11/15/2022 Land of Contrasts

 

The land of Fire and Ice, hot and cold, and wet and dry – this is the country of Iceland. After a long delay we will catch up on all the happenings. The flight, while not very long, seemed long as it was a “red eye” with uncomfortable seats designed to keep a body awake! We landed in Reykjavik at 6:00 in the morning and confusedly tried to meet up with our “MeetUp” group, get our rental cars, and then get on our way. A long two hours later we were off to visit the Blue Lagoon, a large lagoon fed by hot springs. The cool morning breeze wafted over us as we lazily floated through the hot pool as the sun slowly rose. We enjoyed the time getting to know the people in the group while we floated through the various pools. A short time later we were off on a whale watching boat tour with two others of the group. The goal for Kathy was to see whales frolicking in the water off of the coast of Iceland. Fearing that the only sight she would see would be the masses of tourists huddled in the boat cabin to avoid the cold rain, she was finally rewarded with the sight of some humpback whales and dolphins swimming near the boat.  Catching them breaching was a treat for all of us and we clamored into the cold wind and rain to catch glimpses of the whales.  Next we were off to find our hotel, check in, and get warm and dry.  Arriving at the hotel, we hurriedly dropped off our bags and went looking for sustenance. We had a nice local meal and then went back in the hotel where Kathy fell asleep at 7 pm and did not wake up until morning.

Saturday came quickly and we were up and off to see the Golden Circle in Iceland.  The Golden Circle is a tour route which follows a trail that stops at several locations along a circuitous route.  The Golden Circle gets its name from a large waterfall, Gullfoss, located along the way. The name Gullfoss means Golden Falls in Icelandic. The circle part comes from the route that you follow which is roughly circular.  We saw a couple of waterfalls, hiked around the rim of a volcanic crater that had a blue lake instead of lava sitting in the base, saw a geyser erupt, and then ended up at our next excursion – a snorkeling trip!  We swam in the ice-cold, glacier-fed water of the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park. The fissure is a split between two tectonic plates.  While touted as being able to “touch” both continents at the same time – Europe and North America – it really is a part of no-man’s land between the two continents.  The fissure split is a fairly wide expanse that is not considered part of the European continent nor the North American continent. But – we did snorkel in the rift between two tectonic plates…in Iceland…in November.  Or should we say “Novembrrr!”  The freezing cold trip included a long process of getting into dry suits and waddling on a short trail over to the start of the trip. The water was cold and crystal clear but had not a single fish or anything cool to look at – but hey! we can say we did it.

Finally out of the water, Kathy breathed a sigh of relief (and gratefully drank some hot cocoa).  Soon we were off to the next stop with our cohorts. We stopped at a waterfall close by and took a stroll up the falls.  We enjoyed seeing the glacial water cascade down the side and almost fall on our feet.  We were that close! The last part of the trip was the drive back to the hotel.  A few of us went downtown to grab a bite to eat and visited the beautiful Church of Iceland church, with the exterior designed to look like columns of lava.

We had another scheduled boat trip to hopefully see the northern lights. A quick dash to buy some local chocolate made at the factory and some ice-cream and soon we were off to get on the boat. We piled onto the boat and waited and waited.  Unlike our earlier boat trip, the only sight we saw was a bunch of disappointed tourists looking skyward hoping to see the northern lights. It was a beautiful star-filled sky, but with no aurora borealis activity.

Sunday came early and we were off to attend mass in a skinny yet tall church where the mass was conducted in Polish. A good start to the day!  From there we came back to the hotel, gathered some items, and were off to explore Reykjavik.  We strolled through the local shops and met for lunch. The most important stop of the day was at 6 pm where we had reserved a bunch of tables at a local American Bar.  The group piled in and with a bunch of “local” Bills fans, we watched the Bills versus the Vikings game. While the outcome of the game was not what we wanted, the energy and excitement of sharing the highs and lows with a large group of people was fun.  Soon we were headed off to the hotel where we settled in to get ready for the next day.

Monday November 14, 2022 came early. We grabbed breakfast and were soon off to enjoy what Kathy considered one of the best days EVER!!  We saw multiple waterfalls, including one in which we got to walk around behind the cascading water in a circuitous route that took us behind the falls.  The afternoon saw us going to an “ice cave” which was an amazing journey through and under some of the glacier Vatnajökull. The trail had us hanging on to a rope at times while we walked alongside a quick moving stream that shot through the glacier and carried the ice cold water along a path that disappears under the black lava beneath the glacier. We got drenched as the water melted from the cave ceiling onto us while we walked along the path. Dave took the opportunity to taste the glacier, sticking out his tongue to take a lick, hoping that it did not become frozen to the ice! Soon, everyone just had to lick the glacier!  No rescue was needed and we were soon off to enjoy the long drive back to the hotel where we eagerly looked out the window hoping for a glimpse of the northern lights.

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