for breakfast.  I ordered the clean breakfast, and I think Becky got the dirty breakfast, but we both got something called chocolate butter, so we both win.  When Kelly got back from the bathroom, I asked her how it was.

Kelly: I didn't go to the bathroom in the airport but I did just walk straight into the mirror in this one.

After breakfast, we headed out to explore the town. I don't like to look at maps in public because I don't want anyone to think that that I'm a tourist.  Thus how the phrase, I trust your gut, came about. Luckily, the blind trust of Kelly and Becky worked out just fine. It also helped that we were in a very small city and we didn't try to go too far, AND we didn't care where we were going.  We walked around a lake, grabbed some coffee and then explored the National History Museum.  By the time we sucked up all the knowledge from that place, it was about time head back to the hotel.  We took a bunch of pictures of the mountains that decided to show up around Reykjavik and the crazy couple that were walking across the ice of the lake.  Oh, and then, as will happen when you don't have easy access to the internet, Kelly and I debated whether or not the flock of birds in the lake were swans or white geese. (Kelly won this round, as they were swans - apparently swans in Iceland aren't as territorial as the swans that I know.) Interesting fact: They warm up a corner of the pond for the birds to swim around in. 

Back at the hotel, we all took naps and showers and then bundled up for dinner.  We stopped to take a bunch of pictures of the water front at sunset, then ate, then went down to the pier for our Northern Lights Tour.  Turns out the water was too rough, so instead we took a bus out to a café and hoped for a sighting.  I accomplished two things: 1) I learned what settings I have to put my camera on take pictures of the sky at night.  2) I got two more naps in.  Things we didn't accomplish: Seeing the Northern Lights.  Kelly has been forgiven for forgetting the tri pod. 

Kelly: My favorite part of today was my nap. 

Bright and early the next morning with under 5 hours of sleep, we were up, having some breakfast and being picked up for our 9 hour tour of the Golden Circle. 

First stop was to feed some horses bagels because they don't like apples and carrots.   The tour guide insisted they were just shorter horses to which Kelly murmured, "Also known as a Pony."  Then we made a quick 5 minute stop to take a snapshot of a beautiful waterfall.  It wasn't until later that we realized it really was a tiny insignificant waterfall, which is why we only had 5 minutes there. At one point, there was this mountain that had a lot of falling rock issues, and at the bottom of the mountain was a tiny house, dangerously close to some huge fallen rocks.  The tour guide told us that she thought it was a terrible place for a summer home, but that someone assured her that it was actually built by a man for his mother in law.  We got out and saw the original Geysir (not active any more), along with an active one, which was pretty cool. 

Next we went to see Gulfoss, which was a slight bigger waterfall than we had seen before.

Kelly: That was coldest place I've ever been.  It's not the coldest I've ever been, but it was definitely the first place that I know I wouldn't survive the elements. 

Next we went to  Þingvellir National Park which is park which has something to do with their Parliament which was established in 930 AD, and also is where the North American and European tectonic plates meet.  They told us that the rate of separation is the same as how fast your finger nails grow.  The landscape that you'll see in the pictures, is a canyon that used to be flat, but has now dropped 40 meters.  We were dropped off at the top of the North American side.  We were told to walk down the path and meet over by the church.  Kelly paused on our way down to talk about how clear they keep the paths.  Naturally, I just followed Becky, which landed me on a path of ice.  She was already half way down so clearly we were all in.  Here are some of the commentary that was made on our journey.

Just follow the ice so you'll know you're on the path.
I'm terrified. (This was obviously me.)
What was that about keeping the path's clear?
If they wanted me to respect their nature, they should have done something about this path.
We are total trailblazers. 
I'm glad we took the wrong path
That detour was totally worth it.
Oh look! We get to go ice skating now!
Uh oh, I think we missed the drowning pool.  (At the end of the real path, there was a history drowning pool where they used to drown witches and the like.  They used burn then at the stake, but they stopped because they didn't want to waste the trees.)

 When we got back from the tour, we took a brief nap, and then headed out to dinner. 

Kelly: My skin feels as soft as the day I was born.
Me: Because you remember that?
Kelly: I've touch babies before.

After dinner we decided to check out the much talked about "Lights Festival" which turned out to be more just some lights rather than a festival.  We bottled out disappointment, and headed into a bar called, "The English Pub" where we met some English guys on vacation.  Some random quotes from the evening.

Oh man, look at my toilet soaked passport.
Nothing says sexy like two pairs of pants.
I don't know how to smoke a cigarette.
Look at this purple light, is this a part of the festival?
You can leave your baby on the street here and no one will kidnap it.
That's a Texan accent, Johnny, not an American accent.

I also tried to explain to William that the near fight that happened in the bar (Johnny diffused the situation by saying, " Wind your neck in! ") was actually a public service to middle aged couple.  William didn't appreciate my spin on the situation.  Then Becky was asked by the owner of the to come back into the closed bar for some additional beverages.  I'm still not sure I agree with her decision to decline, although I did appreciate all 4 hours of sleep that we did get that evening.  Becky woke up the next morning in excruciating neck pain, to which I gave her some pain killers and convinced her to suffer through it.  And oh how she suffered - but I hope the nature eye candy helped assuage the resulting pain.

We used a different tour group for the South Shore Tour.  As soon as we got on the bus, we knew it wasn't going to be as awesome. 

Kelly: I already miss the lady from yesterday.
Me: I'm going to ask her to turn the volume down, it's making me irritable. 

Basically, the tour guide was switching back and forth between English and German.  Only she wasn't being consistent, and she kept messing up a lot of the words, to a point that I wasn't always sure she was speaking in English. It was less talking and more screeching to be honest.  Later, when the tour was over...

Kelly: I didn't learn anything today.
Me: Except that the number their sheep.

Me: What exactly is a Glacier?
Becky: (Explained it better in scientific terms that I don't remember now) It's like snow that has been impacted a whole lot.
Kelly: Like the ice we walked on yesterday's "path."

When we arrived at the Glacier I was blown away by how cool and unique the landscape looked like. 

Kelly: It feels like we're on a different planet.
Me: Yea, look at that moon rock. 

Oh, I don't want you to think that Kelly, No didn't live up to her name on this trip.  Touching the hot spring near signs that said 100 degrees C, skating on ice, or inching across ice that clear was not sturdy or being told that we were going to a place that many people had died, and then getting yelled at for going too close to the water to get an awesome picture are just some of the moments that I remember. :)

So we saw cool rock formations, black sandy shores, two waterfalls, a little village... wait, let me get the real names of these places.

Vík was the name of the village, Seljalandsfoss waterfall (where you can walk behind it) was the first waterfall, Mýrdalsjökull was the name of the glacier, Reynisdrangar was what the rock formations, and Skógafoss waterfall, with its 60-meter drop, was the one that Kelly and Becky slept through.  To which I helpfully commented, "I can't believe you slept through the only thing you really wanted to see in Iceland." 

Not having much time after the tour, we stopped for some hotdogs for dinner.  Becky decided to call it a night at that point (such a trooper) and Kelly and I were off to the second attempt to see the Northern Lights, this time by boat.  While everyone else on the tour immediately geared up with the provided snow suits and then went up to the top deck to see the lights, Kelly and I had other ideas.  We instead, found some seats on the bottom deck, settled in for a nap, and waited for someone to tell us that the lights were out.   At one point, the tour guide read us beautiful poems in a sonorous voice that made snooze.  And then he came inside and played us lullaby's, which also made me snooze.  People would periodically come down, frozen and miserable, and tell us that the light still were not visible.  Kelly felt glorious about not getting a tri-pod, I just felt good that we at least tried to see the northern lights.  Towards the end, one of the guides thought they might have seen them, so I went upstairs.  There was 50 something mom talking to her son.

Mom: I think we're just slowing down to make us feel better.
Son: Is that them there?
Mom: It's a cloud. I'm 55 I know the difference between a cloud and the northern lights. Oh look.  We're speeding up now.  Maybe we're chasing them. 

Kelly and I were still in good spirits on our 1:30 am stroll back to the hotel.  After getting a couple hours of sleep, I met Becky in for breakfast, and we headed out for the Blue Lagoon tour.  The sunrise was gorgeous, and the landscape looked like frozen lava.  The Blue Lagoon was like stepping into something from a movie.  So pretty, and clean, and warm and sunny.  We got pedicures, adult beverages, and rubbed volcanic rock and algae on our faces.  It was glorious.  Before we knew it, our four day trip was over and we were on our way back to Seattle.  The only snag was that I ended up getting really sick towards the end of the flight, but otherwise everything was just awesome.  AND bonus! The customs agents totally accepted Becky's toilet soaked passport as a legal document. 

Here are around 300 of the 2000 pictures I took:

And if you can't see those, here's slightly less photo's here:

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