Lost in Iceland

After a tragedy in my family, my mom and I needed some healing (see post about travel as therapy here), so we chose to take Vespa scooters around the Ring Road of Iceland! On the way, we had a layover in Boston.

July 11 & 12, 2009

We left Friday on a red-eye to Boston and got there at 8am, Saturday. We went to breakfast, then checked in and walked the Freedom Trail. Apparently the ‘tall ships’ were in town, which is the first time they´ve been to Boston since 1976… So, we toured all the historical sites (Paul Revere´s house, grave, Bunker Hill, etc.) as well as one of the ‘tall ships’. We walked to the North End for a great Italian dinner. We love Boston because it is so clean and has parks and great public transportation. On Sunday, we went to the JFK Library, which we absolutely LOVED. We´ve heard so many people who have been to Boston and never been to that. We also went to the Contemporary Art Museum, which had an exhibit on Shepard Fairey (of the red and blue Obama photo fame)… We took the subway to the Hancock Tower and Trinity Church, then walked back to our hotel from there. We can´t wait for our next trip to Boston.

July 13, 2009

On Monday, we shipped our Boston clothes to Santa Fe (for our final leg of the trip), and with backpacks, headed to the airport for Reykjavik.

We arrived at almost midnight, right as the sun was setting. Got to our hotel at 2am and went to sleep. This morning, we walked to the scooter rental place and then tried to navigate on the Icelandic streets around town. Everything is so much smaller than it seems on the map, so we keep passing the places we want to go. We rode to a sculpture garden, which we loved, then up to the ‘Pearl Station’, which is a big silver dome atop a hill. There, we saw views of the city and the Saga Museum. Then we rode to the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum with more sculptures. Tonight, we are going to a film about the volcanoes and to eat our first real Icelandic meal.. I´m pretty nervous for that 2nd part.

July 15, 2009

Our 2nd day in Reykjavik was great, we ended up taking the scooters down to Grindavik, where the Blue Lagoon is. We went in the Blue Lagoon, which was amazing, but my hair has been dry and brittle ever since, no matter how many times I put conditioner in it!!! The road to the lagoon was very windy (wind, not curves) so it was pretty difficult.

 

July 16, 2009

The next day, we checked out of our hotel and went to Þingvellir, which is the place between the continents. The road there was pretty nice and the lake is gorgeous, like Lake Tahoe, except un-occupied. From there, we traveled up the Ring Road to Borgarnes, along the sea. The ocean here is sooo blue, I can’t believe it.

 

July 17, 2009

We had a very long day on the road to Akureyri, in the North. The morning took us through the mountains and it was overcast, so bitter cold! But in the afternoon, we rode through the valley and it was sunny and beautiful. The grass here is so green and the streams/rivers are soo blue. Combine that with rocky gray mountains and cute little farms all white with red roofs. It is very picturesque. I think that if this country weren’t dark for half the year, it would be perfect farmland. It is some of the most beautiful country on earth, I believe. I wonder if this is how the settlers first saw the San Fernando Valley, when they came across the Oregon Trail. Today, we go East and it’s already overcast, so we are worried for rain.

July 18, 2009

Last I wrote, I was about to travel from Akureyri to Egilsstaðir. Supposedly, the maps said that most of it was gravel, but we asked some motorcyclists and the tourist office who confirmed that it was all paved. Phew! It was a long journey through desolate lava landscapes, but the mountains in the distance were quite beautiful. Also, people here have a habit of building rock towers along the side of the road, and there was one about every .1 kilometer for almost the entire way! We were supposed to head north for a detour to Husavik, but we found out the road from that was all gravel, so we decided not to travel there. The main attraction to Husavik is that it is a pretty fishing village and home of the Icelandic Phallological Museum! We were disappointed not to be able to see that, but it ended up being for the best time-wise. Lake Myvatn was on the way, and we drove around it. Not as pretty as I expected and FULL of midges! The most I´ve ever seen in my life. There were black cloud swarms of them that I had to drive through. My mom´s scooter has a windshield, but mine does not, so they all came straight at my helmet and chest. I still shudder thinking about it and I swear I had to spit a few out! The lake was nice, but as we were leaving, we saw the best thing, which were these mudpots. I guess the ground is so hot there, that it is completely discolored and acidic water bubbles up from the ground in disgusting gray gulps. There are also steam vents which you can walk right up to, but at your own risk! We continued on to Egilsstaðir, and were very tired from the long day.

 

July 19, 2009

We drove to Hofn along the fjords in the east. Very  interesting because I’ve never seen fjords, and we drove in and out of each inlet. The first couple had small towns, so we assumed the rest would be the same, but as we rounded each coastline, there would be NOTHING. Thankfully we had gotten small 5 liter tanks of gas and put them in our scooters for just such an emergency. We drove on and on and on for about 4 hours straight, until our tanks were empty. Not to mention that I had to pee the entire time and was very hungry (no lunch!)… It was a rough day, but the absolute hardest part was the wind and gravel. There were spots of the road with gravel and also HIGH winds that almost knocked our bikes over several times. I had to lean so far over to keep it going in one direction and then the gust of wind would stop and I would have to right myself before falling over.

July 20, 2009

We rode from Hofn to Vik and hoped that there would be less wind. It was indeed less windy, but totally overcast all day, so it was cold and not very pretty. We stopped by Jokulsarlon, which is an iceberg lagoon and passed many glaciers. The rest of the drive was pretty boring, past countless wild horses, sheep, Lupin, and waterfalls. Sad that this view is getting boring. Anyway, we are at the hotel, now and went into the ´hot pots´ here (hot tubs), which are naturally heated with stinky, sulfur water. Yuck. Tomorrow is a much shorter drive, so we are happy. We are on the home stretch, now.

July 21, 2009

We left our hotel in Vik and decided to stop at a church on the hill of Vik. This was a bad idea because the driveway was uphill, gravel. I hear a scraping sound behind me, and look back to see my mom fall over with her bike. So, I rush over and with the help of others nearby, we lift it off her leg. Turns out her leg was just twisted and bruised a bunch.. Luckily there wasn’t much driving planned for this day, so we took it easy, and made it to our hotel in Skogar (only about an hour away). The small town of Skogar was very nice. One end has a great cultural museum with model Viking homes with grass roofs. Very interesting. The other end of town has a gorgeous waterfall, so we spent the afternoon with my mom soaking her foot in the icy water.

July 22, 2009

The next day, we were supposed to drive to the Golden Circle and then our Hotel in Hvergarði, but I had a great idea to instead drive to our hotel and get on a tour to the Golden Circle. We weren´t sure if the road up there would be paved, so we wanted to take it easy on driving bad roads.. It worked out very well, we did an afternoon tour of the waterfall Gullfoss and the Geysir there, then back for our last evening in Iceland! The town of Hvergarði is on steam vents and more have arisen after the 6.5 earthquake they had last year, some even right next to the hotel. Our tour guide took us by one house in town that is now just a hole in the earth. He said that one day the woman smelled sulfur and the next day, her living room had a big hole with steam coming out. Now it is just a fenced area with a giant sink hole. Pretty scary!

July 23, 2009

We woke up this morning to rain for the first time since we’ve been here, but luckily it stopped by the time we had to leave for Reykjavik. We washed all the bugs off our bikes and headed the last 45km to Reykjavik. The ride today was probably the coldest and windiest we have had yet this trip and there were times when we thought that we’d fall over for sure. But we rose over the last hill and saw Reykjavik gleaming ahead, like the Emerald City! We turned in our scooters less than an hour ago (my mom pointed out the damage to hers – broken mirror, windshield scuffs, and a dent), and now we are going to have lunch to spend the last of our Kronur, then off to the Airport and back to the good ole US of A.

 

July 24, 2009

Arrived in Santa Fe and met my aunt and cousins for a girl’s spa trip. We will enjoy the hot weather and relaxing massages (my back needs it!) before heading back to California.