Iceland – Dangerous Beauty…

Landing in Keflavik I was two hours earlier than when I left Copenhagen at 10:30pm so after a 3 hour flight, it was still only 11:30pm and going outside to catch a bus to my hostel I realized, for the first time on my trip, that Iceland was cold, even in the heart of summer, and I may not have packed enough warm clothes.

Then, when I finally got to Guest House (which is what they call hostels in Iceland) Pavi it was close to 1am and the people who run the place weren’t around. So I had to make a phone call and was told to just find a bed and we’d take care of everything else in the morning. The room I was in was a huge space subdivided like an office. I found a cubicle with an empty bed and took up residence, falling asleep quite quickly.

The next morning, I awoke early, went downstairs for breakfast, took care of my bill and tried to figure out what I was going to do for the day. I’d already decided I was going to go whale watching (as a nod to Ida and our original voyage to putgarden) and take a tour around the Golden Circle (a tour through the center of Iceland to see some of the big natural sites). The only choice, really, was in which order I would do these things. I decided on the whale

Dolphin in the sky...

Dolphin in the sky…

watching the first day, then getting up early for the Golden Circle coach tour the next. So on my way down to the harbor, I booked my tickets for Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon (a very popular spa/hot springs which I could do on my way back to the airport).

Even the statues get cold...

Even the statues get cold…

Before getting on a boat, though, my ears were cold so I stopped in at a souvenir shop to pick up a cap. When I couldn’t find one I liked, I stole one from a statue! Okay, not really. But when I had a nice knit cap emblazoned with the Icelandic flag picked out, the shop attendant very nicely pointed out that one really made me look like a tourist and instead I should go for something a little more subtle so I could blend in. I liked the plan. Now, I was prepared for the biting wind of a fast moving whale watching boat.

On the boat, it was even colder than I thought it would be. Thankfully, though, my ears were fine!

David and Claudia

David and Claudia

On the boat, though, I met a little guy named David. Okay, I didn’t know his name was David right away since he’s six and he only speaks German, but we were smiling at each other and pointing out whales so it was okay. Then I met David’s mom, Claudia, who DID speak English and with whom I could have a conversation (wherein I found out David’s name). We started becoming friends when she asked me to watch David (and hold her very good rail side seat) while she went below to get rain coats for the three of us. We had a blast trying to spot sea critters who were moving very fast. While Claudia and I spotted a whale or two, David didn’t and he wasn’t happy about it. In fact, with the wind and the cold and rain he was

Fake whale!

Fake whale!

not having a good time. Once the boat docked though, Claudia and David joined me at the little whale watching museum where David did, finally, see a whale (even if it was a fake one).

Afterwards, the three of us decided to continue hanging out so we went for food. While we were eating Claudia mentioned they were going to do the Golden Circle the next day as well, in the car she had rented, and invited me to come along. So I cancelled my reservation and we all spent the rest of the day together, wandering around Reykjavik, seeing the sights and having dinner. I headed back to my hostel to do my final grading (they had wifi) and get some sleep. Big day coming up.

The next morning I headed over to Claudia and David’s guest house early in the morning. We had decided we were going to leave around 9am, so I had breakfast at my place then walked the three blocks to hers (honestly, Reykjavik, especially the downtown area, not that big). When I got there, Claudia wasn’t ready yet so David and I played “lime

Really, this is all about the lake in the background...

Really, this is all about the lake in the background…

football” on the kitchen table. Again, very interesting trying to communicate. In the end, I decided the best approach was to speak 6 year old which, as my friend John (who I would meet the next day) pointed out is native to everyone since we’ve all spent a year in that land. It was good. And when I took the lime away, he grabbed a chunk of raw ginger, which didn’t roll nearly as well as the lime.

Anyway, we loaded up the car, I was given the map and named navigator, put a German Pippi Longstocking CD in for David and we headed off. Our first scheduled stop was Þingvellir national park, a place where the tectonic plates are pulling the country apart. But like I said, that was our first “scheduled” stop. Our first ACTUAL stop happened about 20 kilometers away from Þingvellir when we saw some sheep by the side of the road. Now, we’d been seeing sheep and horses all along the way, but here, the sheep were right against the roadside. So Claudia pulled over and we all quietly got out. Of course, the quiet part didn’t last very long for some of us <<pointing towards David>>. Being six, he just wanted to pet the sheep. Knowing he was six, the sheep had no desire to be petted. They took off pretty quickly. This didn’t deter our little hunter though. He

David looking for sheep

David looking for sheep

kept running after them and they kept getting further away. At one point, the sheep were about 100 meters from him and he was about 75 meters from us, he looked back, put his fingers to his lips for us to be quiet, then got down on all fours and started crawling through the brush in search of his prey.

We were laughing so hard we probably did drive the poor sheep further away. Then he took off running again, and tripped when he hit this bizarre, alien looking landscape. My uncle genes kicked into high gear and I bolted when he hit the ground, getting there faster than I thought I could run. I picked him up and dusted him off (he probably didn’t need me, have I mentioned he’s six?) and we rejoined his mom in the car (I had to physically stop him from going after the sheep again). Then we finally got to Þingvellir (and you know, I thought about telling you how to pronounce that, but it’s more fun to imagine you struggling with it and not bothering to look it up). The park itself is amazing! You can actually see where the ground is being ripped apart. We walked down into it, across

The land being torn asunder...

The land being torn asunder…

volcanic rocks (which got picked up for later throwing pleasure by… you guessed it… the six year old) and across bridges going over water so clear it almost looks invisible. Honestly, this is one of the most idyllic places I visited on my trip (and no, the company didn’t hurt). We actually sat for

Throwing rocks

Throwing rocks

quite a while on the banks of the stream, talking… not talking… watching David throw anything he could get his hands on into the water. I just wish we’d had a picnic lunch.

From there, we went to Geysir, which is a naturally erupting geyser. In fact, that’s where the word “geyser” comes from… except Geysir no longer erupts. There are other geysers there that do, about every 6-8 minutes, but not Geysir. Of course, if you stand right next to the geyser when it explodes upwards and you don’t take into account the wind shifts, you might find yourself getting drenched in hot water. Now, I don’t say this due to personal, firsthand experience, but if

Geysir... before it explodes

Geysir… before it explodes

I’d had the camera set properly you’d see my driver learning her lesson.

From there, after a brief stop to eat and get souvenirs (okay, the souvenirs were mostly

Cute, huh?

Cute, huh?

for me and we had to get David a Viking helmet) we hit the furthest end of the Golden Circle, Gull Foss. Gull Foss is a waterfall which makes a 90 degree turn before dropping off about 80 meters. It’s beautiful! You can walk down very close to the top of the falls

Invasion of the Vikings!

Invasion of the Vikings!

(where six year olds can throw rocks into the water) and just experience the raw energy of millions of gallons rushing past you. When we were there, the sun was coming in behind the clouds at such an angle we were getting rainbows and dappled sunlight moving with the water. Just wonderful. Again, we sat and watched the world go by.

After a little while we left and headed back towards Reykjavik, enjoying the scenery and the landscape, which, really, looks like Mars or someplace out of the realm of terrestrial

Gull Foss

Gull Foss

reality. It’s all volcanic, really, but it doesn’t look like volcanic landscape. Iceland is truly

There's rocks under that coat...

There’s rocks under that coat

one of the most unique places on the planet.

Not that that uniqueness translates beyond a fun fair in the local supermarket parking lot where David simply HAD to go on a ride (the one he wanted to go on had no operator so he settled for the jumbo slide). From there, the tired boy (me) and my traveling companions headed back to their Guest House for home cooked dinner. We put David to bed and then Claudia and I chatted until I was too tired to leave (which, of course, is when I had to go). I made it back to my place knowing I had to get up early to catch a bus to the Blue Lagoon before the airport and the plane which would take me

Fun slide!

Fun slide!

home.

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Categories: Europe, Friends | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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