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 Fran├žois 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

Monday, July 25, 2016

Things I've learned/confirmed so far...

  • Food is very expensive!  A bowl of soup with a piece of bread - 16$ and more! 
  • Filling up with diesel or gasoline -not easy! Everything is written in Icelandic! 
  • Stop signs are very rare - I've only seen 2 so far.  They LOVE roundabouts though! They are everywhere! 
  • Road signs are very different than in Canada - It's a bit difficult to navigate since we can't read the signs - neither can the GPS.  We've been doing great though. Have not gotten lost yet! 
  • I may not buy a wool sweater.  I'm not paying 250$ or more for a sweater! 
  • Elaine probably won't get earrings as I've only seen one pair and they were $60! 
  • Denise might not get an ornament as I've not seen any.
  • Icelandic people are very nice and helpful. Even the little old man who didn't speak English! We managed to understand each other.
  • The landscape is diverse -Rocky mountains one minute, outer space looking the next, then fields and more mountains.
  • A bag of chips costs $9.  We don't eat chips everyday.

This is what we should've rented...
instead of this! 

Day 5

What a night!  Of course, it rained all night!  I'm starting to think that the sun never shines in Iceland as we've had about 5 minutes of sun since we are here. We left Vik to make our way to Hofn.   Luckily, the clouds cleared when we arrived in glacier land!  We had sun most of the day! It's about time! On the way, we did a hike at Skatafell.  There we saw glaciers, waterfalls (again), and some more than 100 year old houses.  That was the highlight of the hike.  It’s neat to see how these tiny little homes are built in the mountain.

Once we finished our hike, we continued our way and stopped at two glacier lagoons.  They were both beautiful place!  It’s basically a lake filled with icebergs - which are really large pieces of the glaciers that have broken off and have fallen in the lake, now melting.  It’s beautiful and sad at the same time… That’s the climate change for you… wether it’s caused by humans or naturally occurring… the ice caps are melting.  

At the second lagoon, we saw a few seals playing in the water - they got in because this lagoon went to the ocean.  We also saw tons of terns.  Something interesting - these birds fish to feed there young - then there are the arctic jager - who work in groups of two or three to scare the tern so it will drop its fish and they then steal it!  They are lazy hunters!!!  At some point, it looked like they were going to drown the poor little tern - but it was smart enough to let go of the fish just in time!  Makes me happy I’m not a tern.
We are now in Hofn, where we will camp for the night.  Remi is setting up the tent as I’m charging my laptop and writing this…see? like the tern and the jager - he does the work while I play =) 

Did I mention that you can find sheep pretty much everywhere!  Lots of moms with her babies - they are very skittish though... can't get close to them!
The truck I would have liked to have.
The truck I had.

 Plants are very fragile here.  Here's a pretty little flower.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 4 - Vik and area

Ah... a much calmer day today!  Busy, but calm!

We saw waterfalls, a bird reserve, a black beach, and the oldest swimming pool of Iceland (built in 1923).

The swimming pool was... interesting I guess I could say!  It was filled with algae!!  It was still very cool!

I will add photos as soon as I can - I have about 5 minutes left of life on my computer... argh.  Too many hogs of plugs around here!

We have been rained on everyday since we are here... I am praying for sunshine soon...

Black Beach - 
Little white churches with red roof - seen everywhere! 

Day 3 - Highlands

Today we are driving to the highlands - this is a MUST!  If you ever come to Iceland, do NOT cheap

out on your vehicle! You need to make sure you rent a 4x4 so you can drive the F-roads.  If not, you will miss this precious gem - the most beautiful thing I’ve seen so far - I can’t even explain it.  There were tears from being overwhelmed, and tears from fear.  Let me explain…

We made our way to Lan…. To do so, you need to go on “F-roads” - our version of off roading I guess.  The roads are very narrow - two cars don’t really fit… you may or may not have to drive through rivers, huge puddles, tons of pot holes - you get the point.  The road, as treacherous as it is, offers the most beautiful views! Every twist and turn is more beautiful than the last.  

At one point, we stopped to view this beautiful volcano crater - breathtaking is what it was! 

After I’d say 2 or 3 hours of this, we finally arrived to where we were going.  Mountains all around us - hiking trails galore - a real hiker’s paradise!  

Off we went hiking… We started off it looked like we were on a different planet.  The lava rock formation is something else! We ended up in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains of different colours, met a few people on the way… We decide to take the green trail, then red, then white.  Well let me tell you… it was one hard hike!  Up, up, up, it never seemed to end!  We did make it to the top of the first mountain and found out we were not done climbing… but what else were we going to do? Turn back around? No way!  So up, up and up we went.  We made it to the top of the second mountain - and boy was it worth all that hard work!  Again, even more beautiful than when we began!  Didn’t think it was possible!  Down, down down we went, seeing fumaroles, craters with green water, rock formations out of this world. 

When we finished our hike, we went for a dip in the river that was supposed to be hot -well, it wasn’t really… but oh well, nice anyways.

It was time to leave this beautiful paradise and make our way to Vik.  We get on the F-road and keep going.  We had a choice to make - go back the same way - which added over an hour, or go south… South we went.  Oh my God!  I was a scared shitless a few times!  The curbs, the blind hills, the rivers I had to cross!!!  I had to cross at least 20 rivers - some shallow, some deep enough that the water came up over the hood to the windshield - scary!  I kept telling myself - don’t let go of the gas, don’t let go of the gas!   (will add a video shortly)

After another harrowing drive, we made it to our campsite near Vik at 11:30 - It’s not even dark out!  Time to pitch our tent and go to bed… not before admiring where we were!  We were surrounded  by mountains!  A tiny little valley amongst giants… Wow, just wow!  The pictures don’t give it any justice… 

It was quite the day!  Full of adrenaline - I’m hoping tomorrow will be a little calmer! 

Well, my laptop is dying, no where to plug it in... will add photos as soon as I can! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Iceland - Day 2 - Wow! Simply WOW!

What a fantastic day we had!  It was filled with excitement - from spelunking in a lava tube cave to hiking and floating in a hot river to snorkelling in frozen water between tectonic plates! What a day!

Iceland's vegetation is sparse - not one tree in site for ages then all of a sudden a little "forest" of pine trees - I'm guessing they were planted there.  Suddenly, you see a "field" of "grass", then nothing but moss again.  It's kind of odd really.  Beautiful but odd.

So, back to our day!  It started with a drive to the lava tube caves - Raufarholshellir (try saying that 10 times - never mind - try saying that correctly!!).  This was absolutely breathtaking!  You enter the cave to the most beautiful view!  I can't explain it, you have to see it.  Remember that pictures don't always convey the beauty of things... There were these holes in the ceiling of the cave that brought in some light - just breathtaking.  Walking in a bit further, there was snow, then later butterflies, yes, you read correctly - butterflies!  After the butterflies, there was no more light -none whatsoever!  Pitch black, complete darkness - get what I'm saying here?  Thankfully we were prepared and had headlamps and flashlights - into the darkness we went.  In the dark we found ice that looked like glamorous diamonds.  The cave was 1.5 km long - we didn't venture in that far as is was quite difficult and to tell you the truth, a bit scary!  Imagine falling in there and breaking an ankle? How the heck would you ever get out?  You wouldn't!

After this exciting adventure, we made our way to Valley of Reykjadalur - a 3.5 kilometer up a mountain side, down another, seeing beautiful waterfalls, boiling pots, fumeroles and ending up at a river where you could lounge in the hot water - How fun!  We then walk back the 3.5 km to the car and moved on.  This was a beautiful but difficult height - up, up, up... phew! Glad we are in shape - or so I thought!  I won't be going up MT Everest anytime soon...

We ended our day with some snorkelling in freezing water - but the most amazing snorkelling!  In between two tectonic plates -the european and the american plates.  Now how cool is that?!  We wore dry suits - which keep you dry - not warm!  Hands and face were really cold as they come in contact with water - but man! What an experience!

Tomorrow we leave this area to go and explore another.  I can't wait!  Oh yes, we saw birds today - northern wheatear, red-necked phalarope, heard a red throated loon to name a few.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 1 - Reykjavik and around

We landed safely in Iceland at 5:15 am - pretty uneventful flight.  The stewardesses were just as pretty as the plane - dressed in pink -perfect buns, perfect makeup.  I don't know if they were nice as I
did sleep most of the way - I was asleep before we had left the tarmac in Montreal!  Wasn't a great sleep, but sleep nonetheless.

Woke up to see that it wasn't dark outside - kind of odd to look at your clock, see that it's 11:00pm and it's still light.  Not like broad daylight, but the sky is blue, the horizon a beautiful red, pink and orange.  Wake up again at midnight and it looks like it's noon! Bright sunshine!  So weird!

We did a few things today - left the airport and made our way to get our car - a 2 minute shuttle ride - waited for the shuttle for about 15 minutes - it would've been faster to walk!  Our car is a white Chevrolet Captiva.  Some sort of SUV.

We made our way to the hotel, thinking we could get our room, have a nap before starting our adventure... no luck so we drove to the Bridge Between Continents.  It's a small footbridge that spans between the two tectonic plates.  The plates slowly separate but I'm pretty sure we don't have to start worrying just yet.  There wasn't much to do here - except walk the 100 meters to the bridge, cross the bridge and come back.  You could also walk underneath and pretend you were holding it in the air.  It was freezing and raining so this was a 10 minute outing.  On to the next thing!

We drove to Reykjavik and visited this Grotta - a lighthouse where there were tons of Arctic terns - Sophie was in paradise! The birds were pretty ticked off and were "attacking" us - a little scary if you ask me!  Their chicks are old enough to fly away - they are just lazy... We also saw some oyster catchers, common red shanks and some other shore birds as well.  Pretty place.  You have to watch the tide though- you could be stuck at the lighthouse until the tide comes down again... that would not be fun!

After walking around this nature reserve, we made our way to a beautiful church called Hallgrimskirkja - a Lutheran church.  It is beautiful!  Very plain, but gorgeous!

We had booked a tour to visit an island and see puffins.  Well, let's just say that if you've never seen a puffin, I guess you could be satisfied.  If you saw puffins in Newfoundland, this was a total bust.  There were not that many puffins, and you saw them from far away.  I guess we can say we went for a boat ride!  We did see puffins, gulls, one cormorant, and fulmars.  I was a little disappointed but whatever.

For lunch we ate lamb soup and bread in a quaint little place called Cafe Babalu.  Lunch was quite yummy but expensive at 16.00$ a bowl!!!  Ouch!

So far Iceland is a pretty desolate place.  Black lava rock everywhere.  Moss is growing in some places, no trees.

The highlight of the day was the Blue Lagoon - Geothermal bath... Ahhh that felt wonderful after a very long day!  Will add photos tomorrow. Time for bed - early rise tomorrow...