Virginian Abroad: May 2019

1 Week in Iceland

Two days following graduation, and just six months past, Julia’s Hooding (PhD), we had cause to celebrate; thus travel! The Terrible Turds decided upon Iceland, led by the desire for activity, adventure, and exploration.

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Anxiety consumes me, even on this plane, I cannot fly away. It fills me, nestled between a role model and a stranger, it warms my body and screams into my mind. There are remedies; this helps, music too, but there is but one true answer. To remind myself that it does not exist, it fabricates within me, on this night plane to Iceland. Like a stiff knee, thirst, and tire; it will soon dissipate—I cannot let it overtake me. We go hand and hand in this tight seat; the joy of travel.

REYKJAVIK

Misery came to me, within the first hour in Iceland; prompting me in desperation to question how long need I remain in agony.  Never have I had such disinterest in traversing across a foreign land before; the result of three nights of a complete lack of sleep. It began with the final two nights in Richmond, in which I neglected sleep; in favor of extending time toward fading social relationships, and then the plane ride.  Nodding on and off in the front seat, I was of zero help to Julia; forced to drove through torrid wind and rain in the early morn.  Nausea, lethargy, and an aching head removed me from the present; hours later we’d find a breakfast spot. Between bites I faded out, then back into the struggle which is me; out of it in the corner of a basement café.  Before the meal, the sickening feeling in the stomach arose and had me huddled on my knees in a tight w/c.  Sleep would soon come, in the backseat of the car; Julia and mom in the front seats, asleep as well.  Out of it, I awoke twice to that same panic that aroused me hours ago on the plane.

Bliss came finally in the evening after a grocery shopping trip to Bonus; a main grocer, small compared to American standards.  We walked back with our four stretchy bags of food, mostly non-perishables that can remain for us throughout the week; worth up to eighty dollars. After dinner, rice and veggies, with some mango juice, we made our evening plans—to Sundhollin; the nearby public baths.  It turned out well worth the nine dollars entrance fee, compared to the tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon, we were able to spend a few hours lying around in the heated thirty-eight degrees (Celsius) water. The extensive bath system offers multiple pools with varying temperatures throughout the large building; a few saunas, multiple heated baths and then a four-lane swimming pool.  Julia, mom, and I recuperated in the heat, while hiding from the external 10 degrees (Celsius) temperature.  The six options provide the locals; predominantly frequented by the neighborhood, several options either inside or out, with one caveat; the visitor must shower naked before entering.  The experience both in the segregated locker rooms and showers, then among the local Icelandic peoples outside in the baths, brought me back to Dresden, Prague, and Ulcinj…good memories.

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       Inconvenience within our apartment on Eglisgata; the basement addition, came not once this day, but twice.  It began early in our first full day, with me turning the hanging spotlight in the small breakfast-living area. I motioned it toward the dining table to see, then boom—it popped, and the power went out. Surprised, I tried to switch the breaker back on but to no avail; we would only remain in darkness for thirty minutes before the AirBnB co-owner, a blond young thirties woman, who we met on our arrival, would come and switch the upstairs breaker and give us power back. We then made our breakfast, prepped our food, while I prepared our day through research on the golden circle;  marking the destinations on the map. Oh, to use a map again, and not a gps or phone; if anything, we are challenged through non usage of external technology—outside of the home, wanting to prevent the data charges.

GOLDEN CIRCLE

       Exploration became the focal point of the day after the power outage.  My research came in handy, along with the rental car.  I drew up destinations and activities to follow, with flexibility of course, for our long day; starting with a drive south to Selfoss—a town with a beautiful body of water. The name was deceiving since -foss represents waterfall in the Icelandic language, but the view and brief, much needed stop proved worth it. Naturally, before leaving Reykjavik we (led by my directions) we would become slightly lost, close to entering the highway 1-North, headed to Akuyeri (not yet!) After stopping for pictures and directions at a gas station, plenty of them here—expensive though, (gas is), we would switch; now I got behind the wheel of our rightward leaning, beat-up, spacious Hyundai. Oh, I can’t compare it to, but I’d imagine this is what it is to drive out west; two lane roads, without the presence of police (At all!) and rarely a car. When I did approach, I just passed and continued my constant one hundred and forty (kilometer an hour) speed.  It was invigorating and delightful to drive with such views surrounding us.  We first came upon the Crater Kerid (Kerio in Icelandic), directly off our road, we couldn’t pass it up, and for a mere four hundred and ninety entrance fee (about four dollars a person) we took advantage.

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Infatuation, with the crater and overall environment; reminded me of Etna and Santorini, to which I told both Julia and mom about. We took our photos (well, I did) hiked up and around the crater and then descended to eye level of the clear blue water; which was about room temperature. At this point, we removed most of our outer, heavy layers, due to the heat and enjoyed the warming sun on our bodies. My internal temperature would rise, since I handed Julia the phone and said, take a photo—then proceeded to run around to the opposite point of where we were. The photo, ovviamente, turned out grainy and unclear, but the entertaining video she got of me; childlike running back to them, described it well. Again, the same terrain as the two destinations listed above.  Now sweaty and out of breath, I returned to the vehicle, hiked up some of my clothes to allow some a/c to to help me, and began the drive back on the empty two-lane road. Now at this point, we could see the large, towering, snow-capped mountain in the distance; it would remain so for the remainder of our drive out to our final, further-most destinations before turning back toward the city. The next destination, the Geysers were a true tourist spot, with a hotel, rest area and restaurant-café. The people were aplenty, walking about everywhere as we arrived; naturally first using the w/c and getting cappuccinos (Julia’s water.)

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Amazement; filled us, being in an area encompassing about a half mile; full with five hot springs, none of which are able to act as baths, but provide much buss among the hundred or so tourists. We bypassed the first, which garnered the most attention, the main Geyser (that rarely seems to explode from the ground) and headed to Stokkur. The smaller geyser, throughout the near hour we were there, shot out perhaps four times; I videoed twice from two different angles. The first being, a lesson; look where the ground is damp or wet—we didn’t, so…the first recorded explosion, got us good. I only thoght of the video and capturing the water. People around us, positioned in better spots, would watch as we became drenched with the hot water; it felt good and the video, provides a good laugh. The next explosion a few minutes later, would get other people, while we, now having learned the lesson, moved other a few meters to the left to better view the geyser; to those poor people! The surrounding area is stunning, with mountains behind us, the many, clear blue-green hot springs occupying the grounds around us, the trees and terrain in the background, and of course, the snow-capped imposing mountain far removed in the background.

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Humbling was the final leg of our outward drive, the Gulfoss waterfall, the largest within the European continent; naturally made. It is so impressive, that my words nor any picture and video I took, which I tried my best with too many; can explain. Nearby, within ten kilometers, and like the other destinations, the terrain and temperature changed dramatically. More elevated, the unique terrain, (divided-Grand Canyon like—I imagine) is grandly separated by the large river.  The views, either over top in several picturesque spots, below closer to the great waterfall, and even right above on a jagged rock formation, all provide a spectacular experience; naturally drawing plenty of tourists.  We tried our best to avoid the tourists, but in these circumstances; with the major draws of the Golden Circle, encountering them is inescapable.

Entertaining, was the next stop; to our pleasure, it turned out to be far less touristy. Better yet, it was easier to avoid the flood of them that existed. Pingvellir National Park, about an hour or so drive, turned out, unexpectedly to be a stunning and tiresome experience.  The large preserved park, one of three national parks, has historical significance dating back to the tenth century, with the founding and instituting of the Icelandic government, back then controlled by a foreign ruler; Norway.  We first entered the large nature reserve, drove through much of the destitute land; passing a large, stunning lake and soon to arrive at a parking lot.  We’d find several tourist buses parked at a nearby lot, but with attentive effort, we were able to remove ourselves from their presence.  It just took walking in the opposite direction, going off the path, even climbing over some rock like formations, and through a forested area.

Surprisingly, almeno a me; I’d find out the park was used for Game of Thrones, which only adds to the allure!  The combination of waterfalls, and interesting geological formations, paired with the opportunity to be immersed in nature, and; of course, physical activity made this adventure.  We explored until the very end of one side, then only to return toward where our car was parked.  Then, finally did we walk up toward the overlook which we saw initially littered with tourists.  It was well worth it, and by this time; around 6 pm, the spot was empty.  The panorama view of the park, lake, and mountains in the background, made all the walking well worth it; as if it wasn’t already!  To replenish the energy spent during the long day, like our drive toward this park, (also spelled Thingvellir) we ate on the way back.  I finished the second of my two packed sandwiches, some pistachios, and Doritos, during the hour-long return to Reykjavik.

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Arriving to Reykjavik, was quick, again, not a single police officer in any vicinity, or really any vehicles, until we reached the greater Reykjavik area; about twenty minutes out.  As we approached the city, amidst rush-hour, while Julia slept, I managed to get slightly lost. Driving along the major highways, without data, and outside of the distance that our map covers, we couldn’t direct ourselves back home. So, we stopped at one of the gas stations; I believe either N1 or Olis, and asked for directions. Naturally, as now expected each of the three attendants within the station, spoke clear English and were very helpful in guiding us back toward the city. Turned out we were headed the right way, but since I didn’t do the driving that morning, nor mom, we didn’t trust our instincts.

Change due to experiencing the Inconvenience of the electric, once more. After a long and eventful day, Julia would be the culprit this time; with the simple switch of the electric tea kettle (provided and instrumented within the kitchen!) and pop. Our power out again, this would prove to be more confusing for the Owner and more difficult for us. Mom became slightly more irate, since at this point the question of safety of the electrical wiring came into question; seriously our basement set-up without any ventilation and the lack of proper wiring. These questions were proposed to the owner, who would answer our call a half-hour later; perplexed she asked the help of a nearby party-goer who happened to be an electrician. The individual was very nice, even offering mom (and us?) to have dinner with him and his friends, afterward she would apologize for her irritation due to the continued lack of power and overall safety of the place. After about an hour, and seemingly no answer to the electric, the real AirBnB owner, the lady’s uncle, called and offered a solution—to move upstairs to the nicer apartment. The option was improved, but with one unfortunate fact—without wifi, how will we ever live without access to the greater connected world! We were forced to relax, escape our temporary home and go enjoy the baths and further explore the city at night.

  Ultimately, in hindsight no great distress, since the Sundhollin baths, again provided relief on our tired bodies.  We became slightly more accustom to the local baths, perhaps even spoiled to them. Ironically the upstairs apartment, with the lack of wifi, albeit a much nicer AirBnB, proved to be an obstacle that evening. The baths, unfortunately and surprisingly had one flaw, no wifi; so we ventured out in search of a connection (don’t we all.)  The city at night, until midnight was lit up, safe, and delightful to explore; but since, I was never expecting to walk about far from our apartment, I was not dressed for the cold, strong wind; in short shorts and a t-shirt. Draped in my microfiber travel towel, it was all I could do to stay warm enough to be comfortable while we walked endlessly for a café; offering both a decaf coffee for Julia and wifi for us all. Finally, a tourist spot; playing American pop music, to my dismay provided our fix, so we sat and checked emails, researched and connected with loved ones far away.

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Impatience comes with passing on the left; seemingly the way for the next day.  The drive, just under five hours, was split between the two drivers; Julia and I, thankfully the scenery of plenty of sleep and endless sights gave us enough to distract.  The stops on the roads were not worthy; instead, we choose N1s along our route.  Like always while traveling, we packed meals to go, plenty of water and juice and headed out.  The early drive was stunning, along the coast, through little coastal towns, across bridges, all the while being constantly surrounded by mountains.  Two drawbacks of the drive; the speed limits of seven or ninety (an upwards of 55 miles an hour) and the constant slow vehicle in front, made it more interesting. First, by knowing that we were speeding, excessively too, it made the task of driving more thrilling and uplifting; even if just 130-140 km/hr (up to 86 miles/hour).  Second, passing so many slow, senseless-rule following drivers, we weren’t ever able to just relax, since it seemed every few minutes we’d come upon a car that needed to be passed.  By the afternoon, and after demolishing our packed food while driving, and each a coffee at the N1 stop, we arrived in the north of Iceland. The terrain was dramatically different, to our liking, it was warmer within the mountains; that tower over the entire region, from Dalvik to the capital of the north, our destination.

AKUREYRI (& the Diamond Road)

Comfort came once we got settled at Mark. We drove into Akureyri after hours driving through nothingness, void of any civilization, instead constantly peering upon mountains and water. After passing an adorable town, we came to Akureyri, and I found my first police officer on the road. Before recognizing the speed differential and the need to slow down, he let me know; by the simple flash of his lights, what a wonderful concept. I slowed down, as we began to take in the sights; a gorgeous backdrop of mountains to both our left and right.  Soon, we came upon the fjord that the city sits upon. Five minutes went by, and we found ourselves on the edge of the city; thankfully, at a N1 gas station, with a connected drive-thru fast food spot, with some business (we’d later learn that these are common for Icelanders desiring to “eat out.”)  Unable to get wifi, we turned on data and reached out to our Airbnb renter; soon, Mr. Samuel was there to guide us! We crossed a narrow two lane land bridge that took us across the fjord, away from the rest of the city, to the opposite side of fjord. Up in the hills we found the red roof house, and were directed that we occupied the bottom, first floor; like a mother in law suite!

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Speechless, at the sight of the view; it is simply incredible just from the porch and bench to relax and enjoy. Samuel explained he and his wife moved here twelve years ago, previously living within the town in the main area, but desired the slight isolation; understandably. He paints, and is very good ‘Sajoh’, which is initialed on all his artwork housed within our studio-like apartment; his art studio is adjacent to the apartment for rent. Now finally with wifi, we caught up; me sharing photos from both mom and Julia’s phones to mine (cracked as can be!) and mom calling Mitchell from the bench. We set out to explore, not a daunting task, and to grab some groceries; again, not paying those Icelandic prices at restaurants! The Hagkaup; their small version of Walmart provided us everything we needed; protein, sweets, carbs, produce, to cook for the following days. We set back to our oasis; cooked, showered, ate, researched (stressful with the options) and then played cards. Finally, I crawled into bed, ready for another action packed day.

Exhaustion seems to be a common theme when the Terrible Turds travel together, and most certainly was the case today. We left Mark at 9 am, heading to Myvatn, a terrain rich region, shaped by volcanic eruptions. The tourist delight includes lava fields, pseudo craters, lake myvatn, the myvatn baths, the volcano, and Grjotagja(the blue, hot springs that Game of Thrones used in the scene with Jon and his Wildling companion). Stopping first at the lake, we walked about the lake, explored the craters, and for me; got a sweat in, running up, down, and about the terrain. The effect of the brutal wind was aided by the distraction of acting as a Viking (once I found a sword: a lone wooden pike, that was previously used as a marker; for protection!) It also worked well as a bat, knocking pebbles into the distance. I am sure that the group of old tourist, looking like Tedeschi, were either entertained, scared, or shocked by my spastic running (mom’s description of me) and playing with the “sword.” Then we left for some real activity at Dimmuborgir.

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Encountering the lava fields, which cover a seemingly endless area of land, provided much entertainment; granted the traveler enjoys to use their legs and body! We’d come to find out the moon-like terrain, full of dark lava formations, and little plant life, has many different loops (mostly paved) beginning at a parking lot. We unknowingly choose; instead, a 3.3 km straight unpaved route, that entered us into the heart of the fields. It was a joy climbing the marked path, walking on black sand, and taking in the truly unique area. After a tiring walk, in which we completed our journey; coming upon a cave full of sheep horns and pelts, we learned it was not a loop. So, slightly defeated, and thirsty, we began to retrace our steps. An hour (piu o meno) later, with tired legs and grumbling stomachs, we reached the car; seven kilometers down! The car and wheel was locked, preventing me from starting the ignition! Confusion soon dissipated, as turning on data gave us the answer and soon fix! We never saw a sign for the GOT cave, so, we bypassed it and headed for our next destination. We chose Husavik, a cute fjord/bayside town of 2,200 people (the capital of the peninsula) home to clear attractions; boats, cruise-liners, a mountain/mound to climb; to see a new region and terrain. After going toward the GeoSea thermal baths (too expensive for us-$30 a person), and the edge of the peninsula, which provides a wonderful panorama view of the fjord, mountains, and town; we left to park nearby the café.

HUSAVIK (& the Diamond Circle)

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Picturesque, the sight of the bay and town; gave me plenty of energy to snap photos, but reeked of fish. The main attraction, which drew our instant attention and the highlight of the day, was the mountain. In our typical fashion, we hiked it in stages, without a trail. I led the way, without telling them of my intention to reach the peak; they thought, particularly mom that we were going for a nice incline like workout, beginning through a path in the woods. We continued up, as the incline would eventually force me to go on my hands and knees. I pushed passed the heavy panting, achy knees and sore forearms to arrive at the top; a lovely view, and an even greater sense of accomplishment. Now just one problem, my fear of heights, which kicked in, (dumbass-not considering the backlash of hiking up, the descent!) I froze up after realizing that I wasn’t comfortable with how to get down the steep mountain. Luckily, within fifteen minutes Julia reached me; soon, telling mom, who arrived in additional ten minutes of my face, exposing of my near desperation (of what have I done.)

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Grateful, I had the two of them to descend the mountain with, their support and companionship gave me the necessary aid to get back to our jackets below. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill then the street, near our vehicle, the café was closed; five o’clock. Needing to then drive an hour home; however, first a drive toward the coast up Tjornes, we needed a boast. As often the case, we opted for coffee; cappuccinos at a bay-side café.  The cashier, a British citizen soon to have a baby with the co-owner, his wife; a Husavik native, explained to us about Icelandic culture: tourist season, the prices, etc. As an outsider, he was helpful in making sense of what we had encountered thus far as tourists.  After spending $5 for each cup, we continued toward the lookout, on the search for Puffins (for mom), yet had no luck.  The drive and sites of the coast, and inland, were beautiful; as much of Iceland is—very unique to what I’ve seen of Europe and the U.S. Our hour and a half drive back to Akureyri was quick, eating in the car, reflecting upon the drive; all the while, so tired. They dropped me off at Mark, I showered, washed the scrapes on my hand, after not showering the day before, it brought relief, then researched and prepped for the day ahead. I awaited their return, we ate, recapped our day and turned in; another successful, tiring day.

RING ROAD

Avoidance of the tunnel; (toll road), to which we first messed on our first passage at 9 am, was the first goal of the day. Travelers must register and pay within a three-hour window, either before or after their passage.  We failed in route west the day before, so we will expect a ticket in the mail, or an unfortunate charge on the card; hopefully, no more than 1000 kst, or eight dollars. As with most of our travel throughout the Ring Road of Iceland, we followed route one, which we estimated would take us roughly six hours; too long for any of us to sit in one place. Luckily, we found a town at the halfway mark, Egilsstaoir (spelled incorrectly, since I am not able to create the Icelandic o with a line overtop.) We worked it, that I would drive three hours until our first break. The first hour and half was spent traveling past the previous day’s activity, the lava field and the greater Myvatn area; so unique. We came across Godafoss (again incorrect due to the o), in Icelandic, ending in -foss means falls. We stopped very briefly, marveled over the ridge; me taking my photo and video, then hopped back in the Hyundai. We continued on, turning onto route 848 in a new direction; then suddenly, an opportunity to remedy from yesterday. We saw a sign for Grjotagja (the cave!) naturally, I turned to mom and Julia, like a child I asked, “can we? It will only be fifteen minutes!” It helps that mom may be a bigger GOT fan than I am, so we turned on the short road to the site; passed a car then continued past it. I was surprised for the lack of sign, the other car went the proper way, so we retreated and turned off to the sign.

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Marveling at the sight, we missed the day before; I acted as a child, running around the area. Thankfully only two cars resided there; the irritated couple that we passed and another that was on the other entrance of the cave. We waited a minute then entered, climbing some rocks to get close to the steaming water. It is recommended that people don’t bath, but I couldn’t help at least dipping my hand in. It was quite warm, but delightful and how blue it was! Energetic, I climbed around some rocks to another position closer to the water and a better photo; while Julia and mom exited and entered the other entrance. I soon followed and found that spot to be the best for the photo above. We left, now heightened (at least me) that I checked off another item on the long Icelandic list, and headed down 848. The geothermal piping lined the whole area, on both sides, and the water completely empty of people, made me question the safety; so instead, I pulled over to take a video and photo, and briefly marvel. It looks unreal, especially comparing the color of the James River and most U.S. waterways! Now just another five hours, thankfully we had plenty of juice, coffee, water, snacks, and sandwiches; which we all be used up by the early evening we’d finally arrive to our destination.

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Unfamiliar I am with this type of driving terrain; albeit I have never been there, yet it reminds of the west/Midwest of the states; flat, up and down, long roads, able to see for miles and miles; with just mountain ranges in the backdrop. Naturally, I would speed up to 140 km/hr throughout much of the next two hours, but there was a scare. An emergency vehicle turned onto the main route from a side path, followed us for some point, which made me slow down and question if I’d get a ticket. We couldn’t tell if it was a police vehicle but knew it to be not just a normal driver. This caused me to worry, con le farfalle nello stomaco. Prompting mom to ensure, if I did get a ticket, that we’d split it three ways; as has been the way this trip. They would soon pass us, a 112 vehicle yes, but medical not police! Unfortunately, with me becoming now passive and timid they passed me; and slowed down the last third-quarter of our trip to Egilsstaoir. The ride was beautiful, with waterfalls, mountains, bridges, etc, but took too long now going ninety to hundred km-hr (so slow!) Finally, after seemingly forever, our impatience was answered and we arrived at the destination, the capital of the region, a town of two thousand people, but with a gas station and W/C!

Admittance, it is here we made our first mistake, after switching drivers, using the restroom and stretching our legs, we left without filling up gas; since it didn’t accept Julia’s credit card. We continued down the road, alongside the large body of water; Lagarfljót, until, after thirty minutes we came to a dead end. Retracing our drive, we came to learn that without signs (often the case in Iceland) and clear directions on the map, we had gone astray. This proved costly, since the next gas station we came upon, a tiny two pump roadside spot, did not accept her card either (both required a pin.) We again, left (our second mistake) and continued down the path and soon found ourselves in the right direction on a gravel road. Unsure the entire time, we turned on data to ensure that we weren’t making another mistake. The road, as we drove on it, was in the process of being paved; with dump trucks providing gravel and very few drivers along this twenty-kilometer stretch. Here we began to worry about our gas level, prompting us to pull over and wave down two cars that passed us; before we had to make a decision on either the short-cut on another gravel road to route one, or the long way that better ensured us of a gas station. Neither car provided Julia with an answer, but mom certainly enjoyed her daughter being in that interesting predicament; she laughed and asked me to film while we sat in the car meters behind her. For protection, luckily, I had the sword which I flashed in the video as we waited by. She returned, laughed, and told us of the lack of either option; again, data. The nearest gas station was at Breiðdalsvík, thirty-five kilometers away; a dicey or dodgy situation. That would prove to be costly for our time sake, but not the largest of our worries; instead, it would be the path along a windy gravel road, unlike any road I think any of us have been on (overlooking the entire valley, so high up, at points without guardrails.) We agreed to not speak on this, which I have stayed true to, the beauty of written word-not spoken!)

Frightful experience it was; which forced us to grip tight into our seats, also caused me to further me Floki-Bane voice to provide some comic relief (death is inescapable!) Thankfully that helped but seriously, we made it and cannot explain those minutes of wrapping around the z like formed road, on gravel, high above the valley below. Ovviamente, we made it to the town, filled up, and learned a few things. First, that car does not go great on gravel, nor do any of us like driving on the unpaved roads. Julia handled it well, and laughter helped ease our nerves throughout the process (videos better explain!) Second, take advantage of gas stations (as we could of and should have used the debit card, since it just demanded a pin) when available. On this island, out in the middle of nowhere; not even on real roads it seems, and without any other travelers around, we didn’t know when we’d come across another one; again, data told us thirty-five kilometers. Finally, in tough spots use laughter and comedy, since it was at that moment, all we could do to alleviate our situation until we sat in that café and drank our energy boosts. Now with Eystrahorn or Krossanesfjall, only one hundred and nine kilometers away, and Hofn (our destination) an additional fifty kilometers away, we had energy. I switched to drive, and we headed down the coast on route one!

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Tiring drive along route one, by the coast didn’t take long; and I had the excitement of exploration-sightseeing. First, the black sand beach, gibing us an opportunity to walk about; per me-corre. I took my photos and videos, and soon came across sea shells and crab remains; hopefully if he accepts them, souvenirs for Yeol. In my up and down driving of the narrow roads, I made a heart wrenching scare. As I drove up I didn’t comprehend the sign, and swerved, almost hitting the top of the hill, thankfully we were along the road, or…? I had to recollect myself, Julia and Mom were in better shape, as they were focused on getting me juice. I apologized refusely, as it took minutes for my heart and nerves to calm down and retreat. An hour later; through passing stunning terrain; rarely another vehicle, we came to Hofn; a tiny coastal town on the southeastern peninsula.

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Unaware, yet after driving through it in mere minutes, we realized with the help of an Olis attendant that our AirBnB was seven kilos(kms) outside the town. Soon, we came upon the gravel road, almost trailer park looking neighborhood, and then our adorable studio; a cute, tight, modern home. In reading the book, left there for us, and all guests, we learned of its origin and creation. It was remade from a garage, originally housing the owners; a wife, husband, and their two small children, whom occupied it for two years, opening up for rent in February. It’s an inspiring, beautiful story and reading it made us have a tighter connection/attachment to the place. It had everything we needed, although with most of my clothes dirty and gross, and soon heading to meet Marco and Giulia in a matter of days, I could have had laundry access. She had an information book for nearby destinations; particularly hikes and glacier, which set us up for the next day. That evening, we took the rare opportunity after a long drive, to relax, regroup, and eat a Real meal!

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HOFN

Quiet, it was; for once, in the morning at My Beloved Studio; a true rarity for us.  Mom’s previous bad night led us to remain in the “city” until 11 am. Naturally, after waking up at 730 am, Julia and I needed to get out; and since we didn’t have any groceries, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we went to Netto.  The grocery store doesn’t open until 9 am, so, we waited about, drank our coffees and wrote; her with the monkey reports and me-here. After mom’s awakening from the couch, we prepared for our journey; packed lunches, researched the day’s adventure, and ate six pastries for $1.60 each—well worth it (we gorged ourselves!) By 11 we left out for the visitor center, for the map of the glaciers; especially Heinabergsjokull, advised by our AirBnB host.  The travel was short, a twenty-five-minute drive; but then the road turned to gravel, and full of potholes.  This brief drive was a bear, unable to control the car from shaking and rattling; thankfully I was driving, so I didn’t feel the full effect from the backseat. Without thinking of the added option, I didn’t utilize the four-wheel drive option that we specifically sought after in our Icelandic automobile. Going twenty kms/hr didn’t get us to the parking lot very quickly, but finally we came right to the lagoon; with the glacier in the background. It was a unique sight, with a mountain (Heinaberg) overlooking the glacier; without thinking and with some distance between us; I began to run around like a mad man, and started up the mountain.

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Convenient, what turned out to be a fifteen km hike; that took nearly seven hours, was supposed to be a “difficult” three to four-hour hike. Instead of taking E1, a seven km trek, we found ourselves questioning how much longer; when will we be half-way, it just didn’t make sense. Soon, it did; once we saw the overlook, the Glacier intrusion; we realized that we had actually go astray and taken the E4 route. What a stunning view, but we then unfortunately came to the understanding that, at our exhausted state, we had another three hours of hiking left. No surprise we had erred again, and now had to pay for our over eagerness or lack of directional skills. All three of us, after a rough night’s sleep and the hike up Husavik mountain, the day before, were not particularly excited for the return. With tired legs, sore feet, and grumbling stomachs, we decided to take a break, now mangia: peanut butter, banana, yogurt, to replenish our energy; which was drained from hours of climbing over rock formations, stedding ourselves on gravel hills and tight paths overlooking drops of thirty feet or more. Often these paths were over-top of waterfalls or the river, which did provide us with an active and consistent water source. They did suggest to visit the doctor, upon our return to see if I contracted a parasite (mom and J always talking that scientific stuff). However, I trust Julia when she says she doesn’t believe it to be possible, since really no life could live in this terrain; aside from three reindeer, two bees (that I saw) and the various moss that we used to better our footing. We stayed together, took in the sites, and finally around 630 pm, came to the front of the mountain.

Hopeful, and exhausted we used it as a shortcut, and soon found ourselves looking over the plain, with a prancing reindeer and then the river/glacier. I only wish we got a video of us trying to cross that river; attempting to make a bridge to not get wet. For all the mental and physical work, throwing large rocks in the shallow river point; for then mom to just laugh and walk across. We joked with our collective degrees; me trying to be an engineer. Julia and I would just leap across with her getting her shoes slightly damp, but mom not possible (senza offesa). We bade farewell to the glacier, lagoon, and mountain; gladly hoping back in the Hyundai for a bumpy brief ride back to route one. Now knowing how to use it, (the 4×4) we could now better enjoy the pothole infested paths, getting up to sixty kms/hr. Soon, we found ourselves back to our friends, the goats along the road toward our Airbnb. Back at the studio, we could relax, no more walking, aside from to the bathroom and to the kitchen; thankfully, no more worrying about mom’s footing along the tight pathways. What a seven-hour day; finished up with showers, writing, and cooking. The terrible Turds had done it again, putting ourselves into a hectic, dodgy situation, exhausting ourselves on Vacation!

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Replenishing seemed to be the theme of the day; first pastries, (four for me) bought at Netto before departing the sleepy Sunday morning in Hofn. We would need the food for the nearly six-hour trek across the Ring Road, from the southeast to southwest. First, we came upon the tourist destination, Jokursalon (almost snow cone blue color looking icebergs) in the lagoon, close to the glacier (in the background).

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I had to stop for the photos before hoping back behind the steering wheel; next stop another destination-Skaftafell, the green mountain (a rare sight) within the national park encompassing fourteen percent of the country. This portion seems to be mostly glacier. We walked about a half-hour each way getting to move our legs (while being sprinkled on) before getting the glacier in full view. Soon we found ourselves back in the car driving past endless wild looking sights en-route to Vik; the famed black sand beach that Dad spoke highly of; about two ½ hours away from Reykjavik. The terrain; for miles and miles, was this green lava formation; like Dimmuborgir, but all green and lively. Then it changed to desert like flatness with only black sand all around; of course, with water around! Never doubt, no matter the environment in Iceland, there will be water, standing or running. The topograpgy started to change, to the coast with black sand and high cliffs overlooking the ocean; there we came across the town of Vik. To the left, just off route one we saw the beach, so we stopped. The scenery was unique, but most importantly we found a rock-like pier that put out into the water.

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Julia and I walked then crawled out on the rocks, to the end until it was all we could do to stay upright by using our hands; I was brought back to my younger years, as a child, being a “monkey.” I’ve always felt comfortable with using my hands and feet to move forward! We traced back towards the pedestrian bridge then to the beach, to meet mom. First, take in the sights and enjoy the views; poi selfies, to add, I wrote our names in the sand: Scordo, Huffman, McCormick; like Bracciano.

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On our walk back to the vehicle we talked of the next trip, 2020 (South Korea, magari?) then 2021 (Germany!) I couldn’t suggest Germany more strongly for them two! Certo, with the large visitor center-there we used the w/c and got food, drink; I admitted I had a problem, as I grabbed a cookie for 199 klst—my third sweet pastry of the day. I continued to drive as Julia worked in preparation for returning to work Tuesday. The drive, to keep me awake, was broken-up between the many songs on the Hamilton soundtrack; with mom and I singing along.

Highway, or Route one took us to a town and gas station to fill up, then further along we came across Selfoss, (bringing back to our second day!) then finally around 6 pm the capital. After retrieving wifi from a N1. We, finalmente, got to our Airbnb, after driving to Reykjavik, we found out the Guesthouse Anna is not in Reykjavik but near the airport in Keflavik; about 30mins away. It showed too, truly geared to the international traveler. The airport adjacent lodging was cute, providing us a room within a two story house with several rooms that housed many beds. We had our three beds, then a restroom down the hall. The night was relaxed; spent packing, exploring food options around us (orange and more, N1, Serrano, then Netto; which was closed, yet, had its main door open so soon after getting excited of food: the prepped options! we were denied by a cleaner who exclaimed closed! So then off to KFC, too expensive per my standards. Then back to the room and mom, we talked reflected, and ate even more!

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Groggy, we were, awaking too early; 530 am, and after a rough night’s sleep; Mom sad I snored. No surprise, I was stopped up, had some weird dreams too; somehow I believe it related to my thoughts upon the future-doubts I had, hold each day. We were quick to get ready, certainly an abnormal morning, travel days! I remained irritated for a bit, thankfully; a British guest helped ease me, set me straight; just with his kindness! I see how easily it is to be an angry guy with improper sleep; concerning but sets it clear (same as day one on this trip) Sleep is number 1! Well rested, the day is just more fluid and enjoyable from the first moment; lost sight of that, these last couple months; with several aspects pulling, stretching me too thin!

Returning the rental car, we got the to the airport early enough for coffees and time to sit, I stressed over my arrival and time in New York City (the NYC-DC bus). After delay I sat in my seat poi, two hours in all in my emotions, (after THE HATE U GIVE)! Both the flight here and now back, Tears a-flowing. Selma and now this, our past and present can be jarring; understandably, people rather bury their heads in the sand and ignore the truth; ignorance is bliss. I will not take that route.