|ICELAND - JUNE 1997 (page 2/2)|
|After spending about half an hour on the peaks, we descended, and headed east to Glama, which offered a very panoramic view of the entire Skaftafellsjökull glacier from its origin to its tip.|
|We where getting quite tired as we continued down the trail, and were glad to see a bit of sun and vegetation again. The entire hike ended up taking just over 8 hours, and we were dead tired and very hungry by the time we got back to the campground. Unfortunately it was after 10:00 p.m. and the cafeteria and store had already closed. After finding that the nearest gas station (which would have food) closed at 11:00 p.m. and we where about 45 minutes away from it by car, we finished off what little bread and cheese we had left in our tent. Still starving, we polished off most of a fifth of vodka to numb our hunger|
|Monday, June 16th
We awoke the next morning, and eagerly ate a large seafood breakfast. A strong wind was blowing from the south, creating a giant volcanic dust cloud reducing visibility dramatically. We packed up our tents and continued eastward, arriving at Jökulsarlon, an iceberg filled lake about 60 kilometers east of Skaftafell. Away from the flood ravaged area and its volcanic dust, the air here was crystal clear, and the water a beautiful shade of green. The glacier Breidamerkujökull at the far end of the lake is the source of the icebergs. From here we headed back west, passing Skaftafell and once again hitting the temporary road in the flood ravaged area. This time, with the wind blowing from the south, we could barely see the road ahead of us. We had read about how bad it could get (travel guidebooks suggest covering the cars radiator when passing through this area) , but never imagined anything like this. Made for some interesting driving.
We continued along highway 1, all the way past Hella, eventually turning off on highway 30, and heading north-east, and eventually north-west along highway 31 to Laugar in Saelingsdalur. We looked around, finding a nice hotel and campground, but decided to continue onward to Laugarvatn, where we got a couple rooms at the Hotel Edda Laugarvatn. We got there just in time to enjoy a delicious dinner of roasted lamb.
At around 11:00 p.m. Eric and I grabbed the car and headed along route 365 (looks worse than it is, in case anyone reading this is planning a trip to Iceland and wants to take this shortcut, but it does take almost 30 minutes to cover the 16 kilometers) towards Thingvellir ("parliament plains"). We spent a couple hours exploring the historic site, with the midnight sun just barely below the horizon. It being the middle of the night, we saw only 5 other people out in the entire park. The rift between the North American and European continental plates is quite amazing here. We made it back to the hotel by around 3:00 a.m., with the sun just beginning to rise.
|Tuesday, June 17th
This "morning" we headed to Icelands three biggest tourist attractions, making up the "Golden Circle" tour. We started out with Gullfoss, the waterfalls along the river Hvita, dropping a total of 32 meters into a 70 meter deep canyon. We got there early enough to beat the tourist busses from Reykjavik, which began arriving as we left.
|Next we headed to Geysir, the geothermal site that includes the now inactive geyser that gave the name to the word for all sprouting hot spring. The smaller Strokkur still sprays a 20 meter fountain every 6 or 7 minutes or so.|
|Lastly, we headed back to Thingvellir, expecting larger crowds today, since it was Icelands independence day today. But once again, the crowds where small, and seeing the park in full daylight this time gave a different perspective.|
Having seen the sites, we headed to Reykjavik, just in time to take part in Icelands independence day festivities. We checked in to the Guesthouse Smarar, which we had booked for two nights, and headed out to dinner, discovering an interesting restaurant/pub called Kaffi Reykjavik. After a great herring appetizer, I tried the Puffin, a beautiful bird, but also a delicious meal. After dinner, we headed into the crowds, meeting a lot of young Icelanders, all quite drunk, enjoying the live music, midnight sun, and party atmosphere. Made for some great video footage, and we sampled quite a few interesting bootleg liquors that everyone seemed to be carrying around but by 3:00 a.m. things started to calm down, probably due to the light rain that began to fall. It was interesting to watch the police throughout the night, who seemed to realize that it was better not to get involved unless something really serious occurred. They certainly had a tremendous patience with the young, wild, drunk crowd. Even though we had asked ahead about coming back late, we had to wait for almost 10 minutes for someone to let us in at the guesthouse. We where getting worried that we would have to sleep on the streets, but then again, it was almost four in the morning.
Wednesday, June 18th
The next day was spend recovering from the festivities, combined with a bit of sightseeing around Reykjavik. The Hallgrimskirkja church was a highlight, since it afforded a great view of Reykjavik from the top of its 73 meter high tower. The Volcano Show, a prize-winning series of films by Icelands filmmakers Osvaldur and Villi Knudsen where also worth the money. It seemed to be a family run enterprise, with Villi Knudsen himself presenting the program. We also stopped by the modern Kringlan shopping mall, worth checking out just to see how similar, yet different an Icelandic mall can be from an American one. We finished of the day with an all you can eat seafood buffet at the restaurant Skrudur at the Hotel Saga. It started to rain after dinner, so we got soaked as we continued sightseeing around the harbor area, with its numerous fishing boats and dry docks. We crashed early, since we had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to drive to the airport for our flight to Sweden, where we would continue our Scandinavian journey.
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