Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Iceland: Day 2

On our second day in Iceland, a false fire alarm woke us up at 5:30. It felt like college all over again, like someone had burnt popcorn in the microwave. One of my biggest fears is getting caught in a fire, so with my heart pounding, even for a false alarm, I could not go back to sleep. So our second day got a bit of an earlier start than we had planned!

We had breakfast in the hostel, which was a nice option (although they were late in setting it up, which was annoying since we had been up for about two hours already!). For ~$15 each we could partake in a buffet which included bread (for toast or sandwiches [there were also cheese/meat/tomato/cucumber slices), skyr (Iceland's version of yogurt), cereal, and hard-boiled eggs. So we filled ourselves up since we weren't sure when we would eat next.

We rented a car that day to explore the southern coast of the country. Hannah already had a plan for where we would stop along the way, so I just enjoyed the ride (and also napped...).

Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, a big waterfall that is quite the tourist attraction (I even found a postcard featuring it). Iceland had a very rainy spring and early summer, so the water was rushing; it was quite the sight!

We walked behind the waterfall, so we got a little wet from the mist.
When we had talked to someone at the tourist office downtown the previous day, we told him we were going to see the falls. He told us about a smaller, less-known waterfall (called Gljúfrabúl) that was just a short walk from the bigger one. So we took his advice to check it out. 

Notice the little sheep at the bottom of the photo!
We walked past some small waterfalls before reaching the one we wanted to get to. This one was inside of a cavern, so we had to use stepping stones in the water to get inside of the cave to see the falls. That was quite the balancing act, especially since people were trying to get out while we were trying to get in, but there's only one path!
Picture by Hannah Churn

After that we drove a little while longer to get to Skógafoss, a waterfall that Hannah visited the last time she was in Iceland. There is a tall set of stairs to get to the top, and all of my gym classes definitely prepared me for that climb!
This was a mountain near the falls. We saw a lot of these mossy mountains.
There are the falls, and you can see the winding staircase to the right in the photo.
Picture by Hannah Churn

This is what the falls looked like at the top.
There was a long trail that we could hike at the top of the falls, but we didn't have time to linger. We were off to our next stop, Dyrhólaey, to see the black sand beaches. They weren't beaches where people lay out or play in the surf; it can actually be dangerous to swim there. So we just took some photos before moving on to our next adventure.

We made a quick stop to see Sólheimajökull, a glacier that, like all other glaciers, is melting and shrinking in size due to climate change.

First we saw this big pond of water, and soon realized this was water that used to be part of the glacier.
You can see how enormous the glacier is: those tiny dots by the water at the bottom of the picture are people!
Then we were back on the road. We saw more misty mountains, and lots of happy cows, sheep and horses.

Our last stop was to check out a pool that Hannah wanted to visit. This wasn't a hot spring, but the pool was heated by geothermal energy. We had to hike in the rain to get there, but Hannah did get her quick dip in!
We saw these pretty purple flowers EVERYWHERE!

We were walking along this valley to get to the pool.

Hannah enjoyed her brief swim, even if it was raining a bit!
We finally saw a bit of blue sky as we were heading home. Such amazing landscapes!
We wanted to make sure we returned the rental car on time, so we were bookin' it back; it was fun reading 110 on the speedometer, even though that was in kilometers. As we drove back we saw a fence with bras all over it, an Arion bank, valleys of steam, and little hobbit houses nestled at the base of some of the mountains. But it was mostly lava fields (i.e. the usual).

Image found here

We got the car back just in time so that we could head to the Harpa for a showing of "Icelandic Sagas," a funny performance that summarized many of the viking stories. The room was much smaller than I expected for such a well-known performance hall, and for the ~$40 I paid for each ticket, I was surprised by the minimal set and the fact that the show only had two actors in it. I was amused and entertained, but the experience was like expecting to go to the Kennedy Center and ending up at Atlas Theater: still good, but not what you thought you had paid for. But we then went out for Indian food at a place called Gandhi, and that made it all better. The atmosphere was quiet and romantic actually, and the food was delicious. Then we had some ice cream as we walked back to the hostel.

Yet another busy day!