Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday July 16th

The Iceland Incident

Time to cross over yet another destination on my travel ToDo-list.
The day way finally here to go to Iceland!

This time I have a travel companion; my dear friend, Jörgen. But we have travelled together many times before, so I wasn't too worried. :)

Up early, early (04:00) and head for Landvetter airport an hour later to catch our flight at 06:35.
We get there in time, head through security, get on the plan, no problems. Wonderful!

Then it starts...

First we get a small delay due to air traffic over Norway. Then when we are about to go on the runway, a light starts flashing in the cockpit (I have actually no idea if this is true, but this is how I see it in my head).
Something is not right with the air plane. We get back to the gate. Someone takes a look at our left engine. Then some more people look at it. Finally someone who looks like he knows engines get there.
At this time (about 08:00), they tell us to take our hand luggage and get back to the terminal. They will have more news for us at 09:00. *sigh*

So the waiting game begins.

At nine, we get the "no news now, we will get back to you"-news a few times and at eleven they finally tells us that the engine is broken and needs to be repaired.
A spare part is flown in from Iceland - together with a technician who will do the work. The new departure time is 22:00.

After these news, Jörgen and I starts to plan to minimize the effects of the trip.
We finally decide to get back to our schedule by drive longer than planned during Tuesday and move the Golden Circle attractions to the end of the week (thus tightening and probably removing some stuff we wanted to do in Reykjavik). The details of this is not clear yet.

We also decide to not take the offer from Icelandair to get some rest at a hotel - in Borås.
Instead we head back to our homes and continue to wait there.
Later tonight we will head back to Landvetter. Hopefully with some better luck - and actually get to Iceland.

But who knows...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Monday July 16th part II

At Landvetter again and this time we could actually take off.

Picture of the evil engine

After about 2½ hours flight we landed on Island and Keflavik - and after a short wait we also got our rental car; a small Toyota Aygo. The time was just past 23:00 and we were ready!
The plan me and Jörgen has made up to reduce the delay is a bold (and probably stupid) one; let's drive all the way to our first hotel in Vik so we will at least be on the planned route and not needing to rebook any hotels (we still are behind in stuff to see since we had planned for the whole Golden Circle on Monday).

And while driving in the middle of the night, let's check out the Kerið crater, it's almost on the way!
So we headed out and due to the midnight sun we could still see the landscape around us which seemed very nice. We would get to see more of that during the next few days...

Kerið, an old, now water filled, volcanic crater was great to see. It almost looked like Blofeld's lair in 'You Only Live Twice'... =)

Moving on, towards Vik, we drove and drove (and when I say 'we' I mean of course Jörgen, who likes to drive and did an amazing job doing it tonight).
We drove passed the Eyjafjallajökull vulcano, which caused some problems to the airlines in 2010, we passed (and made a brief stop at) the waterfall Skogar:

Finally, at around 3:20 in the morning we arrived at our hotel; Höfðabrekka.
We went straight to bed and fell asleep within minutes. Very tired!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tuesday July 17th

Since we went up early yesterday for our flight and the fact that we did not go to bed until very late, we slept to nine and drove from the hotel at about eleven.

We continued on the Ring Road, Highway 1 and drove along the south-east & east coast line and the landscapes we saw were truly amazing.Something we found odd was that the landscapes changes very quickly. From being lots of hills in one minute, there were old lava terrain the next. And then there was a vast (but semi-dry) river delta. After that mountains with glaciers and then just a flat rock surface. And so on - and then it started over.
Most, if not all, of these landscapes was really stunning.

There were a lot of fences to keep the animals (sheep, horses and cows) from going on out on the road.
For most parts, the sheep didn't care one bit about that.

After a few hours we came to the high point of the day (and possibly the whole trip for me?); Jökulsárlón.
This is a lake where icebergs from the nearby glacier floats around. It is all very beautiful.

This was also the site where the pre-title scene of 'A View to a Kill' was filmed plus the Island scenes in 'Die Another Day' (here and on the Vattnajökull glacier just next door).Not to mention 'Batman Begins' and an episode of the TV-series 'The Amazing Race' (Season 6, episode 1).
We went on a amfibie boat and travelled on the lake for about 45 minutes, fantastic sights!

Plus we got to eat some ice taken from the lake. This very old block of ice had no air bubbles and was more dense than normal ice. It tasted great! :)

Then on the road again!
We were now going along the east coast which was also very beautiful.

Something that feels odd is that there are a lot of abandoned houses. It looks like they rather build a new house than repair the old (I have of course no clue if this is correct or not). But it's not like there is a lack of space...
We made a short stop in Höfn, where we bought some drinks and food. Unfortunate the food was very similar to what you can find at home. Small disappointment, but I did find some chocolate and beers that originated from Iceland.
We continued after this and finally got to our hotel (Staðarborg), close to Breiðdalsvik. Here we also ate dinner (lamb for Jörgen and fish for me). It was pretty good.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wednesday July 18th

Lots of things to see today so we got up early, ate breakfast and was on the road again before 8am.
We drive west now, in to the island. The scenery changes a bit, but still shift at almost the same rate as the coast side. We get on the highlands, up and down some mountains, but also see vast flat land with pretty much nothing on it. We see (old) lava fields, which felt mushy when walking on it, almost like rubber.

There are also big field of just rocks laying around. It almost looks like the terrain on Mars. Very wierd. Very cool.

Our first stop of the day was when we came to the Mývatn area.
Mývatn (mosquito lake) has a lot of interesting sights; we stopped at some sulfur springs at Námaskarð. It was very interesting to see the liquid boil in the holes in the ground, but Holy Crap on a stick, it really smelled! I was prepared that it would, but this was much, much, much worse than expected. We did understand why they never had a café close to these springs...

After that we checked out a hot spring bath and was debating if we should go in the water or not, but finally decided to wait until the Blue Lagoon, which we will go to on (probably) Sunday.

Then we entered hostile territory; Dimmuborgir 

The landscape was full with strange-looking rock formation left over from some erupsion of sort.

If you ever went here by night I am sure you would see trolls and goblins at every corner. 

We were thinking of going on a whale safari today up at Húsavik, but after a careful look at the time, we decided not to. Hopefully we will have time for it at Reykjavik.
So we drove towards Akureyri again and made a small stop at the waterfall Godafoss, a very nice waterfall, which we tried to get as close to as possible. 

We came pretty close.

Not long after we arrived at our final destination this day; Aukereyri.

Before we even went to the hotel we went to the Aviation Museum and the Motorcycle Museum (well for the last museum, Jörgen went in, I stayed in the car blogging).

We then checked in to our hotel (Guesthouse Akureyri) and walked around in the town.
This is the second largest town in Iceland with a population of about 18.000.
It seemed like a nice place (with a city centre you walk through in a minute or two).
We ate ice cream at a place called Brynja. Really good ice cream, I highly recommend it!

When it was time for dinner we went to Strikið and had some whale meat. It tasted really nice.
If you ever have a chance of eating it; do it!
For dessert, we had their chocolate cake, which was delicious! Also something to try if you get here.

However, for a somewhat high-class restaurant, I question the designer who made the (men's) toilet.
Take a seat - but don't bend to much forward because then your head will end up in the urinal. *fail*

After the food we when to a pub, which served local beer.
We had a few beers from the Keldi brewery. Some were good. Some were ok. None were great.
The pub were also playing reggae music - and there was a guy in the corner trying to impress who-the-hell-knows with his banjo skills. The music wasn't the best part of the pub. Not sure what was, but the overall impression of the place wasn't too bad.

Then we headed for bed. Last day on the road tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thurday July 19th

Just to shown you how small our car is that we drive around in.
This is the trunk.
No space for any kind of suitcase.

So instead we have them in the back seat:

The major drawback with this is of course that we can not pick up any female hitch hikers. :(

Anyway, driving out of Akureyri and towards our first stop of the day; Hestasport just outside of Varmahlíð.

Here we geared up...
...and headed out on the horses into the Icelandic terrain.
(Jörgen on these pictures)

My horse was called Sörtli and Jörgen's was Haki.

It was a very nice 3 hour ride (although maybe a little too beginner-ish).
It brought back a few pleasant memories from the old days. :)

On the tour it was only our guide and me & Jörgen. No big tourist-rides here, which of course was exactly how you want it.

I highly recommend HestaSport if you want to go riding on Iceland.

After the ride and some food we headed south.
The plan is to do the "Golden Circle" tonight. This was originally scheduled for our first day here on Iceland, but due to the delay we had no time.

And to reach our destination even earlier we took a "short cut" calculated by our GPS.

It might have been shorter, but driving 55 kilometres on a dirt road isn't really recommended in a Toyota Aygo.

But somehow we got to Þingvellir in one piece.

This is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates drifts apart. 
It's also the place where the (world's) first parliament was founded; Alþingi.

Before I came here I was thinking something like an Icelandic Grand Canyon so I have to admit I got a little disappointed, but it was still OK to see.

After this we drove to the Geysir area which contains several geysers.
Unfortunate Geysir itself is pretty still these days (only erupts after some earthquakes - last time was 2000 and then it only squirted a few meters). But it must have been something to see back in the days when it reached around 70 meters.

Instead we saw another active geyser just beside Geysir; Strokkur. It hurled its water about 25-35 meters up and it was quite amazing to see that. Oh, how nature has its wonders!

And speaking of the wonders of nature; our next (and last) stop of the day was Gullfoss.

This beautiful waterfall is really a sight to be seen.

With two stages it reaches 32 meters.

Then we headed for Reykjavik. The trip around Iceland was over.
It was a lovely ride with all the different landscapes and adventures, but now it's time to abandon the car and stay in Reykjavik.

The Route 1 (The Ring Road) was in better shape than expected. We only had to drive on dirt roads twice with a total length of about 30 kilometres. The rest was happy-happy asphalt.

And the car rental service was superb. They really did everything they could to accommodate us and help out. And it was also cheap!
We highly, highly recommend them: Rent Car Iceland.

Now all that's left of this day is pizza and sleep.
Good night!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Friday July 20th

First day in Reykjavik. We slept a little longer (to nine-ish) because we felt we deserved it.

After breakfast we went out on the town (which isn't very big).

First stop was the Hallgrímskirkja,
which gave us a beautiful view of the colourful city.

The church bell rang 12 times when we entered tower. Not sure if it was a warning - or just that the time was 12 o'clock...

One interesting thing inside the church was that the benches was reversible.
You could easily change them if you wanted to look towards the front of the chuck for a sermon - or backwards towards a concert on the church organ.

After that we walked around and ended up at the National Museum, which had a nice display of the history of Iceland (and the famous chess match between Fischer and Spassky which were held at Reykjavik in 1972).

More walking took us to the Ráðhús (City hall) and Alþingi (the Parliament) - and something to eat.

After a short stop at the hotel we went out on a whale watching  with the Whale Watching Express tour.
(Jörgen, not seasick, on the ship)

Major disappointment; we never saw one single whale. :(
(and yes, the irony of us eating whale two days ago and today not seeing one is not lost on me)

However we did see some white-beaked dolphins.
However I did see dolphins in Gibraltar - and much closer so I wasn't too impressed.
Jörgen seemed to like it though so that's good.

Back on land we went for something to eat at a very nice restaurant (which I of course have forgotten the name of) and then it was time to hit the pubs. FINALLY!

We started at the very fine Micro Bar which had some nice Icelandic beers. The pubs after this is kinda a blur, but we did have fun.