Day Five: From the Fjords to The Highlands of Iceland

Twice during this trip we have had the opportunity to drive on what Icelanders call “F Roads”. Basically they are rutted dirt roads that lead you places up in the highlands. These are the back roads to places most tourists dare not tread in their little rented Suzukis. When there are signs that say, ” Caution 4WD vehicles only, the road may open up unpredictability”, you think twice about the clause in your contract that states: “you are responsible for damages exceeding $3,000”.

Today we left the Fjords after a lovely two days of hiking out to the towering sea cliffs, up to waterfalls plummeting down out to the mountain canyons and walking along black sand beaches. Our next destination was the only road on the west side of the island that you can access the Highlands on.

Along the way we stopped at the town of Reyholt. This was a geothermal active area where the water coming out of the ground is a boiling 100 Celsius. From this town the only road leading into the highlands cuts off on a windy trek into the lush green mountainous regions. Of course it is dotted with farms with their pristine white houses with red roofs, horses, cows and goats. This also leads into the center of the island and its volcanic beginnings.

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Our destination was a series of waterfalls (no, not just another waterfall) that percolate up from under the lava fields and cascade over the cliffs at lands end into azure blue glacier waters. This raging glacier river has cut deep into the lava and created a bubbling, churning madness that only nature can create. As this fury exits the canyon, the calm cascades of the waterfalls seeping from deep under the earth create another dimension, transforming this torrent into a more peaceful encounter.

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At the end of this road was our final destination for this incredible day. We found our spot in the campground and settled in for the night. Took a dip in the geothermal pool and called it a night.

Two more days and we fly back across the ocean and get back to our normal lives with the memories of this incredibly awe inspiring chunk of volcanic rock called Iceland.

Day Four: Iceland The West Fjords

We woke today to rain… imagine that. We parked our camper van in a field at the campground in Vik, that was already saturated when we arrived. Overnight, however, more campers arrived and have turned the field into a soupy mess. We are planning our exit strategy so we don’t end up axles buried in mud. If and when we get out of here we are heading north west, back along the Ring Road to the beautiful West Fjords.

 

We planned on stopping back at Ku Ku Campers and seeing if they had a mobile WIFI available, since they were out when we left and I have a perpetual headache from trying to read the maps, yes plural. After driving through Reykjavik and getting horribly lost, we went into the gas station we knew had free wifi and googled directions. We were in luck and picked up the small device and we were PLUGGED IN!

So the biggest problem with driving through Iceland is the beauty. OK… beauty is a problem? Oh yes… There are so many waterfalls, cliffs and quaint little homes built right into the sides of mountains with dirt and grass covering the roofs. There are rock formations, crashing waves, black sand beaches and bird colonies. The thing that has struck us the most is the cleanliness. The roads are beautifully paved, although quite narrow. The little towns have horse farms, fluffy lambs and each home has its own waterfall. The mountains bleed waterfalls.

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We took out time and enjoyed little unplanned stop-offs. We drove through a three km tunnel under the ocean and onto an island. We had Siri telling us the way (ok Garmin) as we entered each little town and crossroad. The immensity of this little island just can’t be understood until you are actually exploring her byways.

We arrived at camp pretty late and settled in. The rain had finally let up and we saw blue sky. We had one of those fire logs and lit it and pretended we were having a fire. Then off to bed.

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Day Three: Iceland Waterfalls and Black Sand

I know I have written about this from my research. I am here to tell you that “Book learning” and actually experience are two entirely different things. Yes the professional photos are incredible. In reality the sheer magnitude of the water plunging over these sheer cliffs and thundering through the air to wildly explode on the rocks and rivers below… well just amazing. In reality it rains here, there are crowds of tourists, but even in between rain drops, and waves of people, you can still get the place to yourself.

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We drove about 90 km yesterday and after while you just stop pointing out the waterfalls. There were waterfalls that meandered down the side of huge black and lush green cliffs that jutted straight up out of the earth. There were house built right at the base of pristine waterfalls. There’s were rivers of waterfalls cascading in zig-zags, waterfalls that appeared from nowhere through old lava tubes. The water seems to enhance the primal essence of Iceland.

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The southernmost point on Iceland is Vik. Vik is the meeting point of oceans. The Arctic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The black sand beach, crashing waves and basalt cliffs are unworldly. This is the rainiest part of the island… hard to fathom since it’s been raining no stop since we have been here. The rain comes in waves. The heavy clouds hang around the mountain tops like ghostly apparitions. The green moss, ferns and grasses flourish, clinging to the black behemoths.

Iceland is beautiful beyond words… and we’ve only covered one quarter of this island.

Day Two Iceland: Doing Things the Old Fashion Way

Eight am… two am… I tell my brain it’s eight, my body and brain argue with me for half the day then finally my stomach settles and my brain clears itself of the jet lag fog.


Chris and I desire to head to two tourist spots today. This is totally out of sorts for us. We visited a place that two continental plates come together. Iceland experiences 100 tremors a day… maybe that’s why I feel sea sick? This was the place of the first parliament in 930 AD. There was a cool waterfall and a huge lake. If the wind and rain weren’t so bad we might have been able to see the immensity of this lake.


We took our time on back roads to avoid the huge tourist buses. Off to Gullfoss and the most visited waterfall in Iceland. It is an experience that slowly unfolds itself. Now me, I love geology and the history of the earth. It amazes me that a glacier can melt into a river… that river carves away through the earth to expose, on this island, thousands of years of geological evolution. Unlike home where we have ancient bones, this island is relatively new in geological terms… and still evolving.

Here-in lies the fun part of the day. Twenty five years ago, Chris and I took off and drove 27,000 miles, covering 22 states all using old fashion maps. Today we can use Google Maps, the Internet and Garmin to get where we need to go. That’s all good… IF you know where you are going. On this island, you can’t pronounce a single towns name. We have bought three maps and books because we were not able to rent a mobile wifi for our camper van. We are totally disconnected in a day and age were we “google” everything. We have to read about the island and try to find the points that go un-touristy. We do have a Garmin. She, however, always seems to give us the choice of two routes. Hello… if you don’t know where you’re going… how can you decide?

 

Long Days and Traveling: 36 Hours of FUN…

If I was to describe traveling across the ocean, the first word that comes to mind is boring. You’re excited to get to your destination. You’re longing to discover new things. You’re destined to sit in a small seat on an airplane for hours on end, moving from side to side trying to grab a few hours of stolen bedtime back.

Arriving, you muster up whatever energy you have left, not like you’ve expended much in a 27″ x 32″ seat, to pull down your carry on and wind your way through a sea of dazed travelers. You try to decipher to signage to customs… mainly which line you are supposed to go in, hope the agent can read your chicken scratch, grab your bags and make your way out onto the city street to a mob of taxi drivers and tour companies, all vying for your business.

Tired and wanting to sleep, you must stay awake to acclimate to your new world and time zone. Flung 6 hours ahead and into another day, you wrestle with your body and mind to keep moving and enjoy your day, which has just begun but should be ending. Welcome to jet lag.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?!
Let me tell you about entry into Iceland. There are no forms to fill out. Customs was a breeze so the hour we budgeted for getting through was in actuality about 15 minutes. Therefore our groggy minds and bodies had to sit around for an hour waiting for our arranged ride to get our little camper van. Minutes drag on like hours when you are sleep deprived and been going for over 24 hours… and our day had just begun.

Our ride showed and we piled all our luggage into the van and rode off into the sunrise. It was a quiet ride since our foggy brains couldn’t muster up enough neurons to put together a coherent sentence. We arrived in a half hour and signed all the paperwork and dreamily listened to her explanation about the camper and its workings. Being good car people we pointed out that we had no spare and the tires were quite bald, to which we were whisked off to a tire shop. An hour later they had installed 4 new tires and gotten us a spare… which by the way, the car didn’t come with.
We hit the Bonus market… hey something we can say and spell… picked up a bunch of food and hit the road.

We finally found our campground and settled in for a mid-afternoon nap. We got about 4 hours of sleep off and on these last 36 hours. We finished the night standing in a tourist line to the Blue Lagoon mineral hot springs. Then back to camp and off to our cozy sleeping bags and dreamland. The rain and wind lulled us to a deserved sound sleep.

Our trip consists of all unknowns. We are just going to bounce around the south coast for the first two days then, providing the rain let’s up, head out to the west fjords for a few days, then do some waterfall hoping and hiking.

Cheers…

Medical Tourism… Everything We Learned and Need to Pass Along

Living in the USA, we all feel entitled, if you will, to everything from beautiful groceries at the market, clean water, good healthcare and creature comforts we seem to feel we need. All of this comes with a huge price to pay.

The world is aware that our crazy commander and creep has made it his mission to take as many of the above away as he can. Of course he is “rich” and can afford medical care, medical insurance and the sky high deductibles that we are forced to sign up for in order to bring down astronomical premiums.

Then you look at treatments like dental work. Even if you do have insurance for this, you will still pay hundreds and hundreds of hard earned dollars in order to get a painful tooth handled. It’s not like you can ignore it until it’s more convenient… therein lies the reason for this post.

Chris broke her back molar a year or so ago and went to the dentist who “patched her up”. Temporary fix $400. Last week she was on a trip for work and the “temporary fix” fell off. She was in immediate pain and called the doc. They quoted her $1200 for a permanent crown. OMG! So $400 plus $1200 is way too much and hard to stomach. Enter Mexico…

For years I have been reading about Medical Tourism. Hundreds of thousands of people travel to other countries for life saving treatments, why not travel for dental work? Why not travel for minor procedures that at home would be outrageous?

A few years back I twisted my knee chasing some howler monkeys on a muddy trail in Costa Rica. It swelled up and became too painful to bear weight. I had travel insurance but they required me to go see a doctor in country.  I took a taxi to the doctor’s office.  It looked like a small storefront shop with a shingle hanging outside with the doctor’s name.  I walked in and was warmly greeted by a young man who spoke perfect english. His office was quaint with a few chairs and a coffee table, a small TV and AC.

He took me right into his exam room which was clean and looked like any exam room you’ve ever been in. He asked me a barrage of questions and then proceeded to examine my injured knee.  He called his assistant in to take me to get an x-ray right in the next room.  Twenty minutes later I walked out of his office with a full explanation of what he felt was wrong and a knee brace and pain medicine… all for $50 USD.  At home the x-ray alone would have been more than $50, PLUS the doctor would have buzzed into the room pulled and pushed on my leg and left the room never to be seen again. In a week or two I would receive a bill for $650 for the inst-care.

To wrap this up, if you are afraid and nervous, that’s fine.  Just as in the US or where ever you may be from, do your homework.  There are hacks everywhere.  There are sites you can access that give you step by step instructions.  They have done research and you can reach out to them if you have questions.  The world is a much smaller… and expensive place.  If you are too scared and need to live in your little comfortable box, I get it.  There’s a lot out there… outside of your little box.  LIVE!

This is the dentist we just used:

www.tijuanamexicodentist.com

More reading and links:

www.medicaltourism.com

www.patientsbeyondborders.com/medical-tourism-statistics-facts

www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_tourism

Oh… Its Just Another Waterfall

When one talks about Iceland and points of interest, one must speak about waterfalls. Iceland has around 120 well known, named waterfalls… and thousands of smaller ones that are located on the river gorges,lava fields and underground springs falling over huge basalt cliffs. Some seem to come right out of the ground, others are the product of meandering streams and huge rivers.

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Throughout creation, water has been one of the biggest natural forces on our little blue ball. Iceland has one of the biggest concentrations of these powerful wonders. In Iceland a waterfall is called a “foss”. They range from small wispy ribbons of water, to raging rock crushing torrents. Some cascade peacefully over the basalt and disappear deep into a crevasse, others thunder over tall cliff faces waging war with boulders and flame colored rock. Every year new waterfalls spring up from glacier melt and highland snowmelt

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The Gullfoss is the best known and most visited falls, located on The Golden Circle Road. Glymur is the tallest named falls (122 meters) and can’t be seen without a pretty strenuous hike. The list goes on and on. Each new waterfall has its own character. Each plays a vital roll in the ever changing landscape of this little island known as Iceland.

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