Days #11,399-11,400: By some turn of witchcraft, it takes less time to get to Iceland from NYC than it takes to make my usual pilgrimages home to LA. Four and a half hours after leaving JFK, Mr. M & I touched down near the barren, moonscaped town of Keflavik.
Mood: Stellar. While Icelandair has the unfortunate distinction of having THE most uncomfortable seats of any airline I’ve ever flown, it also has one of my favorite movies of all time loaded on the entertainment system: Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. [A totally irrelevant aside: “Wes Anderson” is #10 in the completely un-PC & accurate Stuff White People Like. Although I can claim only 1/4 “White” to my name, all of that 25% LOVES Wes Anderson. Some combination of my whiteness and airplane meds may have forced me to watch Claymation foxes on repeat for four hours. That fox really is fantastic.]
Mr. M & I are extremely fortunate to have a tradition of celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day somewhere other than the U.S. In 2011 we were just entering Singapore; last year, we were visiting Zurich & Lucerne in Switzerland; and this year found us roadtripping Iceland’s Golden Circle.
Our trusty hiking boots got an early start and made it to Þingvellir (pronounced “THINK-vell-ear”) before the tour buses arrived.
Þingvellir is staggering in its historical significance. Iceland’s tribal chieftains met here since the 900’s to develop national policy, and Þingvellir continued to be the site of parliament until 1798. I can’t even imagine.
Þingvellir sits where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet. In fact, you can actually straddle the divide between them.
Forty minutes down the dramatic lava-lined highway is the town of Geysir, which- you know it- is famous for its geysers.
In fact, the word ‘geyser’ as used to describe a shooting spout of water actually came from the geyser in this town! The original geyser!
As we made our way back to the car, Mr. M & I got our first taste (literally, unfortunately) of Iceland’s biting flies. One finds you and suddenly, you end up with a Pigpen-like buzzing swarm of his dirty friends around your head, getting caught between eyeball & sunglasses and kamikaze diving into nostrils. One flew down my shirt, wedged itself in my bra, and made me do an embarrassing rain dance in an attempt to extricate it.
Next on Iceland’s so-called Golden Circle is the absolutely stunning Gullfoss Falls. There’s nothing like a good waterfall, am I right?
Still, Mr. M & I had bigger adventures in store for the afternoon.
Because it’s darn near impossible to get anywhere near the interior of Iceland without an extreme 4×4, I scheduled a gigantor so-called “SuperJeep” to pick us up and take us onto the Langjökull glacier.
(Newsflash to some of you Americans who shall remain unnamed: drinking Red Bull by the case does not give you license to drive a souped-up Monster Truck without looking like a douche. Living in Iceland, as we soon learned, does.) After a bone-jarring four-wheeled drive through volcanic ash- wear a sports bra, ladies- we arrived at the massive white expanse of glacier and our 4th of July adventure.
I was immediately nervous. Which, of course, signals a Very Good Adventure. Mr. M, ever the gentleman, decided to take the first round of driving and let timid me acclimate by hanging on for the ride. And hang on I did. My butt was flying up off the seat as we caught air. White on white on white whizzed by. I fruitlessly yelled against the whipping winds for Mr. M to slow down as a particularly egregious hillock knocked me half of the snowmobile. I wound up holding onto him so tightly that I had crammed myself into the one-person driver’s seat with him. Like surfing in Puerto Rico, snowmobiling is something I shall add to my Life Resume and never, ever do again.
We did get a brief stop when another in our party flipped their snowmobile on a hill and were lying pinned underneath it; our Icelandic guides were nonplussed, lifted it up, brushed them off, and put them back on.
Viking blood courses through those Icelanders, I tell you. They are an independent and hardy stock.
On the drive back, we got a beautiful surprise!
While the whole of Iceland was dotted with ponies, these gorgeous creatures were part of a 10-day expedition. Our guide commented to Mr. M that anywhere worth going in Iceland required at least 3 horses per man. Mr. M nodded seriously like he understood.
All of Iceland seems to be one big geothermal zone. The Kerið crater was likely formed when hot magma coursing under the earth caused a collapse.
All that exploring (and screaming for my life on the snowmobile, let’s not discount that) made for a hungry Mr. M and me. We stopped for our first real Icelandic meal at Hotel Ranga along Iceland’s southern coast.
Constantly on the hunt to taste local foods, no matter how cute & cuddly they may be in life, Mr. M ordered the smoked puffin. And… it was good!
Like Nordic Texans, Icelanders are strong, hardy, do-it-yourselfers. They drive monster trucks to pass over icy volcanic lavafields and consider roads “optional.” Icelanders live simultaneously in harmony with and in spite of their forbidding natural environment.
To independent spirits!
Happy 4th, everyone!
Explore my next day’s adventure petting icebergs and getting tangled up in shower curtains.