Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Day 14 - our last day

Well, today is a sad day... it's our last day in Iceland - paradise on earth (except for the cold).

We got up a little later this morning, 7:45 or so, since we didn't have any plans except for lunch.  When we went up for breakfast, we noticed that a group of French people had taken all the tables (leaving empty spots at each table) so we had no place to sit -which we didn't really care about, no big deal as it's not really a sit down meal.  So we prepared our bread (without plates as we weren't sure which were available) and started to eat, standing up.  Let me tell you, when the owners saw us standing there eating our breakfast, they were not happy.  They made the French move to make room that they weren't going to have guests standing to eat.  The French were insulted (not sure why, they were the rude ones).  It was quite the sight!  Let's say that the Icelandic people don't all seem very friendly - they are, you just don't get that warm fuzzy feeling at first...It sounded like they were really angry, when in fact they were just telling them to make room, that they weren't going to have guests treated like this.  So, we sat, ate our breakfast and left for downtown Reykjavik at around 9:00.

The owner of the guesthouse had told us this restaurant (3 Frakkar) served puffin meat, which we wanted to try... so we walked around for a while, waiting for it to open so we could have lunch before leaving.  Stores open late in Iceland.  Nothing (except for the tourist stores) open before 11-11:30. So walking around is the only option.  We go in and out of the few shops that are open, by a couple t-shirts and chocolate. We make our way to the restaurant to see it doesn't open until 11:30.  We sit in the little "park" across the street and wait.  It's 11:00.  As we were waiting, we notice this sign - had fun trying to figure out what it meant!

At 11:30 - doors open! Yahoo! We finally get to try puffin - we've been looking for it for 2 weeks now!  We enter to find a quaint little restaurant - like all the other places we went to.  On the menu, fermented shark (we didn't have any), puffin breast, and guillemot breast (another wild bird), lots of different fish, fin whale, horse meat, and of course lamb.  Perfect! Exactly what we had been looking for!  We order a plate of puffin, a plate of cormorant and garlic bread to share.

The garlic bread was delicious!  Yummy!!  The puffin really doesn't taste like much of anything.  The texture is bizarre as the fish is sort of raw - it's smoked but really you can say it's raw. Not what I expected!!  I was thinking we would be getting a miniature chicken breast... but nope!  It's dark red meat, cut in strips!  The plate was very pretty.  The guillemot was yummy.  I didn't care for the texture.  It's sort of like duck meat - but it's bloody - cooked medium rare.  The sauce that accompanied the bird was good.  As for the taste, I thought it tasted like beef...with an odd texture.  I'm glad I got to try both.  Don't think I would order them again though...

We leave the restaurant, it's about 12:30 (Times are important in this post... I hope you are paying attention!).  We walk to the car, takes about 30 minutes.  Gives us lots of time since our flight leaves at 5pm.

After our meal, we make our way to Keflavik to drop off the car it takes about 1/2 an hour.  We get to the car rental place to drop off the car - no problem, all goes well.  It's now about1:30.  We go outside wait for the shuttle bus.  It takes about 15 minutes.  We finally get to the airport, it's now about 2:00 and we make our way to the tax refund booth to get our refund.  This took about 15 minutes as we had to fill out all the forms. We then make our way to the long line so we can get our tickets.

The line moves pretty fast.  We get our tickets, start making our way to security when I look down at my ticket.  It says boarding time is at 2:40 and the plane leaves at 3:15.  I look at my watch, it's 2:40!!! Panic starts setting in.  There is 50 people in front of us! I'm feeling a little stressed (not much stresses me like this).  Remi says "it's not possible, I booked for 5 pm".  Well, look again- it clearly says flight is at 15:15!  OMG! We are going to miss our flight for sure!  We get through security in not much time - it felt like an hour but it probably took 5 to 10 minutes.

We start RUNNING through the airport as our gate is the last one at the end - D26 and the sign says it takes 15 minutes to get there.  As much as I loved Iceland, I don't want to miss my flight!  Run, run, run!  We turn a corner and what do we see? Another line up!  We suddenly have to go through another checkpoint - another line!  Oh no!  We get through this line and off we go running again.  It's now 3:10 - we surely have missed it...

We finally get to our gate to find out they were having problems with a machine of some kind so they had just started boarding the plane!  OMG!! Thank you for technological glitches!!!  If it wasn't for that we would still be in Iceland!  I don't know what happens when you miss your flight, if you have to pay for another? Do they just place you on next flight? I don't really want to find out this way!

We get on the bus and off we go to our plane.

During our flight, I got to sit beside a lovely young German girl that was coming to explore Canada.  We chatted the whole way (a 5 hour flight) about Germany and Canada and what she could expect, what she has to eat and see.  I invited her to come stay with us for a few days while in Ottawa.  She was very excited about this - that way she can save a few dollars - a 23 year old just starting out - I'm sure she doesn't have much money!  I found out she's an Educational Assistant - so we had lots in common.  Great flight with no issues.

We got our luggage and made our way to our car.  As you can see, Remi was quite happy to see our car!  We had paid for parking in advance.  When we got to get out, we hadn't gotten in the right way - great - find the cabin to fix our problem.  Phew! I'm guessing it's not the first time someone does that -problem fixed in a minute and off we were - destination Home.

What a fabulous time we had!  Already looking forward to our new adventure!

I might have one or two entries more to write - keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Day 13 part 2 - horseback riding

That was fun! Sophie and I had a great time!  Rémi, well, not so much!  He's not very flexible you see.  So sitting legs spread apart on a horse does not do go for inflexible hips.  He was in so much pain we had to stop and let him get down.  The "farmer" had to come and get him in his car!  He had to be in a lot of pain for this to happen.  It was sort of funny though... when we stopped for our "picnic", he couldn't get off it hurt too much!  He was almost stuck on the horse forever =) Next time we ride, if there ever is a next time, he says he needs an anorexic horse - no wider than a motorcycle... good luck with that!

My horse, Foxy, did not like stopping once on the way home!  The guide was telling me to turn him around, which I did, but then he walked backwards and wouldn't listen to me!  That was a little scary.

Icelandic horses are a special breed!
Did you know...

  • that they have 4 some 5 different gaits?
  • if they leave the island they are not permitted back on the island? -that's to prevent disease -that would be devastating to the country.
  • competitions focus on the gait of the horse?
  • there are 95 000 Icelandic horses in Iceland?
  • they are thought to be the oldest breed of horses?
  • the Vikings brought them over?
  • they are now found all over the world - Canada included - and Germany has the most of them?
  • this rancher gives them white bread as a treat after the ride?
  • they will also get extra hay tonight?
  • in the winter, their horseshoes will have spikes on them, same idea as cleats?
  • they run free from birth until they are 4 or 5 years old?
Fun adventure for some, hell for others!

Things I've learned part 2

  • Most bridges are one lane only -I'm sure this saves lots of money - not sure it would work in North America - we are too egotistical and would cause too many accidents
  • The roads have no shoulders -another good way to save money
  • Skyr is eaten as a dessert or snack -we've been eating it as breakfast
  • Censorship is not like in North America!! Songs on the radio use words we would censor - like the N word, the F word, the motherF word... see I'm censoring myself as to not offend anyone who may read my post! Not so in Iceland!  It was quite refreshing!!
  • There are a gazillion waterfalls
  • When entering a road, there is usually a map
  • Waiters don't bother you in restaurants.  They let you eat in peace.
  • Washrooms are very private.  They are always like little rooms - no big cracks that people can see you.
  • Texting/cellphones are used quite a bit while driving - kind of scary when your driver is never looking in front!
  • There are lots of funny signs
  • Road signs are very different.  I've seen 2 stop signs - rest are yields - again, not sure this would work in North America - everyone is busier than the next and has to go first...
  • Hotels and guesthouses don't use top sheets in the beds - just a comforter
  • Tons of "blindheads" - this is where you go up a hill and and you get a blind spot at the top - it's scary - You have no idea what's ahead! 

Day 13

Boy oh boy! What a hike that was!  The most challenging yet - in my eyes anyways!

We drove outside of Reykjavik for about an hour to get to the hiking trail we were going to - Glymur falls.  Glymur Falls is the second highest falls of Iceland.  The hike is about 3 1/5 hours long.  You have a choice of two trails to get to the top -one on the north side, which we found out is an easier climb, and one on the south side, which is very difficult.

We took the south side to go up.  You definitely need good hiking shoes/boots as you will be hiking along some pretty rough and rocky terrain.

The trail starts out like a trail you would find in Ottawa - nicely groomed, rocks and roots, you know...similar to Jack Pine trail.   It doesn't stay like that for very long though.  You quickly find out that if you don't have good shoes, perhaps you should turn around... I saw people in flip flops and I wanted to ask them if they were crazy... They obviously had not done their research properly and thought they were going for a little stroll to a waterfall!


On the hike, you arrive at a cave, you cross a river on a log (I was really scared here... not physically difficult, but mentally for sure!), you go up very steep hills where you have to hold on to a rope, you go down narrow, steep slippery, rocky hills, and finally arrive at the top where all that mental pain was worth it!  The beauty of it... WOW!

I was scared shitless for most of the way up... those little narrow paths on the edge of the cliff... phew! Heights are not my thing... You wonder why do you put yourself through that then?  Well, sometimes you just have to challenge yourself.  I know I'm always in great company and that my family will always be there behind me, helping me along.   Couldn't ask for better partners.


We finally get to the top, after some tears, lots of fear and hard work, to see this beautiful waterfall...but forget the waterfall - it's the 1000th waterfall we see... the view!  Breathtaking!  I wish pictures could capture such beauty... unfortunately, it doesn't quite do that!  It's burned in my mind though.

Time to come down.  We decided to go a bit further and down, and cross the river to get to the trail on the north side.  The water is (pardon my language) f***ing FREEZING!  You think your toes will fall off!!! I had to stop in the middle of the river, where there was a rock, to warm up my feet a few seconds!  Oh my goodness!  You would not want to lose your balance and fall in that water.  You would be in trouble that's for sure.

Once on the other side, as Sophie would call it, we had a celebration snack -peanuts, granola bar, chocolate, water.  We refuelled for the way down.  Lucky for us, the north side was much easier than the way we had just came.  That's exactly what I was hoping for!  To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I would have been able to come back down the way we came up!  At least when you go up, you don't have to look down if you don't want to.  When you are going down, what other choice do you have?!

We made it down safely and were quite happy with our newest accomplishment.  I'm still not ready for Mount Everest though...Not anytime soon! haha

We returned to our guesthouse and then walked downtown for a hotdog and ice cream.  Well, a hotdog is a hotdog if you ask me.  The soft serve ice cream here is really good.  It's smoother than in Canada.

So far, we have walked 13 km.  Tonight, we are going horseback riding.  The horse will be doing the walking.  I will keep you posted on how that went!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Day 12

We are now back in Reykjavik!

We started our day with a drive around rocky mountains, in the hopes to see a white tailed eagle... but no luck.  It would've been nice to see this majestic bird that was on the brink of extinction but is making a comeback - not a big enough comeback for us to see though.

We arrived to our hiking place for the day - Mount Esja.  It as a challenging hike up - quite steep in places and very rocky - you always have to look where you place your feet.  We didn't quite summit as you had to walk along a narrow path on the edge of a rock wall.  I'm not sure I would've been able to do that twice (once to go, and once to come back).  I could've easily have had a panic attack and be stuck there... We did make it up to where most people stop anyways.  Another great accomplishment!

After our hike, we made our way to drop off our camping gear (yes! done with sleeping on the ground!) and found the guesthouse we will be sleeping at for the next 2 nights.  It's a quaint little place.   We are walking distance from the city center which is nice.

We walked downtown to find a restaurant.   It was a 15/20 minute walk there.  We found a nice little place.

Remi had minke whale, Sophie had horse steak and I had plain fish and chips.  We all tried the different foods.  Whale meat is weird.  At first, it sort of tastes like beef but all of a sudden it tastes like fish.  The texture is a bit like beef.  It's a thin slice of steak, and it's very dark.  I'm glad  I didn't have a whole steak to eat!

Sophie ordered the horse steak.  That tasted very good!  It was a bit tough to chew though.  I'm also glad I didn't order that!  I would still be sitting there chewing!  Both Remi and Sophie had vegetables - they were delicious! I'm not sure what they cooked them in but yummy!

My fish was delicious!  The batter was light and crispy - nothing like the disgusting one we had yesterday!  My friend Ann would be very proud of me for trying these different foods (those who know me know I don't eat much of anything)!  Weird thing about salad here - we've never had dressing for it!  Odd!

Tomorrow brings another hike... hope it will be nice outside!  We've had 3 nice days in a row - let's keep it going!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 11

Good evening from Iceland!

Well, my fall from yesterday has left me a little sore this morning.  I have quite the bruise on the hip from where I fell on my camera.  

Another quieter day today.  We got up this morning, packed up and made our way back to the bird place to see if we could see puffins again.  Well, the night time viewing was much better!  Only a couple puffins this morning.  I'm guessing they go out on the ocean during the day and come back at night to sleep on the rocks.  We then hiked the cliff for a while.  It was weird.  You could see different peaks.  I set my eyes on the highest peak and off we went.  Thing is, you get up to a peak, thinking it was the peak you had your eyes on, but just beyond, there was another peak... you start thinking was that the peak? So then you hike up to the next peak and what do you see when you crown the top?  You got it, another peak!  By the fourth or fifth peak, I turned around and started back down.  I had walked up for almost 3 km by then and I knew Sophie wanted to go down and see the birds.

After this, we drove to the beach.  Y
ou are supposed to be able to swim in the ocean - problem is we got there at low tide... which means we would've had to walk probably 3 km to get to the water - we didn't really have time so we looked at the beach, had a hot chocolate and got back in the car - our mission: finding a "hot pot" - a natural thermal bathing spot.  We found one!  We sat in the pot for about an hour, then made our way to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  I had fish and chips - which was kind of gross.  The batter tasted like chicken noodle soup!  Fish and chicken noodle soup - not a great combo...

They say you should do something that scares you everyday.  Well, fait accompli for today!  Man! Driving those roads up and down and around mountains is a scary affair!  The roads are way to narrow, there are no barriers between you and certain death if you go to close to the edge with your car... and when you meet a car and you are on the outside, let me tell you... not great for someone with a fear of heights!   But I did it!

After dinner we got on the ferry to start heading back to Reykjavik.  The camping is just beautiful!  We are surrounded on two sides by mountains - the rocky mountain type!  Then, we have water on the other side and a golf course on the fourth!  Beautiful place - of course pictures don't capture such beauty.

Tomorrow we are off to the rocky mountains, trying to see the white tailed eagle, then we will hike up Mount Esja.

Photos to come!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Day 10

Ah! The sunshine Was finally part of the full day!  What a treat! Today was a bit of a driving day.  We only did about 200 km - if even - but it took most of the day.  We were going through the mountain pass I guess you could call it - tons of curves, going up and down mountains.  A bit scary at times if you ask me!  It kind of reminded me of last year's drive down the Pacific coast... not the same view, but the same type of road - except half of it was in gravel today!

The views are absolutely magnificent!  Every twist and turn brings something interesting.

So, on our drive we saw an arctic fox!! How cool is that?  It crossed the road right in front of us.  I had time to stop and Sophie got out to take some photos.

We stopped to visit the museum of witchcraft.  It was interesting to learn about this subject and how it affected the people of Iceland.

We continued to Drangsnes to bathe in the hot pots.  These were hot tub filled will thermal water from the mountain - no bubbles or anything.  I've read some are just holes in the ground or huge pots... Will be keeping an eye out for

We then made our way to Breidavik - near the bird reserve - in the east Fjords.  We set up our tent and went for a walk on the beach, where I took time to sunbathe a little.  I then went to see the old church when I saw the remains of an old house.  As I entered the house, I took a nose dive, fell hard on the ground and hit my camera hard as well.  My zoom now doesn't work properly.  Damn.  I have to manually focus - which is not easy to do when you are photographing nature. I'm a little bummed about this.... but such is life.

As we were looking at the menu, the first page said "Puffin are better seen after dinner".  What? we were going to go in the morning!  So after dinner, we drove to the reserve to see the puffin.  OH MY GOD!!! Good thing we went at night!  It was just incredible!  I could've stretched out my arm and petted one!  They are by far my favourite bird.  Those who know me must be thinking I had a few tears - nope! Not this time - close though!  I just had to concentrate not to... We got some awesome shots of puffins and returned to the campsite.

Sophie and I watched the sun go down and took some great pictures.  It's now 11:30 and it's almost as bright as during the day.  We have another big day tomorrow so off to bed I go.

They have funny signs in Iceland.  Here's a sample...  If you can't read Icelandic, you can surely read the signs =)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 9

Got up this morning, at around 7:00 to get ready for some exploring around lake Myvatn - supposedly a duck birding paradise.  We've been camping here for 2 days and have only seen one or two kinds but ok... off we go.

We ended up seeing quite a few more types of ducks and some swans as well.  I will put pictures up later...  As we went around the lake, we did a few hiking trails to see if we could find a gyrfalcon or an elusive ptarmigan.  No luck, we still have not seen those two birds.

After our tour around the lake, we had a "famous hotdog".  There really is nothing special about it!  She actually cooked it in a microwave!  Really?! We will have to try again in Reykivic! 

We left the lake area for our new destination - we are headed west to the west fjords.  We stopped at another waterfall... lots of waterfalls here!  Lots of rivers too - and not tiny rivers either! 

We pitched our tent and off to dinner we went.  Had pizza today -it's very much european pizza - the crust is different than ours - it was better than the one we had in St-Pierre et Miquelon though! Thank goodness! 

Well, it's 11:00 and it's not dark.  The sun set behind a mountain and it looks like it's about 9:00 in Ottawa.

horned greve

My laptop is about to die... so good night!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 8

We got up at 5:15 this morning to drive north - one of the most northern tip of the island to go bird watching...What we don't do for our kids... Ended up being a fabulous day!

Surprise, surprise!  It rained today!  It was also pretty cold.  We are now at the Arctic ocean, and very near the Artcic circle.

We took a birding tour with a local gentleman - who is actually a sheep farmer extraordinaire!  This man does it all - I'm an amazed at all he does!  We had a fabulous learning about sheep, Iceland, the Icelandic history and people.  We learned all sorts of things today - it was truly amazing spending all day with him!

built his own bird blind
He took us to bird cliffs where we saw gannets, puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes and other birds.  He also brought us to an abandoned village -that was there during the 2nd World War.  We saw abandoned farms and sheep of course!  We also saw this orange tubular thing that is actually an emergency place for sailors.  Farmers and people in distress also uses it - they can be found all around the island on the shores.  Inside there was food, a radio and blankets, heater, beds and a table. At the end of the road, there was a lighthouse and we could see where the Arctic ocean meets the Atlantic ocean.  Pretty cool if you ask me!

I thought François would love this guy.  He could learn a lot from him about being self sufficient-as he aspires to be.  This guy does it all.  He grows his own food, has I think 450 sheep, own a hostel, does birding tours, built a bird blind, he gathers things that drift on his beach to sell for things he needs, he fishes, he hunts, all the time respecting nature.  The list of things he does goes on and on.  I have a lot of respect for him.  We should all aspire to be that good to the earth!

After our wonderful day, we drove back and stopped at Selfoss and Detifoss.  Wow!  Selfoss could give a run for its money to Niagara Falls!!!  WOW!

We then stopped at Myvatn hot bath - man oh man that felt wonderful!

Tomorrow we are going to explore a little around the lake before moving on.  We should see ducks that we haven't seen yet as this is the "duck place".

Time for bed!  Another long day ahead of us tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 7 - cold, cold day!

OMG!  I don't remember the last time I was this cold!  What a (insert swear word of your choice here) miserable day - at least weather wise! 

We decided to take a break from driving and take a tour bus to Askja - in the highlands.  It's a caldera - and in the caldera there is a crater with warm water - well, warm... that's pushing it when it's probably below zero outside.They said the water was 23-30 degrees... I would say that's a lie =) 

First you drive for 3 hours - learning about Iceland on the way - kind of cool - we learned about their language, saw where they filmed part of Oblivion (with Tom Cruise), walked where the astronauts came to learn about geology - in 1967.  We also learned about an outlaw who built himself a hole and survived the winter.  All really cool stories! 

When you get to the Askja, we hiked through rain and winds for 2.5 km.  We had to walk through snow and ice, sand, pumice stone and mud - very slippery mud!  After driving there and walking all that way, we had to go down to the bottom of the crater is mud- Remi took a fall but was fine - just VERY dirty!  

Remi was quite brave - changed into his swimsuit and went in.  I pulled my pants up to my knees and Sophie went in her underwear up to her thighs.  

We then had to hike back to the bus- I couldn't believe how cold it was! The wind was so strong - the rain blowing in your face - not pleasant at all.  We got back in the bus and froze... 

We can't let the weather get to us or else we won't be doing anything... so rain or no rain (mostly rain - only one day of sunshine so far) we have to go out and do things... I'm warmed up now and getting ready to go into the freezing cold tent to warm my sleeping bag up.  Good night! 

Photos are on my phone. ..will add later.

Day 6

4 layers and we are still cold!!
Today was a driving day.  We did see many waterfalls - every mountain has waterfalls - every one just as pretty as the next and lots of birds.

We also saw and walked around a caldera, and later a crater.  Both were beautiful - and nice hikes - the crater was a 5 km hike - it's huge!!  It must be close to 8 km diameter at the bottom.  It sure was worth the difficult long hike up though!  It was a dry crater - no water at the bottom - which is different from all the craters we've seen so far.

We are staying in Myvatn for 3 nights.  Tomorrow will be a big day - we decided to take the bus tour to Asja - will be safer than by car as the rivers are too high for cars - we could do it with the 4x4 but why take the cahnce -plus it will be a break from driving for me.

We saw lots of whooper swans on our drive today - what a beautiful bird! That's all I can think of right now... I'm sure I'm forgetting lots...

Oh! I had traditional lamb sausage - let's just say I won't be having that again...
Oh! and we drove through a mountain!  a 6km tunnel - not for claustrophobic people!

Some of the views from today... the other photos are on our phones and I don't feel like uploading them...

The crater we walked around today.

I loved this sign.  I wish people respected nature more - lots of idiot tourists around. 
a random shower and sink