Monday, April 29, 2013

Iceland part 5-6

Today we thought we would do something really laid back and we went on a glacier walk and climbed an ice wall. We drove out to the same glacier we had visited on our south shore tour, but this time we were going to walk on it!!! first we had to get the necessary safety equipment.

The helmets were more for the ice climbing portion of this trip, but I was cool with wearing it out on a giant block of ice as well.

Crampons were attacked to our boots. They were giant spikes that were supposed to help us grip the ice. They also gave us each an ice pick.
once we ensured that Josh's crotch was safely packed in the harness, we headed toward the ice!!

The glacier is giant, moving ice cube that is also covered in volcanic ash...cause the volcanoes really, really like to erupt in Iceland. A few years ago, in 2010, the near by Eyjafjallajökull spewed ash all up on this glacier. The glacier used to look...well, like ice...but after the eruption it looked gray and dusty thanks to a new layer of ash. (fun fact...I CAN pronounce Eyjafjallajökull)

Ash and Ice

Ice and Ash

This is one of our fabulous guides. He is a manly-man who enjoys glacier hiking and other ridiculous pursuits.

We were told how to walk with the crampons down the slick ice. You basically slam your feet into the ice as hard as you can to get the blades to hook the ice.  So instead of glacier hiking, we actually went glacier stomping.

Also of importance...don't step anywhere that the guide didn't step. This is a living glacier that is always changing. Snow can easily cover up a crevasse and if you step in that....well, you can easily become a tourist death statistic. 

Stomp stomp stomp....

Oh yeah...did I mention we are walking on a glacier!!!?

Who gave this moron an ice pick?

About half way through our hike we were getting HOT!!! Glacier hiking is serious business. We stopped for a refreshment.

This is 400-500 year old glacier ice. :)

 Don't fall in!

Oh sure...we are doing a number of stupid things today....lets crawl through the ice cave....cause having hundreds of pounds of ice suspended over your head sounds like a solid decision. 
 Said hundreds of pounds of ice...

And now for something completely stupid.

Our guides got busy hooking up ropes with spikes into this neat ice wall.  It was about 20 feet high? Maybe? I'm not good with distances and heights. We then  attached a very thin looking rope to our harnesses. And up we went.

The trick is to use your pointy, spike toe to create a foothold in the ice...cause ice walls don't come with premade holes.... which is lame. Then you use your ice pick to make more holes...and then pull yourself up.

 Go josh go

We were supposed to get to the top...touch the top and then rappel down.

You will notice that there is no photographic evidence of me climbing a scary-ass ice wall. Rest assured, I did climb it...most of it...but Josh was too worried I would fall or do something stupid like ice pick my forehead to think about taking pictures...

Actually, I did very nearly "ice pick" my Josh's fears were not unfounded! My arms were so exhausted that I couldn't aim my pick straight and it kept sliding off the ice. I pulled my hand back to wind up for another smack at the ice...and smacked myself. Now this is a serious ice pick, and only the flat side hit my helmet...but I knew when to call it a day. I am much too pretty to put an ice pick through my head. I also managed to kick my leg with my new spikey shoes and put a hole through my new ski pants instead of the ice I was aiming for. Clearly, I should not be given pointy objects....but I made it a foot from the top!

We drove back to Reykjavik super tired. Josh ranks today as his favorite day!!

Here's a random story about our hotel room that Josh would want me to include. We had these super adorable deer coat hangers. Well, one this day one of the deer heads was a little loose. Josh remarked that he thought the coat hanger should have opened a door into another world when it turned.


I said, "it did....into Narnia...see ya!!!" and jumped into the wardrobe right next to the coat hangers.

Maybe it was because we were so tired...but we laughed til we cried.

On our last day in Iceland, we got up and checked out of our hotel and headed to the blue lagoon spa :)

not my picture...but this is what the lagoon looks like

totally not my picture.

The  water in the blue lagoon is actually hot runoff water from a nearby geothermal power plant. I guess one day, some entrepreneurial minded Icelanders thought they should do something with the runoff water from that power they turned it into a spa!!! (because who wouldn't want to bathe in power plant runoff?)
The water is actually milky blue because it's full of silica and minerals.

Sadly there are no pictures of us with Silica face masks in the warm waters at the blue lagoon. This is because of a number of reasons, but mainly because it's cold!!! you have to make a mad dash from the changing rooms into the warm was 30 degrees outside...once I got in, I was not going to get out to go get my camera!!! We hung out in the warm water for a few hours and then took showers and headed to the airport!

Iceland was crazy beautiful and and trip was full of unique experiences...but for some strange reason, I was really happy to be going's a hint as to why

Dougal had spent a week at "camp". He got to go to daycare twice a day and play with other dogs. He had a blast and probably didn't miss us at all. I missed him so much I cried.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Iceland part 4

Today we had some sleep!!! Yay!!! And we had a late start to our day (9:30!!!) Today was horseback riding day!

We met our tour guides at 9:30. Something that is really cool about site seeing in Reykjavik is that all the tours pick you up in front of your hotel!!! It makes things so easy!!!

We got a quick riding lesson and then we went out to get a horsey! In Iceland, they only have one breed of horse. They are short and very friendly. You see these little guys out in the country all over the place. You can even stop by a random field and the horses will come up to you! They are like big dogs that you can ride!

So fluffy!

Here are all the horses just waiting for their riders. The guide picked out horses for us. I can't remember my horse's name for the life of me!!

But here she (he?) is!!! Apparently I got the strong willed horse (for an Icelandic Horse) of the bunch. I was told to keep her on a short leash...errr... tight rein.

Our tour took us through lava fields. Before I had been to Iceland, I thought that we would have to take a long bus ride to get to a lava field. Nope! They are everywhere!!! The country is covered with lava fields!

Wheeee!!!! Tölting!! 
Tölting is a gait unique to the Icelandic Horse. It's like a trot but super smooth. We were told to lean back if we were bouncing and to "sit heavy" in our saddles...whatever that means. My silly horse loved going fast. Anytime we would start Tölting I would leave the pack behind and end up by the guide...every singe time.

Josh's horse was prettier...but mine was faster!

Me on a horse!

 like a boss...

Hello lava field!

They both have the same expression!

Hi horsey!

When we got back after our hour and a half of riding, the horses had a nice roll in the dirt!!! Told you they were just like doggies!

After our horseback riding I was a little bummed that we were going to miss out on whale watching. I mean, the boat was literally calling my name...

But then we heard from a lot of people that whale watching was incredibly cold and all they saw were some porpoises. So then I was ok with not going! So instead of freezing our butts off, we walked around downtown Reykjavik. By this point, I was getting really familiar with downtown, especially by the harbor! I still couldn't pronounce any of the street names...

Reykjavik is so colorful!

 This is easily one of my favorite European cities!

 Josh and I looped back to a familiar site...and this time it was open!
oh hi giant Rocket ship church!!!

Check out that view!

The other silly thing we did on this day was to visit the The Icelandic Phallological Museum which is exactly what it sounds like. Surprisingly, or maybe not, but it is the only museum of it's we had to go!

I can't even tell you how awkward it felt to be taking pictures in here.

Finally we stopped at a nice restaurant for more traditional Icelandic food :) 

Poor Josh and his shellfish allergy....he stuck to this safe dish that had salmon, baked and grilled, mashed potatoes with egg and broccoli. 

I went a bit more traditional...and a whole lot more controversial. 
My meal included Puffin and Whale...I know I know! I am a terrible human being. Now, before I went I had researched this. Iceland does engage in whaling...but not the kind of whaling found in other countries (like Japan). They are very aware of the type of whale they are catching (not endangered) and have strict limits on the number that can be killed each year. Iceland is incredibly conscious of all things related to the environment. It is a very traditional Icelandic food and was found on most tasting menus.  They also eat reindeer and their beautiful horses (which I would never eat because they remind me of dogs)