Duck! Our Last Few Days in Iceland

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The homestay in Hvammstang was run by a woman named Oddney who lives with her husband and kids in a nice historic home on a fijord of Hunaflo. We got there not long after the other guests, a couple from Australia on a getaway for a couple of weeks. Was nice to spend some time chatting with them and Oddney before going out for dinner. Upon returning, I shared some of my favorite dark chocolate biscuits with them, Mrs. Vittes. They knew them well, having come from England themselves and we got to spend a bit more time with them before going to bed. Breakfast the next morning was neat. The kitchen overlooks the water and we all spent time scanning the waves looking for whales. While we had no luck, our hostess told us stories of other sightings by other groups.

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Look! Sheep!

Out on the road again, we wasted no time getting into trouble. We had stopped briefly to look at another hot pool installation before continuing to head west. As we were driving, two big ducks took off from our right and flew right across our hood. Instinctively, we ducked, but windshields can’t do that and we hit one of them right in the chest! He slipped … or maybe it was slid up the windshield right in front of my face, over the hood  leaving a thin purple streak behind and disappeared. We did not look back, we did not stop.

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It Looked Like This One

Funnily enough, when we stopped a few miles down the road at the shark museum, they had a stuffed duck that looked similar. I had to take a picture. The museum though, was the real reason for the stop. The Bjarnarhofn shark museum educates on how Greenland sharks are prepared to make a safe, edible Icelandic traditional food. The sharks are no longer hunted, just harvested and sent to this museum if they’re found in the net and  are actually poisonous if eaten directly after being caught due to the amount of uric acid that runs through their bodies like an antifreeze. Works great at keeping them alive in the deep, but not so good for human consumption. So, they cut them up into chunks that are then layered in crates and left for four to five months. This dries them some and lets some of the ammonia dissipate. Afterwards, they hang the chunks individually to cure the rest of the way. Yes. We tried it. No, we did not take any home. Marc did get the t-shirt though.

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Marc Takes A Bite

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He’s Smiling Because The Wind Is At His Front

We spent a restful night in Olafsvik, and I even cooked. It was nice to get someplace early and just chill after a shower and I even got to cook a simple dinner. Our hosts were a nice couple of characters with a country music performing past and really helpful in suggesting sights ahead. We had our last destinations planned pretty quickly.

Our first stop the next morning was at the end of an extremely rocky, pitted, one lane dirt road that is officially known as the most western part of Iceland and maybe, depending on who you ask, of Europe too.. There is a lighthouse at Snaefellbaer and cliffs populated by many species of birds. So many in fact, that they used to routinely harvest eggs to sell. Pretty neat, eh?

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Rolling on, we did this awesome climb up the side of a volcano, got to stand in the caldera and tried to take some cool pictures. My phone was having problems though and that’s all we were using for pictures this trip. it was so overcast that nothing much turned out well, but at least we got some exercise.

Next stop, was the fictional entrance from the Jules Verne’s classic story,  Journey To The Center of The Earth. map

Vatnshellir cave is  actually a lava tube, and is believed to be between six to eight thousand years old.  We descended a long spiral staircase and went deep into the cave. It gets so quiet down there, and the total darkness when all the flashlights go off  was pretty amazing.

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Looking For Adventure!

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The Staircase Lit By 10 Flashlights

We came above again and could immediately appreciate how much warmer it was up top. The cave had a few stalagtites and stalagmites, and bizzarly enough an 80 year old skeleton of a fox that had died down there but it was also chilly and somewhat damp. Much better up top.

Traveling on, we came to Hellnar and a hike that had been recommended as particularly good.

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Isn’t It Gorgeous?

While we didn’t do the whole walk, we did hike out and explore the caves at the edge before following the path for a bit.

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Marc Strikes A Pose

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Seen From the Path. That’s Snaefellsjokull Glacier In The Background

The rest of the trip back to Reykjavik was pretty uneventful, if a little uneven. The roads are a little bumpy  so I couldn’t fall asleep except when going through the tunnel north of the city. Remember the green moss-covered lava fields we saw at the start of the trip? We had a bit more of that too before we made it back to the city and some new digs.

Our last morning dawned bright and cool. We found our favorite pastry shop for a quick nosh before getting in a little souvenir hunting before we left.

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Rykavik Morning

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Accidental Kitty Ambassador. Cats were seen  practically every place we went.  

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Interspersed w/ the souvenir shops were some private residences. Isn’t this beautiful?

 

So, Iceland was seriously cool and I’m not punning. We’re already trying to figure out when we can go back for a long weekend. I’d like another shot at the northern lights. I’ve got the right camera now and Marc knows how to use it. LOL. Love to all who read this far. Next post will be short as, I swear!

 

 

 

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Iceland! The Reykjavik Experience!

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Tjornin: Icelandic for The Lake or The Pond

Wow! Has it been a whole year since I’ve gone on vacation? It sure felt like it. Especially the last few weeks leading up to our departure. Marc had set a goal of one new country a year and when I heard that you can fly to Iceland in about the same time it takes to get to the west coast, I was in!

Our flight was relatively easy although the cabin itself was freezing! Marc was kind enough to jump up to snag my coat from my carry on shortly before we departed, only to get yelled at by the crew. ” I’m sorry, it’s my fault! ” I yelled loudly to defend him , ” I thought I would only be cold once we got there!” That seemed to defuse the situation and I wore that coat half the way there. I think WOW airlines likes to acclimate people to their destination as on the way home, it was really warm.

We landed in Keflavik at about 6 am on Sunday morning to a surreal world of rain and foggy mist hanging in the air. The time change is just four hours ahead of the East coast, but when you leave at seven pm, you kind of miss a nights sleep. This probably contributed a bit to the alienness we experienced our first day there.

We drove about 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik through a green and gray landscape of rocks and moss with the occasional  seagull flying by. I think we passed one small town, but it was almost a ‘blink and you missed it’ kind of deal. We were more entranced with the radio and seeing what Icelanders are listening to. Turns out they are big into 90’s nostalgia and I know I heard a Brittney Spears song followed by a reworked version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. Heavy metal style!

Once we found our digs for the night, we parked the car and started exploring. At 7 a.m., not much is open yet, but we found the Einar Johnsson grounds open to the elements and to visitors. He was Iceland’s first sculptor and died in 1954, at which time his home and grounds were turned into a museum and sculpture garden. His work is very powerful and found in several parts of Iceland. Neat to see the rain on the sculptures too!

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We had heard that Iceland is big on pastries and breads and it didn’t take us too long to find a good spot for breakfast. The  cinnamon roll was fabulous and it was so neat to hear the polyglot of languages swirling around us as we savored  our meal.

Pastries

The rest of the day was broken up by short naps; stolen wherever  and whenever we could, a trip out to a lighthouse, hunting for a natural hot spring that someone had pointed out to Marc on a map (found it too, but it was more for feet than anything else), and soaking in a nearby spa that was recommended to us as a good place to meet locals. They had much to say about immigration and tourism, not all of it positive, but it was good to get some different perspectives, and to ride a water slide again! A great way to wind down after a crazy first day.

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Grotta Lighthouse in Reykjavik

Our second day in Reykjavik was cool and sunny. After an early morning cup of tea,  and an apple, we went out to do some more exploring around town. Iceland has about 320,000 people and 200 thousand of those live here in Reykjavik. We headed up the hill and turned in at the sculpture garden again to get a different perspective in the sunshine.

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As we were strolling the grounds, we started chatting with a young woman enjoying the sunshine. Birna was sitting on the grass enjoying a cigarette and, as she told us later, waiting for her class to start. We all sat in the sun, warm enough to take our jackets off and   have a cross cultural experience with this cool artist! She’s a painter and does the most beautiful tatted lace. We also talked about the music scene and she showed us a music video of one on her friends. Olafur Analds featuring her friend Nanna Byndisilmards. The song is called Particles.

Birna

Birna showed us a couple of her favorite streets on the way to a coffee shop close to her class. We parted in  brightly lit square after sipping tea and being harassed by a some opportunistic bees.

We continued down to the waterfront, and found the spiffy cool sculpture honoring the Vikings.

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Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture

As we continued to walk the streets, we got a sense of how accessible and sensibly laid out everything is and that you can pretty much walk everywhere you want to go if you have several hours available. We got to Harpa for a neat little four wall and a ceiling nature movie experience before turning inward again towards our hotel. That’s when we found the coolest little gem of a cemetery. Hollavallagardur  is the oldest cemetery in Reykjavik and was opened in 1838. Amazing to walk through the narrow, lanes between graves green with moss and age.  Mature trees sometimes growing directly  above.

We found embassy row and a nice park by the lake, and more amazing art work.

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Do you see stealth Marc in his Elven cloak of hiding?

There was some relaxing back at the hotel before we went out for dinner. The lateness of the sunset meant that we could go have dinner, and then head to a prime viewing spot. The summit of the little park boasts a sculpture of the first settler to Iceland, Ingolfur Arnarson. Who did the statue? Einar Jonsson. Of course. A great way to end the day.

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Gorgeous, Isn’t it?

Pacific Coast Dreams: Oregon

Right, so last time we met, our heroe’s had just driven off into the sunset south towards new adventures. The first of which was a visit to the Astoria column. Marc had looked it up and it seemed interesting so off we went. It is the highest point in Astoria and is decorated with paintings on the outside showing different significant events in the history of the area, This is what we found when we got there

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Look! It’s a giant condom  covered column!

This is what it's supposed to look like.

This is what it’s supposed to look like.

Gotta love city workers. Marc asked why they were still collecting a parking fee when there was nothing to see.  We were told our contribution actually made us park members for a whole year and we could come back any time with our receipt for free entrance into the park. *Laughs* Really guys? Still, it was a nice enough spot. You could see for miles and miles and it was a beautiful day. We moved on though as we still had miles to go.

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This is the wreck of the Peter Iredale. It sits inside part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic parks network. It ran aground in 1906 on Clatsopt Spit due to a mix of foul conditions. Fog, a rising tide and a harsh squall combined to push the ship up onto the sands. They were going to try to  tow it back out to sea, but good conditions didn’t combine in a timely enough manner and the ship was sold for scrap. The Captain’s final toast to his ship,

” May God bless you, and may your bones bleach in the sands.” I wouldn’t say they’re bleaching, more like rusting away, with less and less remaining every year according to one local we talked to. The kids love it though. Neat jungle gym, eh?

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Things took a bit of a bizarre turn as we continued down the coast. Our next stop was Cannon Beach to visit Haystack rock. See that lovely sunshine up above? We drove through beautiful forests with the sun shining down through the trees and glimpses of beach off to the left as we got closer and closer. Then, we turned a corner and dropped into  something else altogether different.

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Haystack Rock @ high tide

Fog, or a foggish mist that dimmed the sun and put a haze on everything in front of us. Haystack rock looked pretty cool. It’s 275 feet high ( 72 meters for my NZ friends) and  it really does dominate the landscape. At low tide you can walk over to it although we didn’t get that lucky though.  There are two large needles off to the left, but I didn’t get any really great shots of them. People were hanging out, walking the shoreline and a few kids playing at the water’s edge. Not really a beach day as I think of it, but then it is a lot cooler than in the summertime.

We holed up at a rather nice little place in Rockaway Beach that night called the Seaview Motel. It was a one-off place than nonetheless did not skimp on the fresh towels, or cleanliness. The town is known for steam engine rides and beaches that are great for building bonfires on. There was also a neat little geologic feature off shore:RockawayBeach

We got a somewhat early start  the next dayand continued south. I had been seeing signs for the Tillamook jerky outlet and since I know Marc absolutely loves jerky, we had to stop in. The outlet store is right next to their production building and man did they have all kinds of jerky. Heck, they had jerky I’d never even thought of, like turkey nuggets. Suffice to say, we bought our fair share.

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Marc pays homage

Next stop was the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast and a nice chance to stretch our legs for a short jaunt to the point. Cape Mears is not active anymore,  and was switched off in 2014. Now it functions as a  small park for the public and a learning and appreciation center for lighthouses. We actually got to go inside this one for free and the guides gave a nice little tour.

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Winding our way upwards

Winding our way upwards

There is also a really amazing Sitka Spruce pine tree a short hike away from the lighthouse.  Called the Octopus Tree, no one knows why it formed like it did as they don’t usually grow like this. Some think that some native Americans trained the tree to grow like this, but it’s really all conjecture. Pretty cool though, eh?

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

Believed to be between 250-300 years old. The tree, not me!

We were on our way to a famous cave where all the sea lions like to gather when I spotted a whole bunch of them taking a nap on a sandbar. We stopped and grabbed the binoculars for a little wild animal gazing and probably ended up saving ourselves as little coin as this was free. LOL.

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Lazy Sea lions

We did one more quick stop for the day before quitting for the evening. I so wanted to do this tramp, but the stairs and steepness of the cliff was daunting so in the end, it was deemed easier to just take a couple of snaps. This is called Devil’s Churn.

Devils Churn

We stayed at this weird little motel right off the highway. The big draw was ocean views but it was more like we looked out onto the bay really. Did get to see a beautiful sunset though so it was all good.

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Gonna stop here for now so no one, including myself gets too overwhelmed.  Hopefully, I can keep it to one more post to finish up. Thanks for following along and see you next time on Chasing Summer!