No:48 – Iceland – 2-week road trip along Route-1 [Sep-Oct, 2019]

 

Some interesting tidbits about Iceland …

  • For a long time Iceland was under the rule of Norway, Sweden-Norway-Denmark, and then Denmark …
  • Iceland’s flag is an inverse of Norway’s (Red cross with white border, on a blue background).
  • Iceland is the 18th largest island in the World.
  • Iceland has only around 400K people (Keep in mind they had qualified for 2018 Soccer/Football World Cup).
  • Iceland was uninhabited till 9th century. Then settlers (farmers) came in …
  • Iceland’s economy is based on Tourism, Fishing and Geothermal Energy. GDP is around 30 Billion USD.
  • Iceland has a glorious Viking history, during 7-9 AD.
  • Iceland does not have an Army. It has a Coast Guard though.
  • Norway and Denmark continue to have a lot of influence over Iceland.
  • Currency is Icelandic Kroner (ISK). One INR is around 1.72 ISK.
  • Almost 90% of tourists visit only the “Golden Circle” (South/South-West Iceland). We will be going all around Iceland along Highway-1 (“Ring Road”), around 850 miles in total …
  • Icelandic names are something! Pronunciation is impossible … Instead of French, Spanish Etc. as 2nd language, India should start with Icelandic 🙂
  • Almost 2/3rd of the people in Iceland live in Reykjavik.
  • Obviously, Geo-Thermal Energy is big here.

 

Country Counter: Countries/territories I have visited so far …

Travel TipsTips based on my travels so far …

 

 

Horror-Start (My notes from 09/21/2019 (Sat))

1 day into my vacation, I am still in India 🙂 
India loves me so much that Emigration is not allowing me to leave. Kidding aside, I have gone (or am going) through, easily my worst airline experience ever.
On time to MAA (Chennai International Airport)? Yes
Relatively on-time departure and arrival at DEL (IndiGo) (New Delhi International Airport)? Yes
Smooth Terminal change, Check-In and Emigration? Yes
On-time boarding of Lufthansa LH761 (Airbus A380) to Frankfurt? Yes
Great going, is it not?
NOT!!!!
Wait time inside the plane, with seat belt on, while the plane is at the gate = 3.5hrs
AC status in the plane during this time = Off
Condition of passengers = What do you think? 😉
Flight ultimately cancelled? Yes
Quick Re-Entry into India (back to Immigration)? No
Quick checked-in baggage retrieval? No
Streamlined Lufthansa on-ground service? No
Smooth re-booking and recovery? No
So, where am I? Still in freakin’ New Delhi! Though I was pretty cool through the ordeal, had to take out some aggression somewhere. Where? Gym!
What had happened: Lufthansa ground crew did a great (!!!) job in getting the A380 ready for its International flight, by leaving faulty AC systems. The German pilot, correctly, after a 3.5hr attempt at getting it fixed, cancelled the flight. The Lufthansa ground crew were then thrown to the “Wolves” (600+ angry fliers) 🙂 What I heard some of the passengers say to the ground crew …

Wonderful 2 weeks in Iceland

No:48 – Iceland:   gattokaran.com: Mission-193: One step at a time …
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Land of “Fire” (Volcanoes) & “Ice” (Glaciers) …
Land of the Midnight Sun …
Volcanoes, Geysers, Glaciers & Lava Fields …
Most sparsely populated country in Europe …
First International multi-member (non-Family, non- Colleagues) trip 🙂 I made the trip with two friends. With each of us busy with the challenges of our own lives, it was not easy to come together with others, especially on International trips. But we have known each other since 1989! We have shared hostel rooms and have been in touch over the years. We represent 3 different Industries, and live in 3 different Countries.
So here goes … A trip that has been booked almost an year back. The last time we were together on a trip was in 1993, I think … Gulp! 26 years back!
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Interesting statues outside the Arrivals area at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) …
As you can imagine, I had lost 1.5 days in my transit 😦 I arrived at Reykjavik late on 09/22 (Sun) night.
Day-1 – 09/23/2019 (Mon)
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Thingviller National Park..There were quite a lot of tourists. It takes a few hours to explore the entire park. Iceland has not started charging for a lot of their attractions/sights. Parking charge is there, though.
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Thingviller National Park, Iceland: A sprawling park of Lava fields, which offers quite a range of colors, waterfalls, moss-covered basalt rocks and streams. Out of the 5 hours we spent in the park, we were blessed with excellent weather 60% of the time. The other 40%? Well, it changed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde! Suddenly, it became gloomy and overcast … We saw a few NRI folks there. The trails are well maintained and there are frequent direction boards and information boards.
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Tough to see a smaller Church …
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The Icelandic Parliament used to happen in Thingviller National Park area. People used to come all over Iceland and stay here for a few weeks. Executions also took place here.

 

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Yellow, Green, Black, Orange, Red …
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Yellow, Green, Black, Orange, Red …

 

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Oxararfoss Waterfalls … In Thingviller National Park. You WILL get sprayed  The water is so clear (and cold!)
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Several areas (sensitive areas) has wooden pathways like these..See how this is made around a jutting rock.
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Sign not to throw stuff into the river … Throwing other currencies are okay 

 

We were blessed with some great weather for the 1st few hours, in Thingviller National Park. I actually walked around in T-shirt for a while.

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Moss-covered Lava Fields … Thingviller National Park.

 

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Driving in Iceland … We got a chunky Toyota Landcruiser 4×4. In this kind of weather, it is fine to ride. But when it rains and visibility reduces, it is not that easy to drive on these single-lane roads.

 

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Open roads … Iceland only has around 400K people. Almost everyone you run into are tourists  Rural roads are all single lane and speed limit is 90.
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Roads in Iceland … Captured using my humble phone, through the window of the moving SUV. As I keep saying to the guys, “Any idiot with any device can look like a good photographer in Iceland “. As you can see, the rural highways are all single-lane, but quite well-maintained (so far. I have read about more challenging roads up North). The grey color of the road contrasts nicely with the yellow/orange/red/green of the surroundings … Iceland, I love you!
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Roads in Iceland … Captured using my humble phone, through the window of the moving SUV. As I keep saying to the guys, “Any idiot with any device can look like a good photographer in Iceland “. As you can see, the rural highways are all single-lane, but quite well-maintained (so far. I have read about more challenging roads up North). The grey color of the road contrasts nicely with the yellow/orange/red/green of the surroundings … Iceland, I love you!

 

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Just like in other Nordic countries, there were quite a few colorful buildings in central Reykjavik.
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Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik: Insides look quite bare. Since Iceland is mainly Lutheran, assume this Church is also the same. Looks like a Probability Distribution 🙂
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Cake, which we got from the supermarket … How is that for a name? 

 

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Took a while to figure out how to use this coffee filter. But coffee in the morning is a necessity, is it not?

 

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Skyr … Icelandic Yogurt. Slightly sour and thick. Almost like soft cheese. Comes in Banana. Strawberry, Coconut, Vanilla Etc
flavors.

 

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The burger joint … When we saw the handwritten menu, we were wondering how to order  Luckily they had printed English menu.
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Not our first choice for dinner. But it was raining and muggy and we went to the first eatery we came across. Beef Burger …
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Lunch … Sweet Potato Soup (and Broccoli Soup) and Rye Bread. The bread was something. Soft and with a tinge of sweetness. And we also had a Salmon open sandwich.
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Iceland flag … Red cross with white border, on a blue background. Just the inverse of Norway”s. Keep in mind Norway’s influence over Iceland.

 

Day-2 – 09/24/2019 (Tue)

 

 

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Official map of the “Golden Circle” … This is the region of Iceland we visited 1st.
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The restaurant where we had our breakfast. We had huge Cheese/Mushroom Omelettes, Bread and Coffee. The Coffee was very nice.
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I get it … They love Pepper! 🙂
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How about this Bad-Ass … The views while driving would be better
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The beautiful Gulfoss Waterfalls … The water actually flows at an angle to the falls, which is wierd. There are two viewpoints, upper and lower.
Again, we were blessed with nice weather while at Gulfoss. There were many buses, full of tourists. There is an elaborate Visitor Center as well as a restaurant.
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The beautiful Gulfoss Waterfalls … The water actually flows at an angle to the falls, which is weird. There are two viewpoints, upper and lower. The power … Water is grey due to the sediments. We saw quite a few rainbows …
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This lady was a Guide, who helped popularize Gulfoss Waferfalls during the early days. She played a major role in helping Gulfoss be one of the most visited waterfalls in Iceland that it is today …

 

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Icelandic Horse … Quite small, hairy, and gentle. The horses were originally brought in by settlers to help with farming.
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Icelandic Horse … Quite small, hairy, and gentle.
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Strokkur Geyser erupting … Erupts roughly every 10 minutes. It is funny to see all the people with cameras waiting for the eruption.

 

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The boiling Geysir Hot spring … It has not erupted for a long time, it seems. There is a strong smell of Sulfur.

 

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The view around the Geysir Park … There are small hot Springs everywhere.
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From top of the Geysir Park … Look at the jagged rock.

 

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Icelandic names!

 

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Fridheimer Tomato Farm … In Iceland! It was a great experience.
The farm uses the hot water from a nearby spring and have these huge greenhouses, powered by it. The restaurant is inside the greenhouse! You actually sit surrounded by Tomato vines. There are pipes all around to take the hot water through the greenhouses. They harvest some 300 tonnes of Tomatoes a year
The waitress goes over the history of the place before taking your order. They also explain the key items in their menu. We had Tomato Soup and Tomato Beer. The latter, especially, was superb. They also sell a lot of Tomato-based sauces and yes, pastries too

 

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On the way to Fridheimer Farm … They have a stable and some show about the horses was going on …

 

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Next to our table … Tomatoes, Tomatoes, everywhere …
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The main course, Tomato Soup. Among soups, Tomato is my least favorite. But hey, “When in Rome, …”
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Unlimited Soup and Bread. The bread we have had in Iceland so far has been YUMM!

 

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Fridheimer Tomato Farm: Items for sale … Everything Tomato-based.
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Kerid Crater … The water is around 17m deep it seems. Formed 6500 years ago! The red sand/soil all around the Kerid Crater is brought from elsewhere. There are paths to walk all around the crater and also to get down into it.
The property is privately owned and there is a nominal 400 ISK entrance fee.

 

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Kerid Crater … Up close. The water is around 17m deep it seems. Formed 6500 years ago! The red sand/soil all around the Kerid Crater is brought from elsewhere. There are paths to walk all around the crater and also to get down into it.
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While having this … As you can see, 2.25% alcohol! We have not yet been to the government run store to buy the actual stuff. We have had to make do with quasi beer from the supermarket.
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For dinner, we decided to buy items from the supermarket and cook a bit. Sausages.

 

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Water … Iceland must have abundant pure drinking water. Tap water is potable, but in Selfoss, we noticed that the water has sulfur smell.

 

Day-3 – 09/25/2019 (Wed)

 

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Another brand of Skyr (Icelandic Yogurt) … For breakfast.
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The initial easy trek to Bruarfoss Falls area … The river is beautiful.

 

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The welcoming path to Bruarfoss Falls  It is in reality worse than what the photo depicts.
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My poor shoe! The mud was of the persistent variety  Tough to wash off.

 

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Hlauptungufoss Falls:
We had attempted to see Bruarfoss Falls yesterday, but gave it up as it was getting dark.
There is an initial phase of moderate trekking. Then things get interesting, very interesting. The path gets highly muddy and highly slippery. We had to go at a snail’s pace and each of us had our own individualized falls. Our shoes took a muddy hit. Mine was not even a trekking shoe!
The Hlauptungufoss Falls as you can see, was very nice. The sad part was that only on our way back did we see boards indicating that Bruarfoss Falls was another 2km away from Hlauptungufoss Falls! Out of the 3 falls in the region, culminating in Bruarfoss Falls, we only saw the 1st one.

 

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Another view of Hlauptungufoss Falls …

 

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The Mushroom Farm … Where we had lunch.

 

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The Buffet Spread … The Buffet had only a few select items.

 

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Mushroom lunch! An awesome Mushroom Soup, 2 types of Bread, 3 kinds of Mushroom. One of rhe types they called “Spicy” (LOL!). The red sauce is Bell Pepper Marmalade. There was also Mushroom Butter (!), which I did not like very much.
I liked the Soup so much that I had a second helping.
Just like with Fridheimer Farm (Tomatoes!), this farm specializes on one item, Mushrooms.

 

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Mushroom lunch! An awesome Mushroom Soup, 2 types of Bread, 3 kinds of Mushroom. One of rhe types they called “Spicy” (LOL!). The red sauce is Bell Pepper Marmalade. There was also Mushroom Butter (!), which I did not like very much.
I liked the Soup so much that I had a second helping.
Just like with Fridheimer Farm (Tomatoes!), this farm specializes on one item, Mushrooms.

 

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Filling Diesel … Diesel is more expensive than in India. It is all automated. Use the card and select the pump and fill away …
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Whoa … Look at this! Blue water joining brown water. We guessed it has something go do with the Geothermal Plants nearby. It is as if someone drew a line and painted brown and blue on either sides …

 

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Blue water, flowing down from Landmannalaugar. Landmannalaugar takes some getting to. We did not go all the way, due to 2 reasons: (1) It was getting late (2) It looked real remote and desolate. As we were proceeding, suddenly the paved road ended and we were off-roading on gravelly/stony (Entire area was black, due to Lava rocks) roads.
It was very windy and cold. One funny incident was when Google Maps (or Waze?) said “Traffic piling up ahead”, when other than a camper a bit ahead, we saw absolutely no one around 
Landmannalaugar is the “Highlands” of Iceland. The entire area has a black tinge and has numerous lakes and rivers. It is a popular trekking area it seems. We could not imagine trekking in the biting winds ….

 

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The road … Unpaved. This is what I mean by “black tinge”. Keep in mind, Iceland owes its very existence to Volcanoes.

 

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The white SUV, with a black background … Though it is a 4×4 and looks sturdy enough to go deep into the barren region, we turned back after a while … Imagine a flat tyre over there 

 

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Pit-Stop, on the way back from Landmannalaugar … The place was nice and clean, but the coffee was blah … (Stale!). Bought quite a few postcards here.

 

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Bonus Supermarket … One of the major Supermarket chains here. “The pig on a yellow background” 

 

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Vindudin, the government-operated Liquor Store. Huge selection and well maintained.

 

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Beer section in Vinbudin … It took us a while to figure out which one to buy. We searched (googled) for the best Icelandic Beef to help us make a choice.

 

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Hot Liquor … Whisky, Brandy, Rum Etc. At Vindudin.

 

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The Steakhouse where we had dinner. Though it was generally cozy inside, some open windows did give us a slight chill.

 

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Dinner at the Steakhouse … Babyback Ribs. Iceland is quite expensive, food-wise.

 

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The Pale Ale we bought from Vinbudin …

 

 

Day-4 – 09/26/2019 (Thu)

 

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Skogafoss Falls: “Foss” is “Falls”, I guess calling Skogafoss “Falls” is redundant  A mild stream flows and when it falls over, it becomes this raging waterfalls. We were lucky with a few minutes of sunlight. The moment the Sun came out, out came the rainbows. There were many buses of tourists, including a lot of Asians. It was funny to see them posing and jumping and trying to get that “jumping in front of …” photo.

 

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To get the view from the top, there is a climb involved.

 

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The smaller falls before the big one … One can trek way beyond the Skogafoss Falls.

 

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Carrot Cake and Cream/Sauce. During the Coffee pit-stop …

 

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Blueberry Cider … A bit too sweet for me.

 

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Choice of Liquor … I was aiming for Beer, but ended up with Cider.

 

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There was some kind of car rally going on … A vintage car. There were also others, like Lamborghini Etc.

 

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Black Sand Beach … This beach at Reynisfjara is considered one of the best Non-Tropical beaches of the World. As you can see, it was raining and it was very windy as well.

 

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Dyrhólaey Promontory … There were some tourists taking huge risks by taking photos while standing at the edges!
It was really windy and I was freezing. There was a drizzle was well. Iceland was really living up to its name

 

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Vik area … Reynisfjara! The winds were unbelievable.

 

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View from our cabin … It is windy like hell! The unique thing about Vik area is that if you go directly South from here, you hit Antarctica! The howling winds …

 

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Map of the Vik area … There are several of Iceland’s star attractions in this area.

 

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Map of the tiny Vik town …

 

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The place where we had lunch … The waitress (or owner?) was Asian … That explains the Penang Curry 

 

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The restaurant was quite rustic and cute …

 

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Mango Beer … The beer smelled of Mango.

 

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We were craving for some spice  Penang Chicken curry (in Iceland, yeah, I know) and Mango Beer (which was awesome!). I dumped the whole bottle of chili flakes into my plate … Spice in cold weather.

 

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“Iceland” to us is “Island” here  The portfolio of birds in Iceland.

 

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Seljalandsfoss: It was raining most of the day and we arrived at the falls at around 4pm. There were a lot of people here, mostly tourists in buses from Reykjavik. One can walk around the falls and get a unique 360 view of the falls. The volume of water is small, but being able to go behind the falls was a unique experience.

 

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Seljalandsfoss: It was raining most of the day and we arrived at the falls at around 4pm. There were a lot of people here, mostly tourists in buses from Reykjavik. One can walk around the falls and get a unique 360 view of the falls. The volume of water is small, but being able to go behind the falls was a unique experience.

 

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A different angle of Seljalandsfoss … During the 360 degree walk around the falls.

 

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The cafe was doing brisk business. People were jumping at the chance of having the stale coffee 

 

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On the way, we saw this area where there were caves built long time back, for storing stuff. You can see the entrance to the cave.

 

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Local newspaper … At Bonus Supermarket.

 

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Photo of school kids from 1910s …

 

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This is how Vik (pronounced “Week”) was in the 1910s … Imagine the winters.

 

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Choice of draught beer … At the “best” (as told by our hotel receptionist) restaurant in Vik.

 

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Pulled Pork Sandwich and Fries … The fries were crisp. The draught beer was not great though.

 

 

Day-5 – 09/27/2019 (Fri)

We had our first Glacier Trek today.

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We first went to a location, which turned out to be the wrong one (Was meant for Snow-Mobile Etc.). We loved this vehicle … Reminded me of the movie “The Thing” 

 

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Solheimajokull Glacier Trek:
Our trek covered only a minuscule portion of the still huge Glacier, as you can see in this photo.
We started our tour at a sign-board which marked the Glacier’s edge over the years.
Simon, the main or senior guide, showed us pictures of the Glacier from 30 years back and now. We could clearly see how much the Glacier has receded.
He equated the Ice Cap and the Glacier as a hand and its fingers, where the Glacier spreads into the surrounding areas.
Simon also told us about the movie “Chasing Glaciers”, which documented the receding Glaciers from various parts of the World.
The Tour Company had given us a kit of: Crampons, Helmet, Ice Axe, Harness Etc. 
Overall, the tour was for 3hr, of which 50% of the time was spent on putting on the various attachments and also walking to/from the Glacier.
I was putting on Crampons for the 1st time. It is quite easy to put on, once you get the instructions.
We are supposed to walk with high steps, keep out feet flat and stay in a line while walking.
There are free moments during the tour where you can take photos and look around.
We were joking that the Ice Axe was mainly for photo-op purposes, but Simon clarified that we only appreciate these attachments when we are in trouble, just like with seatbelts 🙂
We saw a lot of ash around. These ashes were from the last major Volcanic eruption(s) and the Ash got trapped in the Ice. 
If the Ash is more than a few inches thick, it helps slow down the melting of the Ice.
There are 2 kinds of Ice: Porous ones which are White and reflects sunlight and the thick Blue ones. Blue Ice has no air bubbles and is awesome in its appearance.
Everywhere we could see streams of water flowing down, showing the pace of melting of Glaciers.
Simon showed us a way to drink Glacier wafer … By placing the Axe across the stream and doing a PushUp pose (on the Axe) and drinking directly from the stream.
It takes years for Snow to get compressed into Glacier Ice.
Volcanic Ash is of 2 types: Soft mud type (after coming in contact with Ice) 
eruption 100 yr back and the black sand type. The former has many medicinal properties and used extensively at Spas.

 

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Our trek covered only a minuscule portion of the still huge Glacier, as you can see in this photo.
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Getting kitted out … 50% of the glacier Trek was instructions, getting the gear on and walking to/from the Glacier.

 

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One of the instructors distributing the Crampons after checking the required size.

 

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The kit: Crampons, Ice Axe, Helmet and Harness.

 

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A small Glacier Lagoon next to the Glacier.

 

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The Glacier March-Past … Left-Right-Left. We were instructed to walk in a line as there were points we had to avoid due to dangerous crevices and stuff.

 

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My trekking shoes and the Crampons …

 

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The mud of Ash … Very good for the skin it seems.

 

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Simon explaining away … He was very crisp in his explanations.. He looked very comfortable on the Glscier and was moving like a Leopard. There was also a rookie lady guide called Linda,, who did all the basic tour guiding stuff.

 

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This is the stream … Man, the Glaciers are melting fast!

 

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At the highest point of our Glacier Trek ..
Simon (the Guide) asked for a volunteer and my hand shot up … He made me do a push-up on the Ice Axe struck over a small stream and drink from it …
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There were many streams like these … The guide was telling us that the Glacier keeps changing its form regularly.

 

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Walking away … Onwards to the Glacier.

 

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While walking towards the Glacier … I lost one of my gloves here (While trying to take photos)

 

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A nice picture in the Katla Museum (at Vik, Iceland) which depicts the Ice Cap and Glacier beautifully … Just like a tongue. In fact they call it “Glacier Tongue”

 

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Dyrholaey Promontory … In better weather  When we came yesterday, it was all rainy and windy …

 

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A nice view of Black Beach …

 

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And of the mountains and glaciers nearby …

 

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Vik did have some buildings with personality. Quite a lot of the buildings were just like boxes though …

 

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A cute Church … Vik, Iceland.

 

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Reynisfjara Sea Stacks … Vik, Iceland. Amazing formations of Basalt (Lava rocks, when they cool down). The variety of shapes was amazing … Felt like I was in a Geometry class 

 

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Reynisfjara Sea Stacks … Vik, Iceland. Amazing formations of Basalt (Lava rocks, when they cool down). The variety of shapes was amazing … Felt like I was in a Geometry class 
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Reynisfjara Sea Stacks … Vik, Iceland. Amazing formations of Basalt (Lava rocks, when they cool down). The variety of shapes was amazing … Felt like I was in a Geometry class 

 

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Spider-Man in town  This dude was having a blast, with all Spidey poses …

 

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Sign at the Black Sands Beach, Reynisfjara. The sign talked of 2 tourists who were swept out to the Sea by sneaky waves (rogue waves).

 

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Some of the houses in Vik … Vik is a very small town.

 

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The Cafe where we had dinner. There was also a Souvenir Shop and a small Museum dedicated to Katla (the huge submerged (in Glacier) Volcano) in the building.

 

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Meringue Pie … Loved it. Tasted a bit different from what I was expecting.

 

Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”)

Have not been too enthusiastic about “seeing Northen Lights”. When my buddies went out to hunt for NL a few days back, I had skipped it (Was sleeping peacefully).

You need clear nights and it is best to stay away from well-lit areas. We had noticed that yesterday was listed as a good day to see NL (as per a website dedicated to NLs). After dinner, we set off for what we thought were secluded and dark areas. We did catch the elusive NLs and hope to catch more of it over the next few days. Apparently, there were some even more colorful flashes of NL as well which I did not see personally (was indoors as it was quite cold outside  …

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Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”)

 

 

 

Day-6 – 09/28/2019 (Sat)

Today was our day of travel from Vik to Hofn.

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Laufskalavarda: Cairns everywhere … Made by locals (and tourists?) for good luck before arduous journey across the harsh landscapes of Iceland.
This is a particularly complicated one …

 

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Laufskalavarda: Cairns everywhere … Made by locals (and tourists?) for good luck before arduous journey across the harsh landscapes of Iceland.

 

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Eldhraun Lava Fields: It is supposedly the largest lava flow in the World. It was created by Laki explosion in the 18th century. it covers an area of 565 square kilometers. Moss is everywhere.

 

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Eldhraun Lava Fields: It is supposedly the largest lava flow in the World. It was created by laki explosion in the 18th century. it covers an area of 565 square kilometers. Moss is everywhere.
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We saw this cute house model next to a restaurant ….

 

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Icelandic Sheep … Very hairy, and sometimes you see them next to the road.

 

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Fjadrargljufur Canyon: The largest in Iceland. Roughly 1km long and 70-80 meters deep. They have placed walkways to limit damage to the fragile area.

 

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Waterfalls in Fjadrargljufur Canyon … (How is the name?)

 

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Chocolate, with local salts … An odd combination, but I liked it.

 

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A beautiful waterfall on the way to Skaftafell National Park

 

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Parking rates …. In ISK. Ours is 6-9 category 

 

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Climbing … On the way to Svartifoss.

 

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Another one of the Iceland waterfalls …. this one on the way to Svartifoss.

 

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Svartifoss Falls: It takes a 40min hike from the car park area to get to it and it is mostly climbing. More Fall colors near this particular falls. You can note the Basalt structures around the falls.

 

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Svartifoss Falls: It takes a 40min hike from the car park area to get to it and it is mostly climbing. More Fall colors near this falls. You can note the Basalt structures around the falls.

 

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View … Front and Back. A lot of the times, it is just us for miles and miles.

 

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View of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon … Each minute gives a different permutation/combination of icebergs.

 

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The Terminal 3 of Hofn Airport! Just kidding …
That is the entire Hofn airport. Perfect for A380 

 

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How is that for name?  (on red background)

 

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Another picture showing the Iceland Glaciers, including Vatnajokull …

 

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That is the mighty Vatnajokull Glacier … It covers a massive area. One of our guides told us that if the ice in this Glacier is spread all over Russia, it can cover with a thickness of 30cm.

 

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“Diamond Beach”: Since it is September (right after Iceland Summer), there were only a few ice chunks on the beach. I have seen pictures with massive ice chunks on the beach. The ice chunks float over from the nearby Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

 

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“Diamond Beach”: Since it is September (right after Iceland Summer), there were only a few ice chunks on the beach. I have seen pictures with massive ice chunks on the beach. The ice chunks float over from the nearby Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

 

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Sunset at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon … It was surreal to see the floating icebergs. There were Seals swimming around.

 

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Sunset at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon … It was surreal to see the floating icebergs. There were Seals swimming around.
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Sunset on the way to Hofn …

 

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A boat in the Hofn Harbor …. My fingers were numb with cold.

 

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The Pizzeria where we ended up for dinner. The harbor area of Hofn was biting cold! Mainly the winds … I have never felt so cold recently. But the warm pizza made up for the cold 

 

Day-7 – 09/29/2019 (Sun)

Today we went for the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Tour.
  • Adam and Tamara were the guides. Both are natives of Iceland.
  • There were Seals everywhere. Some of them were not scared by the approaching boat.
  • We saw several icebergs breaking off from the Glacier. There is a bullet sound when it happens and as the iceberg falls into the lagoon, it creates waves.
  • The Glacier is 200 meters deep and Lagoon is 300 meters deep.
  • As we all know, iceberg has only 10% of itself exposed and 90% is below the surface. Tamara, who was our boat’s guide deftly avoided the icebergs.
  • The Blue Icebergs are the fresh ones … Not exposed to the elements that much, yet.
  • A portion of the Glacier was black, with Volcanic ash.
  • We also saw a huge 75m iceberg!  (As estimated by Tamara) …
  • When we were still (I.e. Boat was not moving), it was okay, but when the boat was moving, the wind chill was something.
  • We had totally clear skies. It was so sunny that I got a severe tan (I saw Adam wear sunscreen). Imagine getting sun tan in Iceland … I guess it is the UV near the poles.
  • Tamara talked about her friend’s 90 year old Grandma who claimed (to a TV channel) that “boots” was the biggest invention during her lifetime, as opposed to Moon landing and other Technological advances. She apparently had her 1st taste of Tomato at 17 years of age, for her birthday. That was how harsh and unforgiving life in Iceland was.
  • Tamara also talked of an incident where all the able-bodied men from the town went to kill a marooned whale (for food) and their boat capsized and they all drowned. In one shot all able-bodied men died.
  • Again, the pace of the Glacier breaking off is amazing … Should bring Donald Trump here 🙂 (There is zero doubt that Ice Caps and Glaciers are melting. The Million $ question is: Can Mankind do anything to reverse the trend?)
  • Glaciers move at “10-25cm per day” pace …
  • This particular Glacier Tongue is 21km long and our boat ride was for 7km to the edge of the Glacier.
  • Adam, after checking if there were any children in the tour group, cracked some adult jokes 🙂 Iceland has more women than men. He said that cousins date sometimes. He is from Hofn.

 

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“Artic Ice Adventures” … This huge 18-wheeler is their office. Right at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Parking Lot.

 

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Adam and Tamara giving instructions …

 

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Getting into the boat … We were 25 of us and got split into 2 groups. I landed up in Tamara’s boat.

 

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Tamara speeding away … She deftly avoided 99% of the Icebergs. The ones we hit were quite small.

 

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My position in the speed boat  Had to hold on to the rope tightly as occasionally, when we hit a small iceberg, there is a big shake. The last thing I wanted was to land up in the freezing water.

 

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Approaching the Glacier edge. Of course, we stay safely away as the ice chunks keep falling off with tremendous sound and fury.

 

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Icebergs everywhere …. White, Blue, White-Blue. And because they are floating in the 300m deep Lagoon, the landscape of the lagoon keeps changing. For example, we had visited the Lagoon on 09/28 evening. When we returned on 09/29 morning, we saw a huge iceberg right next to the dock which was not there before.

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Seals were everywhere … They just relax on top of the icebergs. Tamara asked us to stay quiet and had the boat slowly and silently approach them … The seals were in the spotlight as the boat slowly circled the iceberg.

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This is the Glacier we went close to, at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

 

Next up was another Glacier Trek, this time at Skaftafell Glacier Park.

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Glaciers melting away … 1925 versus ,2012

 

 

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Two British Researchers who died on Vatnajokull Glacier. Sad story …

 

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Chocolates for sale, to help with funds for the preservation of Vatnajokull Glacier.

 

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Chocolates for sale, to help with funds for the preservation of Vatnajokull Glacier.

 

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Pastries on display at the Skaftafell Cafe …

 

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And of course 

 

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Pastry time …. Though a tad too sweet, I liked the cake on the right. The pie was nice too …

 

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Map showing the scale of Vatnajokull Glacier

 

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Iceland flag … At Skaftafel National Park.
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Skaftafell Glacier Trek: Getting ready for the Glacier Trek. The staff fitting us with Crampons.

 

 

  • The trek was along one of the tongues (of course, with a really unpronounceable name!) of the mighty Vatnajokull Glacier.
  • The overall tour was for 4 hours, of which, 30min was for the bus ride to/from the trek location, 30min instructions and fittings. Rest was all action! 🙂 We got some significant time on the Glacier.
  • Anders, one of our 2 guides, is from Denmark. He had worked in Congo with Pygmies, traveled through Tanzania, worked in Guyana for years, as a travel organizer. He is trying to get Artic experience. He is in Iceland for Winter. With all his Tropical experience, he was not getting jobs in colder locales 🙂
  • The main guide was a Czech Guy..He looked very comfortable on the Glaciers. Both of them were very fit and lean.
  • I think we got at least 2 hours on the Glacier.
  • In between, the Czech dude showed us how to do an IceAxe pose. It was funny to see people struggle to hold their weight vertically.
  • The tour group consisted of Europeans, Americans, “Gujju” Desi Couples Etc. (I am bad with languages. My friend, whenever he hears another Indian language other than Malayalam, says it is “Gujju”. It could be I guess)
  • There was Fog and light rain … But since we were dressed right, it was okay.
  • The Glacier is melting at an alarming pace …
  • The Czech guy said, in his estimation, Iceland Glaciers will disappear in 200 years 😦
  • Shoes with ankle support is a must. Else one has to rent for 1000 ISK. One guy, with what looked like a decent trekking shoe with decent ankle support, was forced to rent one.

 

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Skaftafell Glacier Trek: Climbing away …

 

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Skaftafell Glacier Trek: Trekking away … In a single file.

 

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Skaftafell Glacier Trek: Never-ending sea of Ice …

 

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Skaftafell Glacier Trek: Deep crevices were common … The Guides were careful not to allow us go too close.

 

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After the various groups return from the Glacier treks, the Guides are packing up for the day. I could hear them plan their evenings … 
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The Odometer of our 4×4 SUV reached an interesting milestone 
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The “fast food” place at Hofn where we had our dinner. We saw 4 gentlemen in there who were all mute and having dinner together. Their hand gestures were very animated.
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I had 2 Icelandic Hot Dogs … It was awesome!

 

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And Beer of course … 

 

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A picture of Hofn town …

 

Day-8 – 09/30/2019 (Mon)

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A pit-stop on the way … Was trying to get Coffee.

 

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A viewpoint … On the way from Hofn to Seydisfjordur.

 

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A pretty hill … Look at the rock formations.

 

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A lady called Petra (1956-2012) went on collecting mineral rocks and this is a museum dedicted to her efforts.

 

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Yet another Icelandic tongue-twister …

 

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Unpaved roads which technically need a 4×4 (we did see one normal sedan car zoom by though) …

 

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Mjoifjordur Fjord … Wish it was sunnier. But the views, as is, was mind-blowing. We went there mainly to see Klifbrekkufossar Falls. But there were waterfalls everywhere. We counted at least 8 visible falls right around us.
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Klifbrekkufossar Waterfalls. It needs a 10 mile drive on unpaved and pothole-filled roads to get to. But really worth it. We had the while place to ourselves.
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Closer view of one of the sections of Klifbrekkufossar ….
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Mjoifjordur Fjord … Wish it was sunnier. But the views, as is, was mind-blowing. We went there mainly to see Klifbrekkufossar Falls. But there were waterfalls everywhere. We counted at least 8 visible falls right around us.

 

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Can you spot the World’s smallest waterfall in this picture? 

 

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World’s smallest waterfall …. All zoomed in.

 

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Iceland … 4 main Glaciers, dominated by Vatnajokull.
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The street next to our Inn … This colored walkway was a star attraction for the tourists.

 

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Walking around Seydisfjordur: Directions for tourists … We saw many Asian tourists and also one Indian couple.

 

 

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There are several fjords in this area … Seydisfjordur is on one of them.
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Walking around Seydisfjordur: One of the beautiful houses …

 

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The restaurant where we had dinner ….
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Walking around Seydisfjordur … Is it not pretty?

 

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Walking around Seydisfjordur: A compass kind of apparatus to check directions of various local attractions.

 

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Walking around Seydisfjordur: There were road signs to help us along …

 

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Oven-baked Cod (in the foil) for dinner. For a change, I had Beer 

 

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Seydisfjordur is a real cute town. Small and situated in a Fjord. I read that the population of this town is only around 1000. Among the Icelandic towns we have seen so far, Seydisfjordur definitely has ths most beautiful houses and buildings. This Lutheran Church is right next to the Inn we stayed at. Tried to do justice to it with my phone camera.
It went to -5C yesterday it seems. Even Maggie, our helpful Inn owner, was saying it is cold! Imagine my situation …

 

 

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Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde … Day and Night. Same Lutheran Church at Seydisfjurdur.

 

Day-9 – 10/01/2019 (Tue)

 

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Icelandic Kroner (ISK): Iceland heavily uses “Plastic” (Credit/Debit Cards) and we never faced a situation where card was not accepted. But need notes for the Currency Album 

 

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Breakfast spread … There were Cereals, Coffee, Breads Etc. as well ….

 

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This building is the All-In-One of Seydisfjordur …. City Council, Police Station, Civic Station Etc. Near the port …

 

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Seydisfjordur is very popular with tourists … Ocean liners from Denmark and Faroe Islands dock here.

 

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Unsurprisingly (Iceland, Duh!) we got snow on the way from Seydisfjordur … Explains the zillion Waterfalls in Iceland.

 

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Rjukandafoss … Iceland and Waterfalls! Made for each other. We were not planning on seeing this falls, but noticed the vehicles in a parking lot and decided to give it a shot ….

 

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The mighty Dettifoss … Reputed to be the most powerful Waterfall in Europe. There are two roads to get to it, 864 and 862. 864 gets you to East side and 862 gets you to West side. I had read that East side is better, to avoid the spray from the raging falls. You can see the spray going right towards the viewing deck on West side.

 

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Hafragillsfoss … A few kilometers from Dettifoss. Looked like a smaller version of Grand Canyon.

 

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Namafjall Geothermal Area ….Reminded me of Yellowstone National Park in Montana/Wyoming (USA). The smell of Sulphur was overpowering. People were walking around with covered noses  It was beautiful, though …

 

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Had this lousy ice cream in bitter cold weather (0C) … Did not like it.

 

 

 

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Looks like these folks did not care much about the 4×4 signs and ventured over rough terrain with a regular vehicle …

 

On my way to Iceland, Lufthansa ensured that I missed my paid-for booking at the famous and hyped-up Blue Lagoon @Reykjavik.

Since then, I had my eyes on Myvatn Hot Springs. We reached Myvatn area around 15:30. The entrance fee was 4500 ISK (We got lower rate as Winter Rates set in on Oct 1st ). We had to rent towels for 800 ISK and we also bought beer, which they serve at the Hot Springs. We get lockers in the Changing Room (Obviously, separate for Men and Women) which needs a coin to operate (Coin can be collected from front desk). We have to take a full shower without swimsuit and then we are good to enter the Springs. It was so freaking cold (0C) that I literally sprinted right into the Hot Springs. The temperature ranges from 35C to 39C in various parts of the huge pools. The depth is a consistent 3.5-4ft. We all stayed with only our heads above the hot oily water, as it was really cold outside. Around 70% of the people were Asians/Chinese. We did not see any other Indians in the pools. That feeling of cold air and hot water was amazing. When the beer came (We have to show our beer armband to the staff, who will then bring the beer to you), we used a rock in the pool as our “table” … After an hour and a half in the pools, we showered, dressed and returned the towel and coin/token. We had a hot coffee to warm off …

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Myvatn Hot Springs …

 

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Our Inn at Laugar, near Myvatn Lake.

 

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Not a big fan of Lamb … But how to leave Iceland without tasting one of their prime dishes? Lamb Soup for Dinner.

 

Day-10 – 10/02/2019 (Wed)

 

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Our Inn had a stack of books … All in Icelandic, though, including Frederick Forsyth, Sidney Sheldon Etc.

 

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View of Myvatn Lake and the Skutustadhagigar “Pseudo Craters” … These Craters were formed as Lava flowed over cold Water.

 

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A depiction of how these formations came about …

 

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Dimmuborgir Lava Formations: A large area of Lava formations. There are many hiking trails here, with varying lengths. These formations were created as a result of molten Lava reacting with Water.

 

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Hverfjall Crater: It took some climbing …. It was biting cold and each photo turned out to be an exercise in determination 

 

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Stacks of protected hay I assume … We saw such stacks all over Iceland.

 

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Vogafjoss Farm: The platter we ordered. There was Bread with Lamb Pate, Raisin Bread with Butter, Fruits, Chocolates and Rhubarb Compote Etc.

 

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Vogafjoss Farm: The restaurant was right next to the cow shed … There were some huge cows inside.

 

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Grjotagja Cave: There is a pool inside. It seems that an outlaw used to use this cave as his base.

 

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An overview of the Krafla Geothermal Plant … You can see huge pipes going all over. Krafla region has a 90km long fissure zone. There have been many eruptions in this region.

 

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Viti Crater … Near Myvatn Lake area. Viti Crater is around 60m deep. Though discouraged, people do attempt to swim here it seems. Some parts do have boiling water.

 

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Leirhnjukur Geothermal Area: The walkways … Better to be safe than sorry, with all the hot mud pots around.

 

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Leirhnjukur Geothermal Area … Looked surreal, with walkways all around. Some spots had severe Sulphur smell. At 1000m depth, fhe temperature soars to 200-300C. There were eruptions in this area during 1975-1984.

 

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Skipped Beer this time … Went for White Wine.

 

Day-11 – 10/03/2019 (Thu)

 

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Godafoss:
The legend has it that the local.Chieftain, after agreeing to convert Iceland to Christianity, threw all his Norse God Statues into this waterfalls..Hence the name “Godafoss” (Waterfall of the Gods). “Foss” == Falls.

 

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The main Church at Akureyri ….

 

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I liked these flowers … Botanical Garden, Akureyri.

 

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A nice batch of trees in the.Botanical.Garden, Akureyri …

 

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Walking through Akureyri town … Akureyri is Iceland’s 2nd largest town. Capital of the North and also the main center for Whale Watching in Iceland. It was surprisingly big. We spent quite a long time in this town, which led us to falling way behind schedule ..
(E.g. We missed the Creamery later in the day)

 

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This picture.depicts the junction during 1930s … The basic facade has remained the same. Akureyri, Iceland.

 

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Hah! An Indian restaurant at Akureyri! We spoke to the owners, who were Tamilians. They have been living in Akureyri for 17 years and had 1st come here when the husband got a chef job at Reykjavik.
The food was distinctly average (which I had feared), all spiced down for the local palate and I could not even finish the food. I always stay away from Indian eateries when I travel, for 2 reasons: (1) Very average un-Indian food (2) I eat Indian food most of the time.
But when you travel with someone and they desperately want Indian food …

 

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I had ordered a “spicy” Chicken and a Nan …

 

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The goodies in a bakery at Akureyri ..

 

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The Lutheran Church at Siglufjordur, the Northernmost part of Iceland we visited. Just South of Artic Circle.

 

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Siglifjordur: This Gentleman was a philanthropist who worked tirelessly for the local.community.

 

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There were several long tunnels on the way … 7km, 3km Etc. These tunnels are single-lane and have pull-over area only on one aide. I.e..Vehicles in one direction has the right of way.

 

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Glaumbaer Farm & Museum …Cute.

 

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Kolugljufur Canyon and Waterfalls ….

 

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Kolugljufur Waterfalls … It was dangerous at the edges. This is the most I dared to venture out to …

 

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Erpsstradir Creamery … During my research, this Creamery showed up as a must-visit. They have their own farm. It was a long and remote drive to reach here. It was raining as well. Because we were behind schedule, by the time we reached here (19:30), the place was long closed. 

 

 

Day-12 – 10/04/2019 (Fri)

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Nice view …

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Not sure if you can see all the Seagulls …

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula: How about this for Off-Roading in Iceland … We were determined to use the 4×4  We saw only one other vehicle on this entire stretch.

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula: We crossed a glacier on the way … A small one though. All melted away I guess.

 

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula: View as we crossed the Glacier …

 

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The famous Hellnar Church … Why is it famous? It is very small. I guess it is its location and isolation.

 

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A Church at Arnarstapi … The Churches in Iceland are quite small, in general. Not too many pious people visiting the Church at the same time, obviously.

 

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The Hot Springs Spa …
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Dessert options … At Deildartunguhver Hot Springs.

 

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Deildartunguhver Hot Springs: Hot boiling water keeps gushing out … These Hot Springs serve a large area.

 

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Deildartunguhver Hot Springs: Hot boiling water keeps gushing out … These Hot Springs serve a large area.

 

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A statue depicting the 1st settler in Iceland … Reykjavik, Iceland.

 

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Saw these interesting statutes on top of a building … Reykjavik, Iceland. Reminded me of Avengers – Age of Ultron 🙂

 

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Grillmarkadurinn … We had made a reservation for 6PM. Early, yes, but I had a flight to catch.

 

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Inside Grillmarkadurinn …. The place is expensive. We went in wanting to try Puffin and Minke Whale … Ate everything, but that 

 

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Walking through Reykjavik streets … Despite the cold, the streets were lively.

 

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Languistine Tempura, Duck Salad, Grilled Tenderloin, Grilled Beef …. At Grillmarkadurinn, Reykjavik, Iceland

 

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Dessert Platter, Roast Beef, Yet more Beef , Char Etc. At Grillmarkadurinn, Reykjavik, Iceland

 

Horror-End (My notes from 10/05/2019 (Sat))

Getting back from Iceland – Courtesy Weather Gods & Lufthansa 🙂
After the pricey ($$$$) dinner at Grillmarkadurinn (Reykjavik), I bade my friend goodbye (He even took a photo of me driving away), and drove the Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 to Keflavik Airport (KEF). About 6km from KEF Airport, I stopped for Diesel. The pump was quite isolated. It was all dark except for the lit pumps and I did not see anyone around. As I got out of the vehicle, I tried pulling on my thick jacket and BOOM! I flew and fell down on my booty, as the open jacket acted as a parachute. The winds!!! It was amazing. I could not even pull out the Diesel pump … After a massive struggle, I somehow managed to fill the tank and once again headed towards KEF. I had slight trouble in locating the rental vehicle return location (Budget/Avis) and also had to deal with the winds/rains getting into the KEF terminal. The moment I entered, I could sense something was wrong. There were some 300 people in a single long queue. It turns out that the flight from Frankfurt to Reykjavik (Lufthansa, LH 868) was delayed at Frankfurt (FRA) itself, due to the Gale force storm in Keflavik, and had not even taken off. As I feared, within an hour, it was clear that all flights were getting cancelled or delayed heavily (14hr in my case) due to the Gale force weather outside. I had to call Lufthansa Customer Care to get the confirmations for my new route and new flights. Once it was sorted out, I started looking into how to get back to Reykjavik town (Where my friend is already having a room, as his flight was the next day) which is 50km away, and that too in this weather. Since many flights were cancelled, it was mayhem at KEF Airport. Lufthansa finally decided to put up everyone in an auditorium and were arranging buses to take the stranded people there (Obviously, I did not take that option). It was dark, raining, and above all windy like hell. Taxis were far few at midnight and the weather was not helping. There were 2 American ladies from a cancelled Iceland Air flight who had coupons from the Airline for a taxi to the town. When that taxi came, at the suggestion of the taxi driver, I got in as well. In that rain and wind, he was driving as if he were racing in Formula 1. He tried to get chatty but alas, I was not at all in the mood. Meanwhile the taxi meter was chugging along and I was curious what he would ultimately charge me, as there were 3 of us. The ladies got dropped off first and then when my turn came, a negotiation session opened up. After a lot of back and forth, we settled at 12000 ISK (Meter said 22000 ISK, considering the distance and the odd time). Obviously, as most Taxi guys do, he fleeced me good … 🙂
As soon as I reached the hotel room, I booked FlyBus (by Reykjavik Excursions) to KEF airport at 08:00 since my rescheduled flight was for 12:40 (At that time).
After a few hours of sleep, I noticed that the Gale near KEF was still on. Still, in the rain and wind, I did the bus trip (Got all wet and cold in the process) to KEF. Waiting at the bus stop in the rain and heavy wind was just surreal. Once I reached KEF Airport, I noticed a further 2hr delay to LH 869 (KEF to FRA).
When I checked in, Lufthansa gave me a “Meal Coupon” (Worth 2000 ISK). I used it for some light lunch before boarding the flight. After 14hr of when I should have actually taken off from Iceland, the plane finally took off …
My overall experience with Lufthansa (To and fro) has singlehandedly ensured that Iceland will NOT enter my Top-5 at this time, for no actual fault of Iceland. (I must say in this particular case, unlike the trip to Iceland, it was the Weather Gods who did me in and there was not much Lufthansa could have done except for being more precise and efficient under pressure).
2-week Iceland vacation sequence: Horror Start –> Glorious Iceland Vacation –> Horror End 🙂

 

 

 

Adios!

One thought on “No:48 – Iceland – 2-week road trip along Route-1 [Sep-Oct, 2019]

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