Monday, September 5, 2016

Voyage of the Vikings Cruise - Cruise Day 11 - Reykjavik, Iceland Day 1

This morning we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland where we’ll be for the next two days.  We are going on a private tour today arranged by one of our fellow Cruise Critic roll call members and it starts at 8:30, which is soon after we dock.  This meant we had to get up at 7:00 which is bad enough, but we lost another hour of sleep as they set the clocks ahead another hour last night; that means we are now seven hours ahead of our home in California.

We were out on the balcony as we made our way into the Reykjavik harbor and our first impressions of Iceland were very positive as it was beautiful.  The weather was mild and the sun was out so how could it get much better?  We had a quick snack in the Neptune Lounge and then the captain announced that the ship had been cleared and we could go ashore.  We found the tour guide holding the sign for our group and after waiting for everyone to gather we were on our way.  This is a tour of the south coast of Iceland and will take eight hours.

We arrive in Iceland.  You can see the steam rising from the geothermal sites.

We had a long drive out of town and after a little more than an hour we made our first stop which was mostly just to get a snack, walk around and visit the bathroom.  The drive out, though was very interesting as our guide filled us in on the history and life in Iceland.

Iceland is a very sparsely populated country of only around 320,000 people and two thirds of them live in the capital city of Reykjavik and the surrounding area.  The total area of the country is 40,000 square miles so you can see there is a lot of empty space.  Most of the population lives on the coast as the inland is mostly uninhabitable.  Iceland is relatively new geologically and is right on the continental divide between the North American and European plates.  This creates a lot of earthquake and volcanic activity.  The abundance of geothermal activity has been turned into an advantage by Iceland as they generate all of their electricity with the super heated water from the geothermal wells.  This super heated water is also piped to the cities and homes where it is used to heat homes, businesses, pools, etc.  A little over a hundred years ago, Iceland was one of the poorest countries in the world, but now they are one of the richest per capita and has one of the highest standards of living in the world.  They have virtually no crime and out of the total population, only 145 are incarcerated; a remarkable statistic. 

Our guide told us that in ancient legends this mountain was considered very bad and called Mount Doom, but I searched the Internet and couldn't find any reference to it, but here it is anyway (taken from the bus).

After listening to our guide tell us all the wonderful things about Iceland, Val and I decided that maybe we should move here.  We asked him at our first stop, what were the bad things about Iceland, and after thinking about it the only thing he could come up with was that it was dark most of the winter.  It was time to be back on our way so it was back on the bus and on to our next stop which was a large and beautiful waterfall, Skogafoss.

After our stop at the waterfalls we continued to the most southern point on our tour, the black sand beach called Reynisfjara.  There were some very interesting rock formation there caused by cooling lava from the volcanoes.  We also ate lunch at this stop and although it was a simple lunch it was very good.  To show you how expensive food is in Iceland, Val and I each had a ham and cheese sandwich, a Pepsi and we split a cookie and it cost us a little over 4,000 kronas or $45 US.

Interesting rock formations from cooling lave similar to the Devil's Postpile in the Eastern Sierras of California.

After lunch and our visit to the black sand beach we started back towards Reykjavik and to our next stop, which was a glacier.  We didn’t have time to walk up to or on the glacier, but we did get a good view of it.  It wasn’t your typical snow white ice glacier as the nearby volcano eruption in 2010 had left it covered in ash so it looked very dirty.

The countryside we have driven through today has been mostly agricultural.

We made a quick stop at some primitive rock and sod houses built into the sides of the mountains we had seen from the bus earlier.

They sort of look like Hobbit houses

Our next stop was the Eyja Fjalla Jokull Erupts Visitor Center which was near the 2010 volcano eruption, which shut down much of the European and North Atlantic airline travel for weeks because of the ash.  We viewed a very interesting movie on the effect of the eruption on a nearby farm, which was just across he road.  It was filmed by the farm family and edited into the movie by students at a film school.  After viewing the film and looking at the exhibits, it was back on the bus and on to our next and last stop.

We had seen many of these pink hay bale covers as we drove, and it turns out they were purchased by the farmers to promote breast cancer awareness, a very worthy cause.
This is the farm that was featured in the movie we saw on the eruption of
Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.
Our last scenic stop was another waterfall, this one called Seljalandsfoss (foss means waterfall).  It wasn’t as large as Skogafoss, but was much taller and there were several smaller branches splitting off.  Both waterfalls were quite spectacular, but for sheer power, Skogafoss was more spectacular. 

Our tour was almost over, but we made one more stop at the same place we did at the start for a snack and bathroom break.  

This was a great tour and not just because of the interesting places were we stopped.  First, our guide was very interesting and we learned a lot from his narrative.  Also, just driving through the countryside was interesting and gave us a feel for Icelandic life.  We drove through mainly an agricultural area that seemed to grow mostly hay for the cattle and sheep we saw grazing.  There were also a number of Icelandic horses in the fields.  All of the farms are family owned as there is no, or very little, corporate farming in Iceland.  As you can see, Iceland in the summer is very beautifully green

We got back to the ship around 6:00 and after browsing in the nearby shop it was nearly time for dinner. The dining room was pretty empty as many people chose to stay on shore and eat dinner in Reykjavik.  We heard later that the restaurants and bars were very crowded with both cruise passengers and other tourists filling up the city. We have another tour tomorrow, but it doesn’t leave early so we can sleep in.

We had a pretty nice view from our balcony.
A beautiful sunset to end our wonderful day in Iceland.

1 comment:

  1. So many questions...why such a small population with milder climate and far less ice than Greenland? Why didn't that barn catch fire when the lava about buried it? How much would dinner and drinks cost when a simple lunch is $45? Your tour seems well worth the money. You would never have seen so many unique volcanic formations and all that green grass and waterfalls. I want to move there too!