Shower in a geyser – check. Eat dried Greenlandic shark for breakfast – check. Play tag on the continental rift – check. Enjoy a bowl of Icelandic Meat Soup – check. I’m a fan of checklists and I sometimes add items to my list after the fact for the sheer pedantic pleasure of putting a check mark next to an item. In this case I would never have thought to add these items before we arrived, but they certainly belong on the list of cool stuff we did in Iceland.
I logged about 20 hours behind the wheel of our rented 4×4 this week. The poor thing had probably seen some rough use before it arrived on our doorstep in Reykjavik. You might say that it was a finely tuned machine. The battery was so well tuned that if the GPS, fan, or any thing else needing power – the car didn’t have enough umpf to start. When we tried to charge our phones while driving the car appeared to suck power from the phones rather than the other way around. There was also an ominous growl from the back axle and a loud “clunk” during left hand turns. The GPS had a tendency to have us exit the highway early and take the “shortest route” thru parking lots and suburbs. But the car kept going and we were glad to park it safely and full of gas at the airport when we left for Germany.
We walked our first glacier and enjoyed gearing up and strapping on the helmets, harnesses, ice picks, and cramp-ons. Cramp-ons are wicked looking things, with long sharp spikes that you strap to your shoes like old-time roller skates. Walking on ice in these little beauties is not as hard as it looks. But just when you get comfortable they will snag your toe in the ice or get caught in the leg of your pants; causing you to realize how close to crashing you have been all along.
A couple other notable things about our glacier experience: 1) The melting edge of the glacier is very dirty – lots of black dirt, rocks, and sand. I guess I expected clean white snow. 2) The river flowing from the glacier smells like sulfur due to geothermal activity under the ice up on the mountain. The locals called the river “stinky river” for obvious reasons. 3) The volcano just up the mountain is about 15 years overdue for its next eruption! Our guide assured us that we would have at least a couple of hours notice before it erupted. At this point I was hoping the car would start if we were only given a few hours to run. 4) Glacier ice is full of bubbles, and the ice below us was between 200 and 300 years old. The kids were a little in awe to think that the ice melting all around them fell as snow during the American Revolution.
Thomas, our guide, chipped off a few pieces of glacier ice for us to examine. Alex decided to carry her piece back to the car wrapped in the sleeve of her jacket.
I managed to get a picture of it before we “returned it to the wild”.