Sunday, February 15, 2015

ICELANDIC ADVENTURE: THE TARDY GRAND FINALE!


I should have written this months ago. MONTHS. I have two excuses: 1.) I was suffering from some life-crippling depression during the early fall months, and then 2.) I got too busy to remember that I was a person who had human emotions.

SO HERE IT IS. The final installment of our Icelandic Adventure. Enjoy.

Full disclosure: I've had a few drinks.

Days 6 through 10: After the Hike

I left off with D and I having just arrived at our final hut. The next morning we woke up early, made breakfast, re-packed everything, and hauled all our gear out to the bus pickup. I was limping pretty badly and my ankle/foot was so swollen that I couldn't get my boot on, so I wore my little neoprene river-crossing shoes. The bus arrived after about ten minutes, we threw our gear in the gear bay, and climbed aboard. There were several rocky river crossings that the bus had to ford, and we were on one of the ever-present badass four-wheel drive buses that are so common in Iceland, so we had no trouble crossing through fast-moving water up to three feet deep.

A measly three feet deep you say? Ha! That's nothing, you might say. Ok, Sure, if you're riding in a jacked up badass bus, you're right, three feet deep is nothing. However, if you're in a small two-wheel drive SUV, you may encounter some problems. Like these folks did:

Oh yeah, they've got this! Right? Just go kinda fast, don't slow down, hit it at the correct angle, etc.

... aaaaand they're stuck. 

Yeah, that's only about a foot deep. But a foot is enough to fill up the bottom of their car with water, and we had to watch them bail water out of the passenger windows with mugs. I really felt for those guys, cause we all knew that their rental car insurance doesn't cover water damage.

We continued to ride the bus through a gorge latticed with river crossings. I took about 300 pictures of the view out my window alone, it was so beautiful in the morning light.


Twas redonkulous.

We had one bus switch at Seljalandsfoss, a gorgeous waterfall, and then we were on our way back to Reykjavík. Past more sheep, horses (POOOONIIIIIES), the volcano Hekla, and other landmarks that I don't recall because the bus had free wifi and I also fell asleep. 

Once back in the city we hired a cab to take us to our camper van rental from Kuku Campers. I knew going in to this that we'd probably have a camper van that was colorfully painted. That was part of the reason why I chose this particular company (that and they were the cheapest. Let's not shrink away from the truth). We signed a bunch of paperwork after being lectured about the two main rules of the road. These two rules are as follows:


1. Do not speed. Icelanders do not fuck around with speeding. There are speed-trap cameras all over the place, and the police will pull your ass over if you go more than 2 km/hr over the speed limit. Do. Not. Speed.


2. Do not hit any sheep. This was no joke. We were told, "If you hit a sheep, that sheep immediately becomes the farmer's favorite sheep, and he will demand up to 500 euros from you for his loss and suffering."


Armed with our two rules and a key to our van, we were shown to our camper. I am 100% serious when I tell you that the following photo was OUR VAN.






We clambered into the Shania-Mobile, turned on the GPS (a British voice completely butchering Icelandic street names was a highlight), and embarked on the most hair-raising 45 minute drive of our lives.

One important thing to know is that besides the Two Cardinal Icelandic Driving Rules (no speeding, no hitting sheep), there are basically no other rules. Roundabouts are a nightmare. Want to drive the wrong way down a one-way street? No problem. Would you care to run a red light? Go for it. Have an urge to cut off the person in the lane next to you? You do you, bro. White-knuckled and shaking, D hit up an apothecary and a grocery store, and then we were on our hair-raising way to Blue Lagoon.

In hindsight, I consider the timing of our visit to Blue Lagoon to be pure genius, and I nearly dislocated my shoulder while patting myself on the back for it. We were tired, kinda sore, and I was injured, and a looooong five-hour soak in the Lagoon was the perfect remedy.



After the soak, we parked in a parking lot off the side of the road, and tucked in for a good night's sleep in the Shania-Mobile.

The next day our itinerary included another visit to Seljalandsfoss, the very famous waterfall Skógafoss, a drive-by view of the volcano that fucked up the world in 2010, Eyjafjallajökull, a stop in the rainiest part of Iceland, Vík (yes, it rained there), and our final destination: Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Because I don't want to bore you with the details of that journey (lots of glaciers, sheep, etc.), here are some pretty pictures:


Seljalandsfoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Eyjafjallajökull

The Fingers at Vík


THEN we got to Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón was actually the inspiration for the entire trip, so I was pretty stoked to be there. 


I AM SO HAPPY TO BE HERE.

Beer brewed with water from the glacier that feeds the Lagoon.

ICEBERGS.

OMG ANOTHER ICEBERG.

The view from our camper van. I just can't even.


We camped at the Lagoon for the night, which ended up being our coldest night in Iceland. We woke up early in the morning to walk on the beach, which was only a couple hundred meters south of where we camped. There were huge chunks of sea ice juxtaposed on the black sand, skuas and northern fulmars soaring in and out of the surf (a sea-birder's wet dream), and perfect light. 


Sea ice

Obligatory Icelandic Beach Selfie

Another view of the Lagoon because I STILL CAN'T EVEN.


We begrudgingly left Jökulsárlón, and headed back east towards Reykjavik. We decided at the last minute to check out Þingvellir, which was the location of the very first democratic parliament in the world, established in 930 A.D. It did not disappoint.


The view. No joke. This is a real place.
Here's where the first dude that decided on democracy stood.


Afterwards we went to see the ORIGINAL GEYSER, named Geysir (REAL ORIGINAL, ICELAND- ha haaaaaaa. I'm dumb.). It did not disappoint: it blew up several times while we were there. Then (long story short) D got scammed by a man who pretended he didn't speak English, we camped in a little campground, and got another glorious night's sleep.

And there it goes.

The next morning we got up, headed back to Kuku Campers to drop off the Shania-Mobile, and took a cab back to the hostel. We accidentally ate horse-burgers, had a few beers, and went to sleep. An early rise saw to us getting to the airport just in time for our flight to be delayed due to 80 MPH wind.

And that's the end. We came back to America. And we've been here ever since.

I will probably write up a gear review next. Like the famous George R. R. Martin's next much-anticipated book, you can expect to read the gear review in the year 2045.