Day 3: Our trip into Thingvellir National Park! We went to see Strokkur and Gullfoss. These were the most "touristy" spots to hit, so we couldn't exactly leave Iceland without seeing the famous geyser and waterfall (in case you needed a translation.)
But first, some scenic spots along the way. (More snow! So of course we had to take a photo in it.)
Iceland is known for all its geothermal energy and hot springs, and if you look closely, you can see steam rising from a few different places in this picture. Which is a totally normal thing in Iceland. Just crazy little steam pockets dotting the landscape. Iceland is also the only country where people have water coolers instead of water heaters.
Okay, these guys are everywhere. And I mean everywhere. (More on that later.) But here's the best shot I got of one. I think Dani in her excitement might have terrified them a little, so most of the photos I have are of sheep butts.
After pulling over like a bajillion times for photos, we finally made it to the famous geyser (Strokkur.) Even the name sounds so formidable, right? Strokkur!
There were smaller pools and hot springs everywhere around it.
Thar she blows! Bummer that the sky is so gray for this photo. :(
You can see it going off again in the background of this photo. It erupts only once every 4-8 minutes, which makes it a little difficult to prepare for, especially when your hands are freezing cold holding the camera. I was way colder here than I was ever was snorkeling in the 38-degree water the day before!
Back on the road again to see Gullfoss.
Gullfoss did not disappoint. Truly spectacular. Look at the tiny people standing on the overlook for a little perspective. (Yes, we walked out there too, even though Dani tried to talk me out of it.) Also, this made bringing my tripod totally worth it.
I've never seen Niagara Falls, but I'm guessing this is pretty similar? (On an impressiveness scale.)
Pretty sure people thought we were crazy.
Worth noting (because it's pretty noticeable here and other places), yes I injured my forehead. Unrelated to Iceland, it involved target shooting in Canada and the scope of a rifle. You do the math. Not my proudest moment. It looks considerably better now than in these photos, but if you've seen me lately you may have wondered. Ha.
By this time in the day, it was getting to be late afternoon and we still had to drive back to Reykjavik to catch our tour of the Olgerdin Brewery. Which was super fun and we made friends with some of the other people on the tour, and ended up all going to dinner afterwards. Combining five Germans, three Americans, two Finns and a Hungarian makes for some interesting conversation indeed. Things I didn't think I would say in Iceland: "No, people don't roam the streets of DC with knives." And, "No, I don't think Dani is a Republican." Also, try explaining the concept of a girl being "picky" to a bunch of foreigners. Hilarious.
Day 4: Knowing we would inevitably want to stop a lot along the way, we allowed a whole day to drive to Jökulsárlón. Good thing too, because it took us a whole day. Here's a little map to give you some perspective. Although I'm noticing Jökulsárlón isn't listed... But Vik is a good halfway point.
Saw this rainbow and had to stop!
There were amazing waterfalls everywhere! This one was especially cool because you could actually walk behind it.
So we wanted to see more glaciers (which was what a sign off the road had promised.) However, after driving maybe half a mile on this wet, gravelly road, I was having flashbacks to getting stuck in the mud in the backcountry of Utah. While the road got narrower and hillier, Dani got quieter, which is a red flag. Haha. So we turned around, but I did get this photo. I also blame the holes and rocks in this road for cracking the front fog light in our rental car, thus causing Hertz to charge us... wait for it... almost FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS extra to replace it. Seriously. I will never rent with Hertz again because of this incident. Even if I was responsible for breaking it, there is no way that tiny little piece of PLASTIC with a tiny little crack in it costs $400 to replace. No way. Not even in Iceland, where things are more expensive. It couldn't have been more than four or five inches wide, and maybe an inch tall. Ahhh I can't even type this without getting angry all over again so I'm just gonna move on. Plus I'm sure Dani has heard enough of my griping for all of us.
Coming into the town of Vik, you can see this lone church on a hill. Vik was also a happy sight because not only was it our halfway point, it also resembled civilization. Whew. Gasoline! And ice cream! Hanna had told us about this awesome ice cream we HAD to try and you could only buy it at this one place in this one town. We ate it and were both underwhelmed.
I was way more excited until I actually tasted the ice cream. Disappointing.
Iceland has the most crazy unusual terrain I've ever seen. I read that over half of the country is barren wasteland, and I believe it. What made the scenery so unusual for me was its variety. We would be on one side of a mountain (or volcano!) and it would be super cloudy, dark and snowy. Then right around the corner, the sun is shining and everything is green and lush! Nuts.
Loved the beautiful skies and sunsets we saw! Though our hours of daylight were limited, I did find that the sunrises/sunsets lasted a LOT longer. Like two hours. It was awesome.
Something else kinda random that I'm going to insert here (possibly out of order)... We saw these little stacks of rocks EVERYWHERE. Really bizarre. I've seen them here in America, but nothing like how frequently they appeared in Iceland. I looked it up when I got home. Here's a little more info if you want to find out more.
The scariest moment of our entire trip for me (aside from maybe our accidental conversation with a dude who looked like Nick Nolte's mugshot and claimed he had a Ph.D. in board games) occurred on the drive to Jökulsárlón. It was probably only 6 pm, but it kept getting darker and darker and of course there are no streetlights. Or cars. Anywhere. Like, it was reallllly remote this road we were on. I'm driving, getting a little sleepy, and Dani is sharing her most interesting life stories with me to keep me awake (what a good friend) and all of a sudden there is a sheep in the middle of road! I slam on the brakes and miss it, just barely. Pretty close call, and not very reassuring when I considered that our car was actually not much bigger than the sheep. I am realizing now too that this story is not really a good one for retelling, but it was truly a moment of sheer terror. (Or should I say shear terror.... ) Funny? No? Sorry.
Sheep incident aside, we arrived an hour later in one piece. Our hotel was in Hali, which was the closest we could get to Jökulsárlón. It was nighttime, but we drove over this bridge and I started shouting, "Icebergs, icebergs! We're driving over icebergs!" like a crazy person because they reflected a little bit of the moonlight and I could see them in the water below. We were like little kids at Christmas, so excited to get up the next day and see the icebergs! Can't wait to post those photos for you tomorrow. They were truly the highlight of my trip!