Monday, October 15, 2018

Land of Ice and Fire

Earlier this week we returned from a week long trip with the UW Whitewater Alumni Association to Iceland.  It was a fine trip under any circumstances, but considering the my health, it was especially good and memorable.  We signed up over a year ago, not long after my cancer diagnosis, and we wondered if this trip was in the cards for us at all.  But I have decided to live my life the way I want, and assume that plans will work out.  And if they don't, well then we'd make adjustments.

We had a direct flight on Icelandair from Chicago to Reykjavik, a journey that took about five and a half hours.  The first day was challenging, since the weather was in the low 40s and upper 30s, and there was a fierce cold and damp wind.  I was so tired and shocked by the abrupt change in temperature that I was pretty sure we'd made a bad mistake in going on the trip, but then the wind died down and things got much better.  As I said, we were all tired, but we had a good bus tour of Reykjavik, got checked into our hotel room, and had a good first night group dinner.  That night some of the group, including my husband, went out at about 10 p.m. on a bus trip to search for the northern lights.  I stayed in the hotel room, too chilled and tired from travel to go out again, and it turned out the lights were nowhere to be found that night.
The second day was a bus excursion to the south shore area of Iceland. This part of the country is bleakly beautiful, with small villages, farms, lakes and streams, mountains and volcanoes.  I enjoyed both the Skogfoss waterfall and the Skogar Folk Museum, which gave us a good idea how difficult life must have been for early farmers and fishermen.

The third day included another bus excursion to the Reyjanes Peninsula, Lake Kleifarvatn, and the Blue Lagoon. We went again by bus, looking at the snow covered mountains, and seeing the plumes of steam from thermal pools and hot springs.  The highlight of the day was a stop at the Blue Lagoon, a large natural warm mineral pool surrounded by black lava rocks and a hotel, spa and restaurant.  We all brought our swim suits, showered first inside, then got quickly into the warm water, since the air was chilly.  It was beautiful and very relaxing, and interesting to hear so many languages spoken everywhere around us.  I had been nervous about going in with my head covered, but lots of people wore caps just to be warm.
Sunday some of our group went whale watching (they did not see any whales), but we decided to stay in Reykjavik to explore.  It was rainy, so mostly we ducked into shops and had a nice lunch in a pub.  Then later in the evening we went out to see a play, How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes.  I'm not sure I'm there yet.  That night some of the group went out again after 10 pm, and were rewarded with the sight of northern lights.

Monday was another bus excursion, this time of the Golden Circle, which included Thingvallir, Geyser, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Fridheimer Tomato and Horse Farm.  I think the tour company saved the best for last, because the scenery this day was outstanding.  I hadn't thought I'd be very interested in the farm visit, but it turned out to be fascinating, both for the scientific way they use geothermal heat and science to grow fresh vegetables year round, but for the close look we got at Icelandic horses.  I had no idea how impassioned the Icelanders are about these horses, or how many of the local people own horses and ride them year round.  In the evening the entire group met for a farewell dinner at a Reykjavik restaurant.
I didn't do justice to what we saw here. but I can  easily see why s many people who visit Iceland are anxious to return.  The people were nice and friendly, spoke excellent English, the food was uniformly very good, and the scenery is out of this world.

No comments: