Day 10 – Bye Bye Iceland

October 24, 2018

Lambafell to Keflavík

We woke up to a dark sky. Like most mornings it was hard for Laurie to get out of bed.

We kept the day’s itinerary simple – swimming pool, return car and head to airport.

It was a 90 minute drive to the outskirts of Reykjavík where we wound through a neighborhood to the Árbæjarlaug pool.

This pool was used to foreigners as they had the instructions for the changing rooms written in English. Apparently this was confusing initially to others as well!

By this time we were pros.

We quickly changed and jumped in the pool at the base of the slide. The water in this pool was not as warm as previous ones but it was much warmer than the outside temperature and falling rain.

It had an exposed (as in not enclosed and thus colder) stairwell to the top of the slide. The 5 degree weather did not deter us from playing on the slide for a good 20 minutes. A few slides in Andy showed Laurie how to use a swinging motion to gain momentum and go even faster.

It was not as fast or exhilarating as the slides in Akureyri but it was faster than the ones in the previous pool.

Laurie swam some laps while Andy hung out in the hot pots and massaged his neck and shoulders under a powerful fountain.

We spent about 90 minutes in the pool splashing about and moving our bodies before the 9 hour flight home.

The car drop off was uneventful other than a few trips past a round-about trying to locate the entrance to a gas station.

Andy did let the rental car company employees know he was displeased with the brakes of the first car and got a haphazard apology. He believes Europeans don’t do apologies very well.

We paced through the airport multiple times stretching our legs prior to the flight.

As US citizens we had the privilege of multiple extra security checks. While most people procedeeded through the passport check with green lights, us Americans received a red light and loud buzz as we attempted to go through the turn style.

We were corralled to a separate line and had to answer questions on our purpose of travel, where we had gone, where we had stayed, etc. The agents were very friendly, particularly after Andy talked them up and Laurie made them smile attempting to pronounce the names of various places.

Once through Passport control we figured we were good so we wandered the extent of the terminal.

Our gate was through another checkpoint where they sent all Americans into a small room and patted us down and went through our bags. Apparently they do this because of TSA requirements. Or maybe it is a way to employ a lot of people..

In any case, the agents were all friendly and we had plenty of time to spare so it wasn’t a big inconvenience.

By the time we got to our gate people were already lining up. We joined them and waited another 20 minutes before they began loading the plane.

Wow airlines has very specific guidelines on the size of “personal items” vs “carry on.” One couple on our flight got in a huge argument with the airline staff because their carry on did not fit in the plastic measuring containers. Apparently they took off the luggage wheels to make them fit to avoid the extra charge.

We were glad we had payed a little extra to check in bags in addition to carry on luggage and a personal item to avoid this hassle.

We took a bus to our plane, inhaling our last breaths of cool, crisp Icelandic air before ascending the steps to our bird.

Once on the plane we settled into our seats, Laurie eyeing the empty rows in hopes of snagging one to sleep across. The suspense grew as the time between the buses extended.

There were no announcements but it seemed too good to be true to have so many empty seats. Eventually the facial expressions on the flight attendants relaxed and a large number of people boarded the plane. We had waited for a few dozen travelers who had been delayed and were connecting to our flight.

Suddenly the chances of sleeping comfortably on the plane diminished and we resigned to our original seats.

The flight was fine – long but fine. We snacked, napped, walked and repeated.

Coming home is never as fun as leaving but we were content with our trip. We had a great time and will certainly visit Iceland again in the future.

Tonight we are grateful for sleeping in a horizontal position and loving family who welcomed us home with salad!

Larger than normal thermal activity near the main road

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Day 8 – No Tomato Soup For You!

October 22, 2018

Akranes to Skógar

We woke up in the dark, refreshed from a good night’s sleep.

We had planned another full day with stops at some of the sights we had missed on our original drive to the southwest part of the country.

But first we had to leave the hostel. When Andy went to put on his shoes, one of them was missing.

We were both perplexed, there were 2 doors to the hostel but the missing shoe wasn’t at either.

Did someone take it by mistake? That could potentially be the cause if both were missing, but not just one.

Did someone use it as a door stop? Nobody else was awake other than a French family whose room was next to ours. Laurie was about to ask them when Andy opened a closet near one of the doors and found the missing shoe.

Thank goodness. We really didn’t want to spend precious daylight shoe shopping, particularly since everything would be uber expensive and we are quite fond of our waterproof Keen boots. We suspect the young kiddo at the hostel hid it thinking it was funny, but we will never know.

Finally in the car with cozy boots, our first stop was to the local bakery. We bought a cinnamon roll larger than our heads to share on our last days in Iceland.

We left the town of Akranes via a 6 km underwater tunnel. It was rainy in Akranes and once again Laurie hoped that we would encounter different weather on the opposite side of the tunnel – again, this was not the case.

We had so much fun at the public pool in Akureyri we decided to go to as many pools as possible in our remaining days.

Given that it was 8:30 on a Monday morning, there were less people at the Lágafellslaug pool. The waterslides were not as steep or fast as those in Akureyri but we still had fun.

We went down the slides together (probably weren’t supposed to) to gain more speed. And there was nobody else there so we never had to wait. We had a blast! Laurie also swam laps while Andy alternated between the hot tubs and plunge pool.

It remained gloomy and rainy and the pool seemed to be the best place to be. Reluctantly we left around 10am to continue south.

We returned to Thingvellir National Park – a place we had accidentally driven through on our first delirious day without knowing its importance.

This site has both geological and historical significance. Iceland is the only place in the world where the rift between two tectonic plates is above sea level. They say the rift between the two plates widens by 2.5 cm each year.

Not only is it the meeting place of the North American and Euroasian tectonic plates, but it is the location where representatives from each clan met in the 10th century to discuss law on the island and create a commonwealth.

We joined the herd of people as we walked to the Öxarárfoss waterfall. In 7 days we haven’t heard as much English as we did in the hour we spent in this National Park.

It was cool seeing water fall off the shelf formed by the movement of tectonic plates but nothing as spectacular as the waterfalls we saw earlier in the trip.

As we pulled away Andy took a deep breath and tried to blow away all the clouds. We both want sunny skies but it it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy for the remainder of our trip. But as we always do, we will make the best of it.

After leaving the park we turned onto Road 36 toward Kerid Crater. To our right there were many cars at a dam so we pulled in. As Andy neared his chosen parking space we heard a noise similar to running over a soda can.

Then, as Andy attempted to stop the car, the brake pedal went to the floor but the car did not slow. Andy pumped the brakes a few times and thankfully the car came to a complete stop just before hitting the concrete median and ruining the underbody of the car.

After a quick inspection Andy realized the right rotor showed extreme signs of uneven wear and there was no right front brake pad any more.

He was pissed but thankful this happened in a parking lot rather than on the highway or twisty mountain roads.

We called the rental car company and eventually the emergency service number. Three hours, one visit to the interactive energy museum, one cold walk and one Laurie nap later, a very nice service man met us with a new rental car.

We quickly moved our stuff to the new car and took off. We had to alter our plans quite a bit since we lost 3 hours of daylight but we were thankful to be safe and back on the road again.

As we turned into the parking lot for Kerid Crater both of us had an epiphany. We had been here before.

On our second day, when driving this same road we had seen a bunch of cars and tour buses so we pulled in. When we saw the 400 Kronar per person entry fee to see a crater we figured it wasn’t worth it and turned around.

Now we were back – and this time it was planned!

We laughed at ourselves for being so cheap, payed our entrance fees and walked around the top of the crater. It was pretty with the blue/green water in contrast to the red volcanic rock and vibrant green moss. Of course nothing was as vibrant as it could have been with heavy cloud cover and mist but it wasn’t raining.

We are glad we stopped here as this crater was formed about 6,500 years ago.

We continued south, having to pass up our original plan to have what many claim to be really good tomato soup at a farm with many greenhouses.

As we approached Seljalandsfoss falls the light was poor again so we kept driving to our hotel. It has turned into a long day.

Our hotel is about 5 minutes from Skogafoss, another really pretty waterfall we didn’t get to see on Day two.

We got out to take a quick look, with the intention of coming back tomorrow morning without the crowds to walk up the wooden staircase to the top of the falls.

We got settled into our hotel, enjoying nice features like views of a green mountain side and a heated bathroom floor.

We ate a delicious meal of locally caught Artic Char and roasted lamb in the intimate dining room of the hotel.

We are savoring the last few nights in Iceland and looking forward to our ice cave experience tomorrow, whatever the weather.

Tonight we are grateful for our boots (all four of them) and a working car.

Walking on the North American tectonic plate toward Öxarárfoss waterfall


Öxarárfoss waterfall


Disappointed travelers with a broken car


Kerid Crater


Can you find Laurie?


Skógafoss falls


Kia Cee’d – our new rental car. Quite possibly the only car in the world with an apostrophe in its name.

Day 7 – Winter is on its way

October 21, 2018

Akureyri to Akranes

**We’ve decided to include the date and start/end locations for each day in our posts. We will be going back through our blog in the next dew days and adding this information to each post. If you want us to include any other information please leave a comment.**

Laurie woke up dreaming of toast and butter. Luckily there was a toaster in our hostel and we still had ” bakari” bread (aka bakery but we like saying this because it is one of the only Icelandic words we can pronounce).

The window in our room had ornamental indentations so we couldn’t do our usual morning weather check. The wind was no longer howling but there was a constant hum that we hoped wasn’t rain.

It wasn’t but the sky was still pretty dark. And darker in the direction we were headed.

As we drove north and then west of Akureyri it started to rain, then sleet and finally snow. The road began to climb as the winds picked up and soon we were driving through a little blizzard.

With visibility less than 50 feet at times, Andy kept the car in our lane by using the yellow snow posts as a guide. Luckily there were no other cars around so we went as slow as we wanted.

We passed a snow plow and the first Icelandic official vehicle we have seen on our trip. The guy was chilling in his truck on the side of the road – probably with his vehicle running and the heater on.

A few times we wondered if the road was open but figured they would have closed a gate if it wasn’t. So we kept going. Locals would probably laugh at us for considering today’s weather a storm.

As we neared the top, the wind mellowed. Our studded winter tires worked well and we both felt at ease while enjoying the adventure.

As we headed down to the next valley we eventually fell below the snow line and entered into the rain again.

The road continued like this for another 2 “passes.” Even the sheep were dusted white from the snow at the higher elevations.

At one point our car read -1 degree, the coldest it has been thus far (not considering the wind chill). We pulled out our big puffy coats for the first time this trip.

There weren’t many points of interest along the first half of today’s drive. We attempted to locate the waterfall of Reykjafoss. Google maps directed us down a road and we could see a size-able gorge and a river but there was never a spot to pull off or any path (or hole in a fence) to hike through. We eventually gave up and drove back to the main highway (Road 1).

Laurie moved in and out of slumber while Andy drove and enjoyed the scenery.

Eventually the skies cleared a little as we pulled into a parking area containing more cars than we had seen all morning.

We walked up wooden steps to circumnavigate the Grabrok crater which was formed by an eruption approximately 3,000 years ago.

We then drove about 10 minutes to the Glanni waterfall. We were the only people there, which was strange given the popularity of the neighboring Grabrok. We walked the main trail then followed a smaller path (which was quite wet) back the car.

It was another hour from here to the Deildartunguhver hot spring. This is the fastest flowing hot spring in the world. So much hot water comes out of the ground here that through ~70 km of piping it supplies hot water to the surrounding towns! The pipe network reminded us of the pipes that direct water from the Eastern Sierra to Los Angeles.

There was a fancy hot spring there but we decided to indulge in hot chocolate and carrot cake rather than take another hot plunge.

From here we took a little side trip up to Hraunfossar – one of the most unique waterfalls in Iceland. Here water flows out of lava tubes and into a river.

It’s hard to see what’s special about it at first. But then your brain catches up with your eyes and you think to yourself, “wait, where is this water coming from?”

We walked around as much was we could until it started to pour. Laurie ran back to the car as she had opted to wear her warm big puffy jacket which was not water proof.

The clouds produced more rain, then hail, then horizontal rain directly into our car enroute to our last stop. Along the way we stopped at a turnout to video chat with Andy’s parents and show them the incredible double rainbow behind us.

As we drove into Akranes – our home for the night, the clouds parted slightly and the sun came out.

This coastal town relies heavily on the fishing industry as its main source of employment.

Once settled in our hostel we decided to take a walk to stretch our legs after 6 hours in the car. We had about an hour of daylight so we wandered toward the lighthouse.

The smell of sea and fish wafted through the air. The wind picked up and eventually it began to hail. We choose our route to avoid long exposed areas.

Eventually the hail subsided as did the rain. We walked for about an hour – winding through small streets and gazing into warmly lit houses.

We returned to our hostel and made dinner consisting of beans, rice, cheese, tomatoes and greens after Laurie took a nice warm shower. It was fun to know where the water was coming from!

Tonight we are grateful for cozy accommodations and winter tires.

Grabrok Crater

Glanni waterfall

One steo, two step, repeat. And don’t fall in

Deildartunguhver hot springs

The most unique Hraunfossar waterfalls

Interesting rock formation or massive pile of cow dung?

Laurie tried to put Andy’s rain hood on. It didn’t go well.