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.

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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.

Day 6 – A Mixed Bag Kind Of Day

October 20, 2018

Myvatn to Akureyri

Andy woke Laurie in the middle of the night to look at the stars. It was nice being able to star gaze from the warmth and coziness of our bed.

Orion was bright and easily recognizable. Unfortunately no Aurora Borealis was to be seen.

Laurie’s eyes stayed open for about 3 minutes before they closed again and she was fast asleep.

Last night we made changes to our plans. We both really want to explore an ice cave, but unfortunately they are all located in the southern part of the island. We tried booking a few when we were down there but they were all sold out.

Now our choice is to explore the western fjords and wait until our next trip to Iceland for an ice cave experience or skip the western fjords and drive back to where we spent the our 2nd night to do what we really want to do.

One of Andy’s favorite sayings is “Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”

So we booked an ice cave tour and will stay on Road 1, taking it back toward Vik instead of exploring Northwest Iceland. We feel good about this plan, even though it means we will literally be halfway across Iceland two days from now.

We had a nice breakfast at our hotel including “geyser” bread which is dense rye made in holes in the ground and cooked for 24 hours from the heat of the geysers. It wasn’t the tastiest thing (at least for Laurie) but it was nice to try.

We drove about 40 minutes to the Godafoss waterfall under dark but clearing skies. This is another giant waterfall formed from a river carving a path through 7,000 year old lava fields.

It was very pretty and not yet very crowded as it was still early in the morning and most people were having breakfast.

Laurie snoozed while Andy drove another hour to the town of Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest town.

Here we decided to partake in a common Icelandic recreation activity – swimming.

Andy does not know how to swim but is trying to learn. He took swim lessons earlier this year but hasn’t had much of an opportunity to practice mainly because he hates chlorine and most pools around the Bay Area are heavily chlorinated.

Laurie was excited when she learned about the amazing Icelandic pools. She packed googles, a swim cap and even ear plugs to make swimming as enjoyable as possible.

Hopefully Andy would feel more comfortable in less chlorinated water and this would be a fun way to break up the long driving days.

Our morning at the pool did not disappoint, even though it was a balmy 9 degrees celcius.

We payed our entrance fee equivalent of $9 and parted ways into our respective changing rooms.

Laurie busily put on her bathing suit and swim cap and was looking for the exit to the pool when a lady stopped her to ask if she had showered. She hadn’t. She went back to do so and learned there are dry and wet sections to the locker room to keep the place as clean as possible.

One is supposed to undress, place his/her towel in the towel section, take his/her bathing suit to the shower where you shower naked and THEN put on your bathing suit. This all makes sense, particularly when done in the reverse order after the pool however to a newbie American if felt quite complicated.

There are many pool options – 4 hot tubs, 2 slides, a kid pool, open water pool and lap pool. All of which are heated with natural spring water (plus a little chlorine).

One of the coolest features of the pool is the possibility of a wet entry. There is a small pool indoors and plastic flaps allow you to enter the outdoor open water pool without having to brave the cold air.

It is like a doggie door for humans. Of course there are regular doors too for those who are used to the cold, but that was not us!

We played on the slides for the most part. Laurie took a little break to do some laps while Andy sat in the “hot pot.” Unfortunately one of our pair of googles fell off Laurie’s head at some point so we both couldn’t swim at the same time. Honestly, the slides were too fun for Andy to want to work on his swimming.

We pulled ourselves away to continue with our plan for a grocery run and a hike. Andy drove (Laurie slept) another 40 minutes north toward a trail that led 2,000+ feet up to a lake in about 3 miles.

Unfortunately the clouds got darker and darker and the winds grew stronger, especially so when we turned inland to find the trail. It was not ideal hiking conditions so we turned around.

Truth is we probably wouldn’t have been able to get very far anyway because of the amount of snow on the mountains.

We drove back to our guesthouse and relaxed for a bit before heading out to wander around the town of Akureyri, where the winds were mild and blue clouds were overhead.

Many of the shops were closed but we did try some Icelandic ice cream and leaned how to say “thank you.”

As it got dark we came back, made dinner and blogged as the wind howled outside.

Tomorrow will be another long driving day but we hope to break it up with some more waterfalls and whatever else piques our interest.

Tonight we are grateful for each other and clean and cozy guesthouses.

Godafoss waterfall