A Trip to Iceland

Only able to provide you with one movie review as Mo and I just got back after spending 10 memorable days in Iceland with our good friends Judge John Tinder and Jan Carroll. With the temperature in the low 50s each day combined with 22 hours of sunlight, our 7-day cruise around much of the island resulted in an incredible adventure.

To begin with, there are only 350,000 people living in Iceland, with 150,000 residing in Reykjavík, the capital city. We cruised the north and south coasts of western Iceland, engrossed by a continuous view of large, rocky cliffs populated by an incredible number of various birds. On top of that, we crossed the Arctic Circle and I simply closed my eyes and imagined Leif Erikson leaving the island for North America in 1000 A.D.

We docked each day at various locations, taking advantage of several inlets which permitted entry. We then had a choice of daily excursions, and each one left us repeatedly mesmerized. We had bus transportation to reach each site, and the roads were cut through endless fields of lava drifting for miles in each direction. Other than moss, nothing grows in this area, yet it remained beautiful beyond words.

Our treks ranged from several massive waterfalls combined with a tour of a large power plant generating electricity from geysers rising from underground near old volcanoes. We were led by several female scientists, all with black t-shirts inscribed “Hot and Steamy” or “I’ve Got the Power.” Mo is still mad that I didn’t buy her one!

puffinIn addition, one of our great experiences occurred when we took a boat to a small island named Vigor Island where thousands of puffins stood on a rocky beach no more than 20 feet away. On top of that, our guide had us remain on a path carrying three-foot-long poles with a flag on one end to wave away Arctic Terns. As hard as it is to imagine, the Terns were nesting in a very close weedy field and they dive bombed all of us to keep us away from their nests. They literally would have tried to peck at our heads unless they were waved away. What an experience!

Two other days centered around trips to magical swimming holes known as the Myvatn Nature Baths and the Blue Lagoon. Both function as large ponds where the water was a deep blue and had a temperature of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You had to shower before entering, and then you walked down a ramp into a lagoon that was over 4 feet deep. On top of that, there was a bar set up in the Blue Lagoon that made you feel like a devilish character that just snuck into heaven.

One of the walking trips took us to a series of bubbling geyser pools that resembled a section of Yellowstone Park. Steam smelling like sulfur engulfed everyone, and it made you feel like you were on a scientific expedition. Lastly, with the North American / European tectonic plates separating every year, the earth is ripped apart in several locations where you can walk through a narrow valley with the cliffs towering over 150 feet above you. Without saying more, you can fully understand why each day ended with you being thankful for the opportunity to experience such an unforgettable adventure.

With the season too short to grow any meaningful crops, most of the farms raised Icelandic horses and numerous sheep. Given the fact that island residents had to live in a country where there was little more than three hours of daylight nine months out of the year, you were left wondering why most young people didn’t eventually immigrate to Europe or the United States to explore opportunities denied to them in their homeland.

However, the people that we met were fun and engaging. The four of us spent one day touring Reykjavík, making use of “hop-on hop-off” busses. We actually watched much of the Women’s World Soccer semi-final in a bar called the Big Lebowski. We all felt like The Dude after knocking down several White Russians!

However, let me warn you that Iceland may be one of the most expensive places you will ever visit as they have a tax of 37% that is applied on everything. Though nothing came cheap, you could quickly forgive them given that the government was able to finance health care and road maintenance for all of its residents.

This was a trip that the four of us will always treasure. Speaking personally, I am one lucky guy.