Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the third big day, or more consonants!

We began the next day in Þingvellir National Park, a hugely important site in Icelandic history for reasons I frankly don't feel like explaining. Please peruse this Wikipedia article at your leisure. We were torn at Þingvellir between the desire to see the site (which is also where the North American and Eurasian plates are drifting away from each other, so geology) and the desire to get out of the cold driving rain and onto other adventures. 

Other adventures won.

We decided to drive that day to Stykkishólmur, a fishing town on the northern end of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. More consonants! On the way, we wanted to do some hiking, so we pulled over to the side of the road in a nearly random location and climbed up a really big hill.

These pictures don't do the view justice, but trust me: it was worth it.

This multiple-hour hike was followed by more driving! We saw these signs pretty often. I think they're self-explanatory.

In every single picture I took of Ross in Iceland he looks like a completely intrepid adventurer. Which, of course, he is.

After driving driving driving we made it to Stykkishólmur just in time to admire the boats and the island of Stykkið, which means "the piece" in Icelandic. Here, a note about Icelandic names. They tend not to be terribly imaginative, which means that a tourist like me can pick certain things up pretty easily. Here, by memory (five months later!) are some Icelandic terms:

  • Foss: Waterfall
  • Jökul: Glacier
  • Vatn: Water (often seen in lakes)
  • Vík: Bay
  • Fell: Mountain
Stykkið is the rocky island you can see in these next two photos.

It was beautiful.

Later that evening (10:30? 11:00? Something late; this was the farthest north we went and so had the brightest nights) we took some pictures at this bay and turned in for the evening. Good night, Iceland.

Not pictured: 

  1. The most amazing hot dogs in the known universe
  2. Liam and his boyfriend, Nick, who we ran into in town! Iceland is very small, and because of the conference, we ran into people everywhere
  3. Steven Seagal. But don't worry; he was there
Next up, Chapter Eight, in Which Your Intrepid Explorers Discover the Most Beautiful Place In The World.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Systravatn, Skaftafell, Jokulsarlon, and other consonants

Good morning, and welcome to another day in Iceland! Ross and I woke up, not-quite-totally-refreshed after our first night in Steven, and ready to take on the day. First we stopped in this charming town, where we noticed a beautiful waterfall (yawn, Iceland, amiright?) with a hike next to it. 

A hike which led to this beautiful view...

...and this breathtaking lake...

...where some greedy nuns were horribly drowned.


I took some pictures of Ross standing at the edge of the world, which has always been a theme of our adventures.

And he took one of me, too!

After our visit to the final resting place for the naughty naughty nuns of Systravatn, we drove to Skaftafell, Iceland's biggest national park.

We hiked to the top of this waterfall, but not down into it, which I rather regret. Still, the road less traveled and all.

I think we spent our time very wisely.

Our always, our trusty STEED-ven (no?) was waiting cheerfully for us after our (actually really quite long) hike.  

Next up, Jökulsárlón, which is a shockingly popular and yet totally worthwhile stop along the ring road. Literally meaning "glacial river lagoon,"Jökulsárlón is a lake situated between a glacier and the sea. Because of this, huge floes of ice are constantly sloughing off the glacier (more and more now, of course) and floating along with the tide down to the ocean. It's really something. 

See what I mean about the lake's popularity? So many people! Geez.

After Jökulsárlón we turned around and drove and drove and drove back in the direction of Reykjavik. Somehow, though, we didn't really mind. 

All of these photos were taken from my iPhone. From a moving car. (A testament not to iProducts, although I suppose to that, too, but mostly to Iceland and the light)

Before we camped for the night we stopped at a beach near Vík. We desperately wanted to see some puffins, and we did (!!!), although not close enough for photos. I should take it for granted that I don't need to even say this, but just to be clear: puffins are the best. The. Best. 

Another waterfall, and then bed in a car pull-out near Thingvellir.

Stay tuned for Chapter Seven, in Which We Take It A Little Easier. Also, There Will Be Boats. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

iceland continued: the first big day

Happy Holidays, everyone! Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! As a special holiday gift to you, please enjoy some more Iceland posts! 

And lo, on the sixth (or fifth, or something-th) day, Ross the Dewey (his Viking name) arrived in Reykjavík. And there was much rejoicing. 

(There's a picture of our nephew, Max, that looks exactly like this. Good stuff)

Early the next morning Ross the Dewey and I took a cab to Kúkú Campers to pick up our home for the next three days (Kúkú also has Chuck Norris and Marilyn Monroe campers, among others). I assume this is the only home we will ever have emblazoned with the image of Steven Seagal, but you never know.

Here's the thing. Sleeping in a tiny, dirty camper for three nights, at the mercy of rest stop and gas station bathrooms, isn't the most fun. But bless his heart, Steven gave us freedom to go and do whatever we wanted. Our itinerary (hear the glorious echoes of "itinerant" in that?) changed every day, and we had someplace warm and dry to sleep every night. Steven Seagal gave us that.

Plus, isn't he a friendly face in a parking lot?

After leaving Reykjavík we drove south for a few hours before taking a ferry to Heimaey, an island in the Vestmannaeyjar chain (in English, the Westman Islands).

Vestmannaeyjar and the LDS Church go way back. According to a sign at the Folk Museum (more on that in a minute), "In 1855, the first Icelanders to immigrate to America settled in the Mormon community of Spanish Fork, Utah. For the next sixty years, nearly four hundred other Mormon converts from Iceland followed, about half coming from Vestmannaeyjar."

My great-great-grandparents were among those immigrants.

This is where my family comes from.

And in some very real ways, I can't shake the feeling that this is where I come from, too.

This is a little embarrassing and woefully unscientific, but I've always hung on to the romantic notion of genetic memory, the idea that our bodies remember the places of our genetic ancestors. Maybe because of this, or maybe because of some other reason, or maybe for no reason at all, the landscape of Iceland--and especially the cliffs of Heimaey--slotted into a very particular space in my soul.

Anyway, enough of that. During our brief visit to Heimaey, Ross and I climbed Eldfell, a volcano that last exploded in 1973 (burying my family's still extant home, btw). For a while we had beautiful views of the island, but then we were shrouded in fog. We hiked down to the beach, too, and unexpectedly ran into some of my favorite Chaucerians (including Chaucer himself, although that's another story). During a driving rainstorm we ran into the Folk Museum to see the exhibit on Mormon emigration, where we (rather laboriously!) found a picture of my great-great-grandmother, Jónína Helga Valgerður Guðmunsdóttir. After she moved to Utah she went by Nena Hanson. She was born in Heimaey in 1867 and died in Spanish Fork in 1932. I am fascinated by her. 

(I think this also might be my great-great-grandfather, and maybe even my great-grandmother in Jónína's arms? I'm not sure)

More of the pioneers.

Digging that 1970s volcano action.

After Heimaey we drove a bit farther along the coast. This pool is nearly a secret in Iceland. You pull off the road and hike for a good fifteen, twenty minutes to get there. It was built to teach local farmers how to swim and is absolutely covered in moss. You get used to it*

*Ross' note: You do not get used to it

After the pool we drove on to Skógafoss, one of my favorite waterfalls in the country. 

There's a long steep trail that climbs from the right of the falls for 86km (53 miles) to Landmannalaugar, where we hiked on one of our last days in Iceland (stay tuned!). I would love to do the whole hike someday.

This time, though, we just stayed long enough to make some friends.

After all, it was already after 10pm at this point, and we had miles yet to go. See you tomorrow (I said it and I mean it!) for Chapter Six, in Which There is a Lot of Ice.