Sunday, September 06, 2015

Iceland with Kids. Part III

Here are Parts One and Two from our five day trip to Iceland in August. 

After our dunking in the outdoor pool, we headed over to my favorite waterfall of the trip: Seljalansfoss. Prepare yourself for a million photos of this cascading torrent because I couldn’t get enough of it.

This is the scene I’m going to remember about Iceland most. This place.

 The cool part about this one is that you can head behind the waterfall (getting drenched in the process). Ben and Chris braved the spray while I snuggled with a just-waking-up little Emma down below.

Ahem. A critical rule of photography: Clean your lens before taking the picture. :) Hard to do, given the amount of water coming down.

Have you ever been some place or seen something that just leaves you in awe? Gasping at the improbability that something could be so spectacular? “Am I really  here, fortunate enough to live this life, and see this place? How did I get so lucky?” 

“Then in October, Indian Summer, the air turned so soft, the sunlight so fragile, and each day's loveliness so poignantly doomed that even self-ignorance and restlessness felt like profound states of being, and he just wandered the empty beaches and misty headlands in a state of serene confusion and awe.”  - David James Duncan, The Brothers K (A must-read, by the way)

 It is, at its very simplest, a profound sense of awe and appreciation for this place we call home. 

 Well done, World. You sure made a beauty here.

After Southern Iceland, we headed back the way we’d come and settled for two nights in an area that’s known as the Golden Circle, which is considered Western Iceland. It’s about an hour from Reykjavik. A map of the places we visited can be found here.

The area is primarily known for three large tourist attractions that include a national park (and the site of Iceland’s first congress), a spouting geyser, and a massive waterfall.

All were totally cool. But if we’re being honest, I loved the wild-ness of southern Iceland best. It was barren, forlorn, and utterly unpopulated. And it had crazy awesome stuff like Seljalandsfoss.

We’d had a pretty busy few days so we checked into a new rental house and had a day off. We spent it relaxing and taking little walks around the countryside. And playing in the hot tub.

Icelanders call them hot pots.

This little lady was a fan.

Every morning the cows would stroll by our house on their way out to the pasture and every evening they’d make the trek back home to a warm barn. The Icelandic horses and sheep seemed a bit more stoic, as they weathered the rain with only an occasional vocal complaint.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how this guy manages to see where he’s going.

This guy’s ‘do is much more utilitarian (and stylish).

We stayed at this house in the Golden Circle. It was so nicely set up for kids.

This is the large waterfall in the Golden Circle, called Gullfoss. You’ve likely noticed by now that all the names of the cataracts end in foss, the Icelandic word for waterfall. So saying Gullfoss Waterfall is a bit like saying Mount Fujiyama (literally Mount Fuji Mountain).

The waterfall was beautiful but it was crowded (as were all the attractions in the Golden Circle).

We also visited the nearby Geysir. Our english word geyser comes from this periodic gushing hot spring. Geysir is actually in a bit of hibernation currently, so these photos are of its next door neighbor: Strokkur.

Unlike the aptly named, Old Faithful, Strokkur is unpredictable. We missed the first couple spoutings because we weren’t quite quick enough with the camera. Fortunately it goes every 5-10 minutes so the wait isn’t long. The kids and I parked ourselves on the nearby bench for lunch while Chris went off to take a work call.

We seem to have an affinity for weird geologic features (Yellowstone and Rororua) and Geysir was a nice but small version of its famous cousins.

Unlike Yellowstone, visitors are only held back by a small rope. One young fellow decided to step over the barrier so he might stick his finger in the water and personally asses the temperature. One burned finger later, the world hopefully now has a slightly more cautious teenager. 

Traveling with two young children presents a few challenges, particularly in the gear department. We didn’t bring a stroller, but did lug around a baby backpack, two duffle bags, two car seats, and a crib/baby tent for Emma. Looking forward to the day we can ditch both the baby carrier and the sleeping tent. And the car seats!

Iceland was full of crazy off-road vehicles. Chris went gaga over the scores ofArctic Trucks and stopped to admire this kitted-out Ford Excursion. Not often you see a vehicle with six passenger doors.

Our last stop of the day was ├×ingvellir National Park. The Icelandic congress was established here in 930. The valley is gorgeous and the entire area is calm and peaceful. It was also significantly less-touristed that our previous stops. 

And they had bathrooms with beautiful views! Ben was more interested in the dyson hand dryer.

I want a helmet like that.

And it wouldn’t be Iceland without a waterfall.

Ok, so I’ll admit the photos with the flowing water totally scream 1990 (and Enya). But they’re also, weirdly, kind of fun to take. This is the only one I’ll subject you to.

The valley is the the location of the divergent boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, the earth literally being wrenched apart by drifting plates to the tune of 2 cm every year. The Silfra crack is part of that rift. 

The glacial water is cold and incredibly clear. Visibility can be in excess of 100 meters...which is stunning. As a diver, I’d kill for that kind of visibility.
I was itching to suit up for a quick dive (how often can you touch two tectonic plates?!) but in the end we settled for a quick dunk of the camera which had to suffice as our underwater experience. Thirty seconds submersed and my hands were aching from the cold. 

Traveling with kids means a lot of hanging around and goofing off.

And carrying them when they get tired. :) Emma in the back is like what’s up, yo? This is how I ride..

And that, my dears, is the end of our Iceland adventure. Next up, Sweden and Norway. 



Here are a few additional posts from our Scandinavian adventure with kids:

Sweden: Stockholm 
Sweden: The Lake House

Iceland: Southern Iceland (Part I)
Iceland: Hot pools and waterfalls (Part II)
Iceland: The Golden Circle (Part III)