adventure tour, day 5: drangey, or, the day i met my future icelandic husband

Ferðaáætlun: Hofsós to Drangey to Hvammstangi

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Wednesday morning we said goodbye to Hofsós and piled into the van once again.  First on the itinerary: a trip to Drangey, an island famous as the one-time refuge of the outlawed Grettir the Strong.  Rising straight out of the waters of Skagafjörður, Drangey is a stark, imposing figure on the horizon.  The sheer cliffs, standing 180 meters (590 feet, Americans) high, are composed of volcanic tuff.  Even from a distance, you can tell that this is not the most hospitable place.  We knew we were in for an adventure.

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Although Drangey is clearly visible from Hofsós, we had to drive around the fjord and up the other side to catch the tour boat.  Drangeyarferðir (Drangey Tours) depart from Reykir, a little outpost north of Sauðarkrókur.  We arrived a bit early, so we had plenty of time to stare at the (seemingly) tiny boat in the harbour and contemplate our impending ascent up the formidable cliffs of Drangey.

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báturinn

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Overall, the weather on our trip was perfect, but it seems like every time we had a lengthy outdoor excursion on the itinerary, the sun was replaced by clouds and rain.  This day was no exception.  The sky was grey and the air misty as we waited for our tour to begin.  I must admit, I wasn’t terribly excited by the prospect of cramming onto that tiny boat, getting wet and cold, and possibly risking life and limb climbing up ropes and ladders.  But then I saw our tour guide, and suddenly the day was looking up…

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Meet Helgi (better pictures to come)

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Our group of 17, plus 2 Swiss tourists, boarded the aforementioned tiny boat, and miraculously we all fit.  We learned that our guide’s name was Helgi, and his father Viggo was our captain.  The ride takes about half an hour.  There’s only one place to (relatively) safely dock and climb to the top, a little bay called Uppgönguvík.  The dock got a little smashed last winter when heavy snow caused a large rock to fall from the island.

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brú… kannski…

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fjaðrar

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There’s a fairly narrow path leading from the bridge all the way to the top of the island.  It’s steep and slippery with loose dirt and rocks, so there are ropes to hold on to most of the way.  My camera was in Jolene’s backpack when we were climbing up, and even if I had had it, I probably would have been too scared to relinquish my grip on the rope to take any pictures, but luckily some of the others were braver than me and snapped a few photos:

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The beginning of the ‘path’

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the final ascent – trust me, coming down that ladder is a LOT scarier than climbing up

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Almost all the way to the top, before the final ascent begins, there’s a plaque inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer.  People heading up to hunt and gather are supposed to stop and say a prayer for safety.  Despite this ominous warning, Helgi told us no one has died on Drangey since 1912.  Thankfully, we all made it to the top safely.  The only things on the island are rocks, vegetation, birds, birds, and more birds, and this little hut built to shelter hunters:

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Drangeyarskáli

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We went inside to check it out but sadly I forgot to take photos.  There are four bunks, a little kitchen, a guestbook, some cookies (Jolene and Kayli, ahem!), and this fantastic Snorri mug:

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Helgi made some comment about needing a woman to stay with him in the cabin during hunting season, and I’m pretty sure any one of the 12 girls in our group would have gladly volunteered.

We ate our picnic lunches while enjoying the view, then we followed Helgi on a walk around the island.  We saw a couple dead puffins, and he explained that they sometimes fall prey to falcons.

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hann er svooooo sætur! (even whilst holding a puffin carcass)

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We came to a little corner of the island and Helgi told us this is where Grettir’s home used to be.  You can, in fact, see a little alcove of sorts carved into the hillside.  Helgi invited us to sit for storytime, then proceeded to tell us all about Grettir the Strong, a story which is detailed in Grettis Saga.  I won’t pretend to know the details, but here are the basics as I remember them:

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Um Grettir

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Grettir was an incredibly strong (and headstrong) young man, and after he killed several people in Norway and Iceland, he was outlawed.  Drangey became his home, and with the company of a good friend and a slave, he was able to survive.  The saga tells us that at one point, Grettir’s fire went out, so he had to swim to the mainland (a distance of over 7 km).  When he made it to the other side, he was (understandably) a bit chilled, so he warmed up in the natural hot spring now known at Grettislaug (Grettir’s Pool).  Then he swam back, one arm holding a lit torch above the water.  No big deal.

Apparently there was some rule that if an outlaw survived for 20 years, he would be free, so when the people realized that Grettir was nearing the 20-year mark and was still alive and kicking, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  Several attempts were made on his life, one of which eventually succeeded.  They say Grettir’s grip on his sword was so strong that his enemies had to cut off his hand in order to take it away from him.

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While we listened to Helgi, we were supposed to be scanning the surrounding waters in hopes of seeing a whale, but I have to say, I completely forgot to look.  My eyes were fixed on the storyteller.  I was particularly charmed by his odd grammer; he would say things like, ‘then Grettir swam there over’ and ‘then he had to climb there down.’

Helgi also shared some interesting facts about puffins.  Did you know, for instance, that puffins mate for life?  If a male puffin fails to return to his partner, she may take a new ‘husband,’ but should her original mate return, the new guy has to leave.

We had realized, by this point, that Helgi was not merely a puffin ‘caretaker,’ but a puffin hunter.  He, his father, and a small group of locals maintain the island and in exchange get to hunt there (that was my understanding, anyway).  He explained that they hunt using nets attached to long handles.  Someone asked, ‘well, what do you do with the puffin once you’ve trapped it?  Club it over the head like a seal?’  In response, Helgi held up both of his (large, strong, manly) hands and mimed a twisting motion.  He kills puffins by wringing their adorable little necks.  And somehow he’s still attractive.  How is that even possible?

I believe Helgi said they kill about 4000 puffins on Drangey each year.  According to him, hunting puffins is essential in order to maintain the balance between humans, birds, and fish (humans and birds are both vying for the fish).  He, like many Icelanders, believes it’s the same case with whales.  The Swiss tourists with us didn’t seem so convinced about that.  Honestly, I haven’t done enough research to have a truly informed opinion on the whole whaling/puffin hunting debate, but I do know that a lot of the most vocal opponents are sadly ill-informed.

Helgi also told us that several swimmers, both Icelanders and foreigners, have recreated Grettir’s swim between Drangey and Reykir.  Can’t say I feel the need to experience history in that way.

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Puffin hole

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Helgi told us there are no birds on this nearby island because it is actually connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land, so predators (such as arctic foxes) can get out there.

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Oh, I almost forgot – yes, the island was covered with puffins.

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íslenskur lundi

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I saw my fill of puffins at Látrabjarg, so I wasn’t as excited about seeing them here and didn’t feel the need to risk my life to get close-up photos…

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Next we walked to the highest point of the island.  The walk was a bit treacherous, because the grassy ground is rendered spongy by all the puffin holes tunneling underneath, but the view was worth it.

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Helgi let us try this edible plant. I can’t remember the name, but it grows well on Drangey because it’s fertilized by all the puffin droppings. Yum yum. Actually, it was pretty good – rather sweet.

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hópurinn

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As with Mt. Esja and Eldfell, the trip down was much scarier and more difficult than the trip up.  I quickly realized it was easier to walk backward.  At one point, Katie was going around a corner and ended up basically doing the splits.  Anyway, we all made it down, dirty and dusty but otherwise unscathed, said goodbye to our puffin friends, and headed back to the mainland.

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Ásta Sól snapped this photo down on the dock while we were waiting to head back. Wonder who she was REALLY taking a picture of…

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The lone column of rock on the right is called Kerling (the old woman). She is said to have been a troll, turned to rock by sunlight. There used to be an old man too, but he has long since crumbled into the sea.

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Sjáumst, Drangey!

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Back on the mainland, we warmed up with a quick soak in Grettislaug.

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Grettislaug

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Back on the road, we stopped in Sauðarkrókur for groceries, and we ended up also visiting Sútarinn, a tannery that produces, among other things, fish leather.

fiskar

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Alex checks out the lax (salmon) leather.

I bought a couple pieces of fish leather.  I chose þorskur (cod), which seemed strangely fitting since that’s the type of fish I spent 2 weeks packing.  I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

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Finally we were heading to our accommodations for the night, and on the way Ásta Sól pointed out the place where two polar bears were spotted and killed a couple years ago.

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ekki ísbjarnar núna

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Dæli

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We arrived at our home for the night, a place called Dæli which seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere (although Google tells me it’s actually in Hvammstangi).  We settled into our cute little cabins, checked out the playground, played card games, and ate a delicious dinner prepared by Amanda and Patrick.  It was a quiet, relaxing evening.  Our last day on the road had come to an end, and the next day we’d be making our way back to Reykjavík.  I think our exhaustion was catching up with us, and there was a looming sense that our journey was almost at a close.  We just enjoyed each other’s company, relived the day’s adventures, and got a good night’s sleep.

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Our cabin. Jolene is in the window being krípí.

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kvöldmatur – I took a picture because it looked so pretty. Only later did I find out that the sausage contained horse meat. Oh well, add it to the list of edible oddities I consumed in Iceland.

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Ásta Sól teaches Jolene proper pönnukökur sugaring technique, while Kayli takes over the pan. North Dakota made her very first pönnukökur that night and did quite a lovely job.  Til hamingju, Bethany!

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á morgun: Horseback Riding, Goodbye to Reykjavík, Graduation, Bláa Lónið

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adventure tour, day 3: natural wonders and bumpy roads

Ferðaáætlun, dagur 3: Golden Circle, Kjölur, Arrival at Hofsós

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Golden Circle

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Monday morning we said goodbye to Heimaey and took the ferry back to the mainland (fries and kókómjólk – breakfast of champions).  Our first stop was Haukadalur, famous geothermally active valley and home to Geysir – the original Geysir, from which we derived the English word geyser.  Unfortunately, Geysir is a bit shy these days and does not erupt regularly, so the bigger draw is Strokkur, another geyser which erupts on average every 4-8 minutes.  There’s a sort of ceremony one must participate in with all the other tourists: find a spot around the perimeter, hold camera at eye level, wait in silence.

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THE Geysir

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I don’t have to translate this into Fahrenheit to know that it’s hot.

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Biddu, biddu…

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Strokkur

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Yes, the steam is very hot and sulphur-stinky.

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Litli Geysir. Just bubbles and steams and looks cute.

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There are a number of other hot pools and mud pots in the area.  It’s like Yellowstone, minus the bears and moose and trees.

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fallegur blár

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cairns

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We stopped in at the super fancy visitors’ center (AKA giant tourist trap) but I managed to resist the t-shirts, magnets and wool products and my krónur survived to see another day and another tourist trap.

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Gullfoss

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Next stop: Gullfoss (‘golden falls’).  Apparently once upon a time (early 20th century) it was threatened by people who wanted to use it to generate electricity.  Near the falls there’s a monument dedicated to a woman named Sigriður Tómasdóttir, whose determined efforts to protect the falls supposedly saved it from development.  The Intranet tells me this is not actually true, although it is widely believed.  Whatever the whole truth might be, I’m sure she deserves some credit, so þakka þér, Sigriður, for helping preserve this incredible sight.

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Sigríður Tómasdóttir

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After Gullfoss, we stopped for a picnic at a picturesque little spot along the Hvítá River.  One of the sheep across the river was bleating very loudly.  I think it was upset that its companions were leaving it behind.  Understandable, little lamb.

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strákar

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Hvítá

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Kjölur

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Full and happy, we waved goodbye to Suðurland and headed northward on Kjölur, a road that traverses the highlands between two glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull.  I remember seeing the road sign indicating the imminent beginning of the gravel road:

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We hit the gravel road, bump bump bump, and someone asked, ‘Is it going to be like this the rest of the way?’  Indeed, it was just like that.  Sometimes worse.  At one point we forded a little creek.  It was like the Oregon Trail, but on a different continent, with a van instead of a wagon, and no oxen or rattlesnakes or threat of death by cholera.

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I believe this is Hvítárvatn, a glacial lake and the source of Hvítá.  Landscapes like this make it easy to imagine why parts of the Icelandic highlands were used as training spots for the Apollo mission.

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You don’t have to get very far out of the city to realize that Iceland is primarily a land of vast, beautiful emptiness, and traveling through the highlands drives the point home.  I soaked in the view of vast emptiness dotted with glacial lakes and looming mountains until all the rocks started blending together into a dusty blur.

We stopped at Hveravellir, a natural hot spring, for a quick dip in the middle of nowhere, then we forged ahead on the dusty trail toward Hofsós.  The road stretched on and on, bump bump bump, and we amused ourselves by playing Mad Libs and I Spy (difficult when there’s nothing outside) and coloring Care Bears and Skill Rex (go Alex!).

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Hveravellir

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Hofsós

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Hours later, brains slightly addled from all the jostling, our tires rolled onto a real road once again, and soon that road led us to Hofsós, our home base for the next two nights.  We dusted off our luggage (even though it was in the trailer, it was covered by a thick layer of highland dust).  Most of the group checked into Prestbakki, the old parsonage right next to the kirkja, but Amöndu, Jolene and I got our very own little garage-turned-apartment across town.  The way Ásta Sól described it, I was getting a bit nervous, but it actually turned out to be nicer than the house, I think.  Cute and quaint and comfortable.  The only minor problem?  There was no TP, so I pillaged some from the other house.  Problem solved.

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Kirkja og Prestbakki

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home sweet garage

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Hofsós, like so many Icelandic towns, is little more than a village, settled along the coast in the shadows of bare mountains.  But what a beautiful village.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the arrangement of homes; they dot the landscape this way and that, and the colors are equally random.  The three buildings of the Emigration Center sit right next to the harbour.  A river flows down from the mountains and rushes into the sea.  Add in the bright evening sun and you have a scene of Icelandic perfection.

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We had dinner at the restaurant, Sólvík (in towns of this size there is simply THE restaurant): fish and chips, meatballs and rhubarb jam, green salad, peas, rolls.  While we were eating a dessert of blueberry skyr with cream, a man named Nelson who works at the Emigration Center joined us and I enjoyed chatting with him and Kent, our bus driver.  I mentioned that I would love to study Icelandic at the University, and Nelson told me about some available scholarships and said that my English degree is the perfect background.  Maybe not such a far-fetched dream after all?

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á morgun: a visit to Vesturfarasetrið, the Icelandic Emigration Center

adventure tour, day 2: vestmannaeyjar

Ferðaáætlun, dagur 2: Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands)

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On Day 2, we packed up, thanked Ásta for her gracious hospitality, said goodbye to Brúnaland, and drove to Landeyjahöfn to catch the ferry Herjólfur to the Westman Islands (our van was in the ‘XL-Bílar’ lane).  Apparently this harbor was only constructed in 2010; before that, the primary gateway to the islands was through Þorlákshöfn, about 100 km west.  The old route took nearly 3 hours; the current route, only 30 minutes.

The Westman Islands are an archipelago off the southwest coast of Iceland.  Heimaey (‘home island’), with a population near 5,000, is the only inhabited island.

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The ferry, Herjólfur, docked at Landeyjahöfn

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Sumarhús?

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On a clear day you have a beautiful view of Eyjafjallajökull throughout the ferry ride.  Before you reach Heimaey, you pass a number of much smaller islands.  One or two of them had single homes on them, which I’m assuming are private summer homes.  Doesn’t look like the easiest place to get to, though.

When you near Heimaey, the boat is suddenly overshadowed by cliffs on one side, and just when you’re thinking the island looks completely empty, you round a corner and see a sprawling town (well, okay, sprawling by Icelandic standards).  I was surprised by the size and also by the smell – a rather unpleasant combination of fish and bird droppings, I believe.

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Heimaey harbour

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We checked into Hreiðrið Guesthouse and then Kent took us on a little van tour.  We drove past Herjólfsdalur, the valley where the Þjóðhátíð festival takes place every August.  Þjóðhátíð is a long weekend of music, merriment, and sometimes more, since Ásta Sól says there’s generally a noticeable upswing in Iceland’s birth rate every May.

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Party central every August

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We continued south to Stórhöfði, a weather station and viewpoint on the south end of the island.  Eyjafjallajökull looms from the north, and the water to the south is dotted with other islands, including Surtsey, the newest island on earth.  It was created by a submarine volcanic eruption in the 1960s and is the second-largest island in the archipelago, although due to erosion it is only half the size it once was.

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meira eyjar

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Surtsey is the one in the background on the right, with the low, long spit on one side.

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The next stop was Eldfell.  Anyone with an interest in Iceland probably knows that the eruption of Eldfell in 1973 forced the evacuation of Heimaey and ultimately increased the island’s land mass by about 2 square kilometers.  The lava flow threatened to cut off the harbor, which would have made Heimaey completely uninhabitable, but with some strategy and some luck, they were able to divert the lava flow and the harbor is actually better protected now than it was before the eruption.

There is a sort of path up the mountain, but the rocks are large and loose so it’s rather slow going, similar to the resistance you feel when walking up a sand dune.  Still, it was completely worth it for the view.

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Red

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Sadly, my camera malfunctioned and I seem to have lost about 25 photos I took at the top.  I do have a few, though, and everyone else in the group was snapping away so hopefully I’ll be able to steal some more shots.

We tumbled and slid back down the mountain, returned to the guesthouse for lunch, and then had free time the rest of the afternoon.  Most people went swimming, but I decided to go for a solitary walk.  First I noticed a soccer game and watched for awhile, then I walked ‘downtown.’  Unfortunately hardly anything was open (it was Sunday), so I just wandered around for awhile.  I was surprised by how urban the town is.  Okay, maybe suburban would be a more appropriate term, but really, I guess I expected it to be more countrified and quaint, when in reality it almost looked like a small section of Reykjavík, minus the city’s wonderful charms, had been picked up and plunked down on Heimaey.

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Ohhh so this is what the lögreglumenn do all day!

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alltaf fiskar á íslandi

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Neighbors: the university and the liquor store

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I failed to find a kaffihús or other place to hang out, so I bought a few snacks at a grocery store and went back to the guesthouse for a nap.  In the afternoon, my host mom Hrafnhildur called me to say halló so I chatted with her a bit in what I would call Eng-landic or Ice-lish.  Whatever it was, it was enough to effectively communicate, and when I got off the phone, Jolene said something like, ‘Holy shit!  You frickin’ speak Icelandic!’  That’s definitely an exaggeration, but it really is amazing how much we can communicate with my limited Icelandic and her limited English.

For dinner we enjoyed a barbecue in the courtyard between our two guesthouses.  After dinner, a bunch of us stayed outside and chatted.  Jolene showed off her impressive magnetic forehead talent:

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Amöndu is rendered speechless (but not expressionless) by Jolene’s talent

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We talked and laughed while the sun sank below the hills and turned the evening light pink, no one wanting to be the first to leave and break that magical midnight sun spell.  But eventually we realized we should get some sleep, so we all found our ways to our little puffin-bordered rooms and slept.

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góða nótt

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íslenskur lundinn

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á morgun: Geysir, Gullfoss, Kjölur, Hofsós

adventure tour, day 1: wishes and tractor puzzles

Ferðaáætlun, dagur 1

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On Day 1 of our adventure tour, we drove from Reykjavík to Hvolsvöllur, with stops at Þingvellir, Skálholt Cathedral, Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss (waterfalls), and the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit.

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ÞINGVELLIR

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Þingvellir, only about an hour from Reykjavík, is one of the most important (and most tourist-attracting) sites in Iceland.  The Alþingi, the oldest parliament in the world, was established here in 930 AD, and along with its historical significance, Þingvellir is also geologically significant.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs through Þingvellir, meaning that Iceland is actually on two tectonic plates – the North American and the Eurasian.  Iceland is growing at a rate of 2 cm a year because of the divergence of the plates.

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North America, meet Eurasia

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It’s a requirement to be a dorky tourist at Þingvellir

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I fought the hoards of German tourists to take my turn posing in the rift.

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Þingvellir’s historical significance has a much darker side as well.  The Alþingi used to be the judicial branch of government as well as the legislative, so they judged crimes and carried out (often grisly) punishments.  Seventy-two people are known to have been executed at Þingvellir between 1602 and 1750, including 18 women who were drowned in Drekkingarhylur (I believe most if not all of them were accused of witchcraft).

There is so much more to be said about Þingvellir, but I think I’ll just let you get a sense of the place through some more photos:

Roomies!

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ósk: There’s a certain section of the river where you’re supposed to toss coins and make a wish.  They say if you actually see your coin hit the bottom, your wish will come true.  I watched my króna travel all the way down  🙂

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SKÁLHOLT CATHEDRAL

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Skálholt simplicity

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Skálholt is one of the most historically significant sites in Suðurland (South Iceland).  I had to consult my trusty guidebook so as not to confuse the details, but here’s a brief overview of its history:

Skálholt was established as the bishop’s ‘see’ for all of Iceland in 1056 and held that title until 1109, when Iceland was split into two dioceses.  Skálholt remained the center of ecclesiastical life in the South, and Hólar was established in the North.  Thirty-two Catholic bishops served at Skálholt, and Iceland’s last bishop, Jón Arason, was beheaded there (um 1550).  Post-Reformation, Skálholt was the southern headquarters for the Lutheran Church (1540-1796) until 1801, when the diocese moved to Reykjavík and Skálholt was turned into an educational center.

I’m sure you can find many more details online if you’re interested, but that’s about all I know (thank you, Andrew Evans!).  We didn’t spend too much time there – just enough to snap a few pictures of the interior:

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View from outside Skálholt. I believe that’s Hekla in the distance (Iceland experts, correct me if I’m wrong!).

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HVOLSVÖLLUR: BRÚNALAND, ÞORVALDSEYRI, EYJAFJALLAJÖKULL

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In the afternoon, we arrived at Brúnaland Farm, where Alexandra’s relative Ásta graciously agreed to host us.  We had a late lunch at the house and rested for awhile.  Amöndu found this amazing traktor puzzle, so of course we had to put it together.

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Can you say, ‘Eyjafjallajökull’?

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Why yes, yes I can.  Passably, anyway.  About a 20-minute drive from Brúnaland, Þorvaldseyri Farm sits in the shadow of the glacier, which unfortunately we couldn’t see due to þoka (fog).  We went to the Eyjafjallajökull Erupts exhibit, which includes a short film about the experiences of the local families with the recent eruption.

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Eyjafjallajökull being shy. It’s back there. Really.

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Seems like this was an already-existing building that the owners turned into a tourist attraction. Pretty good marketing opportunity, you have to admit.

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Rapeseed fields. ‘Rape, not grape!’ (uhhh Snorri inside joke)

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No, we didn’t do the helicopter tour, but know that it’s available, should you wish to part with what I’m guessing is a fair amount of krónur.

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FOSS (M): WATERFALL

There are a lot of waterfalls in Iceland.  So many, in fact, that it’s easy to get a bit jaded and fail to recognize just how beautiful and impressive they are.  We visited two waterfalls in the south: Skógarfoss and Seljalandsfoss.

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SKÓGARFOSS

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Frænkur

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Svartur sandur

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SELJALANDSFOSS

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foss og regnbogi

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regnbogi

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I wasn’t wearing good shoes, so I didn’t join the group for the trek behind the falls, but that’s okay; I got a better view of the rainbow from the front  🙂

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BACK AT THE FARM

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We spent the rest of the evening back at Brúnaland.  Ashley made some amazing spicy chicken soup for dinner, and we all sat out on the porch eating and talking.  Topics included Canadian vs. American TV shows, ketchup chips (mmm!), speedwalking (yes, it’s really truly an Olympic sport), curling, man-o-pause (Marshall!), and garburators (weird Canadian slang term for a garbage disposal AKA an In-Sink-Erator).  The Americans among us learned of the wonders of Man Tracker (‘is there a Mrs. Man Tracker?’).

Ásta served us an incredible spread of desserts – hjónabandssæla, skúffukaka, and some sort of cheesecake – öll með rjóma, auðvitað!

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eftirréttur – aldrei of mikið sykur á íslandi!

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So we ate more and talked more, and the dog roamed around the table seeking attention, and the sun painted the horizon pink, and behind us loomed the Westman Islands, our next destination.

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hundurinn

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Most of the group stayed in two campers outside, but Ásta Sól, Jolene and I stayed in the house.  Once I stopped laughing at Jolene’s fríkí Hello Kitty mask, I got a good night’s sleep.

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á morgun: Vestmannaeyar

catching up on ye old blog: return to reykjavík

Góðan daginn, friends, family, and random readers!  I’m writing to you stateside after a week-long adventure tour and a 24-hour trip home.  It’s hard to believe I’m back and that I’ve really been away for 6 weeks.  I’m jet-lagged and a bit cranky and definitely not ready to process my trip as a whole, but I want to start catching up on some of the daily happenings before I forget what they were.  The last time I posted I was about to leave Patró, so that’s where I’ll pick up.

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Bless, bless, Patró!

Thursday I had my last day of work at Oddi, and we finished early!  Ekki meira fiskar!!!  In the afternoon I spent some time at my beloved Stúkuhúsið studying, reflecting, and writing some thank-you cards.

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Stúkuhúsið study time

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After dinner, Sædís and I drove over to Tálknafjörður, picked up Ástrós and Berglind, and went to the hot pot.  I didn’t take any photos for fear of destroying my camera in the water, but it was on a hill overlooking the fjord, and in the evening sunlight it was perfect.  There’s this naturally occurring green slime that coats the pools, so Berglind and I had fun attacking each other with it.  We also enjoyed watching a crazy German tourist lower himself inch-by-inch into the hottest pot until he was submerged up to his neck.  He must have felt some sense of triumph, but he was clearly in some pain.  We stuck with the safer, cooler pots.

We dropped off Ástrós and Berglind and I said goodbye to their family, then Sædís and I hurried back to Patró so we could stop and get ice cream at Albína before they closed.  Back at the house, we ate ice cream and I gave my host family a Washington photo book and some Theo chocolate (I found the lightest bars I brought and kept the really dark ones for myself!).  Then we played a little game.  I wrote down some Washington place/ferry names (Puyallup, Chehalis, Kaleetan) and Sædís and Hrafnhildur tried to pronounce them.  They did pretty well!  Then Sædís countered with Icelandic words like lögreglumaðurinn and Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  I know my pronunciation was far from perfect, but it must have been passable, because Sæmundur seemed incredibly impressed and once again told me that I must study Icelandic at the university.  Trust me, I don’t need any more convincing.  If I could start tomorrow, I would.

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Sædís og ég

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Friday morning I made the rounds in Patró, saying goodbye to my friends at Albína, Oddi, and the Stúkuhúsið.

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Góða ferð, Brynja! Gaman að kynnast þér!

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Last Swiss Mocha from the Stúkuhúsið… for now. Takk fyrir mig, Steina!

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Then Hrafnhildur and I set out for Bíldudalsflugvöllur (Bíldudalur airport).  We got there quite early and it was crazy windy outside so we sat in the car visiting for awhile.  Eventually we went inside and waited waited waited some more.  A guy about my age sat down across from us and Hrafnhildur started talking to him, then explained to me that he’s her daughter’s ex-husband’s son.  Or something like that.  Well of course he is!  Everyone knows everyone in those parts.

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Bíldudalsflugvöllur

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This is an airport. There’s a runway hiding behind the buildings.

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View of the fjord from the airport

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Anyway, we said our goodbyes and I once again boarded a tiny tiny plane.  I think that Swiss Mocha was a bad idea because I was rather jittery.  When you fly out of Bíldudalur, you have to taxi down the runway, make a u-turn, then take off in the other direction and quickly circle back in the air to clear the mountains and head south.  It’s a bit dizzying and nerve-wracking.  For the most part the flight was smooth, but about 10 minutes outside of Reykjavík a shrill alarm sounded from the cockpit and I swear I saw the pilot reach over and turn it off.  We were tipping to the side quite a bit because we were turning quite sharply, and it happened again.  The pilot seemed unconcerned, but I’m telling you, it did not seem like a happy sound.  Landing in Reykjavík requires some more dizzying turns, but the upside is that I got a lovely view of Bessastaðir (the president’s home) and Hallgrímskirkja in the distance.  In any case, I was incredibly happy to be back on solid ground.

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Gaman að sjáðu aftur, Reykjavík!

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Ásta Sól picked me up and we headed back to the guesthouse.  Most of the group had already arrived, so I settled into my room and then spent some time catching up with people in the back house.  Then I headed out to wander the city on my own.  If I felt reunited with the group, I felt even more reunited with this beautiful, vibrant city.  Of course I had to return to the bookstores, check out the tourist shops one last time, and enjoy lunch at Durum.  I also went to Te og Kaffi for the first time, ordered some sort of tea slushie drink, and can proudly say that I understood the barista when she told me (in Icelandic) they were out of oolong tea and would white tea be okay instead?

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That night, we met up at Ásta Sól’s house and walked to Kex Hostel for dinner.  Kex seems like a true hipster hangout.  They served us dinner family-style: French chicken in a red wine sauce, dill roasted potatoes, rolls with smjör, and skyr brulée for dessert.  We were joined by a couple of Snorri alums as well: Stefan, who did the program last year and just moved to Reykjavík; and Helgi, Katie and Breanna’s cousin who did the program in 2001 (I think) and has since lived in Iceland and is completely fluent in Icelandic.  Great food, great conversation, but I don’t do transitions well so I was still trying to adjust to the idea of being back with everyone.

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Most of the group went out for one last night of partying, and although I’m not into that scene, Jolene convinced me to go with her to the Dubliner to see her cousin play. He didn’t go onstage until 12:30, so we took our time walking and stopped near Austurvöllur for some  midnight snacks – a pylsa for Jolene and a waffle for me.  The Dubliner was actually pretty tame and we listened to Pálmey for 45 minutes or so.  He even sang ‘Jolene’ for his frænka.  On the way back we stopped near Austurvöllur again and decided to have 4th meal.  While we were eating, most of our group walked by on their way to Kaffibarinn, but we decided to sit that one out (crowds + drunkenness = grumpy Julie).  We made our way back to the guesthouse, did some packing, and finally got some sleep.

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The next morning we were supposed to be outside, packed, ready to board the bus at 9 AM, so naturally, my alarm failed to go off and I didn’t wake up until 8:45.  It was okay, though, because as it turns out we weren’t anywhere near ready to leave until maybe 10.  Something to know about the Snorri itinerary: 9 AM means 9:30 or 9:45 – except for when it really does mean 9.

Our ‘bus’ was really more of a van, and there were just enough seats for the 16 of us plus Ásta Sól and our driver, Kent.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but somehow we fit all of our luggage into the tiny trailer, settled in, and set off.  We didn’t get very far, though – just across town to Ásta’s to pick up our food provisions for the trip.  After that we were even cozier, but we were finally ready to once again say goodbye to Reykjavík and really, truly hit the road.

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…to be continued…

bara sjö meira dagar á íslandi

góða kvöldið,

actually, it’s already the wee hours of the morning, so just a very quick post to say that it’s my last night in patró and i’m flying out of bíldudalur tomorrow afternoon.  all the snorris are reuniting for one more night in reykjavík, then we’re off on a whirlwind, week-long tour to see some of iceland’s most incredible sights.  ásta sól sent us the itinerary today and it looks amazing!

i probably won’t take my computer on the tour, and even if i do, i’m not sure how much internet access i might have, let alone time/energy to write.  so if you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t be alarmed!  i think unplugging for awhile will actually be good for me, although i will try to keep notes and take lots of pictures so i can fill you in on all the details when i get home.

whoever you are, dear reader, i hope this finds you well, and i will write again when i have the chance.

i better go finish my thank you cards and start packing.

góða nótt.