The loop comes full circle...

Trip Start Aug 30, 2007
Trip End Sep 30, 2007

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Flag of Iceland  ,
Saturday, September 22, 2007

You might be wondering what this couchsurfing is all about?  Well very simply it's a cheap way to travel while at the same time meeting and staying in the homes of locals.  The network is and there are people on it from all over the world offering their couch (or coffee or info) to travelers.  We found it because hotels are so expensive in Iceland that we searched the Internet and there was this site.  Although it's international in scope, it was created by a traveler to Iceland for the same reason we needed it.  You enter all sorts of info about yourself and offer up your couch and then are able to see what you can hook into.  To me it's far preferable to a hotel, not only due to price but it actually gets you into the homes of people - you meet them by living with them and it's hard to get that kind of access otherwise.  So I'd recommend the site to all of you.  You need to be a bit flexible - accommodations and people vary, of course - but the rewards are well worth it.   We stayed with Bjarni in Akureyri and Setta in Reykjavik and had wonderful experiences in both places. 
It's our last day with the rental car today.  We pull a marathon tourist day, driving about 5 hrs to get to what is called 'The Golden Circle". It's the area that most tourists to Iceland visit.  It's not far out of Reykjavik and there are some beautiful sights...At first I was skeptical since it's the most publicized area to tour, but in actuality the sights are quite amazing.  After some more back country roads (still trying to find that elusive 'short cut'), we get to Pingvallavatn, the site of the old's where lots of history took place, like should the Pagans turn to Christianity?, for example...  There's a beautiful lake there (the vatn part of the name) - again right along the fault line so it's a hot spot, and as always, a gorgeous waterfall, and -my favorite - another geothermal plant, Nesjavellir..  We drive up amidst all the spewing steam and mineral rich waters and even though it's late Friday afternoon, I'm hoping to get a tour.  But it turns out there's an unruly group of middle-schoolers there so the guide is busy.  She asks us to take OURSELVES on a tour around the plant.  Remember what I said about access?  How security is just not as pervasive around here.  Here is this power plant that provides energy for most of the people in the country and we're strolling around on our own.  And I take more pictures than I really need to because I shocked that I even can.  All the system plans are laid out for any visitor to see on big posters...I even take a few photos of the diagrams hanging on the walls mostly because no one is stopping me.  I scan the very  prominent visitor book which has huge glossy photos of all these world leaders visiting the plant, but someone's missing?  The only ones there from the US are Yoko Ono and her son Julian Lennon.  Somehow I feel represented even though they're not even from the US. 
So after Pingvallavatn, we cruise over to Geysir and Gulfoss.  I've included some video clips I took with my camera so you can feel like you were there.  I could watch Geysir erupt over and over again and not get bored.  In fact I've played this video for myself probably a bit excessively.   Actually it's the geyser Strokka - Geysir doesn't erupt as often so Strokka is the star of this show.  Every 4 minutes or so.   It rumbles and gurgles just like your stomach does when you're nauseous...  getting more expressive as the minutes pass until suddenly - big belch, it all comes up, way in the air and we all feel better....I can actually feel it in my stomach...very visceral experience.  And once again, you can get right on top of the thing.  No security measures separating you from the action.  Same is true with Gulfoss.  It's this magnificent waterfall that has two sets of falls.  You can watch the video clip to hear the wind and water.  And you can walk right out to the edge.  Now if you've gone to Niagara Falls, you know that there are walkways and railings and millions of people and you can only get so close to the falls.  You jump over the railing onto the grass that leads to the falls and security is on you in an instant.  But here, with a falls that's every bit as magnificent as Niagara, there are no railings.  Just this little cord that has actually fallen down for much of it's length.  The rocks lead right out to the waterfall, there are no crowds, no security, and once again the wind is howling....check out the videos, they don't do it justice but its all you got. 
Before heading to Reykjavik, we stop at this place called Solheimar. This, Sue M., is your social experiment  playing as reality.   It's an intentional eco-community of about 100 or so with half the residents being mentally or physically challenged.  It's a very beautiful community- the houses are nestled in more vegetation than I've seen anywhere else in the countryside.  There are all the facilities one might desire for a high quality life - a well equipped art studio, a gym, greenhouse, hot tub/pool and a big glassed in dining building.  There are even some huge xylophones made of tree trunks hanging in the yard which are irresistible, so we don't.   I think I need some in my own backyard.   We walk through one building cause there's a party going on and people are eating and some are dancing and it's clear that most of these folks are differently-abled and they're having a great time.  I feel welcomed, we stay for a bit and then move on to check out the rest of the place and find the SEEDS volunteers that are working here for their project.  I wish I had more time to spend in this place - it's intriguing, this picture of alternative community with its unique diversity - this is a place to visit and learn from.
We're back in Reykjavik at the end of a week or so of looping around the country.  I feel like I've gotten a really good  feel for this place, I've been to the key places - except for Snaefellsnes,  got to get there - just need a sunny day with no wind...simple but not always easy to come by in this land.
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