I got back from Iceland last night, and I wanted to send you a quick summary with some of my favorite pictures. After I last wrote, I realized that I had forgotten to include a bunch of things, so I'll try to hit some of them here. After writing to you, it continued to rain heavily and we left the island we were on. We went east to Vik, where we ran into two German girls who told us that they had gone the other way around the island - the way we were planning to go but had been advised against - and had sunshine the whole time. We were feeling pretty rotten at that point and seriously were starting to give up hope on Iceland. But apparently that's what we needed to do, because the next morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine and a cloudless sky.
We rushed to take the most advantage of it we could and left for Skaftafell National Park, where we did an 8 hour hike up some mountains to see glaciers. It felt so nice to be in the sunshine finally and we even got a little burned. That night we camped out in the park, which was a nice change from the exorbitantly expensive guesthouses where it costs $70 for two single beds if you bring your own sleeping bag and towels. It's $15 more if you use their sheets. So ridiculous.
The next day brought more sun and we decided to take a tour of Ingolfshofdi farm on a humongous tractor. It was a little touristy, but pretty much the highlight of the trip for me. We were driven across a huge expanse of sand and then climbed a sand dune to the cliffs on a little peninsula in south-eastern Iceland.
There we were guided through the nesting grounds of several birds and saw them close up. Mostly I was excited cause we saw quite a few puffins flying around, but also we saw nesting gulls and guillemots, as well as ducks, kittiwakes and this huge bird called a "great skua," which apparently attacks people if they don't walk in a group. And it did fly very close to us and scare us a bit. It was pretty amazing to see so many birds together and so close.
After that we did the most touristy thing - the amphibious boat tour of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. It was a bright blue lake filled with icebergs at the foot of Iceland's biggest glacier.
We camped again, and the next day wasn't so sunny, but we went hiking again in the Lon area, which was less spectacular than the book seemed to think, but on the bright side, we saw huge colonies of whooping swans - they are quite weird, as you always see them sitting in fields with sheep, rather than in the water. And we saw reindeer. I'm an animal fan, so this was my favorite part of the day.
After that it rained for the next day and we had a long drive back to Reykjavik. Yesterday we used our last day to go to Iceland's number one attraction, the Blue Lagoon. It's a huge hot spring where the water is aquamarine and filled with a fine glacial silt, and they have buckets of mud to put on your skin. We were very soft and felt very pampered after that, and it was very sad to get on the plane home.
So in conclusion, we are thinking about going back next August. It is clearly a beautiful country with a lot to offer, but the weather is extremely unpredictable and all the hikes we were hoping to do were not open from the winter yet. This year saw very unusual weather, so we had no way of knowing this would happen. The country is expensive, the food is bad, and the people are not particularly nice, but we've learned some things that will help us (or you) to have a much smoother trip next time. It's definitely worth a visit - a long one to help be flexible about weather delays - and we're glad we went. The scenery is beautiful and it's the best place in the world to see puffins. And probably one of the best for sheep (and baby sheep at this time of year).
So that's my update. For those of you in New York, I hope I'll see you Saturday to move into my storage bin, and I'll be off again next Thursday for Hong Kong. Can't believe it's so soon! Keep in touch...
ps. Here is a picture from the first week when we were driving along and some horses were blocking the road. We had to stop and one of them got curious and actually stuck his head in the window before some Icelandic person stopped and shooed him away for us.
And here is D. saying hi to some super friendly sheep: