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!!

Will stop for snacks

Today was the longest of the road trip days, mainly because we had to rearrange our stays and places due to weather (apparently it changes every 5 minutes and that’s no lie). But first, lets review last night….

The Northern Lights website said last night was an active night for the lights and that there was a sliver of time around 3am to scope them out in Hofn. So of course we had to set the alarm and get up and go for a drive at 3am to see if we could see them. We could not. It was cold, dark (duh), icy, and LATE (or I guess early?) Our adventure took all of 30 minutes, but it was exhausting.

Lauren set the alarm for a mean 830am. And once it went off, reality struck that I would be driving for a very long time today. So we quickly got ready, packed up our tiny studio area and hit the road for Hvammstangi (say that three times fast). That was approximately 700km or about 9.5 hours of driving. We essentially started off in the Southeast and ended in the Northwest.

In order to not completely go crazy behind the wheel we made stops along the way (all the snacks) and a stop in the town of Akureyi because we had heard it was a cute little town.

Let me start off by saying Iceland terrain is ever changing and surprising. We felt like we were on Mars at times today, in the Rocky Mountains after a snow storm and most importantly in the middle of nowhere.

We honestly spent most of the day listening to Podcasts and some jams to pass the time. We chatted, laughed, stopped for snacks, laughed, stopped for gas, laughed, stopped for more snacks, tallied up our snacks (thats for a later post), laughed, had quiet time, went through three tunnels in mountains, stopped in Akureyi to adventure for a minute, then got gas and snacks and hit the road to the tiny house.

We saw mountains, snow, snow covered roads, a volcano, frozen lakes, hot springs too hot for humans, crazy rock formations, some trees (really not nearly as many as seemed appropriate for the land space), blue water, a fjord, the ocean, black sand, the sun, clouds, waterfalls, and not very many cars. It was during this extremely long stretch while my service was fading in and out that I found out I was upgraded on my flight home!! Woohoo!! That very long 9-11 hour (I dont remember which) flight will be much more enjoyable!

Yesterday the roads we were on had been closed, same with the day before. We realized today that was a smart decision not to attempt to even make it that far because there was nothing out there. We passed only a handful of towns in the 9.5 hours of driving, and filled up in almost every one of those, just to be on the safe side.

We did a short half mile walking tour in Akureyi to stretch our legs for the final 2.5 hour push to the tiny house. Not too much to see in 30 minutes, but they had cute little houses painted in weird colors and a little town square we were able to see as well. One thing that we keep noticing is the amount of new houses (or at least majorly updated) in all of the places we go. Most houses are now corrugated steal and concrete designs.

We hit the road to Hvammstangi around 530, hoping to make it to our tiny house before dark. And we got here right at 8pm, still daylight out. However, about 20 minutes later it was dark – we couldnt have planned that any better. Our little “cabin” in the woods, isnt really in the woods (Iceland doesnt seem to have many wooded areas) is hopefully going to provide us a spectacular place to see the Northern Lights! It is supposed to be an active night again tonight and the clouds are supposed to clear up by midnight (very soon). Wish us luck!!

We made dinner in the tiny little kitchenette and watched the Amy Schumer special on Netflix – and laughed even more. Our internet is extremely weak (I guess to be expected) so it made watching the special and writing my blog very time consuming tonight. I hope tomorrow we have good news to report with Northern Lights sighting, its basically the only thing left on the bucket list that isnt guaranteed.