BootsnAll Travel Network

Iceland: Part Two

Day 8 in Iceland dawned bright, but windy. I packed the car and continued my trip east. The drive today was dominated by the icefield of Vatnajokull. This is the biggest icefield in Europe. It stretches for 150 km along the coast and into the interior. Numerous glaciers descend toward the coast from the icefield. After leaving Vik, the farmland quickly gave way to miles of wasteland or polar desert. The road past through large swathes of terrain made up of braided river channels and gravel fields. Wherever the glaciers descended, the wind really picked up in speed. Dust and gravel blew over the road in visible clouds. I was very concerned that the car paint would be damaged as you could hear it hitting the car. I stopped at several points to look at various glacial terminuses. When I exited the car, I had to be careful to hold onto the door to keep it from being snatched open in the wind. (I met another group later whose car door was damaged in this manner. It would no longer shut straight.) The highlight of this portion was the glacial lake of Jokulsarlon. It was formed in the early twentieth century when the glacier retreated. From the parking lot, I walked down to the shore of the lake and sat for a while and watched the large ice blocks moving in the lake. Seals could be seen in the distance bobbing up and down in the water. The outlet of the lake was a small river which led to the ocean. Icebergs floated down this outlet to the ocean where they were ground up on the beach. It was great just to sit there and listen. Over the howl of the wind, one could hear the ice creaking, groaning, and breaking up in the water. While I was doing this, a spotted seal surfaced right near me and swam on its back watching me. While walking along the lake shore I came across a dead baby seal that must have been crushed in the iceflows.

The eastern most part I drove to was a town called Hofn (pronounced like you are accidentally hiccuping). Here one can look back and see large sections of the icesheets. While refueling in Hofn, the latch holding the fuel door shut broke off and fell down the parking lot drain. I had to pull out the ever-trusty duct tape and tape the fuel door closed. I had to employ this method for the rest of the trip. I spent the night in Vagnsstaoir. The hostel consisted of a farmhouse in the middle of a field. The wind again was very strong. For some odd reason, the wind whistled through the overflow hole of the sink in the dorm room. As I had the place to myself, I once again pulled out the duct tape and taped up the overflow hole to get rid of the high pitched whistling.

The next day I began the long trip back to Reykjavik. I stopped again at the glacial lake. As the day was cloudless, the ice and the water gave off a strong blue color. The seals were once again present, but further out into the lake. Leaving the lake I once again entered the sand and gravel area. This time in addition to the dust blowing over the road, there appeared to be a full blown duststorm in progress. As I drove through, the surrounding area was completely obscured by a brown dust cloud. The wind kept blowing my car all over the road. It took a while to drive through it.  I headed to the hostel in Fljotsdalur for the night. The hostel was a turf roofed farmhouse set at the end of a gravel road. It sat up on a hill accessed by a gravel road. I tried to drive up the road, but the car started scrapping bottom over the bumps. After I gave up and backed down, I noticed the four wheel drive only sign laying nearby in the dirt. I parked the car at the bottom of the hill and carried my bags up. The hostel was very nice. The inside was decorated with a large collection of books on Iceland. The oldest was a Artic fauna encyclodedia from 1792. I shared the hostel that night with a Swedish man and German lady that was hitchhiking across Iceland. When cooking dinner that night, we blew a circuit when we tried to boil water in the kettle and the owner had to turn the power back on.

In the morning the couple set off down the road to try to get a ride back into town. My original plan was to spend two nights at the hostel so I couldn’t help them out. I found a book on Pingvellier which was the sight of the orignal Parliament in Iceland. They have the world’s oldest continually operating Parliament. (even though at times its power was greatly reduced by various foreign occupiers). It was founded in about 930 AD.  This book got me interested in seeing the sight and I decided to go here for the day. On my drive out, I caught up with the hitchhiking couple and gave them a ride to the main road. When I got to the intersection where I was to turn off to Pingvellier, I came across the German guy on his bicycle. We stopped and talked for a while and I offered to let him come with me to Pingvellier as well as revisit Geysir and Gulfoss. He wasn’t going to get to see these things (which are some of Iceland’s main attractions) as they are too far to peddle to in the time he had left. He left his bike at a gas station and we set off. The original Parliament location sat on the edge of the largest lake in Iceland. It is also the place where the North American and Europe tectonic plates meet. The plates are slowly moving apart so the area is actually a shallow canyon with rock walls. The modern Parliament (the Althing) now meets in Reykjavik so the main thing to see here is the scenery and some remains of wooden structures. We then went to revisit Geysir and Gulfoss. After I dropped him off, I drove back in to Reykjavik and checked into the hostel. Since it was such a nice day, I went to the Botanical Gardens near the hostel for evening.

I returned the car the next morning knowing for sure that I would have to cough up money for the broken fuel door. They didn’t really seem to care and didn’t ask for money. I got them to drop me off at the library so that I could use the Internet and then walked back to the hostel. Once at the hostel I collected my bags and took the bus to the airport for my 4:30 pm flight to Minneapolis. The flight was 6.5 hours in length. I had a window seat for the flight. As the flight neared Greenland, the cloud cover dissapated somewhat, I could see the ocean was clogged with ice.  The coast of Greenland then came into view with jagged looking black mountains. These gave way to the massive ice sheet that covers the interior. It took me sometime to realize that I was seeing a snowbank that stretched to the horizon instead of clouds. On the otherside of Greenland, the mountains returned and were interspersed with frozen lakes. We then flew back out over open ocean and didn’t hit land again until Canada. Once the plane landed in Minneapolis, I went through customs and immigration. On the entry form, I had to list all the countries that I had visited but ran out of room so I just put some. When I went through, the officials asked me if I had visited all those countries and why. They didn’t seem very satisfied with my answer stating because I wanted to see them. I had to repeat this process several times. My next task was to find a place to sleep. After calling several hotels at the travellers desk, I settled on the La Quinta. They had a shuttle that picked me up and took me to the hotel. I ate supper that night at Olive Garden and decided to splurge on wine. All the food and wine nearly put me in a coma as I was already suffering from jet lag so I promptly fell asleep when I got back to the hotel.

I returned to the airport in the morning for my flight to Indianpolis to visit my sister. The two flights went by quickly and I was picked up at the airport by my sister’s husband. As soon as I entered the house, my three year old neice (Eva) stood guard at the door and her first question was what was my favorite color. My answer seemed to pass inspection as she went squealing into the house. (She hasn’t seen me since she could speak.) Within two hours, I was sitting around a futon that had a spread of various plastic food on it. I was informed that I was dining at the very swank restaurant artistically named “Space Alien”. I gave her an amused knowing smile. Little did I know that there was a restaurant chain becoming popular called Space Alien. So my neice appears to be more caught up on current US popular culture than I am.

 I will be here for a few weeks before returning to Louisiana. My next blog update as I stated earlier will be a statistic page for my trip with things like cost. From there on we will see, I may do one final trip in the US for a few weeks before going back to work. Right now I am thinking about the southwest or Yellowstone area.

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