In my previous post, Our Trip So Far, I caught you all up to Tuesday afternoon, when I was writing blog posts from a local coffee shop.
On Tuesday evening we had an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant which was delicious. Like many of the meals I’ve had in Iceland, the food wasn’t exactly what I had expected, but was very good. My chicken quesadilla was stuffed with shredded chicken, similar to pulled pork, folded up like a calzone, and fried like a sopapilla. It was then covered with lettuce, which was then drizzled with sour cream and balsamic vinegar. It was AMAZING! I’m hoping to go back for lunch before we leave the country.
After dinner we went on a Northern Lights tour. The forecast for the lights, based on monitoring the sun, wasn’t great, but it looked like we would be able to see something. Unfortunately clouds came in and we had to divert from our initial destination and try another spot. It was very cold, but eventually the Northern Lights appeared and we watched the green lights dancing back and forth across the sky. It was very impressive! I would love to go back when the solar flares are stronger, and remember to bring a tripod and remote shutter button for my camera.
On Wednesday we did an all day tour of the Golden Circle, a trip that took us to many famous and interesting places in Iceland. Our tour driver was great, and we had a small group with just the five of us and a couple from the UK. We saw amazing waterfalls, old churches, the valley between the American continental plate and the Eurasian continental plate where the original Viking parliament meetings took place, and toured a geo-thermal power-plant. Our tour guide was a wealth of great stories, knowledge, and even sang an example of an ancient Icelandic poem/song. I took a ton of pictures, and we all had a great time. We spent a lot of time hiking outside, climbing up and down, and got a good amount of exercise. When we returned that evening to Reykjavik we were cold and tired and decided that spicy hot Indian food would hit the spot. We tried a little Indian restaurant near the hotel which was delicious.
Today, Emma, Dan, and I went on the Hot Springs Hunter tour. The premise of this was that we were going to hike to a hot springs, take a dip, and hike back. It was rated two out of five stars for difficulty and used the term “stroll” to describe the hike. When we went to pay for the tour on Tuesday we discovered that all of the tour company’s tours were between two and three stars. A two and a half star tour involved using ice picks to climb a glacier, and the only three star tour involved scuba diving through ice caves. All of a sudden two stars sounded much harder than it had before.
Our tour guide picked us up at 9 AM and it turned out there were only the three of us on the tour. Our tour guide was the epitome of the young, handsome, outdoor adventurer, although seeing the hiking pole on his backpack raised the anxiety level for me. After a 30 minute drive taking us to a small town with large greenhouses which we had driven past on the previous day we left the van and started heading up into the mountains. We were initially told it would be a 20 minute hike to the hot springs, and as we looked up the mountain we saw a crest high up that looked like a reasonable destination. Once we reached that crest we were up into the snow, and started heading into a valley leading North and up deeper into the mountains. The wind in Reykjavik was supposed to be about 35 mph, and I suspect that the Arctic wind coming in from the North and rushing down the valley was significantly higher speed than that (my uneducated guess is about 50 mph at it peak). We ended up hiking for about two hours, climbing higher into the mountains. Between the wind and the snow, and being able to see nothing but mountains in every direction, it felt very much as if we were in one of those documentaries about climbing Mount Everest or hiking in Antarctica.
We crossed rivers (I had to jump one instead of walking across as I didn’t have water-proof hiking boots), walked around boiling mud and spurting steam, we walked on eight inch wide paths high up on very steep mountain sides, we hiked through snow making our own trail, and eventually came to the bathing location, a place where a steam of hot water from underground merged with a colder stream, providing warm but not scalding water to soak in. Changing into swimsuits was the coldest part, but once we slipped into the water, it was just like being in a hot tub surrounded by the most beautiful landscape. Once it was time to get out of the water, it was much easier to get dressed with the warmth from the soak making the cold wind feel much less chill.
The hike back was much faster and easier. The wind was to our backs and the sun was in front of us, and we carried the warmth from the hot springs with us. We made it back to the van in about an hour. Frankly I am very impressed by all of us. The hike was well beyond what I would have thought I could tackle, and we all handled it very well. If I’d known what I was going to be in for I’m not sure I would have signed up for the tour, but I’m actually very glad I did it. I took some amazing pictures, had a really good time, and feel proud of myself and like I really accomplished something today. Plus it was probably the best workout that I’ve had in a very long time. Pictures of me from the hike should show me as all smiles!
We grabbed a late lunch in Reykjavik, and are currently relaxing in the hotel. I’m sore and tired, but quite happy. Tomorrow we ride horses!
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