Day 9 – A Beautiful Grey Day

October 23, 2018

Akranes to Lambafell

We slept well. It sounds like we say that at the start of every entry but our beds really have been quite comfy and we’ve been sleeping through the night and waking up rested.

Something else we keep doing is setting alarms and sleeping through them because it’s always dark when we get up.

This morning was no different.

Our alarm sounded at 730am but we didn’t get out of bed until about 8am.

Laurie showered and put on her robe. She felt fancy and was grinning from ear to ear. Sometimes it’s just the little things that we need to help us feel extra special.

We packed and headed to breakfast. Toast, jam, pickled herring, peppered cold cuts, 8 types of cheese, eggs, granola, flaky mini croissants and chocolate pastries. Yum! Hands down the best breakfast yet.

We drove 5 minutes down the road to Skogafoss. The crowds hadn’t arrived yet but there were at least a dozen camper vans in the parking lot. Some people were outside drinking coffee and making breakfast but others seemed to have not woken up yet. It clearly states no camping, but apparently some people disregard these signs.

We hope this does not lead to more stringent regulations and enforcement in the future. Part of what makes this country so enjoyable is it’s wild nature, lack of guard rails/fences and police presence.

We hiked up the metal stairs to the top of the waterfall. The trail continues here for miles and miles. In the summer it is possible to start a 4 day trek from this location with huts along the way. We hope to do that someday.

We were the only ones at the top of the falls but couldn’t fully enjoy the water crashing down because of the annoying buzz from a drone. Again, there are signs that clearly state no flying drones but we saw plenty of people ignoring this restriction.

At 10am we met our ice cave tour group in the rear of a supermarket parking lot. There seemed to be more people than they anticipated and it took some juggling to fit everyone into two 12 passenger vans.

Laurie asked to sit in the front seat since nobody else had claimed it. We drove through town and on Road 1 for about 10 minutes, then pulled off on an unnamed road.

The Ford Econoline vans were lifted, converted to a 4×4 and had massive tires with an onboard inflate/deflate system to provide a softer ride off road. (You can tell Andy has a slight obsession with these kinds of trucks).

The falling snow provided a nice dusting and contrast to the black volcanic rock.

While driving, our guide gave us some nice history of the area. The Ring Road (which we drove on and appreciated the smoothness of everyday) was completed in 1974. Prior to that the main road around the island was gravel and located in the foothills. Many places where the current road was built upon in the south was still underwater prior to the 1970s.

He spoke about the shrinking coast line and how floods often follow volcanic or earthquake acitivy, which is why the new road had so many bridges and dikes.

We learned that the locals don’t know road numbers, only names. And not just names of roads but the names each ravine, hillside and large rock in the area – usually names after the first settlers. They locate their sheep by using such landmarks.

Once at the base of the glacier we put on Kahtoola microspikes and helmets and headed to the cave. We had to wait a few minutes to let another tour exit. We were both excited and Laurie nearly ran into our guide when he suddenly stopped.

The ice caves form by water running through and off the glacier. They change every few months depending on the rains.

Unfortunately, as it was snowing, the light was too bright so the glacier wasn’t blue like we had seen in pictures but it was still cool to walk inside.

Laurie scampered around and climbed whatever she could. The volcanic rock was loose and deep and the microspikes aren’t made for climbing so she didn’t get very far.

We wandered around the glacier a bit as a group, looking at old cave locations and remnants from sink holes.

Eventually we made our way back to the 4×4 and back to town.

It was raining in Vik so we weren’t in any rush to head to the waterfalls. We had a tasty lunch (more arctic char and lamb, although this time a marinated lamb sandwich). Very tasty.

We drove to the black sand beach to check out Reynisdrangar, which is quite popular given the number of tour buses and cars in the parking lot.

It was cold and miserable walking to the beach with rain and wind whipping our faces. Reysindrangar are hexagonal basalt sea stacks located up the hillside adjacent to the beach. There are tall and interesting rock formations not too far out into the sea as well.

The natural geometric basalt shapes are so amazing. There were other thinner pancake like stacks inside a basalt cave, all of which are a result of the volcanic activity of the region.

Given the poor visibility, we didn’t walk on the beach much and headed for our next stop Kirkjufjara beach. There were more basalt formations here along with more interesting rocks in the sea that weren’t clearly visible given the rain and fog.

We can see how these beaches would be beautiful with sunny skies, however in the rain it looked like just another coastline with some cool arches made from crashing waves.

We hurried back to the car to get warm. Again we passed up an opportunity to see more rock formations and drove past our accommodations to visit two waterfalls.

This was the third time we had attempted to visit Seljalandsfoss. The first time it was dark, second was yesterday and it was getting dark. Third time had to be a charm.

We parked away from the crowds closer to Glúfrabúi. This is a waterfall that falls into a cave. One must walk through the river to enter into the cave.

We started out stepping on stones to get in and met a line of people partway through trying to get out. Andy kindly helped each of the 15 people identify which rock to step on while Laurie desperately clungto the rock wall trying to make herself as small as possible so as not to be in the way.

It was entertaining to see the differing comforts of people’s rock hopping skills and getting wet feet. Some people clung to Andy and then onto Laurie to avoid dunking their feet into the river, while others laughed as they skipped along the rocks.

The cave was cool, although like with most things, it would have looked better in the sunlight.

We walked about 500 meters to Seljalandsfoss, one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland. This one is popular because you can walk behind it, making it a nice place to take sunset photos.

There was not going to be any beautiful sunset shots tonight so we didn’t hesitate in walking around for the experience.

We entered from a different direction than most and one American “recommended that we don’t go that way because it was treacherous and she couldn’t see how we could possibly face the wet rocks and mud going downhill.”

We smiled and continued – aware of our abilities and comfort zones. The trail was no worse than the mist trail in Yosemite without the steepness, duration or mud.

The issue, more than the condition of the trail, was waiting for a break in the trail of people to get a chance to walk.

We were soaked from the rain so the mist from the fall didn’t phase us. It was cool to watch the water crash down in spurts from 60 meters (197 feet) above.

We had one more stop on our itinerary, but Andy was done. The one place that we had identified and had hoped to see on multiple days was Iceland’s first swimming pool. It has one wall made out of rocks to trap geothermal water. The pool was located very close to our accommodation (a short drive and 15 minute walk) up the valley but it was 4:45pm and very wet out.

Laurie reluctantly agreed that it made sense to get settled, eat early, relax, work on the blog and sleep early on our last evening, however she had trouble letting go of “seeing it all.”

This entire trip was about letting go of seeing it all given the variable weather but the need to see and do it all runs deep within Laurie.

Eventually we settled into our room, played 2 rounds of pool and attempted to watch TV (but nothing good was on). It started to pour which made Laurie feel a little better about passing up on the hike and swim.

This trip was wonderful and we both are left with a desire to return to explore more.

Next time we would hope for sunnier skies but one never knows with the weather. All you can do is bring your rain gear and hope it stays in your pack.

Tonight we are grateful for compatible traveling styles and cozy evenings while listening to the rain fall outside.

Skogafoss

Our tour guide in the shot for perspective

Andy – the keeper of the ice cave

Reysindrangar

Glúfrabúi

Seljalandsfoss

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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

Less Than Three Months To Go!

Laurie and I envision the Pacific Crest Trail to be an experience that challenges us physically, mentally and emotionally – both individually and as a couple.

We also envision it being a fun adventure. One in which our feet lead us to many awe-inspiring locations across the West.

But to get there, we have to “Leave behind the security of the wonderful place we’ve gotten to, in order to go to [places that are even better]” as John Francis explains in his TED talk ‘I walk the Earth.”

Experience has taught me over and over that change is worthwhile. Taking risks and leaving the security of my comfort zones leads to expansion and growth not possible otherwise.

And in hindsight, I always ask myself, “Why didn’t I make the change sooner?”

The answer is because I didn’t feel ready, and more to the point, because I was scared.

Scared of the unknown; scared of failure; scared of disappointing others; scared of disappointing myself.

But the truth is, the only way I can fail or disappoint myself is to not try in the first place.

I learned this on my John Muir Trail hike, but I find myself facing the same fears again, here and now.

Will I let that stop me? HECK NO!

See you on the trail.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain