We saw the lights!

I finished my blog last night around midnight. I decided to get the cameras ready for what I hoped to be a viewing of the Northern Lights. Our location was spot on, up above the city, not too many lights around, and nothing too big in our way. I wanted to set up the GoPro to capture what I could via time lapse (I still dont know if this worked, it took TONS of pictures). While I was outside setting up the GoPro, I heard some people talking and looked up and noticed what at first I thought were whispy clouds – and then I realized they were turning light green and were in fact THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!

I ran into the cabin to wake Lauren – “Wake Up!” Nothing. “Wake Up!!” Nothing. “Buddy, wake UP!! The Lights!!” She finally woke up, we bundled up, I grabbed the camera and we went outside to see the light show!! It was pretty vibrant at first – but it faded pretty quickly. I think I spent about 35 minutes outside watching the show and attempting to snap some pictures of the party! The main picture on this page was actually taken by my Google Pixel 2 – Google for the win! I also set up my Nikon D3400 with a 18-55mm lens at first and then switched to my fisheye 8mm lens.

This morning we slept in as much as we could and then Lauren started making us lunch for our road trip today. The drive is only about 2.5 hours to the next Airbnb, but you can never have enough road trip food!

Our first stop was the seal museum. It was like $10/person for this tiny little hole in the wall museum – but they also do research, so the money was worth it. We learned a lot about seals and how they interact and we realized they look like water meerkats and dogs in one. After the museum we headed to the wool factory! I need to say that I keep thinking Im going to see how wool is made, but in reality what you see is what is made with wool. It was pretty cool though and Lauren was in heaven so it was a win.

The worst decision we’ve made….

So it turns out that 2.5 hours is NOT in fact accurate, but that could just be my driving. Let’s start out with the fact we had to backtrack this morning to see this super cool waterfall (Kolugljufur). It was only about 25 minutes, but that should have been our first sign of the day. The road to get to the falls was a gravel road (remember, gravel insurance – today it paid off!). It wasnt far – maybe about 5km on that dirt road, but Lauren was already feeling it! (she gets a bit nervous) These waterfalls were a great find, and we were happy to stop and take a peak at the beauty that this area had to offer.

Next stop on the crazy train was a geothermal bath that has been recently rebuilt after being covered in a mudslide a couple hundred years ago. Turns out, this is the start of our worst decision (yet). To get to said bath we had to drive roughly 1.5 hours (according to google). However, what google failed to tell us was that more than half the drive was on a gravel road. And that our other option was an even worse gravel road. So we turned around got some gas and headed back (we had no idea what we were getting into). The drive was long, hard and FULL of potholes. Im not sure the car ever went over 50kph. I was constantly dodging pothole after pothole and Lauren was constantly wincing with worry. The weather didnt help either because it was raining and windy. So the rain just made the wipers mad with its inconsistency and the windy just made the car mad with its inconsistency.

When we finally arrived at the bath – the look on Lauren’s face was priceless. It was just a small little 10′ diameter rock pool with warm water. Yes, you read that right, warm. It wasnt hot – this cant be qualified as a hot spring or a hot tub. But it was quaint and it was an experience. We parked the car and grabbed our suits. We had to climb a snow covered hill up to the bath and then about 3 meters above the bath was a rustic changing house. We had to slosh down to the bath after we changed to get into the water. It was still raining and it was only so warm. It was here in the bath that Lauren said she wouldnt have come once she saw the road (gravel) but because I didnt hesitate she rolled with it. Neither one of us are quite sure that ride was worth it – other than to tell this story now.

We spent a good 15 minutes in the warm bath (again, NOT hot). We had to slosh back up to the changing cabin and then changed quickly and sloshed back down to the car. It should also be noted we didnt have towels (this place is unmanned) so shirts had to do.

We got back on the road to our Airbnb in Stykkisolmur. It was another 1.5 hours according to google. And once again, it lied. It was a gravel road basically until we pulled into town. And this time it was worse than the first. We were driving cliff side, at a few points I was shocked the road wasnt washed out because of the amount of water flowing over it. We even had a front row seat to some waterfalls! (At this point we shouldnt be proud of that fact, it was scary, but cool.) Once we arrived in town we were able to find our Airbnb very easily.

What we werent able to find was food. this town is very tiny. And tiny doesnt work all the time with a vegan in tow. After two failed restaurant attempts we landed on a “fancy” restaurant in town – and what do you know – VEGAN friendly! it was the perfect place to sit our butts after a long day in the car. (emotionally and physically long, not necessarily time-wise). Lauren had a vegan burger and I got the cod. They of course had amazing sourdough bread and butter and salt (thats a thing). After dinner we headed back to the Airbnb and attempted to use the hot tub – but sadly it didnt not work. So shower and bedtime for very exhausted bonzos!!

Time to hang out with some elephants!!

I feel the need to address my rock hard bed, or more realistically, my sleeping-on-a-pile-of-2x4s bed. It was super hard. And that is coming from someone who sleeps on the floor is the bed is too soft. So I woke up with a sore hip.

I never got hot water in my shower today, and the only time it was really a problem was when I wanted to wash my back, it was very cold. But when I got out I was thankful I wasn’t hot.

They served me a individual breakfast. I had a warm (yuck) sandwich with egg, cheese, ham, and lettuce. I of course took the ham off. They also had a plate of fruit. It had watermelon, papaya?? Mango?? I’m not sure. I just know I had to eat it not to look rude and it was yucky. All tasted like melon. I couldn’t bring myself to try the weird slimy gelatinous fruit. I’m now wishing I had.

I had to run back upstairs to finish packing before my shuttle cane to take me to the elephant sanctuary. I’m doing an overnight stay in the park, and I am very much looking forward to it. The guide(Ann) picked me up and we drove around Chiang Mai filling up the van of other guests. One couple from Vancouver, one from Aussie, another from DC, and one from Oakland. I’m the solo Rider on this adventure. But I don’t mind!! In fact I realized once I got to the sanctuary I was the only single person. Because of that though I get my own room!!

This place was started as an elephant sanctuary but also rescues water buffalo, cats and dogs.

We got here and immediately got to go out and walk with the elephants.

Rules:

  1. No touching

2. No standing behind (basically horse rules)

3. You have to wash your hands with provided soap before you can feed them.

5. Run when the guide says run.

They gave us a water bottle with a carrying sling, but the water gets hot quick so I’m just using my own. But all the unlimited cold water we can have!!

They made us a hot lunch with a salad bar, and we got there a little late so didn’t get to try everything. But what I had was awesome!! Just the basic noodle and rice dishes but I love Thai food so it’s a win!!

On the food note, so far the only difference I can tell between the Thailand Thai food and American Thai food is ours is not spicy and has usually only a solo protein.  Here they do like pork and chicken or a seafood mix in all their dishes. Also they love seafood so they are mostly seafood dishes.

Anyway back to the elephants!! We got to watch them play, bathe in the river, eat (they love food), and walk around in peace. These elephants are from a tortured past. Either circuses, logging industry, tourist riders, or beggers. These elephants come here to live out their life in controlled freedom. Each elephant has a trainer that stays with them all day everyday. At night the elephants go to bed in their cages where they are safe from each other and warm or cool depending on the season.

We got to feed one of the disabled elephants watermelon. Her foot was injured by a land mine while logging in Myanmar. So she came here to be cared for and free. She took the watermelon out of my hand and she touched my fingers. Her skin was like rubber. Wet rubber. But she was big and beautiful and in her eyes you could see the joy. She was happy to take the watermelon from us and stayed as long as we had some. Once we ran out she just turned back to the sugar cane she was eating and we let her be.

We continued walking around the park and saw a few heards. Some have babies from Jungle Boy. Apparently before they built the housing unit for Jungle Boy he managed to impregnate 4 elephants. The goal here is not to breed, but to rescue. So they realized they had to build him his own pen to stop the reporduction.

There are only 3 adult makes here on site. There are 2 juvenile males as well that are currently being cared for by their heard. Once they become of reproducing age they too will get a pen.

There is a whole nother side of the park that we don’t get to see. That is where the agressive elephants go. They are kept separate to protect themselves and others and humans. Only their trainer is allowed contact with them. And in some cases the trainer can’t get too close.

Once we we’re on our way back to the tables (meeting area) it started to pour. The rain felt good. All of us with our cameras out ran quickly to get them out of the rain. Ann left us here and we got our night and private guide for tomorrow. Her name is Apple.

She assigned us our rooms and took us to them. Because I’m alone I got my own room, which is actually an elevated cabin!! No a.c. to be had here, but we get a mosquito net and a fan. The bathroom has a rain head shower head!! When I opened the door a cat started talking to me on the porch. I left the door open for her (I’m gonna call her Boots) and she came right in. She made herself at home on my bed on the outside of the mosquito net and wanted me to scratch her. Of course I obliged.

At 330 we could go walk some of the rescue dogs on site so I attempted to boot her out of the room but she wasn’t having it. So I opened a window for her if she wanted to escape.

I got to walk dog named LaLa. She wasn’t so keen on walking though. So there was a lot of pulling. She did like walking around by the elephants so we hung out there for a while.

When I dropped her off at the shelter she was happy to be back with her friends. I headed back to my cabin and Boots was still laying on the bed!! And now I have a black lab on the porch!! We have another porch facing the elephant sleeping cages. We heard they wake up around 4 am.

Before dinner I got myself a foot massage. Much needed after my 22k step day yesterday and my 12k day today!! For an hour it was $6!!

We just have dinner left for tonight. Then an early wake up call for some more elephant time!!

When I got back from dinner we had lost power to some of the cabins….mine was one of them. Bummer no lights or charging, glad I got my battery pack

**Boots update: she was here in my room after I got back from dinner. This time inside the mosquito net!! Smart cat. So she’s in bed with me right now.