London

We arrived at London Heathrow airport on June 23rd. It was bittersweet leaving Iceland as it had so far exceeded our expectations.  But we were equally excited to explore the UK even though it had big shoes to fill.  Outside, England was exactly as I had always dreamed it to be…overcast. 

(Rachel and I arriving at London Heathrow Airport)

We navigated through the busy airport and hopped on a shuttle to pick up our rental car.  I was anxious with the impending left-hand driving…so unnatural!  We exited the car lot collision-free and promptly missed the on ramp toward our accommodation in Forest Gate.  After circling the airport, we made the proper exit and were on the highway.

(First time left-hand driving)

Aside from terrifying Rachel and other drivers with my lane positioning and hoping my way through round about lane changes, left-hand driving was doable.  British signage, however, was awful. Even Google Maps was dithering uncharacteristically, advising us to take an exit only to change its mind as soon as we’d commit to it.  Needless to say, we missed another turn off, adding about 40 minutes to our journey home. 

(Scaring Rachel, and others…)

Arriving in Forest Gate offered the first impression of London. We had bypassed the downtown core and the highway was lined with thick green trees so we hadn’t yet seen much.  Much to our surprise, the suburb seemed more consistent with our expectation of Adis Ababa…narrow, littered, unmarked streets crowded with people that looked anything but the stereotypical Brit.  We were wondering and perhaps a little hopeful we had made a wrong turn, but Google was right this time. We made it to our flat, which didn’t look like much from outside but it had been recently renovated and was actually quite modern inside.  We freshened up and decided to explore the area, in search of a good curry. 

(Forest Gate accomodation)

As we walked, we warmed up to Forest Gate. It was clearly a very ethnic and not particularly affluent area, but it had a lot of character, reminiscent of Mission in San Francisco.  We ate a delicious Indian dinner of creamy butter chicken, spicy mutton curry with egg rice and garlic naan bread. Very tasty! 

(Dinner at Aromas – Forest Gate, London)

Curious to hear the local take on Brexit, we went to a nearby pub expecting to be overwhelmed with commentary on the vote. The polls had just closed after all.  On the streets, there was surprisingly little chatter, with the exception of a couple old men handing out ‘remain’ leaflets.  The pub was half full of a group who seemed to be gathering after work.  Funny, no talk of Brexit!  Oh well, the beer was incredibly good.  Creamy, just the right bitterness, not too carbonated, not too cold, nice finish.  I had forgotten how much I actually enjoy beer. 

(Night cap at Forest Tavern – Forest Gate, London)

Although we gathered no more context of Brexit, we did thoroughly enjoy the pub.  The building itself was very old, with exposed foundation and framing of varying brick and wooden beams, which had weathered and stained over the years to give it a character that would be impossible to reproduce.  It was dimly lit with home made lights of retired umbrellas that dangled on wiring from the crack ridden ceiling. It would offend any electrical code, but it worked and somehow matched the decor of mismatched tables and chairs, assorted flags, currency and flea market knick knacks.  Not the English pub I would imagine, but, in any case, a place to drink and socialize, which we were quickly confirming to be a central part of life here.  We finished our drinks and headed home to plan our next day.

We woke up relatively early the next morning to discover the UK had voted to leave the EU!  What a shock!  We ventured out and again found that life was still moving along without much fuss at all.  

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(Brexit vote result)

 At the metro station we bought an Oyster Card, which is the cheapest way to ride the tube, London’s subway system. A refundable deposit and a single day’s unlimited fare and we were immediately connected to all of London.  Thanks largely to tech-savy Rachel and Google’s intimate knowledge of the train schedule, the tube was fairly easy to navigate.

First stop, Borough Market.  Larger than expected, the market had stalls from all over the world boasting vibrant fresh produce, freshly baked breads, wide arrays of cheeses and cured meats, and enticing dishes that made us thankful for our empty stomachs.  Where to begin?  We wanted it all!

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(Borough Market, London)

We started with a sampling of cured meats from Croatia. Cured truffle pork sausage was king among the selection and truffle hunting in northern Croatia suddenly became a possibility for the coming months.  

Next, the olive cheese bread sticks, fresh from the oven. They had a light outer crunch but were soft and cheesy inside with salty bits of olive. We thought of Pam and Paul back home and the similar bread sticks from Bon Ton bakery they had recently tempted us with. 

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(Olive and cheese bread sticks – Borough Market, London)

Hand dived scallops from Dorset were the next indulgence. Three succulent scallops served on a bed of stir fry and crispy bacon.  Heavenly. 

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(Scallops – Borough Market, London)

There were many selling British meat pies but one stood out having been crowned best meat pie in England for several consecutive years.  The Melton Mowbray pork pie. We bought it cold to have when we got home as it was large and we didn’t want to fill up too early.  To spare the suspense, let’s just say it’s time to unseat the queen. 

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(Melton Mowbray Pork Pie – Borough Market, London)

We turned the corner to find three sensuous legs clamped provocatively in Spanish stands.  A bearded Spaniard with a sharp knife suddenly popped up from behind the counter and offered us a tasting of his Iberico ham.  Each one melted in our mouths releasing their own symphony of flavours.  They were all so incredible but our favourite had been raised on acorns and then aged to perfection.  So much less porky than the cured ham we’ve had at home.  We seriously considered skipping the rest of Europe to head straight for Spain.  

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(Iberico Ham – Borough Market, London)

We continued wandering, eating, and sampling. Duck confit – as decadent as always.  Mead – an ounce was enough…not bad, but so sweet, it would be better as a desert wine.  Cider – much nicer than the mead, but still not my cup of tea.  Paella – bursting with flavour.  Strasberries – berries that taste like a cross of strawberry and raspberry.  So much food!

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(Duck Confit – Borough Market, London)

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(Mead – Borough Market, London)

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(Paella – Borough Market, London)

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(Strasberries – Borough Market, London)

We were slowing down but still had room for an ostrich burger, which tasted like a slightly gamier beef burger…nothing special.  Then a scotch egg – a soft boiled egg encased in seasoned ground pork, breaded and deep fried. It was very tasty and the egg was perfect, but a little porky overall.  Our treacherous stomachs were insisting it was time to stop eating. We protested and had a cup of goat’s milk ice cream. Rum raisin, if I remember correctly. A difficult choice as they were all so good. 

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(Ostrich Burger – Borough Market, London)

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(Scotch Egg – Borough Market, London)

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(Goat’s Milk Ice Cream – Borough Market, London)

Sadly, we missed out on fish and chips, Italian sandwiches, Malaysian chicken curry, grilled sausages, and perhaps the most tempting of all, melted raclette over potatoes.  Of course there was even more, but all now reasons to go back to London. 

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(Italian Sandwiches – Borough Market, London)

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(Malaysian Chicken Curry – Borough Market, London)

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(Grilled Sausages – Borough Market, London)

-VIDEO COMING SOON-

(Melted raclette over potatoes – Borough Market, London)

We walked passed London Bridge along the River Thames, enjoying London’s contrasting mix of old and new architecture.  The modern glass curves of City Hall, Walkie Talkie, and the Gherkin set against Tower Bridge, London tower, and the countless other relics that line the streets.  In person, these sites immediately transcend the campy and relentless tourist trap marketing.  This amusement park shaped the world and we both agreed we must come back for the rides when we have more time to savour them.

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(Panorama near City Hall, London)

(Tower Bridge and London Tower, London)

We wandered for several hours admiring buildings, and resisting the overwhelming urge to shop the summer sales.  Almost every corner housed a pub with thirsty patrons spilling out into the streets.  It was pleasant. People were social, not drunk and obnoxious. Mature.  We thought of having a drink at Sky Garden high atop the Walkie Talkie tower, but the lineup stretching around the building convinced us the city was pretty enough from street level. The dizzying view up the curved corner of the building was entertaining enough. 

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(Every corner in London)

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(Walkie Talkie Tower, London)

Near Liverpool Street Station we saw a military parade forming.  The marching band started with a bang and the soldiers were led back and forth, parting the crowd as they moved in unison around the square before disappearing into the London Guildhall.

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(Military Parade at the London Guildhall – VIDEO COMING SOON)

We walked slowly along the Thames, toward Westminster.  Passed the London Eye stood several World War 2 memorials.  One was inscribed with Churchill’s eloquent summation of the Battle of Britain, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  Those words echo loudly under the skies in which the battle was fought.

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(The Battle of Britain Memorial, London)

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(The Battle of Britain Memorial, London)

Finally, we arrived at Westminster, where we would meet Rachel’s friend, Joanne.  We waited in the shadow of Big Ben and The Palace of Westminster, the seat of British Parliament.  Much more impressive in person than as seen on TV.  I considered the lively debates that would surely rock that house in the coming days, following the historic Brexit vote.  But then again, if the streets of London were any indication, perhaps not. 

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(Big Ben and The Palace of Westminster, London)

Joanne emerged from the metro station and after Rachel introduced us we agreed to explore the area together before getting a bite to eat.  We walked and talked, passing the parliament buildings and over to Westminster Abbey, the traditional place of coronation and burial for British monarchs.  Rachel and Joanne knew each other from school in Malaysia and had been a fierce badminton pair.  Joanne moved to London for work about a year prior, and was keen to be a tourist with us. 

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(Meeting Rachel’s friend, Joanne)

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(Westminster Abbey, London)

We strolled along to Buckingham Palace, residence of the Queen.  The regal mansion stood quietly behind black iron and gold plated gates.  The Queen’s Guard stood at attention in their silly hats while hoards of tourists took aim with their cameras.  At the base of the golden Victoria Memorial statue, we turned to trip-advisor to find the best nearby fish and chips. Happy Halibut had promising reviews and was a couple blocks away en route back to the metro station.  Perfect!

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(Buckingham Palace, London)

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(Victoria Memorial Statue, London)

It was very nice for Rachel and Joanne to catch up and I enjoyed the stories from their high school and badminton days. We talked about life in London, our wedding, careers, and, of course, Brexit.  To my surprise, Commonwealth migrants were eligible to vote in the referendum as long as they were residents of the U.K (example work visa, student visa, etc.).  Very interesting, but I can’t say I agree with this. 

The fish and chips were a bit disappointing (needed more salt), but the company was great!  Joanne was even kind enough to treat us to dinner.  We headed back to the metro station and boarded the tube, all heading in the same direction. We said our goodbyes to Joanne and carried on. It had been a pleasure to meet her and Rachel was happy to have caught up. 

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(Fish and Chips – Happy Halibut, London)

After some train delays we had to make an unexpected transfer at Canary Wharf.  The courtyard amid the financial centre was lined with pubs and packed with cheerful people discussing eurocup, work and the goings on of their day.  A curious contradiction to the banner updates rolling around the square. 

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(Banner update at Canary Wharf, London)

At last we made it back to Forest Hill and fell fast asleep, exhausted after a long day of exploration. 

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 5

Day 5 was expected to be our busiest day. We were driving a good distance west to Akureyri, the “capital of the north”, with several stops around Lake Myvaatn.  We managed to pry ourselves out of bed shortly after 6am.  Nothing was open so we ate granola bars and cashews as we drove west through ever-changing but always extra-terrestrial landscapes.  

Our first stop was at Detifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe and the one featured in the movie, “Prometheus.”  The sound of the roaring water got louder and louder as we hiked a short distance across the Martian landscape. As we climbed over a rocky hill, we came to this…

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(Detifoss Waterfall, Iceland)

A couple kilometres upstream of Detifoss was the slightly smaller but still striking Selfoss waterfall. 

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(Selfoss Waterfall, Iceland)

We drove to a grocery store in Reykjahlid to stock up and have lunch before traversing the Lake Myvaatn area. This time we were a bit smarter with our purchases, buying slightly more practical food that would stretch our money a little farther.  Loaf of bread (instead of artisan buns and croissants), vegetables, juice, and only enough meat, yogurt and cheese to last the day as we had no means of keeping it cold.  So this time we spent about $50CDN on enough food for breakfasts and lunches for about 3 days…we were learning. 

Next stop, the Viti Crater in an area known as Krafla.  We intended to hike around the Viti crater as there are hot springs on the other side, but settled for the view from near the road as the wind was freezing and so strong it nearly blew us over.  Viti means “hell” and the crater is the centre of a volcanic eruption that started in 1734 and lasted for 5 years.  There is now a turquoise lake within the crater.

Source: https://guidetoiceland.is/travel-iceland/drive/viti-in-krafla

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(Viti Crater in Krafla, Iceland)

We then drove to Hverarondor Hverir at the foothills of the volcanic mountain, Namafjall.  This area is full of a variety of hot springs in the form of steaming fumaroles, boiling mud pools, and solfataras.  

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(Hverarondor Hverir, Iceland)

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(Steaming Fumarole – A fumarole is an opening in a planet’s crust, often near volcanoes.  They emit steam and gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen sulphide.  The steam forms when superheated water vaporizes as its pressure drops when it emerges from the ground.)

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fumarole

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(Solfataras – these are fumaroles that emit sulphurous gases. The sulphur can be seen all over the ground.)

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fumarole

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(Boiling Mud Pits – these are acidic hot springs or fumaroles, but with limited water. The acid and microorganisms decompose the surrounding rock into clay and mud, which then boils and bubbles.)

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudpot

It was like walking on another planet…one that reeks of rotten eggs, or the sulphur recovery units I worked in for several years. Oh the familiar smell of sulphur, how I haven’t missed you. 

We drove through the Namaskard mountain pass toward Lake Myvaatn and stumbled upon this neon blue geothermal lake. Signs posted warn that it is far too hot for swimming. 

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(Geothermal Lake west of the Namaskard mountain pass.)

Travelling south around Lake Myvaatn, we stopped to explore Grjotagja, a small lava cave within a large fissure.  There is  a thermal spring inside, which was a popular bathing site up until the mid-1970s when nearby volcanic eruptions caused the water temperature to rise above 50°C. It has since cooled but bathing is strictly prohibited as it is private land.  For Game of Thrones fans, this is where Jon Snow lost his virginity to the wildling.  

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grjótagjá

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(Grjotagja, Iceland)

At this point we were just west of Hverfjall (otherwise known as Hverfell), a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano that erupted in 2500BCE.  We hiked up the path from the south and around the ring of the crater, which is about 1km wide.  The views were amazing in all directions. 

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hverfjall

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(Hverfjall, or Hverfell, tephra cone volcano)

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(Lake Myvaatn from the top of Hverfjall)

Further south around the lake, we came to the lava field of Dimmuborgir. We almost didn’t stop because we had already seen so many lava fields along the drive. But fortunately, we did, because we were greeted by massive lava formations that looked like the ruins of an ancient city.  In fact, Dimmuborgirtranslates to “dark castles”. 

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimmuborgir

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(Dimmuborgir lava rock castles)

At the nearby restaurant we bought a loaf of rugbraud or Geyser bread, which is a heavy bread baked in clay buckets for 24 hours in the natural heat underground.  It tastes a bit like fruit cake without the bits of fruit and is not bad with butter.  We had a sandwich and some rugbraud in our car before moving on. 

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(Rugbraud or Geyser bread)

Having seen the highlights of the Lake Myvaatn area, we proceeded west to Akureyri.  Of course, there was one more stop along the way, Godafoss waterfall, just east of Akureyri.  Another incredible view.  Godafoss means “waterfall of the gods,” and has an interesting story.  In about 1000CE under the rule of Norway, Icelandic lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi was forced to convert and declare Christianity the official religion of Iceland. Upon his return home, he threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall. Since then it has been known as Godafoss. 

Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goðafoss

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(Godafoss Waterfall)

We arrived in Akureyri, known as the capital of the north since it is the largest city outside of Reykjavik and the commercial hub of northern Iceland.  It is situated at the tip of a gorgeous fjord. We checked in at our accommodation for the night. A comfortable room in the basement of a local home.  Our host was Ragnar, a welcoming Icelander with a passion for art. His paintings, among other works, decorated the quaint house.  He suggested we try Neo, a relatively reasonably priced restaurant specializing in local fish. We had cod and wolf fish (spotted cat fish) and they were superb.  It was a little cold and we were winding down so we just drove around town before settling in for the night.  

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(Accomodation in Akureyri)

 

Iceland Day 4

After breakfast the next morning we set out on Day 4, a meandering drive through the fjords of Iceland’s east coast. A fjord is a long, narrow inlet from the sea between high cliffs. They are typically formed by glaciers over very long periods of time. Day 4 carried the promise of the most magnificent views yet and was probably my most highly anticipated part of the drive around the island.  This is what we saw…

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(Magnificent view across a foggy fjord.)

Perhaps not as I had imagined, but the fog and rain did not deter us.  The little we could see was still incredible.  Steep mountainsides disappearing into ominous grey clouds with only a narrow road separating sheer cliffs and dramatic coast lines.

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(Somewhere on the east coast of Iceland.)

Despite the rain, we still made the occasional stop.  The Haifoss waterfall at Fossardalur was particularly beautiful. 

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(Haifoss waterfall at Fossardalur)

Isolated farmhouses dotted the coastline as they did the mountainsides, usually with little to no sign of life other than the grazing sheep.  We kept wondering when the work was actually done, but enjoyed the peaceful stillness as it was. 

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(Random farmhouse on the east coast of Iceland)

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(Sheep grazing in the mountain foothills.  There are more sheep than humans in Iceland.)

We stopped for lunch in a small town at Stodvarfjordur (again, hot dogs and coffee).    The gas station doubled as the local grocery store and information centre so we collected some maps that would be useful over the coming days. 

 The rain and fog continued as we travelled up the coast. I was excited to drive through the mountain tunnel, Faskrudsfjardargong, but we missed the turn off and ended up going all the way around the coast on a gravel road. It was a little harrowing in our toy car but offered up more amazing views. Luckily, the tunnels’ exit was near to the road we had taken so we backtracked a bit to go through.  It was 4 miles of glorious tunnel…8 miles for us!

We were en route to Hafaldan Old Hospital Hostel in Seydisfjordur, a quaint little fishing town in the north east. To get there, we drove up and over a large mountain pass before descending into the fjord in which the town is nestled.  As we drove up the mountain we seemed to be level with the clouds and could see the fog sweeping across the valley over Egilsstadir. It was breathtaking.  Seydisfjordur itself was so picturesque, it was easily the most charming place we had come to yet. 

(Fog rolling over Egilsstadir.)

When we checked into the hostel, we were told we had a single bed in a dorm room and that we would be sharing with several people. Sharing bathrooms had been adventurous for us so the looks on our faces apparently revealed a lot to the receptionist. We checked out the dorm and returned to the front desk to politely inquire if a private room was still available. Before we could say anything, the receptionist offered a private room at no additional cost. We laughed at our awkward reaction earlier and celebrated our little win. 

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(Hafaldan Old Hospital Hostel in Seydisfjordur.)

(Dorm vs. Private room at Hafaldan Old Hospital Hostel in Seydisfjordur.)

We explored the town and went to Skaftfell  Bistro for dinner. We met an American couple from Minnesota who were also driving the ring road and shared our Icelandic experiences so far. After dinner we hiked up and around Budararfoss waterfall and then played at a local playground that featured a zipline. We got back to the hostel with time enough to plan out our next day. 

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(Meeting a local of Seydisfjordur, Iceland.)

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(Church in Seydisfjordur, Iceland)

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(Skaftfell Bistro in Seydisfjordur, Iceland.)

(Budararfoss waterfall in Seydisfjordur, Iceland.)

Iceland Day 3

 “Wow” is likely the word most commonly expressed throughout Iceland.  At least it was for us. The natural beauty of the landscape is intense, extremely varied and a glimpse of primordial earth.  Vast expanses of barren yet unmistakably alive wilderness are teeming with powerful waterfalls, canyons carved by fast flowing rapids, and steam escaping the earth through tears in its crust.  It is humbling to say the least.  As if time there is measured on a different scale, and one on which we need not factor in.  It was like driving through the imagination of Bob Ross on LSD (Classic Bob Ross).  There are happy little friends at every turn and just when you notice something incredible, there is something even more spectacular around the bend.  The land is constantly outdoing itself.

Day 3 started with a makeshift breakfast in our room at Hotel Edda in Skogal – one seedy bun with an unreasonable spreading of Smjor Icelandic butter. Delicious!  We picked up an over-priced but necessary coffee from the nearby hotel lobby ($4 CDN each) and were back on Route 1 heading east toward Solheimasundul beach.  

We pulled off the road to an inconspicuous parking area and another tourist advised that the site we had come to see is about a 45 minute walk from the road to the beach. It did not look that far but the cold, harsh wind stretched every second. 

(Strong winds on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)

Finally, we arrived at the wreckage of a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane that crashed in 1973.  So eerie.  The contrasting twisted white metal and black sand looked post apocalyptic.  Apparently everyone survived the crash, unwittingly creating this iconic landmark. 

Source:  http://expertvagabond.com/airplane-crash-wreckage-iceland/

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(Plane Crash on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)

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(Plane Crash on Solheimasundul Beach, Iceland)

After the long, cold walk back to the car we regained feeling in our hands, shook the black sand out of our shoes and continued down the highway to Dirholaey and Reynisdrangar rock formations.  First we stopped at Dirholaey, which translates to “the hill island with the door hole.”  It is really a massive black arch of lava reaching out into the sea, which sounds better than the literal meaning, but still not nearly as impressive as the actual view. 

Source:  https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/jorunnsg/dyrholaey–the-arch-with-the-hole

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(Dirholaey, Iceland)

A short drive further and we were at Reynisdrangar, three black lava sea stacks.  If you watch Game of Thrones, think iron islands of the iron born. 

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(Reynisdrangar, Iceland – from the west side, facing east)

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(Reynisdrangar, Iceland – from the east side, facing west)

We stopped in Vik to visit the Icewear Woolhouse (Vikurprjon) where we showed great restraint and only bought a thick wool blanket to commemorate our stay in Iceland.  We had a quick bite to eat (more gas station hot dogs) and carried on to the east. 

In my research of Iceland, I read many blogs that described the temptation to stop every 5 minutes along the highway to admire the scenery and take pictures.  That temptation is very real and often irresistible.  We did stop many times but the pictures just don’t do justice to the surroundings.  The following are just a sampling. 

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(Eldhraun Lava Field, Iceland)

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(Massive glaciers spilling through mountain ranges.  These are frozen rivers of dense ice, formed when the accumulation of snow exceeds the rate at which it melts, often over centuries.) 

 Source:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacier

 

(Endless fields of purple flowers called lupines.  These are all over the country, however we were told the actually originate from Alaska and were brought to Iceland some time ago.)

We later stopped at Fjallsarlon and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoons on the south end of the Vatnajökull glacier.  Our cameras didn’t capture the enormity of these glaciers. The icebergs floating in the lagoons are the broken shards of ice that had fallen off the glacier.  Jokulsarlon Lagoon actually flows out into the north Atlantic ocean.  The turquoise icebergs float majestically in the frigid waters while the waves crash violently over them and wash them ashore.  The black beach is lined with all shapes and sizes of beautiful ice sculptures.

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(Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon)

(Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon)

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(Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon flowing out into the North Atlantic.)

(Icebergs from the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon washed ashore.)

We finished the day at Hotel Jokull (Hotel Glacier) in Hofn.  This was the cheapest we could find and still ran about $200CDN per night for a small double room with a shared bathroom.  It was cozy and clean and included breakfast so we were happy. We splurged on a nice dinner in town at Pakkhus restaurant right on the harbour.  We will soon be writing a separate post on the food of Iceland so I’ll skip that for now. 

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(Hotel Jokull – Double Room)

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!

Fashionably Late Introduction

I suppose I should finally introduce myself. I am Adam and I just married my best friend and the love of my life, Rachel. She has been much more active on here so far, but I am actually excited to share some of our experiences myself.
Our world is about to get a lot bigger…or smaller depending on your perspective. We are embarking on a 10 month journey around the Earth. But before I reintroduce those plans on this blog, I’d like to frame the rough size and state of my world to hopefully give some context to the decision to pause life as we currently know it.
I graduated from University 10 years ago, and since then I have lived in Fort McMurray, Alberta, working in the oil sands. Actually, let me rephrase that…For 10 years I have lived at work in the oil sands of Fort McMurray. Yes, that sounds more accurate. And while it may sound regretful, it is not. With a genuine enthusiasm, I focused most of my energy on my career, which gave me rich experience, afforded me many luxuries (including this mid-life retirement) and left me with much to be proud of and even more to be thankful for.

Nevertheless, about 3 years ago, something in my life started to suggest there may be more to this existence than my career. Funnily enough, it was about 3 years ago that Rachel and I exchanged those awkward emails, which were the subject of her first post on this site. Those were exciting times for us and after she agreed to let me cook her dinner (I made palak paneer because nothing says romance like home made cheese and spinach), we shared an amazing summer together.
Of course it was not without some drama, for which I’ll take most of the credit. I stubbornly refused to commit. As annoyingly cliche as that is, it’s true. We parted ways and immediately realized what we had given up, but it still took what seemed like an eternity to correct it. Fortunately, we did get back together and never looked back.

The reality of the year or so that followed is that I continued working ridiculous hours with that same heavy focus on my career. Rachel and I were madly in love but we only had meaningful time together when we were out of the country, or at least out of cell phone reception, which wasn’t very often. I was brain dead after work and as much as we both enjoy the zombie genre, this just wasn’t as entertaining.
That year really opened my eyes. I began to realize the path I was on would always demand long hours. It would always consume me. I began to ask myself if I love my job enough for that. This wasn’t my ambition fading, but rather my priorities shifting. I wanted more than this job alone was offering. I wanted satisfaction worthy of the effort. I wanted to truly make the most of this life and, more specifically, to share that with Rachel.

A new position came available that promised to move us in the right direction. It was a development role (good for career!), but with fixed hours (good for sanity!). The catch was it was shift work. Three 13 hour days, followed by three 13 hour nights, and then six days off before the cycle repeats. Most people would think that’s an awful schedule (they would be right), but the day I accepted the position marked 5 weeks with a single day off. In fairness, it had been an especially busy stretch, but with all things being relative, the shift sounded fantastic at the time.
I started the new job and as horrible as the night shifts were, I was learning a ton and had more time off than I had had in the 8 previous years. Oh and no more phone calls in the middle of the night! Rachel somehow shifted roles to align our schedules and we suddenly enjoyed every other 6 days off together. The best part was that 6 days of vacation suddenly meant 18 days off! We travelled more than ever.
It was around this time that we got our beautiful daughter, Sophie. Sophie is a tiny Yorkie with a huge personality that lights up any room she enters. We also took the opportunity to explore life outside of the small town of Fort McMurray. We bought a condo in downtown Edmonton and made it more home than our actual home in Fort McMurray. It was shortly thereafter that I proposed to Rachel.
Life was improving but the bizarre schedule was certainly taking its toll on us. The constant switching was tough on our bodies, not to mention the 5 hour drive back and forth between Edmonton and Fort McMurray. In addition, we weren’t feeling as challenged in our new roles. Finding the right balance was proving difficult.
Although we often fantasized about travelling for long durations, it wasn’t until August 2015 when we first considered seriously the notion of a full year off of work to travel the world. We realized we are young, have very little tying us down, and could probably bounce back even if we lost our jobs. We could rent our properties to cover those expenses and we have enough family and friends that would likely be willing to give Sophie a safe and happy home for a year. All of a sudden it seemed possible. Why not do this now when we can sort of afford it, before we have kids, and when we are healthy and young enough to do all the things we’d want to do? Why wait for retirement when our options could be limited by health, mobility, or otherwise? Why continue feeling generally unsatisfied with the risk of turning our ambition into resignation? I don’t think either of us had any illusions that an extended vacation would reveal the meaning of life, but it would certainly provide adventure, excitement, challenges, new perspectives, inspiration and hopefully renew our motivation. If nothing else, it would be amazing.
Still, 3 more months rolled by before we made up our minds and worked up the courage to request a leave of absence from work. By this point we had already chosen May 2016 for our wedding so it simply made sense to start the year leave just before the wedding. We submitted the request and then we waited. Finally we received the approval in January. What a relief!
The next few months flew by faster than we ever expected. We planned our wedding, our travels and set up to put our lives on hold for a year. We hired property managers, got about a dozen vaccination injections, arranged insurance, and countless other tasks that seemed to preoccupy us from planning our actual trip. Our plans came together though and thanks to the immense generosity of our good friends, Pam and Paul, we found a loving home for Sophie for the year. We were also extremely fortunate to come through the Fort McMurray wildfires almost entirely unscathed. The evacuation happened just as we were supposed to head back for our final few days of work, so our leave started a bit early. When we later returned, our home was just fine. Again, we were very fortunate.
Our wedding was absolutely perfect and having our families visit was such a treat! May and the first half of June are a bit of a blur now as we were so busy with the wedding, family, and finishing up the final logistics before the start of our travels.
So as of about 6pm on June 15th, we are finally done. Even if we did miss something, we are about to board Icelandair Flight 692 to Reykjavik, so WE ARE DONE! Sad to be leaving our baby Sophie behind, but eager to explore.
Without further adieu, our rough plan is as follows:
1. Iceland

2. England & Scotland

3. Europe by rail, starting in Paris and ending in Rome.

4. South Africa

5. Kenya

6. Switzerland

7. France

8. Spain

9. Morocco

10. Greece

11. India

12. Sri Lanka

13. South East Asia

14. Australia (most likely)

15. New Zealand (hopefully)

 

Plans are loose but our minds are set. Let the adventures begin!

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.