Entry 4: June 24, 2011
On Monday June 23, 2011 our group parted ways for our independent travel. Jaimee, Carolyn and I set off to Thorsmork for a 3 day hiking trip. It took us four hours to get there by bus. We took many different buses and the last one was a mix between a dump truck and a tour bus. The buses had to be four wheel drive because we were driving over rocks and through glacial rivers. When we finally arrived at our hostel, Basar, we were in awe of the view and the surroundings. Basar was amazing; it had two rooms and could hold 40-60 people. When we got there we headed right upstairs put our bags down and went straight to hiking because we were excited to be out in wild. We hiked for about three hours the first day. While hiking we saw amazing mountains and even some snow! It was really good weather all day and we were actually hot in our jackets. Monday night the whole room was packed we slept in bunks right next to each other. The hostel also didn’t have electricity or hot water all of the water came straight from the river that ran down the mountains.
Tuesday was our second day at Thorsmork and it was time for our big hike! We started off on a different trail then Monday but the river had changed, and the trail was no more. So we turned around and went on the trail that we were on the day before and just decided to go further. We ran into some crazy parts of the trail. We had to walk along narrow stretches of rock, snow, and use ropes to help us. At times I was frightened especially walking in the snow because it was a narrow slippery path. We also had a fun time jumping from rock to rock trying to not sink into the mud and loose our shoes. When we finally reached the top of the mountain we were on a plateau and surrounded by two glaciers; one of the glaciers being Eyjafjallajökull. Jaimee and Carolyn were feeling especially adventurous and decided to climb to the other side of the snow capped mountain into the lava fields. I decided to stay behind because I didn’t trust my ankle. They were not able to make it to the other side because the weather didn’t cooperate, and we were in snow and hail. After they came down from the mountain we headed back to Basar and ate dinner. We met many different people from all over the world including Spain, Germany, Ireland and Holland. After dinner we hung out in the dining area because it was the warmest spot in the building with everyone cooking. We all sat down and mapped how far we walked and it ended up being about 16 miles in 6 hours. Then after many rounds of card games we headed upstairs for bed.
Wednesday was our third and last day in Thorsmork we slept in after our long and exciting hike one Tuesday. We were all tired and sore and ready for a good breakfast; it was quite the opposite though when we found that we had little milk and our yogurt had spoiled. So being the intrepid Vikings we are we rationed our food and ate our fruit for breakfast and saved the granola and the sandwiches for lunch. After our small breakfast we headed out for a short hike to a cave. When we arrived at the cave we sat on the rocks and looked out at the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us. Once again we had the best views in Iceland and I really appreciated the silence and serenity. Then we found a set of stairs that led straight back to our hostel so instead of hiking we took the steps. We had planned on hiking longer that day but ended up being to sleepy, so we went and ate lunch and read. Then we packed up and got on the bus back to Selfoss. Since we didn’t have much food for the amount of calories we burning we found a wonderful café, Café Lif. We all decided to have huge burgers topped with cheese, bacon, egg and lettuce. We also sat and talked to our waitress and chef (same person) about life abroad and other interests. Finally after a long three days loyal slaitmere was there to pick us up and return us safely to Skalholt.
On Thursday we went horseback riding at Hestaleigan Sydra-Langholti and it was the most amazing experience ever! My horse was rather large and I was a little scared before we got going but once we started I was okay. It was so fun riding in the wide open country of Iceland. The whole time we were riding it was raining and I didn’t even realize it was raining until we got back to the stable. Iceland horses are very different from horses at home; they are extremely tame and well trained. Icelanders train their baby horse for two years before they start to let people ride them and it makes such a big difference. After horseback riding we went back to Skalholt and had another delicious lunch, and then headed off to our home visits! The home visits are an event I have been looking forward to the whole month! We visited Ottir, his family and his farm, everything was perfect. He had three children, Elizabeth, Thorstein, and Thorir they were all so sweet and excited to have us there. They enjoyed hearing us attempt to speak Icelandic and talk about school. The whole family worked on the farm even Ottir’s parents who own half of the farm.
Entry 3: June 16, 2011
On Monday we left Skalholt and headed off to Heimay. When we got to Heimay we realized how small and close knit the community was, we were able to walk the town by foot. We put our stuff into the hostel and took off to see the volcano movie in the theatre down the street. The volcano Eldfell erupted in 1973, the eruption lasted from January until July. The volcano covered most of the island with ash and destroyed many homes. The lava extended the island 30% to the west. The one building that wasn’t destroyed was the Landakirkja, the church. While the volcano was erupting any of the rescue crews and firemen held service in the church. They believed that they had the power, with prayer, to stop the eruption and not be harmed. The church was not destroyed in the eruption and has stood there since 1778. The original church was destroyed by pirates and the present church has been there since 1778.
After we learned about the church and the Eldfell we had the wonderful opportunity to climb the volcano. On the way up they had signs where houses would have stood and our now covered in lava rock. When we go to the top of Eldfell the view was amazing you could see the whole town and out onto the horizon. On Tuesday our second day on the islands we set out early for a long hike. We went to see the puffins but there were not very many. Puffins have had 6 bad nesting seasons because of the changes in climate. The ocean is getting warmer and the fish the puffins feed on have moved north. They are not sure if the puffins are dying or following the fish north. While watching the few puffins we had time to relax on the cliffs along the coast and just enjoy the nature of the island. After some technical difficulty with the ferry early Tuesday morning it was up and running just in time for use to head back to the mainland. On the way back to Skalholt we stopped at two waterfalls and a wonderful glacier called Solheim, the glacier is recedingvery quickly and is covered in ash from the eruptions previously this year. After a long day of hiking and climbing glaciers we found a wonderful café that we didn’t expect to be open. It was run by a family and the cook was from Chile. We had a wonderful dinner and talked to the son of the owners for quite some time, we even had some live entertainment. All in all Monday and Tuesday were wonderful adventurous days and we all had a wonderful time!
On Thursday we visited Solheimar, a self sustainable community. The community was started in the 1930s by a pioneering woman named Sesselja Sigmundsdóttir. Sesselja based her theories and the community on the theories of an Austrian man named Rudolf Steiner. The community started out with 10 small children whose parents were too poor to support them. Sesselja took them in and they lived in tents for the first summer and winter. Sesselja then got help from her friends in Germany to build a house for the children. Eventually she took in mentally challenged children, the government protested mentally challenged and normal children living together. Sesselja ignored the protests of the government and the children lived together in one community. Today Solheimar has about one hundred residents; many of the residents have been there for 50-60 years and remember Sesselja. Thursday we had a tour of Solheimar and the workshops there. There were many different workshops including wood, weavery, ceramic, and my favorite the soap workshop. We were able to work with Paulo, who was from Portugal. He uses native herbs to make soaps, shampoo, lip balm and many other things. We helped him pick the herbs as our service project. It was really interesting to see people disabled or not living together completely off the earth.
Entry 2: June 9, 2011
On Monday we visited Laugarvatnshellir, a cave where a family lived until 1920. The family lived in the cave because of recession that had struck the island. The cave was handmade from the husband who was a skilled construction worker. The couple had three children while living in the cave. They also were able to keep 300 – 400 sheep in one section of the cave. The mother said she had accounts with the hidden people while living in the cave. She had a dream and a fairy like woman told her if she need to leave the cave to leave a bible by the baby daughter and someone will look after her. The mother said that once the daughter got older she played with and had interactions with the hidden people.
On Wednesday, we were able to roam around the city of Reykjavik on our own. Jaimee, Carolyn, I walked around the beautiful city all day; we started with the flea market. The market had everything you could ever imagine, from books to clothes, to even food. There was so much to see that it was a bit overwhelming and the food section smelt rather funny with all the mixes of meat. After leaving the flea market we headed over to a book store where I bought the book of prophecy telling the story of the creation and destruction of the world of the gods. Then we walked by the water and went into some very interesting vintage clothing stores, which were not my taste. I really enjoyed the city; it was one of my favorite places we visited. There were so many different people and places to shop; there were also a lot of people partying which was fun to see because they were dressed in silly costumes. Around four in the afternoon we found a cute coffee shop and had some coffee and I had a wonderful chocolate muffin with chocolate chips on the inside. We then walked around some more and met up with the rest of the group to go have hot dogs at a famous hot dog stand. Many people claim that the hot dogs are "the best hot dogs in Iceland" and are also best served all the way. If you had the hot dog all the way it included mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, fresh onions, and fried onions. The hot dog stand not only has the best hot dogs in Iceland but is also famous because former president Bill Clinton ate there while visiting Iceland.
Entry 1: June 2, 2011
We have been in Iceland for almost a week now and everything has been unreal. Our group was able to bond really well due to a rough start, with our flight being cancelled. The flight being cancelled may have seemed like a bummer but it gave everyone time to really know each other and we all had a lot of fun in the airport and at the hotel. We arrived in Skalholt on Sunday; being here is different from just hearing Dr. Novak talk about it in class. The beauty of this country has to be seen with your own eyes you truly have to experience it for yourself. Sunday we boiled eggs in a hot spring and fed some local horses that live here in Skalholt. After a long day of traveling we all settled in to our comfortable beds and had a wonderful night’s sleep.
We visited Gullfoss a waterfall, on Monday! It was amazingly clear and the waterfall had rainbows gleaming over top of it. The group was amazed by the beauty of it all. After visiting Gullfoss we headed down to Strokkur a geyser that goes off every 4-8 minutes. It was amazing to be able to watch water shoot up about fifty feet in the air. The group stood in front of the geyser and not knowing when the water would shoot up we got pictures of our reactions. After exploring all of these beautiful places we returned back to Skalholt and had an absolutely amazing dinner. The dinner included lamb and roasted vegetables and potatoes.
On Thursday we had an amazing lunch. Then we met Eyglo and her mother. They were such nice people. Eyglo is the chief editor of the Iceland review but she was so humble and sweet. She has traveled to many different countries and lived abroad. After lunch we headed off to Stong which is a farm that was destroyed by Mt. Hekla (Volcano) and the foundation of the building had been preserved by the ash. It was really cool to see how the people then would have lived. After visiting Stong we headed to a beautiful huge waterfall!! It was amazing. Then we hiked up the cliff and got to sit in a cave! It was so much fun. I loved every minute of it.