Thursday, 14 September 2017

Iceland Day 6-12

Day 6
I was jolted out of my slumber when I heard something bang on the side of my van door.  I immediately thought it was a farmer telling me to get off his property, but to my astonishment, it was a sheep rubbing its ass on my passenger door to relieve an itch!  I honked the horn as I was a bit concerned he could damage or dent something, (he didn't btw).

My room for the night
Everyone pets the Icelandic horses, so I did just to say I did
Seeing I had an early “wild” alarm, I took this opportunity to hit the road early to get a handle on the day.  If I expected to see everything I wanted in Myvatn Lake, I needed to take any advantage I could.  I was quite far north, so the lack of tourists was refreshing, but I knew in only a few hours, I would be immersed back within the hordes, so I soaked it in as the long drive passed by.

The day was quite cold with a biting wind, with rain persisting on and off throughout the drive. To break up the drive, I pulled over to play on one of the many black sand beaches, writing “Iceland” to pass the time... it amused me, that's all that matters right lol.

Before reaching Dettifoss, Asbyrgi Canyon Park was only 5km out of the way, so I detoured to see what I potentially could of missed.  It was a lulling valley floor with trees and ponds, and I was sure there was some significance to the volcanic activity in the region, but I grew tired of it fast, and after 30min, found myself back on the road, this time on some of the worst gravel roads around.

Breaking up the drive and playing in the sand
The Asbyrgi Canyon, it was relaxing, I'll give it that
Between avoiding the massive potholes and dodging flying rocks from other cars, the 30-some km drive was no picnic, but it was the only way to see the east side of Dettifoss which had better views. Once I finally arrived, you could see the huge mist plume off in the distance.   Up close, the falls reminded me of Niagara, just a “mini-me” version.   A brief 1km hike away up the river, the overshadowed Selfoss was an easily accessed set of falls shared by the neighbouring Dettifoss. The long strip of falls spilling over the adjacent cliff seemed to never end, making it hard to capture on one photo, and I found it quite captivating.  A quick trek back to the van while battling the cold headwind blasting directly in my face,  I was off again, this time to see the much talked about Myvatn Lake.

Dettifoss...reminded me of Niagara Falls
Selfoss 1km upstream of Dettifoss, well worth the hike
Just before reaching the lake,  I needed to make a detour to the busy Krafla, a large power plant feeding off the abundant geothermal energy in the area.  It hosted several sections where you could walk around and see steam and geothermal activity up close. I was feeling a bit tired at this point, and with the cold drizzly weather contributing to my demeanour, I was not in the mood for much.

The hot pots on the other side of the highway were similar, just showcasing much larger, more abundant mud pots which bubbled emphatically, while large steam cones aggressively forced out sulphuric smelling steam intermittently among them.

Krafla, lots of geothermal power here
A sulfur smell in the air
These hot pots are all over Iceland, quite common actually
A bit more my style, a climb was in order, and what better way to ease my ailing glum feeling than a large volcano hike...Hverfjall. The size and height made it worth while, and the views made me finally appreciate how the actual volcanic activity played out in this area.  I sped around the entire crater rim in the fresh air before making my way back down.  The reoccurring misty rain challenged my patience, but not enough to stop this old stubborn mule.

The Hverfjall hike around a crater rim
I stopped at a few other attractions where I saw other tourists conglomerate, but the entertainment factor made it not worth mentioning in this blog.

I should note, I skipped out doing the Myvatn Nature baths ($50) and Blue Lagoon ($100) because I chose to do the more smaller unique hot springs rather then the mega tourist traps...each to their own I guess.

After finally buying my much desired milk to feed the cereal addiction, I drove 50km or so to Godifoss...pretty good, but at this point I started to get waterfall'd out.  Add to that the temperature dropping throughout the day, the rain restricting some of my views, and the wind never letting up, all helped contribute to me just wanting to go to bed.  Maybe all the junk food I was ingesting also played some small part to my mood as well haha (how can I help it, the prices were so tempting).  I persevered, and pushed on all the way to the second largest city in Iceland...Akureyri.   I found a nice campground for 1700isk ($23), which was worth every cent seeing I needed a shower pronto!

Godifoss, cold at this point
The shower was more then I could have ever expected!   It was a rainfall shower head, and the experience was easily comparable to any 5 star hotel.  This alone was worth the $23, and I fully cherished my time using it, utilizing every second.  For dinner at 9pm, I made a quick eggs and hash, then hit the hay hoping to be rejuvenated for tomorrow.

Day 7
Morning came at the usual 7am, but as I opened the curtains to witness the sun rise over the dewy grass, I noticed a funny spectacle, I was surrounded by bunnies...literally!  Roughly 6-7 cute little cotton-tails surrounded the van feeding on their last few bites of free grass before being run off by eager campers.

Beautiful dewy morning...funny I didn't capture any of the bunnies
Along the drive, quaint homes with great backdrops
My objective today was a remote hot spring north of Saudarkrokur. The town itself was worth a walk, but it was early, and most shops were still closed.  Only a 25km gravel road stood in the way of me fulfilling another hot spring not overrun by the mass tourist machine.  As I arrived to Grattislaug, my perseverance paid off.  Way out in the middle of nowhere stood a nature pool just a few meters from the edge of the ocean.  The whimsical pools were surrounded by towering mountains to one side, ocean to the was perfect.  As an added bonus, the water was hot, and I mean REAL hot.   Bubbles rose through the cracks of the floor, and at certain spots, the water was scalding.  I enjoyed all 2 hours spent there.

A perfect hot springs (really hot) with great company
After the refreshing dip, I embarked on a long drive to the Snaefellsjokull peninsula, a region I had some suspicion I would need plenty of time in.  This was also a good opportunity to knock off some km because as beautiful as the drive was, it paled in comparison to most other locations I'd previously seen.

Such a great location
The cool air was refreshing after sitting in scalding water lol
So peaceful here, off the beaten track
7pm rolled around, and the drive started to wear on me.  The sun began to make its decent behind the mountains, casing a cool shadow, so I needed to find my typical gratifying room for the night.  After a few trial and errors looking for a remote place to park the van for the night (tried 4x4ing a road that just wasn't meant for a van like mine), I finally found an amazing lake style bay for the night. With not a ripple in the water, I watched a few loons fish while uploading photos on my laptop before calling it a night.

Tried 4x4ing for my next room for the night...had to backtrack from here
This was the room I settled on
So calm...the calm before the storm so to speak

Day 8

Today would be a day focused on the popular Snaefellsnes Peninsula!

The famous wind Iceland was so renowned for was finally showing its teeth, and the once still bay I was relaxing by, was now a choppy frothy mess.  I headed straight to Kirkjufell at 8am, the most photographed mountain in Iceland.   It only took a few minutes to take the typical photos, but that was not why I was here, oh no! I planned on climbing the bastard. I knew there was a route somewhere where ropes were placed to allow certain cliffs to be gained, but ropes are cheating right? So naturally I did all I could not to use them, it's just a scrambling rule, thats all;) The hike was great, and the views were even better, and as I departed, I felt a great sense of accomplishment taking the initiative to hunt for the trailhead and stick to a plan.

Most photographed mountain in Iceland
Rope used to gain the summit, I never used it
Summit picture, excellent views
Next was hiking Saxholl only 15 minutes away. This was a short volcano which erupted 3000 years ago. Meh.  I think I took one picture, but it did the location no justice, and it was not worth posting.

Literally only a few minutes further, was Djupalonssandur, a ship wreck beach with cool lava formations. I took a few moments to read about the 1948 wreck where many lost their lives in a storm, and then moved on to the next attraction.

A ship wrecked beach
Great volcanic formations
Wind warnings were now in effect with advisorys recommending any larger vehicles to pull over until Monday...this was not an option for me, so I pushed on....but my van was feeling the effects, and at times, felt unstable in the open prairie sections, making me second guess my decision.

Yup, it got a bit windy
I made several other stops with cool lava formations while driving around the massive glaciated mountain... Snaefellsjokull.  One of these stops was the hike between Hellnar and Arnastapi, then back, a 6km jaunt through great geological contrasts, cluttered volcanic valleys at the beginning, and prairie ocean cliffs at the end, which I thoroughly enjoyed, all while getting blasted by the relentless wind.

A great hike from Hellnar
Loved the volcanic cliffs
I was a bit worn out by all the hikes, so I took this time to finish with a long drive haha. My goal was to hit a researched hot springs to soak my beaten body.  When I finally arrived to the Deildartunguhver hot springs, to my astonishment, it was closed for! With now 2 hours being unexpectedly freed up, I pushed on to see the 2 waterfalls planned for later in the day...Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. Hraunfosser was really cool, with water coming out of the ground which was flowing under the old lava chambers.  Barnafoss was ok with falls rushing through an arched rock formation.

Hraunfossar, cool waterfall coming out of the ground

I decided to call it a day, and found a campground near the Glymur hike which I planned to do the next morning. As long as someone didn't swing by to collect for money, all would be good.

My room for the night, a closed campsite

Day 9

I woke up to a sunny bright morning, but once I swung open the door, a cool breeze slapped me in the face.  I inhaled a quick bowl of cereal and headed to the popular Glymur trail before 8am.  As I arrived to the large parking lot, I only saw 2 vehicles, and one was just unloading...perfect, second in line was not too bad.  I ascended up the trail at my usual quick pace taking in the beautiful scenery, while also traversing some of the very interesting objectives it offered.  There were several river crossings with high potential for boot soakers, and at one point, a long narrow log was needed to cross one deep section.  The trail even went through a cave tunnel which I thought was quite novel.  After all was said and done, I made it to the top to view the towering Glymur falls which had a very strong presence to it.  I opted to do the loop which not many know you could do, but it involved crossing the river right above the bare ice cold water that reached the knees.  Crossing incident free, I finished the 6.5km hike and returned to a packed parking lot.  Happy I avoided the rush, I headed off to a hidden hot springs only accessible through private land.

Sunny morning, but brisk

Glymur, great 7km hike
Top of the falls, right before I had to cross the river above the falls
Looking back where I came from
I arrived to the Hvalfardarlaug free hot springs only to see a powered gate with a camera and a large sign saying "watch out for guard dog", and "tub is closed".  It looked as though the tourists had overstayed their welcome, dang!  I was really banking on spending a few hours here, so now I needed something to do before my last night outside of Reykjavik.

I decided to drive to the south coast,  making a quick pit stop in Porlakshofn, then continuing through Krysuvikurberg to have a nap.  I felt re-energized after the cat nap, and decided to drive a bit more, and ran into the Seltun attraction I was not aware existed.  It was another spot where one could witness the geothermal energy bubbling to the surface up close, and in my opinion, was better then the Myvatn hot pots.

Burning time south of Reykjavik
It was still fairly early, and once I settled on a spot to park for the night on a back road, I still had several hours before it got dark.  My restless nature got the better of me, and the mountain ridges surrounding me were calling my name, so I hiked straight up and traversed peak to peak as the sun slowly set.  Once I finally returned to the van, it was dark.  Tomorrow I would ditch the van for a bit more luxury, and boy, I was really looking forward to it!

If you look hard, you can see my van below

Day 10

I reached the Hilton in downtown Reykjavik right on time for the van to be picked up...but unfortunately the company thought I was at a different hotel, so they arrived 1 hr late.  I took it in stride because all I could think about was finally having a bed in a nice boutique hotel.

When checking in, I strategically killed them with kindness, and as a result, received a free upgrade to a premium room with a mountain view.  Their service was great, and the hotel was even better, nailing all the little details perfect.  I revelled in a nice long shower before heading out on foot to check out the town.  Thank goodness the hotel was perfectly situated around the popular spots...I was in no mood for a long walk.

Note:  I would like to thank my parents for sharing a few of the points to lower the price of my room a bit:)

The front desk guy recommended a cafe he usually went to have a good Americano while working on his computer...a place called Babalu.  It was a small, eclectic, hipster style cafe exactly what I was looking for.  After spending an hour catching up, I grabbed a snack at the nearby Bonus grocery store and went to rest in the hotel for an hour.

A great recommended cafe where I got a bit of "work" done
I don't think more then an hour went by before my body urged me to get moving.  Luckily the hotel offered a free loaner bike.  I grabbed one of the clunky sluggish looking beasts available and ripped around town taking in as many sites I could.  After 12.5km, I felt content I achieved what I wanted to see, and concluded the site seeing tour.

Looking at the popular church
The church had great presence 
A great statue on the Reykjavik harbour 

My 12.5km bike ride
Happy hour is kind of a big deal in Reykjavik.  No surprise seeing a normal beer averaged around $22.  I jumped on one of these deals and had a beer at a nearby pub for the bargain price of $10.  While sitting at the bar, I met several friendly couples and a few solo travellers...all Americans.  A guy from Miami asked if he could join me at my next stop where I planning to splurge on a burger.  Naturally it was not a problem, so off we went to the Lebowski Bar.

Happy hr, only $10 for a beer
After 2 beer and a burger, I left with my tail between my legs after settling my $60 bill.  I headed back to my hotel room around 9pm and had a quick glass of wine I forgot I was carrying around throughout Iceland.  Tomorrow was my flight away from this amazing place, BUT not all would be lost... I was able to upgrade my seat to a business class ticket for a small fee, so at least I had that to look forward to.

Had 2 beer and a burger here...$60

Day 11

Surprisingly, I didn't sleep well, go figure! The sun filled my room, releasing me from my agonizing tossing and turning throughout the night.   I headed downstairs for an amazing free breakfast offered by the hotel, followed by a quick shower, and before I knew it, I was on my way to the airport.

Looks like a beautiful day for my room view
The Icelandair Saga lounge was pretty darn good, and by the time I had all the fancy food I could possibly eat, my flight was ready, and to my surprise, there were only 3 of us in the first class section:). The flight was smooth with average service, and my meal was absolutely amazing....seared cod, with a scallop appetizer.  Flying over Greenland was a great bonus, and I settled in for the rest of the flight.
Had an amazing seared Cod 
Love how the icebergs are floating out to the ocean
Flying over Greenland, beautiful
In 6.5 hours I was be in Edmonton, followed by another hour to Calgary where it was cold and rainy.  I took full advantage of the Saga business lounge at the airport, indulging in anything I could.  Iceland was good to me, and it will be missed!  I just hope I don't receive any camera speeding tickets in the mail now! ;)

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