Whether I'm trying my best to not fall off an Icelandic glacier, or standing in an ice-cold stream in Austria, or watching a lioness snack on a zebra on the African plains, or (more often) just sitting at my desk overhearing 16-year-old girl gossip, every day's a holly-day for me.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 4-5 – FreeFALLing

Today’s theme is: waterfalls! We’ve seen a bunch of them! And they did not disappoint. We left Reykjavik around 9:00 and started driving the “golden circle,” which is the loop around the island that hits most of the high points. Iceland’s population is 400,000 and it’s the size of Kentucky, so it doesn’t take too long to see the whole country. However, we’ll be making several stops and spending the night in several small towns along the way.

Our first stop was Thingvellir, which looks like a national park of some sort but is actually an historical site where the first Icelandic Parliament met. Also, the mid-Atlantic ridge lies at this point, so as we walked through the canyon, we were straddling two continents, N. America and Europe. Interestingly, the tectonic plates are pushing the entire island outward on each side by two centimeters per year. So in a few billion years, this place will be as big as Texas! Speaking of…there are bluebonnets here!

OK, not EXACTLY bluebonnets…they’re called Alaskan lupine and they’re everywhere! And they might actually be a litttttttle bit prettier than bluebonnets, but shhhhhhh….pretend I didn’t type that out loud.

After Thingveller, we stopped to see the geysers. There are 2-3 in the area we stopped and they erupt every few minutes. One of them makes Old Faithful look my shower. Impressive. There were signs everywhere warning people not to touch the water or the steam. As our bike tour guide told us on Friday, Icelanders strongly believe in “natural selection” and often don’t put guardrails or barriers around natural areas that could be dangerous or risky. I suppose this sign was intended to curb natural selection a bit…and it was only in English.  I found it pretty amusing, especially the last two. ;)

The next stop was listed by CNN as one of the top ten most beautiful waterfalls in the world. TRUTH. Gullfoss is actually several falls, but the main one is crazy big and powerful. We spent at least an hour there getting soaked while trying to capture the perfect shot. 

After the waterfall visit, we stopped for the night at Myrkholt Farm where we stayed in a very comfortable multi-room “cabin” that had a nice common room and kitchen. The kids edited pictures, worked on their blogs, submitted their assigned self-portraits and took pictures of the horses, sheep, etc. around the property. Tota, the lady traveling with us who prepares all our meals when we’re not near civilization, made chicken tiki massala and rice and salad, which was delicious. The best part of the whole night? The blackout curtains in the rooms! I slept the best I’ve slept so far.

On Sunday, we got up extra early so we could leave by 8:30. When I woke up and took my first step, I realized I had done too much the day before on “the foot.” It was feeling so much better on Saturday that I walked all over the waterfall like I owned it. On Sunday morning, I was quickly reminded that I had gotten a little cocky.

We ate breakfast, cleaned the lodge, and headed towards, you guessed it…a waterfall. The first one we went to is called Saljalandsfoss. We were able to walk behind it, and of course we got sprayed, but it was worth it. We loaded back up on the bus, drove about 30 minutes, put our rain gear back on and walked up to the tallest freakin’ waterfall you can imagine. It made waterfall number one look pretty wimpy. There were stairs to the top (at least 7,000…or maybe just 1,000m but who’s counting…), so of course we climbed them. An amazing view and – bonus! – quads and glut workout! Once at the top, we took hundreds of pictures, and I nervously watched the kids around the edges of the cliffs. Stannar wasn’t kidding…very few rails or barriers, and I was a nervous wreck watching them all try to get the very best shot. Luckily, natural selection didn’t get the best of us today.

We ate lunch in the park at the base of the waterfall, paid $1.00 to go to the bathroom (standard) and then headed to the beach. It was a cold, windy, damp, gray day, but well worth the hike up to the cliffs overlooking the water. Huge, imposing rocks with even huge-er holes in them sit right off the shore, waves crashing up over them. We took pictures, hiked quite a ways up and down, tried to get some pictures of the puffin (not so successfully for most of us…) and made it back to the bus in about an 

We headed for another part of the beach just 15 minutes or so up the road to see the salt columns and more big rocks. Salt columns look like this:

I really have no understanding of how these are formed or how long they’ve been there, but they look really cool!

The next stop was a cute fishing village called Vik, where I took this shot of the church among the bluebonnets…I mean lupine.

We were able to get a item that has been most coveted since we’ve arrived: a hot dog! Before we left, we’d read the number one thing we had to eat was an Icelandic hot dog. They are lamb hot dogs, and they are actually quite good. Don’t taste much different than American hot dogs. The majority of the kids also got ice cream, and Juan got a package of cured fish, which we demanded be opened outside/not on the bus.

After what seems like two days worth of activity packed into 8 hours, we are currently on the bus, traveling through very remote areas. Most of the kids are napping, missing the sites - cute turf houses, waterfall after waterfall after waterfall, sheep and horses, glaciers and lava fields. I now understand why my mother would get frustrated when I would sleep or read on roadtrips. Every time I see something cool, I want to scream, “Wake up! Look!” but I am refraining. We are headed towards our final destination for the day, Skaftafell National Park. We will be tent camping for two nights at Skaftafell. It is MUCH colder in this part of the country than anywhere we’ve been yet, so this might be a challenge for this born and bred Texas girl who thinks anything below 60 degrees warrants a coat and gloves. I only hope someone takes pictures of me trying to set up my own tent with 17 layers of REI thermal gear on. It should be comedy gold. Wish us luck!

PS: All the pictures on this post are just iphone pictures…”real pictures." I'll post more pictures when I can get someplace that I can charge cameras/computers, etc. 

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