Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Friday, November 16, 2012

The South of Iceland--Not So Tropical

Hello, adoring fans!  After a week of procrastinating, Tara has demanded that I finish the last Iceland post before I forget where the pictures were taken.  So, let's get to it.

Iceland has a lot of volcanoes.  That is because it is on the boundary of two tectonic plates that are ripping apart from each other.  So, how can you not go see the rift?  On the left side of this picture is the North American plate and on the right side is the European plate.  Sadly, there was no dinner plate to be seen.
What's down this hole?  Molten lava.  Just kidding, but I do like to picture myself standing astride this crack as the earth was torn asunder while using fun words like astride and asunder.
It so happens that the same place where the plates are separating is where the first parliament in the world was held.  It has the terrific name of Þingvellir.  If all those letters don't show up on your screen, you must have forgotten to install the Icelandic font pack on your computer.
We were walking along the creek when we realized that it was full of massive trout.  Most were about the size of a house, but some were more like the one that you probably can't make out in this photo, which was only as big as a small cottage.  It turned out that they were all swimming up the creek from the lake to spawn.
Given the whole splitting of the plates, it probably won't shock you to see that there have been some lava flows around.
Next stop: Geysir.  No, not some old geyser, but Geysir, which was the first known geyser and the place from which all others get the name.  It is in a field of other geysers, and it doesn't really erupt much anymore, but at one point it erupted regularly and massively.  We followed some apparently stupid tourists through a back gate thinking that was the way in and wound up standing right next to some geysers.  Made for good pictures, but it could have been ugly had they erupted.
It looks like such an innocuous hole in a calm lake--until it blows your head off with scalding water.
Here is the original Geysir.  At least it gets a nice grave stone.  They used to throw soap into it to make it erupt, but even that trick will no longer work.
This geyser is the most regular in the world.  And, no, I don't mean that it goes to the bathroom every morning without fail.
I mean that it erupts every 5-6 minutes, in a super fast poof! of water.  I stood with my camera shutter half depressed for about 2 minutes to make sure I got it as it was spewing the water into the air.
In completing what is known as the Golden Triangle of Icelandic tourism, we went to Gullfoss, some nice waterfalls that don't really compare to Dental Floss Falls (see Tara's earlier post), but which are a whole lot easier to reach.
A different perspective.
We got to the big national park in southern Iceland late in the day and thought that we only had time to hike to either the waterfall (Svartifoss) or the glacier (Skaftafellsjökull--I can only imagine Icelandic tongue twisters).  As it turned out, some other tourists pointed out that we could drive most of the way to the falls because it was off season.  Nice.  These falls are famous because of the black basalt columns behind them.
It was starting to get too dark for pictures, but you can see the columns nicely in this one.
Then we still had some time to walk out to the glacier.  I enjoyed the mossy fields that we walked through to get there (though we were on a paved path).
And there was a frozen glacial lake at the foot of the glacier.
Then I found some girl who wanted her picture taken despite her attempt to get me to turn back long before we made it this far.
Glaciers look so black and white, but someone had nicely laid out this rainbow of glacial rocks to remind us just how lovely they can be.
We stayed in a cabin at a local farm, where they kindly upgraded us to a room with a private bath because they weren't full (maybe a $500 value or so in uber-expensive Icelandic hotels).
Tara's favorite part of being on this farm was 1.) eating sheep for dinner; and 2.) waking up to sheep outside our door.  Icelandic sheep seem extra hairy.
Road shot of the some mountains.  Just in case you forgot that Iceland had mountains.
Everyone told us that we needed to go to Jökulsárlón, which is a lagoon filled with icebergs.  It is so otherworldly that they use it in movies all the time, including one of the Bond movies and Tomb Raider.  It turned out to be as cool as promised.
The icebergs sometimes flip over, exposing their melted and very blue sides.
The lagoon didn't exist until the 1930s.  As global warming melts the glacier at the edge of the lagoon, it continues to grow.
Yes, I really wanted to hopscotch my way to the middle of the lagoon.  Unfortunately, icebergs are slippery.  And the water was cold.  So you have to settle for this, and even balancing on this one was a challenge.
My ice cube is bigger than your ice cube!
I threw a rock through the ice to see how solid it was (for example, was it solid enough to support a 170-pound man) and discovered that it was pretty thin.  Tara first chastised me for disrupting nature in this way, then discovered that it was really a lot of fun to see how far you could toss a rock and see if it would break the ice.
The water was too cold for me, but these eiders make good coats for a reason.
I don't know where this is, but I like the picture.  Somewhere on the south side of Iceland.  Probably out of a car window.
Last stop: Westman Islands.  The weather looked nice on the ferry ride over.  Seas were calm and Tara didn't even vomit.
The chain has several islands, only one of which is really inhabited, but this fortress-like rock that rises maybe 500 feet in the air has a house on top!  If I'm ever a supervillain, I plan to buy this house.
Look how sunny it is as we pull into the harbor!  This town had a massive volcanic eruption in the 1970's, with lava flows like this one stopped from clogging the harbor with the help of hundreds of boats spraying water at the lava to cool it.
We had heard that Iceland is so safe that people often leave their babies on the street while they shop.  This turns out to be true.
Among other things, the Westman Islands are famous for puffin hunting.  People string themselves from ropes and bounce along the face of a cliff grabbing puffins during the three month nesting season.  Sadly, it was out of season, so we had to acquire our less-than-tasty puffin from an overpriced tourist restaurant on the mainland.
You might have to click on this picture and blow it up to see, but it is a mural all about the local fish processing plant!
When the volcano erupted, everyone was able to flee the island on boats.  However, several buildings were buried under deep lava.  They have now erected tombstones for the historic buildings that were lost.
I made Tara climb the volcano that had erupted, of course.  We couldn't really find an official path, so I just kept making us walk towards it.  And then it started to rain.  I am unclear on how I managed to get Tara to smile for this photo.
The volcano is very red and produced a ton of red pumice, which is far more fun than black pumice.
The island has a second volcano, too!  Who wouldn't want to live on an island small enough to walk around in a few hours that has two active volcanoes?
This picture is the volcano's perspective of the town.  When asked what it was thinking, the volcano replied, "That sure does look like a tasty town down there!  I'm thinking about eating it for dinner soon!"
What could make Tara less happy than rain while hiking?  Sleet and snow!
This area is sometimes called the Pompeii of the North because they are digging out some houses and buildings buried in the eruption of the 1970's.  Turns out that it is about .000000001% as cool as Pompei, but I think it would be pretty interesting to visit in about 2000 years and see what people are saying about it.

And that brings us to the end of Iceland.  We had a really nice trip there and would recommend it to anyone who has a decent paying job or is good with credit card debt.  Good travels!


  1. Awesome photos and descriptions, but that upside-down iceberg takes the cake!!

    Also, please become a supevillain so you can buy that house!

  2. Hello!
    Iceland looks cool. And cold!
    If you guys are going to keep your travel blog going, may I respectfully request a few articles about Colorado? For those of us who last went there in the 1980s and don't remember much.

    All the best from Pisa.

  3. My goodness, wanderlust is raging. Beautiful. That's one place I've always wanted to visit. Thank you for the visual tour!

  4. Gorgeous pics and a very fun commentary! Will be back for more! =D