Iceland Day 6 and 7

Day 6

The plan today was to drive to Reykjavik. We thought of waking up early to check out the Akureyri geothermal swimming pool. Apparently it’s the best in the country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in our cards as sleep was more important. But, that was not the main event !

Our AirBnB host (Ragnar) told us about this “secret” hot spring pool located in the middle of nowhere and it was en-route to Reykjavik. Even Google maps doesn’t know where it is and Google knows everything ….

We were giddy in excitement cause that’s the ultimate soak we’ve been anticipating in Iceland.

Ragnar drew us the map onwhere to turn off and wished us good luck.

First thing first, breakfast by the harbour.

We made breakfast in the car and freeloaded the bench by the harbour

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Our random mix of food for breakfast
Did some walking around Akureyri downtown.

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The souvenir shops have such quirky pretty things. Travelling on a budget sucks ….. I wanted to buy them all!

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I bet Sophie would love this

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We left town around noon and with the help of Google maps and Ragnar’s map, we made our way to the secret pool.

We drove for about 45 minutes to a town called Varmahlíð. From there we followed his map to a horse race track. He said if you can find that horse race track, you’re on the right trek.

About 15 minutes on the road to no where, we saw the race track and there was a car parked there with two guys. Damnit ! We’re not alone. So much for skinny dipping ….

Fortunately for us, they were leaving. Phew!

We quickly grabbed our stuff and jumped over the fence.

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And then we heard another car pulling it. Arghhhh! We power walked down the path and followed the river. We figured if we get ahead of them, we’ll have the pool to ourselves for a bit.

A hike in Iceland is incomplete without a waterfall

Finally, lo and behold ….. The secret hot spring…

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How is this real?!!

Clothes flew off in the speed of light and splooooosh!!

Cute pool beside the river… Unreal!

It was beyond incredible. I almost teared… I thought the hot river in Reykjaladur was amazing but this, this is even better ! The temperature of the water was about 38 degrees Celsius and the river next to it is frigid cold.

We can see the steam and water bubbling from the ground between the river and the pool. Behind us is the source of the hot water that flows into the pool and creates a nice lukewarm bath. Just like our own private tub in the wild.

Le sigh.

Our intimate moment with Mother Nature was short lived when another couple arrived. They were wondering how did we know about this place because apparently, it’s very secretive. 15 minutes later, we could see a group of people walking towards the pool. By then, we were ready to leave.

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Sayonara secret pool!

When we got to our car, there were several cars that just arrived. Phew ! We sure did lucked out cause that pool was about 10ft by 10 ft and it won’t be fun squishing with everybody.

So much for being a secret pool …. hopefully those China tourist will never discover it …

We continued our journey to Reykjavik. Ragnar also told us to Stop at Staðarskáli for kjötsúpa, a traditional lamb soup.

We got to this N-1 gas station and we were like okaaaay…. This must be the place cause there’s nothing else out here.

Sure enough, its gas station restaurant and they do serve the soup. Best part of all, FREE REFILLS FOR SOUP AND BREAD for 1990 KR or $19.90.

I’ll have another one please!

Best news for cheapskates like us 😂

After fueling our bellies, we made our way to Reykjavik. We were looking up places to try traditional Icelandic cuisine that may or may not involve ram testicles ….

Fortunately, we decided on whale, puffin and shark at Islenski barinn. To be honest, I was curious and scared at the same time especially with the shark.

Kæstur hákarl (Icelandic pronunciation: [ˈhauːkʰardl̥]) (Icelandic for “treated shark”) is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentationprocess and hung to dry for four to five months. Kæstur hákarl is usually an acquired taste;[1] it has a very particular ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste.
Source 

Oh yummm 😱


Here’s a picture of our meal. I won’t go into details as this meal is worth its own post. Needless to say, I won’t be eating this ever again!

We stayed at an AirBnB in Hafnarfjordur. It was clean and most importantly, has laundry! We’ve been wearing the same pants and top for 5 days. It was nice to finally have a change of clothes. Speaking of clothes, we’ll be doing a separate post on what we brought on our trip.

Cost : $150 for 2 nights

Oh yeah, the Internet is great too. You’ll learn to have an appreciation for strong WiFi after being on the road for a while.

Day 7 

We had another late start cause laundry took too long … Wasn’t until 2 am when we got to bed. It didn’t help when the room had no black out blinds. The sun was shining through the curtains.

This reminds me of sleeping for nightshift *shudder*

Carrot and Toast for Breakfast

We decided to visit the Viking Museum as we heard good things about it.

Definitely did not disappoint.

 

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Could be a scene from GoT

It was relatively small but you can certainly spend a whole day learning about the Viking history, the history of Iceland and the regions as well as their famous Norse god sagas. The audio guide was very entertaining as it tells the stories of the Norse mythology.

Ahoy, I see Sheep

They also had a replica of a Viking ship that was built by Icelandic ship builder Mr Gunnar Marel Eggertsson in 1996 who used an authentic ninth century viking ship as a model and sailed it to New York in 2000 as a part of the millennial celebration of Leifur Eiríksson’s journey to the New World.
Source

I won’t bore you with details because you have to see it for yourself. It’s worth a visit and the $15 entrance fee.

After the museum, we headed towards downtown. We didn’t have any specific plans except to mail a wool blanket we purchased in Vik.

It was lunch time and we decided to grab fish and chips from a vendor by the harbour.

OMG.

Best fish and chips ever!

It was quite expensive for the amount – $20 for 3 pieces of codfish, fries and sauce. Oh yeah, the sauce was a mayo and ketchup mix. So delicious ! The cod was so fresh and soft.

We shared that meal and it only made us hungrier. We crossed the road and saw a sign outside a restaurant called Icelandic Fish and Chips

Happy Hour Special

“1550 KR / $15.50 for mix platter of fish and a glass of beer”

It didn’t take us long to get seated and greedily waited for our platter.

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First beer in Iceland
HOLY MOLY.
I swear they put drugs in the fish cause it was so bloody good ! I wanted MORE but my stomach can only handle so much.

So soft, so juicy …. I will be missing you

After overloading on fish and chips, we wandered around. The downtown area is very pretty and has a lot of restaurants and cafe. I have to say, the food has been amazing so far.

We caught the Iceland vs Austria game at the Ingólfstorg square.

A large screen was erected for fans to cheer the Iceland soccer team in the Euro Cup 2016


Iceland! Iceland! Iceland!

You could tell they were an estatic bunch. After all, making top 16 is quite an achievement for Iceland.

Since it was our last night in Iceland, we were debating if we want to have hotdogs or splurge (again) for dinner. We came across this restaurant called Sæta Svínið and they had slow cooked lamb shoulder and horse carpaccio.

Wasn’t a difficult decision to make after all 😂

2 Lbs of Meat or half a Sophie

 

This may or may not be horse

It was an incredible meal ! Totally worth the 8080 KR / $80.80

Ohhhh did I mention we were sitting next to an Icelandic musician/celebrity during dinner in the restaurant?  Funny part was, we didn’t know he was one until he told us that he was part of a band. He was very nice and friendly. We chat abit about his music, Iceland and how much we enjoyed it. Finally when we Googled his band….

Pretty cool!

And this concludes our Iceland trip.

7 days seemed like a long time but we barely scratched the surface. I know we’ll be back again because there’s so much more to discover of this spectacular country. Next time, it won’t be on a stringent budget ! I am eyeing some fur hats and head bands….

Thank you Iceland. You are a wonderful country and your beauty reminds us of humility and respect towards Mother Nature.

Cheers ❤️

Iceland Day 1 and 2

It didn’t dawn on us that we’re leaving home to travel for 10 months until we landed in Iceland on June 16.
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Daddy’s Lil Girl
I was holding back my tears as I handed over my precious Sophie to Pam.
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Our lifesavers and Sophie’s godparents
6 hours and 45 minutes later ….
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Picked up our car from Sixt Rental.
Cost : $550 CAD / 50,0000 KR
First stop, the famous Blue Lagoon. It is located about 10 minutes from the airport.  All excited and in awe of the sights driving out of the airport, we took the wrong turn and ended up in Reykyavik 45 minutes later.
 Luckily we managed to get in despite being an hour and half late for our spot. When you book your tickets for the blue lagoon, they give you an hour to get there before they give your spot away. So, make sure to give yourself ample time in case you make the wrong turn.
Welcome to the Blue Lagoon!
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The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland
 Source : Wikipedia
We got the Comfort package which includes a towel and a drink.
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Breakfast and a silica mask to start the day!

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I think I missed a spot
Cost : $130 Euros / $189 CAD for two pax

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It was totally worth it especially after an overnight flight from Edmonton. No better way to freshen up and start our road trip!
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Food was incredible expensive. I had a sushi box that cost about $21 CAD and Adam had a ham and cheese sandwich for $11 CAD.
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The sushi was surprisingly good for a cafe
We’re trying to watch our budget cause we tend to splurge on food. It was difficult as we love to eat and explore anything gastronomic.
Our plan for the day is to drive the Golden Circle. Instead of doing the usual route from Reykyavik, we decided to head south to follow the south coast east towards Selfoss.
We stopped at Grindavik which was the first town south of the Blue Lagoon.
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Lava field
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We had to stop every so often to take pictures of the sights along the way because they were incredibly beautiful.
And then we realized, we never going to get to our destination if we keep stopping to awe at sheep, horses and OMG SO MANY PRETTY PURPLE FLOWERS!!!
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Macro Game
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Random stop because so pretty
 Our first Hotdog for lunch. They’re pretty good I must say. Apparently there’s lamb in it to enhance the flavour.
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Cheapest food in Iceland – $3.50
First stop on the Golden Circle – Thingvellir National Park
The Þingvellir area is part of a fissure zone running through Iceland, being situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
 This park is famous for the continental tectonic drift
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Pictures does not do any justice to the beauty of this natural site.
Next, we made our way to Geysir to catch some geysers.
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Thirsty?

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Wait for it …
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Ka-BOOOOOM!
Watching a geyser erupt is a surreal experience. We managed to catch a few eruptions and that never gets old.
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We had a very expensive lamb soup at the cafe.
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$20 for soup and 2 buns but it was surprisingly tasty! Icelandic butter … OMG. It was so good that we bought a tub the next day for food on the road. More about that later.
We arrived in Selfoss at about 930 PM and realized our accommodation for the night is 30 minutes away from there.
Turned out that we were staying on a horse ranch! Adam found this place on AirBnB for $75 a night.

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Louise, the host is a very sweet Scottish lady who moved to Iceland 10 years ago. She told us to check out Reykjadalur.

Reykjadalur (‘Steam Valley’) is a highly scenic valley innermost of Hveragerdi town.As the name of the valley implies, this is a geothermal area.The hot water stream gushing down the mountain range is ideal for relaxing and the valley offers a rich variety of hot pools and geothermal springs. It is also possible to have a dip in the river.
Source

We were sold!
Day 2
It was tough to wake up as we were up for 24 hours the day before. But, we had a lot of ground to cover so we rolled out of bed and head to the grocery store to get some provisions. We figured, it’s cheaper and healthier  to live on sandwiches and fruit for the next couple of days than eating hotdogs every meal (even though they are delicious).
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$80 later ….. Pepperoni Cheese, Icelandic Herb cream cheese, smoked lamb, pepperoni, blueberries (they were soooo good !) strawberries, cherry tomatoes, bananas, seed buns, Icelandic donuts, butter (butter here is incredible), some Goji Berry juice, 2 yogurts, granola bars, chips, nuts and paper plates.
20 minutes later, we arrive at Reykjaladur which is located in a town called Hveragedi. The hike was beautiful and it was about an hour before we got to the hot river. Be careful of horse manure and sheep poop. They are everywhere !
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The views make it easier … and trust me, once you see the river, all pain magically disappears!
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Soaking in the Sun
The water was very clean even though you can see the algae and moss on the stones.

Super highly recommended and worth the visit !

Now that we’re all freshen up, we are ready for our stop which is the epic Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
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So gorgeous that I have no words to describe it
Kelly, our wedding photographer told us about this waterfall in a cave which was a little walk away from the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. He showed us some amazing pictures of being in a cave with a waterfall. We wanted to look for it and eagerly went down the path to search for it.
About 20 meters off Seljalandsfoss….
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This wasn’t it … where’s the cave?!
We actually attempted to climb that really steep slope and there were a lot of loose rocks. My legs literally went jelly. In the end, we gave up and were disappointed that we couldn’t find that waterfall …
Then, we decided to walked along the path and 100 meters later …..
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Totally worth the treacherous climb 😂
After getting get at the majestic Seljalandsfoss, we headed to the next waterfall at Skogafoss.
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One more picture for good measure
On our way to Skogafoss, we passed the famous Eyjafjallajokull. The ash from the volcano eruption in 2010 grounded many flights in Europe. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the video below.
We stayed at Hotel Edda in Skoga.
Cost : $120
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The Skogafoss waterfall is part of the Katla National Geopark and there’s a hike that you can do which takes you up the mountains. There are more than 20 beautiful waterfalls along the hike. Unfortunately we didn’t do the whole hike but we did a short hike further up the waterfall and saw some gorgeous views of the other waterfalls.
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Skogafoss – a true wonder indeed
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Oh yeah, the sun never really sets here and it gets moderately dark at 1230 AM. We were still hiking around at 1130 PM and we didn’t need any light cause it was still relatively bright. Kind of dusky I would say. One of the best part about sight seeing in Iceland  is that you can be out late and still see the sight.
After a much tiring hike and 99,999 stairs and across the sheep mine field, we retired for the night.
Next up, day 3 and 4!

Planning Iceland

Thanks to Adam, we’ve sorted the first leg of our travels!

Our intention is to drive the infamous Iceland Ring Road in 7 days.
Zoom in to check out the route

Adam has put together a very detailed itinerary (Bless his soul!)

Day 1June 16
Land in Reykjavik
Pick up vehicle, supplies.
The Blue Lagoon (spa)
The Golden Circle:
-Thingvellir National Park
– Geysers (Strokkur), Gullfoss waterfall
– Tectonic rift
Spend night in Arborg

Day 2June 17
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – sunrise!
Skogafoss Waterfall
Solheimasundur Beach (Plane Crash)
Spend night in Vik Villages – Hella and Hvolsvollur
Follow road to Fljotshlid (view Eyfjafjallajokull volcano)
Solheimajokull glacier,
Reynisfjara beach
From Vik, drive east over Myrdalssandur sand (view Katla volcano under Myrdalsjokull glacier).
Eldgjarhraun lava field
Eldhraun lava field
Stay in Kirkjubaejarklaustur village (view Kirkjugolf columnar formation) Pingvellir National Park
Hot springs of the Haukadalur geothermal area
Gullfoss waterfall
Implosion crater of Kerio
Seljalandsfoss waterfall (can walk behind)
Skogafoss waterfall
Spend night in Vik

Day 3 : June 18
Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon
Crystal Ice caves under Vatnajokull glacier (winter only)
Spend night in Hofn Drive to Foss a Sidu (a waterfall) and then to Dverghamrar and on to Skeidararsandur.
Glacial rivers, Vatnajokull glacier, Hvannadalshnukur (highest peak)
Hike in Skaftafell
Skaftafellsjokull and Svinafellsjokull glaciers.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
Stay in Hofn in Hornafjordur area. Reynisfjara Black volcanic beach near Vik
Dyrholaey and Reynisdrangar rock formations
Skaftafell (Vatnajokull National Park)
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
Spend night in Hofn

Day 4 : June 19
Eastern coast (Fjords) Fishing villages
Egilsstadir area.
Villages of Djupivogur, Breiddalsvik, Stodvarfjordur, Faskrudsfjordur and/or Reydarfjordur.
Lake Lagarfljot
Stay in Egilsstadir. Krafla volcano
Namaskaro pass
Maze of Dimmuborgir
Craters at Skutustadir
Spend night in Lake Myvatn area

Day 5 : June 20
Faskrudsfjardargong Tunnel
Highlands of iceland
Dettifoss waterfall
Myvatn Geothermal Vents
Myvatn Lake
Namafjall Hverir (boiling blue mud pits, steaming fumaroles)
Spend night in Akureyri
Turn off onto the ring road to Dettifoss waterfall.
Before Myvatn, come to the hot spring area of Namaskard (Hverarond), and Krafla Geothermal Power Station.
Crater lake Viti
Sulfurous slopes of Namaskard and Krafla volcanic area.
Lake Myvatn (early evening)
Dimmuborgir and the pseudo craters at Skutustadir.
Stay in area surrounding Lake Myvatn.
Hverfjall (aka Hverfell) – tephra cone or tuff ring volcano (hike to rim of 1km crater)
Grjotagja – lava cave with thermal spring
Jardbodin – a geothermal spa (aka Myvatn Nature Baths).
Stay in Husavik area.
Stay in Skagafjordur area

Day 6 : June 21
Holuhraun Volcano flight (based out of Akureyri) Godafoss Waterfall
Town of Akureyri (capital of the North)
Horse-breeding valley of the Skagafjordur fjord.
Stay in the Skagafjordur fjord area.

Day 7 : June 22
Either drive straight to Reykjavik or drive around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Kirkjufellsfos waterfall (west of Grundarfjordur) South through Borgarfjordur (Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, Deildartunguhver hot spring).
Hvalfjordur fjord to Reykjavik.
Arrive in Reykjavik

Geez, I can’t pronouce any of the names of these places. I suspect we’ll have fun deciphering them with the locals.

We’re trying to stick to a budget of $300 a day but Iceland has proven to be a challenge for that. For accomodations, we’re spending between $80 – $120 a night and they’re a mix between hostels and AirBnB. As for gas, we’re expecting about $400 to cover the road trip.

After Iceland, we’ll be flying into London on June 23rd.  We’re thinking of spending about 10 days exploring England and Scotland. An old high school friend of mine has offered a place for us to stay in Edinburgh (thank our lucky stars!). I am looking forward to seeing her because it’s been 12 years since we saw each other! Speaking of which, I do have several friends from Malaysia who are currently living in the UK. No better time than the present to catch up with le olde amigas!

Around the World We Go

2016 is probably the most pivotal year of our lives. Getting married is a big deal but the one that takes the cake is our one year sabbatical!

This year, we are taking a year off to travel the world! Never in my life I thought I’ll be taking a sabbatical. I had never entertained the idea because I was too engrossed in progressing my career and making money. And the same goes for Adam. This is the biggest decision we’ve ever made in our entire lives and there is no turning back now!

So far, we’ve purchased tickets for our first leg of the journey.

First stop is Iceland. We found a good deal through Icelandair. The flight was from Edmonton to London with a 7 days stopover in Reykjavik.

The plan was drive around the country for 7 days and then hop over to the UK and wing it from there….

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We’ve been putting a list of places to go and I’ve geo-tagged them on Google Maps to keep track. It’ll be helpful to plan the route although we haven’t had much of an actual plan on where to go and what to do yet. But isn’t the best way to explore is to not have any restrictions? Well, except for money. Ugh sticking to a budget is probably going to be the most challenging part.

For now, we know we have to be in South Africa on August 27th for a friend’s wedding and Sept 9th for another friend’s relative’s wedding. Apparently it’s ok to crash Indian weddings because no one is going to notice 2 extra people amongst the 500+ guest. We are also invited to another Indian wedding in India around end of November …. and of course, we have no idea who the bride and groom are. LOL. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the weddings! I’ll be putting my Saree to good use considering I haven’t had a chance to wear it yet.

To be honest, planning such a trip like this is so daunting. It’s so hard to pick what to do and how to do it. Budget will dictate what we can do and where we can’t afford to stay. Of course, the first time I’ll be in France and Italy … I am not allowed to buy any handbags =(

Oh well, money can buy luxuries but also invaluable experiences. Those experiences will last a life time. Handbags, maybe 20 years.