We launched this travel blog at the end of 2011, just before heading for a year on the road through Central and South America (thus the Spanish name). We enjoyed sharing our impressions and photos so much we have continued to post whenever we travel. But we don’t have any travel plans for several months, so we’re going to post some stories and images from past travels, starting with two days we spent in Iceland on our way home from a trip to Europe in May 2010. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past!
Turns out, we landed in Reykjavik just as a holiday long weekend was beginning, and most stores and some attractions were closed. We walked around the city but we were keen to see some of the countryside. Fortunately, Reykjavik Excursions was open for business and we were able to sign up for a day-long tour of the nearby Reykjanes peninsula. The brochure promised bubbling hot springs, dramatic lava fields, museum visits, and a chance to walk across the bridge between the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. All that and more, in fact, quite a lot was carefully packed into one day.
The peninsula landscape is vast and rocky, the hills are barren, and everywhere you look there is steam rising through holes and cracks in the long-hardened lava. Walking on a lava field was like walking on the surface of a distant planet. Near the road there was a huge hole — our guide told us a large bulldozer working to widen the highway had crashed through the rock and into a lava tube. At another location we stopped to have a closer look at a vast array of racks loaded with fish drying in the cold wind, and later visited the Icelandic Saltfish Museum in Grindavik.
We did indeed walk across the “bridge between two continents” — it is a short bridge across what looks like a modest canyon, but far below the surface the tectonic plates are rubbing up against each other. We also stopped at the Vikingaheimar museum to see the replica Viking ship Islendingur, an exact copy of a ninth-century vessel known as the Gokstad ship. It actually sailed to North America in the summer of 2000 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Leifur Eiriksson’s journey to the new world.
The weirdest moment of the day occured when we pulled up to a small non-descript roadside shack. Inside a stash of shark meat was waiting for us. Not just any shark meat, but hakari, fermented shark meat, supposedly a local delicacy. It tasted like something that had been marinated in ammonia. Yuck! Lucky for us our guide also had some Brennivin, a locally-made schnapps. That handily cleansed the unwelcome taste of eating a piece of rotting fish.
The tour ended with being dropped off at the famous Blue Lagoon Spa, fed by hot springs and full of minerals. In fact the rough surfaces below the waterline are coated in a white mud that people scoop and spread on their bodies and faces for it’s healing properties. Bottles of it may be purchased on the way out. Part of the water area is contained within built walls and steps, the rest is just spread out across the rocky landscape. We couldn’t take a camera into the spa, so the photos below show an area of the hot springs that are visible from the parking lot. Very, very blue.
Conveniently, the tour includes simply catching any bus home from the spa, so you can stay as long as you want. By the way, we checked and Reykjavik Excursions is still around and still offering this and many other day trips.