Denise Goldberg's blog

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Road signs

For those of us who are language-challenged, international road signs are a very good thing. If I'd seen these words without a picture, I wouldn't have known what they were telling me. It would have been a "fingers crossed" moment.

Sometimes pictures are better than words.

halt in wet conditions, halt i bleytu

The symbol looks to me like it is warning of slippery conditions. Google Translate told me the words "halt i bleytu" (in Icelandic) translates to "halt in wet conditions".
If you'd like to hear the translation, click here, then click on listen under the words.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting closer

Oh! Denise thought that she would have her Iceland photos pushed to her galleries by now, but she's still deciding which photos belong where (in which gallery, that is). I hope you don't mind that I told her to take her time. You're all very patient, aren't you?

In the meantime, I thought maybe you'd like to see the little car that we used for our wanders, sitting on a very empty road. And look! This road actually had enough of a shoulder that we could pull off to the side; that was very unusual.

--- Rover
empty roads, our baby rental car

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Summer warmth

It was an early autumn day, a day of summer warmth, a good day to feed my need for the ocean. I headed to Kittery Point, Maine; it seemed like a good wandering destination for the day.

I started with the thought that I would walk the Cutts Island trail in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. My first attempt at that trail back in June was quickly cut short by dive-bombing mosquitoes, and today was surprisingly no different. Hmmm... maybe I should try again after a hard freeze.

Next stop... Fort Foster Park for a bit of "by the sea" walking. It was a beautiful day for walking.

sun shining through still green leaves

ocean colors

sculpted and striped rocks

More photos from today can be found at the beginning of the the gallery South coastal Maine - 2010.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Patterns in clouds

patterns in clouds


I was moving quickly, enjoying the crispness in the air, looking at the changing colors, walking.

And then... ouch! An acorn came flying out of a tree, connecting sharply with the center of my head. Did I say ouch!? It's hard to imagine the impact of something as small as an acorn falling (a fairly long distance). Do you suppose one of those crazy red squirrels saw me coming and took careful aim?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So blue

I decided it might be a good idea to sneak a couple of Iceland photos into our blog while Denise is still sorting through all of the photos. Maybe a few pictures can satisfy your curiosity.

These shots are from the Blue Lagoon. The photo of me and the one with the very blue sky are from our last day in Iceland; the gray sky view was from the first day. Isn't the color of the water amazing? We first saw some of the water from the car, just before we saw the sign for the Blue Lagoon. Denise almost stopped the car right there, but I convinced her to drive into the parking lot first.

There aren't any people in these shots because this is outside of the "people bathing" part of the lagoon. Oh! It would be so nice to have a place like this close to home. Nice warm water, and it's even possible to enter the pool from inside of a building. I wonder what it would be like to soak here in winter months. Do you know?

--- Rover
Rover, posing on a rock in the Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon on a gray day

Blue Lagoon against a bright blue sky

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daylight hours

I was chatting with a colleague this morning when I mentioned how much I have noticed the difference in the amount of daylight here in comparison with Iceland. He reminded me that we are very close to the equinox, the day of equal light and dark, the same characteristics here and in Iceland. The late sun rising earlier sun setting really hit me when I returned home though; all I could figure was that the sunrise in Iceland was earlier.

When I got home tonight I decided it was worth a look for a sunrise-sunset table for Iceland for the month of September. What I found was very interesting. I found a sunrise sunset table for Boston on the National Weather Service website on a page titled Sunrise & Sunset or Moonrise & Moonset plus other data. I found sunrise and sunset times for Reykjavik at I looked at the month of September for both locations.

On September 1st, Boston had the possibility of sunlight for 13 hours and 9 minutes. The daylight time each day decreases by about 2 1/2 minutes until a 12 hour day is reached on September 25th.

On September 1st in Reykjavik, sunrise was at 6:11 with sunset at 20:43 for a day of 14 hours and 32 minutes. Unlike the 2 1/2 minute stepdown day by day at the lower latitude, the daylight decreases by 6 to 7 minutes each day until reaching the equinox.

No wonder I noticed the difference. On my last full day in Iceland, daylight filled 13 hours and 33 minutes. On my first full day at home, there were 12 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. I know, it's only an hour, but it was noticeable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A few photos

I think that some of you might want to see photos from our wanders in Iceland. We've only been home for two days now, and Denise is still looking through the images that jumped into her (well really our) camera. It will probably be a bit until the galleries are ready for sharing, so I told Denise that I wanted to share a few photos now, to whet your appetite for later.

These four photos were taken on the day we wandered from Vik to the glacial lagoon and then back to Skaftafell. The first photo is me, taken early in the morning as I looked through the window at the rain. Oh, you already knew that was me, didn't you? The next picture shows the raindrops on the window, with mist and rain hiding the view. The last two were taken as we wandered during the day, a quick waterfall shot just before the rain started again, and then floating blue ice that broke off of the glacier. And look, there's a duck swimming in front of the ice.

I know Denise wanted to see the floating ice with a blue sky, but I really like the gray (not that it really matters since we didn't have a choice!)

--- Rover
Rover, looking out at the rain

rain & mist, outside of the hostel in Vik

waterfall on a hillside engulfed in fog

blue ice floating

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Approaching... of many one-lane bridges along Iceland's Ring Road.

one-lane bridge along Iceland's Ring Road

Tangled steel

Steel beams supporting the road surface of a bridge are supposed to be straight.

These twisted beams were positioned at a rest stop just outside of Skaftafell. My curiosity led me to a Wikipedia article titled Glacial lake outburst flood where I saw that this twisted bridge was caused by a jökulhlaup (or glacial burst) in 1996. According to Wikipedia:

"The jökulhlaup reached a flow rate of 50,000 cubic meters per second, and destroyed parts of the Hringvegur (Ring Road or Iceland Road #1). The flood carried ice floes that weighed up to 5000 tons with icebergs between 100-200 tons striking the Gigjukvisl Bridge of the Ring Road".
The power of nature is amazing, isn't it?

bridge supports twisted by jökulhlaup, skaftafell national park, iceland

The price of fuel

The price of fuel for my little Toyota Yaris (rental car) - which is classified on as the most efficient subcompact car - shocked me each time I filled the tank. I wondered my entire trip whether the price difference was between the United States and Europe, or whether fuel was actually more expensive in the little island nation of Iceland.

Today I satisfied my curiosity.

AA Ireland shows a chart of petrol prices from July 2010 showing the price in Ireland as well of a table of prices elsewhere in Europe. The prices I was paying in Iceland were actually less than those in most European countries in July. It's possible that's because of a decrease in the price of fuel since then; at this point I suspect that what I was seeing was a more general United States vs. Europe price difference. Based on what I saw, I'd say we're pretty lucky here.

The price? I was paying 192.6 krona per liter. There are 3.78541178 liters in one US gallon, so the price per gallon of fuel was 729 ISK. That converts to 6.17 USD. Yup, that's expensive.

If you want to play with numbers, the currency converter that I use is at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Travel exhaustion

Ah, home again...

I managed a quick run to the store just after I arrived home. I knew I would want fresh fruit with my breakfast tomorrow; a short errand before sitting down seemed like it would be a good idea.

I have a feeling it is going to take a while for me to start feeling my normal self again. My day today was 28 hours long instead of 24. Since my flight left during daylight hours, it was a non-sleep time for me.

Now, it's just before 9PM eastern time while my body believes it is 1AM. I think it's time to sleep. So tired...

One last day

I was ready to head out early, but breakfast came first. My favorite breakfast taste on this trip was the Icelandic pancakes at Skjaldarvik guesthouse. The hostel in Selfoss jumps in right behind Skjaldarvik with wonderful bread. Breakfasts here were pretty standard - cold cereal, yogurt tubs and / or some kind of thick liquid yogurt (I had to learn which carton contained milk, and which the thick stuff!). There was always bread, sliced meats and cheese, and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. The bread was usually a run-of-the-mill sliced bread. Not at the hostel in Selfoss; here there was an interesting home-baked bread, thick with whole grains and seeds, very nice. Both of these good breakfast spots had fruit too - banana slices, chunks of melon, and kiwi.

With food on board, I headed out for my last wander of this trip. Þingvellir was to the north and east, heading inland. Now I understand why the tour of Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss is referred to as the Golden Circle (or sometimes as the golden triangle). I thought that I would reverse direction when I finished up at Þingvellir, heading south to pick up the Ring Road towards Reykjavik. Luckily I looked at the map; it was much shorter to complete only the last leg of the triangle, heading directly towards Reyjavik.

It was cloudy to start with today, with occasional sprinkles. It started to clear while I was at Þingvellir, enough to see reflections of blue in the water, surrounded by bright green vegetation.

I had to pass Reykjavik on my way to the airport at Keflavik. The road led me into the city and back out again, leaving me to think that a detailed map of Reykjavik would have been a good thing to have. I have a walking map, and that might have helped - but of course it was in the back of the car. I followed route 41, and then I glanced at the big map of Iceland. Yikes - that road goes to Keflavik, but it also seemed to head out to the tip of a peninsula, not where I was hoping to go. Signs led me onto a different road then back to route 41. Phew! Still heading to the airport, still heading to my planned stop to soak in warm waters.

Ah, finally, I arrived at Bláa Lónið (or Blue Lagoon for those of us who have problems understanding Icelandic). I was shocked to see buses and buses and more buses as I pulled into the parking area. When I last enjoyed the water here it was a Thursday morning - not Saturday at noon. The puzzle was solved when I went inside to find that most of the people were from a cruise ship that docked here yesterday. A cruise has never been on my list of things to do. If you compare it with my usual mode of travel, I suppose I would need to look at it as a vacation on a ship as opposed to an opportunity to really visit a place, This particular ship started in England, visited France, stopped in Ireland and Iceland, and is now on its way to North America, which stops in St. John's, Newfoundland, Sydney, Nova Scotia, and an end point in Boston, Massachusetts. That's a lot of water to cover - with rather short on-land stops.

I quickly skipped the more popular first floor locker room and headed upstairs. Ah, that's better, very few people. My reaction at entering the water was that there were too many people in the water. Luckily that didn't last long; all I needed to do was move to the far side of the lagoon. It was practically empty, a very good place to relax.

Time quickly slipped by. Dressed to travel, I returned the car and checked in for my flight. A warning sign in the departure lounge led me to head for the gate just a little earlier than usual. It was estimated to take 15 minutes to walk to my gate. It didn't take that long, but I was glad to be at the gate early when I realized the flight was going to be boarded en masse. I can't remember the last time that I was on a flight that wasn't boarded by rows or by groups; event Southwest's boarding by groups makes more sense than Icelandair's non-systematic boarding process!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Skaftafell first, moving west next

Hey! It's my turn to write! I think Denise needs a break, and I really like playing with words.

It was another day of non-ending activity. Actually it was morning of bouncing down trails, and an afternoon of driving. I really think we're going to need a good long sleep when we get home.

Skaftafell is another place where I know we'll need to return. I could see a lot of places to wander there!

We arrived before the visitor center opened, so we started by heading down a well-marked and paved trail that led us close to the end of Skaftafellsjokull. That's a glacier descending from Vatnajokull ice cap. Oh! we didn't go onto the glacier; we would need to go with a guide for that. (Denise said we're going to do that next time. I guess we're coming back again!) The beginning of the trail was easy to follow. Then there was a faint path in the black sandy stuff. We really ignored that because Denise wanted to get closer to the water flowing from the end of the glacier. It was full of floating ice in interesting shapes. We wandered around a bit before finding our way back to the trail. I didn't think Denise knew how to get back even though she told me she did. We picked our way across rolls of dirt and stones, heading to the edge of the mountain - where it joined the valley floor. Oh! Denise was right, there was the path. We were almost back to our starting point when we saw Marion starting out, so of course we stopped to chat for a bit.

We stopped in the visitor center briefly. Denise looked at some books, and she picked up a map. Time to walk again...

We headed up and up and up, following the trail to Svartifoss. That's a waterfall high up on the hill, one of those narrow tall waterfalls. It is surrounded by columns of basalt. I think that's the same rock that created Giant's Causeway in Ireland. We were looking across at the columns, not walking on them. So interesting.

I bounced down part of the trail, but then I jumped into Denise's camera pack because it started raining on us. We were lucky to have dry for most of the morning, and the rain stayed fairly light until we arrived at the visitor center once more.

It was time for a quick snack before jumping in to the car for our drive. And look! Marion was just getting back from her walk too, so we had another chat over coffee.

By the time we headed down the road the rain changed from light to heavy. We drove and drove. I was beginning to think the rain was going to stay with us for the rest of the day. Denise saw a white edge to the gray clouds if she looked out to the horizon; she was hoping that meant we would drive past the rain. It rained and rained. And then... there was blue in the sky, white clouds against bright blue. That was nice.

We stopped for photos a few times, and we stopped to visit Seljalandsfoss again. That's the waterfall we visited on our way to Vik on Wednesday (just before it started raining). I thought we might walk behind the waterfall this time, but it looked so wet and slippery that we enjoyed it again from the front side.

We stopped by the hostel in Selfoss to get a bed for the night, then we headed back to Eyrarbakki again. Remember when Denise said she wanted to see it again in different conditions? She got her wish; it was high tide, and the sky was decorated in blue and white.

Tomorrow our wanders here are coming to an end. That's so hard to believe.

Denise has two things on her "I want to visit" list for tomorrow. The first is a visit to Þingvellir National Park. Then I think we might return to the Blue Lagoon once more (time permitting, of course!). The big plane takes off at 5 PM, and it's supposed to land in Boston at around 6:30. Remember, there's a 4-hour time change, so I think that means we will be flying for 5 1/2 hours.

--- Rover

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A lucky day

The weather wizard was quite cooperative today. The skies stayed gray, and much of the rain fell was while I was driving.

I was joined today by Marion from Köln, Germany. She also stayed at the hostel in Vik last night. Since her destination today was Skaftafell, also my end point, she asked if she could join me. When I told her that my camera directs me to stop along the road, she initially said that she'd stick with the bus. She came back a few minutes later saying that she'd like to join me, that she didn't mind extra time in beautiful places. I'm glad that she changed her mind; we both thoroughly enjoyed the day.

We left Vik in a light rain, heading east and a bit north. Stopping points were (as always) driven by my desire to grab photos of interesting viewpoints when they were also supported by a reasonable place leave the car. There was actually enough of a shoulder in some spots to pull off of the road. Marion noticed things off to the side of the road that I sometimes missed. One of those was a beautiful spot down a just wider than a single lane, poor condition dirt road. Green decorated the ground leading to a jagged drop to a river valley. The shapes of the cliffs were amazing. The walk was good until it was time to turn around. That's when it started raining - not a sprinkle, real rain. Both of us were pretty wet by the time we got back to the car. Luckily cranking the heat up cleared the windshield, warmed us, and eventually dried our wet attire.

We knew were were close to our end point when we saw glaciers in front of us.

We pulled in to Skaftafell after about four hours of driving. From Vik to Skaftafell is 139 kilometers. With a speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour, two hours should have been enough to complete the drive. I seem to be pretty consistent in taking much more time than expected to arrive, which is a good thing considering my goal is to enjoy the sights as opposed to hurrying to a destination.

It was time for a sit still moment, accompanied by coffee and a snack. While this was our final destination, I wanted to see Jökulsárlón, also known as the Glacial Lagoon. Marion was interested too, so she came along too. It wasn't much further - about 59 kilometers down the road - but the drive out felt long. That was probably due to the very heavy rain that started soon after we left Skaftafell. Heavy rain, light rain, then a quickly appearing and disappearing heavy fog. Marion checked the map and was able to confirm that we were getting close. Suddenly we saw the expected bridge, and ice floating off to the left of the road. The clouds came down to the water's surface. The water appeared as a shade of gray, topped by white, gray, and blue ice, with gray sky topping the look. We stopped and walked, staring at the blue ice topped with birds.

We could hear the pounding surf of the ocean, a sound that drew us to walk on the black sand beach after we finished looking at the shapes of ice floating in the glacial lake.

I had to make one more stop on our way back to Skaftafell. That area of fog fascinated me; I needed to see what was there. Water came pouring down from the glaciers above, water containing small pieces of blue ice that had split from the glacier. It was a surreal look, foggy with a bit of shine in a pool of water, a hard to believe reflection of the sun (as it was hiding behind the clouds).

Back at Skaftafell, the clouds let a tiny bit of blue sky through. I could see a bright spot on the glacier, sun hitting ice.

Before heading to my home for the night, I dropped Marion off at the Bolti Guesthouse high on a hill in the national park. Luckily the road was paved as it was a single-lane full of curves that doubled back and back again. I can't even begin to guess at the percent grade of the road. We hit at least one 12% grade on the Ring Road today (or was it yesterday?), and this road felt steeper.

Tonight I'm staying at the Hotel Skaftafell. They had what seemed like a rather odd discount - a special offer to celebrate the end of the volcanic eruption. It was a 58% discount, meaning that I was able to get a room and breakfast for 10,400 ISK instead of the normal 25,000 ISK. Ah, that will do quite nicely!

I plan to start tomorrow with some walking in Skaftafell National Park. Oh wait - the name of this park was a source of confusion for me when I was reading about Iceland. In case you're looking for information on the park for your own wander here... Skaftafell was established as a park in 1967, but it was merged another park into a larger entity, Vatnajokull National Park.

My day will end with a drive, probably back to Selfoss. That leaves me with a reasonable drive back to Keflavik Airport on Saturday, with plenty of time to to a bit more exploring.

Fingers crossed

Heavy rain continued through the night. Now it appears to have eased off (for a bit, at least!). As I sit in the dining room at the hostel I can crags lined with green growth and I can see the sea. The clouds are still hugging the top of the hills in a sea of (light) gray, and the wind is howling.

Here's hoping for a day of some not quite soaked wandering.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Geysir, waterfalls, and then...

It was another very full day today, with mostly dry skies until after four when the skies opened up. Remember when I said I decided to travel counterclockwise yesterday to allow myself another dry day? It was the right thing to do; it's been raining hard here in Vik all day. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow.

I was sitting in the breakfast room this morning when I noticed some beautiful watercolors and oils on the walls. I asked about the setting, and discovered the inspiration came from the coast in Eyrarbakki, a small village just 11 kilometers down the road. Ah, that changed my plans a little; I needed to go there. A short drive, and it was time to wander by the sea. The tide was out. As with other coastal visits I'd really like to see it at high tide too. Maybe on the way back, maybe on my next trip to Iceland. There were pools of water, sculpted sand (below the high water line), sea weed, crashing waves further out. The sky was gray at first, but blue appeared for a while.

I was fascinated by a sign in one spot along the shore. It was the southernmost point in Iceland, and if you follow the longitude line straight south the next land that jumps out of the ocean is in Antarctica.

I tore myself away from the Atlantic Ocean and headed for Geysir and Gullfoss. Both are popular tourist destinations on a route known as the Golden Circle. Sometimes wandering on tourist tracks makes sense, and today was one of those times.

My first stop on this route was Kerið, a volcanic crater lake showing wonderful colors on the sides of the crater, browns and reds decorated by bright green moss.

Geysir is the home of Strokkur, a geyser that very nicely erupts every 4 to 8 minutes. I stood there for a bit, waiting, watching the movement of the water in the pool, and then, eruption! The eruption brings Yellowstone to mind, yet the steam also reminds me of the steam vents in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Gullfoss was not much further up the road, a thundering waterfall in multiple levels. As I drove closer, the windshield was speckled with water - not rain, but water flying from the falls. It is possible to walk close to the falls, oh so wet! After tucking my cameras away I moved a little closer. Then I realized there were stairs leading to a higher view, one that allowed me to stand without taking an unintended shower. I won't say that I was standing still; I was again at the mercy of the very strong wind.

When I finally tore myself away from the waterfall, I headed back to the Ring Road to continue to the east. Driving, looking around, driving... I saw a pair of thin waterfalls dropping from a cliff. At first I thought it was just a driving by view. Then I thought I saw people and cars. A bit further I saw a road leading to the left. Yes, I followed it, I stopped, and walked. It was possible to walk behind this fall. I didn't because I wasn't prepared to be soaked; the temperature was cool enough that getting wet wasn't too appealing. If it's a nice day when I drive by on Friday, maybe I'll stop again.

Just after that stop the rain came in earnest. I wanted to stop to enjoy the high mountains lined in bright green ground cover, the black of volcanic soil, the streams running quickly beneath the bridges. I didn't. The water came in torrents. Those last 50 kilometers seemed to take forever! At times I imagined I must have missed my destination. Vik is small, but not that small. No, I didn't miss it.

I'm staying at the hostel in Vik tonight. No private rooms here, but I did score a bottom bunk. I can just see myself forgetting I'm in a top bunk for a middle-of-the-night bathroom run. That would be a really bad thing, so I'm happy to be able to touch the floor without climbing down.

Interesting. Two women just walked in and asked about tomorrow's forcast. I was just looking at the Iceland Met Office forecast, and someone else said that the forecasts from Norway are generally closer to correct. Here's the Vik forecast on (the Norwegian meteorological center) if you're interested. I hope that both sites are correct since they show a combination of light rain and clouds as opposed to downpours. I can hope, can't I?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I had a bit of an argument with myself this morning, deciding whether I should wander in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. I know, I know, I had already decided; letting go of plans can be good sometimes.

First it was time for a good breakfast, the best of the trip so far. Even though I was the only guest last night, their usual breakfast buffet was set up. There were some interesting choices of rolls - a cinnamon and current roll with some blueberry jam jumped onto my plate to accompany my cereal. There were chunks of bananas and melon, and then some Iceland pancakes topped with some sugar sparkle. An excellent taste treat.

I spent some time chatting with Óli (the guesthouse owner) this morning about my travel direction. I almost changed to continue around the island in a clockwise direction instead of doubling back twice - once today and again when I head back to Reykjavik. I would have loved to continue to the east this morning to see more of the volcano's black decorations, the ones that remind me so much of Hawaii. The weather forecast really isn't cooperating, and I let that make my final decision. I still want to see Geysir, Gulfoss, and possibly Þingvellir National Park, all part of what is called the Golden Circle, doable as a long day trip out of Reykjavik. It's north and east of Reykjavik on the south side of the island. I want to get to Skaftafell National Park (home of glaciers), and to the glacial lagoon on the south coast. I thought about continuing east from Akureyri, looping to the south and switching back to the west to (probably) end my day in Hofn. That would mean no doubling back, just completing a circle. I was set to do that until I looked at the weather forecast. Today was forecast to be sunny, the first and probably last day of sun that I will see during this trip. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to start in Hofn and Skaftafell. While the Geysir and Gullfoss area is supposed to be cloudy tomorrow, the rain isn't supposed to start until the next day. Hmm... It didn't take too much thinking to decide to go for the possibly dry day. I headed west, south, and then east today.

No surprise to me, I haven't been very successful with pronouncing the names here. When I hear the correct pronunciations, I'm not terribly surprised that I'm not guessing right. Let's see, how do you think Hofn is pronounced? I figured that sound would come from all 4 letters, something like hof'n. Nope. It's pronounced hup. Short u.

Another mystery... Þingvellir? Or Thingvellir? Which is the proper name of the park? The article on the park in Wikipedia starts with a note that indicates if the character Þ is not available, the name of the park my be spelled as Thingvellir. Are you confused yet?

The sky this morning was pure blue, a wonderful surprise when I opened the shade to let the outside light enter my room. Some wisps of white added some interest. The blue background remained until I headed south from Borgarnes, at which point it appeared that a switch had been pulled. Layers of clouds appeared, grays and whites, still allowing rays of light to penetrate to the ground.

I managed to find a few spots to pull off of the road during my pretty much all-day drive. Sometimes it was a bit past the interesting spot, giving me some much needed walking as I headed back to whatever it was that caught my eye. The Ring Road continued it's shoulder-less state for much of the day; past Reykjavik I noticed that there were sections that actually had a paved shoulder. I wonder how long that will continue.

Borgarnes, a town about 70 kilometers north of Reykjavik pulled me in for some relaxing time near the water, walking, watching the clouds, enjoying the warmth of the sun. Then it was time to jump back in the car for the final bit of travel today. When I drove north on Saturday I drove around Borgarfjordur (47 kilometers according to the signs). Today I shortened the drive by taking the tunnel under the fjord. It's 6 kilometers long, and it started with an 8% (downhill) grade. Luckily there are kilometer markers in the tunnel; that let me know how much longer I would be under the water. No cyclists or walkers allowed... if you're biking around Iceland you will need to take the around the fjord route.

Past Reykjavik, the terrain changed noticeably. The ground was dressed in green, and it wasn't close to flat. Steam rose in places, and I could see long stretches of pipes, pipes that I assume are used to transport some of Iceland's geothermal energy.

As I expected, the drive today took a bit longer than I could predict from the total kilometers. I seem to have a knack for lengthening drives by stopping whenever the spirit moves me. After all, driving without looking around and enjoying my surroundings wouldn't make me as happy as stopping does.

My wanders ended in Selfoss. My home for the night is Hostelling International's Hostel Selfoss, where once again I was able to get a single room. Interestingly enough, there isn't much difference between the hostels I've staying in here and the guesthouses - all have shared bathrooms.

Tomorrow? My targets are Geysir and Gullfoss.

Monday, September 06, 2010

To Mývatn

Yesterday was quite warm at 20 degrees, the only day since I arrived where there was no wind at all. Today? It warmed up to 15 degrees under a sky that wore shades of gray. That was quite a comfortable temperature in spite of the brisk wind. And then... it started sprinkling by about 2 in the afternoon. The rain intensified, dropping the temperature back to 10 degrees, and the wind never stopped.

Do you know I haven't had any non-rainy days here? Not a problem though...

My final destination today was Mývatn. That means I headed to the east in a line curving north, then south, and finally southeast. I climbed through mountains and followed water. I watched as the ground cover changed, showing touches of yellow and rust in addition to the ever-present green.

My first stop came a bit earlier than I expected. It's a good thing that I knew the name of the waterfall because the sign only contained the name - nothing mentioning falling water. The Goðafoss waterfalls were amazing, thundering in multiple pieces, stretching 30 meters across a curved line. I started on one side, then realized that there was a foot bridge down by the road to allow easy access on the other side too. I walked, I watched the water tumble, mesmerized.

On to Mývatn... What a beautiful body of water, populated by many birds, surrounded by rocks that are obviously the product of a volcano. There were similarities to my favorite Hawaii, differences too. I headed down a quiet one-lane dirt road and had to laugh at the bird behavior. I wish I knew who these birds were... instead of flying off when they heard the car, the started scurrying away by foot, eventually taking to the air.

I managed to get in two nice walks before the dry air turned wet, sprinkles morphing into rain. The first was around the pseudocraters at Skútustaðir, a nice walk made even more interesting when one of the cattle happily grazing there decided it might be interesting to see how close he could get to me while I was trying to grab a photo. Yup, I moved!

The next wander was to see some lava formations standing in the water, well worth the walk. The sprinkles started as I was heading back, turning to solid rain not too long after that. I completed the circle around the lake by car, not having much desire to walk in what seemed like a cold rain. Ten degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) feels pretty chilly when there is water flying about.

Mývatn is on my list for a return visit, likely for another trip. You didn't think this was going to be my only trip to Iceland, did you?

After my rain-shortened wander around Mývatn, I headed back to Akureyri. I initially thought about driving a bit further to the west today, but somehow staying still felt right to me. I stopped by the information office in town to find a place to stay. The hostel was fully booked tonight, and B&B's and guesthouses can be a bit hidden if you don't know the town. It makes more sense to ask someone who knows the area. My home for the night is the Skjaldarvik guesthouse. It's 5 kilometers outside of Akureyi, a reasonable jump back to town distance to find some evening food.

Tomorrow feels like a driving day, reversing direction to head first west, then south and east.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Far north

We ended our day in Akureyri. It's the farthest north Denise has ever been, and since I only travel with Denise, it's the farthest north I have been too. It's at latitude 65°41'N. The Arctic Circle is at 66° 33′N. I was thinking I might try to convince Denise to drive that far north, but I just looked at the map to find that the northernmost piece of Iceland is just below 66° 33′N. Oh, it looks like there is an island that crosses that latitude, but we can't get there, can we?

I decided I should learn how far it is from here to the Arctic Circle. I just found out that a degree of latitude is 69 miles, and a minute of latitude is about 1.15 miles. There are 52 minutes between here and the Arctic Circle, so that's about 60 miles or 96 kilometers. So close!

OK, OK, I'll stop playing with numbers and degrees of latitude and tell you about our day. I couldn't help Denise drive since no one makes a car that a little red dog like me can drive. I thought that Denise needed a rest tonight, and I like playing with words too, so... it's my turn to write!

We were rolling out of Stykkishólmur by a little after eight this morning, and it still took us until after five to reach Akureyri. We did drive the long way, but that was because Denise heard that the dirt road that cut some miles off of the route was in pretty bad shape. Because of that the shorter road probably would have taken us the same amount of time (or longer!) than the road that we took. We headed back over the mountain at the center of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It was dry when we started, but as we climbed higher rain started falling. It followed us down the mountain, then stopped. We headed to the west once more along the peninsula to see if there were better views of the mountains than there were yesterday. The clouds were still hugging the tops of the mountains, so after stopping to look at some reflections Denise turned the car back to the east. We headed to the southeast until we met up with the Ring Road. It was time to turn towards the north.

There were so many beautiful sights that passed by our windows today; most of those were captured in our memories and not in photos. We stopped when we could to walk a bit and to take photos. We climbed a long set of stairs to get to the top of a crater. There were two of them; of course I don't remember the name right now. It's a good thing Denise took a photo of the sign; she'll attach the name to the craters later.

There really weren't enough stopping places today. The road was almost all paved, two lanes wide with no shoulder, and with very tilted ground past the edge of the pavement. Denise did manage to find some pullout spots. I guess she found quite a few of them because somehow we took much longer to drive to our destination than the distance indicated. From Stykkishólmur to Akureyri via Borgarnes is 387 kilometers. With a speed limit of 90 kilometers per hour, that should have taken between 4 and 5 hours. So even though it was difficult to find places to pull off of the road, we did manage to use another 4 hours. I guess we really weren't driving the entire day.

The terrain changed as we drove, from rolling green to craggy mountains with flat green fields between them. We ended our drive in Akureyri, at the end of the fjord Eyjafjörður. We're staying at the hostel, which amazingly enough had a private room for me.

We're going to head a bit further east tomorrow before we loop back around. Denise saw a picture of a lake in a book of Iceland photographs, and she decided that she really wanted to see it herself. At the time, she was thinking of heading along the south coast, and she wanted to get to the lake from there. It turns out that you can't drive through the middle of this island. The few roads that cut through the middle aren't paved, and they often go right through rivers; you would need driving skills that Denise doesn't have, plus you would need a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. That's not for us! Somehow Denise was thinking the lake wasn't reachable, but luckily she was wrong. It's actually on the Ring Road, so we're heading to Mývatn in the morning.

I thought maybe you'd like to see a picture today, so I included a photo of me on the black rocks of Hawaii (from our wander there in February). The volcanoes here make different colored rocks, but there are some things that remind me of Hawaii.

--- Rover

Saturday, September 04, 2010


The weather wizard was playing games all day today. It started when I glimpsed a little patch of blue peeking out from the clouds early this morning. And then the changes began.

First things first, breakfast and conversations started my day. And then the driving began. My travels today took me north and then west along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, ending in the town of Stykkishólmur.

It was dry when I started, but the raindrops started decorating the windshield before I had cleared the edge of Reykjavik. The rain was heavy for a bit, easing to sprinkles and then stopping before I headed inland to drive around the Borgarfjordur fjord near Borgarnes. Driving around was quite a bit longer than the almost 6 kilometer tunnel beneath the fjord, well worth the time to see such a beautiful place. I actually found a few places to pull off of the road for a bit of camera play. The sun and clouds nicely decided to join in.

Just after returning to the Ring Road, I jumped off of it again to head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The clouds dropped once again, shrouding the mountains, spreading heavy rain. I thought about stopping my forward movement. Nope, not now. I wanted to give myself a change to wander into Snæfellsjökull National Park. Unfortunately when I reached the turnoff, a dirt road 7 kilometers long, the rain was still quite heavy. Driving up a narrow dirt road following the contours of the land didn't feel like a smart thing to do. Maybe I'll head back that way on my return trip, maybe not.

I missed a lot of photos today though; it was so wet that it wasn't possible to keep the raindrops off of the filter I was using. Rain spots on photos really don't work, do they? At one point I was trying to take photos from the car - as soon as I opened the window the raindrops gravitated to the camera. I finally pulled out my baby camera to grab a few shots. The colors and shapes were amazing, volcanic rocks covered with green moss, water, reds popping out occasionally in some watery plant life. The more I think about it the more I know this peninsula deserves a dry day visit. Fingers crossed for the weather and for the time to wander the same road once more.

Waterfalls jumped in front of my eyes today, some short, some tall, falling down the face of rocks. Most of the photos (so far) are in my mind, not in my camera.

Stykkishólmur is my home for the night, a small village on the northern side of the peninsula. I followed the information sign in the hopes of finding a B&B here. That was interesting - the woman who usually staffs the info center was on the golf course, and her replacement didn't see any B&B information. She started looking through brochures, then asked someone who walked in as we were talking. The next thing I knew, a call was placed to Holmur B&B asking if a room was available. It was. Instead of giving me directions, the owner drove over and led me to the house. Ah, no worries, I was quickly settled into a home for the night.

When I first drove into town I saw the harbor and what was once an island towering over the boats. It looked like someone was standing on top of a rather steep hill. Hmmm... how did those people who looked like stick figures get to the top? I walked from my B&B to the harbor, playing with the reflections of boats in the harbor, finally getting a chance to exercise my camera. Past the boats, and look! there is actually a staircase leading up. Easy... I walked to the top, saw a light positioned to warn ships. Clouds were strewn in diagonal lines above the water, sometimes reflecting, sometimes not. The light was wonderful.

Food, it was definitely time for food. I headed to the restaurant that looked most interesting. There was a couple sitting at one table; all of the other tables were empty. When I asked to be seated, the waitress informed me that all of the tables were reserved. I was turning to leave when the couple sitting at the one occupied table asked me to join them. The thing that I found interesting is that when we left the restaurant almost all of the tables were still empty.

It was fun comparing notes with my new acquaintances from Helsinki, talking about travel here and elsewhere. I had an excellent meal, couscous and beans tossed with some vegetables and a bit of a light but tangy sauce. Just what I needed!

I'm totally in awe of all of the people I've met here who can switch from their native language to English as soon as they are addressed in English. That's very good for me as I've always been language-challenged.

Tomorrow? The direction in my mind right now is east.

Friday, September 03, 2010

City walking

Uh oh! I had a sort of a restful day in my mind for today, but somehow that didn't happen. I walked, and walked, and walked some more. But first...

The day started with good conversations and breakfast. There were several types of bread, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and meat for make-your-own breakfast sandwiches. There were also tubs of yogurt and a selection of cereal, a bit closer to my normal breakfast food. I had a sampling of both for a good energy start.

After food, I chatted with Arna (the B&B owner) and one of my fellow guests about where to wander. When I originally planned to come here I was thinking about heading both to the norhwest and to the southeast without circling the island. Later I thought I'd stick to the northwest, but stories of waterfalls in the south changed my mind. Tomorrow I think I'll head north and west. I'm going to skip the West Fjords area in exchange for heading further to the east on the north side of the island. Then I'll switch directions, heading back the way I came, then traveling to the south and east. It will be two out-and-back wanders. I have my fingers crossed for some dry and brighter days.

Back to today... I spent the entire day walking through Reykjavik. I walked by the university, through a park, and on to the Hallgrímskirkja Church. I know, I know, churches aren't normal visiting spots for me. This one allows visitors to go to the top of the tower for a view of the city. The viewing area is within the building, but exposed to the howling wind. Even with today's cloud-filled sky, it was a beautiful view. I'd love to see it on a clear day.

I headed next to the sculpture garden behind the Einar Jonsson Museum. Beautiful.

The next chunk of my day was wandering without a destination. City streets, people watching, parks, street art, wandering.

Finished with city wanders, I headed to the northeast along the water in light rain, stopping to enjoy the Viking ship sculpture. I walked a bit further before turning back towards my B&B. A quick stop at a supermarket for a stash of fruit, and then I took a break for the better part of an hour. It probably would have been smart to sit still for longer than that, but (no surprise) I headed out again to walk further to the west along the water. Although it wasn't raining, there was water in the air. I could almost see land across the water through a few breaks in the clouds.

I took another short break before heading out for dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips. That's not my normal choice of food, but the description outside the restaurant intrigued me. The fish is prepared in a in batter made from spelt and barley. I had redfish and roasted potatoes, very nice. And then, yes, I walked again.

It was not a rest day, but it was a good day.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A very short night

Traveling to the east makes for quite a short night. Iceland is on GMT and not on daylight time. That's four hours ahead of my home base. Let's see, the flight left at 9:30PM Eastern Daylight time and landed at 6:30AM Greenwich Mean Time. Four hours of sleeptime disappeared. The good news is that I managed to sleep for most of the flight. The bad? I don't do very well on 4 hours of sleep. Here's hoping I can manage to fall asleep at a reasonable hour tonight.

I managed to keep moving all day, starting with a drive around the southern part of the Reykjanes Peninsula, stopping for a long soak at the Blue Lagoon, driving in to Reykjavik, and doing some walking along the harbor. That should help my sleep situation because I'm quite tired right now. Ah, it's time to walk again, this time to find some food!

My home for the next two nights is Askot B&B.

Hey - I think I need to jump in and write today too! Denise is so tired she forgot to tell you some things.

As we were wandering on the Reykjanes Peninsula, it struck both of use how much the landscape reminded us of the Big Island of Hawaii. The rocks from the volcano aren't as black here, but the surface looked similar. It wasn't the swirly flowy lava, it was more of the explosive chunky kind.

At one point Denise saw an empty parking lot in the middle of what seemed like no where, so we jumped into the lot and wandered down a path. We found a bridge with a sign saying that we were standing on top of the fracture line that splits the northern Atlantic Ocean bewteen the North American plate and the Eurasian plate. That's pretty interesting, isn't it?

While we were just about to jump into the Blue Lagoon (and oh! the water really is a beautiful shade of blue) Denise started chatting with some folks from Toronto who are just about to head home. They recommended that we head to the east, towards the spot where the volcano erupted earlier this year. I have a feeling that our non-plans may be changing. Denise still thinks she wants to see a piece of the west, but I am pushing her to go east too. We're going to chat with our B&B owner after breakfast tomorrow; Arna volunteered to help with a brainstorming session on our wanders. It's always a good thing to get advice from someone who really knows the country.

And oh! how the wind was howling! I stayed close to Denise, even hid in the camera bag for a bit. Denise was having a hard time standing still without swaying, and I was afraid that I would get blown away. I wonder if it's always this windy in Iceland. I guess we're going to find out!

Didn't I tell you that Denise forgot to tell you about large chunks of our day? I guess it's a good thing I adapt a bit better to east-bound time changes than she does.

--- Rover

And now for the weather report.

It was gray most of the day, although patches of blue started showing up late in the afternoon. It went from dry to "water in the air" to dry to wet again. I walked home from dinner in the rain, and I'm sitting listening to the rain outside of my window right now.

It was cool enough that I was continually looking for the warm spots in the Blue Lagoon. The temperature fluctuations were quite surprising.

Cool air, comfortable when I was adorned in light layers.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Connection confusion

Phew! I thought I might be going through this trip without my usual connections. It all started when I tried to get into Blogger from the wireless hot spot at the Blue Lagoon. I could access Google, I could access Gmail, but Blogger? Nope. I could read my blog, but accessing it to write was blocked. So weird...

I had to ask someone to translate the message on the screen since it was shown only in Icelandic. I ended up chatting with one of the managers at the Blue Lagoon. He translated the message, but it didn't make any sense to him either, something about blocking personal blogs and web sites. How odd. He called his IT guru who said that the ISP had blocked Blogger from hot spots for a reason no one understands. Access is (obviously) OK from my B&B - but I suppose if I'm ever relying on a hot spot my blog updates might be delayed. There apparently are 3 ISPs here; who knows if the other two have followed in the weird behavior I saw today.

Then I tried to use my ZapTel account to make a phone call. Somehow one key number was missing from the instructions I had. I had the right toll-free phone number, and I had my PIN. What I didn't have was a required access code. Oops! They provided two toll-free numbers to reach suport; one works in the US, and the other works somewhere else in Europe, not in Iceland. Yikes! Now what? I sent support an email without high expectations of getting a timely response. Within an hour I had an email back with instructions and the access code.

Success! I'm connected again...

Odd times

I wonder which will make people crazier - if I set my blog entries to the current time in Iceland, or if I let the blog entries default to the current time in my home time zone.

Oh, sorry, I'm not going to give you a choice. You'll see my posts for this trip expressed in the time I am living in Iceland. That means there will be a lag in publishing. It's after 7 right now in Iceland and only after 3 at home. I've tagged this post with an after 7 time. Probably the only person I'm confusing is myself!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

No worries

If all goes well, I will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean when this post is published. An early morning arrival in Iceland's Keflavik International Airport will be followed by a bit of a wander before I head to my B&B for the first two nights.

I plan to write and to post blog entries each day as I wander, but first, here's a little "Denise" rule.

No worrying allowed! It's entirely possible that I won't have Internet access every day, so if you don't see a post you should assume that I'm fine, that I just don't have easy access.

I'm not traveling with a cell phone. Instead I found a global phone card carrier with access from Iceland. You might think I chose them because of the name; it turns out they had the best access that I could find from afar. The name? ZapTel... As long as I have access to a phone I should be able to call back to the states.

I hope you enjoy reading over my shoulder as I wander through a small piece of a new (for me) country.

Escaping ahead of Earl

The start of my trip could just as easily have been a day or two from now. There wasn't anything special about today other than better airfares for my flights in both directions in comparison with floating the start or end of my trip to slightly different dates.

Luck is definitely with me. I've been watching the projected path of Hurricane Earl and it looks like it will be brushing by (or through?) the Boston area sometime on Friday.

I know, a delayed start because of a storm wouldn't have been the end of the world, but it's so nice that things are going according to plan.

Tonight? It's an airplane night for me.

projected path of Hurricane Earl

Image courtesy of the National Hurricane Center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).