Monday, July 18, 2022
Typical evening of some slot play, listening to the piano player at the Ocean Bar, and then going to the dining room about 6:30. We had a table for two. I made a comment to Chuck that the dining room was practically empty. I guess one of the dining room managers heard me as he came over and said that at 5:00 people were lined up at the door ready to come in, but they were all cleared out at about 6:00. I guess they all go to the 7:00 show and then to bed.
Also, we heard someone say “Zuiderdam” twice. We looked around and a couple from a few tables over said, “We recognize you from the Zuiderdam on the French Polynesia cruise.” We waved back acknowledged that yes, we were on that cruise. I confess that I did not recognize them.
I had the curried cauliflower soup which was spicier than I was ready for, so I almost started coughing. You really don’t want to cough, especially in the dining room, because everyone whirls around and gives you the stink eye. I drank some water to stifle the throat tickle. I also had the Boston lettuce leaf salad. For my main course I had the lamb shank.
Chuck had the seafood cake with salmon on the side as an appetizer. The salmon was raw. He ate some of it and got a funny look on his face. It wasn’t long before he had to leave the table. He did come back and eat his beef short ribs, but I knew he wasn’t feeling well.
We came back to the room, and he immediately went to bed. He told me to go ahead and attend the comedian’s show, but I stayed in the room and finished processing some photos.
Woke up before the alarm. I had slept fitfully. Weather was cloudy. Since we had an early tour, we had breakfast delivered to the room at 7:00. Chuck was feeling much better than the night before.
Today was not a tender port. We were docked in an industrial area and would be here overnight. The city was offering free shuttles to the port entrance or shuttles to the downtown area for $11 one way. I was not sure if our private tour group was going to be at the gate or if we would have to take the shuttle to the port entrance. I contacted the coordinator of this private tour, and she wasn’t sure either.
The beginning of our tour started out inauspiciously. We headed to the gangway at 8:00 as we were told by the coordinator to be at the bus between 8:00 and 8:15. However, before we could get to Deck A and the gangway, a HAL employee told us to wait for the “all clear” announcement. Then, the “all clear” announcement came about 8:15 with the direction that the Icelandic government wanted everyone to have their vaccine card so you could enter businesses and restaurants. Had to go back to the room to get those cards.
We ended up being the last two people on our shuttle at 8:30. Everyone else on the shuttle had just walked off the gangway prior to 8:00. I guess they didn’t run into the same HAL employee that we did. We explained what happened and having to retrieve our cards. Since they got off before the announcement, most didn’t have their vaccine cards although some said they had them on their phones. I am surprised the tour shuttle waited for us. They all looked at us disapprovingly like “there is always someone who can’t be on time.”
The tour today was provided by Your Day Tours and the description of the tour was
THINGVELLIR – The first stop of the day is the national park Thingvellir, which is full of history and natural beauty. It has a special place in the hearts of all Icelanders, all the way back to the Viking time when they founded here the first parliament in the world.
We will have enough time to walk around and explore this wonderful place. We will have the opportunity to walk in the rift valley, where the tectonic plates are pulling apart. This is the closest you can get to being in two continents at the same time, since under the national park the Eurasian plate and the American plate are separating by almost an inch every year.
Thingvellir was designated as a World Heritage of UNESCO in 2004.
In the area there are restrooms and coffee shops for visitors.
GULLFOSS – The wonderful Gullfoss is in our opinion one of the most beautiful waterfalls on earth. It is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland and there is a beautiful story about the waterfall which your guide will tell you.
When Canadians and Americans go there, they call it “the mini-version of Niagara falls”, we don’t know if we agree on that though, if you ask us, it’s even prettier. The waterfall is located close to the second biggest glacier in Iceland, Langjökull, and you will see the fresh glacier water falling down 105 feet total into the canyon.
Gullfoss is beautiful from all angles, from above it looks perfect with the Icelandic nature around. In the summertime it is possible to walk all the way down to Gullfoss and feel its power and spraying water in the air.
GEYSIR – Geysir is the most famous hot spring in the world, no doubt. It’s that famous that people from other countries talk about “Geyser” when talking about erupting hot springs. Geysir is located only an 8-minute drive from Gullfoss and is our third big attraction of the day.
Geysir is the father of all the hot springs in the area, and first erupted hundreds of years ago. The “golden age” for Geysir was in the beginning of last century when it erupted up to 200 feet every half an hour. Geysir fell asleep late last century but woke up again after the earthquakes in Haukadalur area in the year 2000. It was erupting for 4 months, with a little help from the locals who put soap in it to make it erupt. They stopped doing that due to environmental reasons, of course. Geysir has been sleeping since the fall of the year 2000.
The only active erupting hot spring in the area is “the son of Geysir”, called Strokkur. Strokkur erupts every 3 to 8 minutes and goes as high as 115 feet. Strokkur is a spectacular hot spring, seeing this active hot spring erupt just a few miles from the glacier is a once in a lifetime experience.
This is our lunch stop. There are restaurants at the Geysir area where you can have burgers, salads, traditional Icelandic meat soup (our favorite) and much more. If you want to bring your own lunch with you, we let our customers eat in the bus, especially if the weather is bad.
We will have time to check out the hot springs (no bathing allowed!) and also time to have lunch.
SECRET LAGOON – The last stop of the day is the Secret Lagoon known in Iceland as the “Old pool” since it is the oldest geothermal pool on the island, founded in 1891.
It is nothing more relaxing after a day out in the Icelandic nature then end the day in a geothermal pool. In Iceland we do have more than 100 geothermal pools all over the country and it is a big part of the Icelandic culture to go there to relax. The Secret Lagoon is different from the pools in Reykjavik for example, the area is all covered in mossy lava fields and many hot springs all around. There is a little hot spring there which erupts every 4-6 minutes.
If you feel too hot it is nice to stand up and walk around the area on the walking paths around the pool.
The water is about 100 – 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before you enter the pool, the staff will tell you the rules and what should be kept in mind when visiting the pool.
Remember to bring towels and swimsuits with you, but they can be rented by extra cost at the lagoon.
We stop in the pool for about 90 minutes.
Our driver’s name was Ligo, and he was the father of the sons who run the tour company. The van was a 16-passenger van and there were 12 of us. However, the seats and the aisles were very narrow and there was not much leg room between you and the people in front of you. I think even less than what they give you on airplanes.
We saw the largest lake in Iceland. It has brown trout measuring around 3 feet and researchers study their behavior in the winter when the fish all gather together in the bottom of the river leading to the lake and stay there. The lake also has three types/sizes of Char. The guide said that most lakes only have one type of Char. He said people come from all over the world, especially Europe, to fish the rivers and lakes of Iceland. He said a favorite snack of Icelanders is dried fish. Hmmm. Think I will stick with Cheetos as my go-to snack.
Next stop was the area of the Tectonic plate separation. We walked the path between the North American and the Euro Asian plates. The bugs from both sides were ready for us. We spent about 45 minutes walking along the path. Ligo brought the van around to the end of the path. Ligo said this area was considered a sacred place to Icelanders as it was an area where they first formed their government.
As we drove to our next stop, we saw all kinds of sheep just wandering around in the fields and along the road. They are not wild because when they are rounded up, the farmers know which ones belong to which farmer by a notch or a tag on the sheep’s ear.
We also passed a power plant and its pipeline that brings steam to houses, businesses, and green houses for heating. They have to import items such as corn and barley, but the green houses can produce vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. They do not use oil or coal to heat. Of course, the trade-off is that the hot water/steam is readily available because of all the volcanic activity that is rumbling underneath Iceland.
Our next stop was Gullfoss a 105-foot waterfall. Some people walked the path to get very close to it and came back damp. Chuck and I chose to watch from a distance. I was not yet ready to get wet.
Ligo told us the story of Sigríður Tómasdóttir who went on a hunger strike and walked 75 miles to bring attention to saving the area of the waterfall. Her memory is commemorated with a sculpture of her overlooking her beloved falls.
Yes, Ligo said some people have gone over the falls either accidentally or on purpose every year. Got to watch where you are stepping trying to get that perfect selfie. I watched a mother and two daughters leaning back over the rope barrier, and suddenly one of the daughters’ feet slid a little on the gravel while they were trying to get a selfie. I thought they were going to go over the rope. The mother pulled them forward. They moved farther away from the rope and closer to the walkway. Good decision.
Ligo said we had time for a short stop at a small horse farm to see some Icelandic horses. I knew one of our later tours was going to take us to a horse farm, but I was glad to see these horses too.
Our next stop was to see the geyser area. It would also be our lunch stop if we chose to eat. We did. The place was very crowded. Found out there were two other ships in port today. All the different tour busses seemed to converge on this place at once.
I was able to muscle my way to the deli line and got a bowl of the recommended meat soup for me and a chicken sandwich for Chuck. I forgot to pick up a drink, but we had water in our backpack. Used our no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card to pay for the meal as the prices were in Icelandic Krona. Will be curious to see what the amount will be when I look at the statement later. Chuck thinks it will be around $30. I just know Iceland is expensive. The soup was delicious.
After a bathroom stop, we walked across the street to see the geyser named “Strokkur” – Little Brother. The large geyser – “Geysir” – Old Man has not erupted since 2000 but Ligo said you never know if it will go off again. Strokkur erupts every 5 to 7 minutes. It was right on time. We watched it erupt twice. It was fun but not as impressive as Old Faithful in my opinion.
Ligo warned us not to touch the water that runs by the walking path. There were also signs along the path that warned you. Some people (not in our tour group) ignored everything and walked off the marked path for a short-cut to the geyser. Oh well, can’t fix stupid. Ligo said several people get scalded badly each year.
The sun came out while we were there, and it was very pleasant. Then, it suddenly clouded up, got colder, and started to drizzle. Ligo said “Welcome to Iceland.” The rain did not last long.
Our next stop was the one I was looking forward to the most – a swim in a natural hot spring. It is called the Secret Lagoon and is smaller than the famous Blue Lagoon but said to be just as warm.
Getting ready to get into the hot spring is not for the modest or shy. At the first room, everyone takes off their shoes and socks and leaves them on shelves. Next, there are changing/shower rooms separated by gender. The only space in this room for privacy is the bathroom. The requirement is that you put your street clothes in the locker and take the key. Next, you shower au naturel alongside others and the shower heads are just lined up on one long wall – no stalls separating them. Then, you put on your swimsuit, and you can enter the hot springs.
I figured I wouldn’t know anyone so who cares? I forgot that there would be other women on this same tour from the same ship that I would probably see later every day. Okay, just ignore them. With COVID face masks on in the ship, you don’t know who anyone is anyway. But who knew that women would want to chat with each other while completely naked? Geez. Really?
I just want to get showered and get my swimwear on. No, sorry, I don’t know the cost of a glass of wine here. Yes, I’m sure there is a menu somewhere. OMG.
Being wet from the shower, I struggled to get into my swimsuit. Seemed to take forever to get it past my thighs. I was pulling so hard on the material I am glad I didn’t rip it. I was so happy when I could finally walk out to the hot spring area.
The attendants warned you not to wear any jewelry as it would tarnish and that if you got your hair wet in the spring water, it might feel coarse for a day or two. They also warned you not to get close to the springs outside of the fenced pool area as they were too hot. Those springs fed the pool area and would start to cool as it dissipated. There were two lifeguards monitoring all the swimmers at all times.
I hung my towel up on the hooks provided and carefully walked to the pool as the concrete was very slick. The water was only waist deep for me, but the bottom was rocky and in some parts slick. They supplied noodles that you could use to float. The closer you got to the far wall, the hotter the water became. I thought it was heavenly.
I found Chuck and some of the other tour participants and we talked and bobbed around for about an hour. I was glad Chuck liked the water as I wasn’t sure he would. He doesn’t like water as hot as I like it as he has told me numerous times when I forget and leave our shower set to my heat preference.
I brought my iPhone into the pool with me as I had it in its waterproof case. I took pictures of some of us and shared it with others. And I let others take pictures with it. I always held it out of the water as I think of the waterproof case as a safeguard in case I do drop it. I’ve seen people take theirs in the water while snorkeling, but I don’t risk it.
Dried, dressed, and back on the bus it was time to go back to the ship. On the way back, Ligo pointed out all the evergreen trees we were seeing. He said that these trees are not native. There is so much lava in the soil it stunts the growth of the only kind of native tree – a type that I thought looked similar to aspens – sometimes didn’t grow higher than bushes. In fact, he said that if you ever find yourself lost in an Iceland natural forest, just stand up and you will find your way.
These evergreens are planted in order to try and get more trees in Iceland. The government is supporting farmers that want to transition to tree farming.
We arrived back at the ship at 5:00. The line was very long to get back into the ship. I finally noticed why. The tide was low, and the entrance ramp had a steep ramp going down to the doorway. You also had to duck low under the padded doorway to get in. They should have been playing music so we could all Limbo into the ship.
Even though the van was kind of cramped, we enjoyed the sites and all the commentary from Ligo. I would recommend Your Day Tours to anyone who wants to experience the Golden Circle of Reykjavik. (FYI – Nobody ever asked to see our vaccine cards – Sigh)
A FLOWER of REYKJAVIK
Reykjavik is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland and is the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state.
Steam from hot springs in the region is said to have inspired Reykjavík’s name, which loosely translates to Smoke Cove or Smokey Bay.
In 1972, Reykjavík hosted the world chess championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
From May 20 to July 24, daylight is essentially permanent as the sun never gets more than 5° below the horizon. Day length drops to less than five hours between December 2 and January 10.
Reykjavik is also known as the Puffin Capital of the World as it is the only capital with its own colony of Puffins. Iceland is home to 60% of the Puffin population in the world.
The most prominent landmark in Reykjavik is Hallgrímskirkja church in the city’s center. It is one of the largest and finest churches in Iceland. The church is 240 feet high and is visible from almost any point in the city.
*Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Holland America documents