Arrival in London

Just a quick update to document the first day of our trip to London.

It has been a rather odd, disjointed journey just getting here. No real major breakdowns, but some bizarre missteps.

First was getting dropped at the wrong terminal by the Parking Spot shuttle. We quickly sorted it out and proceeded to take the tram to the correct terminal, but not before getting off one time at the wrong stop.

Once we got to the correct terminal I discovered that my suitcase was 8 pounds over the limit which would have resulted in a $200 baggage fee. We quickly shifted some of our belongings and got both bags under the limit by increasing the weight on Cynthia’s suitcase.

We got checked in and proceeded to go through security. In the mad dash to shuffle belongings I got my shaving cream into my carry on where it was immediately confiscated because terrorism.

After clearing security we found our gate. We still had plenty of time so we went and got some dinner.

After dinner we went back to the gate and waited to board our plane. Unfortunately there was a delay because the plane at the gate which was destined for Frankfurt was having some problems and had not cleared the gate. This delayed our boarding by about 45 minutes.

Once airborne things smoothed out and we arrived in London on time, cleared customs and claimed our luggage.

We made our way to the hotel and checked in. It’s a nice hotel and we are going to be quite happy using it as our base of operations for the next two weeks.

Once we were settled into the hotel we made our way to a Vodafone store to purchase a SIM card for my phone and then to the grocery store to pick up some supplies like water, snacks and so forth.

With that out of the way we went to a nearby gastro pub and had dinner which was actually kind of lunch because it was only about 3:00 PM.

The sun went down at 4:30 and even though right now it is only 5:30 it seems like it is much later in the evening.

We’re tired and we’re going to bed, even though that means we will likely be up at the crack of dawn.

Iceland – Day 16

Fairy Light

Today is our last day in Iceland. We were granted one last day of spectacular sunshine and set off to explore the city.

Hallgrímskirkja

Since it was early (we have been waking up VERY early each day) we walked over to Hallgrímskirkja (church of Hallgrímur) to get some photos before the crowds descended.

Tjo?rnin

We then walked down to Tjörnin, a small lake in central Reykjavík. Cynthia was keen to feed the ducks. When we arrived there was a sign that asked visitors not to feed the birds as it attracted seagulls which would eat the baby ducks that were hatching during this part of the year.

Tjo?rnin

This was disappointing, but Cynthia decided to abide by the request in the interest of baby duck safety. Still, walking around Tjörnin wasn’t without its charm.

Reykjavík Old Harbour

We walked on down to the Reykjavík Old Harbour to have a look around. Here we found several companies offering various whale and puffin watching tours in the harbor. We struck up a conversation with one of the tour guides and he was really entertaining, repeatedly telling us we could trust him because he was the captain.

The Captain

The sun was so nice, the captain so friendly and since we really didn’t have anything hardcoded into our schedule so we decided to go on the tour.

Cynthia On A Tour Of The Reykjavík Old Harbour

We pulled out of the harbor to go around some islands where the puffins were nesting. We did see some birds, but we didn’t get very close so photography was difficult, even with my 70-400mm lens.

Puffin Nest

Puffins

Puffin

After visiting the puffins the captain took us on a tour of Reykjavik as seen from the harbor. This provided a unique view of the city. You can really see that Reykjavik is a city in transition. There’s a lot of construction and you can tell that Reykjavik is growing at a rapid pace.

Harbor Workmen

Reykjavik - City In Transition

Lighthouse And Harpa Concert Hall

The tour lasted about an hour and a half. I have to give Cynthia a lot of credit. She’s not big on boats, but she has been a real trooper on this trip logging three boat rides during our visit.

Cynthia On A Tour Of The Reykjavík Old Harbour

After the tour we decided to treat ourselves to a sushi lunch. We’ve had Sushi twice in Iceland and it is fantastic! So fresh and so tasty.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

After lunch we walked over to the Reykjavik Maritime Museum. Sadly, it didn’t have much about Vikings. It was dedicated to the history of Icelandic fishing. Still, very interesting and a nice way to wind down the afternoon.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

The rest of the day was just spent exploring the city. During our explorations we came across what looks to be some street art by Banksy. I suspect these are not actual Banksy pieces, but they were cool none the less.

Banksy or Banksyesque In Reykjavik

The Gay Pride Festival was going on in Reykjavik the whole week before we got here and you can still see signs of the celebration as the whole city is decked out in rainbow flags and signage for the event.

Gay Pride In Reykjavik

Mini Pride Parade

We’re pretty tired now. Tomorrow we fly back to Houston and soon this will all be a distant memory. Iceland is a special place and we are very fortunate to have had the chance to see it and I am hopeful we will return some day.

Flowers

Iceland – Day 15

Blue Lagoon

Today we took the rental car for our last drive in Iceland. We drove out to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa to swim in the warm, mineral rich waters. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 98–102 °F.

Blue Lagoon

And let me tell you, it sure feels good!

Look Ma, No Torso

The Blue Lagoon pretty much just another overpriced tourist trap and a lot of people will say that you should not waste your time or money with it, but I wouldn’t listen to them. Cynthia and I had a very good time soaking in the lagoon and would not have missed it for the world. It’s a very good way to unwind after our epic journey around Iceland.

Cynthia and Me @ Blue Lagoon

After leaving the lagoon we drove out to see Perlan (The Pearl), an interesting building on the outskirts of Reykjavik.

Perlan 1

I was glad to see it. There’s a restaurant at the top which is expensive and supposed to be very good, but we decided not to eat there.

Perlan 2

After this we headed back to town to return the rental car. We tallied up the mileage and the grand total was just under 2000 miles driven during our epic journey. Cynthia commented that many of those miles should count double due to the road conditions in some parts of the country. I would have to agree.

procar

It was kind of sad walking away from Thor (Cynthia named the car “Thor”). That car served us well and was our home away from home as we traversed those those winding, up and down and sometimes wretchedly bumpy roads of Iceland.

We’re winding down now. We have one more day in Reykjavik before we fly home. It’s bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we are tired and ready to come home.

It’s also worth noting that Reykjavik is a bit of a disappointment after all that we have seen and done in Iceland. We hope to wring a little more joy out of the trip tomorrow, but it might just be a day of rest and getting our luggage sorted and ready for the flight home.

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 13

Today we did not drive ourselves. We toured the Landmannalaugar area of the interior of Iceland using a service. When researching this part of the trip it came to my attention that it would be necessary to ford some rivers to visit the sites. We have a 4X4 and it could take us, but Cynthia was not convinced so we opted to hire a super jeep tour company called Amazing Tours to take us out for 10 hours. Fine by me, we’ll get to see some cool stuff and I don’t have to drive.

Little Help

We met up with our guide at a service station near our hotel. We boarded the giant, modified Ford truck and proceeded into the interior.

Mountains

The weather still wasn’t great, so the photography suffered. But the landscape was incredible.

We came to a pretty deep river crossing. It was easy to see we probably would not have made it in the rental. I had the driver drop me off and recross the river so I could photograph it.

River Crossing

River Crossing

At another river crossing we came across a car that had not made it through the river crossing and was being assisted by mountain rescue.

breakdown

Our driver told us the car was probably ruined by the water and that this kind of damage was not covered by the rental agreement. I suspect we witnessed the demise of a perfectly good Icelandic holiday.

Our first stop was the Ljótipollur Crater. Ljótipollur translates to ugly puddle. I experimented with some panoramic photography to try and get a photo of the entire crater.

Ljo?tipollur Crater

Our next stop was the hot springs. A geothermally heated little river that is a popular place to bath/swim. The location is also a popular campsite for hikers. When we arrived it looked a bit like a refugee camp due to the rain and the wet and bedraggled campers. We did see our first Icelandic food truck here. More of a general store in a bus. Actually, two buses

Mountain Mall

Coffee, food, mittens, lip balm…all kinds of things one might need when preparing to hike for day or weeks in the Icelandic wilderness.

We decided not to go swimming and moved on.

As we were driving to the next location we encountered a large group of horses being driven to some unknown location. Several dozen horses, all moving up the side of the mountain.

horsejam

Two horse jams in two days.

Next we visited an area overlooking the hydroelectric dams in the area. It was interesting to see. The area is so desolate.

Cynthia In The Interior

Desolation

As we drove off the driver told us he was going to take us to a place he knew about that wasn’t on the itinerary. He told us this was not a well known place and it was one of his favorite places in all of Iceland.

When we drove up, we didn’t see anything all that interesting. But when we got out of the truck and climbed a hill we looked down on the most amazing valley I have ever seen.

Gjain Valley

It’s called the Gjain Valley and it looks like a tended garden. We walked down the side of the hill and just explored the place for about an hour. There were only a handful of other tourists about. This place is a hidden gem in Iceland, that’s for sure.

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

Gjain Valley

After visiting the valley we went to see Hjálparfoss, a small, but very nice waterfall.

Hja?lparfoss Waterfall

That was our last stop and we made our way back to civilization.

The whole tour lasted about 8 hours. We had a great time and when we finished we were dropped off at our car and we drove back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Reykjavik via the Golden Circle where we will see Geysir and a few other Icelandic attractions.

Iceland – Day 12

drivingday11

The Scenic South Shore

Hunkubakkar to Hróarslækur – 128 miles

It was bound to happen. Our weather luck ran out. Rain, rain and more rain. Our first scheduled stop was Reynishverfi. An area on the beach with cliffs full of nesting birds. When we got there, there was a howling wind that that was doing its level best to knock us down. We made our way to the beach and the wind was blowing so hard that the rain was stinging my face.

Reynishverfi

Even with the foul weather, it was an interesting place. And there were thousands of birds, including puffins. Sadly, the rain was so bad we could not easily take photos.

We moved on to Dyrhólaey, a few miles on down the road and things started to clear a bit and we saw a rainbow over a church.

Random Rainbow

We thought that might be a good sign. But when we got to Dyrhólaey it was raining again and the wind was still blowing hard. We spotted some puffins that were pretty close to the car park, but the wind nearly blew the camera out of my hands. I managed to get a few photos before calling it quits.

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

Puffins @ Dyrhólaey

We moved on to see the Skógafoss waterfall. The rain quit for awhile and we had the opportunity to take some photos before having some lunch. I should point out that even though the rain stopped, the spray from this waterfall kept us and our cameras quite wet.

Skógafoss Waterfall

Skogafoss

From Skógafoss we moved on to see the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This one has the added coolness of being able to walk behind the falls for a view from the other side. The rain was falling intermittently, but again…this waterfall was spraying mist everywhere so we were still getting quite wet.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

After taking our photos we pressed on. The weather remained iffy and we contemplated our options. As we were trying to decide what to do we found ourselves caught up in a most unusual traffic jam.

htj2

htj3

About three dozen horses being herded down Highway 1, Iceland’s main road! Of course we needed photos so when we could get ahead of the horses we pulled over and took some.

htj1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

Horse Herding On Highway 1

At this point it was getting late so we made our way to the hotel and checked in. Tonight we rest in anticipation of tomorrow’s tour of Landmannalaugar.

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 2

Glacier On Mountain

It was like night and day. One minute we’re under gloomy skies and rain, the next minute we’re under blue skies and blazing sun. The Icelanders will tell you “that’s Iceland!” with a big smile.

It was amazing to see the glacier topped mountains sparkling in the sun.

Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park

As we drove along we noticed a small village called Hof. We decided to explore and we were sure glad we did! We found this cute little church there

Church at Hof

Icelandic Church Interior

The next major stop we were looking to make was the Svartifoss (Black Fall) at the Vatnajökull National Park in Skaftafell.

We found the park and got out of the car and ditched our winter coats as it had gotten quite warm.

The sign at the visitor center said the hiking trail to the waterfall was just over a mile long and went about 500 feet up the side of the mountain. We were optimistic and eager for the challenge!

Cynthia and Me hiking up to Svartifoss Waterfall

It was a rather strenuous hike. We had to take lots of breaks, but we eventually made it. And I would say it was worth it.

Svartifoss (Black Fall) - Skaftafell - Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland

After we climbed back down the mountain I was about as sore and as tired as I have been in a long while. We found our way to the hotel, check in and had dinner. Lucky for me there was no Internet so rather than process images and update this blog I got to collapse in a heap on the oh so comfortable bed and sleep and sleep.

The journey continues tomorrow.

The Road Goes On And On

Iceland – Day 11 – Part 1

drivingday10

The Glacier Lagoon & Skaftafell National Park

Hofn to Hunkubakkar – Drive 125 miles

As I suspected, the morning proved to be quite gloomy and overcast. Our decision to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon the previous evening proved to be a prudent one. It was raining and foggy when we left our hotel and proceeded west. As we came down the mountain the fog began to clear and by the time we reached Jökulsárlón again it was still a bit rainy and very overcast.

We decided to pull in and have a look anyway. It was still cool to look at. We went inside the gift shop and got a coffee. As we waited the rain stopped and I decided I was going to take the zodiac tour on the lagoon that I had booked before we left. Cynthia decided to stay in the car and read a book.

When you go out on the zodiac they provide you with a thermal suit and a life jacket.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

They can fit 10 tourists on a boat and they run two boats at a time. The gathered us up and put us in a bus and drove us to where we would board our boats.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

It was a good thing Cynthia opted out. She would have hated this.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

The boat takes you right up to the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier which is where all the icebergs that fill the lagoon come from.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

We stayed out on the lagoon for about an hour and it was really something to see. The tour guide/boat driver was friendly and knowledgable about the site and seemed to enjoy telling us all about the lagoon.

Since the sky was overcast there was much more blue coloring to the ice than there would have been if the sun was out. Still, I can only imagine what this place might look like in the bright light of day.

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

Zodiac Tour Of Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon,

When I got back to shore I found Cynthia and we moved on. There was on place I wanted to check out as I had heard about it from researching this trip. The Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon which was a few miles west of Jökulsárlón. I had read that if Jökulsárlón was too crowded or the boats fully booked you could get a tour on Fjallsárlón pretty easily. When we found it, there was hardly anyone there and sure enough, if we had wanted to go on another zodiac tour we probably could have without much of a wait.

It’s not quite as pretty as Jökulsárlón, but it’s still amazing.

Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We took some photos and then moved on. As we drove west the sun began to come out. Things we looking up for the second half of our journey. I will write about that in the next post.