"" Writer's Wanderings: The Iceland Adventure Begins

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Iceland Adventure Begins

Gardskagi Lighthouse
Our luggage stowed in the hatchback of the Renault the car rental place had given us we were off for our first stop on our Icelandic adventure. The Renault had a very low clearance and we were cautioned about gravel roads. All gravel roads are not created equal. Some are just marked gravel and others have an F in front of the numbered route. F was bad. No F roads without four wheel drive and high clearance. It wasn't long before we realized it was going to bottom out on even an asphalt road with a bump in it. Ah, the challenges that awaited.

We drove out onto the nearby Gardskagi Peninsula to see the historic lighthouse. The day was becoming increasingly beautiful. Temperatures were somewhere in the 50sF. It was a nice change from the hot and humid weather we had left back home. The moment we pulled into the parking lot I knew exactly where I was going. A sign pointed out a little cafe in the base of the lighthouse. I couldn't face the coffee at the airport. It was espresso. Just the smell of it churned my stomach especially with so little sleep. I hoped this would prove to be better. It was.

While I drank my coffee and had a small twisted plain donut (I would learn later that these are called kleinur and are supposed to be deep fried in sheep fat) Bob was able to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse. Only customers of the cafe could do that. It turned out that the young man and the older gentleman (perhaps related) were a wealth of information. The first lighthouse was built in 1897 and was a square building with a small space for the keeper. The keeper had to rewind the clock mechanism every four hours. Guess he didn't get much sleep at night either.

Bridge Over Two Continents
The coffee was refreshing and we thanked the gentlemen and walked out. The older gentleman followed us and began telling us how wonderful the area was for viewing the Northern Lights which had been in great splendor the night before while we were flying to Iceland. He also began telling us some tall tales about the discovery of Iceland and America which involved Leif Erikkson rather than Columbus (or Amerigo Vespucci). The story got longer and longer and I became more suspicious--all confirmed when he mentioned that the history is all recorded in Lonely Planet. All this said with a twinkle in his eye. We laughed, thanked him, and went on toward the "new" lighthouse to take pictures. If all Icelanders were going to be this friendly and funny, we were about to have a great two weeks.

Gunnuhver Hot Springs
It didn't take but ten minutes before someone else was telling us that we missed a great show of the Northern Lights during the night. I had looked out several times from the plane but didn't see anything. Okay, we took a deep breath and counted out fourteen more chances at catching them. Along the way on our first day in Iceland there would be a half dozen who would say the same thing--the lights had been spectacular. Sigh.

The Bridge Over Two Continents was our next stop. I remembered Bob talking about this and teasing about scuba diving where the European plate meets the American. I had never thought about the continents extending underwater. I just thought of them as dry land but the plates of the continents meet at certain places and the Eurasian plate meets the Americas plate right at Iceland. Therefore much of Iceland is considered a part of Europe. Seems odd.

Blue Lagoon
We walked the bridge that goes over the meeting place on land and passed from Europe to America and back again. I looked out toward the ocean and shivered. No way did I want to see the meeting of the plates in that cold water. We'll stick to diving in warm water places.

Not too far away from the Bridge Over Two Continents was a spot suggested by our car rental agent, Gunnuhver Hot Springs or mud pit as he called it. This geo thermal wonder is named after a female ghost that was tricked into being pulled into the area with a ball of yarn but not before causing trouble for lots of others about 400 years ago. We never really saw mud pits--at least not like we were expecting, but there was lots of rising steam.

Blue Lagoon spa area.
When we stopped in the port of Reykjavik on a cruise several years ago, one of the excursions was to the famous Blue Lagoon, a geo thermal spa that is said to have lots of minerals like silica and sulphur. The excursion was very expensive and a good part of that was because of the cost of entry to the lagoon. The cost ranges from around $45USD to $220USD depending upon what type of package you choose. We had researched and found several other lagoons along the way that were less expensive and much less crowded but we did want to take a peek at the lagoon.

My lunch. The lava was small potatoes.
We caught a view of the lagoon from the hallway leading to the restaurant where we decided we would get something to eat. It was our first sticker shock price for food in Iceland. Bob ended up with a bowl of soup and I got an appetizer of mussels. We drank water to save a little money. People were coming in from the lagoon in bathrobes to have lunch. We almost felt a little overdressed.

After lunch we walked outside and around some of the trails that wandered around the lagoon. The water was a milky blue. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. Drinks were delivered to them at the edge of the lagoon and the area really wasn't too cold for those who were getting out in wet suits.

Continuing on our way, along the shore on 427, we stopped at the Strandarkirkja, an old church whose original structure dates back to 1200. The present one was built around 1888 and refurbished in 1968 and 1996. As with most things in Iceland there is a story. Seamen were caught in a storm and were frightened of trying to put into shore along a coast full of reefs and rocks. They prayed and promised to build a church if they could find a safe harbor. You guessed it. They did and followed through on their promise.

Now I'm not sure what he was thinking as Bob was planning all these stops. All I know is tht I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open and I worried that he might too. If I so much as blinked I could doze off so when he made another stop all I could think of was how much farther to the guesthouse? This stop was in the middle of nowhere (a phrase you may find me using often in the next few posts). It was a cave, Raufarhoishellir, said to be a kilometer long and if you felt up to it and had a good flashlight, you coud explore. The map showed a couple of side tunnels and then there was the climb down into it. I looked at him and said, I'll see you when you get back. He decided we might be a little too tired for spelunking and we turned and left.

Finally we found our guesthouse, the Lambastadir, and it was time to check in. Most guesthouses set check in time at 3 PM and we found that hotels set their time at 2 PM. It was neat and clean and so welcoming. We settled in and sacked out for an hour before deciding to drive into the nearby town, Selfoss, for dinner. I enjoyed braized pork bellies and Bob dined on slow cooked salmon. Trying to plan ahead and thinking about our pricey lunch, we noticed a Subway across the street from where we were eating. We bought a sub and chips and tucked it into the trunk. The temperatures were dropping with the fading sun and we knew it would be safe there.

When we returned to our guesthouse, we tried to stay awake until a decent bedtime. We did some planning for the next day's drive, a little blogging and then it was time for some blessed sleep. We snuggled under our individual comforters. Even though it was made into a double bed, there was always two comforters on the bed at each place we stayed. Those Icelanders sure know how to solve the nightly tug of war.

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