Iceland Days 1 and 2

It’s been an amazing first two days in Iceland, which is no shock to Dayna or I as we absolutely adore this country.

Getting here was tough, as we sat on the Tarmac at Logan Airport for over 90 minutes with no AC and the temperature well above 90! Once we took off, the pilots made up time, though we had a lot of turbulence over Maine, northern Quebec and Greenland.

Upon arriving in Keflavik about 1 a.m., we breezed through customs and attempted to find FairCars. Finding the rental agent assigned to pick you up at the airport is often the most difficult part. Even when we found him, we had to wait until he brought another group to the rental building a few kilometers away. A bonus was I found out Sprint has free texting and free reduced speed data now! Finally, about 2 a.m., he got us to the building. About 45 minutes later, our VW Caddy campervan was ready. We drove about 30 minutes and decided to park in what may have been an apartment building lot and sleep.About four hours later, we were awake.

We drove to Reykjavik and made our way to the Gray Cat for breakfast. It was a cozy spot but incredibly expensive ($50 for breakfast?) Dayna made friends with a real cat nearby, so that made up for it. We visited a Viking ship statue, Harpa, a beautiful church and a statue of Leif Ericsson, on which it noted (correctly) that he discovered North Anerica (sorry Columbus, you Native killer). We picked up some sleeping bags to make the sleeping abut more comfortable and headed south.

Since we were south of Reykjavik last summer, we ventured through familiar territory. We stopped at Seljalandsfoss to go behind the waterfall and climb a steep trail to a cave, then continued on. We made stops at Eyjafjallajokul (which last erupted in 2014) and just outside of Vik. We also stopped in a tiny town for a hot dog and ice cream and to see some basalt rocks before continuing the long, scenic drive from Vik to Jakolsarlon. We saw a bridge that has been washed away by flood in 1996 and an incredible ice crater on top of a mountain, which photos nor words can accurately describe.We stopped at a smaller glacier lagoon, which was impressive, before reaching Jokulsarlon about 6 p.m. It was breathtaking seeing pieces of glacier just feet away while others were swept into the Atlantic Ocean by the current. After checking things out, we found our camping spot at the junction of the lagoon and the ocean — a gorgeous spot — and made pasta on our van stove. After we ate, we explored the rocks and the black sand beach and called it a night. 

 After a great night’s sleep, we explored more of Jokulsarlon. It started with a simple search for a nearby geocache and turned into a nearly 3.5 KM hike to the very edge of the glacial tongue. It was amazing to be in a spot with no one around and walk in places very few people had walked. It started off cold, but by the time we reached the glacial tongue, we were sweating and shedding layers. The walk allowed us to see probably as much or more than those who paid $60-$80 to ride around the lagoon in a boat — which did look pretty fun!

We departed Jokulsarlon about 10:30 and headed for Hofn, a small town on the southeastern edge of Iceland. It was unexpectedly cool! We spent the first two hours at the community pool, alternating between a treaditional pool with water slides, the 38-degree (Celsius) hot pot, and the 3-degree ice bath (we both fully submerged ourself in the ice bath). It was refreshing and provided amazing views of the glaciers and mountains. It also gave us access to a shower for the first time since home!

We drove around the town and found an ocean-side trail that included a cool statue, a solar system interpretation, and a geocache. After gassing up (1.83 a liter!) we prepared to head out when we were approached by a young man named Donovan looking for a ride — a common sight in Iceland. We obliged to bring him to Route 1 where his girlfriend, Lizzie, was waiting. We found out he was from Quebec City and they were hitchhiking across the Ring Road and wanted to go to the Viking Cafe and film set village. We agreed to take he and Lizzie with us.

We arrived at the Viking Cafe after a short but scenic drive along a seaside gravel road. While Donovan graciously paid our $7 entry fee, Dayna and I shared a piece of apple-caramel cake and then made the walk to the village, which was built by Icelandic director Baltasar in 2009 in preparation for a movie he wanted to shoot called Vikings. We learned shooting will occur on site next summer! The village was at the base of a mountain on the edge of the ocean — an impressive spot. Though small, it was detailed. It will be interesting to see it when the movie is released in a few years.

We took Donovan and Lizzie with us on the beautiful ride to Egilsstadir, the eastern transportation hub. The drive included kilometers and kilometers of roadside cliffs over the ocean and a breathtaking 25-kilometer gravel road with hairpin turns, waterfalls, cliffs, sheep in the road and no guard rails. It reminded me a bit of Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park in Montana.We arrived in Egilsstadir and dropped off our new Canadian friends at the campground and headed for dinner at Salt Bistro, where we enjoyed nachos and pizza. We took a short drive out of town to find our spot for the night — a trailhead to Fardagafoss, a magical waterfall and overlooking the town. 

Sunday we plan on hiking to Fardagafoss, head over to the Eastern Fjords, maybe look for the legendary worm monster in the lake and river in Egilsstadir, and head to Lake Myvtavn.

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