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Onward and upward!

Greetings from Machermo (13,850′)! A very short day today from Dole brings me to a beautiful high village bifurcated by a glacial stream. I had an unpleasant run in with a bee a few days ago and had balloon hand. In Machermo, there is a small medical outpost, where I was able to dose my hand in hydrocortisone and the swelling is receding! Last night I spent the night in a lodge with a group of fellow Americans and a young Dutch woman.
You can tell that we are going off the beaten track now, no power, no running water, only small farming villages. The views continue to be impressive and tomorrow I will make the trek to the famed village of Gokyo (15,800′) nestled between a holy glacial lake, Gokyo Ri and a dry glacier reaching down from Cho Oya, the 6th tallest mountain in the world.

The Last Few Days

Hello again readers who are vicariously traveling to Iceland!
This will most likely be the end of my narative on my trip except a quick note about our time at the blue lagoon and some more objective facts and tips for fellow travelers. My last post left you near Skaftafell natural park, where in the morning we hiked up to one of the tongues of the glacier we snowmobiled on. Unfortunately there was a small body of water blocking access to most of it but we would not be stopped so easily, trekking along the side of a stream and hopping from one rock to the next to eventually reach ice. Alas the ice was black from mud and ash, but still very neatly shaped and very slippery. After I used my stove on the patio of the welcome center to cook some soup for lunch we hiked a short was up to see Svartifoss, a very pretty waterfall framed by black basalt columns. From there we hitched to Vik, through an amazing landscape, half green cliffs and farms, half rocky lava flows. In Vik we saw the famous basalt columns rising from the sea and went to Selfoss to recharge and plan our last few days on the road. Chelsea also was quite brave and decided to get her hair colored and dyed in the European style, describing how she wanted it to the stylist who spoke almost no English. Fortunately, through miming and gestures she was able to get it to turn out very much to her approval. The following morning, after a run and a swim, we headed north to Geysir, the sight of the hot pools that gave the world to English. The actual Geysir has not gone off in quite some years but its little brother gives off a large plume of water and steam roughly every five minutes accompanied by the clicks of SLR cameras and oows from the bystanders. Not more than 10 kilometers from there is Gullfoss, Iceland's most famous and picturesque waterfall. After a number of pictures and getting rather wet from the spray, we camped at Laugervatn, a nearby town.
The following morning we hitched a ride with one of Reykjavik's city councilers who is the head of education. After an illuminating coversation and sharing details of eachother's education and healthcare system, he dropped us at Thingvellir, the historic site of the viking parliament. It is also a beautiful area to hike and the fault line separating the Europe plate and the North American plate is clearly visible. After walking around and walking from Europe to America a few times we headed back to the capital.
The capital is full of shops and good food, but is also fun to walk around and people watch. After a day of exploring on foot, we upgraded to motor scooters this time one for each, so Chelsea could remain firmly in control of the throttle. After some practice, we were zipping along to places that were too far out before, taking in some of the coast and the Pearl, a building overlooking the city. We also finally had luck Couchsurfing, spending two nights with our generous guest talking and sharing stories.
Today is our last day in the country before we leave to the blue lagoon and then home, wo we will do our best to fit some more fun in, and relax for the last time in the pool, fully equipped with thermal pools ranging from 37C to 43C.
It has been a remarkable trips, and it was made more special by our last minute traveling method and not worrying about reaching a town to make our reservation. The people and nature of Iceland are outstanding and made this trip as interesting on a personal level as it was on a photographic and hiking level.

See you state-side soon,
Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

Slow down Speed up

After spending a day in Sedisfjordur taking in the sights and going for a run, we continued our trek south. We were able to make it back to the city of Egilstadir without much difficulty, but traffic going south on the ring road was in short supply. We kept optimistic and a few hours later we were comfortably seated in a farmer's SUV zipping along the countryside. Our driver was a retired engineer who decided to buy a 47 square kilometer farm with about 500 sheep and spend his later years tending to his newly aquired flock. He invited us to see the farm and spend the night, his wife was in the US visiting their new grand children and he said he would love some company. We happily accepted his offer and we were given the grand tour and helped him feed a lamb who's mother had died that morning. The farmer had a knack for architecture and had redone much of the farm to be a beautiful estate. After a meal of my first pork in a few years, we headed to bed. The following morning after breakfast we set out again on a small gravel road to Hofn. In almost no time a car pulled over and let us in, two doctors who work bringing better healthcare to developing nations. The husband was an advid bird watcher, stopping the car regularly to peer through binoculars trying to spot one of the three nesting birds of Iceland he has not yet seen. Unluckily for him a bank of fog rolled in, obscuring most of the countryside and birdlife. After being dropped in Hofn and settling in at the hostel, we headed for the pool before dinner and bed. At the market we saw a small container of what looked like fish marked Hakarl, the famed putrid shark meal typical to Iceland. After making our purchase we excitely prepared other foods to rid ourselves of the taste in the event that it really was as bad as it sounded and tried some. Much to our disgust, it was one of the worst gustatory experiences of our life, a mix of rubbery, fishy and chemical taste that was most resistant to our other palate cleansers. Once that was checked off our list we cooked some not rotten food and settled in to bed.
The following morning we continued along the ring road towards Skaftafell, the glacier national park. We were picked up by a british couple in an old Landrover and when we asked to be dropped at the end of a mountain track heading to a place to go snowmobiling on the glacier, they insisted to use their rental car to its full potential, so up we went, zigzagging up the mountain side to the largest non-polar glacier in the world. At the top the couple decided to join us for the trip and soon we were zipping across the snow, first with Chelsea driving then after a photo break, I took over, pushing the machine to its limits, a nice 75kmph. In the back, I heard Chelsea laughing, or so I thought, when we were done, she told me she was instead yelling for me to slow down, whoops!
After an exciting trip back down the mountain we made it to Skaftafell just in time to cook some pasta and head to bed.

That should hold you over until my next installment
Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

To Lake Myvatn and Beyond!

Whilst on the return boat from Grimsey, we met a dutch couple from
Rotterdam who offered us a ride with them to Husavik, a small town
northeast of Akureyri known for its history as a whaling town and
today is a common port for whale watching trips. After the previous
day’s boating experience, neither of us were too keen on braving the
snow and rough seas again. After a good night’s rest, we set about
hitch-hiking through the cold and snow to lake Myvatn, a popular
tourist area of very neat geological areas and a hotspring fed spa
area that rivals the Blue Lagoon. Once we reached the lake and found a
guesthouse to store our gear, we set out and explored the area, taking
in the lake, volcanic craters, a volcanic mountain and lastly,
Dimmuborgir, a spooky lava formation area full of what appears to be
creatures of rock climbing out of the ground. From there we returned
to the guesthouse to grab our swimming gear we hitch-hiked to the
natural pools for an evening soak in the lovely warm, pale blue water,
heated from a nearby hotspring.

Today, we packed our bags and hit the road again, finding a ride with
a nice group of people from Denmark and Norway who drove us the almost
200 km across the black sand desert to Egilstadir and then another
ride brought us over the snowy mountains and down the switch-backing
road to Sedisfjordur, a quaint village of 700 that is perched at the
end of a fjord and is the port that the ferry from Norway and the
Faroe Islands lands at. Once settled into the hostel, a short walk
around town revealed colorful houses, cute restaurants and what should
be nice hiking trails up to the snowcapped peaks.

Luckily the hostel has a very well-aged iMac running Mac OS 9 which is
just barely able to access my camera and slowly upload a few pictures.
Due to the computer’s age, I am unable to crop or resize, or even
preview the pictures, so I have uploaded just a few that are
interesting, but not some of my better shots (many of which need some
post-processing).

There is a picture of Chelsea and I on the slopes of Mt. Sulur
overlooking the city of Akureyri, a picture of a puffin at Grimsey, a
picture of Chelsea and I standing at the marker of the Arctic Circle
and lastly, one of me at Isafjordur, looking out over the sea to the
still snow-bound national park in the northern Westfjords. Hopefully
these will give you some visuals but expect many more as I have a
chance to find a faster computer, and perhaps some some simple
cropping or editing.

Peace and chow,
Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

So Long Westfjords

After our successful trip to Isafjordur by hitch-hiking, we felt ready, to make to long trek to Iceland's second largest city, Akureyri. However, the hubris we felt about the ease of hitch-hiking on the main roads would come to haunt us. As we set out in the midmorning sun we were optimistic seeing a number of cars frequenting the well paved road… if only one would stop! Finally a kind man pulled over and let us in, bringing us to the small village of Sudavik, where we again trotted happily until it started getting late, miles from the nearest village or guesthouse. Figuring our luck would be better in the morning we pitched our tent on the side of the road and used my now-working stove to cook some dinner. The following morning, refreshed and optimistic, we again began our trek when after not long a small car full of luggage pulled over and let us cram in. Luck was truely with us as they were going to take us the 300 km to the ring road where there was sure to be plenty of traffic. After a while in the car and good coversation about life in Iceland with a young woman who is moving with her husband and two young kids to Norway to find more work, we were let out onto the main road and after a few more rides we made it into Akureyri where we stopped for a few days. In Akureyri we enjoyed the sun in the balmy hot-pots of the pools and explored the city (pop 17,000). Due to a national holiday, we decided to stay put before venturing on. Wednesday however the wanderlust overcame us once more and we headed north, first by bus then ferry to the small island of Grimsey, half of which is in the artic circle! Three sea-sick hours later we had made it to the artic and to an island inhabited with 1,000s of birds, including the famous Puffin. Many pictures later, we returned to the boat trying to regain circulation to our snow-hands (yes it snowed). The return trip was far smoother, so much so that I was able to peck away at this post with my newly thawed hands.

               Peace and chow,
                       Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings