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26 September 2013 @ 12:46 am
Wild Weather and Continents Adrift - Day 6 of Iceland  
I had planned on sleeping in some on Saturday, in the assumption that I'd be out late on Friday night, so I had a leisurely start to the day. However, I was a bit TOO leisurely and missed my morning bus. It being Saturday, there were not many buses running, so I decided to just walk into downtown. I went to Cafe Loki and saw Hallgrimskirkja, a very famous landmark church, but one that sort of creeped me out, so I didn't go in or take photographs. Lunch was lovely - smoked lamb on a thin rye bread and lamb soup and a "Loki tea" (Icelandic birch, arctic thyme, and Icelandic moss). The tea was... mossy, but sort of like a green tea with sort of a dirty flavor to it. I like filthy Scotches, though. so it was OK. The soup was very similar to the other lamb stews I'd had, but the smoke lamb was DIVINE. Om nom nom.

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As I was finishing up, Liza and Tomas joined me and we headed out to the airport to pick up my rental car. This turned into an epic adventure, since it was blowing really quite hard and it was pretty cold out. Additionally, we assumed the thing that looked like a control tower was in the airport, but it was actually on a hotel quite far from the airport. At that point we were all cold and a little tired of fighting the wind, so we picked up a cab to get to the right part of the airport. However, when we got there, there was no desk for the car company I had rented from. After some calling around, we found that they did not have a desk, but that they would send someone "right over" and we should wait outside. Well. "right over" was about 15 minutes later and then we were driven all the way through town to a location on the docks which would have been easier to walk to than the airport. Ugh. Further "fun" ensued as they informed me that they did not have the car I had requested, but that I had been "upgraded" to a larger vehicle. I didn't WANT a larger vehicle in a country where gas is about $10/gallon, but what are you going to do... LENGTHY phone calls ensued, with the fellow behind the counter gabbing on at length and asking to see my credit card repeatedly. I'm not sure what the game was, but it was excessive and at one point, while he had the phone up to his ear "talking to the service center," IT RANG. He had the good graces to look embarrassed, and then completed our check out somewhat more efficiently. However, when I asked about the extra insurance for gravel or storm damage, first he could not give me a price, then he kept changing the price, then he insisted that I didn't actually need it. At that point, I was just sick of the man (it had been about an hour of trying to rent a car that I had a reservation for and had pre-paid) and left with our car.

We traveled south from Reykjavik to the Reykjanes Peninsula. Our first stop was the Vikingaheimer Museum, in large part devoted to the ship the Islendingur, a replica of the Gokstad ship that had been sailed from Europe to Iceland, to North America. They also had exhibits of Norse finds, including things that had been part of the Vikings: a North Atlantic Saga exhibit that came through Minneapolis a few years ago. Happily, this time I could take photographs, including of the little toy knife that I had read about as part of doing research for my Norse child project. There were a few other exhibits and the boat itself, but the museum was pretty limited so before terribly long, we were on our way again.
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If it had been windy before, now it was working itself up to a gale. We ran for the cover of the car and were quite glad of the heater. Unfortunately, the rest of the day's plans involved being out of doors, so it was a significant downer that the weather was not being cooperative.

Driving into the Reykjanes Peninsula was driving back toward the airport and the somewhat lunar landscape of lava fields just beginning to be overtaken by lichens. There were no trees and nearly no growing things of any sort. Our first stop was the Bridge Across Two Continents, which spans the rift between the North American and European Plates.

Here I am, standing on the place designated as the split between the two.
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You can't really pick it out in this picture, but it is sort of sweet - a bunch of people have had locks engraved with their name and their sweetheart's and locked it to the bridge where the plates meet.

Next up was a geothermal area - this was your standard hellscape with burning sulfur end of the Icelandic spectrum. I decided that Iceland is not ACTUALLY prettier than other countries - it just distills all the ugly into these little bubbles of hell that pop up across the landscape. The occasional expanses of lunar landscape where the beauty has run out is just Nature giving you a little time to cleanse your palette before she hits you with the sharp decent into hell, else you'd get whiplash.
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Next up was supposed to be the remains of a medieval fishing village that was in use until it was destroyed by a tidal wave in the 17th century. Unfortunately, historical sites are not as well signed in Iceland as in Britain and despite some driving around, we were not able to find it. We did see one sign for it, but it appeared to just lead down a sea-side path and, considering the weather, we were not really interested in exploring in the out-of-doors. I did run from the car out to a few signs that were off the road, but they always had to do with sea birds or cliffs, not archaeological sites. Also, I had to stop running to the signs - the wind was strong enough that it was blowing me backwards almost as fast as I was running forward, so it was actually faster to walk than to run. On the way back, though, it was practically like flying! Eventually, we decided to abandon the search and just head back north. We had been planning on going to a music festival and fireworks display, but considering the weather, we thought better of that as well. I was pretty disappointed because the festival was one of the reasons I had delayed going on the Ring Road until Sunday. Still, there was no denying it, anything in the out-of-doors was not actually going to be fun and it was windy enough that I wasn't even sure it would even be possible to shoot off fireworks anyway. The weather also made me seriously rethink the wisdom of being talked out of the extra insurance by the car rental dude. I called and found out that if I brought the car in first thing in the morning for an inspection, I could get the insurances added on retroactively. It would delay my morning departure, but it seemed worthwhile at that point, the wind was just that impressive.

We headed back into Reykjavik and stopped at Hofsstadir, the remains of a Viking Longhouse, as a consolation prize for not having found the fishing village.

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I got back to my guest house pretty early in the night and spent awhile getting packed up and otherwise organized for my departure the following morning. Unfortunately, someone had eaten my leftovers from a few nights previously, so a certain amount of cooking was necessary as well. It was a quiet night, but by that time, just being indoors from the cold and the wind was a delight.
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