Tag Archives: aurora

Monday: Glymur

Previous Iceland posts: Arrival & Arrival 2

We rose early to drive the two, three hours to hike Glymur Falls in the only day forecasted to be sunny on our trip. It meant doubling back the way we came, but fortunately we were booked for two nights in the South.

I was dragging, but optimistic to see the second (?) highest waterfall in Iceland. Even before we got to the trailhead a smaller, charming waterfall demanded a pit stop. This would be a theme on our trip, so lucky! Sweeping swooping green slopes gave way to a waterway on one side.

I drove for part, getting to learn new roundabout conventions first-hand, including a gauntlet of six consecutive one. Nothing like rapid repetition to help you work things out in your brain.

Roundabouts in Iceland do not work like in London, nor like in DC. Cars in the inner lane can go through and exit.
Roundabouts in Iceland do not work like in London, nor like in DC. Cars in the inner lane can go through and exit. Take a deep breath, and let the passenger hold the oh-sh*t bar without judgement.

On foot: after some flat, low-brush terrain, past tiny sprawling civilizations of mosi over rock, and Vottahellir cave (full of legends! And a plaque!) we got to an icy stream. The decision to cross at a wider but shallower point turned out well. I was very glad to have bothered to pack hiking poles mid-stream. What was icy cold turned to pins and needles of pain then, and my brain got to tell my legs to keep going, and faster(!) while my legs threatened to stop working from thinking they were on fire, and to give up all function. [9]

River crossing near Glymur, Iceland
Frigid river crossing and pained expression as my brain fights all the nerve endings in my legs.

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Sunday: Arrival 2

On Reykjavik Roasters

Reykjavik Roasters was in the university area of town. Early on a Sunday, it had a hushed but not unfriendly atmosphere tinged with a hipster coffee shop vibe familiar to Seattlites. My oat pudding breakfast even had chia seeds served in a mason jar.

Reykjavik Roaster's Chia Seed Pudding (Yiling Wong October 14, 2017)
Reykjavik Roaster’s Chia Seed Pudding (Yiling Wong October 14, 2017)

As we drove out of town, I was at first struck by the prevalence of blocky buildings.

I felt a vague awareness I was supposed to find them ugly, surprised instead to find a quiet calm in the uniformity of seeing so many blocky buildings set side by side. Perhaps they were built by a somewhat boring but practical people.

Reykjavik buildings, October 14, 2018
Reykjavik buildings, October 14, 2018

The sky continued to lighten, and we sped out of the city. Multi-lane roads narrowed to two, to one. The horizon expanded to vast sweeping vistas of moss-carpeted rocks, wandering rivers, distant mountains. The disorientation of travel lasted much longer this time. Was it the sun? Was it the rare cell service accompanied with my phone showing full bars? Was it the surprisingly unsuccessful pre-download of offline maps? Was it my Icelandic illiteracy blurring and mingling any place names longer than four syllables (i.e. almost all of them) as they whizzed past on the sweepingly dramatic, distractingly breathtaking vistas?

 

Was it the sleep deprivation?

 

Yes. All of it.

 

This disorientation seeded our discontent. One felt an urgency to see natural sights lit by day. The other, the navigator, directed the rental car in what turned out to be circles, still grappling to get her bearings.

Approaching Thingvellir from Keflavik airport, Iceland. October 2017 Yiling Wong
Approaching Thingvellir from Keflavik airport, Iceland.

Where was Þhingvellir (pronounced ‘Thingvellir’), o famous of 1,000-year democratic gatherings of Vikings?

 

At the second information center, we finally acquired a physical map,[5] and were helpfully informed we had found Þhingvellir –it was all around us. We had been driving and standing in it.

 

Seen at Þhingvellir:

  • Lögberg (law rock): on which laws in Iceland were proclaimed annually, 1,000 years ago.
  • Scuba divers, hopping into water between the two..
  • Continental_plates! Slowly separating North America and Europe, 1-1.8 millimeters per year,[6] and..
  • Fish!

Nothing like geologic time to make you feel a serene and measured pace, and perhaps some great feeling of insignificance and obscurity, calming?

 

Seen on the Ring Road:

  • Bruarfoss: an off-road stroll to a charming falls.
  • Geysir: the one all the other ones in the world are named for.

  • Break for: a practical and warming soup, plus side dish of sticker shock from high food prices.[7]
  • Gulfoss: big, mighty, famous, full of other people looking, history of first Icelandic environmentalist act.

 

Skipped: hothouse tomatoes due to chasing sunset.

Sheep crossing(!) near Eyjafajajo…j…

..Eyjafjallajökull

 

Onundarhorn Airbnb:

When we arrived at the first AirBnB on a horse farm, it was like a scene out of Beauty and the Beast (especially the early black and white French version), we drove up and walked through the front door, hosts unseen but everything arranged. Our fellow travellers were two sets of honeymooners. A good dinner was had, with extra flavor from hunger. We cooked a simple spaghetti meal with ground meat and pasta sauce straight from the jar, compliments of Chef Jonson.

 

I took some time late in the evening to orient myself better with our itinerary sketch, downloaded the Kindle version of Lonely Planet Iceland, and re-adjusted to new plans to dayhike the next day, the better to leverage the sunshine. (Surprise: K thought we were staying in Reyki’ the first night!)

 

Then the aurora-crazy kicked in

I took a look outside and saw nothing, looking Northeast of the horse farm toward Eyjafjallajökull (a glacier).

 

Parents called from Central Standard Time, U.S. at 1:30AM:

Baba (my father): “What?! You were in an ACCIDENT?!”

Me: “no, I’m in ICE-LAND.”

Baba: “AN ACCIDENT!!?”

Me: “No, Ice land, the country. It’s 1:30AM here. Happy birthday to Mama.”

Baba:” oh, OH! ICE-LAND! Okay, go to sleep, call us when you’re back.”

Me: “Okay.” <click>

 

I was up anyway, so checked the MyAurora app [8] for likelihood and went outside. It was there, but faint enough in a dull fog-white way that I doubted. Woke a bleary Kris, who tried taking photos – which confirmed by coming out green. Finally! 💗 Zzz.

 

Back to those blocky buildings…

It was here, as I fell asleep gazing out the large picture window from a bedroom, that I realized, who needs fancy architecture when nature provides such scenes beyond compare?

The MyAurora App rocks!
The MyAurora App rocks! (Yiling Wong October 14, 2017 at Reykjavik Roasters)

Footnotes:<

[5] Guidebook map was not detailed enough for driving purposes, a road map was much better.

[6] Data citation: Lonely Planet Iceland (I recommend the hard copy of a guidebook vs kindle version I got. Too hard to flip through and mark things, but it might just have been certain luddite habits and spotty wifi).

[7]Iceland standard tip: food and drink are expensive.

[8] Check out the MyAurora App to save on shivering unnecessarily outside at all hours of the night, peering at the sky! I still have it on my phone now. You know, for Aurora Borealis Emergencies..

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What to Pack for an Alaskan Winter Adventure
Alaska – Part 0

Where one can let the spirit go with joyous abandon, to sense the freedome of the wilderness.
Olaus Murie

The first time I remember camping and absolutely loving it, I was twenty-one years old. My significant other and I had scored a great deal on tickets to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula from Minneapolis. As we landed and walked off the tarmac in Anchorage, I swore I could smell the ice and pristine air wafting in from the mountains of “the Last Frontier.” Continue Reading