Sunday, November 17, 2019

Iceland 7: The final day and everything else we saw

Yesterday was the last day on the tour.  This day was largely improvised by our tour guide so I do not have all of the names of the locations we visited.

We started the day a little bit on the later side, at 9:30.  We journeyed about an hour from our hotel to a canyon.  We walked along the top and the path led us to a few cliffsides.  The views were beautiful.  We got to know some of our fellow tourees along the way.

Next we were brought to some more lava fields, that had a nice viewpoint.  It truly is amazing how these have been kept untouched over the years.

At this point we were brought off road to a cave along a mountain side.  When we parked it was lightly drizzling.  This part was previewed to us the night before at dinner, where he showed us cell phone photo of the cave from the inside, showing the outline of Yoda from Star Wars.  Just a handful of minutes later when we left the cave, the drizzle had turned into full on snow.

Because of the snow, the guide was worried that we wouldn't be able to make our next stop.  Again, within minutes the weather changed, this time to sun and clouds.  We stopped in a town not far away, next to a graveyard and a horse enclosure, above a church and a town.  Miles played with the horses and we all enjoyed the view.  At this point someone organized a group photo of all of us on the tour.  All of the older women flocked to be near Miles!

When examining the pictures, one of the landscapea that I liked was actually swarming with birds.  I added a cropped version of the picture to better see the birds.

We drove a short distance until we arrived at the Black Beach.  According to our guide, this was named by the tourists and so the locals adopted the names.  There were columns of rocks here that were similar to what we saw on the boat tour off the Island of Mull, in Scotland.  The beach waves were unpredictable and at one point caught some tourists by surprise that were hanging out a bit too close to the water, and engulfed them.  I was not envious of being soaked in this cold.

Our last stop at the day was at the final waterfall from two nights ago.  Some people had wanted to climb the stairs to the top, where I had previously been.  This time the waterfall area had lost all of its frost.  Unlike before, this time the area was filled with fulmars(identified by my friend Jeremy) flying about and nesting.  I tried my best to take a photo of them in the low light.

It was sad to leave the group.  I felt like we were a bit like family in the end.  I hate goodbyes.

Once we were back in Reykjavik, Miles and I walked to their most famous hot dog stand, named Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.  It was a tiny, tiny, stand with only room for one person inside.  I asked for it with everything they normally would put on it, which included onions and two types of sauces.  It tasted almost like honey mustard together.  Miles had his plain.  There was also a giant lit up cat in town.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Iceland 6: An ice beach and a glacier hike with ice caves

Today was our last full day of activities.  It rained all day, but never very heavy.  Wind was on the low side at least.  Be began with a one hour drive to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.  This popular tourist spot is a beach filled with tons of pieces of ice, in all shapes and sizes.  Miles had ab absolute ball.  Even after we had arrived back at the bus, when he found out that we had seven minutes left, he went outside to play.

We took a brief stop to get hot chocolate and then a short drive later and we were dropped off to prepare to hike the glacier at Vatnajökull National Park to see two natural, small ice caves.  I brought our waterproof pants and Miles had a waterproof jacket.  Unfortunately, my jacket didn't prove to be entirely waterproof, and our gloves definitively weren't!

We took a huge vehicle to the site, traversing a dirt road and then a REALLY dirt road, bouncing back and forth in the massive truck.  We arrived and split into two groups.  Our guide was fantastic and took extra care with Miles, having him stay in the front of the line, just behind him, and even holding his hands in the steeper sections.

After just a short while, we stopped and were given crampons to put our boots into.  Crampons are a metal outer structure that you step into with your shoes and then secure.  They allow you to stamp the spikes into the ice to make sure you don't fall.  While walking on the slanted ice it was bizarre because my brain was telling me that I should be falling down and then sliding uncontrollably, but the crampons kept me in place.

We walked to a very small natural ice cave, which had a handful of lights inside.  I was able to take my cameras safely out of their bags at this point, to take some pictures.

We exited the cave where we came in and proceeded up the glacier until we had a nice view of the surrounding area.  I took out my camera for some very quick pictures before drying it off and putting it right away.  There were many opportunities for great pictures that I just had to skip due to the rain.  One of these moments was just after I had finished putting my camera away, when a raven decided to land just a few feet from us.  Our guide informed us that there are a pair of ravens that stay near the glacier and had learned to follow the people so they could feed on any scraps of food left behind after snacks.  He made a reference to Odin's ravens.

When we first began the hike, I was worried about my cameras getting wet, but as my waterlogged clothes got heavier, I started worrying more about my pants falling down!  We walked down the glacier and around to a second ice cave.  This one was a little more spacious, but not by much.

We hiked just a little farther until we were back where we started.  We returned to our hotel, took showers, and then went out with 3 other fellow tour goers and the tour guide himself for dinner at a nice restaurant nearby.  I had a pasta with squash and pesto sauce.  It was an interesting dinner, with the tour guide again showing that he could be a bit wise, have some interesting Icelandic opinions, but also a bit old fashioned.  Although a bit awkward at times, I still enjoyed myself and Miles enjoyed himself and involved himself in the conversations!