Sooo… this exists now
“Guidelines are for people who don’t know what they really want.”
I don’t know much about reincarnation, but from what I’ve gathered, it seems like the soul is like a tumbleweed. It grows throughout it’s life, and then when it is time it actualizes, or maybe just then, it first realizes its purpose as it leaves its roots behind and wanders until it finds somewhere to rest. And it starts all over again.
Wednesday, January 30th: We had a few hours to kill in the morning before getting shipped to the airport, so we walked into downtown for a bit of shopping and sightseeing shenanigans and shin-diggery.
The winds were calmer today –still biting—but I didn’t need to wear a scarf. There were only a few whitecaps, but I think the wind was generally confused – well, either it or me… and I’m never confused. Within about 50 paces down one stretch of sidewalk the wind blew from the left, then the front and blow my hood off, then the right, and then from the back and blew my hood back on and proceeded to push me along the sidewalk. It was indeed confusing. None of the locals wear hats or hoods. I think they’re tired of being confused.
We went in the Harpa, which is an awesome concert hall/foyer/and-some-study-rooms sort of place. The architecture in there is very creative in terms of depthiness and perspective, and the ceiling is mirrors. I suggest you quickly google image search “Harpa.” We walked around town blah blah.
Mumsy wanted to find a Christmas ornament. We searched all trip to find one, and when she finally did, we literally walked out of the shop and saw “The Christmas Shop” two doors down. Irony and such. It was worth a laugh.
We got fish and chips at a place that turned out to be all organic. We had “tusk” and “wolf fish.” They were fish (insert fish pun). I tried their homemade soda concoction of ginger, lemon, agave nectar, and some herb. It was very tart. Organic = no sugar.
It was very windy on the walk back that we were actually blown around a bit by it. Mumsy joked that there should be a net on the edge of town that catches all the people as they get blown off the sidewalks.
I’m tired so I’ll wrap this up here. (I can only imagine how you feel after slugging your eyes through this verbal swam of thickly sticky mud.)
We got in a shuttle that took us to another shuttle that took us to a plane that took us to Seattle where I parted ways with mumsy and headed back to lalaland to be thrown back into the real world, and the rest, as They say, is history in the making. However cheezy it may sound, whenever I feel lost without my possessions, couldn’t see what I was hoping to see, or if the wind simply gets too strong and knocks me over, I can always look back onto trips like this and let the net catch me, knowing everything works out.
…which is a horrible moral for a story, but whatever.
Tuesday, January 29th: The day started by sleeping in, eating the familiar breakface, and grabbing a Subway sandwich, of all things, as a packed lunch for later; a small step down from last night’s dinner.
We met our guide for today’s tour, a bearded elf in his 30’s with a kind demeanor and a thirst for adventure. Well, I don’t know how thirsty he was, but we were going on adventure time regardless. We got into a van that has windows and seats 16 people (16 mann). For a second it looked like we were getting into the windowless can for a tour “without the hassle of having to turn your neck!” I imagined we would drive up to something and he’d say, “Oh wow, it’s beautiful,” and we’d all squirm with excitement and hand him our cameras, then look at the pictures and go “ooh, ahh.”
I don’t know… seemed post-modern enough to be true. I also thought that there ought to be a Dutch family out there somewhere in Dutchland that runs a minimal effort vanpool service, named the “VanTour” family (pronounced VonToor). So it’d be “The VanTour Service,” and you’d get in the windowless van expecting a tour and be disappointed by the end of the ride, and Mr. VanTour would turn to you and say, “What’d you expect?”
To quote our guide: “Anyhoo…” I learned many things on the two hour ride to Eyjafjallajökull (including how to spell and pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull”), all of which I will dryly recite in a blithering stream of bullet points throughout the following obtrusively droll paragraph. If you wishn’t to dry out, I would strongly suggest skipping this paragraph.
-Iceland has 320,000 pleople
-1871, guy builds first farm where downtown Reykjavik is now. Called the farm “Reykjavik,” which means “smokey bay.”
-We passed large holes in the middle of a lava field called ‘fake craters,’ created when a lava flow meets water, and explodes.
-Tap water is filtered naturally through lava in the ground. They don’t do anything to it except drink it. The tap is the same as the premium bottled water.
-It takes about 3000 years until trees grow after a lava flow. Iceland’s very green because moss is sometimes the only thing that’ll grow.
-11% of the country is lava field, like plain flat barren lava field, but everything is made from lava. The island is a volcano.
-Over half the country believes in elves. Like, actual elves. For real. It’s a bit silly, but it’s a part of their culture.
-We had to pull over to check our head lights. Sometimes it gets so windy your headlights will blow off.
-More often than not, when there is an eruption it happens in fissure line. All the mountains are made from fissures lines.
-Iceland is where the North American plate meets the Eurasian plates. They drift apart at 2 cm a day.
-There are small earthquakes every day, but since it’s a constant steady diversion, they’re rarely big and harmful.
-In the year 1000 the Elves were all pagans and the Danish royalty were trying to convert them to Christianity, but they wouldn’t budge. There was a big eruption and lava flow and all the Elves converted to Christianity overnight and were baptized.
-They use steam from hot springs to heat water; nothing else.
-After everyone converted, all the chieftains (farm owners/rich guys) built small churches on their farms and served double-duty as priests. That’s why there are so many churches in Iceland, and they only seat about 20-30 elves.
-Vatnajökull is the biggest glacier in Europe.
-The main requirement to be a glacier is that it must move.
-Eyjafjallajökull means glacier (jökull) on top of the mountain (fjalla) of the islands (eyja). The reference to the islands are the Vestmanneyjar (Westman Islands)
-The names always mean something; quite literally. The town of Hveragerði means hot spring (hvera) field (gerði)
-The town of Hveragerði dropped 10 cm in a 2008 earthquake. Many hot springs disappeared, and some new ones formed; one in a women’s backyard, so now they have a pool.
-Selfoss is the ‘water-most’ river in Iceland. Water is slightly green, which means there is glacier water present.
-Hekla is the most active volcano and holds the record for most ash produced over its life. It means “gateway to hell.”
-Elves don’t have the letter “W,” and instead say /v/ like /w/, which makes Vikings sound like ‘wikings.’
-two “L’s” together makes a hissing /k/ sound.
-“Foss” means “waterfall,” and the river Selfoss is named that because seals (sel) would swim up to its waterfall and sit there.
-The sagas are their written history. Often the truth is stretched, but they’re more or less accurate, kind of like a toned down version of the epic poetry of the greeks; history sprinkled with mythology.
-Ingolf was the guy who made the first farm in Reykjavik, and he left the location to destiny, picked by the gods. He had pillars with the gods carved in them and threw them into the ocean saying where they land, he will build a farm. His buddies searched the coast for over two years and found them washed up in Reykjavik.
-The town of Hvolsvöllur is where people are brought in an evacuation, but most eruptions are “tourist-friendly,” meaning people run towards the volcanos when they go boom, and not the opposite direction.
-The guide pronounces /sh/ like /s/, and most “a’s” like “u’s”, which puts the words “ash” and “factory” a bit out of context.
-Driving in ash is like driving on wet snow… you know, in case that ever happens to you and you’re worried about driving conditions and not the fact that mother nature is vomiting on you.
-The defense mechanism, if you get too close to the white birds that fly around the waterfalls, is to vomit on you. It would work on me. That’s just gross—and unprofessional no less.
-Skögalfoss (pronounced ‘sköwafoss’) means “waterfall in the forest,” but now the forest is gone due to lava flows… so now it just seems ironic and cruel.
-Sölheimajökull is the glacier we climbed, and is retreating 60m a year due to warmer climate, however it has scooped a ‘U’ shape in the valley; a telltale footprint of a glacier.
That was boring! Yet edjucational! …wow, I just spelled education with a ‘j,’ like ed-yew-kay-shun-ull… I’ve been staring at elvish words too long.
Driving around Eyjafjallajökull is quite a spectacle. The landscape is very flat, and then there’s this huge plateau with a glacier on top of it. The hillsides of this mountain are sheer cliffs, and around every turn there’s a new waterfall to look at. White birds speckle the green cliffs and dance around the waterfalls, and it’s just keeps on going, like some never-ending national geographic magazine.
So… now we’re on the glacier Sölheimajökull. I know this is getting long, so I’ll try to be quick, and probably fail miserably, but nonetheless I’ll try. We put on crampons (‘crumpons’) on our boots and got handed ice picks. The glacier was pretty amazing. It’s not ice because it’s cold, but rather because it has been compressed into ice… I worded that wrong, and there’s no backspace on this pen, but basically that’s why the bottom is liquid and allows the glacier to move. There are layers in the glacier. White is summer ice, and blue is winter ice. It’s whiter in summer because more air bubbles get trapped int the ice, which is crystal clear. I posed for a photo under an ice cave and the guide told me “next time you’re standing under 5 tonnes of ice: be quick.”
Walking on the ice was fun. Without crumpons, which are basically spikes the glacier would be one giant ash-bruising slip’n’slide, but with crumpons you can walk anywhere super easily. You have to walk flat footed, not rocking the usual “heel-toe,’ and have to kind of stab the ground as you step. The one thing to be careful of is to not fall down any crevasses or “swallower.” What swallowers are is when it rains and a stream flows down the glacier, it swirls like a drain and carves a funnel shaped hole all the way to the bottom of the glacier, sometimes up to 60 meters deep. It’s called a swallower because once you slip, you get swallowed in and don’t come out. Since the glacier churns and moves, they’ve found cameras and ice picks imbedded in the walls years later. What I found cool, is that looking at the walls you can tell where summer and winter were, and where certain eruptions marked the glacier, like rings on a tree. There was a thin black line through the wall which was a layer of ass from the 1918 eruption. Where the line met the surface we were able to collect some ass (don’t tell anyone). I felt like a spy and a geologist in that moment… a spyologist.
*clears throat* excuse me. I seem to’ve had a pun stuck in my throat.
So we watched the sun set frm atop the glacier, and got down. It was windy. We saw a waterfall at night. I for the name of it, but it was pronounced “SELL-you-Lance-foss.” It was pretty cool.
For dinner we stopped at a small restaurant in someone’s farm and ate lamb soup. It was good. We then drove back towards Reykjavik in hopes of finding the northern lights, which was basically the whole reason for the trip. The forecast for the northern lights said there would be a north-facing gap in the sky, but on a scale from 0-9, where 0 is just stars, and 9 is the sky is on fire, the activity was 0, so we just looked at the stars. Our guide kept us entertained/destracted by telling us stories, including one folk tale of how a girl, Ketla, had magic pants that would allow her to run without getting tired, and she ended up running off into the forest by a volcano because she was a rebellious teen or something, and disappeared because of some sort of moral in the story. But she didn’t die; she turned into a troll. So whenever she gets mad the volcano, now named after her, erupts. You could say the volcano is temperamental ‘period’ically.
That was tasteless. Moving on: So… No northern lights, but mumsy did point out a dull white spot throbbing gently on the horizon. You’d have to be crazy to see it. What I mean is it was so dim you’d think it was nothing, and you probably wouldn’t bother saying “I see them,” because no one would believe you. But she pointed it out and I stared in that direction. Through a diffusing layer of cloud cover I could make out the irregular white light. I’d like to think that it was the northern lights. I may not have seen their complete brilliance, but that’s just all the more reason to come back.
Monday, January 28th: Our bags came. Yay! Now Curtis finally gets to wear shoes!
I suppose before going any farther I should make a few observations, or rather, state some trivia. 129 ISK (Icelandic Krona) is worth 1 USD, so 1000 ISK is just under $8, and 1.300 is about $10 (decimals are commas and commas are decimals, which I guess wouldn’t make them decimals, but kilomals or something. And I supposed commas would just be comicals. *slapping the knee*) Names beginning with the letter “C” are not recognized by the Elvish government, and are technically ‘illegal names’ because the letter “C” isn’t in the Elvish alphabet. If I was an Elf I would have to change my name to Kurtis. It kind of makes sense. The letter “c” kan always be replaste by an /s/, a /k/, or another gnu letter that makes the /ch/ sound… which phonetikally is really just the /sh/ sound with a quik /t/ in front of it. “Tshoo-tshoo goes the tshrain.”
The Elvish phonebook lists people by their first names. The sun rises in the SE, gets up to about two hands, and sets in the SW. And that’s plenty for now.
We broke fast with granola that you could put yoghurt, strawberry goop, apple goop, or figgy goop on, bread, cheese, hard boiled eggs, and ham; all cold. Knowing me, I made an Egg McGhetto and put the ham, egg, and cheese on the bread and consumed it suchly. The winds whipped white caps up from the bay, but the sun rose and calmed the weather a bit and we ventured by foot into Reykjavik.
The language is strange, and if you weren’t paying attention, sounds a lot like Dutch with some Russian sprinkled in. I thought about learning some, but gave up quickly after seeing the words “viðbjóðslegur” and “sérstærðarfarangur.” We walked towards Hallgrímskirkja, which is the big landmark in Reykjavik. It’s a church named after some guy named Hallgríms or something. I’ve seen quite a few cathedrals and churches now, and the one thing that set this apart, besides its modern appearance on the outside, was how plain it was on the inside. It was tall and vast and grand as could be, but they weren’t trying to show off, which was refreshing. The outside of the church paid tribute to the landscape by mimicking lava columns, where lava cools in hex/pentagon pillars (Devil’s Tower in Wyoming has the same columns), and the inside, at least in my opinion, paid tribute to the personality of the elves; open, welcoming, and down to earth.
Outside we tried to take a statue of the picture of Leif Eriksson, but a film crew whistled and yelled and told us to get out of the way. Spoiler alert: if you watch Top Gear, they’ll have an episode involving Iceland and three huge old all-terrain trucks.
We headed down good ol’ Skólavör¬ðustígur street down to a popular flea market, but apparently it’s only open on weekends. The wind was making my face cold so I got a souvenir scarf to wrap my head area in. We sought out the ‘famous hotdog stand,’ which was just a plain hotdog with some unknown Elvish sauce on it. Their claim to fame is that Bill Clinton ate a hotdog there once. It was good, but quite honestly Costco hotdogs are way better. The shops had really cool fur things though. If I had money to just burn and throw away, I’d use that money to buy furry Elf slippers. But after all – ‘what do I know about wearing the fur fox?’
We hopped a bus over to the other side of town (2 miles away—honestly, Bellevue’s bigger than Reykjavik) and walked on the icy paths to the local zoo. The sign said “HÚSDÝRAGARÐUR-FJÖLSKLDUGARÐUR.” Mumsy joked and said it translates to “zoo.” I laughed. However silly, she might be right. All the words and names for stuff are hellishly long around here. She said it’s an island, like Hawaii, where they have long names that sound cool because they have lots of time to talk. And they’re on ‘island time,’ like the sun, and get up late and go to bed early.
I suppose Iceland and Hawaii do have a bit in common. Both are islands formed by “hotspots” in the earth’s crust, where the earth essentially leaks lava from one spot, and new islands start popping up as the tectonic plates move. That’s why Hawaii is a trail of islands, and that’s why a new island formed off the coast of Iceland in 2010 or whenever that happened. I don’t know how Hawaii was discovered, but Iceland was discovered twice by two separate Vikings who accidentally drifted into it. the third guy went there on purpose and called it “snowland,” but left. The fourth guy went there to settle, and called it “Iceland” because he saw ice floating near the land… true story. Vikings weren’t known throughout history for being creative; they just went around claiming things.
We walked back to our room via good ol’ Kringlumýrarbraut street and took a brief nap before trying some exquisite Elvish cuisine. Cab fair is a bit pricey because gas is 2,58 ISK/liter, and if you’re keeping track at home, that’s roughly $7.68/gallon. The restaurant was called “3 Fakkar,” which I thought meant “3 friars” because the print ad had 3 friars on it, but when we walked in the menus had pictures of 3 guys in trench coats and seemed to use the character Rick from Casablanca as their mascot; so I didn’t know what to think. On the walls they had trophies of just about everything on the menu except for whale. That would be ridiculous. Some of the options of animals to eat were cod, halibutt (<–heehee. I said butt), salmon, shark, “wild seabirds,” puffin, whale, reindeer, lamb, and horse. So basically just about everything at the zoo was on the menu–Oh! I forgot to mention the zoo:
We saw animals. There were some pretty chill seals and two almost identical foxes; except one was snowy white and the other black like cooled lava. At first we only saw snow fox with its cute round fluffy face, but it quickly hid. We were turning away until I saw lava fox trotting towards us out the corner of my eye. It looked really curious and social, like it wanted to talk to us, probably because its camouflage is so good no one hardly ever notices it; everyone is drawn to snow fox instead. I wonder how many times people chase after snow fox because it’s beauty is easier to see, and don’t even notice the equally magnificent lava fox standing right in front of them? But enough about my personal life—back to dinner!
Mumsy chose the whale steak with pepper sauce, and I the wild sea birds with game sauce. They were delicious. We even had puffin as an appetizer. The meat is maroon colored. With mumsy’s wealth of knowledge she said it must be rich in iron. We figured the elves eat all these strange animals because what else are you going to eat on the island? There ain’t many choices. Even their potatoes are only bite-sized.
For dessert was Skyr brule, like crème brule with yoghurt, and a little fruit called a cape gooseberry, which ornamented a dollop of whooping cream. The berry was most intriguing having the size and bite of a grape, the leaves of a turnip sprouting from its top (possibly grown underground), the texture and color of a tomato, and the taste of the ripest kiwi with a bit of citrus. A very confused and contradictory berry… maybe it was adopted.
Back at the hotel we saw a post notifying today’s tour group that the northern lights tour was cancelled due to weather. We originally were going to go on our tour today, but changed to tomorrow because we didn’t know if we’d have shoes and coats.
On a quick side note, why is “þ” a letter? Let’s there’s the word “þear.” I want to read either “bear” or “pear,” but in Elvish it would be pronounced “thair.” This language is devilishly confusing.
Sunday, January 27th: good news: didn’t end up in Scottland. Landed in Reykjavik as planned, but still without our bags (not as planned). So what that means, is since I like to relax and pack light on the plane ride by wearing slippers and light clothing, my shoes/boots and jacket are still in Seattle. Mumsy was smart and wore shoes and brought her jacket on the plane.
We de-plained and I popped my contacts in and we verified with the elves chich bus to take. We had to wait an hour and got to watch the sunrise before our bus pulled in across the parking lot. There’s something different about the sunrise here… it’s blue. Not orange, not pink, not yellow, not tinted the wondrous hues of pollution, just… blue. There’s something very simple about such a pure sunrise that I can’t help but feel clean and refreshed to some degree, regardless of how I’ve only slept 5 hours of the last 48.
We waddled out into the parking lot. There was some ice on the land. The temperature isn’t too bad, just low 30’s, but the wind is rather biting. I stepped around the puddles with my slippers and knocked on the door of the bus going to the blue lagoon. The driver was sitting where the passengers do with his feet kicked up.
We were the only ones to enjoy the flat drive through an unusual windswept terrain of jagged volcanic rock blanketed with thick green moss, and sprinkled with snow for texture. I’ve heard there was a volcano somewhere and really wanted one of the small hills to blow up and start oozing lava. However we drove by a Subway and a Taco Bell/KFC, which was surprising enough.
I’d say the Blue Lagoon is a mystical place if I was forced to describe it. Amidst this rocky wasteland of untraversable landscape sites a milky, neon blue pool, the same color as the sunrise, steaming with mineral enriched geothermally heated goodness. In other words, it’s nature’s hot tub. Naturally the temperature of the hot springs is actually unbearable, so they have to mix cool water in it to make it livable.
You walk out into the freezing weather with only your bathing suit and slide into the springs. The lifeguard is wearing ski pants, a ski jacket, and a face mask, walking around to stay warm. As long as you don’t pull any wet body parts out of the water, you’ll never get cold and could stay in there all day. I think we were in for about 2 hours. I got really wrinkly, like, puppy shar pei status.
Walking around in the pool every now and then you’ll stub your toe on something, but in one spot I was walking on what felt like slimey pillows squishing between my toes. The springs create a naturally occurring silica mud, which is white in color, and which you’re supposed to put on your face to exfoliate. I don’t even know what ‘exfoliate’ means, but I felt exfoliated. It was the most relaxing experience I’ve had, maybe ever. Our bags had been lost and we couldn’t do anything else, so all we could do is relax. I came out of the springs and slept for an hour on an indoor pool chair facing the sun. Nevermind that earlier statement: sleeping in that chair after being in a warm exfoliate natural hot spring was the most relaxed I’ve ever been. My body had taken the opportunity to remind me what clock I was still following, and I never really snapped out of that sleepy Blagoon-induced relaxation for the rest of the day.
We were driven to our hotel, took a nap, ate some food, and crashed. I don’t usually recommend things out of the blue, but the blue sunrise, the blue water, the blue lagoon; well, it blue my mind.