View Full Version : TR: Iceland August 1-10 - pix first
TR: Iceland 8/1 to 8/10
After lots of back and forth we settled on a holiday in Iceland for our 30th Anniversary present to each other. My skiing buddy PWDR8S has an adventure travel agency and he set us up with a very nice tour, wherein we had 8 days in country for exploring at a very reasonable pace. We took almost 1700 photos and shot a dozen videos and did score some Icelandic sweaters.
PWDR8S and his connections arranged flights, hotels, rental car and a comprehensive guide for virtually everything a tourist and earth sciences grad might want to see along the way. The tour worked out very well. Just one funny deal, we did miss that Bobby Fischer, long an Iceland resident, is buried in Selfoss. I might have paid my respects at his grave, but we had other things in mind anyway.
The plan had us in Reykjavik for the first two nights, giving us a whole day in the city. Two days could be well spent there and still the traveler would want more time. The economic hit was bad and there were some closed up shops and the Icelandic Museum of Natural History was shuttered. I hasten to add that while we were disappointed about the museum, many of the closed shops were being renovated. I mention that especially as it looked to me that Icelanders are an enterprising people and will not be held down by mere economic woes.
Then we had a not too lengthy driving day to get up to Stykkisholmur, a sizable fishing village on the North shore of Snaefellsnes (Snow Mountain Peninsula). Along the way we visited a cool waterfall and hiked a few klicks to a very cool volcanic crater
We had two nights at the Hotel Stykkisholmur (3*). We noticed that the night is very short in Stykkish, dusk persisting from almost ten to after midnight. We had a full day to tour Snaefellsnes. Again, another day would be just dandy as it’s truly wonderful and any chance to get a sunny day is worth the extra time. There is a fairly new brewery in Stykkish, makers of Jökull Bjór, among others. I sampled the Skreid Jökull Bjór the first night. It was a tad yeasty, but in every other way a very nice amber ale. I had two with my dinner.
We drove along the northern side, in and out of rain and patches of sun. Imagine Big Sur with a bit of coastal plain, but with taller cliffs. Because there’s a mountain range behind the cliffs, there are waterfalls every where. Some are short some are thin, some are towering free-falling curtains and others are cascades, some of those are easily over 350meters tall..
We got our first fill up for our rented Hyundai along the western tip of Snaefellsnes. I mention it because the self-serve is different than what I was used to. Your PIN is essential, if you don’t know it, don’t bother with using that card. Insert the card, enter the PIN, the card comes out and the pump is activated. Take the card, pump the fuel, replace the nozzle on the pump and insert your card again to get the receipt. One last thing about the card, you will need only small amounts of Icelandic cash. That is, unless you are worried about exchange rate shifting, the card is all you need for most things travelers will want. Parking meters take the Icelandic coins, so a good supply of those may be handy in Reykjavik and wherever you may wish to do laundry. We exchanged 100USD and could have done alright with just a tiny bit more for the ten days.
Back to the trip:
After we got gas, we picked up a hitchhiker. Our next stop was only 20 klicks on. We left the hitchhiker to continue and drove down to a beach. Suddenly the clouds gave way and we got some photos of Mt Snaefells, walked out on the black pebble beach to get some more pix. Our next stop was a little further on to a village famous for birds nesting on cliffs. Got more pix there; I got harassed by a Tern and took more pix of Snaefells and, just before we left, we got some french-fries.
We made our reservations at Narfeyrarstofa while we were still on the road, having learned that you don’t get in for dinner without them. Our consolation the previous night was the very nice Fimm Fiskar, just up the street, with both places being a walk from our hotel. The food in both places seemed first rate with the Narfeyrarstofa having more complex dishes, a couple being vegetarian @ about 100 bucks for two. I had more Skreid Jökull Bjór.
Then a long drive to Hella for the next day. We skipped a bunch of things so we could take our time with Ptingvellir (Thingvellir), Geysir, and Gullfoss. I’m a sucker for somewhat roisterous democracy so spending a few hours at Ptingvellir was great, tectonic marginal geology and the founding of Icelandic parliament all in one. History, nice sights and good walking, a nice day in my book.
Then we went to Geysir and got some geyser pix and on to Gullfoss which is one heck of a thundering waterfall. Then, on leaving Gullfoss, we collected two hitchhikers, we all stopped at Kerio, quite literally a roadside attraction volcano and delivered them to Selfoss, they to find lodging and us to find lunch and continue to Hella. We found a whole foods lunch wagon right at the traffic circle at the end of the bridge. They offered awesome food at low prices.
Back on the road we got to the Fosshotel in Hella, finished our takeaway lunches as our dinner and watched some BBC1 and BBC2 on the telly. In the morning we had out hotel breakfast as usual. (yogurt, granola, sliced tomatoes, sliced cukes, sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced cheeses, breads, Orange wedges, various sliced fruits hideous coffee which I avoided in favor of the Via I brought with me, just in case)(I returned from the trip 5 pounds lighter and we have continued eating in this manner….except I have nice coffee)
After breakfast we went a few blocks to a cooperative showroom of Icelandic products where we got 4 sweaters and a few other things. Then we hit the road to Vik.
We asked locally about which roads to Eyjafellajokull (a glacier, home to the recently erupted volcano) would be okay for our little rental car and tried the one indicate. We turned around at the first stream crossing and realized that the teenager was either having a bit of fun with us or thought we had a 4x4. I vote for the humor as I got a further sample a bit later on.
Anyway the road was the same one for Seljalandsfoss, a nice waterfall that is closer to the Ring Road and has a path behind it. We went back to that, went behind the waterfall, looked at a neighboring waterfall and had a picnic before journeying on to Vik. It was a very windy day and we saw many cycle tourists battling the winds. Fortunately nearly every driver of a car, bus or truck slowed way down to safely pass the cyclists.
We went to a different glacier and tried again, this time succeeding. We arrived at Solheimajokull, a glacial tongue of Mydralsjokull, home of the Katla volcano. We got nice pix there too. We walked via the high path because I am loath to approach glaciers along the flood plain. Once it became clear that the glacier was quiet, we did venture down to the base. I got inspired to reserve some ice climbing time in Skaftafell, a few days hence.
When we got to Vik and had checked in, we went right to the black sand beach and moseyed about as we liked and got some nice photos. We watched as a young photographer tried out her idea of pouring out lines of white sugar on the black sand in reference to the curves of the waves lapping up on the sand. Pretty neat idea; I hope she gained something from the exercise.
We went back to the hotel and changed for dinner at the Bistro behind the gas station. Laugh if you like, the food was great, the décor surprisingly scaled up and the prices not bad. We were warned that we would have to eat a lot of pizza in Iceland, being vegetarian; that dinner was the only one.
end part one
TR: Iceland 8/1 to 8/10 - continues from Vik
After breakfast we went eastwards to Skaftafell where we spent two nights at Fosshotel Skaftafell. The coffee there was the best of all the Fosshotels. Along the way we stopped at Kirkjubaejarklaustur to see some geologic stuff, try to get good coffee but the café opened too late, and fuel the car. Further along we saw the effects of windy conditions for cyclists, the same understanding of their difficulties and more of that respectful driving by motorists.
When we got to the National Park at Skaftafell we confirmed our reservations for glacial activities with Icelandic Mountain Guides. Mrs. RobRox went for the Glacier walk and I with the ice climbing. Since nobody else was going, there was a little hemming and hawing, then I said that I was capable of leading WI4 and had done some ice-bouldering. I went on to add that it had been a couple of years.
There was a quick conference and then, "You shall go even if no one else arrives. The guide will most probably enjoy the trip." That was said with a perfectly composed face, but I was not fooled. After looking at the exhibits in the visitor center and getting lunch there too, we went to the guide service to gear up.
My boots were 2 sizes too big, beat up long past retirement age and even with three pairs of socks my feet were swimming in them. The tools were in good condition and freshly sharpened, the pons were M-12’s and quite as good as any I have. The harness was a typical rental, but fitted very nicely, about like my touring harness. My guide was a nice young gent, clearly very strong without a lot of bulk, a climber.
We walked a few minutes in from the shuttle drop off and donned our crampons when we got to the glacier. We went right to an overhanging wall and I was asked if that looked like a good climb. Okay, the big mouth has to pay his dues I thought, but I said it would be nice for climbing. The guide went top set up a top-rope and I bouldered around in my Mickey Mouse boots. The guide set up the steepest part, an 85 degree ramp to a long, slightly overhanging bulge, a ledge and then a seriously overhanging cove.
It was great to get back on the ice and the boots were a minor issue at most. I had a lot of real fun with it. The guide liked the look of the climb and I belayed him up it. We both slipped the same foot in the same place, and in general, we scampered up it about the same way…although I did use an understick so I could lean out to view my way around a fractured plate.
The guide asked, "Okay, you have done this before, eh?"
"A time or two. But I tell you, that was steep and I’ll not last the three hours if we stick to this sort of thing! I’m out of shape", I continued, "how about we look for beautiful lines with character. Steepness is good, but character is better."
And we proceeded to some wildly beautiful parts of the glacier, including more steep bits, some amazingly blue caverns, impossibly blue fissures and all manner of climbing goodness. When I said I’d had enough after two and three quarter hours, I also admitted to being nearly 60 but feeling like a kid again. My guide admitted to some surprise about my age. As we walked out I queried about guided Alpinism. It’s available.
Mrs. RobRox really enjoyed her Glacier walk. We both tipped our guides.
We checked in at the hotel and cleaned up for dinner. The hotel dining room was nicely decked out, the service very good and the food quite good. I was glad to have the jacket and tie as many of the other men were so attired.
The following day, none the worse for my exertions (mild surprise), we journeyed eastward to a glacial lagoon called Jokulsarlon. We did take the amphibious tour and enjoyed the experience. A very cute blonde gave us the talk about the lore and science of the glacier.
After the tour Mrs. RobRox and I wandered down to the beach to watch icebergs tossed about in medium-heavy surf. I skipped stones on the water as the waves fought with the river. A very pleasant pastime. From there it was westward to the hotel and ever westward until home again. It was right there, on the shore when it hit me. We booked far too short a stay in Iceland. True it was what we could pay for w/o trouble, but it would always feel too short, nonetheless.
We gave a lift to a couple of hitchhikers and then, back in Skaftafell, we went for a hike in the national park. Hiking a few klicks to a really neat waterfall.
After the hike we tried the restaurant at the gas station across from the hotel for our dinner. Normally this is a good move…not this time. The food was good, simple, plentiful and less expensive, but it was not what we had been getting used to. No knock on the restaurant, more a knock to my not thinking the matter over beforehand.
In the morning I got some souvenirs and packed for our trip to the Rekjanes peninsula and the Eldhestar Hotel in Hveragerdi. IMO, the Eldhestar misses 4* rating only in that it has buffet service at dinner and no ballroom. It is very nice and has a marvelous collection of oil paintings. The food is extra nice. We didn’t ride the horses, but the hotel is on a ranch and they do organized rides. Make your reservations when you book the hotel or be disappointed.
We passed the gate to the hotel and went just a little way further to the information center in a shopping mall. We had been told about a "Warm River" reached by a not bad hike out of Hveragerdi and I really hated to miss at least one soak in a natural hot spring. With the reinforcement of local directions, we schlepped off to the parking area and began the hike through a geothermal zone and on into the hills.
It took a while and we should have brought sandals for the crossings and the soaking but we eventually got to the confluence of a really hot stream and a cold stream. It was easily a couple hours before we finally settled into some 115F water about 40 paces below the confluence and lazed for a good long while.
The walk back stirred my hunger so we headed right to the hotel for a wash up and dressing for dinner. Dinner jackets are not required, but we still went with nice clothes. I was surprised by the buffet service but the food was superb and the wine list spanned several levels. One could spend a lot extra for wines, but we didn’t and enjoyed the lesser wines well suited to our dinners.
After yet another good night’s sleeping we mad ready for the last lap of our tour. I mention about the sleep quality because I generally don’t sleep as well on the road as I did in Iceland. The Eldhestar in particular, offered wonderful mattresses and pillows of modern bio-design and construction. All the rest did nearly as well with top quality conventional mattresses and pillows. The cooler weather really helped too.
Anyway, back on the road again, we, headed to the Blue Lagoon. I have no pix from there.
Here’s the deal: If you want a lagoon massage, call ahead by at least a day, two would be better for a weekday and call a week ahead for the weekends. That said, the Lagoon itself is great. The same price as a lift ticket and commensurate pricing for food and beverages. The water gets pretty hot in only a few places but most of the lagoon is like a regular hot tub with extra minerals in the water. The brochure said the waterfall would pound on one like a troll. Okay, that might be true, but it’s a tiny troll. Still, it does a nice massage on the shoulders. There is a steam room and a sauna for the general public, both included in admission.
While we were leaving some bigwigs flew in on the airport shuttle helicopter and were whisked into the Executive section. The chopper took a few laps of the facility before touching down. I’m sure those folks were in for a nice stay at the Spa, but envy was not on my mind. I was thinking regretfully that this would be my last day in Iceland.
Anyway we are back now and I hope you, dear reader, will think about your trip to Iceland.
08-22-2010, 04:46 AM
Wowww!!!!! That's doing it right. World class pics of other-worldly terrain. Great detailed report makes me feel a part of it. The one pic of the rusted out fuselage with a background of mountain rock and greens has some beautiful contrast. Nice going, Rob. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on 30 years. :) paul
08-22-2010, 08:56 AM
Just blown away Rob,
What an amazing trip!!!
Love the MRG bumpah stickah.
Amazing geology and awesome that you were climbing.
Thanks for sharing.
08-22-2010, 11:08 AM
only looked at the pics so far... will settle down tomorrow at 8am at work for the read ;)
already though: wa wa wee wah!
Gullfoss - so big a 20mm lense would be just the ticket. My little G11 hasn't got that width so here is a feeble stitch:
During the 5 minutes of Tern attack my wife got this shot:
Why the Tern went after me I can't say; I walked the same path as everyone else.
Wowww!!!!! That's doing it right. World class pics of other-worldly terrain. Great detailed report makes me feel a part of it. The one pic of the rusted out fuselage with a background of mountain rock and greens has some beautiful contrast. Nice going, Rob. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on 30 years. :) paulI'll pass that compliment along to Mrs RR. She shot that, and about half the others...I think I have one of the Ash from the recent erruption and stuff already growing through it.
BTW, the wreckage on the beach is from a trawler that grounded in a big storm and was torn to bits. In that event the beach became hallowed ground, so I was unsure of shooting such a shot. My wife pointed out that since there was a signboard on the beach explaining the events, it was a park, not a cemetary.
There's a cool little historic place at the head of the beach where men contested with feats of strength. The deal was to lift a standard size stone to a chest high ledge and then take it off the ledge and put it back on the beach. There were stones suited for children, youths, men and really strong men. My knees are shot and my back is already bad so I just watched a few folks have a go.
08-22-2010, 03:43 PM
After seeing my friends photos from iceland last winter and now yours, I've become very interested in visiting, someday..
thanx for sharing!!:cool:
08-22-2010, 04:13 PM
Fantastic pix, looks like a great trip, got to use your new camera which is awesome. Only one thing missing, a grilling shot, ha ha :)
08-22-2010, 09:07 PM
Congrats on 30!!!!
And what a hell of a trip!!! That ice climbing made me smile for a loooong time! Good on ya!
08-22-2010, 09:31 PM
great writeup, great trip!
08-23-2010, 10:19 AM
What a wonderful way to celebrate! Gorgeous photos!
08-24-2010, 05:12 PM
How appropriate that Mr. and Mrs. Cool celebrated their 30th in Iceland and made the most of it. I'm really glad you got to do some challenging climbing in such a serene setting too.
Great assortment of beautiful photos and typically descriptive, lyrical RR verse.
Congrats and thanks for sharing.
Now you weren't wearing shorts in that hot spring shot, were you Rob? :D Hope not.
And who'd a thunk PWDR8s capable of doing such pretty work as putting together this amazing tour?;):p
08-24-2010, 07:23 PM
Iceland has been on my short list for a decade now... We were close at one point, but it was decided that we should wait until the kids are older.
08-25-2010, 04:56 AM
A photo addition to the Great Wall at General Stark's Pub!! (what? no birthday suit pics?) Thanks for the great read/adventure.
08-29-2010, 11:25 AM
First off... Congrats to RR and the better half. ;):p And thanks for the good words. I love the pics. As mentioned before....otherworldly! This is a great TR. I like your setup, pics 1st for the quick see and then the writeup for the details. I'm pleased that your adventure went so very well and fun.
The words and names drove me nuts trying to remember and say them... I trust you had better luck when you were there what with the locals able to roll those syllables off their tongues with ease.
Def a rep worthy TR... mainly for getting some glacier time. ;)
And Pulver, you can continue to be amazed at my talents. Everyone already knows I'm truly incredibly good and amazing and handsome. http://www.techsourceconsultants.com/coppermine/albums/userpics/10020/yeah.gif
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08-29-2010, 11:31 AM
Thanks for sharing the beauty and the adventure - inspired and inspiring both!
08-29-2010, 11:34 AM
And Pulver, you can continue to be amazed at my talents. Everyone already knows I'm truly incredibly good and amazing and handsome. http://www.techsourceconsultants.com/coppermine/albums/userpics/10020/yeah.gif
It's all so true.
08-29-2010, 01:32 PM
Awww shucks! Golly gee RS! Nice to see people really see the truth now.
Hey RR.... D'ya get to see any northern lights while there? I remember putting them on request for sometime during your adventure.
..Hey RR.... D'ya get to see any northern lights while there? I remember putting them on request for sometime during your adventure.
They did not get the email about drifting a bit further South from their usual haunts. The coolest atmospheric display we saw was that rainbow over Skaftafel. It persisted for the longest time. Quite amazing.
09-12-2010, 10:43 AM
I have plans to visit Iceland within a year...do not know how far its going to work well...just hope that it all goes out the right way.....These pictures are so cool..cannot resist the desire to be there...photography will get its heaven
09-13-2010, 12:29 PM
there goes that MGR bumper sticker.
Flat Stanley for those not in elementary school
Oops, to the teachers, trying to find a better term than "Grown ups, or big people"
Get outside and play:sandpit:
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