Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chelsea in (the middle of nowhere) Iceland

Tuesday, November 12

We woke up at a respectable time, by our standards. We ate some leftover pizza and granola bars, and decided to make the most of our only clear day in Iceland, according to the forecast. We pack up and left our guesthouse en route for the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle is a road that loops past some of south Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions: Thingvillier National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss Waterfall. As we headed out along Route 1, we began to see why Iceland is so gorgeous.

We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise at 9:45am (yes, it’s that late. There is not a lot of sunlight during the winter here!) of stunning colors. As we drove, we saw some snow covered mountains that seemed very near. We “ooh”-ed and “awww”-ed at every turn. We drove for a little while, and the sun was peeking from behind clouds. It was really clear and beautiful. 

After a while, we arrived at the Thingvillier National Park. We weren’t exactly sure what we were looking at/for. We parked and got out, only to be greeted by a BITING cold wind. We agreed to just go for a peek over the lookout section. We huddled together and looked out. It was beautiful. We took some photos and agreed to continue to brave the wind and venture further. We went down and between some rock walls to the bottom. There were a few other groups of people but it was pretty empty. We kept taking photos.

We decided to climb up to another lookout point close by. There were stairs and because of the cold, I was nervous that maybe there would be some ice. The temperature was negative 2C, so it was possible. I went first up the stairs, Romeo following to be sure I wouldn’t fall. We made it up, but then had to go down a little path to the edge lookout. Romeo went ahead of me and immediately he tried to brace himself, telling me to be careful because it was slick. I grabbed the back of his jacket to try to help him, but somehow I think I knocked him off balance because the next thing I knew he was on his butt on the ground. We died laughing and I almost fell on top of him as I tried not to repeat his mistake. 

We finally made it to the lookout and were rewarded with beautiful views. A woman who was there and had seen our wipe out told us she did the same thing. I couldn’t help but think “Well, why didn’t you warn us then?!” After a few quick photos, we decided we’d had enough of the wind for the time being. We headed back and decided to walk on the rocks next to the slippery path instead. They were MUCH easier, almost like natural stairs. 

Finally we made it back to the car and warmed up with our seat heaters. I keyed in our next destination: Geysir. Apparently, my research has given me to assume that this is the “original” geyser after which all other geysers ('geysirs' in Iceland) are named. One blog equated this to seeing the original Tree or Rock that all other trees and rocks are named. I thought that was pretty cute. 

On the way, we stopped for petrol/gasoline. We found a station in a small town and pulled up to the pump. After pushing some buttons and getting confused, we decided to try and pay cash at the register. We headed inside and asked the woman. She tried to explain to us about the system, but we were clueless, so she patiently led us outside to help us figure it out. Apparently, you put in your card (which you must have a PIN for, so we had to use my debit card), then tell it how much you will authorize. We were again clueless for how much we should authorize, since we needed about half a tank. The kind lady suggested about 7,000ISK, so we did that. We filled it up and it topped off at 4,925ISK. We had to put the card back in, then it printed a receipt for us. With a great deal of help, we mastered the process of getting gasoline in Iceland!!

After this ordeal, we decided it was time to find some food. We checked at several restaurants but everything seemed closed. We ended up just snacking as we drove to Geysir. When we arrived, there were many more people than had been at the National Park. We parked and followed our noses to the sulfur stinking geysir minefield. There were loads of smoking holes in the ground and we even saw Geysir go off as soon as we parked. We headed in for a closer look. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was out so we were lucky. Geysir went off again after about 10 minutes and we got to see it happen.

The water that all pools around the “blowhole” is steadily bubbling, but right before it blows, it kind of makes one huge bubble in the middle, which is vividly blue, and an instant later it blows sky-high. The first one we saw close up caught us by surprise, but we waited around for another, and we were rewarded with both photos and video coverage. After the third time, I started to not be able to feel my face. We decided to head back to our car. It was very cool to see, but just didn’t take too long. We popped in the restaurant/gift shop and I found the brand of Icelandic wool clothing that I had been wanting to see. I bought some wool socks and took photos with all the CUTE puffin stuffed animals. 

Finally we got into the car and once again warmed up, although this time our toes did not completely thaw. I drove about 5-6 miles up the road to Gullfoss Waterfall. There were two parking areas and we chose the one on higher ground, not really knowing the difference. Basically there are 3 viewing platforms, and you can walk between all of them. We went first to the middle one as it was the closest. It had pretty good views, but it was crowded. We took some photos, then walked down to the bottom level. It had a little better views, and there were far fewer people around. The last one was up higher and closer to the waterfall, but it looked like the views wouldn’t have been very good, so we didn’t go. We took lots of pictures, but by then I was starting to look like that scene from Dumb and Dumber when they ride the scooters to Aspen and their snot froze in icicles, but without the scooter. My face was numb and I couldn’t sniff back the snot, but then again, I couldn’t really feel it on my face anyway. I rushed back to the facilities near our car and got freshened up. 

As we were about to leave the Gullfoss parking lot, we saw the moon. It was 4:15pm, and the moon was just on the horizon. You could clearly see the moon on one side, and the sun starting to set on the other side. Both were pretty large in the sky. It was weirdly awesome.

Finally we headed to Selfoss, a town in South Iceland. It was a little over an hour’s drive, and by the time we arrived, we were starving!! We found our guesthouse, checked in (which was basically nothing! He just handed us the key, pointed out our cabin, and told us to enjoy!), dropped our stuff, and immediately headed to a restaurant. 

We went to a place called Kaktus (like the plant). The woman working looked like she was going to a club, but she was really nice. Her cute little daughter helped her take our order and bring our drinks and food. I ordered baby back ribs and Romeo ordered fish-n-chips. Both were very good! I ordered a small, but it was pretty much an entire rack. Romeo laughed at me using a fork to peel off the meat from the bones. We shared and his fish was very tasty. Both of us had french fries with our meal, and they were fantastic! Honestly, they probably had too much salt, but I love salty fries and they were so hot and crispy and salt, I just loved them! We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, both because it was tasty and because we had spent all day out and about with very little to eat!

We made a pit stop at the grocery store, but the big one called Bonus closed at 6:30pm, and we arrived just a little too late. I was shocked at how early they closed! We found a smaller store opened and bought some hot chocolate packets and some milk. We headed back to our cabin.

It was actually really fun to have a cabin rather than a room in a hotel/hostel. It wasn’t new or fancy, but very cosy and comfortable. We cranked up the heat, but after only an hour I was feeling sick because it was so stuffy and hot. We had to turn off the heater completely and open a window before I started to feel better. We made the hot chocolate and watched some movies before we went to bed. 

Little did we know, overnight it snowed... :)

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