June 25, 2017

Iceland, Part 2

As I mentioned, I was unprepared for Iceland.  But, if you can get over the sticker shock, it really is a wonderfully gorgeous place.

Strokkur geyser erupting.

Malta has 520,000 people on an island that is 326 times smaller than Iceland.  And Malta didn't feel crowded.  So, with that perspective, Iceland, with a population of 331,000 is definitely very remote and bereft of people.  We never went more than an hour without seeing other cars (as opposed to some of our very rural road trip time in the northern middle of the U.S.), but we had gorgeous breathtaking views of unspoiled nature in every direction almost every moment of every day while driving (even if the views were hard to see through the rain).

Öxarárfoss waterfall in Thingvellir national park.
Like Maltese, Icelandic is an island nation language that is only spoken by very few people.  Thankfully, again, we basked in the privilege of being native speakers of the world's second language and got around in English.

I would definitely recommend Iceland as a destination for people who love road trips and large vistas of unspoiled wilderness.  It's also 100% renewable energy supported (primarily geothermal and hydroelectric), so if you are an energy infrastructure nerd, there's plenty to see and do related to that as well. 

When it's sunny, Iceland is breathtaking.
Unfortunately, while we were here, outdoor activities were much more difficult to accomplish than I expected.  Our Iceland Air in-flight entertainment informed us that Iceland is the 3rd windiest place in the world, but that humans don't live in the first 2.  The wind is no joke, my friends.  If parked in the wrong direction, it could be almost impossible to close the car door.  While driving, at times, I had to slightly angle the car tires into the wind to drive straight, which results in a very scary course change when you are passing large oncoming vehicles that block the wind.  Yesterday AM, it wasn't raining, so E and I headed out to try to go for a run.  After 0.2 miles, I asked to turn back.  The wind hurt my eyes (even behind my glasses!) and I felt like I was spending more effort to stay upright than actually running.

Cairn in the snowfields between some of the West Fjords.
Due to rain and wind, we didn't get in any great hikes in Iceland.  Just a few walks of less than a mile to and from various breathtaking natural sights (geothermal features, fjords, waterfalls, and more). 

One of the west fjords.

Finally, today, our last day here, it was sunny when we woke and I got out for my first actual run in 16 days!  2 easy miles, but on beautiful trails and in the perfect sun and air.  I ran to Laugardalslaug, the largest public pool facility in Reykjavik, so we could enjoy the local hot water culture.  E met me there and we popped around between fresh water hot-tubs at 38C, 40C, 42C, 44C, and the hot geothermal salt water pool.  It was a popular day for it (sunny and brisk at 13C), and we enjoyed the people-watching.  This was our consolation prize since we didn't get around to trying to book a visit to the Blue Lagoon 'til the day before and it was super sold out.  The only availability was for 10 PM (1 hour) for over 100USD each, which in addition to being much too expensive for our blood, was also at the time when we are typically snuggling into our beds.

Dedicated running and bike trail in Reykjavik.
We closed out the trip with a visit to the bridge between the continents (the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian plate meet in Iceland) and a visit to a boiling mud pot before checking in to our hotel on the old US navy base next to KEF.

Eurasia on the left, North America on the right.
Tomorrow, we get on an early flight to head back to the U.S. and we're both very excited to get back to the huge food selection that the U.S. melting pot offers, as well as the people, customs, culture and language that are our own.

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