Goodbye Iceland final reflection and post

This was a lovely trip. The weather was acceptable, the accommodations were comfortable, not luxurious, the company was great. I felt very safe here. I felt comfortable.

We ate so much wonderful soup that I considered using the title Soup to Nuts for this entry and talking about some of the nuts on this trip, however they all left yesterday and I find that actually miss many of them.

Roads Scholar was a very different trip than Vantage. The people on this trip were more flexible, more open to adventure, walking in the rain and carrying their own luggage. There were few souvenir shops and more natural unspoiled beauty. There was less space in rooms and more space outside.

I did miss people and market spaces that you see in more populated countries, souks, bazaars, farmers markets were not part of this trip.

I have a great Icelandic mystery to read on the plane, but I have closed the book on this trip.
I will soon be sending out an email…… Single retired teacher seeking adventure, my bags are packed, call if you are willing to travel.



This is a lovely city, we are in the city center close to the harbor. The weather has turned unpleasant, lots of rain, so we walk and explore when can and read the rest of the time.

Our hotel is right over the remains of the first settlement. This city dates back to 871. The remains of a long house are in the adjacent museum.

We walked along the harbor. The new opera house is stunning we walked around the outside and completely through the inside. It is designed to look and interact with light like a giant iceberg.

One of Iceland,s top artist has show in the opera house. Her message is about the fossils that we are leaving, the things that will tell our story to future generations. The foundation and inspiration of her medium is recycled material.

We climbed to the top of the cathedral and enjoyed the 360 degree view

By the harbor there is a lovely sculpture of a Viking boat.

The farewell dinner was last night and everyone but Wendy and I left at one pm. We will leave early tomorrow.

The souvenir shops are loaded with beautiful woolens, glass,pottery and art but I can’t afford it. This is the most expensive country I have ever traveled in.

Finishing the Ring Road

The last bit of the Ring Road is called the Golden circle. This became a bigger adventure for one individual than anticipated. The circle is also very close to Reykjavik so the number of tourists at sites has increased dramatically

The word geysir isIcelandic in origin, according to our guide. Our first stop was a geyser field. The oldest geyser, geysir has run out of steam and just bubbles and brews. The youngest one erupts every 7 minutes. ( sounds like real life). The colors, the steam and the whoosh sound of the eruption make a real sensory treat.

The next stop was another waterfall Gulifoss. This was originally on private land. The British power company wanted it for a generating plant but the family that owned it refused to sell, they fought for 3 generations and eventually donated it to the national park so everyone could enjoy it. The golden falls are among the most popular in Iceland.

The las stop was Thingvellir, this spot is where the original parliament met in 930 and for many years there after. They formed a Christian democratic society, developed a language and constitution. In June 1944 Iceland was declared an independent republic in this spot.

This also is another rift where the Eurasia and American plates are spreading. Other then the Rift Valley in Africa this is the only spot where there is visible evidence of the seafloor spreading on the surface. The plates are moving at 7 mm per year.

It is at this point where one of our more independent members left the group. We could see him high up on the ridge snapping pictures. He didn’t get back to the bus for over an hour. This caused great debates and conversations between the other participants.

On to Reykjavik.

The amazing views continue

July 4,5

We went to another water fall, the walk up and down was again fit for a mountain goat. Iwould tell you the name but our American ears are so out of tune with this language that we refer to the last big volcanoes as E16 because the name starts with an e that is followed by 16 letters

After the falls half the group continued up, over to the edge of the glacier and down to the bus where the less hearty of us waited. In the afternoon all of us went to the other side of the glacier bed.

My photos for today are a big disappointment, I went manual and overexposed them.

For our fourth celebration our leader hung an American flag which we drank a toast to.

We had another photo show and tell. I enjoy seeing the very artistic shots of the others but I am having a argument with myself as to the honesty of super editing with photoshop. I am not a photoshopper and am debating a jump into that world.

On Friday we drove among the glacier beds admiring their beauty and power. When a volcano erupts here the destruction often comes from the melting of the glacier and the release of underground water which sends torrents of water, sand and icebergs ripping through the countryside. Bridges and everything else in the path are destroyed. (One photo is of the remains of a bridge with the glacier behind.

This is also the land of the hidden people(trolls etc.). According to legend Eve had many children. She knew god was coming to visit and she only had time to bathe and dress a few. She hid the rest. God was not happy and punished her by hiding them forever… If God can not see these children then no one shall see them. There are hidden people churches and homes among the rocks. One 3 pointed rock was formed when three hidden people did not return home before sunrise.

Lunch was Anglican soup, made from the bight green native plant in the picture.

We stopped at the field of sand and I built a cairn for safe crossing.

After lunch it began raining very hard… Pay the piper time. We drove to one more waterfall and the cliffs to see the puffins.

Volcanoes and glaciers

July 3

We drove by many moraines, a landscape feature we know well in Michigan and landscape that is desert, in fact the largest in in Europe. The landscape is either covered with large rocks , gravel or fine black volcanic sand. On many of the walks you must be as surefooted as a mountain goat. Sometimes I get carried away climbing to get a picture, look down and remember I don’t like heights. Bobby, one of the members of our group is always at the highest point, the sheerest cliff, the most risky spot to get the shot. It has become a close race between Bobby and Wendy to reach the prime spot with no people in your shots.

Today we walked along a beach where the volcanic stone was similar to that that covered Pompeii, igminorrite lava. (Susan Keilb if you read this please check this fact) It is a green stone, a fast cooling lava. We walked along the beach and gathered stones.

Later in the day went to a glacier lagoon. After the war in Vietnam the American government sold a large number of semi amphibious vehicles, duck boats, which were purchased by tourist venues around the world. We road in a duck boat on the lagoon,among the glacier calves. What a remarkable sight/ site. Glaciers are only 10% above the surface of the water and we passed among some remarkably large chunks of ice. It was a very overcast day but the colours were amazing. The guide showed a small piece of ice, the water in it would be about 1000 years old, it sparkled like a large diamond. We stopped at one spot where we were at the lowest point in Iceland and I front of us was a mountain that is the highest point in Iceland.

Our hotel for the next two nights is on the edge of a glacier field.


I’m behind so I will try to catch up tonight.

Tues, July 2 2013
Snow is forecast for today. Iceland’s weather is a lot like Michigan, constantly changing, never what you expected. We have been very lucky, it has rained every night, a little each morning and partly cloudy the rest of the day. I haven’t had to wear my rain pants yet

At our stop on Monday our Tavel guide was given a survey on tourism in Iceland that he was to have us fill out. In discussing it with the agency that is giving the survey said that a significant number of tourist have no idea where they are!!!

Icelander love golf and fishing in the summer, in the winter a significant amount of time is spent in doors because of the short cold days. They spend a lot of money to make their houses comfortable. we have noticed that By our standards all the interiors are over heated. Historically the have not been eager adapters, until the Internet. They have wide access to the Internet( with the exception of the hotel we stayed in July 3, 4).

Their roads are not terribly wide, there are few scenic pull offs. All transportation is by truck, car, bus or bike. The major road that tourist use is called the ring road and it goes around the country. The citizens Are eager to make improvements, widen the roads make them tourist friendly because they would like to increase the rate of tourism to 1 million tourists by 2014 (it is currently at 500,000. There has been a steady increase over the last decade.)

We have seen plenty of waterfalls and there are many more to see. Tuesday was a long driving day. We stopped at many waterfalls. We ate lunch in a very remote area, the site of a farm and a small church built by a farmer to honor his wife. He put an alter, pews and and organon side and spent many hours there every day until he died. The current owner is building several pseudo sod buildings and a restaurant. The lamb stew severed was excellent, however I ended up with as much on my lap as in my stomach.

In the distance we saw what the Icelanders consider the most beautiful mountain, the Queen Mountain.

Our final destination was a lovely remodelled farm house on the edge of a lake. This is the best room of the trip.

Walking in the path of gods and astronauts

I am little frustrated with my posts. I worked hard to clean up my blog and learn new techniques for media presentation and the gallery option is not working with my ipad

We did not change locations today, we explored this area. It was very relaxing. One of the original plans for this trip was to have Diane Cupps and her husband Jerry travel with us. We would have rented a car and traveled without a guide. If that option had worked out I am pretty sure we Jerry would have exhausted and nagged to death.

Our first stop was Godifloss the falls of the Gods. The decision about Iceland’s state religion, paganism or Christianity fell to one parliamentarian. He voted for Christianity, went home and threw all his pagan gods to the bottom of the falls on his property. The falls are now called TheFalls of the gods.

The Black Castles, were the second stop, very reminiscent of the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. This was a lovely spot but the highlight for me was seeing the mother and baby sheep moving through the hills. The area is very uneven, filled with volcanic rock. American astronauts were trained here for the moon walk. Many American movies are also filmed here because of the other world landscape.

After lunch we walked around volcano craters. Volcanoes have shaped the land for centuries. They are currently awaiting 2 eruptions, one very small, the locals call these tourist eruptions and one that will rival the one that shut down European airports several years ago.

Our last stop was Krafal, the bubbling mud pots. The mud pots erupt without warning in these fields. The mud is about 180 degrees. Several,tourist have been badly burned over the years. The air reeks of sulphur and the surroundings are cloaked in steam.

Tonight after dinner we shared and critiqued our photos…. Very nerve wracking comparing photos with all these photo experts.

Tomorrow we travel.

Iceland by the numbers, Learning with new friends

There is really no night so Wendy and I woke up and went on a photo shoot at five in the morning.
It was a delightful walk through the town and down to the bay. When we returned to the hotel we ate breakfast. The bus departed at 8 am for a long day of driving.

The first stop was a horse farm where we tried to photograph movement. Wendy’s goal for the day was to use all manual photography. She did a great job, I have a long way to go. We ate at the horse farm, Wendy was shocked that horse meat and minkes whale steaks were on the evening menu. We had a soup and salad buffet for lunch. We wondered if they change the menu for American tourists. The horses are Icelandic horses, not ponies. They have five gaits, most horses have just three. These horses make exceptional therapeutic horses. In horse country, there are 150 horses for every person.

We drove to Aukreyri, the second largest city in Iceland. Along the way we stopped to photograph
Mountains and visited sod houses, one of the shelters for early farmers.

The group is starting to jell. People are taking time to share their talents with others. Alice, who keeps a sketch journal, Bruce who is a photoshop instructor, and Bobby who is a semi pro photographer are eager too help others. After dinner tonight people were sitting in small groups sharing pictures and ideas.

The hotels on this trip are not as fancy as other tours I have taken, they are small inns in the country. The food is alway fresh local fare, lots of fish and always fresh baked whole grain breads. The yogurt, is called skyr and surpasses Greek yogurt. Breakfast is often cheese, smoked salmon, ham and tomatoes.

Iceland numbers

The population of Iceland is just over 350,000 clase to Ann Arbor on football Saturday
The land area is about the size of Kentucky.
Length of shoreline is a little larger than Michigan
Water heaters are not needed, the water is pumped from the ground to the house at 119 degrees
The fox is the only natural animal, reindeer were imported.
Corrugated steel is the house siding of choice.
All the trees were cleared by early settlers, there is some replanting happening now
3 things that cannot be counted- mountains, islands and highland lakes
Mortgage rate is 4%
Gas is $2/ liter
They are self sufficient in meat and root vegetables, much of the other food is imported

The island lore is fantastic. We passed one rock that split in two when the church tried to drive out the pagans with holy water.

It has rained all night, we will still be going out on excursions

Rocks, Glaciers and Fish soup

Today we drove along the west coast stopping for photo ops along the shores and glaciers.

Our first stop was a mall to pick up a camera battery for one of the participants who came without. Eric, our guide managed to order one for her online, have it charged and waiting for her at this first stop. Several of us splurged and bought Puffin Hats. Nothing says American tourist like five adults strolling through a parking lot with Puffin hats. Cathy Campbell,I hope you like this better than the last hat, which is not warm enough for Iceland.

The colors and the contrast in this country are amazing. I have about 15 shots of everything and still don’t feel like aim capturing it.

The food has been remarkable. I did conquer “one I won’t” today, I actually ate fish soup.

Other world and outclassed

We must have left Michigan just in time. We missed the rain and had only a short delay in Boston. The flight to Iceland was a nonevent, not even long enough to catch some sleep, so we have been running since yesterday morning with no sleep. Customs was a big surprise, they just nodded us through and said have a nice trip.

The group, 19, five married couples, a grandma/granddaughter combo and the rest retired females. A very interesting,highly educated group, most have either won photo contests or are actively engaged in photography beyond family pictures. I am definitely outclassed on this trip.

After the airport, breakfast and trip orientation we went to the famous Blue Lagoon. The lagoon was formed by industrial effluent from the worlds largest geothermal plant. The plan was the waste water would run off and be absorbed by the lava beds surrounding the plant. The runoff is so full of salts that a thick floor was formed, the water could not drain and the lagoon formed. After many years of people “sneaking in” to the plant property for a good hot soak it was decided that it would be opened to the public and is now the number one tourist attraction in Iceland. This was a fabulous restorative hour.

We drove to the sea and photographed the large lava formations. The roadside is covered with blue lupine which has been imported in an effort to add more nitrogen to the soil. We also stopped to see gysers, where the surface temperature is so hot that the surface bubbles and steams. Our last stop of the day was a point where the Eurasia plate and the North American plate meet, the official geological line between the two continents.

So far Iceland looks like a moon scape cluttered with lava rocks. Below the surface there is grinding, sifting rock that is creating pressure and heat enough to power the country. Volcanos are a yearly occurrence.