Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Home from Iceland

Seydisfjordur in the Eastfjords

Looking down toward Seydisfjordur
We got home last night from Iceland. It's good to be home, but the reality of going back to work and school is less than ideal! The last four days of our trip around Iceland were awesome. The weather vastly improved on Thursday and we enjoyed beautiful views and even some warmish spring weather. The eastern part of Iceland was by far our favorite. Our experience may have been tempered by the fact that it was low overcast, windy, and occasionally snowing while we were in the west and beautiful and sunny while we were in the east - but I still think Eastern Iceland has some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen, anywhere.

On Thursday we drove to the small town of Seydisfjordur in the Eastfjords - the port where the ferries from Europe arrive. While we were there the clouds started to clear and we saw the first blue sky of our trip. Our guide book said that Seydisfjordur is the most beautiful fjord in Iceland and I have to agree. Unfortunately photographs do not do the Icelandic fjords any kind of justice. Even a wide angle lens doesn't truly capture the expanse. The next two fjords we drove through south of Seydisfjordur were amazing as well. The water was so clear and calm in the fjords that the reflections of the mountains were stunning.

I was amazed that even in the smallest towns we drove through, there was at least two or three hotels or guesthouses. We were able to find a room available in every town we planned to spend the night in, even thought it's the off-season. Even thought it was a little cold, it was relaxing to be on vacation when most people are not. We were the only people staying in many of the guesthouses, there wasn't much traffic, and the tourist sights weren't crowded at all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bathing with the Vikings

The fishing town of Siglufjordur in Northern Iceland
Small fishing boat in Eyjafjordur
A fumarole at the mid-Atlantic Ridge
Here in Iceland the winter weather is lingering into spring making most of the hiking undesirable. Luckily our plans are flexible and we have a car. Our tour of the "ring road" is quickly turning into sight-seeing from the car intermixed with bathing at the numerous hot pools. Just about every town in Iceland has a pool. Today we soaked our bodies at a more resort-like pool that is situated pretty much on top of the the mid-Atlantic ridge that splits Iceland into two spreading tectonic plates. Here, excess hot water from a geothermal power plant is pumped into a large pool and also used to heat the sauna. The minerals in the water give it an amazing blue color, similar to the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik. The pool is fairly natural with a sandy bottom and slimy basalt. For anyone who has bathed in Chena Hot Springs outside of Fairbanks, Alaska it had very much the same feeling with the cold air and snow cover slopes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Spring" in Iceland

Leaving the airport

The sunrise the morning we arrived

Drying fish

Icelandic horses
The weather has been pretty much how we expected it to be since we arrived in Iceland: about 30 degrees and a little snowy and windy. It's a good thing our rental car came with studded tires! Immediately upon arrival here, there were so many things to remind us that we are not in America anymore. The first was that our rental car was already warmed up and scraped off for us! There were also some really funny signs (of which I wish I had taken a photo) with instructions on how to safely ford a river with your rental car. That's right, how to drive your car across a river. Now, we know in the states that would be completely forbidden on any rental agreement, as would driving on unpaved roads. In Iceland, however, they just tell you to be careful. The person at the rental place also told us that because of the way they drive in Iceland and the many unpaved roads, that they don't worry about dents or scratches on the cars. If only rental car agencies were so relaxed at home!

On our way into Reykjavik we noticed some huge racks of drying fish and pulled in to take a closer look. They were a bit stinky, to say the least, but I've never seen so much fish drying in one place. It's awesome that there weren't even any signs around; no "private property" or "don't steal any fish" signs. Things are just so relaxed here.

Icealnd is also a VERY safe place. In Reykjavik, everyone parks their strollers on the sidewalks when they go into shops or restaurants. And if the baby is sleeping, they just leave it in the stroller. It is so refreshing to be somewhere where we don't have to worry things being stolen out of our car.

On our first day in Iceland we walked around downtown Reykjavik, went to the National Museum, and had dinner with some friends. Yesterday we drove to Akureyri in Northern Iceland. There wasn't a whole lot to do along the way as most of the pull-outs hadn't been plowed and all of the small museums along the way were closed for winter. When we arrived in Akureyri we went straight for the hot pools though - a perfect way to spend spring break!

Now we just need to get used to the time difference! Iceland is seven hours ahead of Seattle. We flew through the night to get here, but neither of us really slept much on the plane. We tried to stay awake most of the first day and crashed hard that night. We both spent about 3 hours awake in the middle of the night though and the same thing happened tonight. It's 4am now and I've been awake for about 1 1/2. I'm starting to feel sleepy again though so hopefully I'll get a few more hours before we start another day of driving and hot pool hopping.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Off to Iceland!

The forecast for Reykjavik for the next few days
We are sitting in the living room with our bags packed, just waiting for a friend to pick us up in 45 minutes to take us to the airport. We've been checking the weather in Reykjavik for the last couple of months. It was very often warmer in Reykjavik than Seattle. Last week Seattle turned the corner to spring though, and Reykjavik did not. We are prepared for all kinds of weather, but even then, I will be perfectly happy to spend my spring break soaking in a hot spring if it's too nasty to do anything else.

These are things I am looking forward to in Iceland:
- hot springs
- geysers
- the famous Icelandic hot dogs
- skyr (a dairy product somewhat similar to yogurt, but not really)
- ice cream (Iceland does all dairy products well)
- visiting friends (one from college and a couple from my fieldschool in Iceland)

Things I'm not looking forward to:
- sitting on a plane for 7 hours
- the price of gas

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New member of Seattle Mountain Rescue

Last Thursday I was accepted as a new member to Seattle Mountain Rescue (SMR). SMR is a volunteer organization that works under the direction of the King County Search and Rescue Association. Members of SMR are considered highly capable of performing search and rescue operations in steep and mountainous terrain were other search and rescue groups may not be capable of operating. To become a member of SMR you must demonstrate that you posses adequate of medical and mountain training and experience and commit to remaining active. As a new member I will be participate in training offered by SMR such as Rigging for Rescue and training offered by the King County such as Helicopter Safety and Crime Scene awareness. When my background check is complete and all paperwork is in order I will be able to begin participating in missions as a novice under the direction of a more senior member.
I am excited to be working with like-minded individuals who what to use their skills, knowledge and time to contribute to society. I am sure I will soon get to know many interesting people in SMR and participate in a very broad range of missions.
If you want to learn more about SMR check out there website. www.seattlemountainrescue.org