Monday, 29 August 2016

August 22 - Flights home

We got up and packed and cleaned up the little cabin. Check out time was 10am and we left at the last moment.  We took our car back to Ace Rentals and had no concerns. Originally they had charged me more than the original expedia agreement stated, after a few emails they agreed to refund one days rental fee. This will bring the price with a couple dollars of the agreement. I am okay with this. They indicate this refund will be processed in a few days.

We walked to the airport pulling our luggage with us (10 min) and found the tax refund counter quickly and Macayle filled in her form and received her tax money back. This tax return is for items over 5,000isk and not for cumulative items.

We found the WowAir check in process. You even check your own bags and place them on the baggage rack where the bag is weighed and measured. You scan you baggage tag and boarding pass, answer some basic questions on a computer screen  and proceed to security. When we got to the airport it wasn't busy but that changed very quickly.

The security at Keflavik Airport is very efficient and designed to keep people moving. The baskets in which you place your carry on items in security area is on a conveyor belt so you have to put your items in quickly and move along with your bag.

Given the efficiency of the process to get through security, I was disappoint on the other side. The airport has extensive advertising about their duty free shop and that Icelanders shop at the airport because it was cheaper -items could be 50% cheaper than in town. We did not find this was accurate. Gift items were cheaper than purchasing them at Harpa Concert hall gift shop, but not as cheap as if you purchased them at a shop across from Harpa.

After lunch we found our flight gate and settled against the wall to wait. Each gate area has a limited amount of seats - I'm guessing less than forty. People were sitting on stairs, window ledges, the escalator that wasn't working and all over the floors. On the departure board we say our flight had been delayed from 3:20 to 4:00pm. We settled in and played several more card games until Macayle noticed a lineup was beginning at our departure gate. We checked the departure board again and noted it was marked 'boarding'. In discussions with others in the line we are sure no announcement had been made. While the line was moving, the board changed to 'final boarding '. Several busses transported the passengers from the boarding gate to the plane out on the runway. Our departure time was 4pm.

As our flight to Iceland, returning home was the same no frills flight. I had a coffee and Macayle had a tea - my credit card statement shows this purchase was $7.97can.

The seats are comfortable with lots of underseat storage and ample storage above. We flew over Greenland and had some amazing views of glaciers and frozen land

In Toronto we had to transfer to West Jet. I had hoped a 2 hr. 15min between flights was sufficient even if we had a short delay ---- but I had forgotten that we had to get our luggage and redo the check in process with Westjet.  Macayle felt she could navigate the Calgary airport onto Saskatoon on her own if necessary ....... but I had forgotten about customs.

The Toronto Airport was jammed. The line stopped in the hallway off the plane. The stewardess and pilot were traversing the crowd and were managing to move forward - they were discussing what the problem was - as they were inching forward we began following them. We eventually got near to the front of the line. Security were stopping people from taking the elevators and escalators to the customs area because it was so packed - but someone announced that those with connecting flights were to come forward.  Unfortunately people did not seem eager for us to pass by them, even when I said we have connecting flights.  Eventually we made it to the escalator and down to the customs area. There was at least 40 lines and the grid snaking people through looked never-ending.  I spoke to someone in a airport uniform and said we have connecting flights - he directed us to a specific line where there was only about 40 people ahead of us. Luckily, many of the people were groups of families so the line when quite quickly.

We made it to the baggage area just as my bag came down. Macayle's followed in what seemed hours but was really minutes. Only one other person from our flight and the stewardess' were there. We then had the challenge of getting to Westjets check in counter. Westjet counter is the farthest away! Macayle began the computer process while I look for documents and we speedily made it through.....then the security process.

The line through security was extremely long. It snaked out of the security area, between the airline checkin area and curved down the hall. I went to the front and spoke to a official and said we gave connecting flights we have to get on. He said get to the back of the line. As we started back, a gap in the line appeared while one famity were rearranging their luggage.  We quickly filled the gap☺. When we did get to the roped in area a staff called for anyone travelling to Calgary on Westjet to move forward and we were taken to the front of the line. We breezed through security with only a quick look through Macayle's stuff. It appeared her Skip-bo cards showed up as a block.

We were told to hurry and not take a break. We hunted for our gate and stopped at a Westjet counter - we were told to go down two flights, follow a hallway and then come back up two flights and to hurry.  We ran - yes! I found out I can run. When we arrived at our gate they were boarding. An announcement was made that they we waiting a few minutes for a couple more passengers before they close the doors. The passengers didn't make it and we few with a half full plane. The Westjet crew were talking about the gridlock - they had never seen such congestion.  It was noted that today was the Olympics last day and perhaps that contributed - however we experienced congestion on both sides- arrivals and departures. Our transfer at Calgary was simple and we arrived in Saskatoon at 12:30 am.

A few thoughts on Iceland.  The little bit of Iceland that we saw was beautiful. I loved the moss covered lava rocks with the mountain backdrop. It felt very safe. Driving in iceland was easy even though they don't use yellow lines and have roundabouts. The road conditions on the pavement and gravel were much better than in Saskatchewan. We didn't travel in any remote areas.

We didn't get to spend much time with the Icelandic people beyond some small purchases. Our Airb&b host was lovely and quick to assist us any way we needed, we had a lot of privacy in our location.

I would certainly go back to iceland if the opportunity arises. I've attached a couple more pictures that I don't think I've included before.

Monday, 22 August 2016

August 20-21 - last two days in Iceland before we leave

We were exhausted and needed some down time given all the walking we had been doing. On Saturday we slept in and when we woke we played cards and more cards.

We eventually went for a drive,, bought some groceries and gas. We had a late lunch at KFC. On the way back we found a nice little community park and walked around.
In the evening we went Pokémon hunting and then watched more Netflix. Saturday was the first day it didn't rain.

Sunday morning we got up early, as we have a trail ride scheduled with The Laxnes Family Farm. We arrived there on time and soon were suited up in rain gear, mitts and riding hat. Icelandic horses are much smaller than other horses. The importing of horses to Iceland is prohibited and exported horses are not allowed to return. This helps keep the breed pure. The Icelandic horses have two more gaits which most horses do not. Besides walking, trotting and canter. Icelandic horses also have the gaits 'flying pace' and the 'tölt'.

Macayle got a horse called Pinocchio; my horse was called Benjamin. The shorter stature of the horse made it much easier to get on.  The saddle doesn't have a horn on it. The saddles used are called D&P saddles (dig and pinch). There was over 30 people on the ride and 6 guides. The ride was almost 2 hours.  At the half way mark we had a bit of a rest and the group split into two - those who wished to go fast and those who wished to go slow. We decided to remain with the slow group.

Even though it was raining or misting the whole ride it was still an enjoyable time.

Once we returned we went for supper at a cute restaurant just a block from our place. Macayle had a hamburger and fries and said it might have been the best hamburger she had ever had. I had a steak and fries, also very good. We also had dessert. Macayle had a sorbet that was in a parfait glass - three flavors,  lemon, peach and strawberry.  I think she was very hungry. The menu at restaurant didn't have a lot of choices but had good food. Macayle and I noticed many meals being served had baked potatoes - this meant they were having either horse, whale or lamb. For some reason we felt it was better to believe everyone was eating lamb. (Definitely a culture thing) After supper we walked around the community playing Pokémon.

Tomorrow we are leaving 😟

Friday, 19 August 2016

August 19 -Puffin watching

Today we have a Puffin Tour arranged.  We were scheduled to leave the old harbour at 12:30, so we decided to return to the area to do some more shopping.  Macayle had seen some items on our first day that she wants to purchase. We were hoping to find the items at a cheaper price throughout the week but the prices were pretty well consistent wherever we went. Cheapest t-shirts were 3,000isk ($30.00). Nothing was inexpensive. A package of 3 disposable razors was 2,700isk. Parking on the street is 250isk per hour (no discount for a full day).

Unfortunately, we couldn't find the same stores from before, but some similar ones and found a parking spot that we could shop and walk to the old harbour. Macayle made her purchases and we walked to the harbour. Right by the harbour we saw another hot dog stand - as we had seen a previous day, the lineup was incredibly long, so we didn't join in.

The walk was longer than I thought. The walking we have been doing has finally worn me out. My feet are very sore.

We saw jelly fish swimming in the habour. We found our location and  began our Puffin tour. The boat is quite small given all the tourists and there is not enough seating room for everyone. Luckily I was able to get a spot on the bench.

We cruised around two islands and saw several puffins from a distance. Because of low tide we were unable to get as close to the islands as the captain wanted. Most of the puffins we saw were swimming in the water or flying low over the water. I had hoped we would be able to get much closer.

After the tour and our long walk back to the car we made our way to the thermal beach just outside of Reykjavik, Nauthólsvik. After several missed turns we found it - and it's closed. Apparently as of August 15th, the swimming area is on winter hours and only open between 11am and 1pm, with extended hours Monday, Wednesday and Saturdays.  Today is Friday. It is a totally man-made beach with the sand hauled in, but they pump hotspring water into the ocean allowing a person to swim north of 66°. As well they have two hottub (hotpot) areas to sit in.

Today was one of our shortest days and we still walked nearly 9,000 steps- accordingly to Fitbit and S-health. We are both ready for a resting day.

August 18 - þingvellir

Yesterday was a long day with long walks; today promises to be the same. Our first stop is þhingvellir a Unesco heritage site. Þhingvellir was the original site for Iceland's first parliament in 930, called the Althing. Parliament continued to be held here into the late 1700's. To celebrate the history of the area regular events continue to occur in this area. Although this is a heritage site there is still a church that is operating and this is a common site for  weddings.

The EurAsian and North American plate divide (or meeting of the plates) is obvious through the cliffs, fissures and crevices.

Parliament also functioned as a court. Men were either beheaded or hung. Women were drown by putting them in a sack and holding the sack underwater.

The park was very beautiful and several different walks were laid out. We took the walk that was about 2 hours. Several scenes from The Game of Thrones was filmed in this park.

We then went on to Geysir which was just a short distance down the road.  We stopped at the Geysir called Stokkur.  We didn't walk to the further geysers as the activity is very sporadic, if at all. The Stokkur geysir erupts every few minutes, between 6 and 10 minutes. We were lucky to see a rare double eruption.

We then travelled on to Gulfoss. This is Icelands most viewed tourist attraction.  The water flows down a curved three-step staircase and then plunges down in two stages (11m and 21m). The crevice it flows into is 33m deep and 20m wide. Gulfoss is also known for the rainbows it produces. In the short time we were there we saw several rainbows.

We looked at it from the top view point and then from a lower level and began our drive home. Iceland is very beautiful country with so many diverse geological wonders within a short distance drive.

Tomorrow a Puffin tour.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

August 17 - Vik and waterfalls

We started out our day at 10:30 am. Temp. 14° and rainy.  Since we've been here in Iceland the temperature has been consistent, between 12° and 16°. Rainy, windy, blue sky's,  stormy sky's and sun. A saying in Iceland is "you don't like the weather? Wait five minutes!". It appears the weather changes consistently, but the temperature  (at least at this time of year) remains within a few degrees. At night time the temperature drops to about 10°.

We were heading to Vik on the south coast today with the hope of finding some waterfalls and the black beach. We were not finding the signage the most user friendly. Macayle is getting much better at her mapping skills but the language is a bit tough to figure out.  Very quickly we ended up on the right road and end up in some very high mountains. Some mountains have snow on them. We are still traveling in the moss covered lava rocks.
Our first stop was at Seljalandsfoss, we could see the falls from the road and turned in. The walk to the waterfall was quite short but the closer we got the more we could feel the mist. This waterfall drops 63 meters.

The real treat of this waterfall was the path that goes completely behind the falls and out the other side. There was less mist behind the falls than closer to the front.

Just down a short path was a couple more small waterfalls, caves and then the "hidden" waterfall.

The hidden waterfall, Gljufrabül, couldn't be seen from the road and even when close the full impact wasn't noticeable.  To see the whole waterfall it was necessary to walk in the riverbed through a crevice in the rock.

We Then travelled on to Skógafoss. This was a much wider waterfall and the draw here was, the opportunity to walk to the top of the falls. Skógafoss is 15 meters wide and 62 meters high.The advantage of traveling with a 12 yr old is she wants to experience everything - so we walked to the top and back down.

The view from the bottom of the waterfall.

 We then continued our drive towards Vik to reach Reynisfjara beach. This beach was a specific destination that Macayle had wanted to see, in particular for the black sands beach. The beach and view was breath taking.  The black sands were very corse and in some areas it was more tiny pebbles than sand and other areas deep areas of smooth rocks.
I found the basalt formations and huge cave particularly interesting.

To add to the already amazing view point, there are magnificent spikes of rock rising to 66 meters out of the sea.
At the other end of the beach just as spectacular views were present. While we there a wedding party was being photographed. This area is a puffin nesting ground but we weren't fortunate enough to see any.  Puffins usually leave land and go out to sea mid-August.

After we left the beach we went to Vik for lunch. 1,990isk ($20cad) for a small order of fish and chips at a 'order at the window' grill. On our way home we saw some interesting cabins and some small geothermal areas.

We spent the evening playing cards and watching Netflix. Tomorrow we are going ton þingvallavatn Provincial Park.