Sunday, July 29, 2012

Icelandic Whirlwind

We have become so used to taking our time traveling that it seemed like quite a jam packed week in Iceland! We started the week by checking out the local free English paper (as we often do while traveling) to get the inside scoop. The paper is the Reykjavik Grapevine and covers news, social commentary, events, politics, music etc. (It is quite similar to Calgary's free paper: FFWD Weekly.) I enjoyed learning about the fun stuff happening in Reykjavik! We found out about this cool little park which was an unused building lot, taken over by community and transformed. The park is dubbed The Heart Garden. We hung out there and listened to a great DJ, watched the skateboarders, graffiti artists, kids playing and folks generally having a good time. The vibe was terrific and the park has made a lively public space. The park is aloud to exist with both the blessing of the city and the owner of the currently unused lot. (Sadly the much lower key Potatoes for the People project on a vacant lot in Calgary was quickly shut down).

We rented a car and spent the first three nights in Reykjavik, which is a super fun, vibrant city. We did well finding vegan food and we especially enjoyed our lunch and vegan carrot cake from a place called C is For Cookie. There are a few vegetarian restaurants and many regular places have vegan options. Sadly I also saw whales on the menu in a few places, but on the flip side I also saw whaling protest ads in the local paper. We spent our time in Reykjavik walking the streets, checking out the buildings, window shopping, hanging out in Heart Garden, and day trips. I also picked up some beads made from the local lava rock to make a necklace.

One day trip was to check out the impressive Strokkur Geysir, which erupted every few minutes. Along the way we stopped for a walk through a Lava field, to view one of the many pretty water falls. We took another day trip to go snorkeling in the very cold waters of Silfra lake, between two continental plates. Because of the extreme temperatures it requires the donning of rather cumbersome dry suits, complete with warm liner, mitts and hood, and then your own long undwear. (This was the second time we had to buy long under wear on our global adventure, the other being for our Himalayan hike in Nepal). The waters are pristine with visibility of 100 meters or more. There wasn't any visible animal life but there was unique geological formations and long, colorful, spaghetti like algae. I found the experience a little nerve-wracking as the suit limits your ability to move about freely. You need to practice a bit to roll around accurately. I am glad we did it but it's likely a one time deal; I prefer the ease of warm water snorkeling. Check out a tour company video of the adventure below:

We spent the next two nights in a rural hostel about 300 kms from Reykjavik. We spent time watching iceberg bits floating out to sea, viewing puffins, and other birds, checking out more water falls, going on some nice walks and a tour of the The Geothermal Energy Exhibition at HellisheiĆ°i Power Plant. On the way to the puffins we encountered a little lamb who had got himself on the outside of a Texas Gate, (after wriggling through a space in the fence) while mommy was on the inside. Now I have learned that there seems to be just as many sheep in Iceland outside of fences as within them, but this little guy wanted to be back with mom. So I grabbed the little fella and carefully negotiated the Texas gate to reunite him with mom. Who knows how long he will stay put. I spent the rest of the day covered in sheep fuzz.

We were supposed to spend our sixth night in a small town on the way back to Reykjavik but the address was rather confusing so we ended up way past the town. At that point we thought we might as well continue to Reykjavik and stay an extra night there (we already had our seventh and final might booked there). We were not prepared for how booked up everything would be! After going to several hotels and guest houses, and contemplating spending the night in the car, the wonderful folks at the tourist office helped us out by phoning around and found us a spot. It was a lovely hotel, but a bit more money than we had intended. We call this the "idiot tax" which is when our screw up costs us some extra money. However, we were very grateful to not spend a chilly night in the hatch back!

The extra day in Reykjavik ensured we has lots of time to check out the Blue Lagoon hot springs. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.[1] The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (98–102 °F). The Blue Lagoon also operates a Research and Development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water/ (source wikipedia). The water is a unique color, surrounded by lava rock, and unlike any hot spring I've seen at home. It was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Tomorrow off to Toronto!

As always you can check out my photos here;

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