Sunday, June 15, 2014

Iceland Part II: Hazardous Driving and Inhaled Hiccups

Saturday 3 May
We had all been up so late that we had a rather slow morning. Preston made his famous and delicious eggs and Kirk went for a run. #betterthantherestofus

Good morning!!

We finally piled into the car and headed out. We drove through a snowy canyon between two spectacular snowy ridges. The views were incredible. It is so desolate here.

We reached the ‘city’ of Akureyi-the northern ‘capital’ and second largest city in Iceland. We found an adorable coffee shop at the recommendation of someone Anna had asked about parking :D Luckily, it was Saturday and we didn’t need to pay to park.

The guide book said that people in Iceland don't parallel park. We saw some funny examples of pull ins in parallel spots or just plain bad this above 

We sipped our coffee overlooking the town. It was an awesomely bright and sunny day.

Down the hill, we stopped in a bakery and Kirk bought sweets to share. We ducked into a gift shop and I bought a hat to keep me warm.

After an accidental detour, we were on our way around the fjord. Up a hill we traveled to more flat highlands. The drive, of course, had some awe-inspiring views.

Looking back at Akureyi

As we neared Lake Myvatn, the earth became quite alien. It was a crazy landscape comprised mostly of volcanic rock.

After driving what felt like forever, we found this highly recommended restaurant-“The Cowshed”. They have actual cows here ;)

There's one!!
The restaurant sits on a fully functioning dairy farm. There was a window looking into the cows in their stalls. I think these were the only cows we’ve seen in Iceland. The farm also serves as a bed and breakfast.

No one in Iceland seems particularly friendly and this place was the same. It may just be that Preston and I, at least, have just come from the extremely outgoing nature of the people along the Mediterranean. It takes a lot of energy to smile in cold weather ;)

The cook, however, seemed friendly enough and gave us a special fish pate while we waited for our food. Preston had a yummy hamburger(sorry cows), Kirk and I both ordered a sandwich, and Anna had a beef and veggie soup in a HUGE bowl. The food was certainly good, but not as amazing as we’d read. We tried ‘geysir’ bread, which is a local specialty and baked underground from thermal steam. Our meal was very expensive ($17 hamburger?), but I guess that’s to be expected in the middle of nowhere.

After we ate, we walked out onto the farm to have a look around.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

We kept taking photos that looked like a photo shoot from a band. It was accidental at first and then became a thing ;)
From The Cowshed, we drove over more volcanic landscape…stopping to fight the wind and view a toxic aquamarine pool.

Modeling my new hat

We rounded a bend and came upon Hvevir (I think?), which had a total otherworldly feel. The cold wind was still fiercely blowing, but we braved the path through the steaming vents to explore among the stench of sulfur. It was a neat spot and definitely felt like being on another planet. I stood in the warm steam of the was worth it even with the toxic smell :D

Chilled to the bone, we got back in the car and continued driving. We crossed a frozen tundra. It was stark and isolated with glistening, icy snow.

Unfortunately, we were a bit short on time from such a slow start again, so weren’t able to take many detours from the road. We missed seeing “Dettifoss”-a reportedly impressive waterfall, but our easy and un-rushed mornings have been nice. It’s hard to get to bed early with the sun so bright late into the night!!

Our apartment for the night was in Seyðisfjörður-a coastal town that sits between two great cliffs that lead out towards the ocean forming a proper fjord. More than once, an avalanche has come down the hills that surround the town to devastating effect. Seyðisfjörður has been more prosperous than other small fjord towns, as the fjord is well protected and provides good fishing. In modern times, the ferry arrives here once a week from Europe.

What we didn’t know was that we had to cross a mountain to reach the town!! The road over the pass was clear, but bordered by high snow drifts on both sides. It started to rain as we neared the coast and the visibility was quite bad on the insanely steep road. To make matters worse…guard rails were few and far between. My Uncle handled it well and we reached the town safely, even stopping to see a waterfall on the way down.

Seyðisfjörður (say it five times fast!!) is definitely a little fishing town and it was definitely quite dead :P We had hoped to get some groceries to make dinner again, but it turns out that the grocery store is only open a few hours a day.

We found the apartment I had rented and it was super modern and big, which you'd never guess from the town. Kirk and Anna, especially, liked the style of it. I had thought they might since the pictures reminded me of their house back in DC :D

We poured some wine and headed to the only open (or perchance, the ONLY) restaurant in town. Thank goodness for it though…or I’m not sure what we would’ve had for dinner. NO one wanted to return over the mountain pass :P

Waiting for our pizzas

This van was a sauna!! You could rent it and feed it with logs!!

Since the night was cold and rainy, we ordered some pizzas to go and enjoyed them in our PJs with more “Sherlock”.

Goodnight little town

Sunday 4 May
The misting rain gave us another slow start this morning. We had a nice time lazing around, drinking coffee, listening to music, and enjoying our spacious apartment.

It was still raining, but we decided to do a short hike up the ridge to a sculpture. We only needed to climb up part of the hill, but it was steep and muddy. We crossed a few streams and reached the sculpture/structure.

We climbed inside and enjoyed the echo while looking out over the town. The town reminds me a bit of what little I’ve seen of the Pacific Northwest.

Band pic from our second album

Back in the car, we drove out of the town over the pass in heavy fog. It was slow going, but we finally arrived on the other side. It was still raining, but the fog lessened considerably for our drive along the coast.

Uncle Kirk navigating the crazy road!!

We followed the winding road through wet, green valleys and the rainy coast.

We stopped in a small fishing village for lunch and had tasty (horse?) burgers and warmed up in a cozy café.

On the road again, we passed through a tunnel (better under than over!!:P) and stayed along the coast.

The drive was spectacular with small, coastal farms and sweeping cliffs. We stopped at an impressive black sand beach. I put my hands in the rough, freezing ocean.

Our destination for the night was Höfn. We had a fun time saying Höfn, because the guidebook said it was pronounced like an inhaled hiccup!! We continued following the winding road with the coast to our left and tall ridges of black rock to our right.

Watch out for reindeer!!

Höfn (hiccup) is a relatively large town. Our apartment here is on the second level of a little guest house. It had a very quaint and cottage-y feel.

We were able to hit the grocery store and stock up on supplies for breakfast, sandwiches, and wine (winos!!) to enjoy before dinner. 

Höfn is most famous for its langoustines, which are like tiny lobsters. Kirk and Anna treated us at the restaurant next door, which was owned by the people that owned our apartment.

Apparently, Ben Stiller ate here nearly every day while filming “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

Hey Ben Stiller!!

The langoustines and all the food was just amazing!! We had our awesome dinner of langoustines dipped in butter with salad and fresh rolls while the rain misted on the harbor outside.

Melt in your mouth good!!

Band Shot
We returned to our little apartment and tucked in for the night.

Good night Hofn

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