Sunday, October 30, 2016

Iceland - The south & southeast

Day 5, we stopped at the Eyjafjallajokull information center and watched a film about the Eyjafjallajokull eruption during 2012.  This was the eruption that disrupted flights in Europe & the US.

Nearby is Skogafoss waterfall which is 60 meters high. You can see some tiny people on top, to the right of the waterfall.  We knew there were many steps ahead of us... 

One of the most impressive waterfalls in the country.

There was a little ladder to climb up to the top stream feeding Skogafoss, but it was hard to climb over and back with all the mud. Steve didn't want to try it but I made it with those gentlemen in front of me helping to get over and back down also.

Further east, we visited one of Iceland's finest folk museums at Hof, this museum contains an outstanding collection of farm and domestic artifacts from the past, including this old fishing boat. The entire collection was started decades ago by a 14 year-old boy, and was eventually made into a museum.  

The museum guide told us many interesting stories including about this door ring and the treasure chest it supposedly came from, hidden behind the waterfall.

And several old turf houses.

And a little church, surrounded by beautiful views.  The young boy who started the museum collection is now in his 90's, and was in the little church, chatting with some of the tourists.  He even played the old pipe organ, which was still in working condition, for the few tourists, like us, lucky enough to drop in.  

Then we went on to the black lava beach at Reynisfjara in southern Iceland.  This beach has "sneaky waves", and there are signs up warning people not to turn their back on the water.  The tour guides also warned about the waves.  "Sneaky waves" are a series of several small waves, suddenly followed by a large wave, big enough to knock over tourists.

The basalt rock pillars are taller than me.  This lava cooled quickly, forming these hexagonal shaped pillars.  These formations were the inspiration for the church in Reykjavik (shown in an earlier post.) 
We stayed in Hotel Laki in Kirkjubaejarklaustur for 2 nights.

Day 6, the wide glacier at the Vatnajokull National Park.  In the welcome center, there were several pictures showing how much the glacier has melted in recent times.

I found a heart on the black beach, I thought, wow.. who did this? 
Someone in love did it.

The glacier is melting.  The ice that breaks off is perfectly clear.

A little birthday gift from Steve to remember our trip. I was happy to show the driver about my birthday gift, and he was nice to announce to the entire group.  The whole bus sang "Happy Birthday" to me. 

Jokulsarlon, a glacial lagoon filled with floating icebergs. 

There are boat tours to explore the extraordinary site and even some seals swimming in the arctic water. However, our tour did not include the boat ride, and we didn't stop long enough to go.

Then we stopped at the nearby crystal beach, where large icebergs get stranded.  When tide goes out from the glacial lagoon, some of the icebergs are carried out of the lagoon to the ocean.  When tides come back in, some of the smaller icebergs wash back to shore.

I said I should write something for my birthday. Then Steve started to write..

I needed to have a photo with it.

The guide tempted a small group of us to hike to Svartifoss because we still had time that the day, so we went back to Vatnajokull. Due to the rain, half of the main path was closed. Seemed he had never been there before, so he led us to this wrong trail with a lot of mud along the way. He realized it was the wrong trail after hiking for about a mile, so we all turned back to the main path. Then he led us to the main path until the end of the paved trail.  From there a small, muddy little trail continued to the falls.  Some people followed him. Steve and I saw the little trail with mud, and it was raining, windy, & cold, so we gave up and went back to the coach, waiting for them to come back.  The little group that continued on returned soon, only going as far as the lower falls. 
Then back to the hotel.

Day 7, from Kirkjubaejarklaustur we headed across the Eldhraun lava field, stopping for photos.  The lava here is covered in a very thick, soft moss, except where tourists have walked through.

We stopped at another wool outlet store & souvenir shop.  This store had windows where you could look down on part of the production line.

The village of Vik.  According to our guide, the word "vik", as in "viking", "Reykjavik", and many other town names, actually means "a small fjord".

Further west we reached the high but narrow Seljalandsfoss waterfall.  This waterfall has a path to walk behind the falls.

With the rain, wind, and waterfall, we got soaked when we went behind the waterfall, which plunges from the mountain.
We headed back to Reykjavik and checked into Centerhotel Plaza again. We had 2 hours to relax in the room until the guide came again.

The evening included a visit to soak in the famous Blue Lagoon spa.
One of the group members had a waterproof camera and took photos for us.

Another person had a smart phone waterproof case & took photos for us too.
After Blue Lagoon, we all headed to an Icelandic farewell dinner at the Northern Light Inn Hotel.

Around 11pm, just as we got back to the hotel, many of us were in the lobby saying goodbye, when someone came in  and yelled that they saw the northern lights. Steve and I rushed out immediately.

The driver was still there, and managed to take some photos with his professional camera.

We saw green lights, moving in fast waves, then gone.

The green colors are darker and clearer in the photos, which use time exposure.  They didn't look that bright to our eyes.

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