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From Reykjavik to Isafjordur by the Skin of our Teeth

Hello from the Westfjords, the north-west area of Iceland, one that is very rarely visited because of its bad weather and remoteness. I am in the library at Isafjordur (the largest city in the Westfjords, pop. 5,000 people) writing about the journey from the capital that spanned two days and could have been weeks had it not been for good luck and friendly Icelanders. After our two nights in Reykjavik (the bay of smoke) we took the city bus as far north as it could go and then put our thumbs to work, walking backwards along the main highway in the country trying to convince someone with enough space for us to stop and let us hitch a ride. Perhaps it was karma, or just beginners luck, but after only two minutes a tractor-trailer truck pulled off to the side of the road and let us climb the three big steps to the roomy cabin. We were in luck it seemed, not only was he going through the town we had hoped to make it to that night (Borgarnes), he was going through that town and on to the west of Iceland a scant 22km from where the ferry to the westfjords departs from. As we settled into the comfy cabin of the truck with our backpacks laying on the bed in the back we were able to see the flat plains and rocky tundras of Iceland fly past. More interesting was the truck driver, a second generation owner of a small trucking company who was able to give Chelsea and I a glimpse into the life of an everyday Icelander, from the anger at the government for not doing enough to help the people after the economic collapse, to some of the details of how bad it is for so many people, forced to go bankrupt to escape paying their increasingly large loans. As we got nearer the ferry, he called a friend who was taking a truck full of fish over the ferry and arranged for him to continue our journey north. We took a brief stop in Grundarfjordur, where the first driver grew up, to see the small fishing village and the amazing views of the snow-capped peaks. From there we climbed up those three steep steps once more into a truck that was to bring us across the ferry to Patricksfjordur, a small (pop. 500) fishing village in the south-west of the westfjords.
 
Arriving late and unable to secure a room for the night, as most of the guesthouses are closed until the tourist season in June, we pitched our tent and I struggled to get our stove to work (I bought the wrong type of fuel). Eventually all the kinks got ironed out and we settled into the the tent for our first real night in Iceland, bundled up against the cold, damp wind and the pouring rain. The morning came (though 'morning' is just a number on a clock with the 22-hours of sunlight) and the rain had slowed to a trickle. We packed up our tent, got some food and tried to find a way out of this small, remote village. The bus did not start until June, and the traffic leaving the town was sparse, as we hitched up our packs, and began walking the 15 kilometers to the next town, a fisherman pulled over and gave us a lift. After he dropped us off, another pair of fishermen took pity on us with our heavy packs and the gray drizzle and took us yet another 15 km to the next town, warning us that to get to Isafjordur via hitch-hiking, we were going the wrong way and there would not be very much traffic. Figuring we had been lucky thus far, we continued along the nicely paved road on foot thinking that people must drive on this road if they would pave it. One kilometer into our hike a man pulled over and offered to take us another eight km to where he lives and we could walk from there, we readily hopped in and took off, thinking that this would be pretty easy.
 
After he dropped us off, the road turned to dirt and stretched for miles and wound around the impressively large fjords. We hiked probably 15 kilometers before we saw a black speck of a car coming up behind us, this was our break! We put out our thumbs but the car drove on, very full of luggage and unable to take anymore. Spirits sinking we continued our trek, this time a large semi came barreling along the dirt road, trying not to sink into the mud on one side, and avoid falling 1000s of feet into the sea on the other. He saw our plight and slowed down, letting us on for what would be the most terrifying drive of my life, racing along hairpin turns through thick fog with the sea on one side and rocky plains on the other in a truck packed to the gills with fish. Eventually he let us off where his journey and ours parted, but we were now on a more traveled route where there was sure to be cars to Isafjordur and sure enough after not more than 45 minutes, a small red car came out of the fog, alas motioning that he had only one seat. As we continued on, our feet and backs getting more and more sore, we saw headlights coming the other direction, it was the car once again, rolling down the window and shouting, "I have one seat, but someone can sit in the trunk". We happily obliged to pack into the small car as it was headed for our destination of choice. After a 100 km of switchbacks up and down the fjords, and breath-taking views of waterfalls and snowy peaks, we arrived at our destination, and happily rented a room at the local guesthouse were we enthusiastically made use of the shower and kitchen to warm and dry ourselves before a good night sleep on a real mattress.
 
Well, our hour on the computer is up, and the bright sun and blue sky beckon us outside to explore the city, so I will end this update and hope to be able to upload some pictures soon.
 
                                Peace and chow,
                                    Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

Touchdown in Iceland

Greetings from Iceland, I touched down about 24 hours ago and other than trying to get used to the time change and the almost 22 hours of sunlight, Chelsea and I have done some exploring of the capital. We are staying at the city hostel which is quite nice, having clean rooms and well equipped kitchens. We took a walk to the city center for a bit, but most everything was closed on Sunday. One place that was open was one of the slags or baths, a swimming complex where the water is heated by the local volcanic activity. In the hot tubs, the water is warm and nicely non-chlorinated. The pools were definitely where the locals go to socialize. Today I'm hoping to get out on a puffin or whale boat to see some more nature and perhaps a run along the trail between the city and the sea. Hopefully in the next few days Ill be able to upload some pictures of the city and surrounding area.

                       Peace and chow,
                            Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

Off to Iceland!

Greetings! Hallo!
  This afternoon Chelsea and I are boarding a bus for Boston Logan and from there hopefully catching the red-eye to Iceland (avoid as much of the ash as possible). Once we arrive we will spend the next 3.5 weeks exploring the whole country (focusing on the north-west and south) getting around by foot, bus and hitch-hiking. We are also trying out CouchSurfing and will hopefully meet some people who can point us to interesting things to explore. We picked Iceland as it is a very pretty country and is full of outdoor areas to explore (for those who don't know me, I prefer the open outdoors to a big city or a mall). I am bringing my Sony D-SLR and all of the lenses and equipment to hopefully take some stunning shots of this little island nation. I hope to use my Archos tablet to keep everyone updated as I travel, and I can find a computer, I will upload pictures as I take them.
  Trip aside, I have kept busy over the past few weeks, graduating from Clarkson with my BSc in computer science, finding a nice apartment in Rome, NY for when I return to work, and enjoying a little respite at my home in Vermont. Our family recently purchased a mountain board to use in combination with the power kite for kiteboarding in the summer (picture of my brother riding attached). I also spent some time in Potsdam running calls with Potsdam Rescue Squad and enjoying biking on my new Cannondale road bike and running (13 miles!) every few days. For those who have not heard, it is my intention (and Chelsea's as well) to run in the Quebec City marathon, so our training is in full force, running one 'long' run at least once a week and many shorter bike rides/runs throughout the week to build stamina for the marathon in August. Being a computer scientist and not having played very many sports in school, it was a tough adjustment for me to make to start running so far, but the reward at the end of the run is well worth the effort.

                               I hope to keep you updated when I arrive,
                                     Jacob

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings

New Toys

Now that I have finished school and can relax for a little bit, I have started playing with my family’s new toy, the mountain board, soon to be paired with the existing kite surfing kite. The mountain board is pretty fun once you get a hang of it but should be more interesting with the kite and some strong wind. I have also been playing with my new Droid Incredible which I am loving (and actually typing this post from quite quickly). I still have quite a bit more to learn but hopefully this summer I’ll get a chance to play some more.

Peace and chow,
Ranok

Posted via email from Ranok’s Ramblings