Sunday, September 2, 2012

Twist Your Head Around, It Is All Around You

The day after our 6 hour climb on the glacier was meant to be a relaxing day of national parks and boat rides.  And it was.  We started the day with the nearly two hour drive to Skaftafell National Park, where we were in search of, what else, waterfalls.  On the way, we were distracted by a glacier lagoon where we wasted a precious hour throwing rocks at icebergs and skipping stones.  It was worth it - even if we ended up nearly having to run the 1.5 miles to our planned destination.

The glacier lagoon that distracted and entertained us.

Kirby and Black Baby sit on the shore and enjoy the view.

After we had all skipped at least one stone and hit one iceberg each, we were satisfied enough to leave the lagoon and head to the park.  As I mentioned, we were on a bit of a time crunch (we had a date with an iceberg boat ride) and had to run through the park nearly 2 miles to get to our waterfall destination.  Luckily, Iceland is not shy on waterfalls, so we were able to see one on the way.

The first waterfall we came across was Hundafoss.  I came across this information while looking up the name for this waterfall;  

"I read somewhere that the falls got its name ("hundur" means dog in Icelandic) because dogs have been swept over the falls during flood. I've also heard that a dog gave its life trying to rescue someone here. I'm sure there's a saga for it."

Whether or not this is true, I can't say, but it seem plausible as you can walk across the top of the waterfall.  I don't recommend doing it.  Kirby attempted it (in dress shoes none the less) and rightfully so decided it was a bad idea.  The fall is not a short one - but, maybe we could have renamed it Kirbyfoss.  Hmmm.  In the end, we did cross over the top of the falls, only much further back at a safer distance.  We thought we were being very clever and making a short cut.  Turns out, no, we didn't, but it was still a more interesting path to take.

The top of Hundafoss.

Hundafoss, and why it might not be a great idea to walk across the top.

Heart shaped moss we found in the park.
We soldiered on to the main attraction, Svartifoss, hands down the most popular fall in the park.  Svartifoss means "Black Fall" and the name comes from the lava columns behind the falls, a very bizarre and amazing formation to see.  Much like many of the waterfalls we had experienced thus far on the trip, you can walk right to the base of the fall.

Approaching Svartifoss.  

Svartifoss proper, with its black lava columns.

We then left the park to meet up with our boat tour group.  We took a iceberg boat ride in Jökulsárlón, which means "glacial river lagoon", because, well, that is what it is.  The boat ride was amazing.  You have to suit up in a full body jacket and life vest.  This is to protect you from hypothermia in the off chance that you fall overboard.  You then board a tiny rubber boat that holds 10 passengers and 1 driver.  For the next hour, you are taken to the base of the glacier where, if you are lucky, you can watch an iceberg fall into the lagoon.  We did not get to see this.  You then spend the rest of the time weaving in and out of icebergs.  Some are small enough to grab out of the water while others are the size of a house or larger.  It was always weird, and a bit creepy to think that the icebergs we were seeing were just the tip with some 90% of its mass underwater.  These are massive pieces of ice.  Photos don't really give you an idea of what you are seeing size wise.

Medium sized icebergs.

Tiny "grab it out of the water" sized icebergs.

From top left to bottom right; the base of the glacier, and three different variations of massive icebergs.

The iceberg boat ride concluded the end of our trip to the Southwest of Iceland.  We headed back to Reykjavík that night having to once again cross the Southern coast of Iceland.  We found ourselves endlessly amazed by the landscape that we had grown familiar with.  Even though we had driven this stretch of road several times over in the few days we were there, we never saw the same thing twice.  The sky and clouds change every few minutes and to me, the lava fields never get boring.  I never thought I would think it, but I was slightly saddened when we started to approach Reykjavík - the "big city".  At least we had yet another amazing "sunset" to hold us over.

"Sunset" over the lava fields.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Threading The Glacier Head

After a full day of driving to the East side of Iceland to Höfn (Huff to locals) we rested up and got ready to climb a glacier off of Vatnajökull.  We did a 6 hour climb up the glacier and didn't fall into any crevasse or get eaten by glacier mice (it's a real thing...only they are not mice nor do they have mouths).

Walking up to the glacier.

 At the bottom of the glacier we were introduced to the "glacier mouse".  Glacier mice are the only forms of life (aside from microorganisms) found on the glaciers.  Glacier mice are balls of moss that slowly grow on rocks and pebbles on the glacier. As the glacier melts and moves the mice roll making these perfect moss balls. It takes decades for them to grow to the size you see here (a moss ball you can fit in your hand).

Glacier mice!

 Climbing the glacier, we encountered waterfalls, crevasse, rivers and moulins.  The landscape of the glacier was insane.  Of course, the glacier was ice (duh) but just above, below and on either side of the glacier was green, green, green.

Glacier with green mountains in the background.

Ice cave, crevasse and ice falls (the black is ash from the Grimsvotn volcano eruption)

Climbing to the bottom of the ice falls.

A moulin about 120 feet or so deep.

Team Hákarl on the glacier.
After the glacier climb, we headed back to Höfn.  But not before stopping at Jokulsarlon Lagoon.  This is a lagoon where giant pieces of the glacier break off and float out to into the Atlantic Ocean.  It is on my top 3 favorite spots that we visited in Iceland.  For it being giant chunks of ice floating in water, it is unbelievably beautiful.  At the bottom of the lagoon is a black sand beach where some of the icebergs get beached.  This is the best beach I have ever visited.

Black sand beach at the bottom of Jokulsarlon Lagoon.  This is a COLOR photo.
While visiting the lagoon, we booked a boat tour to go and see the icebergs up close (those photos coming soon).  We then headed home but not before seeing this:

"Sunset" over Vatnajökull.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'll Bring Back the Goods, But I Don't Know When

We have been without internet since my last posting.  SO MUCH has happened and I have endless photos to post. 

Unfortunately, right now I don't have enough time to make a proper update but I will later tonight.
Here to hold you all over is a small glimpse from our glacier climb.  What you see here are giant spikes of ice that are about 40 feet tall.  It is hard to tell from this photo, but they were massive.

More later...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Feel at Home, Whenever the Unknown Surrounds Me

I am quickly realizing that keeping this blog updated at real time is very difficult, if not impossible.

Greetings, from Iceland.  After 30+ hours of traveling, Kirby and I were able to join Azmeer at about 5am in Reyjkavik.  Exhausted, over traveled and under rested - we passed out until 1pm and promptly hit the streets of Reyjkavik.

The surprisingly wonderful food of Iceland, lamb, mashed cod, dried fish, and of course, Hákarl

The first stop was Hallgrímskirkja, the giant concrete church in the center of the city.  We climbed to the top for a view of the tiny city and returned later in the evening to attend a concert on their 5200 piece pipe organ.

View facing West from Hallgrímskirkja.
The remainder of the day was spent wandering, eating amazing food, and watching the sun set at 11pm.  We then experienced the infamous "Reyjkavik nightlife" and met and drank with locals well into the night.

The next morning we headed to Þingvallavatn Lake in the Þingvellir National Park where we went diving/snorkeling in 34º water.  The site sits on the Silfra Crack which is a rift in the continental plates.  It is literally where the North American and Eurasian continents are tearing away from each other.  The water is glacial and takes 30 years to reach the site.  Because the water is glacial and near freezing the visibility is nearly 100%.  I don't yet have photos from the dive but this is more or less the idea:

Diving in Þingvallavatn Lake.
After another long night of drinking, we packed up the car and headed East to Höfn.   This was probably the most exhausting road trip I have ever taken.  The landscape here changes so quickly and is so alien that I was constantly saying, "Oh my god" and trying not to cry.  It gets exhausting, I drained my camera battery about an hour into the trip because I was taking photos of EVERYTHING.  
 Here are some highlights from the trip to drive out to Höfn:

Team Hákarl; Kirby, Laura, Mabel & Azmeer
Rock climbing at Skógafoss.

We never found out what it tasted like, my guess is Matt Damon.
Walking above Skógafoss.

Climbing above Skógafoss.

Family time at Skógafoss.

Skógafoss, proper.


Seljalandsfoss and Laura.

Top of Seljalandsfoss.
Lava fields covered in Icelandic moss.

Approaching Vatnajökull.

Frollicking outside of Reykjavík .

Icelandic sheep that Kirby pissed off.

Napping in the lava fields.  This was high on my "to do" list.  Worth the trip out here alone.

Grass roof.

Looking down from Skógafoss.

Icebergs coming down from Vatnajökull.
More icebergs coming down from Vatnajökull.
I will go into more details later, but right now we are about to go and climb this guy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm Exhausted, Leave Me Alone

Day one of the trip to Iceland.

Let me introduce the players (since my mothra thought I was traveling alone.)

There is me, Laura, Jarva, the Lorax, whatever (the only girl).
There is Kirby (the blonde one).
And there is Azmeer (the dark haired one).

Kirby and I were set to leave San Francisco at 9pm to fly out to New York City where we would meet up with Azmeer.  Azmeer got a boss flight on Virgin out to JFK, but Kirby and I were unable to book this flight.  SO, we booked a flight on United (can you feel the foreshadowing!?)

The trouble started when there was dual baseball game traffic paired with Outsidelands traffic going in every direction in San Francisco.   Well, actually, the trouble started when I forgot Black Baby (don't worry, I went back for her.)

We make it to the airport with 2 hours to spare.  It is a red eye, how long could the line be?  Well, the line wasn't long, but United does this really awesome thing where, it SAYS U.S. Airways on your check in, but they REALLY mean United.  What does that mean?  We were in the wrong terminal.  So, being the awesome hashers (runners) that we are, Kirby and I book it down to the correct terminal in record time.  The line was outrageous.  But it moved swiftly and soon we were checking in, ICELAND WAS HAPPENING SOON!!!

But wait, what do you mean our confirmation number is no good?  What do you mean you have to stand in this line, the line that is 2 times as long as the line you just stood in?  Why is it taking 15 minutes to service ONE person?

Before we knew it, there was less than 15 minutes before our flight was due to depart and we still had 15 people in front of us and out luggage to check.  I asked one of the workers at United, "What do we do if we are about to miss our flight?!"  He asked, "Where are you flying to?"  I said, "New York, JFK."  His response?  "Oh, JFK, that flight has been cancelled."  And walked away.


Quickly realizing that missing the red eye meant missing our connecting flight, the one that takes us TO ICELAND, we got a little bit peeved.  We were going to be here for a while.

Let's get this VERY long story short.

All flights from San Francisco to New York City were booked solid until the 13th.  I should be starting day 3 of my Icelandic trip on the 13th fuck face!  SO, to New Jersey we go!  But our flight literally left in HOURS, we had no time to go back to the East Bay.

After calling EVERY hotel in the area and realizing they were all booked solid (thanks Outsidelands!) Kirby and I set up camp in the luggage claim of SFO.  What a miserable night.  Thank god I was smart enough to bring Arrested Development.  We laughed our tears away. 

Kirby and I got to Newark at 2.30pm Eastern time, half an hour after our flight to Iceland departed New York City.  Then, in that 100% humidity and 90 plus degree weather that I do not miss, Kirby and I braved the New Jersey transit system and boogied on over to New York City (which they very excitedly announce on the train speakers!)

It is important to mention that at this time Azmeer was well on his way to Iceland, on the flight that all 3 of us were supposed to be on.  That is a hard pill to swallow when you are knee deep in hot shitty subway systems.  And I didn't cry.  (Kirby wouldn't let me).

Welcome to Penn Station, a cluster fuck of hot gross people and too many babies!  Thankfully, Kirby had done this trip before and was able to get us through the maze of the New York City subway with nearly no problems (we got on the right train, thought it was the wrong train, got off and realized it was the right train).  We then kicked the New York subways ass big time and managed to get to JFK 3 hours before our flight (oh, did I mention we had no idea if we were even on the flight to Iceland?)  This is where the trip turns for our heroes.

Not only were they able to get Kirby and I on the same flight to Iceland (one that would put us only a few hours behind our original landing time), we would get the seats next to each other with more leg room.  Oh, and what is that, it isn't going to cost us $800?!?  Oh and what more, we get to use British Airways private lounge that has unlimited free food and drinks AND a shower?  I can shower!?

Needless to say, I had to fight back tears the entire time we went through security.

And as I type this, my belly is full of free food, free drinks and holy shit, I took a shower.  So what if I haven't slept since Thursday night proper.  And so what if we still have a 5 hours flight and 7 hours time change ahead of us, WERE GOING TO ICELAND, BITCHES.

This seriously better be the single most amazing place I have ever been.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

State of Emergency

When asked, "Why Iceland", which a lot of people have asked, I have had to redesign my answer quite a bit.

Back in 2000, when the idea of seriously traveling to Iceland first entered my mind, the answer was simple.  I was (and am) obsessed with Björk.  This was and is no surprise to anyone who knows me.  I wanted to travel half way across the world to simply see the native land of a musician I have never met, but yet has inspired and motivated me to no end for nearly half my life.

Over the years, trips to Iceland have been made, cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled, rescheduled, get the idea.

It wasn't until 2009 when I was literally forcing myself to stay awake on a 10 hour flight from San Francisco to Dublin, Ireland just to catch a glimpse of Iceland as I flew over it that I realized, this is ridiculous.  You need to make this happen.

In 2010 I decided for my 30th birthday (7, January of 2012) I was going to buy myself the trip I felt I so honestly deserved,  My trip to Iceland!  And here we are, August of 2012.  In 1 week I will be in Iceland!

BUT, the reasons for going have changed.  It would be a complete lie to say that Björk was NOT an inspiration to travel to Iceland.  She was.  But the more I researched it, the more I realized this is a place I have to go to, despite who lived there then, now or ever.

I started ordering travel information and knew I was in trouble when I got a DVD and just cried for the whopping 4 minutes that was the "Iceland, Beautiful" DVD.  This was a place I HAD to go to.

So now that I have shared what could be considered embarrassing and possibly psychotic behavior as to why I feel a need to take this trip - I don't care.  I am realizing a trip I have felt in me for a long time and I couldn't be more excited.  

Welcome to Wandering Iceland.