Road to Hana

I set out to experience what I have heard AMAZING things about: The Road to Hana. I unfortunately had two work calls I had to take first so I didn’t leave the hotel until about 1030am. I was expecting traffic and that’s pretty much what I got.

I hit some traffic right at the beginning of Hana highway, but that was mostly just little town that caused people to drive slowly. Once out of the town, the speed limit dropped to 30 and basically stayed that way for the next 30 miles. Often times the speed limit would drop to 15 mph to take curves more carefully or stopping completely to allow traffic from the other direction proceed. Much of the drive is spent waiting for oncoming traffic to clear a bridge as they are all 1 lane.

The views were beautiful, lush and green vegetation made the 2 hour drive (each way) worth it. Many people dropped along the drive to get out and swim or hike – but there were so many people stopping there was no where to park so I just drove straight through on the way there. I holkeed up my gopro to the windshield inside then realized I was going slow enough I stopped and hooked it up outside on the side mirror.

I made it to Hana and turned around to head home. About 15 minutes before I made it to Hana I noticed a sign that said “lava tunnel .” I stopped at the lava tunnel on the way back – it was interesting, not what I thought at all, but interesting nonetheless.

I hit the road back to the hotel, stopped a few times to take pictures and enjoy the view. I arrived back at the hotel around 4pm. When I got back I went to meet up with Mike, Amy and the girls for dinner. We spent a little time on the beach but couldn’t decide on dinner so we parted ways and I went to read and order room service, while they went to their little restaurant on their property. The day ended amazing with some fancy macaroni and cheese along with onion soup and of course beautiful views from the balcony!!

What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest?

Stand up! Ok, ok, I cant take credit for that amazing joke – and Im sure our guide cant either – but it was hilarious and I loved it, so I had to share!

Lets get into today! Let me start by saying I slept like a rock – I dont know how or why, but my body clearly needed sleep. I even slept through Lauren’s alarm! It was our last Airbnb and last place with a kitchen so Lauren made herself some oatmeal and enjoyed her breakfast before we hit the road. We packed up and headed to this like Viking ship looking building. (we thought it was a church, but still dont know for sure). Snapped a picture this odd building and decided to head down to the little downtown area of Stykkisholmur. Turns out there isnt much there at all! We parked and attempted to find cute little stores, but they dont exist there! Its a fishing village looking place and not much else. Disappointed we headed out of town toward, YARNVILLE! (Alafoss)

Today was a day all about Lauren and her happy places. But first, we had to stop a water fall and cross under water in a tunnel – and that was like of course an awesome thing that I nerded out over. It was a 6km tunnel that was built to cut down on travel time from the north, used to be a toll road, but now its free!! (woohoo!!)

When we arrived at Alafoss Lauren was giddy. This place is like her heaven. The store is all things wool and yarn – and we saw everything! Lauren got her wool fix with some bundles (Im sure they have a name for them) to make a sweater, but not before looking at every color and style and texture. She was just lit up with joy!! After she bought enough to get the tax back we walked up the small little hill to check out the rest of the town (only like 50 people live there) but there wasnt much else to see.

After Alafoss we headed into Reykjavik. We are staying at a pretty nice hotel tonight and because I am an Orbitz VIP or whatever we got free drinks and entrance into the spa. Could this trip have ended any better?? We checked in and headed to the room to relax for about 30 minutes before heading off to the CityWalk tour. (I would recommend doing a walking tour in ANY city you can!) Our guide Nanna was a true Scandinavian girl – blonde hair and all! She was a great guide, was always loud enough and added plenty of humor. Remember that joke from the beginning, that was Nanna. We learned more history about Iceland that we didnt know and got a nice little tour of the city. After our walk we headed to dinner.

On our way to dinner, we ran into Lauren’s second happiest place – a Christmas shop! She likes ornaments for her Christmas tree. So we stopped in to get her one! And I got Bill an elf named Hugo! (by the by, I dont buy souvenirs for people!) But he asked about the elves so I got him one.

And finally we arrived at our dinner local. Lauren had done some research to find a vegan hot dog place. It should be noted that the Icelanders LOVE hot dogs. In fact most things close early (like 7, restaurants 10) but the hot dog stands stay open well into the night, closing at 1am. Anyway, back to the vegan hot dog. This place was like a cafeteria, but high end. We proceeded to order (2) vegan hot dogs (they come with cronions, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and some secret sauce thing), a side of smooshed potatoes and grilled sourdough bread with herbed butter. And it was DIVINE!! Like so good!! Who knew pickles would add so much and who knew a VEGAN hot dog could be so good!! I am NOT a vegan, but I dont eat red meat or pork – or anything, so hot dogs arent something Ive had in YEARS. But today I had one and it was just so lovely. Our waitress was from Colorado who had met her boyfriend while studying abroad in Prague and moved here to be with him. We learned a whole lot of random things about her and very much enjoyed hearing about life here.

After dinner we headed out to find some ice cream. I had heard it was good and they werent kidding. Lauren was even able to get vegan sorbet. I got white chocolate and toblerone – Lauren got passion fruit and strawberry. All were amazing and didnt disappoint. We took our ice cream and walked to the concert hall that Reykjavik finished in 2011. Its a pretty cool looking building sitting on the water front and was meant as a tour attraction for their new tourism push starting that same year.

We finished the night with (free) drinks in the top floor bar (woohoo for VIP). Lauren got the two free drinks and I got a Sprite. Basically like $50 worth of drinks for $4 (woohoo for VIP, again!). After our beverages we headed down to the room to change and hit the SPA!! It of course involved robes and slippers, a hot tub and sauna. We enjoyed our time, talked to some Americans who loved to embarrass their 15 year old son who wasnt even there.

Sad to say tomorrow is our last day in this beautiful country – but we are already planning our next trip for next May…where will we go next??

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.

The land of fire and ice

Woooowwwweeee!! First I should say that it is not in fact a 14 hour travel day to get to Iceland from SFO. It was about 11. First flight was Alaska Airlines SFO to SEA. I had what was supposed to be about a 15 minute layover in Seattle, but it turned out to be more like 45 minutes. Thankfully I had time to get some grub before my flight. 

I got Ramen….I would not recommend Ramen for a plane ride, when it comes in a biodegradable bowl. I didn’t want to rush eating the ramen so I was waiting until I got on the flight – what that meant was the heat and spiciness of the ramen was starting to break down the bowl, so by the time I got on the plane, it was leaking!! I had an emergency exit row so I had plenty of room to make a mess – the ramen splashed on my sweatshirt – so now I smell like spicy ramen. 

Once I had finished my ramen boarding was also complete – and guess what NO ONE IN THE MIDDLE SEAT!! Woohooo!! The guy on the aisle and I chatted a bit about how he had broken up with the girl that was supposed to be coming on the trip MONTHS ago and when he called to see if he could get any money back (he couldn’t) he decided not to cancel until the morning of the flight so the middle seat would be open – and bless his hipster heart for doing just that!! 

Our flight was a bit delayed, but who the heck cares, cuz no one was in the middle seat, I had my stomach full, a big ole pillow to rest my head on, and a quick 7.5 hour flight to ICELAND!!

Upon arriving in Iceland I expected the usual customs forms and check – but NO!! I just walked up to the passport agent and she asked how long I was in the EU for (apparently Iceland is part of the EU) and stamped my passport and I was on my way!! I met Lauren in the luggage reclaim area – she had been there about 2 hours. She, of course had made friends with a woman who was also waiting for someone on my same flight. Once my bag arrived we were on our way through customs – which again was nothing, there wasnt even a space for someone to pretend to be customs. Iceland is apparently very free.

Lauren grabbed a coffee while I read up on where to pick up our rental car and we headed out to find our shuttle to take us off site. Lauren was concerned about the weather and driving conditions and wanted to check into a 4×4 vehicle option. When we asked about it, the guy basically made us think we were crazy for wanting one and said it would be more than double the price to get one…..so off we went with our little Hyundai i20 (small little baby car). First stop BLUE LAGOON.

Lets just say that the Blue Lagoon is a total tourist trap – but WORTH IT!! We had reservations at 8am to beat the crowds and we did!! Lauren (the little researcher she is) got us the package that came with a robe and flips, free drink and an extra face mask. Once we were all checked in it was off to change into our suits. Before going into the lagoon you have to shower – naked – and then put your suit back on over a wet body. RUDE. That is so hard to do!! At least everyone was struggling the same. We decided to take our phones with us to snap some pictures. (it didnt last long).

The water was so warm and soothing. (didnt taste great, though Im sure they warn you about that too) We strolled in (the entrance is inside) and down the ramp and then finally through the door where the wind hit us something fierce. It was COLD!! But the water remained warm, so we dropped into the water and scooted out into the open lagoon for some pictures.

After about 10 minutes we were over holding our phones above the silica heavy water. So, the phones went back into the locker. We came back to the lagoon and headed over the face mask bar. We got Silica masks and you are supposed to leave that on for 10-15 minutes, but it is COLD!! Cold because of the wind blowing off over the ridge hits the mask and freezes your face. I could only handle it for like 2 minutes before I started taking it off. Lauren was a champ and made it the full 10 minutes. During that time I got more mask and put it on again. Made it a bit longer this time. We waded the water for a long while. We got some “pure Icelandic water” they had a little spigot of fresh water under one of the bridges. (Also ice old). We tried the steam room, it was pretty cold; and then off to the waterfall. The waterfall was like a massage for your shoulders, the weight of the water pelting your muscles was great. Lauren didnt care for it as much as I did. 

We got another mask, this time algae. Its supposed to make our skin look like Cindy Crawford’s. Im not sure it worked, but it felt nice!! After the mask we headed to our lunch reservation.

Originally we had just decided to go get the sparkling wine that was complementary with our ticket, but then we heard it was pretty good, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

While the lunch was roughly $60 it was a good experience and the food was worth it!! After lunch it was back into the lagoon for some last minute pictures (we needed to try out portrait mode) and then head on our way.

After Blue Lagoon we headed to COSTCO!! Mainly just to see what they had there and it was basically a regular Costco. They had some different candy and such, but mainly the usual. After Costco we hit a supermarket (Bonus!) and stocked up on some snacks for our ROAD TRIP!!

We checked into our hotel and then ventured off to the downtown area of Reykjavik. It was a cold 20 minute walk each way, but the town was cute and felt very European. 

We ate at a bar that was Big Lebowski themed bar (turns out I have no idea what that is). We got veggie burgers and then headed back to the hotel. 

On our way we stopped at another grocery store to see if there was any bath towels there (we are going to go to another thermal bath and they charge you like $5 to rent a towel – and if we keep that up we might as well buy our own!). There were no towels there, but Im pretty sure I found a package of Whale, which made me sad. 

Back in the hotel now and trying to warm up after the cold walk back. Planning tomorrow and looking forward to our continuing adventure!