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Our journey to Iceland started in March when Mark and a good friend (Travis) went to the annual sheep banquet and bid on and won a goose hunting trip during the live auction. They left on Tuesday, October 9th and I followed that Friday, October 12th. What a trip it was!

Day 1: Arrival

When I arrived early in the morning (6:30a local time) I was greeted by the driver for the hunting organization that coordinated the guys’ trip. Finni was his name and he picked me up and brought me out to the lodge to meet with the guys when they got back from hunting. When I got settled in Mark’s room I curled up and took a couple hour nap. When I woke up I took a walk around the area that the lodge was on and met Dafid, the cook. We chatted for a bit and then he warmed up the hot tub for me so I could sit and relax. The water in the hot tub is heated by the ground and comes out of a hose already hot. No electricity required! After a good long soak it was time for a shower. While I waited for the guys to return I had the chance to talk with Dafid about Iceland culture, food and the area. It was a great way to start the trip! When the guys got back they cleaned up and we had a fantastic lunch of goose legs (shot the day before), cod with cocktail sauce (ketchup and mayonnaise), salad, potatoes, and gravy. It was nothing short of spectacular. After lunch the guys cleaned the birds that they shot that day and then we packed up for our drive to Reykjavik. Finni was again our driver. He first brought us to a local grocery store where the geese were stored until our trip home. Then he brought us to our hotel (Room with a View) where he made sure we were settled before he left us. The hotel desk clerk was amazingly helpful and arranged for reservations for dinner on Saturday and Monday nights. Then we headed out on the town to do a little exploring before dinner. Reykjavik is a party town and on Friday and Saturday nights people party until dawn so there was plenty of activity everywhere we went. Dinner on Saturday night was at Fiskfélagið (Fish Company) and it was amazing. We all had something different and shared. My main dish was several different kinds of fish. After dinner we went to the Lebowski bar for another drink before heading to bed for the night.

Day 2: Whale Watching

Sunday morning we got up and got ready to go whale watching! But first we had to go pick up the rental car from the Reykjavik airport. After that and a little breakfast (Skyr – a yogurt like breakfast food) we headed to the boat. The trip took about 2 ½ hours and we got a couple of glimpses of Minke whales while were out. After the boat tour we took a quick stop at the Hallgrímskirkja church where we were able to see the entire city from the church tower. It was a neat view and we saw the iconic colored roofs that are part of the cities culture. Then we were off and running toward our next destination, the Efsti-Dalur II farmhouse in Laugarvatn. We drove through Þingvellir National Park on the way there. After checking in we headed toward The Great Geysir. Now the Great Geysir is no longer operating due to use and abuse over the years, but there is another geyser, the strokkur geyser, that puts on a pretty spectacular show every 3-5 minutes. There are many other pools and mini-geysers that were interesting to look at and were also very warm! We then headed to our next destination – Gulfoss Iceland’s most famous waterfall. It was beautiful and we even saw a rainbow in the mist from the water. We walked around for a bit, took some pictures and then drove further north to try and get a good view of the glacier (Lángjökull ) that supplies water to the river that flows over the Gulfoss falls. The road north was not very well maintained and after a few “oh crap” moments on my part we made it to a river and got a pretty good view of the glacier. At this point it was getting dark so we headed back toward the farmhouse and stopped for dinner at the Gulfoss Hotel where we had some drinks and another tasty dinner – this time it was stuffed zucchini for me! As we were leaving we looked up into the sky and the Northern Lights were just starting to show themselves. After watching and trying (unsuccessfully) to take some pictures we headed back to the farmhouse. On the way we continued to watch the show in the sky, but the best was yet to come. Once we got back I kept the camera out, set up watch and was able to get some pretty amazing pictures. They were turning all colors of green, blue, purple, pink and white and dancing across the sky. It’s almost indescribable and was by farm one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in nature. Once they quieted down it was time for bed because we had more adventures in the morning.

Day 3: Snorkeling

After a delicious farmhouse breakfast we headed back into Þingvellir National Park to go snorkeling. This is the one activity that surprised people when I told them what we were planning to do while in Iceland. We met the tour company at the visitor center in the park and we followed them to the parking lot where we’d get our gear. They provided down suits (teddy bear suites), dry suits with boots attached, neoprene gloves and head covering, goggles and snorkel. By the time we got all our gear on I felt like a stuffed teddy bear! The water temperature was 2 degrees Celcius and felt kind of like sticking your head in a bucket of ice. But, it was crystal clear so I quickly forgot about the cold and started looking at all there was to see underwater. We swam/floated for about a half hour and then got out for the walk back to the parking lot. On the float we saw algae, some really cool rock formations, and scuba divers swimming underneath us! It was pretty awesome. On our way back to the parking lot we stopped and did a little cliff jumping. I was a little scared to do it at first, but then I bucked up and have to admit that it was pretty cool. After we got all our gear off and warmed up a little we headed to where we had seen a cool waterfall in the distance and did some investigating. This is the point in the park where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating and the valley in between is sinking at a rate of approximately 1/3 of an inch per year. While we were there we explored the waterfall and the river and then took in some of the historic sites. The park is the site where the Alþing (parliament) general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events and celebrations in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir – most recently in 2000. Once we were done exploring we headed back to Reykjavik for our last night. We once again settled in at the Room with a View and were happy to find the belongings that didn‘t travel with us safe and sound in the apartment. The hotel staff had been very gracious and allowed us to store the stuff (mainly the guys‘ hunting gear) in the apartment while we traveled on Sunday night. We cleaned up and then headed out to try and check out some of the shops before dinner. Most everything was closed, but we popped into a couple of bookstores and souvenir shops. Dinner was at Þrir Frakkar and was again very delicious. I had my first taste of Icelandic Lamb on our last night and it was very yummy. We had a relaxing time and then stopped at a small bar on our way back to the hotel.

Day 4: Blue Lagoon

Tuesday morning came way too quickly in my opinion. We had already seen and done so much, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave. I got up early and headed out to do a little shopping before we met Finni (our driver from the first day) to get the geese for the trip home. After we exchanged our good byes we stopped at a local coffee shop for some breakfast and then headed toward Keflavik airport. We stopped on the way at the Blue Lagoon – a famous geothermal spa. We changed into our suits and floated, applied masks, had a drink, and generally just relaxed for a little over an hour before changing and making our way to the airport. It was a great and relaxing way to end a fabulous vacation.

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"To live. And as much as possible, to use your money in pursuit of a life so well-lived that people will never remember your clothes, your shoes, your handbag--they'll remember the interests you shared with them, the love you carried, the meals you ate together, the miracle of your family, the joy you took in your work, the arms-wide-open you brought to life itself."
May 2017
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