Chapter 6: Through the time travelling tunnel I go

By November 30th, 2020

After the usual breakfast fare of bread, dried meats, egg, and coffee, I packed up and headed out to my next waterfall.

One wonderful thing about Iceland is there is phone coverage everywhere. I relied mostly on my phone for driving directions since day 1 and even in the seemingly middle of nowhere, I was able to find a phone signal with a decent data speed. It has been really handy especially when trying to figure out where the next gas station is.

My waterfall of the day, Godafoss, was quite the package deal. Aside from the big waterfall, there were smaller ones downstream that were also worth seeing. The area was a web of walking trails and you could spend half the day just traipsing about up and down the paths.

Godafoss’s main waterfall
One of the smaller falls seen from the bridge

I was able to find a path going down to the main waterfall that I could get close enough and be right by the water. Just as I got there, I got a video call from my mom. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and ever available cell service, I was able to show her around and gave her a courtside seat to the waterfall.

Smaller ones also dot the trail
Thundering waterfalls

I was able to hobble a little better on my ankle but after a couple of hours walking the trail, it was beginning to ache so I decided to rest in the car. It was still too early for lunch so I decided to forego the nearby restaurant and drive to my next stop. I could probably just live off of my car snacks until I got to Akureyri.

On the way to Akureyri, you have two choices. You can take the long way around the mountain or you can take a shortcut under it. The GPS, being in the habit of guiding me down the shortest path from point A to point B took me under the mountain. It was quite a long tunnel and took me a few minutes to get from one end to the other. I didn’t find it unnerving until I got to the outskirts of town and sat down and found a map that made me realize where the tunnel went through. I have finally decided I do not like long tunnels at all.

It was lunchtime when I got to Akureyri so I decided to fill up the car and grab something to eat. I was also able to find that a nearby museum was open so after having lunch, I decided to visit it. There is also a historic tourist stop close by that I have been reading. Before heading down there, I found that there was a turf church about a half hour’s drive from town so I decided to head there.

The turf church

Saurbæjarkirkja is a turf church built in 1858 in the Eyjafjörður region of Iceland. It is one of only six turf churches still in existence in Iceland today. There is a small cemetery right next to it. Across from the church, there is a compound with a few buildings that look like something you would find in a sheep farm. The area appeared to be a bit isolated and was giving off a “Silence of the Lambs” vibe for me so after taking a few photos, I decided to head back to town. There’s a local museum I was hoping to see before it closed for the day.

The church and the building across the way.

The museum was an interesting one. The upper floors had modern art installations while the lower floors and basement were dedicated to the town’s history and seafaring articles. I am not a big fan of modern art so after I did my regulatory passing glance of the upper floors, I headed down to the history section. There was a lot of interesting things to see.

Monopoly gameboards were a lot more interesting back then

Seafarers back then (and probably some folks these days) were a superstitious lot. They believed the ocean was filled with enormous sea monsters, each one more scary than the next. As if the constantly rolling sea, bad weather, and even worse food from the galley weren’t enough to make life at sea unbearable, there is also the daily threat of being eaten alive by a kraken. The stress would probably drive me to drink on a daily basis.

Mermaids were supposedly a lot less Disney-esque in real life

Life on land was no less interesting. Judging from the display, town life had its struggles as well. I always found it interesting how people were able to thrive without today’s comforts. Despite being a bit removed from the rest of Iceland, Akureyri flourished into a bustling seaside community.

Chessy wanted to play general store
Waiting for the mad hatter and the rest of the gang

Entrance to the museum also included access to the nearby Nonni’s house and the chapel. The house was very interesting. There were no other tourists around so I had it all to myself for quite a while. Going through the cramped rooms and tiny hallways I was able to get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1800s. I could only imagine living in that house in the winter with no central heating, no insulation in the walls, no Amazon grocery delivery, and only the heat from the stove and layers of scratchy wool clothing to keep you warm. It makes me appreciate the creature comforts most of us take for granted on a daily basis these days.

Nonni’s house
Mornings were for coffee and… basically the whole coffee process took all morning

The chapel was a small one, perhaps just the right size for a tiny community back in the 1800s. It was a nice, quiet spot for contemplation. After a quick photo op, I spent a few minutes sitting inside and enjoyed the solitude before heading out to my accommodations for the night.

Spending a few minutes in quiet contemplation

It was still a couple of hours before check-in time so I looked for a bookstore or cafe to hang out. Luckily, there was a place that had both. I bought some books and spent the afternoon at the cafe with a slice of cake and some coffee to stave off the afternoon slump while reading a paperback.

Cake, coffee, and a good book. What more do I need?

Tonight’s bed is in a guest house that is part of a horse farm. It’s about a half hour drive from town in the Skagafjörour region. As I was getting out of the car, I was greeted by the owner’s adorably friendly dog. There were no restaurants nearby so I figured I would spend the late afternoon exploring Akureyri and have dinner in town before turning in for the night.

Pre dinner onion rings
When in a fish town, you order fish

Dinner was at a gastropub I noticed while I was at the bookstore. Seeing as it was a seaside town, I figured I would try the local fish. Food was scrumptious as usual. I would have loved to have a second beer with dinner but since I will be driving back to the guesthouse, I decided against it. I figured the day’s adventures would be enough for an easy send off to dreamland.

Chapter 5: Halfway ’round the bend and I missed the pancakes by two days

By October 27th, 2020

There was no breakfast buffet this time. At least there was hot water for my thermos and for my morning coffee. Luckily, I had come prepared. Breakfast was spent in the car after parking by the church for one last photo op of rainbow lane before the tourists start waking up. Also, I wanted to leave some room for pancakes and coffee from a turf house in the middle of nowhere. I hear it’s a special experience.

Good Morning Rainbow!

I had spied a waterfall on the way down from the pass driving into town. I planned to make the stop there on my way over. I was the first car parked there so I was able to enjoy a little bit of solitude and had the waterfall all to myself for a good half hour before other folks began to filter in.

Random roadside waterfall

From the waterfall, I made my way to a seemingly random left turn along the main road to a 20 minute trip down a dirt road with something special at the end. Along the way, I passed by a two-for-one special on waterfalls. It was quite a bargain so I decided to make a stop.

Two-tiered special of the day
lower falls

Back on the road, my phone somehow managed to find the correct turn-off from the highway. It was an interesting drive down a rocky road with nothing but more rocks on either side of the road. every crest of the hill promising something just beyond it. After 20-plus minutes of bouncing around, I came to a small farm by a lake. I could see two little turf houses and a couple of sheep grazing by it. Unfortunately, the sign informed me that I missed pancakes and coffee by about 2 days. Summer season was officially over so the residents have closed up shop for the year. Well, I’m here already so I might as well explore a little bit.

Looks cozy

I found a guy staying at one of the turf houses and he told me in heavily accented, slightly broken English that he is renting the turf house for a few weeks. He found it through one of the homesharing sites. I figured that would be a great idea for my return trip.

Missed the pancakes. Try again next time?

There were no pancakes but there were two very placid sheep munching along. I slowly approached one and propositioned it for a photo shoot. It was very obliging. I decided I would perhaps risk life and limb and pet it. If I got injured, I hope my Garmin emergency service could airlift me out of there to the nearest ER quick enough.

one sheep
two sheep
Making friends in the most random places

The lack of pancakes was a letdown but petting my first Icelandic sheep made up for it. I decided to motor down to the next town and gas up my car and perhaps grab lunch before heading to my next waterfall.

Thankfully, I had managed to get a decent brunch before getting back on the road. It turns out the road to one of the viewpoints for Dettifoss was going to be an ordeal. From the turn-out, it was 45 minutes of bone-jarring driving along a rocky and muddy road riddled with enormous and deep potholes. Thankfully, the rental was up to the task even if I could not say the same for my back.

Detiffoss side A. Saving the B-side for next trip

I decided to forgo visiting the viewpoint on the other side of the waterfall. It was promising to be another 30+ minutes down another rocky road and I had a hot springs reservation I wanted to make sure I could get to. I decided to head to Myvatn. I still had a couple of stops to make before my reservation at the hot springs and I was beginning to feel lunchy after the 90 minute F-road ordeal.

Lunch was a lamb burger at a cafe next to a tourist attraction. Dimmuborgir is a maze of trails winding around amazing lava and rock formations. Unfortunately, all the jostling from the road to Dettifoss left my injured ankle sore so I had to forgo the hike and sat down to lunch instead. At least I could see some of the park out of the cafe window.

yet another lamb-burger
enjoying the trail from the window

There was also a little cave with an underground hot spring that I had been hearing about so I decided to make my way there. The road going to the cave was a nice drive through some interesting rock formations. The cave itself was tiny and the much-hyped underground spring was a bit underwhelming. There were signs discouraging tourists from taking a swim (dangerous!). Also, the cave being tiny, the many tourists milling about made it feel more unpleasant. Besides, where I was going promised to be way nicer than this one.

It looks so much better than it smells.

After checking in to my quarters for the night and charging my equipment, I decided to recharge myself before dinner and headed for the hot springs. It proved to be a lot less crowded and a lot more pleasant than the Blue Lagoon. Since it was a further drive from the capital, fewer tourists make it there. Chessy and I had a good soak and relaxed in the water for a bit. I actually had to fight to stay awake in the water since it was putting me in a mood to nap.

Chessy getting ready for a relaxing dip
Getting wet and not too wild

After the relaxing soak, I headed back to my room to check on my equipment and get ready for dinner. The guesthouse staff recommended a restaurant down the road. I also noticed it was close to a church. Maybe I could do another photo shoot before turning in for the night.

Dinner did not disappoint. I had a starter of some smoked fish on local bread, the soup of the day, and a fish entrée that was delightful. Just as I was finishing up dinner, one of the diners just coming into the restaurant announced that everyone was missing the amazing sunset outside. I was able to capture a shot just as the sun was disappearing into the horizon.

Course 1 of 3: smoked fish on local bread and a healthy slather of butter
Course 2 of 3: Lamb stew aka soup of the day
Main course: Fried local fish with potatoes and fresh greens
catching the last sunset of the day

I decided to make a quick stop by the church while the light was still good. It was peaceful and quiet apart from the whinnying of a horse in the distance. One could not help but feel a little contemplative. I said my thanks for another wonderful day before heading back to the guesthouse for the night. After the relaxing soak and the good food, I was ready for bed.

evenings are also for contemplation

Chapter 4: Mysterious Eggs, Lighthouses, and more Waterfalls

By September 27th, 2020

Waking up to the morning light filtering through the window and the sounds of farm life is not so bad. I rested well last night and had no trouble from my ankle. It might have been the delicious dinner washed down with beer.

I started packing up for the day and realized my sweater matched the bathroom shower curtain. I just had to take a picture for posterity.

Just blending in with the local color

The day’s plan was pretty loose today. I thought perhaps I would spend the first half of the day in Vestrahorn. I read there were a lot of interesting things to see there.

The weather was not up to being cooperative. Everything was foggy and it was drizzling on and off. However, I was determined to find a few waterfalls on the way to Seydisfjordur. This time, I thought maybe I would throw in a few lighthouses along the way.

Whale bones collected from the coast through the years

Vestrahorn is the perfect place to see just how raw and beautiful the landscape is in Iceland. The jagged peaks bathed in low clouds and fog are calling to be climbed. However, I am not a climber of mountains. I hurt my ankle climbing a wall not even 10 feet from the ground right before the trip. Those peaks will have to wait for another day.

The Peaks of Vestrahorn

I was able to get to a parking area close to the Stokksnes lighthouse. A short walk to the rocky shore rewarded me with an amazing vantage point. I could watch the Atlantic waves crash onto the rocks below. The wind was brisk and cold so after I snapped a few photos of the lighthouse, I did a little bit of exploring among the rocks before I sought shelter in the car. Other tourists were beginning to filter in as I was leaving the parking lot.

Stokksness Lighthouse

Next stop in Vestrahorn was the Viking Village. Most articles I have read of the place say it was a bit “staged” and not worth the trouble. Fortunately, I have a habit of ignoring reviews. I figured if I was to be underwhelmed, I might as well be there for it.

Viking home with waterfront view

It was not as bad as the online reviews claim. It actually felt like taking a trip back in time. I was expecting to even run into a few gruff, bearded vikings while walking around. As long as you don’t squint too hard and look too closely, you might just find it magical.

Manning the gates
Hold the door

I read about a town that had stone eggs by the seashore. It sounded interesting so I decided to check it out. Along the way, I stopped at the Hvalnes Lighthouse. I suppose if I were a sailor in the daytime, the orange paint would be hard to miss.

Hvalnes Lighthouse

Eggin í Gleðivík is Icelandic for “eggs in Gleðivík”. There isn’t really much other than a row of concrete eggs lined up along the shore with plaques to read on each pedestal. In better weather, it would look more dramatic with the mountain peaks from the fjord across the water in the background.

Stone Eggs. Dragons?

After several waterfall-less stops, it was time to get back to the chase. Sveinsstekksfoss was the next stop. Also, the coffee and constant rain was beginning to get to me. Time to find a pitstop. Thankfully, there is a porta-potty station close to the waterfall viewpoint.

Lower falls

After a quick potty break, I went exploring by the falls and snapped a few photos. I had to find a way through the rocks without getting my socks wet in the water. My ankle was finally beginning to feel better so rock-hopping wasn’t as arduous.

Lunch break with a view

After spending my lunch break among the rocks, I followed the road up the hill to get to the viewpoint and was rewarded with an amazing view.

Sveinsstekksfoss from the viewpoint

The highway wound by coastlines and along cliffsides. When I got to the junction for 939 just past Folaldafoss, Highway 1 was closed and there was a sign for a detour through 939. Since I was heading that way anyway, I wasn’t too worried. I figured if I got lost, I could just look for the nearest town and find a place to stay the night. It was only early afternoon but it was getting pretty dark.

Folaldafoss on the detour

Sometimes, detours give us the best surprises. The road through 939 was quite rough but the rental was up to the challenge. It made me miss driving my FJ cruiser back home.

The detour eventually brought me to Egilsstadir. I was running low on car snacks so I decided to make a stop for some supplies. There’s a museum I was hoping to visit in town but it was closed by the time I got there. After a fuel stop, I decided to head for my accommodations for the day in Seydisfjordur.

The drive to the fjord past Egilsstadir winds uphill. I do mean UPHILL. The road switchbacks up the mountain and the peak was pretty foggy in late afternoon. The limited visibility all around made me feel like I could be driving down a road with steep drops on both sides. For a girl who is afraid of heights, it’s not a lot of fun.

After checking in at the hostel for the day, I took the rental car around the quaint little town and did some sightseeing before dinner. Other than the usual lamb dinner, I also tried the reindeer croquettes.

Reindeer croquettes. Cue the “other reindeer” jokes

After dinner, I figured I would take some pictures of the iconic church and the colorful close by. A little walk along the town center also rewarded me with a memorable “good night” photo before turning in for the day.

Good night Seydisfjordur

The Ring Chapter 3: The lambs were not so silent

By August 24th, 2020
Morning light over Vik

The morning light filtering through the window woke me up. I packed up my stuff and loaded my bags back in the car. There was breakfast this morning. It was typical Icelandic tourist breakfast fare similar to yesterday. As usual, I loaded up on the breakfast buffet and even managed some hot water in my thermos for some coffee on the road.

Breaking fast like a hobbit

My next stop was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. I have never heard of the place and had no idea what it was going to be like. However, at this point, any place I have stopped has been gorgeous. This one involved some driving on rocky roads down lush green meadows. The day was becoming quite drizzly but this time I was a bit more prepared. I managed to find a grocery bag to keep my camera dry. Today is off to a good start.

Parking at the bottom parking area that my saved directions led me to meant there was some uphill hiking. Thankfully, my ankle was beginning to feel much better. My hiking shoes were helping keep it steady as I ambled up the trail. The Aleve I took after breakfast was also beginning to kick in. Making it to  the top of the canyon, I was rewarded with an amazing sight. I could see across the canyon and could spy a waterfall somewhere among the cliffs. Everything was covered in green. Rock formations reminiscent of secret caverns leading to fairy lands made me feel like I was in a scene from Lord of the Rings. I was half-expecting to run into Arwen or Elrond or even Tom Bombadil.

Secret doorways to the lands of faerie
Were I a braver soul, I would stand on the earth’s edge and look down below

After I walked around the trail at the top of the canyon, I decided to head out to my next stop. I stopped at the nearby down to gas up and buy some road snacks and drove through the foggy morning to Vatnajokull National Park. Along the way, I drove through miles and miles of lava field on both sides of the road. Lava fields covered in moss and fall-colored foliage. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road. Despite the thick fog , I could still see enough to appreciate how even a seemingly empty expanse can be so beautiful.

A peek of the great glacier tongue

Eventually, as the day grew warmer, the fog burned off enough that I could see the glacier from miles away. I managed to find a roadside stop where I was able to park my car and snap some photos.

Stopping for another snapshot

When I got to the park, it turned out that from there, it would require a bit of hiking to get to the more interesting spots. The maps at the park showed trails to breathtaking waterfalls and rock fields. Since I felt I did not have a whole day to spend here and there were still a few stops to make before tonight’s bed, I added the stop to my list of places for my next visit. I did, however, peruse the selections at the information center. I managed to buy some books I know the kiddos will love.

I did not manage to get up close and personal to Vatnajokull but I managed to find a F-road that took me within a short walk of Svínafellsjökull glacier. There’s a plaque commemorating a couple of adventurous souls that went missing in the area a few years back. I paid my respects and vowed to be careful. There was barely any tourists in the area so I was able to enjoy some quiet moments and had the glacier to myself. I even managed to hear it calving in the distance.

Just me, Chessie, and a lot of ice

After meditating on the beauty of nature, I got back on the road and decided to do a different kind of soul searching. I headed for Hofskirkja in the tiny town of Hof. It’s one of the turf churches scattered all over Iceland. The wind was beginning to pick up but it was still nice and sunny. I managed to have the area to myself for a few minutes before other tourists began to trickle in. It was beginning to get a bit windy for my comfort so I figured I would hole up in the car and have a quick lunch before heading for my next stop.

Chessy on a meadow by the turf church
I wonder what they used this stone for

Jokulsarlon Lagoon is another popular tourist stop. The parking lot was full of cars when I pulled up. I was beginning to feel a bit peckish so I bought a hotdog at the parking lot food truck. The lagoon was a nice stop to watch seals playing in the water. From there, it was a short walk to Diamond Beach so I decided to leg it instead of driving the car down and hope for a parking spot. The seashore was littered with ice in all shapes and sizes. It looked like a giant spilled a bag of diamonds on the beach. I’m guessing that’s where the name came from.

Shine bright like a diamond

Today did not involve a lot of stops but I had spent more hours on the road than the past 2 days. It was late afternoon by the time I made it to the guesthouse I was staying for the night. The guesthouse turned out to be a sheep ranch. Driving through the farm to the guesthouse in the slowly darkening afternoon reminded me of the sheep farm from Clarice Starling’s origin story in Silence of the Lambs. I hope the rooms are cozy… and soundproof.

That approach is one way to set the scene

The farm turned out to be quite adorable. My room had the modern amenities and the bed was quite comfy. This definitely made it to my “must visit again” list. It felt nice to have my own bathroom and shower and be able to lay around in so much space.

I’m afraid I was unable to save this lamb.
… or this slice of chocolate cake.

Dinner was amazing. I ordered the lamb (of course), washed down with beer, followed by chocolate cake that the guesthouse owner made earlier that day. It was nice listening to my fellow guests talk about their adventures. Just as the beer was starting to send me off to sleepyville, I headed to my room for some much needed sleep.


The Ring Chapter 2: Sometimes all you need is a grocery bag

By July 25th, 2020
I woke up on my second day on the (Ring) road with dawn filtering through the curtains. I slept with the window open and nodded off to the feel of cool mountain air last night. My ankle was starting to feel better. I had less pain with walking. Hopefully I won’t end up hobbling around all day. I did not have very many stops to make and the town I will be spending the night in also has local sights to offer. I packed up my stuff and got dressed for breakfast.
The original breakfast club
Breakfast was a buffet of local breads, cheese, and cured meats. There was also fruit and boiled egg. I filled up on breakfast and pocketed a couple pieces of fruit for my lunch and spent a few minutes looking around in the lobby and reading area. I had explored the hallways of the guesthouse yesterday and inspected the antiques on display all over the second floor. It turns out this place was formerly a schoolhouse. After checking out and loading up my stuff in the car, I was back on the road. Just a little ways down from the guesthouse I came to a bridge. The sun was just beginning its climb. The morning light peeking through the clouds treated me to a beautiful view of the lake where my dinner from last night had come from. I just had to stop and look around. Chessy even had a little photo shoot among the local flora.
Mornings are for coffee and contemplation, and random photo shoots along the road
I made my way to one of the popular falls along the main road: Seljalandsfoss. I had visited the place before with friends as part of a tour we took during my last visit. I wasn’t able to go behind the falls at the time as our stop was a short one. This time, I can spend as much time as I wanted exploring the area. It was still early in the day so there were not very many tourists milling about yet. You can even see the top of another waterfall further up the trail.
Gljuifrabui peeking over the canyon
You can walk the trail up to the waterfall, continue on behind it to the other side, and keep walking further down the trail to the other waterfall, Gljuifrabui, which empties into a canyon, before circling back to the parking lot. The path behind the falls was wet, muddy, and slippery and my ankle is still a mess. What could possibly go wrong? I managed to avoid another injury as I slowly climbed around behind the waterfall with the rest of the early sightseers. I was able to get close enough to the canyon down the trail before my ankle started to protest. I decided to save this one for the next visit.
The struggle of a waterfall chaser: water droplets on the camera lens
Behind the scenes
My second stop for the day was another popular tourist stop so I decided to hightail it over there before the tour buses began arriving in droves. Skogafoss is another well-known waterfall in South Iceland. I had also visited this one before but just like the previous stop, there was not enough time to look around. I was able to get close enough to start worrying about getting my camera drenched with glacier water. I kept having to wipe my lens and tuck my camera under my jacket. Between the drizzling rain beginning to get heavier and the splash from the falls, I was impressed my poor camera survived the ordeal and still works to this day. As I was making my way back to the car, I saw one savvy tourist with a plastic shopping bag around her camera secured with a rubber band. I made a mental note to add a plastic bag to my kit the next chance I get.
I had a closer shot but all you would see would be water
I skipped going to the Skogar Museum and the plane wreck. The former I had already visited before, the latter required a long walk and my ankle was not quite up to the task. A few weeks prior to my arrival in Iceland, part of the basalt columns in Reynisfjara beach had collapsed and that section of the beach was closed to tourists. Since I had also been there before, I decided to skip that one as well. I will make sure not to miss them on my next trip, however.
Brooding is a semi-permanent mood here
I arrived in Vik in the early afternoon. Vik is a quaint little town that is slowly gaining popularity since most of the tour buses stop here for lunch before heading back to Reykjavik. Icewear, the popular purveyor of woolen goodies in Iceland has a factory and store here. There is also a black sand beach here where you can see the pillars off the coast of Reynisdrangar and Reynisfjara. After checking in at the hostel, I decided to explore the town and head to the beach for some pictures. It was still a little early for dinner so I decided to do some shopping at the Icewear store. I hear wool hats make great gifts. Also, I was on the hunt for yarn. I had always wanted to knit myself an Icelandic wool sweater.
Chessy shopping for souvenirs and living their best viking life
A meat and potatoes kinda girl
This certainly is not Olive Garden
Dinner at Sudur Vik restaurant was quite a feast. I had the lamb (of course) with potatoes and the soup of the day. It was all washed down with the local beer. Before heading back to the hostel to bed down for the night, I made a quick stop at Vik i Myrdal Church, also known as Reyniskirkja. I had glimpsed the church on my last visit from afar as our tour group was stopping for lunch and the photos I had taken of it then did not do justice. I needed redemption of another kind.
Reyniskirkja as it watches over the town
Good night, Vik
At the hostel, with the lights down and everyone in my room getting ready for bed, I was able to snap a quick photo of the town below me. The night lights of Vik will do just fine for tonight.

The Ring Chapter 1: Waterfall Chaser

By June 30th, 2020
A lyric from my youth: Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes you’re used to. I was never one to follow instructions when there are more interesting rabbit holes to explore. When I told friends, family, and co-workers I was going to drive Iceland’s Ring Road all by myself, there was a ripple of collective concern. By now I had gone on several camping trips into the woods all alone. I thought it was time I tested my ever-lessening limits as was true to my nature. In the spirit of transparency, however, I will admit that I did not go into this blindly like a meteor hurtling through the atmosphere. I have learned important lessons about the value of preparedness. I have learned the hard way on many occasions. So I booked everything ahead of time, traced a course along the road, read many travel blogs, mapped out and downloaded GPS directions to my planned stops, and bought a GPS device that will track my entire trip.
… and planning on making plans about plans on plans.
Unfortunately, I suffered a nasty fall while bouldering a few days before I was to leave. I had to rest up my ankle so I could at least hobble with some dignity. I guess I won’t be doing much traipsing about during this trip. Lucky for me, by the time I was to leave, the swelling from my ankle had gone down to where I could at least wear shoes. Walking was still painful and I had a significant limp. I reminded myself I had overcome worse things before. So I gritted my teeth, packed my bags, and boarded the plane for an 8 hour plane ride.
Fighting jetlag? Gin helps… a lot!
I landed in Iceland 16 hours after I boarded a plane for an 8-hour flight. Time zone change wreaks havoc on my brain. It helped me ignore my throbbing ankle as I hobbled through the airport to get to the shuttle that will take me to my rental car. After a hazy few hours of trying to figure out if I was on the right shuttle (I was not), figuring out a way to call the rental place with my mobile phone, getting to the rental office, filling in paperwork, sitting through the rental car spiel, and taking a quick moment to figure out how to drive a car that was not mine, I was on the road. First stop was the grocery store. When travelling in a car, one needs car snacks, and coffee. At this point in my life, I will need a lot of coffee.  
The Jeep of the week and my travel buddy.
Reykjanes, the town southwest of the airport and where I picked up my rental car, looked quaintly dreary on a drizzly morning. The mood reminded me of every other Nordic movie I have seen on television. It made you think of floating in a muggy, gray soup but when you open the car window, the air was crisp and cool. I can taste the ocean. It is close, I just know it. Driving south from Reykjanes through Reykjavik made me nostalgic. I was just here with my friends a few years back. That was the trip that made me fall in love with the land and I had since longed to return (and plan to keep returning). I just got here and I am already planning my next trip. My first stop was Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park. Why not start off by seeing 2 tectonic plates in one stop? There’s a visitor center with the requisite information booth, gift shop, and snack bar. The fall colors had just started coming in.  
Fall colors on tectonic plates
Proof of life
Thingvellir is Icelandic for most scenic council-house ever.
Oxararfoss was my first waterfall stop. It is not only a beauty of nature but a wonder of man’s early ingenuity. The Oxara river that feeds the falls was actually channeled by men in the 9th century into the Almannagja ravine to provide water for the Icelandic Althing from as early as the 9th century.
The first waterfall I see, a man-made cataract of majesty. Sometimes, man and nature can make beautiful scenery together.
After a few hours hobbling around the park, I decided to make sandwiches in the car for a grab and go lunch and headed off to Strokkur hot springs to see water that went a different way – up. Geysir is Iceland’s famous geyser as Old Faithful in Yellowstone is the United States’. The sulfur bubbling up from the hot springs filled the air with a smell like someone who had one too many deviled eggs decided to let rip a long one. Don’t worry, the beautiful scenery will help you get over the smell pretty quickly. One lesson I learned: when it comes to geyser-watching, stay upwind.
Either someone ate one too many deviled eggs or that is a hot spring.
I spent a few minutes in the Geysir center shopping for some souvenirs and brought home a wool blanket. I also tried the ice cream. It was the late afternoon slump and I needed a quick sugar fix before I got back in the car. After surviving an 8-hour flight and limping around with a sore ankle, I deserved a treat. Besides, you shouldn’t take Aleve on an empty stomach.
Midafternoon slump? Have some sugar
A side of artwork with my ice cream
My next stop was Gulfoss, my second waterfall of the day. Its a tiered cataract located in the canyon of the Hvita river. There is a story about a lady named Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, who was so determined to preserve the waterfall and its natural beauty from development that she threatened to throw herself down the river. Despite the story being nothing other than propaganda, there is a monument to her somewhere along the trail to the falls.
To be fair, she does look like one not to be trifled with.
After enjoying the view and snapping a few more pictures, I was starting to feel the jetlag. Also, the Aleve was beginning to kick in. I fugured I should probably get to my last stop before I get too tired to drive. I hobbled back to my car and headed for my room for the night.
Some people frolick in a meadow. I would tiptoe-frolick in this reading area.
Heradsskolinn is a schoolhouse turned guesthouse in Laugarvatn built in 1928. It sits by a lake brimming with fish. There is a sign by the door before you enter, reminding guests that it is a shoes-off home. The floor is still the original 90+ year old polished wood. The current owners are determined to preserve its historic beauty for many more years.
I wonder if the radio still plays the classics
The furnishing and decor have been collected and preserved throughout the years. Stepping into the guesthouse felt like travelling back in time. The bookcases lining one of the walls in the reading area are filled with old tomes both in English and Icelandic. While looking around, I could not resist flipping through one of the weathered-looking volumes just to smell that old-book smell. It brought back many happy memories and comforting sensations from my childhood. The smell of yellowed pages are yet to be replicated by the latest Kindle model in the market.
Have a seat and travel through time
Turn up the old Victrola, gonna dance the night away
For dinner, I was thinking of ordering lamb. In a land where sheep outnumber Iclanders, lamb is more of a staple food. However, the restaurant staff were enthusing about the fish. As it turns out, the fish being served tonight, as with every other night, was fished from the lake I could see just outside the window. I am an island girl at heart after all. I cannot pass up good fish. I had to have it for dinner.
If fish and veggies were this good when I was a kid…
Now that I was finally full with good food and good beer, my exhaustion from today’s plane ride finally came knocking too loud for me to ignore. I finally settled in for the evening. Besides, how can I even resist this really comfy looking setup?
Comfy and cozy for the evening.
I am already excited to wake up in the morning to the gorgeous view outside my window. Time to recharge my gear and my self. First day of my first major solo trip down. Tomorrow, more adventures await.
Good night, rolling hill of cooled lava and beautiful greenery.

Of Cannolis and Creme Pies

By May 25th, 2020

If these old building walls could talk, they would probably be chattering with the headstones across the street. Boston has certainly aged quite well, all things considered. We were visiting for a multi-day conference. The plan was to soak in some learning by day and check the local color afterwards. I, however, had other plans.

History was my least favorite subject in High School. It was always all about remembering who did what when and where and there was always so much to remember. I was (and still remain) not very good at remembering things I am told to remember. Or perhaps I am just bad at doing what I am told to do.

Many famous speeches made from that balcony.

However, I like old things. Work had a certain enduring quality back in the day when artisans and craftsmen poured their heart and soul into their product. To them, it was not just one more object out of thousands churned out to supply the needy public. It was their legacy, something that will endure and prove their existence long after their bones have been relinquished to the earth.

Pretty, old buildings are still pretty

I love old buildings most of all. I could imagine those walls bearing witness to the bygone days, watching the constant march of progress. I would give anything to hear all their stories.

Most every parent dreams of their progeny going to Harvard or some ivy league school and mingle with the cream of the crop. I certainly would be proud to say my child went to Harvard. So on a free afternoon, my friends and I stole off to Harvard. I heard there’s a really good cannoli place near the campus. Also, if in Boston, one must partake of seafood. So after walking around the campus and feeling not much smarter than I was when I woke up this morning, we proceeded to have dinner at the nearest oyster bar. I was downing oysters like a greedy walrus. It was a good day.

Leave the gun, Paulie but don’t forget the cannoli.

The next day, I played hooky towards the end of the day and caught the trolley tour through downtown. My compatriots decided to ride along. We went to some historical spots to blend in with the tourist crowd. We visited Paul Revere’s house, a preserved wooden ship, the bar from Cheers, and walked across the park back to our hotel room to work up a healthy appetite.

That famous guy yelling from a horse…
I think that is a bullet hole
Shocked to learn they DID NOT know my name.

We were staying in the hotel whose claim to fame was inventing the Boston Creme Pie. I had the rabbit for dinner. It was delicious. I had the famous dessert as well. The dinner was well worth the splurge.

Look away, Mr. Rabbit. This might be disturbing.
Charles Dickens’ old hotel door. I wonder what’s on the other side…

Day 3 was our last full day in Boston. Most of the conference sessions were repeat performances so I decided to take a lunch break somewhere else. I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the city and headed for the highest building I could find. Sunset shots of the city on my last evening of the trip are going to be my thing from now on.

Old bricks mix with new concrete.

Early morning the next day, we caught the plane home. It was a nice trip down history lane. Perhaps next time I can visit again. I still have rabbit holes left to explore and a few places to revisit. And, of course I tried the lobster roll. It was worth the near-death experience.

Hanging out with the locals.

Look Closer, There Are Still Things to See

By April 26th, 2020
We are told to stay home. To a leaver of trails such as myself, this is problematic. I thrive on being able to explore. Outside is the best place to explore for me. Inside, there is little space, too many familiar things, and not enough for exploring. But then, I realize, what if I look at familiar things in an unfamiliar way? I imagine myself shrunk down to the size of a pea. What if I was half an inch tall? The tiniest of space would be a great adventure. I saw so many new sights looking in and peering closer at the most familiar things.
One of the many plastic legs of a toy.
I can keep looking out the window from the inside and see the same building, the same trees, the same skateboarder doing kick flips in the parking lot every afternoon. Not much of an adventure for me. I have walked those sidewalks to and from work before. I know them too well. The paths traced along this piece of shiny rock, however, I would likely find awesome and magical. I can imagine myself traipsing about, down, down, down into the center.
Bismuth my heart! What secrets are hidden within?
Dragon scales made of wood? Dare I step closer? Is that you, Jabberwocky? And here I am without a Vorpal blade. I must be brave and approach. The most menacing scaled creature turns out to be but a harmless pine cone.
Dragon scales of wood, indeed!
A pale island full of holes and tunnels. I wonder if they were dug by mole people. They look like tiny rabbit holes I must jump into and explore. Are there lands other than the one beyond the looking glass? Perhaps one of these holes would lead me to a shortcut and I can finally catch up with that darn waistcoat-wearing, pocket watch-carrying white rabbit.
Just pick a hole and jump right in.
I seldom spare a though to the green moss on the ground other than to remark on its squishyness. If I can not venture out into the woods outside, perhaps getting lost in the web of green in here would be just as interesting. I also stand as much chance of getting lost as I did one night on a water run to the river in the dark with nothing but bear spray and a headlamp.
Perhaps I can hack my way through and if I make enough noise, scare the critters away.
My thirst for exploring has been sated for now. But we are still stuck inside. I should not complain. For just me being alive enough to experience this (hopefully) most minor of inconveniences is blessing enough as it is. The adventures will still be there when this is over. I must survive long enough to make it to then. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Adventures at home

By February 29th, 2020

I am a habitual payer of attention to random details when sojourning beyond my front door. I notice the guy in the black hoodie across the street who stands in front of the Masonic Lodge smoking cigarettes at almost the same time each morning. I realize there is a new sticker (a smiley face with dead eyes) on the pole of the bus shelter. I also realize that it has been over a week and the same plastic cap from a bottle of Mountain Dew is still stuck in the same sidewalk crack. As I ride the bus to work, I see a fellow bus passenger’s snazzy looking purse or another fellow passenger’s expensive looking leather shoes and how it complements his well-tailored jacket and pants.

“Good sir, is that a… lion pup?” I asked, confusedly.
A glimpse of a church down an alley with a side of graffiti

Both good and bad catch my eye: crude graffiti, tasteful mural on a building, homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk, a shiny black Jeep Rubicon with a monstrous set of wheels. My local city is an urban adventure indeed, if you know where to look.

When you get to the corner by the golden pig, turn around.

It is now Friday, a bit past noon. My boss keeps asking me why I am still in the office. I am rushing to finish sending a few more carefully worded emails to the higher beings and string pullers at work. I am confident they won’t even notice my missives until Monday morning, 9 am at the earliest. No auto-replies so far telling me they have left town for the time being and will be back soon. After 37 emails sent today, Outlook hasn’t decided to take the rest of the day off. It must be my lucky day.

It’s the day before my birthday. My mom is still in town, staying with me. I promised her we would go exploring downtown. She loves taking the water taxi across the Puget Sound to our neck of the city. I do too. We decided to meet downtown a few blocks from my office. She is having coffee with her new friend at one of the ubiquitous coffee chain cafes. They are to wait for me and we will grab some early dinner at the boardwalk before catching the water taxi home. We might also catch one of the pretty sunsets on the way.

I could almost hear the clopping of a horse drawing a carriage

Walking the few blocks to downtown is an adventure in itself. Nowhere near the green, forested trails and mountainsides I enjoy traipsing in but charming and interesting, nonetheless. Despite all the new construction for skyscrapers popping up everywhere like mushroom on a fallen tree, the old grandeur remains.

A sky scraping skyscraper with all the romantic details

Here and there, you can catch a glimpse of the city’s history. You can sometimes walk past the old building facades and, looking in through the window as you walk by, imagine yourself transported decades into the past. Seattle may be a modern city but it has certainly managed to hold on to its bygone-era charm with a steel grasp.

Alice and Mom hanging out with Mr. Haglund and his buddies

Ivar Haglund opened Seattle’s first aquarium in 1938. To feed the hungry visitors (and the seagulls who hung around the area), he opened a fish and chips shop next door. The statue depicting Ivar feeding the seagulls was commissioned by his friends, whose names are engraved on the back of the statue’s chair.

As close to feeding the seagulls as Mom will want to get
Not quite acres of clams but these will do nicely

Mom and her friend had fish and chips (fries, actually). I had the fried clams. I did not receive an acre of clams, just enough to fill a cardboard tray. There were plenty of gulls hanging out on the pier and a sign saying it is okay to feed them.However, seeing as my pudgy fingers could easily be mistaken for a chubby worm, I decided it might not be the best idea.

Silver bells, cockle shells, and… seagulls all in a row

Standing in line to board the water taxi, waiting for the sun to set and bathe the water and the city skyline with that gorgeous orange fire is not such a bad thing to do. I was in good company, a full stomach, about to end my work week and wind down for a nice weekend break.

“catching” the sunset
The wasp-waisted queen holding court in a palace draped with glorious shades of dusk

As the sun continues to set and the water taxi jets its way across the sound, I look back at the downtown skyline. I notice the silhouette of the buildings across the sky, the Great Wheel and its flashing neon lights, the wasp-waisted Space Needle seemingly standing away from the megaliths like a queen holding court.

Catching a glimpse from between barnacle-laden wooden piles

We’ve turned One!!!

By January 18th, 2020

On the first day of the year 2019, right at midnight, I posted on this blog for the first time. It took me months of hard work figuring out how to design a website from the ground up, with barely a working background on web design or writing code. I made a commitment to try and post content on my site regularly. While I was successful for the most part, finding time to do so was challenging. Between work, life, and my adventures, it was hard to carve time to sit down and perform the many steps involved in creating a meaningful post.

I did not want it to be yet another site for people to click on. I wanted a space for me to practice my writing and share the images I have taken on my adventures. I wanted you, dear reader, to join me on my adventure on the trail, in the city, through the woods, everywhere. We are barely halfway down the rabbit hole. We are yet to unlock the tiny door and step into the garden beyond.

As they say, the best is yet to come.