Moody Skies and Flies

July 18, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Well I'm back after a bit of a hiatus! I've been traveling quite a bit over these couple of months and also really busy with the paying job. I was nearly out of photos to edit and post so the good news is that I have lots of new photos and some more blog material as well. I was in the Czech Republic on business as well as the Boston area and then I took a whirlwind tour of Iceland. Wow! What an incredible country. If you're into food and "culture" prepare to be disappointed but if you're into the outdoors and photography prepare to be amazed. Iceland is a landscape photographer's dream come true! I'm not saying you can't find good food or culture in Iceland but these would not be reasons for traveling to Iceland alone. As it is, I did have some very good meals and very much enjoyed the people I met but it seemed that everyone I met was from somewhere other than Iceland. Iceland's  actual population is quite small and it seemed that a lot of student age folks traveled for work at the height of tourist season.

Unfortunately, a day was lost on the trip due to severe storm activity in the NYC area which seriously delayed my flight; such that I missed my Reykjavik connection. I was SO upset and worried that I'd miss out on the whole trip since its entirety was to be four full days. Thankfully Delta took care of me and had me on a flight through Minneapolis the next night. Amazingly, even though my bags went on to NYC without me (didn't want to be stuck in NYC overnight), Delta made sure that my bags arrived in Reykjavik with me. Obviously, Delta couldn't help the weather in NYC but they certainly helped ensure that the rest of my trip did not worsen. It would have really sucked to finally arrived in Iceland only for my bag ending up lost in transit somewhere.

 

Skogafoss ("foss" means "falls" in Icelandic)Quick mobile phone shot of Skogafoss
On to the adventure! I achieved a decent amount of sleep on the flight from MSP to KEF (Reykjavik) enabling me to hit
the ground running once I landed. My buddy, Steve, who was meeting me there was able to pick me up at the airport and we started our adventures immediately. We caught a couple of sites in the Reykjavik area before heading into the southwestern portion of the island. One of our first stops outside of Reykjavik was Seljalandsfoss (which we would come back to later that evening). Man. We can't see shit!Our view driving into the sun with a bajillion dead bugs on the windshield. It was nearly impossible to see.

We went to Skogafoss and then continued east through the town of Vik before reaching the moss covered Eldraun lava field. From here we did a u-turn and headed back to Vik for a pint and some tasty food at a local pub. We hit Seljalandsfoss again just about the golden hour (23:30 local time) before we finally called it a "night". Despite only having two  full days left we covered quite a bit of ground; exploring Snæfelljökull peninsula where, among other things, we had a chance to see Iceland's iconic orange lighthouse that sits high atop inky black basalt sea cliffs.   Svörtuloft LighthouseIceland's iconic orange lighthouse. Along the way we stopped at another iconic waterfall and even discovered a waterfall not marked on any map and a beautiful river delta punctuated with old cinder cones. Sheep's WaterfallThis waterfall (according to Google Maps) has a surprising easy name to pronounce!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last full day in Iceland was the most physically demanding, particularly after getting back to our cabin at 3AM the "night" before. The reason I quote "night" is because it never became dark the entire time we were there which was something I'd never experienced before. I mean, I knew this going in but knowing it and actually experiencing it are two different things.

It's after 1AMSomething's wrong with this picture.
 

 

 

At any rate, we did a short hike to a really interesting waterfall that was actually a grouping of falls in a small canyon. A river is coming through a narrow gorge which offered spectacular views of white water rapids and steep cliffs after cascading over two falls. Downriver the current widens a bit but water is cascading from underground aquifers down the cliffs adding a long stretch of side falls into the river. It was amazing to me that virtually every river was some variation of aquamarine. From there we hit another amazing waterfall that we could see from a high cliff of a river double plunging into a
deep canyon and disappearing into a gorge somewhere below.

 

GullfossThe double plunge waterfall

While these were spectacular we hadn't even hit the highlight of the day, and for me, the highlight of the trip. After grabbing some lunch we set out for a roughly four mile (out-and-back) hike to see Bruarfoss. This hike isn't easy, especially if you're carrying camera gear, and the locals have made getting to the falls difficult. For reasons we didn't understand the "official" parking to get to the falls were public property but in order to get to the falls you have to cross private property which is clearly marked and fenced off. The trail goes from maintained to scattered and treacherous in places and at one point we were walking along the edge of the gorge with nothing but our wits separating us from a serious fall into rapids a good 50-75 feet below. If that wasn't enough the trail is a bushwhacking trail with plenty tree roots just waiting to reach out and trip you up. It makes for a bit of white-knuckle trekking in places. The hike was worth it just for the first falls we arrived at. I could have turned back there (I'm glad we didn't) but the first falls we came upon was just absolutely amazing. No name!We could not find a name for this falls on our way to Bruarfoss so we just named it StavidLowerFoss.
Huge chunks of the cliff had collapsed over time affording the opportunity climb out and get within feet of this falls to the point that you could feel the vibration of the massive amounts of water plunging over. If that wasn't enough the water was such a deep blue it was just mesmerizing and a joy to photograph. From there we continued on to Midfoss and finally Bruarfoss. The hike was absolutely worth it and it was definitely the highlight of the entire trip for me. In hindsight I wish we had done more hikes like that _but_ it wouldn't have allowed us time to take in so many other things given our short time there and I'm not sure what I would want to have sacrificed doing in order to do longer hikes with exception of having more time there. BruarfossThe fruits of our four mile hike

After our hike my buddy and I were thirsty, tired and starving. At one point Steve began chanting "beer" as we headed back to where our car was parked. We were both ready to call it a day after the hike and some hot food and a cold beverage was just about all we could think about. I'm sharing this part because the "worst" meal I had was also the most memorable. We found ourselves at a campsite that had a restaurant, bar, showers, etc. While we were trying to decide what to order for dinner and we enjoyed our first beer I spotted their nachos being delivered to a table nearby. They looked amazing. The nachos came in a roughly 9"x5" casserole dish and were buried in all sorts of goodness. Steve and I both ordered the nachos and we weren't disappointed but it turns out that the nachos were actually Dorito's covered with minced meat, two cheeses, pickled jalapeños, sour cream and jarred salsa. I couldn't help but think that this concoction was the result of a couple of stoned college students trying to figure out how to make nachos with whatever they could find at the local convenience store. That said, it was tasty as hell and we both found ourselves unable to stop eating it even though we were stuffed.

This post is really just a summary of the entire trip. There will be plenty of pictures to follow and probably another blog post about the trip as well to talk in more detail about a couple of the photos (probably short posts though).

 

 

If you plan to travel to Iceland a few tips:

  1. If you're going in June or around that timeframe bring insect repellent with you. Apparently insect repellent is not a thing in Iceland (we couldn't find any every time we tried) and the flies (small flies or gigantic gnats) are enough to make you crazy. They will get in your ears, your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. If you are renting a car, be prepared to spend an enormous amount of money on fuel. Our typical amount to fill the tank ran around $150 for a Mazda CX-5 (compact SUV).
  3. Everything, and I mean everything, is closed at or before 10PM with the exception of bars which close at 11PM. This may not be true in Reykjavik but if you're venturing outside the city plan ahead. 
  4. Euros are accepted in Iceland but they are on their own currency. You will get change back in the local currency.
  5. There are many waterfalls that are easily accessible and they are worth seeing; however, I do recommend planning for hikes to get to falls or other features that are more difficult to see. The more accessible the more people there will be.  Steve and I had Bruarfoss all to ourselves for nearly an hour before a couple arrived shortly before we were leaving.
  6. Take the time to drive out to Eldraun lava fields. It's an other worldly landscape and is one of the most interesting and beautiful things I've seen. I highly recommend it.

 


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