A Travellerspoint blog

Geiranger, finally

sunny 16 °C

Finally got to Geiranger, albeit 24 hours late from original plan and around 12 hours from the revised. Fair to say, our room was ready when we arrived, although the cleaning lady turned up five minutes after we had dumped everything in our room, to clean it. I said it wasn't required as we arrived a day late and had only been here 5 minutes. She looked over my shoulder and her eyes said...."really, you can make that much mess in five minutes?"

The room was grouse and had a balcony overlooking one of the deepest fjords in Norway. 300m deep in parts and there was three cruise liners docked in he fjord when we arrived. An absolutely beautiful setting that we are already taking for granted. The views in Norway are too spectacular for their own good. Three waterfalls can be seen from our balcony and the Seven Sisters are just around the corner.

After trashing our room we decided to walk the 1.5km into the centre of Geiranger and battle the cruise crowds. Three liners could be carrying 10,000 shoppers! Who could miss that?

Found a great cafe with a deck overlooking the water. The food was bloody fantastic too. Louisa went for the platter for two! Salmon, salami, prawns, dried tomato, and heaps of other stuff. I went the baked ocean trout. Wow. We both hopped onto each other's meals and in Norwegian terms not that expensive. Food, 2 glasses of Viognier and two beers was about 750 NOK, which is only $125 AUD.....shite that's a lot of cash for lunch. I could have got three burgers for that!

Couldn't resist the photo option from a pontoon looking straight down the fjord, but the one and only gust of wind that day picked up my cap and placed it in the middle of the fjord. It started floating towards some other pontoons so I thought a cap is a cap and went after it.

I noticed that a guy had come up to Louisa on the pontoon from which I had lost my cap. He later confessed that he was praying I'd fall in and he had the video camera ready. What is it with Yanks? Always pretending to be there for help, but hoping things turn to shit!

At 3:30pm I went on a 2 hour fishing cruise. Yeah, yeah shut up!

About 25 people were on the boat and it was pretty well bedlam with kids, parents, and people who were definitely experiencing fishing for the first time, all trying to fish from the one boat. There were rods and lines everywhere. I was just trying to stay out of harm's way, but when two kids decided to have a sword fight with their lured up fishing rods it was almost time to abandon ship.

The first two spots in the massive fjord came to nought and the crew were starting to look concerned. We were fishing in 102m of water, and am not sure if dynamite works at that depth. They AlWAYS catch heaps of fish. They had scattered about 15 plastic tubs around the boat for all our fish when we started. That is more optimistic than an Australian batsman putting sunscreen on before he goes out to bat.

Time came to reel in our lines and head back to port and I got a bite and nailed the blighter. Being the gent that I am, I gave my rod to one of the sword fighters who was having a fair crack with no luck. He didn't know what I wanted him to do and his parents encouraged him but the line had gone slacker than I would have liked. He still had the fish but as he tried to lift it into boat it got away. 2 hours, no fish.....and no smart arse comments from the readers please!

Big day tomorrow with a ferry trip, and three buses to Bergen.

Posted by mljjs 13:27 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Romsdalseggen - We kicked your butt

sunny 18 °C

I finished the last Blog update with, "We survived that and now back in our room hoping that the weather breaks so that we can do the Romsdalseggen Ridge walk tomorrow in 6 hours or we miss our bus to Geiranger that leaves at 5:00pm.....oh the stress."

Quite a complex sentence that. We survived Trollisten. We were hoping for good weather the following day. We had the Romsdalseggen trek the next day that we were naively looking forward to, and finally, we had 6 hours to do the walk or miss our bus to Geiranger and blow a night's accommodation

Let's cut to the chase. The weather was beautiful, perfect in fact for a walk that had massive views as part of its repertoire. We missed our bus as our leisurely stroll took 8 hours and 8 minutes. You might say that we could have picked up the pace and made the bus, we would have had a maximum of 30 minutes on our butt, actually, Louisa would have had another hour on her butt descending down the boulders,,,but that doesn't count.

The walk starts at the foot of a gentle waterfall and straight away climbs quite steeply. After the rain of the previous day, it was very wet and boggy but really just a matter of head down arse up and make your way up the long boggy hill. At this point I noticed a couple taking their dog for a walk on the trail...one of them had a harness around his waist and the lead ran from that. We sped along at this point determined that the couple walking their dog was not going to beat us.....not that it was a race but you know what I mean.

There were one or two minor false peaks, that were major at the time but blend into insignificance on reflection, but in the end we got to a flattish setting between rather largish peaks. That was not of immediate concern as we knew we weren't taking the "climbing option" so proceeded to a signpost delivering our options, in Norwegian. A young Hong Kong couple joined us at this point and noticed the majority, if not all of the Trekkers were heading up this rock laden mountain to our left. Our brief guide notes said we were to take the left track, but that was NOT a track. It was a pile of rocks with no path, although some lunatic had some fun by painting the occasional red dot on rocks that indicated preferred route. I am sure he was sitting on a neighbouring peak with a telescope belly laughing.

Funk and Wagnall's define Hiking as:

Hiking: walking in nature as a recreational activity. Especially among those with sedentary occupations, hiking is a natural exercise that promotes physical fitness, is economical and convenient, and requires no special equipment. Because hikers can walk as far as they want, there is no physical strain unless they walk among hills or mountains.

Wikipedia says that: Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, and is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step.

So using all five paws is not walking for humans and hasn't been for 200,000 years! Now that I have got that out, we finally climbed to the final top of this peak, and we were greeted with magnificent views of the valley and waterways of Andalsnes. Absolutely spectacular and well worth waiting a day for some clear weather. As we had a bus to catch we only sat down for 5 minutes, took a few snaps and then worked out which path would take us back down to Andalsnes to get our bus.

That is where Louisa read further notes of the Trek/Walk/climb to find the bit we have just done is rated easy. The bit ahead of us was "demanding". WTF? I asked her to turn the map around the right way but while I was tossing all my toys out of the pack and throwing a genuine tantrum, we noticed where the walkers were going. Straight up a ridge to a peak twice as high again. This time though, there were chains to hang on to as we went down the first ridge (this was the red dot guy again trying to make the next peak look even bigger than it already was).

At this point a young couple passed us in flash, running! There was nothing of them and they literally leapt from rock to rock, boulder to boulder without fear or hesitation. Just to rub it in, they were having a full on conversation while doing it. They had a drink bottle hanging off their backsides but no extra clothing or food so they weren't planning on being up here for too long. I don't get why someone would run over such terrain, for sure they're super fit, but one slight misjudgement is a broken ankle/leg and in the wrong spot, a broken neck. I mean we could have done that too, but we are not show-offs. This was the only difference between them and us, but perhaps they had a 3pm bus to catch.

There was no real decision required here as there was no way we were going back where we had been. Off we go clambering down boulders, over boulders and then up a ridge that on one hand offered the best of views (both sides), but clearly could hurt a lot if you tumbled a meter to your right or left. The drop was shear straight down 1200m on the left, and almost that on the right. If you were to choose the side to slip up on, you'd choose the right but it is bit like falling from a 20 floor building or a 60 floor building....the difference is in maths, not pain!

I was surprised how well Louisa was coping as I know she isn't a fan of heights, and doesn't take great delight jumping from rock to rock, so it was hard work. I was glad that she wasn't wearing the new Norwegian trekking pants she bought the day before. When I brought that to her attention at one spooky bit, the humour was you could say, misdirected. If she could have moved her shaking left foot I reckon I would have worn it in the gob.

We kept climbing up and along ridges that ended in peaks of some description. We continued in our little world of denial, naively thinking that it was going to be the high point and it would then be heading down. Of course when we did achieve it there would be another ridge behind it leading up to another summit. The new ridge would seem even narrower, with hardly enough room to paint a bloody red dot! Like a trail of bright green, orange, red and blue clothed ants we didn't question it anymore, we just trudged on. My tantrums were clearly not working and I was offering anyone I could see, the contents of my pack.

By the way, Louisa's bags were packed when she was checking out of our hotel in the morning....optimistically of course thinking we would be on the 5:00pm bus to Gerainger, so I picked up everything that was hanging around in our room and shoved it in my day pack. I was nonplussed that Louisa was expecting me to carry this crap, but as it turned out she wasn't. It was going to be packed in her day pack and left with our main luggage at the Information Centre...:(

Contents of my pack;

2.5 litres of water
Box of chocolate cookies
500g of dried fruit
500g of dried fruit and nuts
2 beanies
Thermal wear
Go Pro gear
Binoculars
2 rain coats
2 apples
Box of muesli bars
SLR camera
Assorted chocolate bars

And the clincher, one large tin of Pringles. I could have ran a damn kiosk up there.

We eventually reached the real summit, as it was marked with a cairn and it was grins all round. The descent consisted of a lot of rocks, some large and some small. The red dot bastard was at his best spraying his paint willy nilly around the place and I kept looking to see if I could spot someone suspiciously tying to hide his laughter so I could belt the culprit.

The descent had more narrow ridges and some different views of Andalsnes and beyond. We had about three hours to get our bus, but hey we were going downhill from here and we should have an hour or two up our sleeve at the bus station.

I had started cramping in both hammies and knees were beginning to let me know that they wanted to be on a bus. Louisa had bruises already starting to pop out from her shins and knees. Not sure if her bruised knees were from praying for the last 4 hours or from using them to lever herself over the 20,000 boulders that had to be negotiated. I think it was a bit of both.. I suspect also that bruises were going to be severe in the buttock region as well, but it is hard for me to confirm at this point....and I was far too experienced to ask.

We gradually made our way down but it was not easy and with fatigue building up, extra care needed to be taken not to slip or trip. There is a lookout platform that appears in all the photos of the trek that I was expecting to be somewhere near the summit. It is around 700m lower than the summit and a massive anticlimax. It is a relatively short work from Andalsnes up to it that quite a few people take the option of doing. We spent about 7.5 seconds there getting a photo of us with smiles that would resemble that of a losing Norm Smith medallist collecting his award on Grand Final day.

The trek down from here was excruciating. It was so damp and there were tree roots everywhere that meant if your feet touched one heading downhill you were at the mercy of the trekking gods as to whether you ended on your arse, your nose or slid into a tree. This effort was not factored into our prematch planning and it was time to think about where we were going to stay the night. It wasn't going to be in our beautiful Gerainger room with balcony overlooking the fjord, bar overlooking the fjord, restaurant over looking the fjord, hot bath, cold beer.....but of course none of these things came to mind at the time. I was purely focused on my next face plant into a bog hole. About the same really.

So we finally made it, 8 hours and 8 minutes from Vengedalen back to Andalsnes. A massive amount of satisfaction and recalling that 24 hours previously we were actually contemplating having a crack at it in rain and wind. The lady at the information centre had advised against it but didn't rule it out. We would never have made it in those conditions, had no views and would definitely had been forced to retreat at the ridges if not before. Mind you the helicopter flight out would have been cool.

We found a pizza place with massive pizzas, very cold beer and ran into our Hong Kong Trekkers Nelson and Jessica. They also had found it much more challenging than they were expecting, but then again, they were planning to bike ride the Trollstigen from Andalsnes the following day! That was now officially cancelled.....860m climb at 11 degrees plus the ride out there and back...if you survived the buses, cars, campers all trying to make their way through the 11 hairpin bends. Maybe next time for us.

We grabbed our luggage from our lockers and headed back to our hostel that we spent the previous two nights at. The lady there was not surprised to see us.

Posted by mljjs 05:37 Archived in Norway Comments (4)

Andalsnes

all seasons in one day 15 °C

It was a sad farewell to Iceland but on the last night I finally saw a sunset from our 15th floor window. Photo uploaded for proof. You just had to wait up long enough and catch the 30 second event before it comes up again!

The three of us boarded our flight to Oslo, but Jacinda was heading back to London. Not sure why the best connection between Reykjavic and London is via Oslo but what the heck. We had a 40 minute stopover before our flight to Trondheim departed, which was always going to be tight, but we had to pick up our luggage and go through customs prior to boarding the flight to Trondheim.

The chaos at baggage belt 3 was absolutely ridiculous. There was 4 flights allocated to it, all at various stages of not started, baggage on belt and last bag on belt. We were waiting 10 minutes when the belt stopped. It was stopped for about 10 very frustrating minutes and about 10 minutes later our flight was classified as "baggage on belt" finally. We had priority labels on our luggage due to the short turnaround time we had between flights, but there is every chance that bright orange Priority labels went totally unnoticed as people on our flight were in cabs, showered and having dinner before we sighted our bags.

Anyway, 50 minutes later our bags were in our procession and off we went through customs (in 30 seconds) and off to check our luggage in to Trondheim. A nice fella sent us to the front of the queue and an interested service guy started checking our bags in, picked up the phone to determine our best option, then 17:00 clocked over and end of his shift. He hung up the phone, spoke eloquent Norwegian to a lady who was jumping into his seat and then we had to tell her the history and our desire to get on the next flight to Trondheim....all over again.

We were told our scheduled flight had been delayed 40 minutes but we were too late to catch it. Had to be checked in to the19:30. Bummer. Can't help but think the handover process cost us any chance but we were able to get into the lounge, pour ourselves some cold Carlsberg, grab some savouries and chill out. At least until we saw that our previous scheduled flight still had not left and was starting to board!

Anyway, into Trondheim and a nice hotel. Then onto an Irish pub for a drink and decided to grab a burger from Burger King on way back to hotel at about 11:00pm.

Trondheim was nice and houses over the water with canals, rivers and inlets everywhere. Very colourful but like Iceland, all of the houses are wood and 90% would be mustard yellow, cream, red/brown, or grey. Bet you didn't know that.

Our original plan was to catch a ferry or bus to Kristiansund but after driving on the wrong side of the road for a week, we backed ourselves to hire a car and drive there. This meant that we could then take it on to Molde via the Atlantic Road, which we wanted to do anyway. It is supposed to be one of the great roads in the world.

Kristiansund was levelled by the Gerries between 28-Apr-1940 and 01-May-1940, so there are very few old buildings in the town. Apparently very few people were killed in the raids as the town was evacuated, however the Yanks dropped a couple of stray bombs a couple of years later that did kill a few civilians.

The place is very neat and the houses (mustard yellow, cream, re/brown and grey.....there are a few Richie Benaud colours of white, off-white, beige and ivory that I am classifying as cream) look spectacular with the town surrounded by water.

We took off the next morning to Molde via the Atlantic road. Few navigational issues here and there but no big problems, still happily married but my relationship with Tom Tom is irreconcilable. The weather unfortunately closed in a little and there was sprawling rain and freezing cold winds. The Atlantic Road looks as though these winds twist it out of shape and some of the bridges are either an engineering masterpiece or an engineering balls up. I'm undecided.

flordnorway.com says,

"This stretch of ocean road has been named the "world's most beautiful car journey" (The Guardian, 2006) and "construction of the century" (2005). The Atlantic Road is also known as "Norway's greatest cycle route" (2010). The Atlantic Road is a National Tourist Route and stretches from Kristiansund to Bud. Your journey creates a fusion between the ocean and coastline, culture and history. Good places to stop, great viewpoints and fishing spots help make this an excellent road trip. Travelling the Atlantic Road in a storm is just as amazing as when the sun is glistening on the calm ocean."

The road includes 8 bridges with a total length of 891 metres, while the road itself goes for 8.2 kms. The construction of the road started on August 1983 and the construction took six years. It was opened on 7 July 1989. During construction the area was hit by 12 European windstorms.

Top 10 Most Beautiful and Killer Roads of The World;

http://nipunscorp.com/2012/03/10/top-10-most-beautiful-and-killer-roads-of-the-world/

Has the Atlantic Road as number 3, behind the Death Road in Bolivia (been there got the postcard, have the GoPro footage) and Overlap Pass, Switzerland. Looks like that is going to have to be on the bucket list so that we can get Gold, Silver and Bronze!

Molde was fantastic and as we got in around midday we were able to do a little trekking and found some some great vantage points to see the city from high and check out its 226 surrounding mountain peaks. Our hotel was grouse and sat over the water with all rooms looking out over the water, islands and snow capped peaks.

Louisa looked around town and I dropped the car off at the airport. "Airport" was perhaps a misused name for this spectacular, large slab of bitumen that runs straight into water. I waited there for 15 minutes for a bus or taxi back into Sentrus (city for you non-Norwegian speaking folk) and saw a total of 5 people. Not one plane, light or domestic. Could not even see a kite but a pesky seagull did seem to keep the air traffic controllers occupied for 10 minutes by not following instructions.

If I was to look up the world's busiest airports, I would not find Molde, unless you could count seagulls, sparrows and tumbleweed.

So I walked the 8 kms or so back to our hotel. The chances of a cleaner coming out of the dunnies wanting to catch a cab would have blown the queue at the Taxi rank to 2 and who knows what carnage could occur. I was hopeful of hailing a cab on the way back but the chances of that happening would be greatly enhanced if I knew what one looked like.

That night we went burger hunting. Well I went burger hunting for research and development reasons, not unlike the Japs and whales. I am pleased to announce the ABI in Norway is 152. This places it ahead of Iceland in burger unaffordability, given I found a basic burger in a basic pizza place that cost around $38 AUD.

Australian ABI 424
Iceland ABI 200
Norway ABI 152

The facts:
Average Australian monthly wage: $3,396 AUD Plain burger is $8 ABI = 424.5
Average Icelandic monthly wage: ISK 292894 ($3,000 AUD) Plain burger is $15 ABI = 200
Average Norwegian monthly wage: NOK 34,604 ($5,792 AUD) Plain burger (Mushrooms, Onion and Bacon) is $38 ABI = 152

Damn lucky the Norwegians get paid a fortune or it would be down into double digit territory not seen since Emperor Nasi Goreng forced the burger industry into prohibition in the 1930s.

Next morning we had a bus to catch at 10:00 and had to deal with a 15 storey hotel with one lift operating. We were only on the fourth floor but our luggage was bulky and the last two floors were via a spiral staircase. That had broken leg written all over it but we managed to kick all the cleaning staff and their trollies out of the lifts for 10 minutes and hijacked a lift. Made the bus with minutes to spare. Bus to where you may ask, as we did numerous times.

Just for the record, we were going to Andalsnes. Apparently a lovely place and we had two nights booked at a hostel there, called the Andalsnes Hostel. Where? Andalsnes. Not one person knew what we were talking about when we said we were catching a bus to Andalsnes. Finally Louisa showed a bus driver the place on our itinerary, and he said, "Oh, Oondoolsness." I said, Where? Is it near Andalsnes?

Oondoolsness, pronounced, Oo n dool sness ("oo" is as in "Goodes" not "boo"). Anyway Oondoolsness was very similar to Andalsness so we stayed there to find there is a massive outdoor rock concert on that night, starring Status Quo and some highly rated European bands. Unfortunately we had a train trip to Dombas booked and we weren't due back till 8:00pm and Status Quo were on 6:00 to 7:30pm.

The train trip to Dombas was spectacular with waterfalls and steep cliffs. The Troll Wall was one such cliff that boasts the longest vertical cliff climb in Europe. Too many lunatics dropping off it either accidentally while rock climbing or deliberately through base jumps have meant that you can't climb it now until they have cleaned up all the bodies at the bottom. This is a massive bummer as Louisa and I were keen to have a crack at it.

It is about 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) from its base to the summit of its highest point. At its steepest, the summit ridge overhangs the base of the wall by nearly 50 metres (160 ft). A hell of a lot of training by Louisa and I is now going to go to waste. Should have bought return tickets to Oz after all.

After getting off the train we ran into a few, well a lot really, pissed Status Quo fans back in Andalsnes/Oondoolsness and they were pretty good fun. Pissed Norwegians are actually easier to understand than sober ones. Perhaps it is a universal language of long pauses, exaggerated hand movements, lengthy blinks and a few "I love ewes" thrown in that make it all so easy to understand. I think if I had have taken one more minute in the loo, Louisa would have been over Leif's shoulder and back in the concert's beer tent!

We headed back up the hill to our hostel which is about 1.5kms from Sentrum, in the midnight dusk all set for our big trek the next morning to Romsdalseggen, Fjord Norway.

http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/Product/?pid=111492

Romsdalseggen is located in the northern parts of Fjord Norway. The hike takes us over mountains, overlooking fjords, summits and waterfalls. The hike starts in the Vengedalen Valley, and you can choose among three routes, with different levels of difficulty. The most extreme route requires climbing equipment, so we won't be going there. The hike takes between six and nine hours, depending on the route you choose. You get a view of the Romsdalsfjord and the ocean, and the mountains of Trolltindene and Romsdalshorn. This is rated in the top 10 iconic treks in Norway.

Unfortunately, the weather turned overnight and we woke up to low cloud and drizzle. We opted to take the later bus, 2:00pm in the hope that it would clear a little. It didn't and the travel people said don't risk it as there are some tough ridges and the views are the thing....and they won't be there. By changing our travel plans to Geiranger the following day, from an 8:15 am departure to a 5:00pm departure we could, in theory do it tomorrow as the weather is forecast to be better.

So we decided to do that, but what to do with the rest of our day in Goodestown? Whilst in the Tourism office we were approached by a couple off one of the cruse ships that is in port for the day to join them in a taxi and do the Trollstigen. Trollstigen is a serpentine mountain road in Rauma Municipality Norway.

It connects the town of Åndalsnes/Oondoolsness in Rauma and the village of Valldal in Norddal Municipality. It is a popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountainside. During the top tourist season, about 2,500 vehicles pass daily.

The road is narrow with many sharp bends, and although several bends were widened during 2005 to 2012 it is extremely tight for buses and there are plenty. It is a bit of a dice throw when driving it as to whether to wait for a bus to come through or hope to find a spot between where you are and where the bus is. Downside of waiting too long is that the traffic behind you can back up and then you're caught in some deadly embrace where neither stream of traffic can move. Who will reverse back up or down a road like this???

At the 700-metre (2,300 ft) plateau there is a car park and several viewing balconies overlooking the bends and the Stigfossen waterfall. Stigfossen falls 320 metres (1,050 ft) down the mountainside. The pass has an elevation of approximately 850 metres (2,790 ft).

We survived that and now back in our room hoping that the weather breaks so that we can do the Romsdalseggen Ridge walk tomorrow in 6 hours or we miss our bus to Geiranger that leaves at 5:00pm.....oh the stress.

Posted by mljjs 12:50 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Fire and Ice

semi-overcast 11 °C

Been a couple of days so sorry for poor rate of updates but I have been trying to keep photos uploaded with with meaningful titles. You may not agree that the titles are meaningful as the names are impossible to spell, pronounce or repeat, but that is what we have to deal with. So suck it up!

Our drive from Hetta to Vik was one of mainly waterfalls and passing the angry Eyjafjallajökull Volcano that erupted in 2010 causing some aircraft scheduling issues. If you have trouble pronouncing this, it is V O L C A N O. One guide told us it is called "I'd like a yoghurt". Anyway, we didn't want to piss this fella off so we drove on by very quietly. We did hear though that Hatna has erupted every 100 years on the knocker for as long as records have been kept and it is now around 130 years since it last had a bad day. Be vewy, vewy qwiet..........

As we approached Vik we dropped into the Dyrhólaey bird cliffs in the hope of seeing the Puffin bird. We were in luck and got to see quite a few. These birds are a mixture between a Toucan and a penguin. They fly better than a penguin and catch fish better than a Toucan! There are only 2 months when you can see these birds so we were quite lucky.

This place is also famous for its black sand. At first look it appears to be dirty sand that you wouldn't put a towel anywhere near, but it really is just black sand and quite fine. Not a bad spot.

I had previously been lamenting the lack of ice in Iceland. You'll be pleased to know that we have found a little of it, in fact boatloads of it. We went for a glacial walk across Svínafellsjökull glacial tongue. From a distance it looked disappointing as I was expecting blues and whites, not blacks. When we assembled to put on our crampons, pick up our ice picks and hit the ice, I was surprised that the black stuff was solid ice.

The ice still hadn't got rid of the ash from the last volcano eruption (some 2 years ago) and some of the ice still had the black ash on top. Our guide was quick to show us the dangers of glacial walks with crevices and the like. 5 minutes into our walk he showed us a small puddle of muddy water. Would have been 40 x 30cm in surface area. You could be forgiven for throwing a boot into it to splash your mate. He got a long handled shovel that lay nearby (obviously for this purpose) and shoved it into the puddle. He hung on to the end and would have lost his shovel if he hadn't. It was at least 9 feet deep!

The guide was an Italian who is studying glaciology and made the trek very enjoyable. 99% of these things are retreating but you can see the forces they exert and the amazing form the ice takes as it moves on its path taking rocks and hills with them.

Of course I must mention my daughter Jacinda who managed to be the only person who thought to put a skirt on before doing a glacial walk. No one can carry crampons as a fashion accessory quite like Jacinda. They were just another form of heels!

After the glacial walk we hit the glacial lagoons further up the south coast and were blown away by the icebergs. At the Fjallsarlön Glacial Lagoon we could see seals playing around and huge chunks of ice floating gradually out of the lagoon and out to sea. There was just so much ice around and no damn scotch! Incredibly spectacular though.

We then drove back to Vik where we were staying, some three hours drive. Louisa was doing nearly all our driving by this point as I was suffering from a cold that I had picked up 4 days earlier around Blue Lagoon. Of course Louisa turned this three hour drive into two as she is allowed to drive at any damn speed she pleases. I get barked at for going 2 kph over the limit. I was wondering how she knew this until I sat in the passenger seat and the Sat Nav reads out driving speed! Anyway, when Louisa drives it is all cool to drive as fast as you want as long as the car doesn't shake to bits. This version of events is that of the author...

One of the things you notice when driving around this place is that people love building their wonderful little bright cottages at the foot of an almighty cliff that drops boulders like a tree drops leaves in autumn. Around some of these cottages there are many big boulders that may or may not, have been there before they built the house. It is not a matter of if, but when these cliffs decide to drop their load on anything that is below them, whether it be the cliff's decision or a little persuasion from the next earthquake! They talk 4.5 earthquakes here as we would discuss the AFL Match Review Panel's findings.

Back in to Reykjavic for our last two days in an upgraded hotel. It is brand new and we have a beautiful room on the 15th floor....with a fridge. The views across the harbour and city from the 15th floor were totally uninterrupted, and sensational We were getting ready to head off on our Volcano tour and then the damn fire alarm goes off. We are ordered to evacuate immediately.

So you're not supposed to take a lot with you and the lifts are out of bounds. We think that even if it is a drill we aren't going to be able to get back into our room before we are picked up so we jump into our clothes and footwear for the trip and grab all the essentials. Now essentials to me are, passports, camera, iPads and other travel documentation. Jacinda handed me a box of biscuits to jam in my backpack with a desperate look on her face! Thanks Jacinda.

The volcano trip is apparently unique in the world as there are no other known volcanos that are so enclosed. Prihnukaglgur erupted 4500 years ago but only for two weeks and it didn't blow its top off. There is only a 1m x 4m opening that a German window cleaning platform can only just squeeze through. This was our form of transport as we are lowered 120m down into the guts of the volcano. This means that we don't only drop the height of the volcano itself but into the ground below it.

But to get to the volcano we have a 3km trek across a massive lava field, which is interesting in its own right. We saw probably the only form of native Icelandic fauna as we approached the volcano. An Arctic Fox pup. It was very playful and around 8 weeks old, most likely orphaned. The only other animals we have seen are sheep, horses and a few cows.

It is 4C in the chasm below and there are some floodlights to show off the spectacular colours of the various types of rocks and minerals. It is the size of 4 basketball courts once you are at the bottom, but it takes probably 20m or so from the top before it really starts getting any larger than the initial 1m x 4m opening.

It is possible to go down a further 100m through a very small corridor in the rock but we aren't allowed to do that. Not sure I would want to either. We have around 45 minutes to ourselves on the bottom and we clamber over large and small rocks, exploring the various highs and lows of Prihnukaglgur hoping like hell we don't wake her up.

We eventually get lifted back up into daylight and climb out of the platform into bright sunshine. It was raining when we were dropped in. It was an incredible experience and one that we won't forget in a hurry. Our bus driver whilst driving us back to the hotel, told us that Bill Gates did it a little while back but booked the entire day out so he wouldn't be interrupted. I suppose it is only money.

And talking about money, there seems to be a direct relationship between the alcoholic content of beer and its cost. They have some really big beers here too. Garcia is 11.5% but at $27 a pint you are pre-warned! Lava @ a lazy 9.4% is a slightly more respectable $23 a pint. Fair to say that if someone knocks a drop of this stuff out of your hand you are entitled to take the guy's wallet, car and any other valuables on him.

This was our last day in Iceland and we really enjoyed it. Have to say though that the eight days barely scratched the surface of an amazing island, and we only did the south and South/west. The highlands and North are begging for another trip. We did see some big 4WDs around that had been decked out for the highlands. The tyres on these vehicles were huge and had very aggressive tread patterns. I asked one guy how much the tyres cost. He said between 600,000 ISK and 700,000 for 4. That is somewhere around $1,700 AUD per tyre!!!

Anyway, next time I would love to have a little nibble at the highlands.

Posted by mljjs 02:32 Archived in Iceland Comments (0)

Lots of "Wows" in Iceland

sunny 12 °C

Already into our fourth day in Iceland and everywhere you look there is something to go "wow" at. We have perhaps been spoilt for waterfalls and they are now getting like European churches, Northern Territory gorges, and Pommie ducks. The pick of them though was Gullfoss falls. This was special and not just cause I could spell AND pronounce it, but it was huge. Rated in the top 7 worldwide for beauty. Hraunfossar falls were not far behind it as there were falls everywhere being spat out through volcanic rock. Very spectacular.

We saw Glymur Falls which required a three hour trek and it stood at 196m. The trek is officially listed as "demanding" and my Fitbit said we did 113 flights of stairs. When these Scandie nations say a walk is three hours, they mean it. In Australia I reckon if it is listed as three hours return, that includes 30 minutes in the coffee shop before you start and the 1 hour in the bar after it. This walk was 3 hours and it was pretty full on with ropes to hang on to in places and a decent river crossing.

Another thing that attracted my attention was the total lack of signs saying, "Do not go past this point. Death might kill you!" There was nothing and the drops were hundreds of meters, which is cool but it just goes back to some countries (like Australia) dumbing everything down to the lowest common moron.

And while I am on treks and cliffs, what is it about climbing that the Scandies have. I guarantee you, if there is a hill, they'll climb it. We can see cars parked at the side of a nondescript hill next to the road and we are thinking, where have they gone? Sure enough you'll look up and there will be a couple of walkers. There are hills and cliffs and views, and stunning scenery and then there are, well hills. Why do we need to climb it? Even the bloody sheep climb them to graze in dirt and lava rock rather than the plush vegetation below.

Another "wow" is guaranteed to come out of your head when you pick up a menu or walk into souvenir shop. Souvenir coffee mugs $22. Chicken Nuggets and Chips $25. I know that no one does nuggets like Icelanders but really? Knocked back the Tenderloin (of horse) last night not because it was horse but because it was $50. $50 and Horse only go we'll at a race track and that isn't the tenderloin it is usually on the nose!

This brings me to the Ando Burger Index. The world renowned measure of burger affordability. $15 for an Iceland hamburger, and that is a hamburger, bun and sauce. Cheeseburger is $17. Bring your loan documents if you want tomato, onion, egg or exotics such as beetroot.

Average Icelandic monthly wage: ISK 292894 ($3,000 AUD) Plain burger is $15 ABI = 200
Average Australian monthly wage: $3,396 AUD Plain burger is $8 ABI = 424.5

Indisputable.

When we arrived in Iceland at midnight, it was as though it was 4:00pm Melbourne. There was the odd street light on, probably because they need to check if they're working for winter, but you didn't need any artificial light. It was as they say, clear as day.

This of course has issues when you are well, at a bar. We had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant on our first night, as you do in Iceland, and wandered past a bar on our way back to the hotel.....at about 10:00pm. I can say now that it was 10:00 pm because I know that now, but everything around you at the time says it is 5:00pm.

Louisa went back to the hotel but Jacinda and I made some friends at the local bar and we learnt Icelandic over three beers in 2 hours. Too easy.

It was sort of the perfect storm;
- First night in Iceland
- Iceland has some of the best beer in the world
- Good banter with some locals, who I think we're more interested in Jacinda but what the heck we learnt their alphabet.

But deciding to go home when the sun goes down is a bad plan in Iceland in summer. As everyone knows, I am the first to bed when the sun goes down, but this Iceland longitude thing caused me to get in a bit of trouble....for the first ever time. Another "wow" moment.

Another thing about Iceland. There is NO ice! No fridge in the room, and no ice. We found out that 3* accommodation does not include a fridge here. A little frustrating when you had planned to try and avoid the Icelandic menus and have a reserve of cheeses, meats, breads and salads for lunches etc. of course the odd cold beer after a long drive would be nice, but not here. Not to worry, we'll soldier on in NoIceland.

Another thing. Iceland has a population of about 250,000 and 103,000 sq km to hold them in. They plan well in advance here and being wary of a massive increase in population and the resultant housing sprawl, they have built their airport 46km from the city. How cool is that? Up here for thinking.

They are also ahead of their times when it comes to museums. I asked a guy behind the bar if there was a Viking museum of some type. He had no idea....born and bred in Iceland, but there was a Penis Museum across the road. I suppose there are priorities and it is not for a humble tourist like me to intervene. Anyway, I can now put a tick in the museum box and get on with my holiday.

We dropped in to Blue Lagoon, literally, on the second day where the lagoon is a not so chilly 40c and we swam around for a few hours. Putting silica mud on our faces to rejuvenate and cleanse our faces probably scared the crap out of a few children but it was pleasant....can't say that the $21 salad roll was as I ran from the cashier for my life!

Well this is where our Icelandic alphabet lessons over a few beers at the pub comes in handy. We headed off to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on day 2 and this was a lovely place with magnificent views of massive mountains leaping from the sea and fishing villages scattered along the coast. We stayed at Grundarfjörður which is a lovely fishing village, and by chance, was celebrating an annual festival. The whole place was up and about and a lot of the kids were coloured blue, red, green or yellow. Louisa asked a girl in green why she was green and she appeared to have no idea. I suspect that was due to lingual misunderstanding.

When we walked around the village later, it became clearer. The village was divided into sections, each coloured blue, red, green and yellow. Some houses had gone to an extraordinary extent colouring their gardens and houses the colour of their area. Blue area was the best.

After four days of driving a left hand drive vehicle it is fair to say I have mastered it. I have taken to it a lot better than most other drivers though as they are forever coming at me on the wrong side of the road. It ain't that hard guy!

Off to walk a glacier tomorrow. Perhaps there is ice in this place.....

Posted by mljjs 15:15 Archived in Iceland Comments (2)

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