Iceland’s Ring Road (April 17-26, 2018)

 

Ring Road map

we traveled Ring Road counterclockwise

 

Day 1 (TUE, April 17)

Highlights:

  • Arrival at Keflavik
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Hallgrímskirkja
  • Phallological Museum

 

The red-eye flight from Dulles was long and particularly dreadful for me who already endured two other flights the day before and who cannot sleep on the plane. We landed 20 minutes earlier than expected. The plane door opened and all 200-plus of us went through the sleeve and into the main airport building. We then all wandered around for a while as nobody knew which way to go. There were some doors and an elevator (leading to the downstairs bathroom only) and no employees or signs to tell us which way to head. Finally, someone found a door leading into the arrivals area.

Picking up baggage and going through Immigration was easy. We then stepped outside and got our first taste of a foul weather: chilly rain, cold howling wind, and dark grey skies. Braving the elements, we went to a car rental shuttle pick-up place. A few-minute ride (everyone’s luggage skating right, left, back, and forth) took us to our rental company where we waited for quite a while even though there were very few customers and just a couple of employees. We then got into our Korean-made SUV and headed for the Blue Lagoon.

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soaking in the Blue Lagoon, guzzling Gull

The Blue Lagoon, even though it has a reputation of a tourist trap, was freaking awesome. Surprisingly, the process was very efficient: they give you a snap-on bracelet which you swipe to lock a locker, to get a beer (included in the price of admission), and with which you can charge any other amenities. You do your final scan and drop the bracelet in the turnstile compartment as you exit, with any incurred additional charges automatically going to your card already in the system.  You change into your bathing suit, hang your tower on the wall, and run into the 85-degree water as fast as you can, chattering your teeth all along because the air is colder than hell on the day it froze over. Once in the water, you have a blast exploring the waterfalls, applying mud masks, socializing, taking selfies, and drinking beer.

The only dreadful thing about the Blue Lagoon was the tab for the two paninis and two cups of coffee: seventy U.S. dollars – ouch!

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Blue Lagoon looking blue even on a cold rainy day

Several days later, as we had lunch up north in Akureyri, we overheard two Icelanders explaining to another traveler that the Blue Lagoon was shifted from its original location by about 500 meters to a more convenient place. It still is a natural phenomenon (geothermal spring) and even though it is overrun with tourists during peak season I would still recommend it to anyone visiting Iceland.

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Hallgrímskirkja

Eight-story imposing CenterHotel Arnarhvoll has just 5 guest parking spots, but we were lucky to snag one on arrival. We checked in and drove to Hallgrímskirkja guided by its tower visible from nearly everywhere in Reykjavik. It is the capital’s tallest building, very modern, made of concrete. Inside, not much to look at. A musician played the 50,000-pipe organ for a while then started packing up his score sheets, so we asked him why. He said the construction noise outside (jackhammer) was too much. He was right. We bought tickets for the elevator to the top of the tower and took a few pictures of Reykjavik from its windows. We climbed few more flights of stairs and tried to get another view from the terrace, but the wind was very strong, so we quickly went back in.

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view of the capital from the church tower

From the church, we drove to the Icelandic Phallological Museum and snapped some pictures, mostly of whale penises. There were other species’ genitals there as well including one belonging to the deceased founder of the museum who willed it in his last will and testament.

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artsy candleholder

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posing with a penis

We had a very nice dinner in the eighth-floor restaurant “Sky”, chatting with a Danish/Pakistani waiter and we went to sleep right away. One great thing about Iceland is the down comforters and great heaters at all hotels.

 

 

Day 02 (WED, April 18)

Highlights:

  • Þingvellir National Park
  • Gullfoss waterfall
  • Geysir hot spring
  • Dinner at “Lava Centre” in Hvolsvöllur
  • Overnight in Ármót Guesthouse

 

The second day we did 2/3 of the Golden Circle, leaving the southern part of the circle for the tail end of the trip.

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Þingvellir National Park

We began with Þingvellir National Park. It sits in the valley created by two huge continental plates, North American and Eurasian, pulling apart at a lightning speed (geologically speaking) of an inch a year. Various cracks and fissures keep opening, including one which opened a mere 7 years ago. Still, the pictures posted all over the Internet with folk standing with each foot on the opposite sides of the crack and the comments that they are spanning two continental plates are misleading, as that is true of the entire valley of over 1 km wide so one cannot pinpoint a specific spot where the splitting occurs, at least not on land. Divers, on the other hand, can take photos of themselves in between the continents. We did, however, walk the path leading into the Almannagjá canyon and took pictures of the Öxarárfoss waterfall.

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Öxarárfoss waterfall

Incidentally, Þingvellir National Park was established in 1930, marking the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of Althing, the Icelandic Parliament in 930 A.D. at this very place.

Next, we drove to Iceland’s most famous waterfall: Gullfoss, located in the canyon of Hvítá river (curiously, all Icelandic river’ names end with a “á”) a runoff from the glacier Langjökull. To fully appreciate its size (2 stages, 32m), look at the tiny people in the lower left corner of the picture. The skies cleared, and we were lucky to see the beautiful rainbow over the falling water. Look at the people on the left of the picture and you’ll be able to grasp the sheer size of the waterfall.

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Gullfoss waterfall

We reached the nearby geothermal area of Geysir where the Strokkur fountain geyser ejects a 20-feet column of hot water every few minutes. We missed photographing the first few eruptions (you blink and you’ll miss it), but luckily finally caught one. We walked around the area looking at small springs and mud puddles boiling and bubbling here and there. 

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Strokkur geyser

We drove south, left the Golden Circle and got on the Ring Road (Route 1) to continue our journey. Guesthouse Ármót was supposed to be in Hvolsvöllur but was about 12 kilometers off the main road. We found it using phone GPS. As we later realized, none of the hotels were in the towns or villages but some distance away and often unmarked. We were the only guests at Ármót that night.

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the sitting room at the guesthouse

The owner, Hafliði Halldórsson, greeted us personally and delighted us with his stories of the horses he trains for exhibitions and for sale (about 300 of them were in the massive stables across the courtyard), and about the salmon fishing, horseback riding, goose hunting, and glacier riding ATV tours he organizes for visitors during summer when the 6-room guesthouse and the fishing lodge are booked to capacity. His English wasn’t very good but with a little effort, we managed to communicate quite well. We understood that he donates numerous geese to Afghan refugees at Christmas time. A good man.

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relaxing after a busy day of tourism

We drove back to Hvolsvöllur for dinner at the Lava Center. It was almost the closing time, but they graciously let us eat whatever remained, at a discount. Alas, the full bus of tourists that just left ate nearly all the delicious mushroom soup. I still managed to scrape the bottom of the pot, though. We found out that a lot of foreigners fill the hospitality jobs on the Ring Road, mostly from Eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Rumania) but also from Switzerland and the Netherlands.

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view of the volcanos in the morning

We slept well at the guesthouse. Next morning, as the clouds dissipated a bit, he insisted that we see the nearby Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanoes and the expansive views from the great room. He made us a nice breakfast and we headed back towards the Ring Road.


 

Day 03 (THU, April 19)

Highlights:

  • Seljalandsfoss waterfall
  • Skógarfoss waterfall
  • Skógar museum
  • Sólheimajökull glacier
  • Dyrhólaey
  • Reynisfjara black sand beach
  • Eldhraun lava field

 

Our first stop on the Ring Road that day was Seljalandsfoss waterfall that you can walk behind. That’s what Kevin did. I didn’t want to get mist on my jacket or slip on the muddy path. That is where I saw lots of puffins (60% of Icelandic puffins supposedly live in Iceland) but they were to high up on the cliff. Additionally, poor lighting prevented me from taking any photos. However, if you zoom in on my picture of this waterfall, you will see the white spots in the upper right – these are puffins nesting high on the cliff.

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Seljalandsfoss waterfall

We continued to Skógarfoss waterfall, one of the highest in Iceland and then we stopped to visit Skógar museum itself, all its three parts: museum, open air, and technical. It was a national holiday (First Day of Summer) but (unlike the bank) it was open and there were quite a few off-season visitors besides us. I was surprised at how low the ceilings were in the old turf-roofed houses, with Vikings having a reputation for being tall. A replica of the outhouse brought not-so-fond memories from my childhood, as we had one of those where my Grandma lived. The one at the museum in Iceland was far less scary than the one I remembered.

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Skógarfoss waterfall

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the outdoor part of Skógar museum

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typical old Icelandic bedroom

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typical living/dining room

We continued about 10 km eastward to see the Sólheimajökull glacier and its runoff. We hiked a loop over a hill to get closer to the glacier’s head and back by the shore, looking at small melting pieces that broke off.

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Sólheimajökull glacier

Our next stop was Dyrhólaey cape, the southernmost point of Iceland. A small road takes you to the top of this 120 m high sea cliff where you often can see many puffins. Dyrhólaey is closed during nesting season from May 15 through June 23 and from mid- August the puffins will have gone to sea. Obviously, April 20 was too early, as we saw hardly any puffins and those we did see were way too far to photograph.

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Dyrhólaey

Black sand Reynisfjara beach is famous for the Reynisdrangar rock stacks that rise from the sea and for its basalt columns. It was cold and windy, with the waves were furiously crashing on the black sand.

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Reynisfjara black sand beach

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basalt rock columns

We got back on the Ring Road and continued through the Mýrdalssandur plain and Eldhraun lava field (which covers over 230 square miles). We entered the name of the Hotel Geirland into the phone and were guided to it, some distance past the small town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. On the way, we traipsed through some fenced private property to get a closer look at the gorgeous waterfall not on our original itinerary. I later found out it is called Stjórnarfoss.

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Stjórnarfoss waterfall

We had dinner at the hotel. Through the restaurant window, we saw the one and only puffin, walking around and pecking the ground. By the time I reached for my camera, it was gone.

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at the Geirland Guesthouse restaurant

Next morning, we stopped once more to have one more look at the waterfall before getting back on the Ring Road.

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leaving Kirkjubæjarklaustur area

 

 

Day 04 (FRI, April 20)

Highlights:

  • Núpsstaður church
  • Svartifoss waterfall
  • Jökulsarlon glacier lagoon
  • Vatnajökull glaciers

 

We had some difficulty finding Núpsstaður because it’s just a small privately owned rural property and (as most places in this country) it is unmarked except for a tiny sign. If you blink, you’ll miss it. We were intrigued by what the Lonely Planet book called “the smallest turf church in Iceland.” It did not disappoint. Inside, you could comfortably accommodate about six parishioners and a priest (most likely a roving one, performing scheduled services in a designated area).

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turf church

 

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inside the tiny church

On the way to Skaftafell National Park, we stopped at this nameless cascading river flowing from one of the glaciers to the Atlantic.

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glacier runoff to the sea

We didn’t stop at Svartifoss waterfall (3.5 km R/T strenuous hike) but headed for Skaftafell National Park where Kevin hiked to the head of Öræfajökull glacier while I shopped for souvenirs at the park’s gift shop. Öræfajökull happens to be the second most active volcano on Earth (Mount Etna being the first). Hvannadalshnjúkur, a peak on the northwestern rim of the crater of the Öræfajökull is the highest mountain in Iceland.

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Öræfajökull volcano’s Hvannadalshnjúkur peak (upper left)

Next, we arrived at the glacial lagoon Jökulsarlon at the foot of Hvannadalshnúkur. We walked along the banks and saw some icebergs which allegedly take 5 years to float some 25 kilometers from the glacier head to the Atlantic Ocean. I expected them to be larger and to see more of them. Still, I’d say it was a unique experience. I summer, they have boat tours to see the icebergs up close, but we did not have that option.

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Jökulsarlon glacier lagoon and its icebergs floating out to sea

On the way to our stop for the night, Old Airline Guesthouse (it used to be an airport administration building when the sandbar served as an airstrip) in Höfn (pronounced “Hup” for no good reason), we passed few more outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap. After checking in, we walked to Pakkhús restaurant overlooking the harbor for a nice seafood dinner. Sounds simple enough but the restaurant has no shield and the street in front was being dug up by heavy earth-moving machinery. Still, determined enough and hungry as we were, we found the place and ate very well.

 

 

Day 05 (SAT, April 21)

Highlights:

  • Almannaskarð tunnel
  • Djúpivogur
  • Petra’s stone collection (closed)
  • War World II Museum in Reydarfjörður (closed)
  • The East Fjords

 

We left the Höfn region and drove through the poorly lit Almannaskarð tunnel, continuing along the fjords towards Southeast Iceland, making a stop in the charming fishing village of Djúpivogur.

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Almannaskarð tunnel

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Djúpivogur

In Stöðvarfjörður we intended to see a private stone collection which supposedly includes most of the Icelandic minerals; however, as we later found out, the owner passed away and the relatives open the collection for the public only during the summer.  

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Taking in the scenery by one of the many East Fjords

Near the fjord Reydarfjörður, we stopped to have a look at a small history museum about World War II. Again, it was closed. 

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The road to Egilsstaðir

We finally arrived at Hótel Eyvindará in Egilsstaðir. We had dinner at the hotel. The Swiss receptionist recommended that we visited the nearby village of Seydisfjorður the next day. That was a mistake, considering the weather. Still, next morning, we did drive about halfway to that village on a deserted snowed-over mountain road. We were the only car for miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers?) and it looked increasingly dangerous, so we found a place to make a U-turn and headed back to Egilstaðir before tackling the Central Highlands in our “F-roads certified” rented SUV. FYI: F-roads are rocky, muddy, steep, and very dangerous. They are open only from June through September. Needless to say: we did not stray from the Ring Road.

 

 

Day 06 (SUN, April 22)

Highlights:

  • Seyðisfjörður (gave up on it — bad weather)
  • Möðrudalur highlands
  • Hverir fumaroles
  • Lake Mývatn
  • Hverfjall crater

 

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the road through the Möðrudalur highlands

After giving up seeing the village of Seyðisfjörður. the road continued across the white frozen landscape of Möðrudalur highlands. Originally, we had planned to see glacial waterfall Dettifoss, the gorge of Ásbyrgi, Tjörnes Peninsula, and the fishing village Húsavík (Iceland’s whaling center), but after several hours of driving through wretched weather (snow, ice, and merciless wind), we decided to forgo that northern detour and just head straight for Lake Mývatn. Google map said the drive through the Highlands should take a little over 3 hours. It took us nearly twice as long. 

Approaching our destination for the day, we stopped at geothermal spot Hverir to take photos and videos of the bubbling mud pools and chimneys belching out gobs of sulfuric gas – truly an otherworldly landscape. Incidentally, Hverir has quite a history. During the late medieval times, half of the sulfur Europe needed to fuel its increasingly gun-powered wars were mined here.

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Hverir — smoking fumaroles and boiling mud

Next, we looked for Fosshótel Mývatn, a new, modern, imposing three-story structure overlooking the lake. As most places in this country, it was unmarked, except for the small blue flags planted in front. We almost missed it. The nearby tephra cone of the Hverfjall crater may have looked interesting to climb if it wasn’t so very windy, cold, and snowing. We stopped for pizza and beer (to the tune of $75 – ouch!) at a small eatery in nearby Vogar. We then retired for the night after spending some time in our hotel’s sauna and downing a couple of shots of Icelandic caraway-flavored schnapps Brennivín (a.k.a. Black Death). 

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Fosshótel Mývatn

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Hverfjall crater

 

 

Day 07 (MON, April 23)

Highlights:

  • Mývatn natural baths (closed)
  • Godafoss waterfall
  • Akureyri
  • Blönduós

 

After scrumptious breakfast at the hotel, we meant to drive to dip in Mývatn natural geothermal baths, alas it did not yet open for the tourist season. Also, it snowed overnight, which was a bit worrisome as we still had some Highlands driving ahead. The Hverfjall crater, definitely black a night before, was all white that morning.

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Hverflajj crater covered with the overnight snow

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a frozen lake

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white Highlands

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brown valleys 

On the way to Akureyri, we had the opportunity to stop at the picturesque Godafoss waterfall. The legend has it that 1000 years ago an Icelandic ruler threw some pagan artifacts into the fall and converted the country to Christianity.

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it seems Kevin really liked this waterfall

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Godafoss in its full splendor

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approaching Akureyri

In Akureyri, we decided to forego a visit to Akureyrarkirkja (yet another concrete church with pipe organ) designed by the same architect who dreamt up the ugly Reykjavik’s Hallgrímskirkja. After a nice lunch at “Strikið” restaurant, we hit the road. The weather improved slightly. 

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typical Icelandic scenery

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more countryside

We were going to overnight in Sauðárkrókur but canceled our reservations and instead decided to drive to Blönduós where we found a simple but adequate Kiljan Guesthouse ran by an entrepreneurial Polish innkeeper. She treated us to “Krupnik” (Polish honey liqueur) and told us to see “thousands of seals” a few kilometers north of Hvammstangi. It seemed like a great tip.

 

 

Day 08 (TUE, April 24)

Highlights:

  • Kolufossar falls
  • Hvammstangi
  • Borgarnes
  • Troll Falls

 

Before leaving Blönduós, our original plan was to hike Hrutey Island at the mouth of the river Blanda, but instead, we decided to take a little detour off Route 1 further south, at Laugarbakki, and drive up north of Hvammstangi to see the seals.

We first stopped in Vidhidalstunga to see Kolufossar falls and the Kolugljúfer gorge, cut by the river Víðiðalsá. The only place I saw this waterfall mentioned was some blog, so directions were sketchy, but we managed to find it anyway. And, apparently, so did two other couples we saw at the falls (probably stumbled on the same blog I did). The river flows peacefully only to suddenly disappear in the deep gorge.

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Víðiðalsá river

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Kolufossar falls

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a peek into the Kolugljúfer gorge

We drove to Hammstangi and stopped at the Seal Centre to get the scoop about where to find the seals. They mentioned two places. We drove another 30 minutes or so. We stopped at the far north spot first and walked towards the beach, battling the elements. There were no seals there. None. We turned around, drove to the second spot but by then we knew better so when we saw some German tourists walking back to their car we asked them whether they saw any seals. They did not. We took their word for it.

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countryside near Hvammstangi

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a lighthouse by the fjord

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not a single seal in sight

The road to Borgarness took us through some more highlands but not as ominous or dangerous as the Central Highlands we left behind. We saw many pastures with Icelandic horses who are known for being left outdoors year around and adapted to endure even the harshest winter weather.

In Borgarnes, we checked into our hotel, picked up a bottle of wine at the store and drove to see the Troll waterfalls, which was not a simple endeavor. All our maps and directions were wrong. Still, persistent as we are, we found the falls. There is a pathway by the river adorned with several troll statues. Kevin hiked it. I stayed warm in the car.

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Troll waterfall

We stayed in Hotel Hafnarfjall near Borgarnes with – as all our stays – breakfast included. Kevin enjoyed the outdoor hot tub, taking selfies, and admiring the nearby snow-capped mountain peaks.

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hot-tubbing near the Arctic Circle

 

 

Day 09 (WED, April 25)

Highlights:

  • Hveragerði geothermal park
  • Selfoss
  • Reykjavik

 

We drove south from Borgarnes through Reykjavik to Hveragerði. Between Borgarnes and the capital, we found ourselves in a 6-km tunnel under a fjord (not a good experience). The toll road saved us about 30 minutes of driving (had we taken a road around the fjord), but the fumes inside (CO2) were unpleasant, to say the least.

Once we passed Reykjavik, we were back on the Golden Circle that we did not complete on the second day of the trip. We stopped to visit Hveragerði geothermal park. We took the tour and Kevin boiled an egg in the heat provided by Mother Earth: soft, if boiled for 5 minutes (we did that) or hard, if for 10. We chatted briefly with an American attendant at the museum who married an Icelander and stayed. There were precious few tourists this time of the year and she seemed happy to have someone to talk to even if just for a few minutes.

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about to boil an egg in the stream vent

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Mother Earth — full of hot air

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a colorful hole in the ground

Adjacent to the N1 gas station we found this interesting private collection of Icelandic rocks, minerals, and other artifacts manned by a charming young man, son-in-law of the collection owner. He was showing us old family photo and was very well versed in local geology. He works, does volunteer work coaching girls soccer team, mans the exhibit, and creates unique souvenirs on demand in his spare time, so Kevin ordered some stuff he’ll make and ship to the U.S.

We had light lunch at Tryggvaskáli restaurant in Selfoss, by the waterfront, returned to Reykjavik and checked into CenterHotel Arnarhvoll. This time we got a room on the next-to-last (7th) floor with a nice view of Harpa concert hall and the harbor.

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one last look at Icelandic countryside

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the only Viking I “landed” in Iceland (sigh!) 

My original plan was to dine at “Perlan” restaurant, built on water tanks that hold the city’s hot water supply, with spectacular views of Reykjavik and its surroundings. As it happens, it was still closed for remodeling. I then found out that Kevin already took the initiative and made reservations at “Dill”, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Iceland.

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Dill restaurant in Reykjavik

We freshened up at the hotel and walked a couple of blocks down the street to “Dill.” Our seven-course dinner, with wine pairing, was a three-hour production we will remember for years to come (thank you, Kevin, for going all-in!). This wrapped up our fabulous trip in a grandiose way.

 

 

Day 10 (THU, April 26)

Not much to say: we drove to Keflavik, returned our rental car, checked in with the Icelandic Air and were happy to find out that the middle seat between us remained unoccupied so we could stretch out a bit on that 5-hour flight back to Washington, DC.

 

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A few observations of general nature:

  • We missed out on a few things, such as seeing Aurora Borealis, because of the almost constant overcast. The trade-off was that we didn’t have to drive through winter storms on the icy roads, or vie for parking spots in summer where hordes of tourists descend upon Iceland — trendy destination these days.
  • We relied heavily on the maps I printed beforehand as well as of the GPS service — these two things got us wherever we wanted to get and we never really got lost, not for longer than 15 minutes, anyway.
  • People everywhere are really nice and friendly. Most hospitality workers come from other European countries. They will tell you that they return to work in Iceland time and again because of the friendly work environment.
  • Wi-Fi access is very good everywhere. Satellite TV — not so much, but I am biased (not being able to catch up on the news on CNN International makes me profoundly unhappy — fortunately, not for very long).Iceland is expensive. More than I anticipated. Expect to pay four times the price for a bottle of wine that you’d be paying at home. 
  • Fruit and vegetables are hard to come by. Still, food is very good, especially bread and seafood. 
  • The Ring Road (and basically any roads outside the capital) are single lane in each direction but pretty decent except maybe for the two tunnels that we did not like much. Road signs are hilarious: you’ll get a frowny face if you exceed the speed limit and a smiley one if you obey it. Red light is not round but in the form of a heart. Cute!
  • We saw just one police car, and it was road police.
  • You get many hours of daylight: On April 17, the sun in Iceland rose at 5:49 a.m. and set at 9:07 p.m., but 10 days later, it rose at 5:14 a.m. and set at 9:38 p.m., for a total of sixteen and a half hours of daylight, with one hour six minutes gain in those 10 days. Freaking awesome! 

 

 

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Rodomontade of an Activist

Strawder

I just got back from my party’s 2018 State Convention and I’m STOKED! I am amazed by the enthusiasm of my fellow co-activists. I am super excited that in the next election our party will be represented on the ballot, as it should have been already but – as the fastest-growing political party – we finally met the numbers required by the law. I am also encouraged by seeing younger generation more and more represented and willing to participate in our political process besides my own self-centered, greedy, jaded, cynical Baby Boomers.

Every time I meet with my fellow Libertarians I feel uplifted. Today, I was one of those few whose voices DO matter. We put forth candidates for such important positions as the Governor of our State, Congressmen for 3 out of 4 Nevada’s Districts, a Senate candidate to replace the worthless Dean Heller, a couple of mayoral candidates and we filled some important local Party vacancies.

At one point, a Republican woman approached me asking for my vote to support her candidate to replace governor Sandoval. I told her that even AFTER the hell freezes over I will still be casting my vote not for but AGAINST her candidate. Naturally, the discussion ensued, and I explained my reasons (by then, we had an audience). She said, “Well, just when was the last time a non-Republican won the Governor’s seat in Nevada?” (I actually know an answer to that question: Bob Miller, in the 1990’s).

This was, of course, not the first time I heard how I’d be “wasting” my vote if I fail to support a candidate who’s already expected to win. I hear that mostly from supporters of stale old Democratic candidates (Bernie, Hillary, et al), but their rationale is the same and equally flawed. Had all Sanders’ and Clinton’s fans REALLY voted for the favored horse in the 2016 race, that horse was Trump. I was saying it in February of that year, but nobody listened. And it’s not that I have any future-predicting skills. The numbers were simply on the side of all racists and bigots, both overt and closeted. Yet, these acquaintances of mine in their naivete thought that only MY vote was the “wasted” one.

I resent the fact that come election time, our two-party system time and again presents me with a “Sophie’s choice” kind of alternative. As an informed citizen, I will cast my vote for my Party’s candidate, providing I find them acceptable and their point of view not too unconventional. If we do not have such a candidate on the ballot, I will look whether any Democrat represents my set of values, at least to some extent. Absent that, I will vote NONA. We are lucky in Nevada to still have “none of the above” on our ballots, although I consider it my least-favored pick.

I consider myself fortunate to have an opportunity to contribute to the well-being of my neighborhood, my city, my county, my State, and my country. I wish more of us would. If you’re able-bodied and have some time on your hands (or can make time), do something: register voters, canvass the neighborhood, go to School Board meetings – regardless of which faction you happen to side with. Be a participant, not just a critic. This is the time when more people need to give more than just a few dollars, thoughts and prayers, or clicking on some stupid online petitions. Let’s not leave it to the Orange Clown with the Yellow Fuzz on his Head and his ilk. This is particularly important in a State like Nevada – a Democratic State that votes Republican (go figure!)

By the way, the man in the photo is a freshly (today!) nominated Libertarian Party’s Congressional Candidate for Nevada’s District 1.  As I live in District 4 (a mere 50 yards from District 1 boundary), I will vote for another, less photogenic, person. Still, fun!

 

 

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Loserville.com

I’m not sure why, but it just so happens that all – without exception – relationships of my acquaintances that started on the Internet seem to be a great deal for men and not so great for women. Time and time again, I see a quality woman in her 20’s, 30’s or 40’s hooking up with a mediocre guy through one of the online dating sites.

These are good looking educated ladies with career, financially independent, well-traveled, and well-read. They are beaming with joi de vivre, with lots to offer. Each and every one of them is what anyone would call a “catch.”

The men are ordinary at best, often encumbered with student loans and child support payments. Some are stuck in dead-end jobs. Others still act like “players” but expect the woman to pick up the tab on dinner date or a weekend getaway. Invariably, they consider themselves better than the woman and somehow entitled, deserving a partner who will help them out of the rut they’re in.

I see women settling for so little, content with scraps from someone else’s table. Is it desperation? Is it because of the biological clock ticking? Is it because true quality males are so hard to come by? It used to be that society pressured women into marriage in college, but times have changed and that’s no longer the case. So why, oh why is this happening? Is the Internet the reflection of the real world?

As an old hag with lots of relationship experience, most of it bad, but … still, experience, I want to tell all my fabulous women friends to aim for the stars and not pick the low hanging fruit. The guys I see you marrying, buying houses for, supporting financially, raising their children – these guys will drag you down. Ball and chain is what they are. Good looks and good sex and a fleeting thing. Then, what you’re left with is a loser that you’ll carry on your back through life, a loser who will disrespect you and resent you because you’re successful and he’s not.

Look in the mirror, take a good inventory of all your assets and great qualities. Then, look out for Number One. There’s certainly more than one fish in the sea, so don’t settle for the bottom dwelling carp. Wait for your marlin. And it is always so much better to be alone and a master of your destiny than to cling onto a loser who will suck you dry in more than one way. Peace out!

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Where Do You Stand?

wbDo you believe that our Constitution is the supreme law of the land? Read the following list of talking points, then return to the question above and answer it again.

1. Article VI of the United States Constitution states: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

2. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (commonly known as the United Nations Convention against Torture) is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

3. United States signed the Convention on April 18 1988 and ratified it on October 21 1994.

4. Therefore, as a treaty made under the authority of the United States, it is the law of the land.

5. In sum, any torture perpetrated by any persons on behalf of the United States is an unlawful act and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

6. Perpetrating these acts on Romanian, Lithuanian, Polish, or Cuban soil (the so-called “rendition” – handing over of persons to be tortured elsewhere) does not make them legal or constitutional or permissible under the UN Convention against Torture, and consequently under our own Constitution. It only demonstrates that the torturers knew well that they were violating the U.S. Constitution and attempted to avoid any legal consequences of their actions. These criminals, as well as the authorizing government officials and their foreign co-conspirators (all the way up to where “the buck stops”) ought to be tried for their crimes.

7. Every government official, from POTUS down to the lowly clerk, takes an Oath of Office, which clearly states that he or she will “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

8. If convicted, the torturers should be made to pay in proportion to their involvement in these criminal acts. If it was up to me, they would certainly be hanged just like the 5 Japanese soldiers tried after WWII for water-boarding American POW’s. As for “I am a patriot and I was just following orders” – it did not fly in Nuremberg and it should not fly in The Hague.

Now, do you still believe in the Constitution of the United States? Unequivocally Yes? Not really? Mostly? Believe in some articles and amendments but consider other ones obsolete or no longer applicable? Sort of, except when it comes down to the topics on which I happen to opine differently? Where do you stand?

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Stupid, Stupid War!

Here I am lying from the Green Zone to Baghdad airport in a Blackhawk helicopter

Here I am flying from the Green Zone to Baghdad airport in a Blackhawk helicopter

I am not in the military but my job as a federal government employee took me to Baghdad in November 2008. I worked in one of the flashiest Saddam’s palaces and I lived in a trailer just outside, close to Saddam’s swimming pool.

As I walked to the chow hall on a sunny morning to get breakfast, I heard not-so-distant explosions. They usually came in twos: the first one to kill a number of targeted civilians and the second one to kill the first responders.

At night, occasionally an urgent message would come on a PA system: “Incoming! Incoming! Take cover!” That’s when I would slide under my cot, cover myself with the kevlar vest and place a helmet over my face. I’d lie there surrounded by dust bunnies waiting for the alarm to be called off.

In those times I would ask myself two questions: what the hell a female senior citizen like me was doing in the war zone, and what the hell we Americans were doing in Iraq. The answer to the first question was simple: both my children are active military and both already have been deployed to Iraq so when my agency was asking for volunteers I raised my hand because I wanted to experience what they went through.

I am still searching for an answer to that second question, one that would make sense, that is. We haven’t won a war since 1945, yet old men in Washington are still eager to send our young in harm’s way. For what? And I don’t want to hear about how they are fighting there for my freedom, as my freedom has never gone to Iraq. There have never been any Al-Qaida there either. The 9-11 hijackers were not from Iraq but from a country we consider our ally: Saudi Arabia. Yet, we did not invade Saudi Arabia. We invaded Iraq instead. We did kill their bloody dictator but was his life really worth thousands of our young soldiers lives?

Iraq wanted us out of there just as now Afghanistan wants us out. One of my sons is about to deploy to Afghanistan — to fight yet another war that we are losing. I yet have to hear a reasonable explanation as to what the hell are we doing invading foreign lands at such a great cost in lives and monies that could be used to advance America’s future here at home.

Our presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan is contributing to the hatred of our country by Arabs all over the world. It is the main reason why Al-Qaida has such an easy time recruiting suicide bombers and future terrorists who will harm us the day the proverbial chickens come home to roost. Every time our drones kill civilians in Afghanistan there are more and more people who will hate us forever. These drones kill a few terrorists here and there but nearly 90% of casualties (the so-called collateral damage) are civilians, including many children. We need a new batch of politicians who can weigh in the pros and the cons of these operations and put a stop to our expansionist imperialistic ambitions.

IMG_0024

This is a photo of the camp where I stayed, set up within Saddam’s date palms patch in front of al-Qaṣr al-Ǧumhūriy (Republican Palace). In April 2008, a DoS accountant was killed when his trailer at that very camp was directly hit by a Hown rocket lobbed in by the insurgents. I was lucky to survive my war zone experience, but so many were not. May that be food for thought, assuming there still are a few thinking heads remaining in our government.

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Madame Eva’s Morbid 2013 Predictions

I posit that the following five men will meet their maker in the year 2013, only two of them regretfully so:

1. Thai king Bhumibol — because he’s been in poor health for many years and because he’s old and frail

2. Hugo Chavez — because his Cuban cancer cure is not working or he wouldn’t need that many rounds of therapy

3. Stephen Hawking — because his incurable progressive disease is bound to eventually extinguish the last glimmer of his illustrious life

4. Pope Benedict XVI — because not much has changed in the corrupt and conniving Vatican since the times of Borgias; furthermore, the cardinals already got away with murder once in recent history when they assassinated John Paul I

5. Fidel Castro — because if I had the power, I would have gladly “wished him into cornfield” decades ago, before he bestowed the everlasting misery (called “Cuban Revolution”) on 3 generations of citizens and ran a country of 11 million into the ground (“Ya es hora, camarada”)

 

Update #1: Hugo Chavez died on March 5, 2013 (one out of 5 accuracy — nothing to write home about)

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On Conception and Contraception

Roughly half way into the woman’s menstrual cycle her egg leaves the follicle and a hormone is released to thicken the lining of her uterus. The egg takes about 24 hours to move through the Fallopian tube waiting for a sperm to fertilize it. If a sperm finds its way to where the egg is, fertilization occurs; otherwise, the egg disintegrates in the uterus.

Fertilized egg (called morula or zygote) starts dividing into many cells within 24 hours as it moves through the Fallopian tube towards the uterus, which takes three to four days. The clump of cells at this stage is called blastocyst (a zygote becomes a blastocyst approximately on a fifth day after fertilization).

The next step, called the implantation, consists of the egg attaching itself to the wall of the uterus. Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant.

If implantation is successful, within a week a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can be found in woman’s blood. It is made by the cells that eventually become the placenta. This is the hormone detected in a pregnancy test. An implanted blastocyst is now commonly referred to as embryo.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the term “conception” properly means implantation; a pregnancy is considered to be established only when the process of implantation is complete. The medical community has long been clear: pregnancy is established when a fertilized egg has been implanted in the wall of a woman’s uterus.

There exist two kind of emergency contraception: a morning-after pill and an IUD insertion. These can be used to prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. Neither method will work if a woman is already pregnant. Emergency contraception is not abortion.

To recap: morning-after pill does not end pregnancy (fertilized egg that has implanted). Depending on specific circumstances (mainly: timing), it may do one of the following: delay or prevent ovulation, block fertilization, or keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Hence, it is not an abortion pill. Therefore, if you need it, take it and stop losing sleep over it and if you happen to be Catholic, you don’t even have to confess (unless you have sinned in some other fashion, of course).

Women who use emergency contraception are not killing any babies. A non-implanted blastocyst will be on its merry way out, regardless whether it was prevented from implanting by a pill or by Mother Nature herself (remember 1/3 to 1/2 of them never implant anyway). Even if you have been indoctrinated to believe that life begins at conception, it is wise to know precisely what conception is and when it actually occurs: at implantation. Amen!

Note: I felt compelled to provide this information to all my friends and whoever else may read my blog because I recently ran into an adult person who is quite devout but blissfully ignorant when it comes to biology, chemistry, human anatomy, medicine, etc. and who got all her so-called “scientific knowledge” in church, where folk are evidently taught such subjects by equally blissfully ignorant clergy.

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