I left off the first half of this story wondering whether we’d peaked. Well, the answer was no because the trip kept getting better!
Day 7: I can’t feel my toes when I’m with you.. but I love it.
Despite having braved some unpleasantly cold conditions on a hike the day prior, Chris would probably aruge this was the worse of the two days for his feet, perhaps due to wearing ‘hiking’ sandals that looked like Jeff Bezos 3D printed something his kid drew and put them up for sale as a joke. Idiocy aside, Sigoldugljufur Canyon was the unanimous favorite hike even after mother nature started throwing sleet/snow at us. That unfortunate twist kept us in the car through the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, which is absolutely somewhere I’d go back to explore further just based on the views from behind the windshield.
Sights: Sigoldugljufur Canyon and Fjallabak Nature Reserve
Drive time: 5-6 hours
Food: Car sandwiches & the food our camp stove couldn’t cook.
Lodging: We’d originally planned to camp again, but between the snow and questionable tent, we decided to book a guest house last minute. They had a cat 🙂
Day 8: Spelunking is even more fun to do than to say.
We got to do lava caves, two ways. We might have gone a little too unscripted for the first one, in the sense that we had to stop exploring when we lost light from the mouth of the cave. Pro tip: bring a headlamp, not a smartphone, if you want to get real adventurous. Even still, it was fun to scramble around in the unkempt cave.
The second cave is the longest lava tube in Iceland, so unsurprisingly it has been commercialized. This was the only guided thing we did the whole trip since we missed the glacier tour, but it was quite cool to learn how the caves form just a few days after having watched a “liquid hot” lava flow. Our guide also had his brand of dry humor perfected, not to mention the type of lava rock we saw was named after my own heart… pahoehoe ;).
Sights: Surtshellir Cave, Vidgelmir Cave
Drive time: 4 hours
Food: I’m pretty sure the food at the Settlement Centre was tasty, but honestly was overshadowed by us laughing at each other in valley girl speak.
Lodging: Hotel Hafnarfjall, Borgarnes
Day 9: PUFFINS!!!
Here began our tour of the west fjords. It is yet another stunning area of the country that has you ascending and descending mountains, which opens dramatically to ocean views every hour or so. There are also very odd things sprinkled along the route including a beached ship and an old US Navy plane, but eventually you get to the main attraction… the Puffin Cliffs!
Now, if you’re like me, you’re going to scream with joy five minutes into the hike because it’ll appear that there’s an entire colony of puffins just ripe for the pickins. Save face on my behalf – these are almost certainly some other bird that I don’t care to look up. Puffins are shy and they’re going to make you earn it, which entails army crawling to the edge of the cliff every few minutes over the course of an hour or two. You could be lazy and just spot other people lying on the edge with joy in their eyes and scootch up behind them to catch a glipse, but that’s no fun. Best real life scavenger hunt ever.
Sights: Gardar BA 64 (the ship), A random roadside “museum” (which we only realized after poking around the US Navy plane) and of course the Puffins.
Drive time: 5 hours
Food: Flak was so unique we wrote an entire post about it.
Lodging: Hotel Latrabjarg (breakfast included!)
Day 10: Just when you think you’ve seen it all…
Iceland decides to flip the script yet again! I think it’s something like 80% of the soil there originated from the molten center of the Earth, so it was very jarring to come upon a white sand beach. Two weeks prior I wouldn’t have blinked at that, but when everything we’d seen for nine straight days was black sand, it was quite the surprise. And one would think by this point that waterfalls would be played out but Dynjandifoss, a giant, mossy, multi-tiered fall still managed to captivate my attention the entire hike… afterall it was bigger than Frank’s condom game in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Last, and kind of least, our guest house was allegedly a good spot for seal spotting but they were being even more shy than the puffins :(.
Sights: Raudasandur beach, Dynjandi Foss
Drive time: 6 hours
Food: Our guest house was so far from civilization, we just cooked our own food again.
Lodging: House by the Sea, Borðeyri, Westfjords (their in-home sauna kind of made up for the lack of sea doggos)
Day 11: Would you rather.. puke up hakarl or get another COVID swab?
Unfortunately, our time in nature was coming to an end, so we had to get back to Reykjavik to get predeparture Covid tests. Sadly, the timing of our appointments didn’t work out such that we could visit the shark museum on the way like we’d planned. I say this with mixed emotions because while it would have been educational, one of the features is an Icelandic “delicacy” of fermented basking shark. Having watched Justin vom each time he tried to make us eat the samples he brought back from his first trip, I was pretty okay with the fact that we happened upon this logistical constraint of either having to cop out of the dare or worse, actually do it. Notice the EACH time… because you thought he would have learned after the first time, but nope he had to go for round 2 with hakarl. And for some unknown reason, Chris joined him… needless to say, Seth found pieces of hakarl on his balcony months later when the snow melted :).
Now this next part is going to sound like a six year old wrote it. We’d seen numerous giant inflated blobs on playgrounds around the country, but it always happened to be raining so I had to forego my childish urge to make dad stop the car and let me go play. UNTIL TODAY. I am 30 and I almost peed my pants from laughter and joy as we bounced around. Adulthood is a trap, folks.
Activities: Not the Shark Museum, THE BOUNCY THING, Crossfit Katla, and we happened to be there on Icelandic National Day = lots of good people watching!
Drive time: 3 hours?
Food: Flauel was an awesome wine/tapas style spot for afternoonsies. Then we capped the night off with another tasting menu + wine pairings at Kol.
Lodging: back to the Loft Hostel, Reykyavik
Day 12: How do you say “wrecked” in Icelandic?
We’ve always been work hard, play harder type people. This being our last full day of sabbatical meant we had to go big before going home. While we were slightly wounded from suffering through CrossFit Katla’s holiday workout the day before (17 exercises for 17 reps each), we’re still gluttons for pain (to offset being general gluttons), so we went back for round two! The scenery there may or may not have been a draw 😉 and oh yeah, the WOD was also awesome thanks to the badass coaches of course!
Crushing through that workout earned us some more tub tub time at Braud & Co, plus we needed to put down a nice carb base prior to celebrating maybe the best month of our lives (at least until funemployment).
Since Chris and I made up our minds to leave the workforce to travel, many people have questioned our path.. Neither of us have really shared the worries of getting another job some day and this afternoon was proof of concept. After 30 minutes chatting with a group celebrating a woman’s 50th birthday, we politely declined multiple job offers. Friendliness combined with brazen confidence goes a long way :).
Activities: Crossfit Katla, the Drunk Rabbit (we might have been the site, honestly)
Food: Braud & Co, and we didn’t go to OX, but it’s worth noting because our friend did and still loses his mind when he recalls the experience.
Lodging: Loft again!
Day 13: Proverbial? Hangover
The last day of vacation is always sad. It’s like a fun hangover when reality hits that you have to go back to the grind. Couple that with a legitimate hangover and you have a recipe for a long day. I’m glad we gave ourselves a buffer day back at home to recover before Monday hit.