NO VOMIT! We had an entire night with no one vomiting! Breakfast bright and early again and then we hit the road, big day today.
We drove for about 30 minutes and bagged our first geocache at a place called Tveir Brú and then did a nice hike up to a waterfall:
Said geocache was NOT kid friendly so again, if you’re ever in Iceland driving around Tveir Brú with small children, make sure they walk up to the edge of the 50 foot cliff where the cache is hidden with their head up, not staring at the GPS.
Second stop was at Krafla which apparently is a “caldera”, where we did a short (2 miles?) walk out over a flat plain:
to a small hill with a bunch of fissure vents and bubbling pools of waters:
On the way to the hill Reed made friends with about 10 lovely Japanese people, all of whom gave him (or he gave them?) a high five.
A 10 minute drive later and were we at Námafjall, which is a geothermal area with boiling mudpools and steaming fumaroles and if you’re not wearing disposable booties over your shoes like all the people getting off of the tour buses were, a giant mess for the car. Beck couldn’t take the smell and had to go back to the car (pretty sure he just wanted to finish the book he was reading) but we forced the little dudes to walk around with us. Mud pots were cool but I think this was my favorite:
We did lunch out of the trunk (peanut butter and jelly, apples and if you finished your sandwich, a cookie or two) and then we were back on the road again on our way to Lake Mývatn. Our first stop was at a place called Hverfjall, which is “… a tephra cone or tuff ring volcano in northern Iceland, to the east of Mývatn” as my friends at Wikipedia say. We did the 4×4 gravel road out to the base of the volcano and after a bit of prodding to get up this trail:
everyone made it to the top of the mountain, although not without us having to break out the “You’re a mountain lion! Growl like one!” strategy to get certain people up the hill that weren’t excited about climbing the mountain:
which everyone had to join in on:
but eventually all led to this:
slave driver navigator then proceeded to direct us to Dimmuborgir (a large area of unusually shaped lava fields east of Mývatn) where we did yet another short hike out to see one of the structures which supposedly looks like an old cathedral:
Pretty sure at this point that everyone was really cold and tired and we completely lucked out because the very next thing we did after getting back into the car was a bath in the natural hot springs:
which was AMAZING for all involved, especially people that had floaties. Highly recommended if you’re ever driving through northern Iceland after a long day of volcano hiking and mud pot viewing.
Day only got better though because I found an amazing restaurant / farm on Foursquare called Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe, where we (adults) not only had an EPIC meal (braised lamb shanks and pan fried artic char) but we got to watch cows pooping and peeing and then eventually get milked which if you’re between the ages of 2 and 5 is PRETTY COOL:
Finally, we drove to the hotel, which was another 30 miles away and everyone hit the sack.
- Weird mud pots and fissures: too many to count
- People that had to be encouraged to make mountain lion sounds to bring out their inner lion to make it up the mountain: 1
- People vomiting at night: 0 (WOOHOO!)
- Geocaches: 2
We spent the night at a farm (Brunnholl) that, like most places, was in the absolute middle of nowhere and got there the night before after it got dark so when we woke up (after the middle one threw up a minimum of 10 times in the middle of the night) we had some breakfast and then took a bit of time to look around. First thing we noticed outside was a border collie named Mila, who was carrying a stick and very obviously wanted me to play with her. The dudes and I exited through the side of the dining room and stumbled on to not only a very playful and determined dog but also a trampoline (partially frozen) and a sandbox full of black sand, which all combined to occupy us for at least 15 minutes before we discovered the other side of the farm, starting with the ATV:
which I’m pretty sure Reed would have figured out how to drive away if the key had been in the ignition. But better than the ATV were the frozen puddles, all of which had to be stomped on or hit with a stick and the Icelandic horses that they had in pasture, one of which I became very close friends with:
Pretty sure she wanted to get in the car with us to go on the rest of the trip, sadly we had no room for her. We ended up sticking around the farm and meeting the cows, hanging with the horses and generally having a relaxing farm morning until about 10:30 or 11am, much later than our normal departures.
This turned out to be a good thing because there wasn’t much to see or at least there wasn’t much that we stopped to see on Day 5. We ended up nabbing a geocache (always good to get out, stretch the legs, pee and get some little dude energy out) that was on a side road and then made it to have lunch at Kaffi Steinn in Djúpivogur, which is teensy little town right on the water.
Back in the saddle an hour later, we drove and drove… and then on a whim I pulled off at a black sand beach that turned out to have some good climbing and rock throwing facilities that gave everyone a breather from being the car:
and then we turned inland and drove through some beautiful mountain ranges:
although the entire country is a giant beautiful mountain range in some ways (would be a good bet by the way, I doubt you could be anywhere in Iceland on a clear day and not be able to see a giant mountain range somewhere).
We eventually made it to our final destination, which turned out to be a newly renovated hotel called Gistihúsið Egilsstöðum in Egilsstaðir which was VERY nice compared to where we had been staying. We dropped our stuff off and then immediately got back in the car to go and see a lake that supposedly had a monster in it, dropped off our first “trackable” geocache on the way to that:
and then drove over to see a waterfall that ended up being a hike that we couldn’t make before the sun went down. Dinner at Subway because it was cheap. Note: no meatball subs in Europe.
- Ice puddles smashed: too many to count
- Icelandic horses that are my best friend: 1
- People vomiting at night: 1
- Geocaches: 2
Day 4 of the trip started early (again) with the two year old up and at’em at 0600. We got to go outside and watch the sunrise (remember that the sun doesn’t really “rise” until about 8am in October in Iceland) and play in the snow / ice, which was pretty awesome if you happened to be 4 and 2 years old. View from the hill a couple hundred yards away from the house looked like this:
I decided that I’m coming back to Iceland to hunt with Robert (our host) in 10 years, he’s a guide up in the western fjords.
Got a longer bit of driving in today, we drove through the misty fields of moss covered rock that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss film:
and read about the mist hardships, which not only dramatically impacted Iceland but caused mayhem all over Europe and likely contributed to the French Revolution. A bit later we came across a waterfall with a geocache… or at least it was supposed to have a geocache but after a bit of scrambling through barbed wire fences and then underneath a giant boulder and finally up a hill we didn’t find the geocache, which was most likely removed by the property owners on either side of the waterfall that don’t like geocachers and as such, most likely hate babies, baseball and America. We (Beck, Kai and I) did have a great time though and hey, awesome waterfall:
30 seconds down the road we visited Dverghamrar (a set of basalt rock columns) which immediately turned into a rock climbing session for all involved. Beck made it up to the top or at least very close to the top of the rock formation, followed closely by his little brother who wouldn’t have had it any other way.
There was a geocache here which we “logged” but it was one of those educational ones that you have to answer questions for and feels more like homework than actual fun. We’ll count it though. Lunch was at a picnic table overlooking the rock formation (peanut butter and jelly and cucumbers on the side) and then we started the big drive for the day, which had scenes like this:
Big drive ended at Skaftafell National Park, where we decided I would go in to the visitors center and ask for good things for kids to do. I desperately wanted to step foot on a glacier just to say that we had done so and asked the receptionist if we could walk on a glacier somewhere. She said “no, not without a guide”, very firmly. I then asked if I could just put ONE foot on a glacier without a guide to which she again said “no” without any hesitation. I figured out (I’m pretty smart) that I wasn’t going to set foot on a glacier but proceeded to drive the short distance that she had pointed out to where we could get close to the glaciers and then we hiked a bit to see said glaciers and OH MY GOODNESS are they huge and I now understand why she said we couldn’t set foot on one, at least here. They were AWE inspiring and if I ever make it back, I’m definitely getting a guide and doing the crampon / hike on them thing. They look amazing:
But the day wasn’t over yet! Next on the list was the glacier lagoon which sounded interesting but we hadn’t done much research on it and didn’t book any of the boat trips not knowing if they’d allow 2 year olds so we arrived and saw this HUGE lake full of icebergs and a bunch of bright yellow and white amphibious vehicles that we immediately bought tickets to go on and hopped on one just five minutes after getting out of the car:
Boys had a pretty good time, we got to “eat” iceberg ice (which was probably the young kid highlight of the day) and then spent the rest of the time looking for porpoises and seals, which apparently inhabit the lagoon to no avail, but then the icebergs were pretty cool too:
After all that, we still had more awesome left in us and not coincidentally, needed dinner. We had recommendations to eat lobster in a town called Hofn and ended up at a place called Kaffi Hornið, where Karen and I split 400g of small lobster tails which were succulent and almost sweet and disappeared very quickly off the plate as did a couple of Einstök White Ales. We then hightailed it to the hotel for the night and crashed, everyone being super tired.
- Times eating ice and snow: 2
- Geocaches: 2
- Waterfalls: 1
- Hot chocolate: yes!
- Massive glaciers that blow your mind: more than 5, lost count
Oldest kid woke up happy and not barfing. We had a successful breakfast with a family from Canada who thought our little troop of boys was amazing, the dad at the other table ended up bring Reed a pancake and some milk because Reed asked him for more food. They didn’t have to travel with us in the car though.
We got out on the road by 9ish again and our first stop was to pet some Icelandic horses that were close to the road. They tried to eat my hand but I wouldn’t let them. Also, Mommy and Daddy had a “discussion” about parking on the shoulder and the appropriate angle that a car could be parked without the car tipping over. Needless to say, the car did not tip over.
Second stop was for gas, which was super confusing (in Iceland they do weird things like a) not using English on the terminal, b) requiring that you specify how much money you want to spend up front rather than letting you choose to fill it up and c) don’t have manned pumps, which is nice if it’s the middle of the night but not so good when you just want to fill up during the easy and talk to someone about how things work) and eventually led to a call from my bank, who were wondering why I all of a sudden got multiple authorizations for money from a gas station in the middle of nowhere in Iceland (I’d say the fraud protection that kicked in there was spot on). Mommy also purchased donuts at the gas station, which looked amazing but apparently had cardamom, which made them taste a bit off.
Third stop was a set of waterfalls (Seljalandsfoss), one of which you could climb behind, which we proceeded to do and got not soaked but not exactly dry either, everyone had fun here:
Next, we stumbled on to the Eyjafjallajökull Visitor Centre (which Karen had seen a movie about on the plane on the way in), which was created by a farmer and his wife after their farm was almost ruined by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. Said visitors center was really well done and we saw a great movie about the volcano and how it affected their farm and family.
Back in the car again (you’ll notice a trend)… we drove to a great waterfall called Skógafoss, which we all climbed up (kind of, Reed was on my back) and then lucked upon a geocache and took a bunch of pictures from up on top.
We had lunch at a picnic table near the parking lot and then drove about 30 seconds over to the Skógasafn (Skógar Museum), which is an Icelandic folk / history museum which had a bunch of really great stuff including a stuffed two headed lamb:
some great skeletons and a museum reception desk guy that was a bird watcher (with a bicep tattoo that he had to show us) who played guitar in a heavy metal band who just about did a backflip when we told him we lived in Portland. He had been there and played at the Roseland theater a couple years ago. He was super awesome and reminded us that there was an old plane that had crash landed many years ago (1973) that we could drive out to (details). Beck and I had seen pictures of this plane when doing research on Iceland (it makes for some iconic photographs) and so we found it on the GPS and drove the couple miles of gravel road / black sand out to find it and lucked up on a geocache at the same time. Everyone had a great time banging on the old plane.
If you ever find yourself randomly driving around the entire island of Iceland, you should definitely make it a point to drive out to this plane.
We were stretching it on the “kids in the car all day” front at this point and so the iPad came out and Karen and I got to tromp around Dyrhólaeyjarviti, which is a great point that looks out over black sand beaches:
and has some clever looking arches:
Finally, we drove to our “hotel”, which turned out to be a converted house that was run by a fantastic man named Robert, who was managing it for the winter for his friends. We didn’t know that he could have made us dinner and so got dinner at some horrible fast food joint before arriving (because who knows if the “hotel” was going to have food?) but he turned out to have studied with the top wild game chef in Iceland and after we put our dudes down for the night, got to watch him put together a splendid dinner for the one other couple that was staying at the house. We had a great night chatting with Robert and the other couple (also from Canada, apparently it was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) and then we hit the sack.
- Geocaches: 2
- Waterfalls: 1
- Ice cream: negative
- “Discussions”: 1
- Bird watching, heavy metal guitarists who love Portland Oregon that man reception desks at small Icelandic folk museums : 1
Day 2 of our Iceland adventure started bright and early (2 year olds don’t seem to care about the time change), we had a great breakfast at the hotel including Icelandic yogurt (Skyr?) and then Beck and I got picked up to get our rental car. We got a Nissan Pathfinder with third row seating (2 adults, 3 kids) and 4 wheel drive, 25k miles (or kilometers maybe, I need to check) and diesel. I wish I could have said that this:
was our truck, but apparently they don’t rent those. Either way, our little truck runs like a champ and looks like it’ll handle most anything we throw at it. We packed everyone and everything up and headed out at 9:20, the sun only having come up an hour earlier.
We hit Þingvellir as our first stop, nabbed a couple of waterfalls:
and had a nice little hike around the river:
and the old church and graveyard:
Wind really picked up and I think we all were pretty surprised at how cold it was with the wind. The sun never gets seems to get above 30 degrees, staying low in the sky all day. Completely forgot about getting geocaches.
After that we piled back into the car and drove to go find some geysers, on the way we stopped at a super market / fast food joint and had the customary American hot dogs and hamburgers and then Karen found a farm that made their own ice cream so we stopped because… homemade ice cream.
After a quick pit stop there (and some frolicking with a friendly farm dog), we made it to the geysers (Stokkur) which erupted a couple times for us in the 20 minutes we stood around watching it. I even got one on video, which I’m sure will win awards in some kind of video competition for people with horrible phone cameras. Good number of people with their backs turned toward the geyser attempting to get a selfie with said geyser as it erupts. Kind of misses the point of going to see the geyser in the first place.
Last visit of the day was a gigantic waterfall called Gullfoss, which was wet and windy and really cold but we all made it down the stairs and back up again:
The hotel for the evening was out in the middle of absolutely nowhere and was perfect. It probably had 10 rooms and was / is attached to a farm. The ladies running the place were both there for the summer from Germany and took great care of us, even into the middle of the night when the oldest son proceeded to throw up into the wee hours of the evening, which is always a good sign when you’re about to drive around an island in a small car with 4 other people for 8 days.
- Geocaches: 0
- Waterfalls: 3
- Ice cream: check
- Hot dogs: 3
- Hamburgers: 1
Somewhere during the last couple years I figured out that Iceland looked like an amazing place to visit and so as part of our year in England, I put Iceland on the short list of places that I wanted to visit. In preparation for the year, I bought a book at Powell’s in Portland before we left called “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life”, which is published by National Geographic and probably isn’t worth the money to buy but is great if you’re looking for ideas on things to see with kids around the world. One of the suggestions in the book was to drive around Iceland on the Ring Road which turns out would have been really amazing during the summer but we had already booked a trip to see some parts of Norway with my parents in July, which brings us me today (actually day 3 of the trip) and this blog post.
On Friday (10/10) we got to Gatwick 2 hours early, got some sandwiches before got on the plane, ate them while waiting to board and then promptly sat on the plane for 2 hours while we waited for some weather to clear. This would have been a nightmare but Iceland Air has TV’s for each seat with lots of kids movies, so the 2 hours waiting was relatively painless, in fact my oldest turned to me while we were taking off and asked if we were landing. Regardless, we landed 2 hours later than we were supposed to and met the driver (Christian, super nice dude) who picked us up in a brand new van and dropped us off at the hotel, which was right across the street from Hallgrímskirkja:
which apparently you can climb to the top of but we didn’t have time (yet) along with a recommendation to eat at a restaurant that was a block away from the hotel. I tried Foursquare for something really good but the really good place was booked and didn’t have a table for us so we ended up at Café Loki. For dinner we got some Icelandic meat soup, a couple sandwiches and some fermented shark for dinner. Kai took a small bite of the shark because he was hungry and immediately put it back, Karen and I both ate a small piece. We all agree that it’s horrible and will never have it again. After dinner and dessert (Rye bread ice cream, really good), we broke out the headlamps (anything to get the 2 year old and 4 year old out walking) and did a couple mile walk around downtown and then headed to bed.
- Geocaches: 0
- Waterfalls: 0
- Ice cream: check
- Fermented shark: check
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- Took off work on Friday since my boss was in town, I made one of my favorite things the night before and had it for breakfast. We took him to Bath, walked around the town a bit (boys had fun chatting with a guy dressed up as a Roman soldier, complete with sword and spear), tried to find a geocache or two (no luck), did the tour of the Roman Baths, had pasties for lunch and then headed back home, on the way hitting Stonehenge (English Heritage yearly pass gets us in for free) at sunset and did the walk over the burial mounds (which was gorgeous because the cool autumn wind was blowing and the sun was warm on our backs and there were long shadows, it was my perfect temperature). Beers at Nags Head and The Griffin.
- Saturday we drove out to Warwick Castle after doing pancakes with berries for breakfast. Saw a great long bow demonstration, some beautiful birds (Steller’s sea eagles are amazing) and walked all the way around the castle, which I hadn’t done before. Didn’t get to see the flaming ball of fire fired off by the trebuchet but the boys did get to fire off a bunch of their own arrows and have their swords and shields, which always makes their day. Dinner on the way home at The Quince Tree, which is highly recommended if you’re ever around that area. Some of the best food I’ve had in England. Beers at The Griffin.
- Today Beck and Sid and I got on an early train to London and went to see the Tottenham Hotspurs (English Premier League) play Southampton FC. We got to the game way too early but walked around the grounds a bit and then headed inside right when the gates open thinking that we’d be able to walk around the stadium a bit… no such luck (you’re locked down into just the area you were ticketed for), but we did end up lucking into great seats, 3rd row back, slightly to the right of the net on the north side of the field. Had a great view for the only goal of the game. Quite an end to the weekend.
- Train into London on Saturday, then tubed it to St. Paul’s Cathedral, found a geocache at the top of the dome, lunch at a burger place next door and then tubed it to the Diana Memorial Playground or as the dudes call it, The Pirate Ship playground.
- Got tickets for the Reading vs Wolverhampton Wanderers football match for all of us. Got to the pitch early… walked in the gate… went to our seats. Got settled. Went to get food. Cash only. No ATM’s inside the building. Tried to get out… can’t get out until halftime. Went out a bit after halftime to get ice cream for the little dudes (only way to convince them to attend a game, promise ice cream). Vendors inside the stadium have no ice cream (????), walked outside… ice cream that was outside is now gone. I miss a goal. Walk back inside cursing England, watch rest of game. Home team scores in the 88th minute to tie, fun! Takes 1 hour to get out of the stadium, no fun. Pub on the way home. Beer. Find 2 geocaches (1,2) with the boys on a cool woodlands trail right next to the pub. All is good in the world.
- No long run this weekend because my left calf hurts, not sure what I did to it last week, probably need to incorporate stretching into the workouts.