Iceland 2016: Never Enough

7 08 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Just when we think we have seen the most beautiful falls in all of Iceland, we turn around and are awed by the next one.  Down the road from our hotel in Geirland, we come across a waterfall that stuns us with its beauty.

It isn’t very tall.

The volume of water isn’t great.

It doesn’t drop from sheer cliffs.

But its rounded features mirrored by the hills around it sooth us and its turquoise waters draw us in.

It is poetry.

6-6-16 Geirland waterfall (3)

This place deserves some Marie.

6-6-16 Geirland waterfall (17)

 

Annalise adds her own brand of poetry

And because there is a hill, I climb.  And because I climb, Annalise takes off after me and soon leaves me in the dust.  Such a climb!

6-6-16 Geirland waterfall (15)

It is exhilarating to hang onto the hillside with a handful of grass, pulling yourself up the steep slope.  I get three-fourths of the way up before Annalise decides to come down.  Turning around, I look down and suddenly remember that I don’t like heights.  Shoot.  How to get down?  6-6-16 Geirland waterfall (18)

As I’ve done a time or two before on this trip, I face out and start crab-walking down, but am passed by Annalise who is simply sliding down.  So I give up my crab-walk and slide on my butt, laughing all the way.  Worries, stresses, problems…they all disappear when I give in to this moment!

6-6-16 Geirland waterfall (13)

And after a stone-skipping contest with Dave, who wins with a seven-skip rock, we get back in our cars for our drive around the southern-most part of the island and up to the Golden Circle.  And all day long a niggle in the back of my mind says, only two more days left to experience Iceland.

We cross miles of black sand before reaching the town of Vík.  Vík has a huge tourist souvenir shop—just the sort of shop I love to hate, but need in order to find some goodies for my family back home.  When we step outside and look to the cliffs along the beach, we see a parasailer working his way along the cliffs.

6-6-16 Vík I imagine what he is seeing: jagged rocks, seabirds nesting on ledges, puffins scooting into their burrows.  But I am glad to have both my feet firmly on the ground.

We replenish our food stocks at a grocery store, then walk to a nearby park with a picnic table to eat lunch.  While we eat, the parasailer floats closer and closer, landing gently in the field next to us.  We watch as he gathers his sail up and stuffs it in a bag, hoists it on his back, and walks down the road.  This guy is older than we are.  What a life he must lead!

We go to the black sand beach that has made Vík famous.

6-6-16 Vík (1)

Nancy and I amuse ourselves by walking over to the cliffs to look for puffins.  One can never have enough puffin pictures!  We only see one on the cliff, too far off for a good shot, although we see lots of them bobbing on the waves just past the surf.

From a kiosk, we learn that these sands and those in the sand flats we’ve just driven through are the result of “subglacial outburst flooding.”  Yipes.  The geology of this place fascinates me.

On to Skógafoss, one of the prettiest waterfalls in all of Iceland.  Definitely the most crowded.

6-6-16 Skogafoss (12)

Brian and I climb the stairs to a good viewing area, sidling out on a ledge that has me quite uncomfortable, but hey, we got some good pictures!

6-6-16 Skogafoss (18)

6-6-16 Skogafoss (16)

We climb down again to find Nancy taking some close-up shots of a patient and photogenic  sheep.  One can never have enough sheep pictures, either!

Next stop: Seljalandsfoss.  Yes, another waterfall.  Never enough.

6-6-16 Seljalandsfoss (3)

This  waterfall is unique in that you can walk behind it.  So I did.

6-6-16 Seljalandsfoss (8)

And we get a glimpse of Darwinism in action, almost.  People have hiked up to the top of the falls, and one hiker who is either very brave or very stupid or both gets right out on the edge, close enough to stick his feet into the falls.  He must have very good karma, or at least a good grip on reality, because he doesn’t fall.  That would have been a serious downer.

6-6-16 Seljalandsfoss (4)

We end the day at Efsti-Dalur Farmhotel.  Efsti-Dalur is a working dairy farm, with a wall of windows separating the restaurant and dairy bar from the barn.  We can’t resist: even before going to our rooms—each a little cabin with wood paneling—we settle down in the dairy bar with fresh, homemade ice cream as we watch the cows next door who provided the milk.  We hear that people make the trip all the way from Reykjavik just for this ice cream.  I can believe it!

6-6-16 Efsti-Dalur Farm (2)

Dinner in the upstairs restaurant is equally delicious, although a bit more unsettling, as we eat huge hamburgers that are also produced on site.

6-6-16 Efsti-Dalur Farm (3)

Our view as we eat our hamburgers

And our timing for dinner is impeccable, since we finish just as a loud party of people with full body tattoos comes in.  I don’t dare take pictures, but then the image is seared into my brain anyway!

6-6-16 Efsti-Dalur Farm (5)

We walk past the horse pasture to our little cabin room and fall asleep to the sweet songs of birds in the ever-light sky.  And the birds sing all night.  Never enough.





Iceland 2016: Composure Restored and a Glove is Lost

5 07 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Today, as days tend to do, dawns brighter than the day before. The mountains are ever so much more awe-inspiring when the sun is out.5-28-16

 

5-28-16 hut print

Yet the wind is still gusty and we have a 10:00 sea kayaking excursion looming.  Our itinerary calls it “an unforgettable adventure.”  Enough already.  We make it to Heydalur, silently hoping that the trip will be called off.  And it is.  Too windy.

But they have horses.  So we book a trail ride instead, and while waiting for the horses to be brought in from the pasture, we play with the friendly dogs.

5-28-16 Heydalur (4)

One dog, who looks like a mix between a border collie and a fox, has boundless energy, fetching sticks and collecting them in his mouth until we are sure he can hold no more.  Then we see him in action, herding in the horses as they come in from the field.  It’s his job, and it is evident that he loves it!

5-28-16 Heydalur (12)

5-28-16 Heydalur (16)

Our trail ride is safe, predictable, forgettable.  Just what we need.

5-28-16 Heydalur (1)

Brian stays behind and cleans mud from our tires.  Just what he needs.

5-28-16 Heydalur (31)

Icelandic horses are gentle, well-trained, and responsive.  They have a unique gait called a tölt, a fast but smooth walk.  Our guide lets us experience the tölt , and occasionally we break into an unauthorized canter, but for the most part we walk.  We pose for a picture, then head back.

5-28-16 Heydalur (29)

 

Back on the road, we stop at a pull-off beside what must be a protected bird nesting area.  We eat a lunch, snap some pictures, and move on.5-28-16 Heydalur (39)5-28-16 goose nesting area5-28-16 goose nesting area (5)

 

 

Soon we spy another waterfall, so we stop and head up the path.  Beauty beyond words.  We snap hundreds of photos hoping to catch this essence of this place, following the river upstream a ways.5-28-16 waterfall hike (4)5-28-16 waterfall hike (1)5-28-16 waterfall hike (48)

 

 

 

5-28-16 waterfall hike (19)

Awkward father-daughter shot

Annalise pulls Brian from his car disaster funk with her spunky brand of fun.  He relaxes and finally shakes off yesterday’s cloud.

We all feel an upswing in our spirits as the clouds lift and the sun sends sparkles to the hills.5-28-16 waterfall hike (9)

We stop at another waterfall.  How much more beauty can we take before we become satiated?  Yet each place holds its own brand of awe, and we hungrily take it all in and then go for more.5-28-16 waterfall (2)

5-28-16 waterfall #2  (1)

5-28-16 rock closeup (2)

I’m lichen this volcano-shaped rock.

 

On the final stretch toward our hotel, the paved road gives way to gravel, and we look warily at each other as we bump around between the pot-holes.  Where is this taking us?  Surely there is no civilization down this way.  But our GPS insists we are on track, and then there it is, a long plain building with the right name out front: Hótel Laugarhóll.  In front, a field of cuteness in the form of lambkins.  Behind, the side of a mountain with the allure of hikes.  And to the side, an historic witch’s turf house.  And a heated pool and natural hot springs.  We have arrived.5-28-16  Hótel Laugarhóll

Nancy and I head out to get our allotted share of sheep photos.

5-28-16 (10)

 

We explore the Sorcerer’s Cottage, wondering at lives lived so long ago in this unforgiving clime.5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll (6)

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll (3)

Shortness is a virtue.

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll

Who knew?

 

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll (9)

She who washes in the Pool of Gudmundur the Good will be able to see the spirits around…not.

 

Then Annalise and I take in the hot springs, awkwardly glad that we are alone in the pool.

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll (10)

Dinnertime.  This will be one to remember.  A buffet of salads, butternut squash soup, authentic shepherd’s pie, two types of quiche, and a fish casserole.  Memories of peanut butter and raisin sandwiches fade as I stoke my fires full to the brim with deliciousness.

Yet the ever-lasting daylight beckons and after a brief respite while dinner digests, we all set off for an evening stroll down the road.  A path leading upward, a distant roar of a waterfall: that’s all it takes, and David and I are off.  We climb the hillside leaving the others behind, following the path of a raging stream.

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll hike

Heading up to the falls

 

Huge banks of snow leave us no doubt as to the water’s temperature, but we soon shuck our coats and stop to gulp in huge breaths of the cool evening air.5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll hike (5)5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll hike (8)

 

We reach the top of the waterfall and look down over the valley.  If only we could see our own lives so clearly.

5-28-16 Hótel Laugarhóll hike (7)

 

And somewhere on the hillside, David drops a glove.





Iceland Saga 2013: Between a Rock and a Hot Place

18 07 2013

Beth on the rocks

Beth on the rocks

Iceland is a geologist’s dream.  And a volcanologist’s.  And a glaciologist’s.  Matter of fact, just about anybody with an “ist” at the end of their profession would get excited about Iceland.  (Except maybe a poltergeist.  That would be weird.)

Iceland is young, a mere baby in geological time.  Formed 16 to 18 million years ago from a hotspot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it is rife with rifts and accompanying earthquakes, volcanoes, and geothermal activity.  mid ocean ridgeAdd to that that Iceland is topped with glaciers covering over 11% of its area, and you get some pretty amazing landforms and features.volcanoes

Think waterfalls.  In one fjord alone, (we’ll call it Sven’s Fjord) I turned around and counted more than 50 waterfalls.  There may have been more, but there were a couple of buildings in the way. 

Hey, look, a waterfall!

Hey, look, a waterfall!

All this water comes from glaciers melting, which, from the sheer volume of water, you would think would all be melted by now.  Apparently that’s just not happening, though.  On our trip around Iceland, we stopped at waterfall after waterfall.  We hiked up mountains to see waterfalls.  We walked across sheep pastures to see waterfalls.  All this activity was totally unnecessary, as we could have seen a lifetime of waterfalls from our car. 

another one

another one

This one had a name.  I think it started with an H.

This one had a name. I think it started with an H.

I don’t know exactly what draws people to waterfalls.  Maybe it is the power of the water or the contrast of water against rock.  Or maybe it is an attempt to see how close we can get to certain death.

Look ma, no guardrails.

Look ma, no guardrails.

Have I mentioned the Icelanders’ total unconcern with people’s safety?  In the U.S., there would be fences, viewing platforms, and signs everywhere letting people know that a waterfall is inherently harmful to your health.  Not so in Iceland.  They are a Survival of the Fittest type of people.  It was refreshing, in a hey-look-at-that-fool-over-there, would-you-back-up-just-a-little-more-for-a-picture kind of way.

yep

yep

I doubt anyone has ever counted all the waterfalls in Iceland.  But I do know that I have pictures of the vast majority of them.  And I really need to invest in a new thesaurus.  I’ve run out of synonyms for “gorgeous.”

It all begins here.

It all begins here.

beautiful

beautiful

amazing

amazing

stupendous

stupendous (note the tiny specks of people on the other side)

 

awe-inspiring (the waterfall, that is)

awe-inspiring (the waterfall, that is)

Then there are rocks.  My rock identification ranks right up there with my bird identification, that is to say, pretty abysmal.  I just take it for granite that rocks are gneiss.  Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system.  I feel much better now.

Actually, you can impress a lot of people by hefting a chuck of Icelandic rock, sniffing it, and saying, “Yep, that’s basalt.”  Because basalt, according to my good and wise friend Wikipedia, is “a common extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava.”  Even I know that this means it is volcanic.  I even can point out columnar basalt like an expert because, duh, it forms columns. 

Them R columnar basalt.

M R columnar basalt.

more columnar basalt

more columnar basalt

A double whammy

A double whammy

Mr. Wiki goes on to say that “the crustal portions of oceanic tectonic plates are composed predominantly of basalt, produced from upwelling mantle below ocean ridges.”  Ding ding. That’s Iceland all over.

So here’s a few exciting pictures of rocks.

jigsaw puzzle rock

jigsaw puzzle rock

holy rock

holy rock

rock man

rock man

rock woman

rock woman

rock cairn

rock cairn

inside a rock

inside a rock

The game Rock, Paper, Scissors ought to include a hand motion for glaciers, because glaciers can put a hurting on some rocks.  Glaciers roll rocks, they round them, they gouge them, they crush them, they turn them into piles of gravel big enough to keep a road crew happy for decades.   Although glaciers are not very nice, they can be very pretty, except when they are covered with ash.  I guess that’s the way volcanoes get even with glaciers for messing with their progeny. 

beautiful glacial lagoon in front of beautiful glacier

beautiful glacial lagoon in front of beautiful glacier

dirty glacier

dirty glacier

Sitting on the crack of the world is not without its advantages.  Yes, there are hundreds of earthquakes each day and volcanic eruptions constantly threatening your vacation plans.  But think of all that free energy. 

free stuff

free stuff

Geothermal energy heats indoor plumbing and public pools all across Iceland.  The only energy crisis in Iceland is having too much all at once.  Enough energy to run televisions, video games, appliances, hair driers.  A teenager’s dream.  You just have to watch the voltage.

Brian on a rock

Brian on a rock





Iceland Saga 2013: Not so many/In a Plenty

16 07 2013

IMG_4927In Iceland there are not so many:

Guardrails

Two way bridges

Stop signs

Things that will eat you

Unfriendly people or

Paid rescue teams.

Dynjandi Waterfall

Dynjandi Waterfall

Iceland has in a plenty:

Jaw-dropping sights

One way bridges

Rocks

Glaciers

Water

Energy (geothermal and hydroelectric)

Sheep

Midges

Ways to hurt yourself

Ponies

Waterfalls

Lupine

Jaw-dropping sights

Mountains

Birds

Blonde hair and blue-eyed natives

English-speakers

Volcanic activity, and

Did I mention…

Jaw-dropping sights?

Somewhere on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Somewhere on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula