Iceland: The Giant (South)

Well. I don’t really know what to say at this point. Which is kind of funny if you think about it because I’m about to write a couple of (long) blog posts about our time in Iceland. So obviously I have to have something to say about this place- about our time in this beautiful place. I think I’ll begin and end with this lovely quote from my dear Kevin. You ready for it? A couple days into our road-trip, we were just driving along the country side admiring every single detail that this country has to offer. People aren’t kidding when they say that you will want to stop and photograph every single turn and corner of this place. It was nice and peaceful, a tranquil moment filled with, “look over there! and over there! ooh!” until Kevin screams out, appalled, “Fuck you, Iceland! You beautiful fucking country!” He was almost angry at how….magnificent it all was- it is. And as slightly vulgar as this sounded, I completely understood what he meant. This place…how is a place such as this even real? With it’s silently demanding waterfalls, decorated lava fields, snow covered mountain tops, all grazed by bountiful sheep that roam about undisturbed. Yeah, I knew that Kevin meant. Fuck this place- this beautiful fucking, life-changing place.

And on that note, let’s begin!

Day One:

Halo, Iceland! After many, many delays we finally made it to Reykjavík! And only a couple hours past our original arrival time. After a quick restroom stop to freshen up before beginning our journey, it was time to pick up our rental car for the next 10 days.

We booked our car through Blue Car Rentals and even found a promo code that we used to get the WiFi for free. And I have to say I am so glad that we did. Even with my T-Mobile service that I can use abroad, the WiFi proved to be so much more reliable. Our next stop was to, you guessed it, Bonus. Many traveler’s first stop for cheap groceries. We stocked up on ramen, pasta, juice, and stuff PB&Js. We purchased $60.35 worth of products just to make certain we didn’t go hungry while being cheap-ish Overall, we focused on a cheap-medium tier for our spending. We saved enough for this trip to enjoy it without entirely penny-pinching.. *Oh, and before I begin every time I mention prices or cost of meals it is for two people. Kevin and I took turns purchasing things on this trip.

However, after such a long travel day all we wanted was some hot, local food. So we drove through Reykjavik to the “Icelandic Street Food” restaurant in town. On the menu: House Mash Potatoes and Cod, Shellfish soup, and Lamb soup. Oh and it’s completely endless and you can try them all. Overall, it was decent. And our first taste of Iceland’s true prices. It came out to $20 a person. My only fault with this place was that it is very wasteful. They give you new plastic utensils with every new plate until we told them we didn’t need them.

 

After this we began our road trip. Little did we know how much true beauty we were about to witness.

Of course, The Golden Circle.

The Þingvellir National Park- 

Öxarárfoss– our first taste of Iceland’s many, many, many waterfalls. We actually didn’t know about this waterfall before we landed in Iceland, even after all of my research. This I find particularly beautiful and telling of travel’s magic: that as much as you prepare, a place will still always surprise you. Kevin and I unknowingly started a tradition here that we carried along with us at every stop we made. We would have a moment when we would just say, “okay, soak it in” and we would put everything down, stand in silence, and just breathe it all in. Place it all to memory. Enjoy it all untied and unrestrained.

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Almannagia GorgeDSC09271

A brief description: “Almannagjá marks the boundary of the Mid-Atlantic Rift, which runs through Iceland. This rift is the space between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.” Which is pretty freaking wild if you think about it! Two tectonic plates have been drifting apart from one another causing the Iceland you see today. Here’s a bit of the science behind it (I feel it would be a crime for me to try and explain it well).

“As the plates moved apart, excessive eruptions of lava constructed volcanoes and filled rift valleys. Subsequent movement rifted these later lava fields, causing long, linear valleys bounded by parallel faults. The divergence of the ridge started in the north about 150 million years ago and 90 million years ago in the south. These movements continue today, accompanied by earthquakes, reactivation of old volcanoes, and creation of new ones.”

So this place…Kevin said this place was like visiting another planet. And I agree. This place is a hot spot for geological, tectonic, volcanic, divergent activity. It is the hot spot- the hot spot of floating magma that is called Iceland.

This was our first real view of Iceland. The first, real, out of the car, endless landscape view of this country that was allowing us to visit it. And it. was. breathtaking. Oh, and it was cold. The kind of cold that you don’t see coming from the vast clearness around you. Still, like I said, it was breathtaking.

It’s definitely worth the time to explore this area further. I would highly recommend reading the signs and learning about the history of this area. I didn’t know until our way out about the Execution Trail that we had just walked upon. Being that Thingvellir was central to those members of Iceland in 930, it was selected as area for Althingi, the world’s first parliament. The area has some dark history and you just know as you are walking around that the rocks surrounding you have witnessed some twisted things. Basically, and this is the completely torn apart short version, once the death penalty was legalized in 1281 there were four spots in this area where this would occur by either hanging, drowning, burning, or decapitation. Dark, dark stuff. This website explains the history further in detail! Definitely check it out if you are planning a visit.

Still, I will say knowing about it’s dark past kind of makes the beautiful landscape even more mesmerizing. Some light after the darkness, you know?

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On the drive to our first AirBNB, which is pleasantly placed on lake Laugarvatn, we stopped to admire the sunset and view over Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn Lake. We had the picnic area to ourselves for awhile so we found it the perfect opportunity to soak and breathe in our first afternoon in this magical place. I wish I could describe to you more accurately, dear friend, how I was feeling in this moment, but to attempt to do so would be a complete crime of the moment. You just have to trust me that this moment was the kind of moment that changes your entire life.IMG_8234IMG_8249

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Part of me wishes we could have stayed in this moment in time forever. But I am thrilled to state that this feeling of enchantment only continued as we arrived in our home for the evening. The Austurey Cottages ($159) were the ideal place for our first night’s stay in Iceland: private, homey, romantic. I wandered around the area for awhile snapping photos and recording the clouds move in slow motion. That night we kept our eyes out for the Aurora Borealis. We didn’t see her that evening but we woke up at midnight to a star-filled sky on display right above our perfect little home.

Day Two

 

We were saddened to leave the perfect little homes that were taken out of an IKEA catalog. If we learned one thing during our short stay here it was that we don’t need many things; we just want to be together somewhere beautiful.

We continued our Golden Circle tour with a quick stop at Geysir. It was a neat experience watching it build itself up into an eruption and then fill itself back up. You can continue your walk and get a vantage point, but we didn’t stay too long. It’s definitely crowded. We ate lunch at the restaurant, too, which was overall a mistake, but we were hungry and fish and chips sounded appealing ($36). Oh well.IMG_8349

Alright, so slightly larger than Öxarárfoss, Gullfoss was certainly a sight. The designated nature reserve that almost wasn’t. I can see why someone once wanted to harness the fall’s power to generate electricity, but can you imagine what we would be witnessing today if they had succeeded? Not this, I assure you. Thankfully, Iceland’s first environmentalist, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of the farmer who owned Gullfoss (can you imagine owning that?), fought to keep the falls as they were. Over time, although she did not win at trial, her goal was accomplished. I believe the Universe wanted the falls to stay this way for everyone to marvel but no one to use.

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Kerið Crater

One of the few attractions in Iceland that actually cost money, but I would say entirely worth the $3 a person. This is the place where Iceland gave us a huge sign that we were supposed to be there. Kevin is big into Norse Mythology. We spent a good chunk of our drive listening to audio books about Odin, Loki, and Fenrir. So it was the special moment that two enormous ravens (the biggest birds I’ve ever seen) flew right past us that Kevin and I shrieked in amazement. Huginn and Muninn, two ravens in Norse Mythology, fly around the world and report back to Odin with what they’ve seen or heard. I’m telling y’all, if this wasn’t a sign from the Universe, I’m not sure what else would be. I think this is the moment Kevin truly fell in love with the country and land. I really do feel as if the earth spoke to him in this moment.

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After our mythical moment at Kerið, we hit the road once again. We struggled to find Mosfellsbaer, where Google claimed there were “discounted” Icelandic sweaters. We ended up finding stores that sold them many times throughout Iceland, but with the price tags at $100+ I couldn’t justify purchasing one.

Day Two-Evening

On our “tentative itinerary” we planned on heading to West Iceland. We didn’t have a hotel booked but there was a campsite we had in mind in Olafsvik. As soon as we left the Golden Circle we started getting many warnings from locals about the upcoming weather. All the electronic road signs posted warnings about icy conditions and strong winds. Halfway through our drive it started snowing. Kevin said it was getting harder to hold onto the wheel due to the gusts. The roads were empty except for the occasional car going the opposite way. Suddenly it was pitch dark, blizzard-ing, and we were going up a winding mountain. Instinct told us, “don’t do it…”

To be continued.

So the question is, did we survive?

Find out on my next post!

Until next time, friends!

-Mary A.

Oh, by the way within the Golden Circle I would have loved to do Fontana Spa, the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring, and if you have some spending money, snorkeling the Silfra. Next time!

 

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