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Two weeks around the Ring Road. An Iceland Trip Report!

Two weeks around the Ring Road. An Iceland Trip Report!

Old Aug 30th, 2005, 03:28 PM
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dkw
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Two weeks around the Ring Road. An Iceland Trip Report!

Just returned last week from a great trip to Iceland. My husband and I drove the ring road in two weeks....over 1400 miles, 6 tanks of gas, and lots of Hot Dogs along the way!!

We left the Metro Detroit on Aug 8th and flew to BWI. From BWI we caught our flight on Iceland Air to Keflavik Airport.

Upon arrival we purchased our limit of Duty Free alcohol (as sugggested here, I think). I heartily endorse this idea, as the prices for drinks were as expensive, if not more than we were told they would be. For example, a beer in a bar is about 550ISK. That translates to about 9 USD.

We picked up our rental car at the airport and drove into Reykjavik. We had a room reserved at the new SAS Radisson 1919. Since we arrived so early (8:00 am) our room was not yet available, so we had breakfast there at the hotel and then went to take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour to get acquainted with the city.

We finally got into our room about 1PM and just crashed for about 2 hours. After a well deserved nap we went out to explore the city.

We had our first Icelandic hot dogs at the world famous Baejar Beztu hot dog stand which was just steps from our hotel. The hot dogs are a bargain at about 3 USD each. By far the best food value we found in Iceland.

We were leaving for our roadtrip the next morning, so we found the Bonus grocery store and stocked up on some munchies for the trip.

We left the next morning to start our drive around the ring road. Our destination this day was Sauderkrokur.

The drive was a great introduction to the weird, wild Icelandic terrain. If you have been, you know what I'm talking about. It's very hard to describe. There are no trees, lots of rocks, mountains, craters, moss and low shrubs. It's almost eerie in some areas. There are several viewpoints along the way. We especially liked Grabrok Crater. There is a nice path to the top, and a gorgeous view once you get there!

We arrived in Sauderkrokur mid afternoon and were able to check into our Hotel immediately. We were staying at the Hotel Tindastoll. It is one of the oldest hotels in Iceland. Our room very spacious and had a window ovelooking their really cool stone Hot Pot.

We had a pizza ( 24 USD ) at a cafe in town then went on to our Horseback Riding tour that I had arranged by e-mail before we left.

We drove about 30 miles to get to the farm where we would be riding from. The weather was a bit cold (50 Deg F) and drizzly and foggy, but we rode for about 2 hours, up a mountain and back down. I'm sure the view would have been great, however you could barely see the person in front of you. Overall, it was great fun and the horses are just beautiful.

When we arrived back at the hotel a good long soak in the Hot Pot was just what we needed.

Next.....White Water Rafting!!!

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Old Aug 30th, 2005, 04:56 PM
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The next day we had a white water rafting trip planned with a company called Activity Tours. This was a 2 hour trip along the West Glacial River. The rapids were Class II and III rapids. Enough to knock some people out of the boats, but nothing too scary. Everyone is outfitted with drysuits, so the super cold river was tolerable. Much of the rafting trip is thru a beautiful narrow gorge. Our rafting guide was from Nepal. It was great fun, one of our trip highlights!

We had dinner at a cafe in town, returned to the Hotel for a soak in the Hot Pot, then called it an evening.

The next morning we took off for our next leg of the road trip. Our desination for this day was Husavik.


It was a pleasant drive. Shortly before noon we arrived in Akureyri. We wandered around town a bit, found a bakery for picnic supplies and then continued on to Husavik. When we arrived we checked into our Hotel, the FossHotel Husavik. Our room was spacious with 2 twin beds and a nice balcony.

We decided to go on a Whale Watching Tour that afternoon.
"Whale Watching" became synonymous with "Bad Time" from that point on for the rest of the trip. As soon as we left the dock the wind whipped up and it started raining (BTW, It was cold!!)
We had our warm waterproof winter clothes, hats and mittens on, but it was still cold. Then the boat started rocking and heaving. My husband is prone to seasickness, and I could start to see that he was turning this curious shade of green. He decided to go under and lay down while I continued to look for the ever elusive whales We never did see any whales, however we did see some dolphins and puffins. We did survive the trip (3 hours), but neither of us will be going whale watching any time soon!

We returned to our room to find that the hotel was hosting a Concert in the banquet room right below us. Was is ever loud! Our room was just shaking. Fortunately it ended at 11:00PM

Next.....Cave Exploration
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Old Aug 30th, 2005, 05:30 PM
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The next day we were booked for the Lofthellir Cave Exploration tour near Lake Myvatn. We met our group in front of the Strax Supermarket in Reykjahlid at 9:00 am. There were 7 of us and a guide. We piled into a 4 wheel drive van and drove off.

We drove by the Hverfell ash cone and drove over where the 2 geologic plates meet on this crazy, so-called "road" in the middle of nowhere. We drove for about an hour till we came to this lava field. From there we hiked about 30 minutes over this rough ropey lava. Just amazing!!

Once we got to the cave we had to climb down a 16 foot ladder into the cave entrance. There we donned our hardhats, waterproof gear, heavy gloves and studded boots.

We entered a cavern where the floor is ice and is covered by a few inches of water. Then we had to slither through a hole less than 2 feet in diameter. My first thought upon seeing that hole was "there's no way my butt will get through that hole!!", but it did, and I did.

From there we were in the most eerie cavern with ice formations dripping from the top and forming on the bottom of the cave. Huge formations!! From there there is a sort of trail that our guide had us follow into different caverns. Some areas required us to use ropes to pull ourselves up, and some areas required us to slide on our fannies down. It was absolutely the best!!

At one point our guide put out all our lights so we could see what real "pitch black" is. You couldn't see anything when he had us move our hands in front of our faces. Really, really, really dark!! We were actually in the caves for about 2 hours.

On the drive back we stopped at a fissure crater and took a walk around. We really enjoyed this day. Another real highlight of the trip.

We then returned to Husavik, had a nice fish dinner at one of the restaurants in town and retired for the evening.

The hotel was again having another Concert right below us, but, like the night before, it too was over at 11:00PM

Next.....Lake Myvatn area and Dettifoss
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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 06:41 AM
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Great report so far, dkw, thanks very much. I haven't read much about Iceland although I know people who've been just for a weekend - basically just Reykjavik & a bus tour to the Blue Lagoon. I've never heard of anyone driving themselves before, so good for you. It sounds like you had an amazing time.

Do you think it would still be interesting for those of us who are less fit than you and just wanted to look at stuff ?

Looking forward to more.
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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 11:13 AM
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Thanks Caroline,

We did have a wonderful time.


You asked:
>>>>Do you think it would still be interesting for those of us who are less fit than you and just wanted to look at stuff ? <<<

Absolutely!! The terrain is just beautiful. Waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, lava fields, geysers, rainbows....you never knew what would be around the corner. I would have considered it a cool trip if we had never gotten out of the car....the scenery was that amazing!! Unlike anywhere that we had ever been.

Hopefuly I will get back to the next installment tonite or tomorrow.
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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 01:53 PM
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Hi dkw,
I'm excited to be reading your trip report. My husband and I are planning to go next May (we too are from metro Detoit), and while we can only go for a week, I'm sure we'll get a lot of good tips.
Did you use a travel agent or tour operator, or did you plan it all yourself? We already know that we want to do a self-drive tour of the Reykjavik area and east towards Skaftafell, but aren't sure what (if any) tour operator we want to go with.
I'd appreciate any input that you have, and I look forward to reading the next installment of your trip!
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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 04:27 PM
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Hi Kmoehall,

Its funny...another poster who provided me with alot of good info before our trip was from Michigan as well. I wonder what the attraction to Iceland is for us Michiganders?

I planned our trip myself with information from here, TripAdvisor and other sites, and a couple of guidebooks. I found the Lonely Planet book to be the most complete.

I do think that the self-drive tour is the way to go. It can be easily planned on your own, taking your interests into account, rather than taking a planned self drive tour. I'd be happy to give you a hand in any way I can.

On to the next installment....


DKW
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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 05:11 PM
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Our next day was a driving day...destination Reydarfjordur!

We left Husavik in the early A.M. and drove on towards Lake Myvatn. We drove around the lake and then on to Namafjall. This is an area of major Geothermal activity with goo just bubbling up out of the ground. I had never seen such a thing. There is an area where you can walk right up to the mud pools and steam vents....just crazy!! The whole area smells of sulphur.

From there we drove on to Dettifoss, a HUGE waterfall. To get to Dettifoss you have to take a side road north off the ring road for about 45 minutes or so, but its well worth the detour. When you arrive at the falls there is a steep bunch of steps to climb down to get nearer to the falls. They are just awesome! They fall into the most beautiful gorge. The odd thing for us was that this is a major attraction in Iceland, yet there were no guard rails or rangers or anything to keep people form being stupid idiots! It seemed odd that you could literally walk right up to the edge. It could never be like that in the U.S.

The next part of our drive was by far the most eerie area of Iceland we encountered. It was an area called Jukuldafsheidi. This area was covered in 1875 by volcanic ash from an eruption of Mt. Askja. They area has been just destroyed by the ash. Nothing at all grows there. We found this segment of our drive to be mezmerizing. The road winds up and down hills and mountains in this totally barren area. Just weird!!

Further down the raod we started to see signs of life and vegitation and then we arrived in Egilsstadir. Egilsstadir is a pretty town on a very long lake. We stopped at the Esso station for a bite to eat (Hot Dogs, of course). It seemed that everyone in town was at this Esso station that Sunday afternoon.

After our pit stop we headed on to Reydarfjordur to the Fosshotel Reydarfjordur. We really liked this hotel. It was a newish, very clean hotel. The 2 member staff was very helpful and seemed to cover all the jobs at the hotel from front desk, to bartending to cooking and serving our meals. They were exceptionally pleasant.

There wasn't alot to see or do in Reydarfjordur, but we did take a short walk around town (in the rain) to stretch our legs after our lengthy drive.

The next morning we decided to deviate a bit from the ring road and drove along the sea on Road # 96. This was just spectacular! The Fjords we drove along were just gorgeous. The road was probably the most difficult road we encountered. It wound along the sides of the mountains along the fjords. A little bit scary (no guard rails!!).

We hooked back up with the ring road and continued on towards Hofn. We had been driving in cloudy, rainy weather and then a weird thing happened....as we were nearing Hofn there was a long tunnel through the last mountain we had to pass. As we left the tunnel we had the most amazing, sunny view of the Vatnajokull glacier. I likened it to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz stepping out of the house where everything turns to color.....again, just crazy!!! We met a couple the next day snowmobiling that had come through about the same time we did and they commented on the WOW factor as well.

We stopped off at the information center in Hofn to inquire about snowmobiling and then went on to Jokulsarlon, the Glacial Lagoon. We had the nicest day yet with beautiful sunny skies and about 65 deg F temps.

The glacial lagoon was just beautiful. We saw a seal right away. We had arrived just after several tour busses had so we had to wait about 1-1/2 hours before we could get on a tour boat. No problem, it was great just wandering around, climing the big hills and yes, wading in the glacial lagoon (my husband dared me!). It was cold!!!
The boat ride was great, the guide let us all try glacial ice. We got a bunch of fabulous photos that afternoon!

We then drove back to Hofn to check into our Hotel, the Fosshotel Vatnajokull. Our room here was nice and cozy...not small, but really comfortable. We expecially liked the staff here. The manager was very friendly. We enjoyed our conversations with her.

Next............Snowmobiling on Vatnajokull Glacier (in the rain)

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Old Aug 31st, 2005, 11:56 PM
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Thanks for your reply. dkw. This also sounds fantastic & Iceland is now definitely on my 'to do' list.

I know that food & especially drink is expensive there, but how did you find the hotels & car hire, pricewise ? Thanks.
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Old Sep 1st, 2005, 04:57 AM
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Awesome trip report! It both brings back memories and introduced me to new adventures at the same time!

I'm departing from Detroit Metro on September 13th. Can't wait! For me, the attraction to Iceland is the clean air. Michigan trees are lovely, but murder on the sinuses!

Kay
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Old Sep 1st, 2005, 03:49 PM
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Hi Again,

Caroline,
I'm glad to see that you've added Iceland to your list. It surpassed all my expectations!

Car rental and hotels are expensive also. We spent 828 USD on a rental car for 13 days. We drove a small Hyundai Getz. It is a small 4 door with a hatch in the back. A 4WD runs about 1700 USD. We never were in a situation where we really needed a 4WD. There were a few of the F roads which require a 4WD that looked interesting, but we kept plenty busy using just the regular roads. We rented thru AutoEurope. They are a broker, so the car we got was actually thru Avis. They do match prices so if you find something cheaper, just give them a call.

The hotels we selected were clean and comfortable, but by no means fancy. They ranged from between 250 USD and 300 USD per night and included breakfast. There are less expensive accomodations in hostels and on farms, but I really have no knowledge as to the types of facilities there.

Hi Kay.....I'm excited for you and your trip. Where do you plan on going?

I agree with your assessment of our trees and sinuses. I have had a nagging sinus headache since we returned.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2005, 05:16 AM
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Caroline,

My trip to Iceland last September was done on a very strict budget. We carried in all the food we were allowed to and stayed at hostels, which range from $20-$40 per night pp.

Check out this thread for more suggestions if you're on a budget:
Link: Fodors.com > Travel Talk > Europe > Any suggestions on eating "at" grocery stores and staying at youth hostels in Iceland?

Iceland is very expensive, but so worth it!

Kay
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Old Sep 2nd, 2005, 05:24 AM
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dkw,

This year I am spending one night in Reykjavik, then heading to Fljotsdalur Hostel (near Skogafoss). I'm dying to hike the trail above Skogafoss again, in clear weather this time...last year I did it in sideways rain.

Then I will return to Osar Hostel, (my favorite from last year) to spend a night or two.

We will spend the rest of the week driving in the Western Fjords which will be a new experience for me.

I, too, had a pounding sinus headache before I even made it home from DTW. I can't wait breathe that clean air again!

Kay
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Old Sep 5th, 2005, 01:44 AM
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Thanks for the extra info, dkw & kay. Hotels not too bad, then, compared with Italy which is where we go most frequently. Thanks also dkw for answering another question I hadn't even asked, but only thought of later, i.e. is a 4WD necessary.

Now then, where's the next instalment ?
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Old Sep 5th, 2005, 03:31 PM
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Here it is

The next day we wore up to misty rain, lots of clouds and about 50degF temps.

We drove about 1/2 hour to the stop off at the side of the road where you catch a ride to the mountain hut where the snowmobile and superjeep tours depart from. The ride up was a tad bit scary in my opinion. The road is a winding road literally on the side of the mountain. You could look out the window and see a drop of about a zillion feet below. The road is about 16KM and is all switchbacks. By the time we reached the mountain hut we were smack dab in the clouds. Visibility was about 10 ft. We paid for our tour at the hut and hopped in a super jeep to get to the snowmobiles. Our guide got our group situated on machines and we took off. It would have been great if we had the spectacular views, but it was still fun. We stopped at one point and the guide showed us some crevasses. After about an hour we got back in the jeep and returned to the hut. We had a bite at the restaurant and were returned back to our car by the jeep we rode up in.

From there we went back to our hotel, warmed up and dried off.

We went into the town of Hofn that afternoon to visit the glacier exibit and check out a couple of shops.

By the time we returned to our hotel, the weather had gotten even worse. The wind was whipping and the rain was falling sideways.

My husband decided that this was the night that he was going to have "Icelandic Happy Hour." This consists of a large beer, a shot of Brenvin (a caroway seed flavored schnapps) and putrid shark meat. The shark meat is soaked in some kind of nasty liquid and buried for at least 6 months. It is a supposed delicacy.....boy it stinks. He thought it was interesting and had quite a few pieces of the shark meat. I licked one piece and that was enough for me.

We had dinner in the hotel and turned in early.

The next day was a long but beautiful drive to Hella where we were to stay at the Hotel Ranga.

This drive took us through a variety of different types of terrain. We edged the Vatnajokull glacier for an hour or so, passed Skaftafell National Park (we will have to get there next trip) and came to the black sand glacial desert. This is a barren area where the glacial run off keeps anything from really growing there.

We stopped in another area where there were huge lava rocks completely covered by moss. To step on these rocks is like stepping on super new carpet with about a 2" thick pad underneath. We were both just fascinated with this area. It was lush and green (with moss) yet really rugged. My description doesn't do it justice.

We then came to Vik, where we stopped at the grocery to pick up picnic supplies and stop to check out the rock formations and the blackest beach I have ever seen.

From there we took a detour from the ring road to stop in Dryholey. This is a coastal area of cool rock formations, one where you can take a boat right through a huge hole in one of the rocks.

We then reached Skogafoss, one of the prettiest waterfalls in Iceland. You can climb about a zillion steps to the top of the waterfall, so we did. The more impressive view of the falls is however from the bottom. We then traveled on to the Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk behind the waterfall. Very cool!! I liked that one alot!

By late afternoon we arrived at the Hotel Ranga, just outside of Hella. We loved this place. It was the nicest of the hotels we had been to on this trip. It is built log-cabin style and has a great restaurant and bar. The locale is on a grassy flatland on the Ranga River with gorgeous mountains in the distance. Just beautiful.

We had a fabulous dinner in the restaurant, had a soak in the hot pot and retired for the evening.

next......Geysir, Gullfoss and the Kerid Crater
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Old Sep 5th, 2005, 09:33 PM
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Wonderful report dkw, thank you for posting.
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Old Sep 6th, 2005, 04:03 AM
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dkw,
I envy your adventurous tours...rain or not! The glacier tours sound a little frightening, it helps me understand Icelander's great respect for nature and the weather.

Keep up the good posts!
k.
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Old Sep 8th, 2005, 05:05 PM
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Thanks BabsB and Kay!

Kay... we are trying to do adventure type stuff while we still can. It's sure fun now, but in a few years I'm sure it will start getting painful

On with the report.......


We got up the next day and headed out to visit part of the Golden Circle. We started on to Geysir. At geysir we saw the geysir named Strokkur erupt a bunch of times and even saw the real Geysir erupt slightly. We had sunny weather at this point so we were able to get some nice pictures.

From there we drove on to Gullfoss...what a waterfall. We purchased some trinkets at the shop there and headed on down the road.

Our next stop was at the Kerid Crater. This was cool. It is a crater about 50ft deep with the most vibrant teal blue water at the bottom. There is a cool hiking trail all around the edge of the top and also a trail down around to the lake at the bottom. Much easier to get down than up Well worth a stop!!

From there we went into Selfoss to eat a late lunch and pick up some bread to make peanut butter sandwiches for dinner (to make up for the super expensive splurge dinner the night before). We passed through a blinding rainstorm on our way back to the hotel, but by the time we got there it was gone. This was by far the weirdest weather day. Sunny one minute and crazy rainy the next. We did get a nice shot of a rainbow in front of the mountains.

When we got back to the hotel we decided to hike up the River Ranga a bit. We talked to some fishermen and checked out their catch (2 large Atlantic Salmon). They told us that the River Ranga was one of the 2 best fishing rivers in Iceland. Their catch was impressive!!

We had our oh so fancy dinner in our room and settled in for the evening.

One interesting thing about this hotel was that we were told that the actors and crew from the new Clint Eastwood directed movie were to be staying there the next week. It is a war picture about Iwo-Jima. They are filming a good bit of it in the Icelandic countryside. Seems like an expensive place to film, but what do I know about moviemaking.

The next day we headed into Reykjavik for the remainder of our trip. We went to the Kringlan mall to try to find a couple more gifts for family at home, and also to add to our Hard Rock Cafe shot glass collection. Unfortunately, the Hard Rock Cafe was closed for renovations.

After shopping we went on to our Hotel to see if it was late enough to check in yet. We had reservations at the newly opened Hotel Centrum. We were able to check in immediately. We couldn't have been more pleased with our hotel choice. The location was right smak dab in the center of the city, the staff wonderful and accomodating and our room was spacious, clean and comfortable.

After settling in we wanted to go to the Hallgrimskirkja Church so my husband could take a panorama photo of the city. The views on this sunny day were spectacular!! (The resulting pamorama photo is just amazing!!)

We went to the "Ice Bar" which was a little disappointing. It is just a room with ice blocks stacked up around the walls (not even to the top in some places) a couple of blocks of ice to set our 1100ISK drinks on. We were there at the same time as couple from England and we ended up having a good laugh with them over the money we just foolishly spent to enter the "famed" Ice Bar. It was still kinda fun in a "cheesy" sorta way

We had dinner at the bar in our hotel (reasonable and good) and turned in.

Next......Menningarnott and the Blue Lagoon
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Old Sep 8th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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Hi all.
I'm dkw's husband. Had a ball in Iceland. I see my wife is almost done with the trip report. I'm glad.
Just so you know, I finished the photo project 5 days ago. Printed (at home, on my Epson printer), put in albums, captioned. 440 pix. I'm done.
To be fair, dkw did shoot 4 rolls in the film camera.
All we need now is for her to finish the trip report. She did have jury duty last week so we'll cut her a little slack.

Things I learned in Iceland:

It is normal for American gals to pronounce Icelandic words thusly: Hordeblubluvlu (could be any word beginning with an H and containing an R).

It Is Godawful Expensive.

It will rain or be beautiful every day, or both.

Putrid Shark has therapeutic value. Cures colds I'm told. I liked it, in a putrid sort of way.

Brenivin aka Black Death is very strong liquor. Think fermented, concentrated rye bread. Then times it by 10. Goes well with Putrid Shark.

You will never, ever decipher the Icelandic language.

The best lamb in the entire world is Icelandic lamb. No lie. Man it's good.

The Icelandic hot dog is among the best you will find. Good value too. I ate a bunch of em.

The whole 'Fire and Ice' thing- ice filled volcanic lava tubes pretty much sums up the concept.

Icelandic people are quite smart and very friendly.

Whale Watching Sucks.

No air conditioning required, ever.

Pickled herring for breakfast is the best.

8 dollar beers really do taste better.

People ride bicycles around the Ring Road, camping along the way. This is insane.

If the road sign says '4WD', don't take the rented Hyundai econobox down it. They mean it.

Some of the best photos I got in Iceland are, strangely enough, of ice.

among other stuff.
We recommend.
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Old Sep 9th, 2005, 09:05 AM
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dkw,

How lucky you are! Such an adventurous trip, great experiences and you got to share it with a husband with a great sense of humor!

I know what you mean about cramming in the adventures now...my knees are already starting to give out on me! (another Michigan curse...arthritis)

Kay
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