August 5, 2013 - August 19, 2013
We arrived at the airport just shortly after 12am. I was surprised by the amount of light still left in the northern sky. Without a motorcycle it felt strange, almost a little lonely. Rocky searched outside the airport for a place to pitch our tent but I had doubts that we'd be ok to camp on airport grounds. It seemed there was no place to hide, the land was flat and there were no trees in sight. Apparently, only 1.4% of Iceland has trees. Just outside of the parking lot exit was a small area of planted bushes. I'm not sure how Rocky managed to find the narrow path of patio stone that led him through the bushes and into an open area just large enough to fit our tent. It seemed kind of random, but I'm guessing that a patio was created with a bush garden around it and nobody ever trimmed the hedges. Regardless, it was a perfect hiding spot for our tent.
Early the next morning, we packed our bags and created a sign that read Keflavik. Rocky nominated me to hold the sign and stick out my thumb. Had I shaven, I may have stuck out my leg, but to my surprise, it only took 10 minutes before a man named Tomas picked us up. The town of Keflavik wasn't too far, it only took us a few minutes to get there. Tomas dropped us off on a main road in front of a Subway Sandwich Restaurant. Can anyone guess what we ate for lunch? At least we would begin searching for a cheaper way to eat, that sub cost almost twice the price we were accustomed to paying.
We knew we would be waiting at least five days for the bike and that kind of sucked. We chose the type of luggage we have because it is easy for the bike to carry, not us. It would be awkward and difficult to travel by foot and carry all of our belongings. Besides, I'm far too lazy for that. We decided to stay in Keflavik and work on trying to catch up on our website. Rocky found an open Internet connection at a library and we pitched our tent in the park across the street so that we would be able to keep an eye on our stuff as we sat inside. We just hoped that nobody would say anything about a tent being pitched in the center of town in a public park.
Our first night went well and we heard no complaints. We kept the tent pitched and walked across the road to the library in the morning. Still tired, I decided to take a walk to go search for coffee. I approached a man and asked him if he knew where I could find good cheap coffee. He laughed and replied, "Nothing is cheap in Iceland" and then continued walking. I approached the second man who walked past me, and again I asked if he knew where I could find good, cheap coffee. He laughed and replied, "My dear, nothing is cheap in Iceland". I became sad and slightly crazy with the thought that coffee in Iceland might be out of our budget. I continued walking up the road until I reached a restaurant. I asked the girl behind the counter how much for each cup of coffee and she replied, "They come free with a combo, just take some." Things might be expensive in Iceland but kindness makes up for it!
After another night in the park, I was shocked that nobody had asked us to leave. After all, we were visibly camping in the center of town. Once again we went to the library to work on our website. To my surprise, I could hear two ladies behind me speaking Portuguese. Maybe it was the familiarity that comforted me in this foreign land, but their words sounded like music to my ears. I immediately introduced myself to Angela and her mother Laura. They are originally from Angola in Africa and have been living in Iceland for many years. Angela was in the process of opening up a coffee shop in the area of the library we were sitting at. That excited me. I asked her if I could purchase two coffees and she made me two Cafe Lattes. When I asked her how much, she told me that she could not legally sell anything yet because she was supposed to receive her business license that day, but was having difficulties. She refused payment and seemed happy to give us complimentary coffee. But, we weren't the only ones to receive special treatment. As she cleaned and organized her shop, many customers asked to purchase coffee and she politely continued to serve it for free. Her kindness was not typical of a business owner but I believe that because of it she will be very successful.
After a few days, Angela hadn't got her license yet but continued to insist on giving us free coffee and food. She said it was because we were her first (none paying) customers and we were going through some troubles waiting for something important as well. She also told us, numerous times, that if we needed anything not to hesitate asking. I'm not sure she knew how kind she had already been. On the Friday of that week, she invited us to join her and her parents, Amandio and Laura, for dinner at her house. We left our belongings with the tent and went to her house. Dinner was delicious and the conversations were great. Amandio taught me a lot of history about the Portuguese people of Africa and the civil war that took place. It was history I was never aware of, interesting to know. I really enjoyed getting to know this family.
It was almost 10 pm when we had returned to our tent and our things had been left untouched. Never-mind, I take that back. As Rocky lay in the tent and gazed at the stars, he wondered why he was able to see the sky. There was a tare on the top of our tent. It was an odd location for the tent to be cut, unless it wasn't cut but torn instead. As I cleaned the area to attempt a patch job, I noticed a bit of dirt. I'm pretty sure that one of the many drunken kids roaming the street on that Friday night may have thrown a rock, which would cause the tent to rip. To make matters worse, we didn't have our patch kit with us, it was in the side bag of the motorcycle. I had no choice but to use what I had, to patch the tare. Electrical tape and bandages was going to have to do the trick. Luckily the rain wasn't much that night and we woke up dry.
The day before, we had been approached by a man who had introduced himself as Gylfi Jón. He is the director of education and works above the library, beside the Mayors office. Oh yeah, by the way, we were camped in front of the Mayors office all week. Hah! Anyway, Gylfi Jón invited us to have lunch with him and we were happy to join. We packed up all of our bags, because we no longer trusted leaving our belongings unattended, and we went to a place that Gylfi Jón called his Hut. Located on the southwestern coast of Iceland, the Hut is on farmland called Hafurbjarnarstadir. Good luck trying to pronounce that.
Gylfi Jón was a very polite character with a smile that suggested he was much funnier than he was reserved. He had a very gentle, calming effect, and he seemed really sincere. As he seasoned a plateful of lamb-chops and prepared some veggies, I got the impression that he was also a good cook. My thoughts were proven correct shortly after. I have never been a fan of lamb but it was absolutely delicious. Actually, those lamb-chops were the tastiest meat I have ever eaten.
After a full tummy, Gylfi Jón invited us to walk down to the shore and visit the lighthouse. The hut was surrounded by farmland occupied by gorgeous Icelandic horses. They appeared different from what I consider typical. Probably because the Icelandic horses remains a breed known for its purity of bloodline. It is the only horse breed present in Iceland because law prevents horses from being imported into the country, and exported animals are not allowed to return. Icelandic horses are short and stalky with beautiful wild manes. They display two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. Tölt, the first additional gait is known for its explosive acceleration and speed. It is a comfortable, ground-covering ride. The breed also performs a pace called askeiđ, flugskeiđ or "flying pace". It is used in pacing races, and is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). It is not a gait used for long-distance travel. I kept imagining that one of them would let me jump on their back and they would Tölt me around the country.
The ocean was approximately 200 meters from the Hut. We followed the shore, decorated with arctic flowers, until we got to the lighthouse, more than one kilometer away. We immediately fell in love with this place. When we returned to the Hut, Gylfi Jón invited us to stay there until we received our motorcycle. Rocky and I were ecstatic. It was great to have this cute wooden home all to ourselves. It was well equipped with everything we needed to feel comfortable, but the best thing it featured was the shower. Located on the outside of the hut, was a showerhead poking out of the wall. Gylfi Jón warned us that the area was popular for bird watchers with their fancy binoculars. But, I imagine that bird watchers deserve some sort of excitement in their lives as well. Once the fireplace was lit, I was ready to run out in the cold to test the waters. It already felt great to feel hot water splash all over me as the cool wind blew past, but, to experience this as fields of horses grazed and the sun set below the oceans horizon, was extraordinary. I can't describe a more peaceful moment in my life.
Gylfi Jón showed up the following day and invited us to visit a geothermal area located nearby. He brought with him his friend Baldur, and a five-year-old girl named Anna, who is his girlfriend’s daughter. We visited an area that I could best describe as burnt earth. Steam rose up from the cracks and water bubbled with heat. In Iceland, history is told with magical stories. An extremely large percentage of Icelanders believe in trolls, ferries, ghosts and other things alike. Gylfi Jón wasn't one of them but he was a great storyteller as he expressed all of the tales. We walked along high cliffs that met the oceans shore and as we walked through a field, Anna grabbed for my hand and gestured for me to sit with her. She showed me a patch of Cow Berries and began picking them to eat. We sat there for a while staining our lips and fingers. After a great day of site seeing, I was thrilled that we had the opportunity to wander even though we had no motorcycle. It was also nice to make new friends. When we arrived at the Hut, Baldur asked us for our permission to be interviewed. He is a journalist for the newspaper DV and wanted to post an article about us, our travels and our time in Iceland. We awkwardly agreed with blushed cheeks. After interviewing us, he also offered us a vehicle for the following day. It was a very kind gesture and we were obviously excited to be able to explore some of Iceland. Iceland has been on top of our list of places to see in the world. Being there, but immobile, was such a tease.
The next morning, we hitchhiked to the bus station and took a bus into Reykjavik. The whole country of Iceland is only made up of 318,000 people and 200,000 of them live in the capital city of Reykjavik. We met up with Baldur at his job and picked up the car for a road trip. We had been experiencing a lot of rain but that day had been perfect for us. It felt strange to be touring around in a car but there were a few conveniences I really liked. It was much warmer and it was great to be able to sit back comfortably.
Baldur recommended that we visit a popular tourist route in South Iceland called the Golden Circle. The area covers approximately 300 km looping from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. We first stopped at Ţingvellir National Park. Iceland is situated on the Eurasian and North-American plate boundaries and the Ţingvellir area is part of a fissure zone that runs through the country. Both continents are gradually moving apart from each other by an average of 3 mm each year and the cracks or faults, which traverse the region, can be clearly seen. From there we visited the geothermal active valley of Haukadalur. It is home to the geysers Strokkur and Geysir. Strokkur continues to erupt every 5-10 minutes and although Geysir has been inactive for a long time, its name has continued to be used to describe such a fairly rare phenomenon. Our last stop was to visit the waterfall, Gullfoss, meaning golden falls. It was large, powerful and absolutely gorgeous.
The day was almost over and we were about to drive to Baldur's house to drop off the car. But first, it would make perfect sense for us to offer a couple of hitchhikers a ride since we've hitched a few rides ourselves. Andreas and Melanie were heading in the same direction about half of an hour away. They were from Bavaria in Germany and were traveling through Iceland for a few weeks. Many people hitchhike in Iceland, it is very common. On route to driving them to there next location, we continued to enjoy the scenery of Iceland's fantastic landscapes.
When we arrived in Reykjavik, Baldur invited us into his home for dinner. He lived with his girlfriend Hulda and young son Emil and they spoiled us with a delicious, fresh Cod fish dinner. Yummy!!! Cod is my favorite cooked fish! After constantly meeting so many amazing strangers along our journey, people's kind and friendly nature continues across the world. Baldur and his family treated us as though we were lifelong friends and that is what we will continue to be. We were very fortunate to have met such caring people.
We spent another cozy night at the Hut, and the following day we finally received an email from Iceland Air Cargo. But, the news wasn't good. Our motorcycle was stuck in customs and would not be shipped until at least the following week. Kindly, Gylfi Jón welcomed us to stay at the Hut until the motorcycle arrived. For the next few days, Rocky and I would walk through the fields of horses to get to the lighthouse. Rain or shine, and it was mostly rain, we enjoyed the fresh air and the beauty that surrounded us. We really grew attached to theses beautiful creatures. A group of seven females lived directly beside the Hut. After spending many days with them it became natural to have names for each one. Eh was a black horse with a crimped mane, she got her name from the letters EH bleached onto her coat. I want to take her back to Canada, EH! Blackie, Brownie, Blondie where named after their colours. Blondie was Rocky's favourite, she was a great model for his photo sessions. I was happy that she stole the Paparazzi attention off of me. Little one was the smallest, I'm pretty sure that she was still a pony. Timid was the only one that didn't fully trust us. She could barely be bribed with food. Jerry was named Jerry because we didn't know what to name her. Everyday rewarded us with a sense of fulfillment as we were greeted by our new friends. This place was magical.
Throughout the week, Gylfi Jón would stop by to visit. Each time, he would surprise us with a delicious treat. First he brought us "hangikjöt" (smoked lamb cold-cut) on "flatbrauđ" (thin rye flatbread) a traditional Icelandic treat. A couple of days later, he came by with Sole filets. A couple of days after that, he brought us Salmon. He even took us to meet his mom, Guđrún at her house to drop off our laundry. She was as kind and nurturing as he was. I was beginning to wish that Gylfi Jón would just adopt us and we could live at the Hut forever. He is one of the kindest men I have ever met.
By the end of the week, we finally received news that our motorcycle was ready to be picked up. Rocky and I hitched a ride to the airport and waited politely for our documents to be accepted. We walked over to the docking station and the cargo employees all circled around as the crate was delivered to us. It turns out that they had read the article about us in the DV newspaper, and were excited for us as well. After assembling the bike, we finally had the chance to introduce her to this beautiful land. For the first time after being in Iceland for two weeks, I realized how cold it was. My chin froze numb as we rode back to the hut for our last night there.
Usually, to be stranded somewhere would imply a negative experience. In our case, being stranded was awesome. A part of me was excited that the motorcycle finally arrived. But, I knew that I would deeply miss the little Hut by the sea.
On our flight to Iceland on Monday, we flew over Greenland and got a great view of massive glaciers and icebergs.
Our flight to Iceland arrived just before midnight on Monday. We camped out at the airport that night and the next day we decided to head to the nearby town of Keflaviík. There was no local bus service and we didn't want to spend $20 on a 4km cab ride, so we (I) decided to have Paula hitchhike. I knew that having her (instead of myself) standing there with her thumb out would drastically increase our odds of getting a ride. It took less than 10 minutes for someone to stop.
We had been camping in the town of Keflavík, in the park across the street from the public library, waiting for the motorcycle to arrive from New York. To get out of the rain, we spent the days sitting in the library, using the internet and working on the blog. On our second day there, Paula heard the familiar sound of someone speaking Portuguese, and introduced herself to the woman who was opening a coffee shop in the library. Angela was her name, and she had lived in Iceland for almost 20 years. She was setting up her new business of selling coffee and treats. Like us, Angela was also having trouble with getting her paperwork processed, so she was unable to legally sell anything. For the remainder of the week, she offered us and everyone who came into the library free food and coffee.
On the Friday, four days after arriving in Icleand, Angela invited Pala and I back to her home for a wonderful dinner and a nice, hot shower. There, we met her mother, Laura, and her, father, Amandio.
While hanging out in Keflavík Library that first week, we also met a man named Gylfi Jón. Gylfi Jón was the director of education in the area of Reykjanesbćr. Gylfi Jón approached us at the end of the week while we were sitting in the library, and invited us out to his "hut" the following day for lunch. Gylfi Jón picked us up in front of the library the next day and cooked us a delicious dinner of lamb chops and potatoes. He also offered us a place to stay at his hut, which is a small cottage next to the ocean, complete with electricity, a fridge, a stove, a bbq, hot water, a wood fireplace and the best outdoor shower we have ever seen.
Gylfi Jón & Paula
The Hut By The Sea
Rock carvings done by a local artist
The area in which Gylfi Jón's hut is located, called Hafurbjarnarstadir, is home to many Icelandic horses roaming and grazing in the fields.
Feeding The Horses
Paula At The Beach
The following day Gylfi Jón, his firend, Baldur and his girlfriend's daughter, Anna ,arrived at the hut to take Paula and I to do some sightseeing in an area along the southwestern shore of Iceland.
Gylfi Jón & Paula in Southwestern Iceland
The Geothermal Area In Reykjanesbćr
Anna & Paula picked wild berries growing in the area.
While visiting the area, Baldur asked many questions about our travels. Baldur was a journalist for a popular newspaper in Iceland, The DV. After returning to the hut, Baldur conducted a formal, recorded interview, which was rather awkward for Paula and I. Baldur planned to submit a story about us for the following week's paper.
The shower at Gylfi Jón's hut was on the outside of the building. The combination of the hot water, cool breeze and the view of the sunset over the ocean and the Icelandic horses in the fields is why Paula and I have deemed it the greatest shower on Earth.
After conducting the interview, Baldur offered Paula and I the use of one of his vehicles. Since we were stranded waiting for the motorcycle, Baldur suggested that we take his car for the day and drive around The Golden Circle to see some of the beautiful nature that Iceland has to offer.
Paula In Iceland
We visited Ţingvellir National Park, which is just outside of the capital city of Reykjavík.
Paula At Ţingvellir National Park
The Mountains of Iceland
We also visited Geysir, an active geothermal area in central Iceland.
Paula At Geysir
The Beauty of Iceland
Paula & I At Gullfoss
After spending a full day of sightseeing, dropped off the car off at Baldur's house. When we arrived, Baldur and his wife, Hulda, cooked us a delicious supper of cod fish with mashed potatoes, traditional Icelandic rye bread, cucumber salad and beer. Baldur and Hulda lived with their 3-year old son, Emil, in a suburb of Reykjavík.
Paula and I met Gylfi Jón's mother, Guđrún, who offered to wash and dry our dirty laundry. We were very grateful to her since we had run out of clean clothes and Iceland doesn't seem to have any laundromats.
With the hopes of receiving the motorcycle this weekend in Iceland, we said goodbye to Gylf Jón, who will be gone on a fishing trip for the next four days. After he left, Paula and I enjoyed the delicious salmon he brought us. We had it raw, with some soy sause, wasabi and pickled ginger.
Along with the horses, there was also a little bunny that called this beautiful place home.
The Horses of Iceland
On our second Saturday in Iceland, Paula and I walked to the grocery store and picked up the paper to find a two-page article about us.
The Article In The DV
After two weeks of waiting, the motorcycle had finally arrived in Iceland. Paula and I hitchhiked to the airport where we finally received and reassembled the bike.
The Greatest Shower On Earth
Though happy to finally have our motorcycle back, we were saddened to have to leave this magical place that we called home for our first two weeks in Iceland.
We spent our last night in the hut and, the following day, packed up out belongings onto the motorcycle and were on our way.