It’s Alive!

Cynthia has a low mileage (50,000) 1994 Toyota Hilux Xtra Cab and it has been sitting up in the garage, unused, for 9 years. She bought the truck new, but never really enjoyed it and eventually bought a Mazda Miata for her daily driver.

We finally got around to getting it pulled from our garage towed to a mechanic to get it back up and running. The truck needed a bit of work to get it running again, but now it has been resurrected. Cynthia has a new affection for the truck now and we will be keeping it as a utility vehicle as well as a classic collectible.

Toyota - Before

Toyota - Before

Toyota - After

Toyota Engine

Cynthia Starts The Truck

Iceland – Day 14

drivingday14

The Golden Circle

After the somewhat disappointing rain and gloominess of yesterday we were quite happy to see blue skies punctuated with fluffy white clouds. We’ve had more sun than rain on this trip and today was just tipping the weather scales that much more in our favor.

Today we made our way back to Reykjavik as we wind down our Icelandic adventure. On the way we drove what is referred to as the “Golden Circle” to see the sites.

Included on the Golden Circle is Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I would have shot this from the top of the back, but it was a bit too windy for me. I opted for this lower angle.

Kerið

From there we made our way to Geysir The Great Geyser to see the original Geyser for which all Geysers are named.

Geysir - The Great Geyser

Sadly, Geysir is not very active. However, it’s little brother Strokkur will go off every few minutes.

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

Srokkur Geyser

From there we drive to Gullfoss which is one of the most striking and beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland. And if the sun is shining you get treated to a rainbow along with the majestic waterfall. Fortunately for us, it was a beautiful sunny day.

Gullfoss With Rainbow

After visiting Gullfoss we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. The dramatic Þingvellir landscape was formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. It’s really something to see.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798.

Þingvellir

A flag marks the spot where the speaker of parliament stood. The speaker of parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members of parliament in the valley below. It really is a magical place.

By the time we finished exploring the park it was getting pretty late so we set our GPS for our hotel in Reykjavik. We drove in to town just as the Icelandic gay pride festivities were breaking up. The streets were a bit crowded with rainbow wearing/waiving revellers so it was slow going to get to the hotel.

Now we are checked in and resting up for a day at the Blue Lagoon tomorrow. I think it will be very relaxing and just what we need before we wrap this Iceland trip up.

Steam Vent

Iceland – Day 10

drivingday9

Egilsstaðir to a guest house a few miles north of Hofn – 166 miles

Today we would be driving through the scenic East Fjords of Iceland.

The Road

This morning it looked like our weather luck might have run out. It rained all last night and was raining when we hit the road. Once we made our way a little to the east things started clearing up and we were left with dramatic skies full of interesting clouds.

Moody

We took every opportunity to stop. Sometimes to meet animals

Cynthia Makes A Friend

Sometimes just to take photos of interesting road signs.

Reindeer Crossing

I had thought we were done with tunnels in Iceland, but it turns out we had two more in store for us. The first was Fáskrúðsfjarðargöng which was 3 1/2 miles long and the second was Almannaskarðsgöng which is a little less than a mile long.

Cynthia has gotten pretty used to them by now. She still hates them, but she keeps her good humor.

We made good time toward our final destination and stopped in Djúpivogur for some lunch before driving the final hour to our hotel.

Tomorrow we’re scheduled to drive on to the west along the south coast, a route that will take us past the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón. Since the weather was so good today and it wasn’t all that far to get to Jökulsárlón I decided to go out there this evening. Just in case the weather tomorrow isn’t so good. I would hate to miss it.

Jökulsárlón

The place is fantastic. The glacier has partially melted and retreated and this has created a glacial lagoon. When ice from the glacier breaks off it forms icebergs in the lagoon.

Jökulsárlón

These icebergs then make their way out to sea.

Jökulsárlón

Many pieces of the icebergs wash up on the shores of the black sand beach and are ghostly to behold.

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

We hung out for a few hours taking photos and then made our way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we push further west and suspect we’ll drop in on the glacier lagoon for another visit.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 2

We’re in Akureyri during Verslunnarmannahelgi. That means the town is very busy with visiting Icelanders enjoying time travelling around their country to do some camping and enjoy some festivities. As it turns out, the Ein með Öllu festival takes place in Akureyri during this time so there’s a bit of a festival atmosphere with carnival rides, food booths and live music.

Church in Akureyri

We are not much on festivals so we spend the afternoon exploring in Akureyri and paying a visit to the botanical gardens.

Flower Macro Icelandic @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Cynthia spotted a bee in back Sauðárkrókur and the idea of Icelandic bees has really captured her imagination. We saw many bees in the gardens and this gave me an opportunity to use my macro lens.

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

Icelandic Bee @ Akureyri Botanical Gardens

We enjoyed our afternoon in the sunshine and flowers and then made our way back to the hotel room to freshen up and have some dinner. After dinner we were feeling pretty beat so we’re calling it an early evening and getting some rest before heading off to the Lake Mývatn area tomorrow. Hopefully the good weather will hold as this looks to be a very spectacular leg our our journey.

Iceland – Day 7 – Part 1

day7

Sauðárkrókur to Akureyri

Gotel Tinsdastoll

We left our comfortable accommodations at Hotel Tinsdastoll in Sauðárkrókur to make our way to the capital of the North, Akureyri. Total driving distance 110 miles. This would be a relatively easy driving day.

Mountain Pass

We drove up and around the Tröllaskagi peninsula which translates to the Troll Peninsula. This took us within spitting distance of the edge of the Arctic Circle when we were at the most northern point. Curvy mountain passes all the way. Mostly paved, but not always.

Mountain Pass

Road To The Beach

Snow capped mountains loomed overhead, adding to the stark beauty of the landscape

< River

Sheep Crossing

It’s not just the sheep you have to watch out for in Iceland. We’ve seen a lot of signs warning of birds and it’s a valid warning. The birds in Iceland come out of nowhere and can be quite large and can scare the crap out of you. They also tend to run across the street and can easily startle you and cause you to swerve suddenly.

Bird Crossing

This part of the journey took us through two tunnels in succession. Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II. First through Héðinsfjarðargöng II which connects Siglufjörður to Héðinsfjörður and is 2.2 miles in length. We come to a brief opening and then enter Héðinsfjarðargöng I which connects Héðinfjörður to Ólafsfjörður for 4.2 miles. Total distance underground, just under 6 and 1/2 miles.

tunneliceland

I tried to prep Cynthia for the tunnels as she is rather claustrophobic. But what I didn’t know is that there was a tunnel before you even got to Siglufjörður. The Strákagöng which was built in 1967 and is the second oldest tunnel in Iceland and runs for about 1/2 a mile.

Tunnel Entrance

This was a bit of a surprise to both of us. Also surprising was the fact that this was a one lane passing tunnel. Oncoming traffic had little pullovers where they had to wait while we passed. Nerveracking to say the least.

We cleared the tunnel and made our way to Siglufjörður to get some petrol, road snacks and find some lunch.

Dry Dock

Since it is Verslunnarmannahelgi, the Icelandic Labor Day holiday weekend, there seems to be a bit more hustle and bustle than you might expect. We see campers and tents all over the place and Icelanders enjoying the sun.

We get our gas and snacks and pull into a place called the Harbour House Café to grab some lunch. While we are there we struck up a conversation with the owner, a man named Valgeir Tomas Sigurdsson. He asks where we are from and we tell him we are from Texas. His eyes light up and he proceeds to tell us the tragic tale of a doomed love affair he had with a woman from Conroe.

As the afternoon winds on, word of the visiting Texans spreads and we meet many members of Valgeir’s family who are all in town for a family reunion. Some of them are living in Florida and visiting Iceland for the reunion and seem to be very happy to to talk to some Americans from Texas.

Had we not pressed to get moving I suspect we could have spent the entire day in Siglufjörður just chatting away about this, that and the other thing.

We bid our farewells and proceeded to the next tunnel, Héðinsfjarðargöng II.

Tunnel Entrance

This tunnel leads to an abandoned fjord which is quite beautiful.

Tunnel Exit

In this fjord you can see the exit of one tunnel and the entrance to the next tunnel.

Héðinsfjarðargöng I and Héðinsfjarðargöng II

We took a short break and proceeded to drive into Héðinsfjarðargöng I to get to Ólafsfjörður. This was the longer of the two main tunnels. Suffice to say we’re happy to reach the end.

Tunnel Exit

We make our way through Ólafsfjörður only to be greeted by another surprise. One more tunnel. The Ólafsfjarðargöng Tunnel, also known as the Múlagöng. This one runs for a little over 2 miles. And it’s another one lane passing tunnel.

Tunnel Exit

When we clear the tunnel Cynthia says to me “If we have to drive through one more tunnel, I’m going to throw up in the car.” I tell her I am pretty sure that’s the last of them. We will discover later that this is not the last of the tunnels we will be passing through on this journey.

We make it to Akureyri around 2:30 and find our hotel and check in.

Iceland – Day 5

drivingday4

Ísafjörður to Drangsnes – 146 miles

The Modern Church of Stykkisholmur

Ísafjörður has been very nice. Lots of good restaurants and the town is just beautiful. Now were off to Drangsnes.

Shcack

This drive looks short, but took us through some very interesting landscapes. We were up and down mountain passes and driving along fjords for miles and miles. There’s not a particular iconic site on this leg of the journey. This part is all about driving through majestic scenery and just soaking it all in.

Mountain Fjord

One of the first things you notice about driving in Iceland is the lack of guardrails. You will find them now and again, but not very often and certainly not where you would expect them. We’ve been on some roads that were high up in the mountains with drop-offs that go for hundreds of feet straight down.

Gravel Road

Road

Add to that many blind hills and corners the fact that in this part of Iceland many of the roads are gravel and you get some tense driving conditions.

Blind Hill

Another thing that is worth noting is that many of the petrol stations in the more remote areas of Iceland are completely unmanned. That means you have to decypher the instructions and use a chip and pin credit card to be able to get gas. Fortunately my credit card company (USAA) offers a chip and pin card and it has been working perfectly.

Getting Some Petrol

Another thing that is worth noting is that there is not an abundance of places to pull over to take photos. You have to make due with what’s available or simply make a judgment call as to whether or not it is safe to stop in the street and take a picture. Fortunately there is not a lot of traffic in this part of Iceland so it’s not unreasonable to do this as long as you’re careful.

As we get braver we find ourselves doing it more and more because the scenery is just spectacular.

Falls

Church

House

Fjord

Shack

As you drive along there are dozens and dozens of waterfalls pouring down the sides of the mountains.

Falls and Road

Cynthia commented that the tap water was very clean tasting and wondered what it would be like to drink from a waterfall.

DSC05392

As it turns out, it’s freezing cold and delicious.

We have been quite emboldened with our successes so far

I'm On A Rock

But we are also aware of the signs sent by the universe telling us not to get too cocky.

Disaster?

We arrived in Drangsnes without incident and settled in. After a nice dinner I had planned to update this blog, but the Internet connection at the guesthouse was not working and I had a very weak data signal on the phone. So it was a good night’s sleep for me with a long drive to Sauðárkrókur in the morning.

Reykjavik Addendum

DSC04578

We took a nap because we were exhausted. After a few hours we got up and went exploring. Reykjavik is a very small town and easily walkable. The weather is good. A little overcast, but no rain. And it’s not as cold as we were expecting. We found Hallgrímskirkja, the big cathedral in Reykjavik and it is a spectacular place. We hope to go to the top of the tower when we get back here after our driving tour.

We also found the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand. Everyone says the best food in Iceland is the Icelandic hot dog made by Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur and they also say this hot dog is the best hot dog in the world.

jaydog

I must say, I agree. It was delicious. The crunchy onions are a nice touch. Cynthia, unaware that there were crunchy onions added to the hot dog, immediately suspected the crunch was coming from the meat and was grossed out. She suspected that there must have been some ground up hoof, toenails or bone. She felt better when I explained.

Reykjavik is a fun little town. Coffee shops everywhere and very good dining options.

We leave tomorrow for Snæfellsnes after we pick up our rent car. I think we are off to a good start.

trolls

Arrival Reykjavík

Solfar Sun Voyager - Reykjavik

After flying to Boston and sitting in Logan for 6 hours we caught our 5 hour flight to Reykjavík. We met up with our tour organizer and picked up all of our paperwork and got checked into our hotel. We were very lucky to get our room at 8:00 am. Official check in time is 2:00pm. The hotel manager, whose name is Thor, showed us a great kindness.

Iceland

bonvoyage-s

Today we embark on a driving tour of Iceland. We’ve been plotting and planning for months. We are flying to Reykjavík where we will rent a car and spend a little over two weeks driving clockwise around the entire island. 1,760 miles in total. Which, according to various mapping tools comes out to roughly 45 hours of driving once it’s all added up. My gut feeling is that it will easily top 2,000 before all is said and done. Also, I expect travel times are rather conservative and that it will take longer than expected to get to any given destination due to weather and road conditions. Thankfully there’s upwards of 20 hours of daylight each day during this time of year so we won’t be out in the wilderness and in the dark. The map does not include the off-road adventure to Landmannalaugar which will be about 10-12 hours of sight seeing in the interior using a private tour company. That’s 16 days total, 13 of which are on the road and 12 different hotels.

icelandmapfull

Trip to High Island

Seagull Shrimp Buffet

I finally made it out to High Island to visit the Audubon bird sanctuaries. I drove to Galveston and took the Bolivar Ferry over to the peninsula. Had fun watching the seagulls get fed by the willing tourists and the shrimpers.

Cheeto Party!

Once on the peninsula I found my way to High Island and the world famous Rookery. Hundreds of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets building nests. Used the Sony A99 and my Minolta 300mm lens combined with a 1.4 teleconverter.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Egret