Thursday, April 16, 2009

Iceland Recap
I've been back in NYC for less than 96 hours, and already I cannot wait to go back to Iceland. I miss the wide open space, the gorgeous scenery, the stress-free lifestyle. I miss it all.

In the 24-hour period right after my friend joined me, we swam in a thermal hot spring, climbed to the top of a mountain, strolled along a pebble beach, stood at the base of a waterfall, and walked on a glacier. Later in the week we watched geysers erupt, rode a "snow cat" to the top of a glacier in a blizzard, climbed more mountains, walked more pebble beaches, went searching for seal colonies (unsuccessfully), ate whale (it tastes and looks just like a strip steak), and pulled an all-night drinking binge in Reykjavik. Then it was all over, and I was on a plane back to the US (flying over gorgeous Greenland along the way).

Overall I put 2,473.3 kilometers on the car and visited more places than was recommended in an 8-day span. Yet it still wasn't enough. I'll have to go back to experience the east side of the island. I'll have to go back to revisit some places to see what they're like in the absence of snow. I'll have to go back because it makes me so happy to be there. I'll have to go back.

Here are a handful of my favorite photos... to see more, check out my Kodak Gallery.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Iceland Dispatch #2
I'm writing from the Hotel Akureyri in Akureyri, which is the "capital" of northern Iceland (it takes about 15 minutes to walk end to end). This hotel was recommended because its breakfast buffet has a waffle iron, which I certainly took advantage of. I also have a great view of a massive fjord from my window. I was originally planning on spending a second night at the empty hotel (which was completely peaceful, not creepy at all, except for that weird naked woman in Room 237), but heavy snow on the ground cut into my hiking abilities in the area, so I decided to double back early. I felt a bit bad for the owners of the hotel... who knows when they'll get another guest. And the breakfast spread they put out for me was the same size as the one they put out when the hotel is full. I barely put a dent in it. Oh, and I took my first bath in years because I couldn't figure out how to work the shower and there was nobody around to explain it to me...

Yesterday I did get to explore some sulfur mud pits (much to the chagrin of my boots) and check out the Godafass waterfall. To reach the waterfall I had to trudge through snow that was at least 2 feet deep in places. But it was totally worth it, and it got all the mud off my boots. The snow here is so white and pure and vast that it sometimes hurts my eyes while walking through it. Even though the sun hasn't made an appearance in days, I wish I had brought some sunglasses. I was tempted to also drive to Aldeyjarfoss, which is Iceland's biggest waterfall, even though I was told that the road to it hadn't been completely plowed. After driving half a kilometer (of 41km to get there), I decided it wasn't worth the risk and had to drive back to the highway in reverse. Stupid 2WD.

Today I'll make my way back towards Reykjavik... it would be about a 4-hour drive non-stop, but I'll make a few detours along the way. Then I pick up my friend tomorrow and we'll head south towards Vik.

This trip is flying by!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I´m Baaaa-aaaack
Right now I´m at the Hotel Reykjahlid... not only am I the only guest here, I am currently the only PERSON here, as the owner went home to his wife for the night. So I figured this would be a good time to post. It´s strange having an entire 3-story hotel to yourself... let´s hope it goes better than The Shining. The hotel is on Lake Myvatn, which might be the most peaceful place on Earth at this moment (I hear it gets really crowded and hectic during the summer tourist season). Before the owner left he cooked me a delicious dinner that included Arctic Char freshly pulled from the Arctic. I really like it here!

The rest of the trip has been great so far. The flight on Friday night was smooth and on-time, and IcelandAir has a free entertainment system with Slumdog Millionaire and 2 eps of Arrested Development. Yesterday I spent the day in Reykjavik, which is the world´s quietest big city; did some sightseeing, not much to report. Then this morning I picked up the rental car and drove 6 hours north to Myvatn. Actually it was more like 7 hours, due to one small navigational error that took me off the highway (it´s not my fault... I was told by the rental car guy to keep going straight "forever," when actually there was one left turn). As the road got less paved and more slushy, I began cursing the fact that I hadn´t gotten a car with 4WD... I hydroplaned more than once. Eventually I reached a huge snowbank with a sign that said "Impassable." A complicated U-turn and 40km of backtracking later, I was back in business.

Iceland is just what I was hoping for: beautiful and low-key. It´s crazy how un-modern they are... the hotel owner says there is one TV station here, and I learned from the National Museum that they didn´t even begin broadcasting TV until 1966. They also didn´t get credit cards until 1980, and through the 50s most people lived in tiny one-room log cabins before learning about concrete.

The next few days will be all about hiking... at least as much as possible, as there is still tons of snow on the ground. I´ll be working my way back to Reykjavik to pick up my friend on Wednesday, then together we´ll hit the southern part of the island. Sadly this trip will be over before I know it...

I´ll try to post a couple more times from Iceland, and photos will come upon my return to NYC.

P.S. Whoever came up with the saying that Iceland is green and Greenland is icy is at least 50% incorrect, at least from my experiences...