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May 28, Day 12 - Reykjavik to Toronto

After taking the last Eau-Du-Sulphur showers of this trip (and maybe my life?) we had breakfast and packed up our room.

Unfortunately breakfast took us past 10am and when we got back to the room none of our key cards worked. Whoops. Check out is 10am. Our bads.

We tried a few cards in the door to be absolutely sure that they all did not work and I counted to 5 in my head, waiting for anyone else to realize what needed to be done and do it, before I went down and got my key card reset so we could all get back in.

The others had not seen much of Reykjavik since they spent the previous day fishing and sleeping off the night before - so we did some touristy things. Saw the too-modern Leif Eriksson church and contemplated paying to go to the top of it for an aerial view of the city - told them they could get that view for free at the Perlan and I took them there so they could see the view. We dropped my cousin's bags off at her hotel then I took them to Cafe Paris to sit outside and watch the beautiful people of Reykjavik. Got my cousin to the starting point of the Free Tour then the other and I went back to the Art Gallery, got her stamps to mail her post cards, saw a photo exhibit about whaling, and did a brief visit to a museum "under" the city. Actually, just the gift shop, not the museum.

In hindsight, I would not have spent my last day doing any of this if I'd better known many things.

We drove out to the airport, getting gas on the way, hoping that the car would behave for its check-in return, ensuring that it was still dirt-covered. As we were waiting to return our car, another guy snuck into the return line before us and I kept my usually out-spoken-in-such situations mouth shut. He did tell us that we could ask the rental dudes for a ride back to the 0.5km away airport from the car rental peeps. So he earned his 5 minute head start with that. Perhaps.

The Kia behaved magnificiently and checked out as I held my breath and I signed that baby off. The next driver could have some wheel bearing problems, me thinks.

While the Kia was still there with rental dude, I asked travel mate how we were going to get us and all our luggage back to the airport.

She said "we could ask for a ride" and looked at me and around. I waited for the "we" part of that statement to kick in as the car, and rental dude drove away.

We silently walked back with our luggage and waited for the plane.

Iceland Day 11-5

There was some sort of lounge mix-up and more people than seats were waiting for that plane. A woman wandered in looking for a seat - I made eye contact and moved over for her. She sat down and thanked me for making eye contact - she said I was the first person in the whole damn waiting area who did. The first person to realize she needed a seat, move themselves or their seat-deserving-luggage over, and make space for her.

On the plane I had the aisle, travel mate had the window. No Pierre between us this time, just an empty seat. The stewardess came over just before take off and asked me if I was travelling alone (No, I said. Partially to myself). She asked if I'd mind moving because there was a set of 3 seats with 2 parents and 2 kids and another person. Could she move the other person over? Would I mind taking the middle seat? I said sure.

The lady who arrived was the same one I'd moved for in the waiting room. She said it was unfair that I'd had to move twice for her today. She said she would have taken the middle seat. I said it was okay.

And it was, okay.


May 27, Day 11, Reykjavik - Galleries, Hot Dogs & Perlan

My travel mates decided to stay up and out all night and then go fishing on a boat today.

I decided to use the unplanned but much needed solo time to wander the city and be a tourist.

Iceland Day 11-4

I checked out the Art Gallery which was housed in one of the most beautiful gallery buildings I'd ever seen. I think it was a former prison with an open-air courtyard and beautiful natural-light filled hallways. Then the photography museum in which a talk was happening about photography and art - and whether photography can be considered art. At least that's what I'm told since it was in Icelandic. Even in the middle of a weekday the auditorium was filled with people coming from work to hear the talk. Wished I knew some Iclenadic in that moment.

Tonnes of public art in the city. Murals, galleries, sculpture (they're really big on sculpture) and beautiful architecture. That photo above is the new city hall - reflecting the old city hall.

Visited several other smaller galleries, city hall, and took in the "Free City Walking Tour". The tour was an unexpected highlight of this trip. We really hadn't done anything like it yet in the country - just listening and learning. That's what I usually try and do in countries - talk to the people who live there. It was refreshing. The tour was quite politically slanted and done by an ex-pat hippie artist who moved back from Canada shortly before the economic crash.

Iceland Day 11-6Iceland Day 11-1Iceland Day 11-8Iceland Day 11 - Reykjavik & Perlan-2

Learned lots about the history and the people of the city. Things like that grave sites are only protected for 100 years until they become public property. That 50% of the population is bankrupt, but that number would be closer to 80% if people valued their houses for what they're really worth. That, prior to the crash, people were borrowing money to buy stocks. People are leaving Iceland now, if they can. I also learned where to buy cheap stuff, have dinner and where the North66 Outlet is. Also learned of an indie cafe/music shop where they serve you free coffee as long as you stay and listen to music. Apparently most people buy the music at the end.

I suggested the dinner spot for the travel mates to meet up tonight.

I had one of the famous Hot Dogs for lunch. At first I was suspicious about what could make a Hot Dog so good and popular. This little stand has a line up all day, every day, for years. For about $1.50 you get a hot dog in a bun. The toppings include fried and raw onions, a thick mayonaise and a gravy-type sauce on top. Weird, you think. Yes, you'd be right. But damn, damn tasty. The meat is a combination of beef and lamb (I think?) - but far different from North American hot dogs. And tasty. I said that, right?

Iceland Day 11 - Reykjavik & Perlan-10
Iceland Day 11 - Reykjavik & Perlan-6Iceland Day 11 - Reykjavik & Perlan-7
I wandered up to the Perlan later in the afternoon to check out the weirdness of converting a former water tower to a rotating exclusive restaurant then putting a fake geysir in the middle. Walked around on top and got some pretty spectacular and unexpected shots.

Went back to pick up the travel mates because they could not locate the restaurant I suggested for dinner. They had come back to the Hostel to try to make up some sleep from the night before. Shit hit the fan about various things about this trip and last night, then they left together for dinner at a veggie restaurant (still no puffin, I guess). I hung out solo at the hostel and had a Snickers bar from the vending machine for dinner then talked to a dutch dude about New Zealand. He was going through a life crisis and had quit his engineering job. We had lots to talk about.

Iceland Day 11-2-2Iceland Day 11-3-2

After they came back, I wandered out close to midnight to catch the last sunset at the water and wander around by the water's edge. On my way back to the Hostel I got locked in the vestibule with a French dude. No, not Dijon - but Pierre (not his real name) - the Montreal Actuary who sat between us and kept me up the whole YYZ-KEF flight chatting while my travel mate pretended to sleep. Apparently Pierre and his friend were a day behind us the whole trip. It sounded like they had a bit more fun than we did with more "off the beaten path" activities. We chatted into the night and I decided to call it a last day, in Reykjavik.

May 26 - Day 10. Monster Trucks, Ruins, Lakes and More Bubbling Mud

After sharing dinner space the night prior in Selfoss with the local women's motorcycle gang and football clubs - we left the hostel near the south coast and attempted the road 32 and 28 loop. Ruins, Hekla and Monster Trucks. This area is also close enough to Reykjavik that tourists can take day trips there - usually in Monster-Truck type vehicles.

Iceland Day 10-Kia vs Monster Truck

I'm sure many of those people who paid good money to ride around in those monster trucks felt awfully silly being followed by a Kia compact hatchback to many of the locations.

We saw turf-roofed buildings, a place where the country is moving apart at a rate of a few centimeters a year, Icelandic ruins, and Hekla. I scooped up some volcanic rocks to bring back. Figure why not. Hekla rocks.

The absolute weirdest part of this loop was passing through what I'm sure is "cottage country" in Iceland. Or at least for the people of Reykjavik. There is an area about an hour out of the city with barren hills and a lake - surrounded by cottage-like buildings. Literally - surrounded. And I could not understand why, in this magnificient country - that you would build your cottage within plain view of your neighbours, facing a recreational lake, atop barren land. Just drive another hour and build it where there is no one else, with a waterfall, a river and maybe a mountain nearby.

After the loop we continued along the south coast on as yet un-mapped roads and contemplated the Blue Lagoon - but since flights between LHR and KEF had resumed - the Britons had arrived. The place was literally 10x more crowded than it was 10 days ago, when we first arrived.

Decided to ditch the Lagoon - but my cousin would come back on her own later. Did not help that the Aussie had misplaced her swim suit somewhere.

Iceland Day 10 - Seltun-3
Iceland Day 10 - Seltun-10
Iceland Day 10 - Seltun-7Iceland Day 10 - Seltun
Iceland Day 10-Seltun

We saw more bubbling mud amid sulphur stench and a beautiful blue crater-shaped lake before continuing into Reykjavik for dinner and wandered into the city. Decided to walk into town because we'd been sitting on our asses all day and it was only about 2km from the hostel to the city. I refused to navigate the walk this time. Of course I didn't tell anyone else I was refuising to navigate. I just wanted to feel what it was like to be a passenger on this trip :)

We found some good Thai food and then to the Dillon Music club for a night of live music. Of course, after dinner, we passed by a restaurant that advertised "Puffin Dinner" and the one travel mate went on (and on) about how she wished we'd seen that first, how she wanted to try Puffin. How she would have paid more. I told her to get over it.

We heard a few bands in the bar and I realized that my travel mates were intent on drinking it up that night. I ditched them after midnight and 7 drinks each - and speed-walked the 2.5km back to the hostel solo. It is a beautiful city at that time. Although a bit sketchy in some parts.

Glad I had my WenDo.

Fell asleep just after 2:30am after sending a brief message to my cousin's Blackberry, hoping they were still alive.

May 25 - Iceland Day 9 - Waterfalls and Ruins

Iceland Day 9 - South Coast & Skogafoss-4

All llong the south coast the beaches are black. Black sand. Assuming this is a result of a volcanic past. We saw yet more basalt columns and yet another road closure (this time due to bird breeding season, not weather) and cool stuff we could not get to. We spent some time wandering the beaches and not telling people who we passed on the way out - that they could not get in.

Iceland Day 9 - Gullfoss

After the black sand, this turned out to be the Day of Waterfalls.
Gullfoss and two others. Here we go. As usual - there was not much to protect a stupid tourist from killing themselves. You can get right to the edge of things and throw yourself over the edge if you feel like it.

I like these Icelandic people.

Iceland Day 9 - South Coast & Skogafoss-8

Iceland Day 9 - Skogafoss, Gulfoss, Volcano (not)-2Iceland Day 9 - Seljarlandsfoss

Iceland Day 9 - Volcano (not)-5

On the way to yet another waterfall - we attempted to see what was left of the Volcano. We'd heard that it had recently stopped doing its thing - but unexpectedly drove right past it. Zero effort required. We stopped outside a farm and there it was. Right behind the farm. Just like Dijon said. Unfortunately it had stopped puffing big things and spewing lava. But there it was.

My travel mates were disappointed. Again.

I was still impressed at how close it was, despite the small puffs still coming out. If you look at the farm silos - then directly up - that's what is left of the puffing.

Iceland Day 10 - Geysir-7
Iceland Day 10 - Geysir-10-2

The area within about 3 hours of Reykjavik is popular because of its proximity to the city. While we were often the only people witnessing things in the north - we had to fight for parking spaces in the south.

We continued on to Geysir. Yes, that is how it is spelled. Actually, Geysir proper does not erupt much any more. But its next door neighbour does. About every 5 minutes. I tried to photograph and film the first big eruption. I orientated my camera landscape wise and the plume quickly went out of frame - so I continued shooting while I turned the camera.

I'll see if I can post the video, somehow. Somewhere.

There was a father-led family who was directly downwind from this eruption. Guess they figured all the people were on the other side for no good reason. The kids made a run for it when the geysir erupted - but dad stood firm and took the plume. Idiot, really. The water cools once it hits the air - but it's still sulphur stenched. As I'm sure he was after that. Idiot.

But I'm with the Icelandic people on this one - if you're too stupid to stand up-wind from a geysir plume, you deserve to get drenched.


May 24 - Day 8 - Galcier Lakes and Glaciers

Iceland Day 7 - South East & Skaftefell-3

Iceland Day 7 - Jökulsárlón-5-2

Iceland Day 7 - Jökulsárlón-4-2

People - for scale.
The salt water flow into this lagoon was temporarily stopped so it would freeze to film the James Bond movie (Die Another Day?) - so expensive cars could drive around on top of it

Iceland Day 7 - Jökulsárlón-3-2

Iceland Day 7 - South East & Skaftefell-4-2
High-speed- taken out the window of the car. During the first few days I figured I'd see this landscape many times during the trip and photograph it later. As the days went on, I realized that I had not, yet. So I did. One can get used to beauty when surrounded by it. I hope never to take beauty for granted

Iceland Day 7 - Skaftefell - leaving the glacierIceland Day 7 - Skaftefell  hiking to the glacier

May 23 - Day 7 - Fjords, Alcoa, Calcite and south to Berunes

Iceland Day 6 - Eastern Fjords - Alcoa Plant

the beautiful Fjord was ruined by the Alcoa Aluminum plant. why they had to put it right there.. no idea. .. oh wait, I know why...

Iceland Day 6 - Eastern Fjords-5

Iceland Day 6 - Eastern Fjords-10

Iceland Day 6 - Berunes Sunset-4

Iceland Day 6 - Berunes Sunset-5

Iceland Day 6 - Berunes Sunset

Iceland Day 6 - Berunes Sunset-2-2Iceland Day 6 - Berunes Sunset-7

May 22 - Day 6 - The Fjords

Iceland Day 6-11

The other two decided to go fishing on pond within the farm and I wandered around photographing the horses in the morning. No foreign horses have been let on the island for thousands of years. These are all supposedly genetically pure Icelandic horses. No fish were caught.

We continued south along the coast and along more dirt roads towards our next destination - Seydisfjordur. Beautiful valleys and cliffs along the way. Many times it felt like we were driving along the top of a mountain plateau with glacial lakes all around us. Fog moving over mountains right infront of our eyes, driving through clouds. Surrounded by beauty.

Iceland Day 6-2

Iceland Day 6-8-2

This seemed to be a holiday weekend in Iceland. Lots of campers out and people doing the trailer thing by the lake. It was a bit weird - they are surrounded by all this beauty yet they go to a lake close to the city and set up a camper.

We attempted to climb up to Hengifoss. A waterfall surrounded by basalt columns. There were several waterfalls on the way up which were also beautiful - and surrounded by those same columns. I didn't attempt to continue to the top because the steep uphill climb, while not taxing on my knee - would undoubtedly lead to the downhill portion - which would probably disable me for the next day.

The others did not make it, either. A river was rushing across the path. They wanted to build a bridge to cross it, and I did mention that the gates (above) could be taken off their posts and made into the required bridge - I also mentioned that we do not want to be "those tourists" who wreck the place. I think they grudgingly agreed. Barely. Maybe 20yrs ago I would have been that person. Older and Wiser. Hopefully.

We continued to the west coast and Seydisfjordur - a town in at the end of a fjord. Of course. The old hostel was in the former hospital and run by a hippie who I assumed was British. He was from California and working illegally in Iceland. Of course.

Had dinner in town and listened to 2 Icelandic musicians. One folky, one experimental. My cousin got locked in the cafe restaurant at some point and sent me an email to come rescue her. I could not - the door was broken. But a lovely Icelandic man with tools came to her rescue.

A French man who I named "Dijon" (because that's where he's from) attached himself to us - but ditched us for the free computer in the cafe. He did give us tips for a glacial walk when we got to the south.

I am unsure if I am travelling with people who are just "not morning people" or generally moody. But everyone seems "not nice" in the morning - and that kind of sets the mood for the entire day.

Day 5 - Whales & The Arctic Circle

Iceland Day 5-5
Iceland Day 5-2

Woke up, stuffed food and coffee in our faces and I snapped a few photos around the hostel before we headed back to Husavik for our Whale Watching trip with Gentle Giants. I also reinstalled the kitchen clock which I had to disarm the night prior due to its incessantly loud ticking that bothered one travel mate.

We saw whales. 2 Minke and one extroverted Humpback who would have stayed with us for hours, if we had time. This Humpback was especially impressive. We had started to head back in when the guide screamed when we all saw it breach TWICE behind the boat. Apparently it she was trying to get our attention. Apparently this does not happen all the time. The boat was turned back and we hung out a little longer. I have video of a bit of this trip which I found much easier to shoot than photos on a moving boat.

Iceland Day 5-3-2
Iceland Day 5-7 - Husavik

We hung out in the city for a bit and killed time waiting for the one liquor store to open so we could buy wine for the evening dinner. We spent a bit of time in the local bakery where I noticed everyone paying for everything on credit card. Everything. Even $5 purchases. Yeah - there's not much cash in this country right now.

We visited the Phallus museum (weird), got gas (or more like attempted to when travel mate threw tantrum after being unable to figure out the gas pump with Icelandic instructions) - then attempted Dettifoss again - this time from the north. We were denied. Again. No Dettifoss for us.

Several roads were closed due to some rain - so instead of backtracking and finding another way to the east coast - we decided to see how close we could get to the arctic circle and take the northern route.

The roads along the north are not paved, for the most part - but the ones that go over mountains are some of the most beautifully designed I have ever driven on. Perfect road geometry. I was lucky enough to be the driver for this portion.

We got within 2.5km of the Arctic Circle, found a dead dolphin.. and continued toward the Ytra Lon Farm Hostel. Had a home-made pasta dinner and wine that night and tried to play card games that we all knew the rules to.

All with a soundtrack of sheep baa-ing in the background.

Seriously - sheep recordings. On CD.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . click on any photo to view it on flickr

..all content and images copyright kanchan maharaj inHerEye photography. stealing is bad. very bad..