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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

Pardon the dramatic title, but it was the best description I could think of for how I felt the first few days we were in Iceland. There was no wifi (anywhere, really, except in the capital Reykjavik, where there were a few internet cafes) so I couldn’t blog-as-I-went as I had planned. This lack of wifi—wifi, the thing that is so incredibly abundant in even the developing countries I’ve visited in recent years—should have signaled to me what was to come, but I didn’t think about it until later.  Even though we were only there for a week, we did a lotta shtuff, so I will attempt to break our trip into 2 parts. Keep in mind while you are reading this that I’m writing this for myself probably more than I am for you, so it might get long and boring.  Too bad. Read on if you’re that desperate…

Day 1:
Whaddya know? 2 years ago, my family and I went on an amazing trip to Indonesia. We were greeted at the Jakarta airport by whispers that there had been a few bombings around the city at American hotels. We stayed at an American hotel.

Clearly, we ended up okay. This time around was much of the same story: after the first leg of our flight into Seattle (because there are NO direct flights from LAX to KEV in Iceland), not only were we waiting impatiently for the end of the world, but we started to hear whispers again. This time, they were saying that a volcano had erupted in Iceland. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, there was that volcano (Eyjafjallajökull) that stopped air traffic in Europe last year for months, most notably affecting my life in that a bunch of artists couldn’t make it to Coachella. But we got on the plane and once we touched down at Kevlavik Int’l Airport, the man driving us to our hotel informed us that this was the largest eruption Iceland had seen in recent years. Reassuring.

Luckily, though the eruption IS supposedly larger than even the destructive Eyjafjallajökull, the ash turned out to be larger than that of last year’s eruption, making it easier to settle and thus not really interrupting our trip. We arrived at 7:00 AM and the airport was closed at 8:30. This meant that for most of the beginning of our trip, there were even fewer tourists than there would normally be. Awesome.

I say “even fewer” because let’s face it–Iceland isn’t exactly most people’s #1 destination for summer vacation. Plus, this country (which Wikipedia tells me is approximately the size of Kentucky) is home to just 300,000 natives–roughly the size of the population of Torrance, for you southern Californians. 2/3 of that population lives in the capital of Reykjavik, where we stayed for the first day, so from then on we rarely saw people, or if we did, it was the same 4 or 5 people everyday, taking the same route as us.

a street in lil Reykjavik

The roads were few and far between, making it hard-ish to get lost because you always kinda knew which one you were on. Some were unpaved, and Brendan and I often joked that it felt like we were on the Indiana Jones ride or on Mars. How do I convey this to anyone who hasn’t been to Iceland? There was (practically) NO civilization. Imagine Los Angeles before people started building on it. Now take away all the people, and the houses, and any trace of human life, add in some snow and other-worldly rock formations, and you pretty much have Iceland.

But I digress. This is supposed to be about Day 1. Pretty much all we did when we got to town was explore (we pretty much got around the whole city on foot in half a day) and eat. We also went on a puffin “sighting” boat ride, which ended up pretty fruitless less 2 lil puffins floating in the water.

But back to the eating. Iceland isn’t particularly known for any type of food, other than seafood. I’m pretty sure–no, I’m positive–that we ate fish at least once a day. There were hamburgers and hotdogs and things of that nature too, but the fries (and just about everything else) were always extremely, horrendously over-salted. My poor blood pressure.

I have to say that nothing was that good, though I might be a bit jaded by the prices. Iceland is EXPENSIVE. I mean, I was under the impression that since they’re in a depression over there things would be cheap. Wrong. They’re probably just cheapER than they were before. Which was probably insanely expensive. My family was routinely dropping $100-$400/ dinner for a family of five and skipping lunch in lieu of yummy Icelandic candies and treats. Our cheapest meal, on the last day at a kebab place, still cost us $100. Sheesh.

In conclusion: salty food, expensive.

We ended Day 1 at the Lobster House, which was recommended by everyone (and this was in the capital, where we still had options…). The lobster was good, though my dad griped about the texture of it all.

my lobster

my brother ordered lobster with horse tataki...didn't try that one.

Sadly, I had been sick 3 weeks prior to this trip and it only got worse the day of our flights. I had a disgusting cough that produced green stuff (TMI?) and couldn’t breathe. Consequently, couldn’t taste except for the most basic of tastes, like salty.

I’m alright with the fact that I couldn’t taste on this trip though. Better here than, let’s say, Japan?

Day 2:
Today we rented a car and headed off north towards the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This was a change from our original itinerary, where we would’ve driven straight to the exploding volcano. How convenient that we booked through a travel agent who now had to deal with this natural disaster nonsense instead of us.

These next two days were my (and I think my family’s) favorite part of the trip. Half desolate wasteland, half gorgeous landscape, we were confused and shocked at the vastness of this place. Our hotel was absolutely in the middle of NOWHERE.

yup, there it is

Surprisingly though, Hotel Bouðin was a really nice place; it looked something like a farmhouse that got a modern makeover.

We dropped our stuff and headed out. Our first sightings of lava fields, rock formations, and waterfalls galore. Marvelous!

our first lava field!

It also started to snow this day. We thought it was ash at first because we had all checked the weather reports, which said it was going to be 40-50 degrees the whole week. Then, my brother was convinced it was hail because the wind was hurling it at our faces with such force it was kinda painful, but nope. It was definitely snowing. And it was windy. At some points/places, there were winds that felt like something between 30 and 40 mph with even stronger gusts. Yowza, didn’t plan for that. Luckily I always overpack and I had and extra jacket for my sister, who really did not plan for that. For the rest of the trip, the temperature hovered between 30 and 50 degrees, with pretty incessant winds.

me & the family; happy I brought those boots

We cozied up and went back to eat at the hotel, our only option in the middle of nowhere.

Day 3:
We drove to a bunch of stuff that I don’t remember the names of, but that included a giant cave inhabited with sooo many seagulls. Brendan and Jocelyn went deep into the cave and came across a fellow hiker carrying a seagull who subsequently threw it (fly bird, fly!) into the stream flowing through. I saw it fall down the little waterfall, and then triumphantly fly away.

Then we went to the glacier of the peninsula–Snæfellsjökull. It was super cold (so cold that I was wearing a scarf AND a muffler and I was still convinced I was going to get frostbite on my ears and/or nose; got up the courage to expose my hands for a few seconds and take a couple pictures, but ended up in a lot of pain) and the drive was treacherous, so we didn’t stay long. The view was amazing though. Kind of looked like a pre-civilization Palos Verdes, or what I would imagine that to look like.

Bjarnarjöfn was our next stop: a shark preserving ‘farm’ of sorts. It produced Iceland’s national dish–cured shark. There was even a huge dead Greenland shark in the back. 2 days old yum yum. The shark is basically chopped into hunks, and hung up to dry in the fresh Iceland air for 6 months. This was one occasion I was especially glad I could not taste. My family said it tasted like ammonia. This is believable because the shark doesn’t have kidneys and is toxic to eat fresh, and because Anthony Bourdain went here and said so too. He knows all!

yup, that's a hunk of shark, covered in flies. yummy.

Finally, we went to Hellnar and looked at a bunch of awesome rock formations, including caves, along the shore. We ate at a tiny cafe called Fjöruhusio Hellnum, renowned for its fish soup, which was tasty, but like everything else, these tiny bowls of soup burned a hole in our wallets. My brother and I drove the car to Anarstappi while the rest of the family walked a trail from Hellnar to Anarstappi and we met somewhere along the way.

some mythical giant/viking from "Hellaland" in Anarstappi

rock formation off the coast of Anarstappi

Andddd that was it for the first few days. I know this is long as balls, but like I said, this is mostly my own mental log for the future, so I don’t blame you if you’re dying of boredom right now. Hopefully the pictures help. Part 2 tomorrow (or sometime soon)!

In the meantime, I’m sure you’ve already guessed that I took a TON of pictures and can’t include all o’ them here. So if you’re more of a visual learner:


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