Reykjavik: Dinner With Friends, Botanic Garden & Street Art

May 27

From my parking spot in front of Sigrun and Andy’s place I was surprised to see the day begin without any rain. The updated forecast for the day was cloudy with a slim chance of rain so I excitedly packed my day bag and planned to walk the city. I remembered seeing something in the guidebook about the Reykjavik botanic gardens and thought a stroll through some lush green gardens is just what I needed after all this gloomy weather.

I left the house on foot and figured I’d find directions once I was out and about. The gardens turned out to be about 40 minutes away on foot so I hesitated. In the end I figured it’d be good for me to get out and pound the pavement a bit since I’ve been mostly driving for the last few weeks and haven’t gotten much exercise. Besides, you can get to know a city more intimately when you walk it!

I along the way I passed what looked like an Olympic training center and down a grassy hill then through a beautiful tree-covered lane. I saw a small zoo on my right and I talked to the brindle striped cows laying on some rolling hills on the other side of the fence.

The gardens turned out to be absolutely lovely – and free! Oh how I dig free things! I thought about how much my mom would enjoy the place since she’s a natural plant whisperer (and my go-to person for all things green). I slowly walked on the white wooden bridges over narrow ponds, strolled through rock gardens and got lost in thought listening to the birds sassing each other in the trees above. I even encountered a ferocious Icelandic beast!:

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I always get so inspired when visiting beautiful locations. I take a mental picture of the best designs and tuck them away in my mind for when I get home and can work on my own garden – and this place gave me several fantastic ideas to try! My favorite elements from Iceland that I’m hoping to somehow incorporate in my home garden are the rolling grassy mini hills, stacked stone walls, and the turf houses.

Near the back corner of the gardens was a greenhouse. As I got closer I saw it was a cafe! Oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy! You know how I love my cafes.

I went inside Cafe Flora and it was absolutely fantastic. Gorgeous wooden garden tables and chairs, a koi pond, a big fruit laden fig tree, grape vines, a condiments table made of the trunks of trees… I was in heaven!

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Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-123_WEB I asked the barista for a double latte and got her opinion on what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the soup of the day was a coconut curry with shrimp and parsley. I’m not big on meat any more but I thought I’d give it a try (you know, when in Rome…). It was served in a hot, lidded glass crock on a bamboo board with a few slices of fresh sourdough grain bread and a little square of butter wrapped in parchment paper.

As the girl brought me my soup I couldn’t help but do a wiggly happy dance in my chair and clap my hands. She laughed and shook her head at me and it made me realize most people probably don’t get this excited about food. I guess Gastronomy has always pleased me. Tasty food is one thing, but tasty food served up in a beautiful presentation is happiness on a whole new level. More so, tasty food presented beautifully and sourced responsibly? Oh Jeezus!  Plug your ears because I’m apt to gush about that meal for weeks.

Maybe I’m meant to be a food blogger? A traveling food blogger? Hmmm, I have an idea… oh dammit!  theveggietraveler.com URL is already taken. Fine, back to the drawing board I go. 😉

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The bread was so soft and flakey on the inside with a thick and chewy crust. I slathered each piece with the fresh butter and then dipped them into the curry soup. I was such a perfect blend of flavors! The soup was savory though the coconut gave a hint of sweetness, and there were big hearty chunks of onions, carrots, parsley, squash and butter beans. I even tried a few of the tiny shrimp and they were so fresh and tender they practically melted in my mouth.

I enjoyed my lunch and wrote for a couple of hours in the warm, deliciously earthy smelling greenhouse. I wanted to stay right there for the rest of my life. It was heaven. I would probably live in a greenhouse if it were a feasible thing to do.

The day was so relaxing and lovely, though my stomach was not being very accepting of the shrimp and I whispered an apology to it for trying to trick it into eating meat. I promised not to do it again no matter how fresh and incredible it may be.

I meandered back towards the house and admired the fantastic pedestrian and bicycle lanes next to the large roadway. Why do we not do this in Colorado? Cycling is so popular in the state it seems insane not to. There’s even a well-known joke about Coloradans and their obsession with cycling: How do you know if someone’s from Colorado? They carry an $8,000 bike on the roof of a $1,000 car.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these pedestrian roads back home but Sigrun tells me it’s very common in Sweden and I’ve seen it in Denmark too. It seems simple enough; if we combined the widths of the current sidewalks into one wide pedestrian/bike road on either side of the automobile road it would save us so much grief. Less bicyclists would be killed or injured, drivers wouldn’t have to get frustrated with cyclists, and it would inevitably encourage people to travel via something other than gas-guzzling cars.

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I noticed both of my cameras were nearly drained of battery so I went back to the house to charge them while I took the forced downtime to nap and surf the web a bit. I made tentative plans with the group that I had met in Akureyri to meet for a beer at Micro Bar before they flew home. Chad and Mandi were heading back to Austin, Texas in the morning.

Sigrun arrived home and I told her about the plans for Micro Bar and she said Keir and Emily were cooking dinner that night and suggested we should all go together after we ate. I headed back out for a walk through the city since the weather was so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of non-rainy weather.

I ventured down the main shopping street and snapped photos of the colorful street art. I still find new pieces every time I walk down there. It’s incredible!

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I found a tiny little door that lead back to a small fashion shop. When I entered I found a spread of beautiful foods and another photographer who was carefully placing the food. I realized I maybe shouldn’t be there. I asked the man if he was working and he said he was the culinary photographer for a food magazine in Reykjavik and they were having a party for the publication. His name is AoThor (check out his food and people photography, it’s lovely!) and we chatted a little and traded cards before I boogied out of there because I felt like I was crashing a party I hadn’t been invited to.

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I headed South and then up the hill to the old wealthy neighborhoods on the East side of Reykjavik where the houses are grand with sprawling manicured gardens, and I even found the old cemetery. It was so beautiful and peaceful there, with trees growing up from many burial plots and stone walls cradling family burial plots. It’s exactly how I imagine a cemetery should be.

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I returned just before 8:00, and everyone eventually trickled back home and the dinner-making and the sharing of our respective days commenced. They made a delightful parmesan and broccoli pasta dish together and Keir brought out 5 Icelandic beers to share and sample. We all got a small jar to use as our beer sampling cup (mine was an olive jar. I love it!) and we worked through the brews while they thrilled me with their knowledge. Andy and Keir would be talking about something English and completely foreign to me and I’d have to stop them and request they explain it to me. I felt as if  I was a child hanging out with adults since I didn’t know half of the things they were laughing about. They were gracious though and happily explained things to me such as what a genuine  Cornish pasty is. I would very much like to try to make these!

Keir sliced up a little cake with marbled frosting and we shared it while enjoying a porter beer and then we headed out towards Micro Bar. I really enjoy all the walking I do in the city, though I’ve added it all up and I walked 4.5 hours this day alone. I think soreness is in my near future…

Andy decided to stay home since he had work in the morning. We were a bit late to Micro Bar and so we had missed Mandi and Chad, but I bought the 4 of us a round of beers and we talked until midnight and decided it was bedtime. I had worn my Loveland Aleworks t-shirt and had to get a photo of it while at Micro Bar! As we were taking the photos a few fairly intoxicated Americans started asking what all the photos were for and one of them was from Arvada, Colorado. I told them how fabulous Loveland Aleworks and all the microbreweries in Loveland are and he said he’ll have to make a point of heading up there next time he’s back home. I seem to become quite a braggart about my awesome little town when I’m away from it. 🙂

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Mission Ring Road: Completed

May 26

I’ve officially finished exploring the Ring Road around Iceland! I’m back in Reykjavik after nearly 4 weeks of traveling and living out of my car. I’m exhausted and filled to the brim with all the things I’ve seen and learned this month… and I’m already daydreaming about having another adventure even though this one isn’t quite over yet (anyone want to split a little cottage on Prince Edward Island next summer?).

Now that I know I have less ground to cover in my final days in Iceland, due to stormy weather cutting my Westfjords portion of the trip short, I have a new sense of relaxation and peacefulness. I’m not feeling like I have to go, go, go if I just want to enjoy staying wherever I am. I guess even though seven weeks sounded like ample time here I’ve still managed to pack enough into each day that I’ve left myself completely exhausted. Having these extra days to hang out in the city makes me feel “off the hook” for the week.

Expectations about adventures don’t always pan out and the delays and detours the weather has caused during this trip have been good reminders of that.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with a gal at the helicopter tour company about taking a flight to shoot arial photos. When I first checked into this a month ago the woman basically told me that the prices are per-person when three people take the flight at once (doh! Why don’t they mention this in the pricing on the website?). Unless I luck out and a couple wants to take a flight during the week I’ve requested, June 1st through 7th, I would have to pay for all three seats if I go by myself. I asked them to keep me posted just in case a couple contacts them but I haven’t heard anything yet and we’re getting down to the wire. At this point I’m not going to get my hopes up. Even if I luck out and they find a couple for me to fly with the weather is being so drippy that it might not be worth it to go on a gray, rainy day anyhow…. sigh… I keep trying to think on the bright side about not getting to do this incredible flight I’ve been so looking forward to…. but the only positive outcome I can come up with is that I can repurpose the helicopter funds and put it all towards a second photo adventure this fall to maybe give my amazing Trevolta backers (who graciously financially backed a piece of this adventure) even more bang for their buck.

I noticed Sigrun had replied to last night’s message and happily said I could stay with them but that she didn’t want any payment. They have other surfers staying with them right now too and so we’ll all be there together. She’s so generous and social! I have learned an important social lesson from her openness and generosity and I’m very excited to pay it forward and host my own surfers when I get home. It’s such a unique experience.

My calendar reminded me my niece Harlow’s birthday party was that afternoon and so decided I should find a cafe so we could Skype and I could virtually attend. I drove to Sigrun’s house and found the key she’d left me, showered, then packed a day bag and walked into the city. I have so much love for Reykjavik. It’s so bright and colorful and friendly. I’m grateful I got to experience it for the first time with Sigrun showing me around – maybe that’s why I feel it’s so friendly?

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I meant to try a new cafe but I was drawn to Babalu the moment I saw the bright orange building. It is so welcoming there. When it came into view I started hankerin’ for a hot latte and remembered I’d wanted to try their veggie chili. I sat upstairs this time by a small window that overlooked the rooftop patio. The upstairs is somehow even cozier than the downstairs. I set up my little workstation and leisurely wrote and edited all afternoon.

A small group of people and a man in a stylish suit came up from the first floor and went out to the rooftop patio. I noticed then that the sun had peeked through the clouds and it had stopped raining for a while! A few minutes later a bride with flowers in her hair came up the stairs and the man in the suit came back in to retrieve her and they kissed tenderly. My heart melted. I forgot myself for a moment and blurted out “You look so beautiful!” and asked if they were about to get married. They smiled said they had just done so down the street! I congratulated them and they were wonderfully friendly.

When the bride and groom and their small group of companions sat down at a table on the patio I asked if I could take their photo. We exchanged websites – the groom told me they are doing the ring road next and will be blogging about it too. He said they were from Germany and they had wanted a small wedding so no one back home was even savvy to what they’re doing on their “vacation”. I love that!

In all the excitement I forgot to ask their names. I wish I didn’t get so nervous talking to new people – I somehow manage to forget the most obvious details of talking to people. Someday I will finally be so good at this socializing thing that I will look back at the old awkward me and be sooo embarrassed. 😉 Or so I hope.

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A bit later, when the upstairs of Babalu’s had suddenly become busy and I was quietly enjoying listening to four distinct languages being spoken around me, Jason called on Skype so I could join in on my niece’s 4th birthday party back home. I told Harlow “Happy birthday!” and she said “Happy birthday to you!” so I laughed and thanked her and we talked for a bit. She was feeling ornery and didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming to her party. I told her I am at her party and she gave a look of confusion, blew me a kiss and waved goodbye. I had to laugh because I had waited all afternoon to chat with her and she was done in 2 minutes flat.

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Another latte later (do you like how that’s become a time signature for me?) Sigrun checked in via Facebook and said she was home now. I asked what they were all up to tonight and she said that it was one of her couch surfer’s birthday so she had baked him a cake. So thoughtful and fun! I headed back as soon as I fixed a weird error on my camera. Thank goodness for online manuals.

Walking back to Sigrun’s in the usual icy wind I felt like I was glowing. I felt like this city has become another home for me and I felt like I could belong here. I know a big portion of that feeling is due to Sigrun and Andy’s welcoming introduction to the city. I love the colorful hip vibe, the friendly people, the quirky mom & pop shops that close whenever they feel like it (even in the middle of the day), the positive attitude towards all forms of art and music. It seems to be a thriving and happy city. When I came here I wanted to bring a piece of my beloved Loveland to share with Iceland, and now I’m determined to bring a bit of Reykjavik back to Loveland when I go home.

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Back at Sigrun’s house we chatted about our future travel plans and what we’d each been up to the last 4 weeks. Sigrun told me that Joanna is heading back to New Zealand for good this week now that school’s done and it’s been a bittersweet time for them all. Joanna is such a sweetheart and they have become such good friends. It’s so sad losing someone you’ve gotten so close to like that. I guess it’s wonderful that we live in a world rich with technology and social media platforms so we never have to be too far away from our friends.

I helped make a sugar frosting and a make-shift pastry bag so we could write “happy birthday Keir” on the tasty looking cake. The cake was a Swedish recipe called Sticky Cake. It resembled what we’d call a brownie in the States and was as delicious as it looked!

Joanna and her two couch surfers from Greece came over around the time Andy got home from work. When Sigrun’s couch surfers arrived we all sang happy birthday to Keir and got to know one another. Keir and Emily are a recently wed (as in, last week!) couple from the UK and they’ve just spent three years teaching English in Korea and now they’re off to the States to work in the WWOOF program for a few months. WWOOF is an organic farming and teaching organization working towards spreading knowledge and practices of organic and sustainable food production. I’m so excited now that I know what this organization is! They will receive room and board in exchange for working on the farm while learning how to do amazing things like keeping bees, grafting trees, and organic farming. They leave Iceland in two days to go visit friends in DC and then they’ll head for Seattle for a month to work on a WWOOF farm, and followed by another farm-stay location after that somewhere else in the US. And then they’ll go to Australia and New Zealand (if I understood right) for another stint with the organization. What an adventure! They seem so easy going and able to take life as it comes. That seems to simply be the way of people interested in traveling the world; they’re calm, open to opportunities and to taking exciting leaps into the unknown, and the all seem incredibly friendly.

Emily, the lovely couch surfers from Greece (I apologize I can’t remember nor pronounce their names!), Joanna, yours truly, Sigrun and Andy. Photo courtesy of Keir Thomas

We all talked late into the evening before calling it quits around 11:30 since it was a week night. It felt so good to be around people again after being on the road alone for weeks. I bid everyone good night and headed out to my cozy car. The rain had stopped and it seemed warmer than it’s been since I arrived on the island. Jason and I tried a new free phone app he found called Viber (So far it’s better than Skype with less call drops) until I nearly fell asleep on him.

We said goodnight and the last thing I remember thinking before I closed my eyes was how this incredible journey of mine is quickly coming to an end. I looked back on all the things I’ve seen and gone through and still can’t believe I’m the one who had the pleasure of living it. It’s all been so out of character for me! I slept next to geysers and volcanoes, hiked waterfalls, I defied my social anxiety and met wonderful people from all over the world, explored an incredible and volatile island without any solid plan other than seeing as much as I can before making it back to Reykjavik no later than June 5th, all while living out of a car… and the most shocking one of all: I have managed to keep up with the blog the entire time! 😉

I still have a couple more weeks of memory-making and I plan to enjoy the heck out of it.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; I am one seriously Lucky Brake.

 

 

Underwater Tunnel & Back to Reykjavik

May 25

Would it shock and thrill you if I told you I woke up to more rain today? Well… I did.

I was awake by 8 but didn’t get up right away. I was enjoying the rain and bird songs too much to move. After I’d had my fill I got ready for the day and figured out I was near Varmaland. The night before I had just stopped when I saw a camping sign and had no idea where I actually was. I enjoyed a raisin and peanut butter wrap for breakfast and grabbed gas near Borgarnes then drove through a few towns as I meandered towards Reykjavik.

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Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 6.33.46 PMAfter visiting Akranes I saw on the map that there was an underwater tunnel cutting across the ocean to Reykjavik which looked like it saves drivers lots of time by not having to make their way around the entire indentation of coastline. I decided I had to drive under the ocean if I had the chance. Turns out, the toll was as expensive as visiting a museum, but now I can say I’ve done it. The tunnel made me feel like I was on a roller coaster because it dipped down quickly under the ocean before flattening out, then made a curve which went on long enough it felt like I’d changed direction by 90 degrees, and then it took a steep up-turn near the end as it headed back up to dry land. I wanted to take a photo but I found it slightly hypnotizing to drive and I had a Range Rover so close behind me that I was afraid to take my eyes off the road for an instant. And here I thought Colorado drivers got close to folks’ back bumpers, whew!

When I came out from the tunnel I noticed the landscape near Reykjavik had gotten so much greener compared to when I last saw it. Spring has now sprung and there are colorful tulips in garden beds and green grass and all the trees and bushes have leafed out. Beautiful!

Along the roadside I noticed a KFC and I headed to the mostly-empty parking lot for a driving break. I think I’ve been craving hot, cheesy potatoes of late and my stomach tricked me into steering there, though my brain didn’t let me go in. I refuse to eat American chain food while in other countries! The Subway I ate at in Egilsstadir was only a side effect of needing to use their restroom. 😉 I watched several families fight the wind and rain to run inside. It was slightly comical watching the same grimaces on each face as the wind hit them when they stepped out of their vehicles.

I chatted with Jason for a long, lovely time and we discussed what he should pack and what attractions we should visit when he gets here. 10 more days! I’m so excited to see his handsome face! This is the longest we’ve been apart in over 14 years if you can believe it. We jokingly said we didn’t miss each other at all and he said he had actually worried I wouldn’t want to come back home to him after being so independent and free. If anything, it’s made me appreciate the life I have built with him even more (if that’s at all possible!).

After talking to Jason I noticed how tired I felt, probably because I had driven many hours in the last two days, so I figured I’d take it easy for the remainder of the evening. I headed to the nearest campsite about 30 minutes away and bought a night there. I parked, snuggled under my blankets planning to read and then suddenly realized if Sigrun and Andy wouldn’t mind me parking in their driveway and using their shower I’d much rather, as a thank you, give them the money I would’ve paid to use a campsite while I’m in Reykjavik. Anyone who knows me understands I am very uncomfortable asking for things that might put someone out but I decided that if the tables were turned I might be bummed if I found out someone I’d hosted came back into town but didn’t even ask me if I would mind having them again. I decided to go ahead and ask, so I sent Sigrun a little message. It was only 6:45 but I fell asleep, fully clothed with book in hand, before she could responded.

Westfjords In a Single (Very Rainy) Day

May 24

More rain. I have decided that all this rain is not Iceland’s way of rejecting me, but instead it’s a loving gesture of greening everything up for when Jason comes and we make one final swing around the island together. Yeah, ok, I like that. That must be what’s happening. 😉

When I awoke on my second day in Breidavik it was still pouring and the wind was still howling. I hopped on my phone to see if the forecast had changed at all. Nope. I then checked Facebook and read that my hometown was having flash flooding and several intersections and parks were underwater! gah! Only last September the Big Thompson canyon flooded and carved out a wide path through our fair city, and several surrounding cities, after an intense several days of rain so I immediately had concerns. I couldn’t check in with anyone to see just how bad it was since it was 3 am back home. I sent out a few texts to family members checking in hoping someone was awake but didn’t get the “all is well” return texts until much later in the day once everyone was awake.

I knew I had some decisions to make today so I quieted my mind and listened to my heart again to finally decide which direction I would go once I left Breidavik. I decided to go ahead and make the Westfjords loop (I now realize I kept calling it “Northfjords” in my last posts. I don’t know why my brain keeps doing that!) since I might never have the opportunity to do it again – and force myself not to stress if I wasn’t able to photograph anything. If it was too stormy I’d just keep driving and eventually make my way back to Reykjavik. There was nothing I could do about the weather, and I already knew I love Reykjavik and still have plenty of shops, museums and cafes to check out. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to pretend I’m a local and get to know the place better!

As I drove up over the pass out of Breidavik I snapped a stormy-day photo of the “town” I had driven so far out to visit and stayed at for two days. It’s a cute place and I wish I’d have had a chance to explore the beautiful beach.

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The road wasn’t as bad as I had expected, though there were several large ponds and rivers next to the road that hadn’t been there yesterday. New waterfalls were leaping off the sides of the mountains in several places. I started to worry about rock slides but knew there was nothing I could do to prevent nor predict them so I just kept truckin’. At the bottom of the first mountain pass there was a sandy area where the wind had blown the yellow sand over the dirt road. I also noticed an airstrip running through the little hills of yellow sand and beach grass alongside the road. There was what looked like a little street sweeper vehicle next to the airpot building that I assume they probably have to use daily to uncover the runway from the blowing sand.

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I continued on for a few hours through the fog and wind and rain. It was slow going due to poor visibility and the deep mud puddles in the road. As I drove through them they’d splash up over the whole car, completely obscuring my vision until my windshield wipers could clear the mud water away. I’m grateful for having such a nice vehicle to navigate that road with.

After I had made it back to the main road that winds up and around the fjords I started to feel a bit braver about going faster through the rain and puddles. The wind would momentarily blast and try to shove me off the road every once in a while but I was getting good at correcting for it. By golly, I’d gotten the hang of this nasty weather and was actually having fun 4-wheeling and splashing around! I continued to be slow and careful on the high ledges but on the level ground near the ocean I had some freedom to enjoy the drive.

The weather had cleared up a bit and I was able to see pretty far ahead!  After a while I saw what looked like a brown sheep jump down off the mountain and stop in the road up ahead. I jokingly scolded the sheep for being out in such bad weather when I noticed it was too small to be a sheep and too round not to be a big ol’ boulder. I slowed to a stop as I came up to it, thinking how bad it could have been had I not been 20 seconds too slow and it had barreled into my vehicle. I snapped a quick photo of it and got the hell out from under that rocky wall incase any more were going to break loose. It sobered me up quite a bit and I went back to my cautious, watchful driving.

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The rest of the day consisted of hours of driving punctuated by momentary stops in small towns to rest my nerves and eyes.

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I finally saw a speck of sunshine break through and it created a rainbow that touched the ground on both sides. I had always thought this was a thing of myths! (though of course I couldn’t catch it before it waned… so maybe it is a thing of myths?)

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Every once in a while through the dark fog I could see shadows of mountains in the distance. It was quite beautiful, really.

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Back up high crossing another mountain pass there was a 20+ foot wall of snow leaning over the road which made my stomach flip as I drove underneath it since I could so easily imagine it calving off the mountain right as I drove under it. Oy, my poor nerves!

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I could sometimes see white jagged scars down the sides of the mountains through the fog and they turned out to be flash waterfalls.

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This was my trusty Dacia Duster after all the rain and mountain-road driving. She’s just as cute after she’s played in the mud as she is when she’s shiny and clean!

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All the uninterrupted driving got me through the Westfjords within a single day, instead of the seven days I had planned, and I found a sweet little campsite just after returning to the Ring Road. They were teachers at the elementary school on the opposite ridge and had recently bought the site and were doing renovations right now. Because of that, the owner said I didn’t have to pay anything to camp and if I wanted to come back in to the restaurant and have a beer with him and his family I was more than welcomed to. He was so generous and I appreciated the offer so much… but all that driving had me completely exhausted and all I wanted to do was scarf down a quick dinner and sleep. This campsite was different from all the others that I’d visited because it wasn’t based on a big grassy lawn, it was a long one-way path along rolling hills through scrub-brush that had little green lawns here and there barely large enough for a pair of tents. I picked a spot on the top of a ridge and fell asleep within minutes of my apple, tortilla and peanut butter dinner.

Wonderful Breidavik, Rain & More Rain

May 23

The day was rainy and exceptionally dark. After showering in the camping facilities hut I ran from the car to the tall whitewashed hotel and purchased another night at Breidavik. I decided there was no point in driving around the Westfjords in this un-photographable weather when there was free, fast internet here and a dry room to spend the day in.

As the gentleman rang me up, a little blonde cutie-pie of about 14 months old came toddling out of the kitchen behind the bar. She was jabbering and waving her arms and dressed in a tiny tracksuit all in pink. She wandered around, making a lap around the dining room before stopping at my feet. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes, nearly falling over as she tipped her head all the way back to see my face. I grinned and greeted her in Icelandic and quickly twiddled the pygmy pigtail standing straight atop her head. She blinked hard, took a deep breath – I was sure she would scream – and turned around to wander off again, jabbering.

I set up my laptop in the camper’s dining hall and went back to the restaurant dining area to pick up a free cup of tea. Until you’ve camped for nearly four weeks in a cold and rainy climate you may not understand just how amazing it feels to have a complimentary hot beverage and a warm place to hang out for the day. It’s equivalent to the feeling of finding $50 or something, haha! I chose green tea and doused it with cream and sugar to make it an even richer treat. I was craving some Skyr too but knew the nearest convenience store was at least 2 hours away through the gloom and doom outside.

Grinning to myself and doing a happy wiggle in my chair as I settled down back at my computer in the big, silent, echoey dining hall with my hot tea and the icy rain pelting the windows behind me I got to thinking. Apparently all it takes for me to feel right at home is a hot beverage and a fast internet connection. I don’t need much to be content… though having my sweet, fat feline, Palu, purring in my lap would have made me over-the-moon happier. I miss that fur-ball so damn much lately. She’s always my companion when I work at home. Either pestering and poking her big polydactyl paws at me through the arm of my chair for attention, curled up on my lap or jumping onto my shoulders and bumping her soft little noggin against my cheek. Sigh, my heart hurts just thinking of how much I miss her. I suppose I will see her soon enough. I’m sure she thinks I’ve completely abandoned her after all this time. And the poor thing is about to lose Jason too! Maybe when we both return she’ll think he went out to find me and bring me home. He’ll be a hero!

My sassy kitty, Palu. She's the best critter I could have ever asked for. She does tricks, plays fetch and sits at the table with us when we have conversations and meows along as if she's a people too.

My sassy kitty, Palu. She’s the best critter I could have ever asked for. She does tricks, plays fetch and sits at the table with us and meows along to the conversation as if she’s a People too.

MoBot, pre-Iceland

MoBot, pre-Iceland

While rummaging through my backpack to find my power adapter I noticed a big red splotch showing through the bubble wrap around my little travel buddy, MoBot. Panicked, I unwrapped him to find he was a giant mess of rust! I must not have dried him thoroughly enough when he took a spill into the glacier lagoon, either that or the humidity from all the rain was doing him in! I was heartbroken. On our first day in Iceland his little foot had fallen off and I had bought some superglue in Reykjavik at a hardware store to hold him together until I could get him to the soldering-doctor. I’d been afraid to let him come out to play because of how much I adore him and don’t want him to get further injured… and then the very next time I took a chance and pulled him out to take a photo with him the wind gusted him off his rock and he dove into the water (which now that I think of it, was probably salt water since it was near the ocean outlet). Maybe MoBot is more of a city-bot? 😦

I scrubbed the rusty robot blood off of him in the kitchenette sink and rinsed out the bubble wrap. I stood him next to my workspace on the table and occasionally blew on him as I worked so that he’d fully dry before I tucked him away again.

The same gentleman that had helped me earlier walked by and saw MoBot. He did a double-take and then came over to me and started asking questions about him. I told him the story of what happened at the glacier lagoon and then the guy asked who made him. I gave him my card so we could get him in connection with MoBot’s creator, Maurice Woods, to see if Maurice might be willing to do a commissioned piece for him. Awesome!

I worked the day away, restraining myself just enough to only go back for more tea every two hours instead of every 15 minutes. I didn’t want to abuse the kind gesture of complimentary goodies. I took a break from work to catch up on social media and to research a few things I’d been thinking about such as how to get/make a solar electricity system for the house, if anyone had been successful in building turf walls in Colorado, and if there are any city codes about making turf houses in my area (muahahaha! We no longer have a temperature controlled basement to store our homebrew or wine as it ages… but a turf house would be perfect!…and adorable) .

I checked the weather for the week and it looked absolutely bleak. For all of the Westfjords the 10 day forecast showed every single day with an 80-100% chance of raining all day, sans two random days that were less than 50%. Well, sheeeyit. I couldn’t decide what to do; should I stay here for who-knows-how-long and get the images of this amazing yellow beach that I wanted? Should I keep driving through the soggy and muddy rock roads up over all those high passes in hopes that I’d be somewhere perfect if the sun decided to come out? Or should I turn around and head back South to Reykjavik and enjoy the city life for my last week and a half before Jason joins me?

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 2.46.10 PMI thought it’d be fun to send the question out into Facebook-land and see what other folks would do. Most said I ought to head back to Reykjavik, and a wise friend named Laura said to still my mind and listen to my heart to find the right answer for myself. My heart wanted to go back to Reykjavik too but also felt awful about missing out on the Westfjords that I may never get to see again.

Around that time another good friend, Kim, video-called me on Skype but I was completely uncomfortable being so loud in that echoey room. I’ve become very  aware of how loud Americans seem compared to all other tourists and didn’t want to prolong the stereotype. I decided to stay quiet so she talked while I listened through earbuds and typed my answers. It was both pretty ridiculous and hilarious. We were having a fun time with it but after a few noisy people came through the room I gave up and just started talking as quietly as I could. Kim and I laughed and talked for quite some time before I realized it was already 6:45pm and I still had one more post to write before I could call it a night (and I’m a slow writer).

Warmed from my lovely day in a heated hotel with tea and internet I almost opted to get a room in the hotel for the night instead of having to run back out and sleep in my cold car in the pouring rain. My desire to stretch my budget won in the end and I ran to the car. Soaked through, I changed into some dry clothes and tried to warm up under the blankets. The wind was howling and the Arctic Terns were all grounded due to the weather so the campsite grass around me was littered with the little white birds all spaced apart and facing into the wind, hunkered down against the gusts. Every once in a while an especially strong gust would push a handful of birds up off the ground and they’d frantically flap and screech angrily while trying to get grounded again. Poor little things! I stopped feeling sorry for myself since I actually had a dry place to rest and no gusts of wind were tumbling me into the air as I tried to sleep.

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Lanna 1 : Frustration 0 : Whimbrel -1

May 22

Awaking with the stubborn headache still clinging to my brain, I heard children laughing and thumps and bumps on the outside of my car. I sat up, a little panicked about possible damage on the rental car and saw a procession of elementary students with backpacks and scooters heading to school. Somehow I had placed myself in the closed campsite’s parking lot so perfectly that I was smack-dab in their usual walking path to school. So all the little kiddos were walking all around my car. Hah, what are the chances?

I hit the road immediately, knowing I’d need to make a “quick” 2 hour trip up North to an itty-bitty village called Djupavik and if I had time I’d continue on to the end of road 643 before turning back and retracing my route.

The majority of the road was difficult mountain passes on a rocky stone path. Within an hour my headache was back with a vengeance and my arms and eyes were exhausted from being so tense and alert on this road. One subpar move and off the edge I go. There are very few guardrails in Iceland and once you don’t have them you realize what a sense of security they can offer. I wouldn’t have tried this road without a 4×4 vehicle, it was that rough. It was quite beautiful though. 😉

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I continued North for about an hour before I had a minor emotional meltdown (don’t worry, these aren’t a rare occurrence for this fiery Irish girl). I was sick to my stomach and cried. I came to a stop in the middle of the road because there was no where else to park. I didn’t care if a semi was coming, he’d just have to wait until I was done throwing my tantrum. I felt so physically ill and was so tired of driving and I wasn’t sure if driving so far North would be worth the images. I debated whether or not I should just head back South and reshoot some areas I already know are amazing.

Once I was able to dry my eyes and stop being so dramatic I turned around. I knew that if I wound up with any worse of a headache or another meltdown that I’d get myself stranded up there. The length of this journey is becoming quite tangible and some days I love the freedom and I could stay for a year – and other days I’m ready to buy a ticket home that very moment. During my little tantrums like these are when traveling with a buddy would be so useful. They could take a turn driving and I could safely melt down into a puddle in the passenger seat (or they’d talk some sense into be before the meltdown happens, haha!) and everything would be fine again in about 30 minutes.

I slowly made my way back on the roads from which I came; through the mountains and over the rocky dirt paths, through the windy rain, timidly squeezing between the gaping cliff and the few other cars going the opposite direction. I listened to my audio book and tried to hum happy songs to myself. So tired. So frustrated. Nowhere to stop.

Once I finally picked up speed on the paved roads near Holmavik I hit a poor bird called a Whimbrel, which made me feel absolutely awful. It’s the largest animal I’ve ever killed with my car 😦 I’m always so careful. I had looked in the side rear-view mirror at the wrong time and didn’t see him fly out into the road. Feathers everywhere. If there has been a lower point than this to the trip, I surely must have missed it.

I filled up the gas tank when I arrived back in Holmavik and headed South towards Bjarkalundur which promised to have wifi so I could have a positive pick-me-up of seeing my friend do her TEDx talk.

Kerri’s talk would be starting at about 8:10pm, my time. Around 5:00 I arrived at the campsite that promised wifi. They no longer offered it. I calmly said thank you and walked back out the door. Back in the car I exasperatedly dropped my head on my steering wheel and the car honked. It scared both me and the poor people standing next to the car. We all politely chuckled. I tried to check my phone to look up other campsites but didn’t have service so I just figured I’d keep driving along my route and stop in at the next campsite to see if they had wifi.

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This is me, on a mountain, in the rain, pouting about being exhausted and wifiless. Pitiful!

Five. Five is the number of campsites I stopped into during the next two hours looking for wifi before I decided I may just have to miss the TEDx talks and took a nap in a mountain pass rest area in resignation. It started to pour rain again along with the whipping winds. When I woke, I felt a bit more positive and I knew at this point I wasn’t far from the place I was planning to visit tomorrow so I just headed there.

I took the little road out into nowhere towards Breidavik hoping their Hotel/Camping wifi sign was still accurate. The drive was long and up over another high pass, but eventually I came back down to the coast where there was peculiar yellow sand on a beach surrounded by the usual black jagged rocky cliffs. I finally saw the sign saying I’d arrived at Breidavik and I looked over to see only a hotel, campsite and a church. Oh gawd, this tiny place is never going to have wifi! I thought to myself. I was completely resigned to the possibility of crying myself to sleep in exhausted frustration that night (Yes, yes, I know I’m highly over dramatic when I’m tired. It’s a trait I’ve fought with since birth. Ask my mom.).

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Feeling unready to put on a happy face I headed inside. I found the lobby and walked into the bar area. A woman walked out to greet me, smiling, and asked if she could help me. I said “I’d really like to stop driving now and camp.”  She laughed and said that she could help me with that. She began explaining that there were bathrooms with free showers and free laundry. I told her I was already beginning to love this place and she laughed. She then said there was free coffee and tea in the restaurant. I said “okay, now I reeeeally love this place!” and she grabbed my arms over the counter and said that I will have to stay forever then! We had a good laugh, and my spirits were immediately buoyed. I told her I just might after all the driving I did today. She then told me there was a dining room and kitchen I could use and there was free high-speed internet. My mouth dropped open and I  came around the counter and we hugged. I profusely thanked her and saw it was nearly 8:00.

I jogged to the car, nabbed my laptop and power cable and raced back into the building. A pair of surprisingly handsome european twenty-somethings said hi on the front steps of the lobby and tried to strike up the usual traveler’s “so where are you from?” conversation but I just yelled hi and jogged past them. Out of my way! There’s no time to explain! Now that I look back at it I have to shake my head and laugh.

High-speed internet, I luuuurve you.

High-speed internet, I luuuurve you.

I got my computer set up and found the live-stream link and got everything working with only 11 minutes to spare before Kerri went on stage for her TEDx FrontRange talk. Success!! I texted another of my gal pals who was in the audience at the TEDx event watching it live and told her I was virtually there with them. From my empty, echoing dining room in Breidavik, Iceland I watched as Kerri nervously, though very bravely, gave her talk in Loveland, Colorado and I stood and emphatically applauded her at the end.  I was so excited about being able to “be there” that I think I professed my undying love for the internet on every social media platform I belong to. I can’t tell you how much that small success lifted my spirits. So neat. Despite all the frustration-shaped-dung the day threw at me I’m officially putting this day under the win column for myself.

I watched a few more wonderfully entertaining folks give their talks before I realized I should utilize this lightning-fast internet to get some blog posts scheduled. I put a reminder for myself to watch all the talks I missed when I get back home and then I worked until just before midnight. I headed back to the car in the pouring rain, snuggled into my down comforter and comfy green wool hat and called Jason to catch up for the first time in a few days. Apparently they’ve had some crazy weather back home. Six tornadoes at once, damaging hail and intense thunder storms. Sheesh! Here I was worried about volcanoes possibly erupting while I’m in Iceland and I forget that back home I live around some pretty volatile and unpredictable nature myself.

Rocked to sleep by the comparatively docile Icelandic wind pushing against the car, the thudding rain and crashing waves on the nearby beach, I think I slept more soundly than I have on this entire journey.

The Bill Collector, Headaches & Witchcraft

May 21

I awoke in Blonduos to the sound of a car engine extremely close to my car. I popped my head up and there was a man sitting in his car, looking into my car. I waved at him, wondering what the heck he was doing, and he waved back with a credit card machine in his hand.

Oh, ha! The bill collector! I grabbed my wallet and opened the passenger door as he walked up. It turns out this campsite only cost ISK700 – or about $6.75. I was so thrilled that not only did I have the whole place to myself, free laundry and showers, but it was also nearly half the price of other places. Wahoo!

After breakfast and a shower I started a load of laundry, hoping I picked the right settings since I couldn’t read the dials and there was no translation. I wrote for a bit and planned my next route before tossing the load in the dryer. I had made makeshift detergent out of my hand-washing soap bar since the campsite was out. I used a screw I found behind the washing machine to grate off small flakes of the soap bar into the detergent holder. It cleaned my clothes well enough, I suppose, and they’re smelling arguably better than they had before they went into the machine.

I ended up fighting with the dryer because I couldn’t get it to run for more than 5 minutes at a time. I resigned to standing in the hot, humid laundry closet playing solitaire on my phone so that I could restart the dryer every 5 minutes. After about 30 minutes of that nonsense I gave up and hung or laid all the damp laundry out in the back of the car hoping it would dry by night and wouldn’t leave my bed soggy and cold.

While writing I realized it was already May 21st and that back home the TEDx FrontRange event was happening tomorrow. I have been a photographer for the event since it started in 2012, and it makes me sad that this is my first time missing it. This year I have a good friend named Kerri Ertman who is giving one of the talks and I wanted to do everything in my power to be able to watch the simulcast of the event and cheer on Kerri, and all the amazing coordinators and volunteers working on this event, from afar. So, I spent some time on my super slow 3G phone connection searching for a campsite with wifi along my route where I can set up to try to watch the event. Finally found one! Now I could hit the road.

Around 2:00 I left Blonduos and drove for several hours, heading towards Holmavik and began to get a nasty headache. I think I’ve been driving too much.

Arriving in Holmavik I found that their campsite was closed down and the water-closets were boarded up. My head hurt enough that I didn’t care and planned to stay there tonight anyway. I took another pain pill and tooled through the very cute little village and made a visit to the Witchcraft museum. Not only was the museum highly entertaining but the owner, Siggi, was a hoot and a half! Everyone I’ve met here has such a great sense of humor! When I walked in he was wearing a colorful Icelandic wool sweater and a big floppy wool hat with tassels on top and braided wool flaps covering his ears and by the time I left he was wearing a chef’s uniform.

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I perused the museum with the English translation booklet that Siggi supplied me. Some displays were in jest, and others had true relics and bloodlines and historic fact from the persecution era. It was all facinating. Especially the… erm… Necropants spell. I didn’t include a photo of the pants but from the below description I’m sure you can gleen exactly what they looked like.Iceland_20140519-22_Akureyri through Breidavik-248_WEB

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This sacrificial ceremony bowl was found in a valley rich with tales about it being a pagan haven during the persecution era. The bowl was found during construction of a new summer home. Tests were done and the bowl had blood residue on the inside solidifying the belief that it was used during pagan rituals.

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I found this gem in the giftshop. How would you like to drink your morning joe out of a cup with the Necropants spell on it? Haha!

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After I finished I thanked Siggi and we chatted about where the final witch burning in Iceland happened. He asked me if I knew what GeoCaching was and I laughed, said yes, and asked him what that had to do with witch burnings. He pulled up the GeoCaching website and showed me there is a cache right at the site so he was able to give me precise GPS coordinates to the location. Genius!

I headed back to the closed campsite, now with a near-migraine. I hunkered down and begged the universe for sleep.

Frozen, Tunnels & High Tea at The Shire

May 20

So. Damn. Cold.

I couldn’t, for all the money in the world, get my feet to warm up and any time a piece of my head or neck would get exposed to the air it was like being jabbed with an ice cube. I was not a happy camper, but I’m also too stubborn to haul all my bedding inside like a sissy-lala girl so I toughed it out. The last time I checked the clock it was 1am, and I was again awake to usher in 4am. That’s when I gave up on sleep and tried listening to my audiobook to distract myself from the cold. Around 7:30 I gave up all together and started getting ready to hit the road… but not before I made myself one last powdered mocha latte from the kitchen to warm my bones and soul.

In town, still in Akureryi, I hit up the grocery store Netto to get my fix of Skyr and I bought some fruit, snap peas and a big bag of musli. The bicyclists I had met in Hofn had been eating it that morning and it looked so tasty, so when I saw it on the shelf I couldn’t resist.

I found it interesting that they have grocery stores in their shopping malls in Iceland. This is the second one I’ve found and it was across from an Apple store, no less. Love it!

I drove around the city near the harbor, and through a few neighborhoods to get a feel for the place. Near the harbor I found a few pubs and breweries and wished I’d have done this tour last night so I could stop in and sample something while they were open. I ventured into a hardware store hoping they had a garden center so I could get a whiff of some fresh potted plants since I’m missing gardening season back home. I was really excited to start a garden at the new house this year but I guess it’ll have to wait until next spring. It’s a small price to pay to get to hang out in Iceland for nearly two months.

In my sleepless fog I forgot to take even a single photo while I was in town. I’m kicking myself a bit but the cloudy day wouldn’t make for the best photography anyway so I guess it wasn’t too big of a miss. On blah days like that Google StreetView would almost get equal quality images, haha!

I headed North out of Akureyri and looped all the way up along the coast, through Dalvik and through a few extraordinarily long tunnels. Two of the tunnels were only one lane just like most of the bridges I’ve crossed here. On the single-lane bridges, the etiquette is whomever gets there first gets to cross, and the person on the other side has to pull off into a little side lane to wait their turn. I have been a total chicken so far and have pulled off to the side if I even see someone far up ahead… every time.

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See the “M” sign and the little pocket to the right? That’s where you wait for oncoming traffic to pass.

So in this tunnel, every hundred feet or so on either side there is an extra pocket with a side lane carved out to be used for emergencies and also for someone to pull into as a car traveling the opposite direction passes. When I saw headlights far up ahead coming my direction I decided I wouldn’t be a chicken this time and I would do it the right way. Well, apparently this driver heading my direction didn’t understand the etiquette. I had already passed my last side lane because I saw they hadn’t arrived at theirs yet meaning they’d be the one to stop (for once it wouldn’t be this big chicken having to stop, muahhaha!). But… she didn’t stop, and we creeped to a halt with our headlights lighting up each other’s faces. And so we sat, nearly bumper to bumper. Staring at each other. She was an older woman and I guessed maybe she was a tourist and didn’t realize what she was supposed to do so I sighed, loudly, because of course this is what happens when I finally decide not to be a chicken. I began to reverse through the tunnel all the way back to my last little pull off lane and waited for her to pass me. She didn’t move. I flashed my lights at her to tell her she could continue on. Nothing. I rolled down my window to wave her on and a blast of stinky, stale, car exhaust air hit my nose like a fist. Now I understand why at the beginning of the tunnels the signs say no walking nor horses in the tunnel. You’d surely suffocate! I waved her on again, growing impatient now due to the stench of the stale exhaust pouring into my little automo-bubble of clean air. Finally, she slowly started creeping forward at a snails pace and after what seemed like a freakin’ eternity she crawled passed my vehicle and stared blankly at me as she went by.

Welp, so much for this round of not being a chicken.

I continued on through several small towns, all of them beginning to smear together and look alike. I started wondering if I had actually become jaded to Iceland’s beauty like my new pal Joanna had said I would by the end of my trip, or if maybe all the “cute” towns were behind me now. And now that I’d thought of it, I hadn’t been wowed by any scenery today either. Curious. I thought maybe I was just tired from my sleepless night and unable to appreciate the day correctly so I continued on, trying to be positive.

Three hours into driving I was feeling rather bummed out. I thought I had rushed through the South coast to ensure I saved enough time for the Northern coast and now all the best stuff was behind me. I began melodramatically worrying and planning what I would do with all of the 18 days before Jason arrives if there wouldn’t be any more photo opportunities here up North to focus on… and that’s when I saw the Shire. There was a darling red-roofed church surrounded by a  delicate wooden fence coated with a fuzzy yellow lichen or moss, and little white crosses marking the many graves on the lawn; next to it there appeared to be about 8 incredible turf houses nestled into the hillside. Thick, long grass covering the houses and the surrounding domed hills, perfectly spangled with golden dandelions (suddenly I don’t dislike dandelions nearly as much as before). Behind the buildings was a parade of two more adorable gingerbread houses, more green rolling hills with sheep and lambs grazing on them, and then snow-capped mountains bringing up the rear. Sigh. You never fail to surprise me, Iceland.

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I grabbed my camera and gingerly started to wander around the area. I wasn’t sure if it was private property or a tourist attraction. I snapped a few photos and came around to the other side of the beautiful turf wall (can I successfully build these in Colorado? You know I’m going to try! Our house looks like it was made to pair with turf walls) where I saw an official-looking sign and a little water-closet shed. I whooped out loud that it was a tourist attraction and hoped I could maybe go inside one of the little houses! I followed the path to the sign and read it:

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I went on to the yellow house (I tend to save the best for last when I tour sites, which is actually a bad practice in a place with such volatile weather) and went inside.

It. Was. Adorable. Like a giant doll house.

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Three separate sitting rooms were daintily set up for high tea with beautiful antiques covering window ledges and hanging on the walls. A young lady came out of the kitchen and greeted me. She was dressed in a vintage style costume with her pigtails braided. She bid me to look around the house and go upstairs where the real treasures were located.

There were items from as far back as the 1300’s and as recent as the 1940’s if I correctly interpreted the informational signs (none were in English, darn it). Beds, kitchen utensils, tools, combs, carved furniture… so interesting!

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I headed back downstairs and told the girl I would come back for some tea and cake after I checked out the turf houses.

A few of the houses were open and packed full of the traditional tools used to build them. While inside you can understand exactly why the Vikings chose to build houses into hillsides; they are solid and the wind can’t get at you. The wind here blows so often it can nearly drive you mad. Hillside houses also keep a regulated temperature – cool enough in the summer, warm enough in the winter.

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I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a turf house and decided I would eagerly give it a go if I had the opportunity! It can’t be too different from living in a car – at least you can stand up in a turf house, haha!

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I grabbed my wallet from the car and went back to have some tea and cake, feeling much more satisfied with the day.

I chose Devonshire English Breakfast tea. It made me proud that all the tea choices were from Celestial Seasonings, which is based out of Boulder Colorado, a mere 40 minutes from my house! I gleefully told the girl about it and she stared at me blankly as if she simply couldn’t care less. Ha, ha… Well, alrighty then! It’s been lovely chatting with you, I thought jokingly.

For the cake I chose the Chocolate caramel banana creme pie with a coco rice krispy treat bottom and enjoyed an hour of feeling like a classy, fancy lady …while sporting my disheveled wind-swept hair, stinky travel clothes and clunky hiking boots.

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Afterwards I asked the girl if they would share their lovely cake recipe with me and she sheepishly said “I could, but we just Googled it and printed it from AllRecipes.” I laughed out loud. Here I was thinking it was some handed-down Icelandic recipe that I would excitedly bring home to share and she nabbed it from the same American website I frequent. I love the internet, it makes the world so small.

While I had been enjoying my tea and cake the clouds rolled in and the wind had kicked it’s fierceness up another notch (to eleven!) so I hit the road again, wishing I could just camp in one of the cozy little hillside houses.

Another hour of driving and I cruised into a town called Blonduos where I found a plain but nice campsite across from the N1 petrol station with free showers, free laundry and no one else was camping there. I knew this would mean I could wash my well-overdue laundry and have my first unhurried shower in over 3 weeks. I’m telling ya, these are thrilling times, folks. The reception was already closed so I picked a spot and planned to pay in the morning.

Making up for my lack of sleep the night before, I was grateful to sleep a warm and uninterrupted 13 hours.

Reading, Writing & Fellow Tourists

May 19

Little to report. Several days behind on my writing, I decided to use the slow (albeit free) internet at the Akureyri campsite to get caught up. The sky was blue but the air was extremely chilly so I was happy to sit inside and write instead of fight the cold. After a breakfast of a tortilla with mushroom cheddar spread and a few yummy dates I headed inside the lounge area for a hot shower to ward off the chill from the night. After my shower I found an electric kettle in the kitchen so I was able to brew up one of the instant mocha latte packets that I had bought way back in Reykjavik. It was so nice having a hot cup of joe that I had another… and then another. I am a tad gluttonous when I’ve been deprived of coffee, apparently.

I sat down in the lounge area to write and enjoy my hot latte. Campers were filtering in and out and I chatted with each of them. One pair was from Switzerland, then there was the Netherlands couple from the night before, Matt had already headed out before I got up, and there was a young trio from Vancouver.

I chatted with the Vancouver trio the longest; Amy, Jeff and Stephen. I learned they were going the opposite direction and so we spread out the map and picked each other’s brains about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth skipping. It was nice to finally meet someone going in the other direction around the ring road! If I could do it over again, I might go the opposite direction so that everyone I’d meet could give me some intel on what lies ahead.

Later in the day Leo, the man from the Netherlands, stopped in again and we talked about our families, and what we do for a living. We talked about the banking crash in Iceland and compared social security programs in our countries and how the US is behind so much action around the world right now; corporations moving in to European countries and utilizing cheap migrant workers from less fortunate neighboring countries instead of delivering the promised jobs to the locals where the plants are being built, the banking crisis… it’s really interesting to get outsiders’ points of view of your own country. The consensus I’ve been getting from the folks I’ve talked to is that while they don’t dislike Americans nor America, they are very aware that we are on a self-destructive path and other countries are trying to figure out how not to be so effected if and when we crash again. It’s still a little disheartening but nice to know there isn’t this dark cloud of ill will towards the US.

I worked until 8:30pm trying mostly in vain to get my posts and images uploaded using the turtle-slow internet at the campsite. Right as I was about to give up and call it a night a group of 6 twenty-somethings came in, all heralding from various places around the US and one from Germany. They were a friendly crowd and were taking a week-long trip around the Ring Road together now that school is out. I told them the basics of what I’d learned about the campsite and they decided to sleep in the loft overhead.

I felt sort of intimidated by the big group, as I usually do around new people thanks to my unwelcome, though seemingly permanent, networking sidekick Social Anxiety. I decided to heed the advice I’d been given by one of my wise gal pals before I left and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I began chatting with one of the girls and asked her what her story was. I learned she is majoring in Norse Mythology and Folk Lore (so cool!), and the German fellow, Patrick, is majoring in computer science. I told him about Matt from the night before and figured those two would have enjoyed an evening chat.

As I was telling Pat and Sarah my story a head popped down out of the ceiling from the loft above and, while hanging upside down, the guy said his name was Chad and he asked me if I would be around a bit longer because he is a photographer too and wanted to chat. Groovy!

The gang dispersed, Pat with a migraine (poor guy, I’m a fellow card carrier), Jake and two of the girls went to get groceries and go bowling. Chad the photographer and his girlfriend, Mandi, hung out in the lounge area. We began chatting about what we do for a living and swapping websites and fun jobs we’d worked on. Mandi is a model and so I checked out her website too. It was really enjoyable getting to see their work and sharing photos of two very different trips, taken around the same time, on the same island. Chad and Mandi both have a great sense of humor and seem like a couple madly in love! It made me miss my hubby pretty badly. 19 days until I see him, and counting!

Around 10:45 I was pretty worn out and headed out to the car. I had forgotten that this night was supposed to get down to 28 degrees, the coldest night I’d yet have to experience, but when I checked the weather it said it was already 26 degrees and the sun was still hanging high-ish in the sky. ::shiver::

Jake, Hannah, Patrick, Mandi, Sarah and Chad

Jake, Hannah, Patrick, Mandi, Sarah and Chad after they sucessfully finished the Ring Road together (image courtesy of Chad Adams)

Whale Museum & Camping in Akureyri

May 18

Rain, rain, go away…

This morning the rain was coming down as hard as I’ve seen it since I arrived here in Iceland. Sheets, cats and dogs, buckets, the works.

I drove back to Husavik the way I had come. The fog was thick and the drive was slow. I began thinking about how having mishaps and unexpected events make for such a fun adventure, and I hadn’t had any mishaps in a while. The trip seems to be going so smoothly, aside from the rain, that I feel like I don’t have anything to report. The only mishap I’ve been dealing with is my grumpy attitude this week. 😉

As I rolled into Husavik, I remembered what a friend back home had told me before I left, “Rainy days make for great museum days!” So I stopped in at the Whale Museum which is housed in an old slaughter plant (eewww) and hung out there for a couple hours reading every single exhibit. It was extremely interesting stuff. I learned about all the types of whales in the area, the ecological impact man has made, the over-fishing of all the species in the region, the protection of several species that are now endangered. I learned about Keiko, the whale that played Willy in the movie Free Willy and his whole sad story; the history and different methods used for whaling over the years (that is some seriously disgusting and unnerving stuff). I thought it was interesting how they talked about whaling as a savage practice and how a majority of people have begun to frown upon it in recent years (yet it is still done in Iceland), and how the extreme over-whaling of the early 1900’s caused a massive population drop in most of the baleen whale species, and how that lead to them now being protected. I even saw a quote on a sign that stopped me in my tracks. It applies to so much more than whaling. It read,

“Taking the natural resources and their seemingly inexhaustibility for granted, was and is one of the biggest mistakes of human thinking.” 

Amen, preach it Sign Dude.

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I chatted with an older couple who had met in Iceland soon after WWII and married. He was a GI and she was a local. They moved to Oregon and were back visiting her family for a few weeks. We talked about life and our families, traveling and how beautiful this country is. They were curious about my plans here and I tried to explain my photography and blogging journey but I’m not sure they were keen on it. I really love meeting new people and hearing what brought them to this place at this moment when we’re both so far from home.

After being unnerved by the whale(ing) museum I headed to Akureyri, the Icelandic metropolis of the North. I first swung through a small town called Grenivik on my way for a little detour. It was a relaxing drive and the town was so tiny I would have called it a neighborhood. It was cute!

The campsite in Akureyri was pretty difficult to find so I had to pull out my GPS, which I hadn’t used much since my second day on the road. This campsite is the largest and most impressive of them all so far. There is a big heated lounge with TV, electricity outlets, free showers, a kitchen, wifi and laundry. Outside there are playgrounds, sports fields, hiking and horse trails, ATVs, you name it!

I ran inside to get out of the icy wind and slushy rain and to figure out where to pay. There I met a young man named Matt from the Toronto area (if I remember right). He said he had called the man who runs the campsite and he was coming to collect our money for the night. We sat and chatted at the table for quite some time and I learned he had just graduated and was taking a hiking adventure before he heads off to work at Square in San Fransisco in June. How exciting for him! We joked about the unpredictability of the weather here and how you just have to accept the fact that you will be doing nothing more than waiting out the weather some days, and how the photos on said days just aren’t worth a darn. We also chatted with another man who arrived later from the Netherlands and in Iceland for a few weeks.  Everyone has been so friendly at the campsites!

When the man running the campsite came in he said we were welcome to camp for the night and he’ll take our money tomorrow morning. He also pointed out a loft above our heads in an attic space that was only $5 more than camping. I was pretty excited at first but then realized I’d have to repeatedly brave the slushy rain to move my makeshift bed up into the attic and my laziness took over. I chose to hang out in the lounge until bedtime and then headed out to the car to sleep. The night was the coldest one yet (at 31 degrees) but I stayed perfectly warm as long as no part of me ventured outside of my big comforter. I ducked my head underneath the covers, tucked all the corners of the blanket underneath me to secure them and then built a little breathing channel out into the cold air so I didn’t totally feel like I was suffocating. I momentarily pictured myself as Luke Skywalker zipping myself up in the belly of that beast during a blizzard.  Sleep came surprisingly quickly.