Sunday, August 19, 2007

Day 9: Blue Lagoon

It has been nine days of intense traveling. Droved over 1500km since the round-the-island trip began, we finally went back to where we started – Reykjavík . We drove around the town, visiting touristy places like Tjornin (the lake), Hallgrimskirkaja (the church) and along the coastline.



Tjornin

Tjornin


Hallgrimskirkaja

Hallgrimskirkaja


Bird's Eye View of Reykjavík City

Reykjavík city from above
We had one of the best lunch in Iceland in the city center in a restaurant called Geysir. They serve very nice seafood soup (with lobster, fish, scallop, etc.) and some pan-fried fish. The capital is a green, neat, well organized city with a beautiful landscape.



Icelandic Seafood Soup

Legendary Icelandic Seafood Soup


Pan-fried Cod Fish

Pan-fried Cod Fish
Leaving the capital, we traveled to the very last stop in Iceland – Blue Lagoon. The place is famous for its mineral-rich hot springs. Jumping into the 37oC water, the only thing you would want to do is to lie there and let the water bubble your skin. Silica (a kind of mineral) is well-supplied for you to put on your face as a mask. Though I don’t feel a significant difference in terms of the smoothness of my skin, the experience was interesting. Compliments to the management of the lagoon as the design of the facilities were very user-friendly, e.g. supply for plastic bags for wet items, hair dryer. (Sorry, photography is prohibited in Blue Lagoon for obvious reasons.)



Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Photo credits to big-ashb
Now I’m staying at Northern Light Inn, a family-operated business, tired out. After a good night sleep, we’ll be leaving Iceland tomorrow early in the morning heading back to London.



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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 8: Horse Riding

Iceland horses are very cute and have 5 distinct gaits (步法) instead of the normal 3. And I was riding one today. In fact, it’s my first time riding a horse. I would say it is a pretty cool experience as the horse gal-lop up and down over the mountains and across the stream. But as it goes faster, it was pretty uncomfortable (because it would then turn bumpy). I wonder how the horse riders can manage to stay on the horse at such high speed. The horses are very intelligent and well trained to follow instructions (they actually remember the route).

Keith on Icelandic Horse
Me on Icelandic Horse
Icelandic Horse Close-up
Icelandic Horse Close-up
Black Sheep in Iceland Barn
Black sheep in the barn
There aren’t many scenic spots on the Western part of Iceland and therefore, the rest of the day was mainly traveling to our next hotel and heading back to Reykjavík.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 7: Lake Flies

More driving today as we completed 2/3 of our round-the-island journey by traveling over 1000km from the starting point. Our first stop was Mývatn (米湖), a highly popular lake in Iceland. You would not miss its special feature the moment you step out of the car - flies. These flies are important to the ecosystem by providing food for birds and fishes so we were asked not to harm them (and just get annoyed). Another feature is the ‘fake volcanoes’ (called Pseudocrater) caused by steam explosions.

Pseudocrater at Mývatn

Pseudocrater at Mývatn
On our way to Akureyri, we stopped by a waterfall (Goðafoss) and took some photos (intended for family Christmas cards). As we approach closer to Akureyri, the traffic went busier and we could see the whole town filled with little packed houses across the harbour .

Goðafoss

Goðafoss
Dinner at Akureyri

Dinner at Akureyri
P.S. Before we arrived at Mývatn, we passed by a steaming area where underground heated gases bluster out the ground. The area was surrounded by a strong smell of sulphur (or simply, rotten eggs). We are staying at yet another Edda hotel in Akureyri.



Steaming Stones that Stinks
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 6: It's Snow!

Our round-the-island journey resumed after a brief stay at Höfn where we had the closest contact with the glacier’s tongue. Ordinary motors cannot climb up the pretty inclined bumpy roads up the mountain. So we transferred to a 4WD jeep which took us all the way up to 1.3km above sea level. The journey was not comfortable at all given the rocky gravel or snowy roads.



A special note: This is my first time to touch snow in reality. Amazing! Upon arrival of the highest point you could not imagine the strength of the roaring wind. It could easily blow anyone off the ground. The white and shinny surface of the snow reflects much sunlight making it extremely irritating without sunglasses.



Keith on Snow

Me and Snow
Though it seems that there is still plenty of glacier left, the fact is that the ‘tip’ of the glacier has retreated a lot over the past 30 years. I wonder whether we could still find snow up there in another 30 years.

Retreated Glacier's Tongue

Glacier's Tongue Retreating ...
Getting down from the mountain, we had a feast at Höfn downtown in a restaurant recommended by AA Guide. With a full stomach, we proceeded north to Egilsstaðir on a not-that-well paced road. (We wanted to save time, so I switched to the “fastest route” mode in the GPS navigation device.)

Feast in Höfn

Feast in Höfn
Now I’m staying at another Edda hotel. Our next stop would be the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri.

Keith and Edda Hotel

Edda Hotel in Egilsstaðir
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day 5: Glacier Lagoon

Continuing on Route 1 heading east, we left Vik after taking a few photos of the fabulous scenery around. Here's one:

Vik
This is Vik
Damaged bridge
A damaged bridge near highway
As we stopped by Jökulsárlón, it was the first time in Iceland we had a chance to see (closely) or even touch ice. We took a boat tour and traveled in the lagoon which is full of melting ice berg which later on flows into the sea. It was cold and windy.
Glacier Lagoon
This is the Glacier Lagoon
Some ice burg appears to be blue due to optical illusion as they absorb all the other light rays but the blue rays. The black ice burgs are in fact ones that are covered with volcano ashes.
Blue Ice Burg
Blue Ice Burg
The ice in the lagoon are over thousand years old so it is pretty strong and takes 5 times more time to melt it. While under water, they are crystal clear but would soon crystalize once in contact with air and turns 'white'.
Holding Ice
Me holding ice. Icy!
To a person who has never seen snow in his life, crystallized ice burgs are already pretty new and exciting for me. Tomorrow, we've planned to go up to icy mountains and have close contact with snow.

Back on land, we moved on to our next destination - Höfn, a pretty small town. Our dinner at the hotel we stayed in was a fish buffet (which was really cheap compared to set dinner costing only Kr 3200 each). Every dish that could be made from salmon was served e.g. smoke salmon, steamed salmon, salmon dressing, salmon pie ... Delicious and full. We'll continue tomorrow.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Day 4: Geysir, Gullfoss and Vik

The day starts with a typical continental breakfast giving us a fresh and energizing start. We picked up our 7-person car hired from Atak (which would accompany us for the coming 6 days) and left the capital (don't worry, we would be back in 6 days). Like many other countries with cross-country highways, finding our way on monotonous roads can be very difficult. Luckily, we rent a GPS device which guides you point-to-point, loud and clear. You would be impressed by its accuracy and easy-to-use. Before our first stop Geysir, we went passed the former parliament of Iceland which is also the same location where the Eurasia plate and North American plate is both found.
Iceland Former Parliament
Somewhere below me locates the former parliament of Iceland
Eurasia and North American plate
Eurasia and North American plate
Then we continued on to Geysir (間竭泉), which are the natural fountains caused by super-heating of underground water. Occasionally, hot water pillars strike up into the air 10 meters above ground right after a blue water bubble is formed at the mouth of the hole. Because the water pillars strike only every few minutes, people gather round holes holding up cameras and camcorders desperately anticipating the next strike. With my skillful photography techniques, I managed to capture the whole process in a video:

video
Play the video once more. This time, play it frame by frame and notice the blue water bubble formed just before it bursts out. Cool, huh?

Non-blow Geysir
This is a geysir that ... doesn't blow
Moving on, we arrived at our next attraction, Gullfoss, a waterfall. Though it is not comparable with Niagara Falls in Canada, the scene was still astonishing.
Gullfoss
My brother and me in front of Gullfoss
And finally, we drove to Vik where stayed at a hotel for a night before we continue our journey around the island.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Day 3: Photos, photos, photos

I can't deny that 'pictures worth thousands words' for today as we walked around the island to capture the vivid landscape through the lends of my camera. Imaging myself living in this heaven-like environment, there wouldn't be such word as stress in my dictionary.

Eating Ice-cream in Iceland

Eating Ice-cream in Iceland
Lamp sausages

Our lunch: Lamb sausages
Trying to be professional

Trying to be professional
Isn't it gorgeous?

Isn't it gorgeous?
It was pity that we didn't have time to take a closer look at the Puffins (owing to time concerns). We then left the island and headed back to the capital, Reykjavik.
Sea cave

Sea cave seen from ship

During the 3-hour ship trip, I took this video to ... describe my excitement or maybe I was too bored (You could barely hear my voice because of the strong wind):


video


By the time we settled ourselves in the hotel, it was already 9pm. Just the right time for bed.
Sunset

Sunset
Note: Sent a postcard to a VIP. Hope it's going to arrive soon. :P


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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Day 2: Welcome to Iceland

Despite the chaotic arrival day, our 'real' trip to Iceland has been pretty impressive so far. Stepping out of the airport of Reykjavik, a chilled breeze blew gently on my face, seeming to welcome me to one of the northest countries in the world.

Reykjavik Airport
Reykjavik Airport
Our first stop in Iceland is an island called Vestmannaeyjar (3 hours ship from Reykjavik) famous for its characteristic bird called 'Puffins'. The landscape on our way to the island was gorgeous and would highly recommend geography students to visit the island and figure out the geo-features they have studied on textbooks. The house are in eastern Europe style - concrete walls, squared, lightly painted, at most two stories.
Ship to Vestmannaeyjar
Ship to Vestmannaeyjar
Then we climbed up one of the volcanoes and looked down to the small peaceful town below us. The view was spectacular, very impressive indeed.
From the mountain top
From the mountain top
Since it was Sunday, not many shops or restaurants are doing business so we went back to our hotel to have dinner - a seafood meal. This made up my first day in Iceland.
Hotel at VestmannaeyjarHotel at Vestmannaeyjar
Our seafood -mix dinner!Our seafood -mix dinner!
Note: While I'm writing this, it is 10pm but the sun is still high up. Iceland Sun!

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day 1: Departure & Chaos

Left Hong Kong early in the morning at 0735 on board Qantas flight no. QF 029 to London Heathrow.

Before boarding in HKIA
Before boarding in HKIA
The on-flight entertainment was impressive with large variety of latest blockbusters available on demand. Qantas has been very considerate handing out snacks and fruits during the 13 hours flight. Managing to get some sleep, the 9862km journey passed swiftly.

In-flight breakfast
In-flight breakfast
Somewhere in the northwestern part of China
Somewhere in the northwestern part of China
After getting through the immigration though, things started to become chaotic. We didn't know how to get to our hotel at Gatwick (for one night before we head to Iceland). Know that a single express coach costs 20 pounds, we chose to take the Tube to Victoria then train to Gatwick using a family pass. But it turned out that the pass does not exists, so we took a coach which took us 1.5 hours to finally arrive at Gatwick. So basically, the whole day was spent on traveling, from Hong Kong to London then to Gatwick. This is what you are going to experience if you are not traveling with a package tour. So if you are like me, who like everything in order and under-schedule, better not go on your own. Not a very impressive start I would say. Let's see if things are going to go on track tomorrow.

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