Let’s go for a hike

Well first I must fill you in last night. After the beach, I ran into Pip. Pip checked in with me, and is in another room. She invited me out for a drink with her and her roommates, so I decided to go.

We went to the same place I went to lunch at. We had drinks (I had a Coke light with lemon) and after awhile we ordered dinner. It was yummy. We decided to head to bed around 10, but as soon as I opened the door to my room, I heard a concert! There was a party in the square, apparently just because it summer. Emma and Lisa were in the room so we decided since we couldn’t sleep, might as well go down. We went and just watched everyone dance. I left around 1130 to shower and journal the day.

The party ended at midnight, so we could finally sleep! Thank goodness!

Today:
I woke up to an overcast sky and cool weather. All of us roomies got up at once, so we all got ready and headed our separate ways. I stopped at the Co-op to get some blackberries and a yogurt to snack on during my hike, and then headed out. This is the first time I haven’t taken my big camera with me! But it was too heavy for such a rough hike.

The first leg (from town one to town two) was paved, and covered and just simple, some curves and a very few steps, but nothing difficult, at that point I thought this 9KM hike can’t possibly be that bad! I thought too soon, that’s for sure! The second leg (from town two to three) was a little more challenging, but still mostly paved, its distance was longer than the first leg, but still not too tough. I don’t even remember seeing the 3rd town, so clearly I was in a zone. From town three to four it got a little more difficult. Many many steps and actual hiking paths, not paved. At one point you could opt out of stairs and take a road, but I decided since I was doing the official walk, I was taking the stairs. 

I stopped in the fourth town to have a snack and get a cold water. I took about a 20 minute break, then headed towards the final town. According to the park guide, its a 2 hour walk from town 4 to 5, so I was ready, or so I thought. The first 20 minutes of the walk was just stairs!! I couldn’t believe it! After the first ‘set’ of steps the path narrowed and got tough, and there are no handrails either! The steps never really stopped leading up. I had to take a 5 minute break at what I thought was as high as I could get, it ended up being close to the top, but I had another 10 minutes of steps after that!

Once you made it to the ‘top’ the descent started. And oh goodness, it was the most beautiful part of the walk, a stream ran next to the path, there were little waterfalls (not that you could see, but that you could hear) and 2 small bridges to cross. And then the stairs started, again! At least this time they led down to the town. I would say easily over 1000 steps down (which means if you are going the other way, you have to go UP them). The steps were of varying heights and widths, so it kept you on your toes, literally!

I reached the last town in 3 hours and 30 minutes, which was an hour and a half faster than the ‘average’ time! I was proud of myself. I decided to go sit on the beach and maybe go in the water. However, the weather was so weird that every time I stood up to go into the water the sun would go behind the clouds, and it got cool. The water wasn’t as warm as the other day, so I was a little disappointed. I took a short nap, then attempted to get back to my town. I missed 2 trains because they showed up on the wrong tracks, but I wasn’t the only one, so I didn’t feel so bad then!

I made it back to my room, and was going to get in the shower when Lisa came in. We decided to go have a drink (or in my case Fanta or Coke light) up on a ledge over looking the water. We showered, then headed up to a small bar to relax. Emma came and joined us a little later and we closed down the place (it closed down at 8pm). We headed to another bar until our dinner reservations at 930. We have fun talking to the locals and they love finding out where people are from. 

Our dinner was at the ‘best’ restaurant in town (there are about 10 total restaurants in our town). The atmosphere was nice, but the selection of food was poor and I really didn’t enjoy my dinner, just wasn’t ‘the best’ I guess. Our other roomie, Illia (the guy from Russia) came and joined us for some gelato before we all headed to bed. Lisa and I were so exhausted from the hike, we laid in our beds and our bodies shut down.

Just go chasing waterfalls

Wow. I am exhausted writing this tonight. We hit the road in an attempt to get to Hofn. Our first goal was to get some Petrol. About 20 minutes into the drive, we found the petrol station – however, it was broken!! The owner came out to try and help and basically in his body language and Icelandic language said it was broken.
So we continued on our way. We put another petrol station in the gps and we found one that was much better than the one we were going to. It had a grocery store right next to it (apparently this is common), but it also had a yarn store across the street (win for Lauren!) So we filled up the half a tank for about $45, got some yummy bread and snacks and hit the yarn store. I guess I should point out that we found out there was a MAJOR storm heading our way and we were hoping to make it to Hofn, where we had a reservation for the night. At this point in the day (around 1030am) it wasnt all that bad. From the Secret Lagoon to Hofn should have been about 5 hours. 
Ok, back to our drive. We were listening to a podcast and Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left. We decided to stop and see it, why not, we are on a road trip to see as much of Iceland as we can!! Well, we werent the only ones, turns out its a pretty big waterfall stop for tours and such. We had to pay for parking and then got to walk the area and check out the waterfalls. We are starting to realize that people and their snow pants/water proof pants are smarter than they look. There was an opportunity to go into a cave area, but you would get soaked. I was willing to go in, its just it was way too busy and people were just hanging out on rocks to wait their turn. So instead we headed back to the car to continue on our way. It was a beautiful stop!!

On the road again….our next stopping point was Vik. Our hopes was that we could make it all the way to Hofn still, but time was ticking and we were getting ready for the worst. Again…Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left, so of course, we had to go. And guess what?? You could climb to the top!! So we had to climb. I promise you Lauren would NOT have climbed if I hadnt been there, but Im glad we went up. It was INSANE. The wind had picked up by this point, like dangerously so. The rental car lady had warned us to hold our car doors when we get out, and she wasnt kidding. None of the insurance covers doors going the wrong way, so we had to hold on carefully. We bundled up in rain jackets, sweaters, gloves, scarves, etc. and took to the stairs. LOTS AND LOTS OF STAIRS. We made it to the top, took a couple pictures and then headed down. Im not sure I can describe the wind enough for anyone who wasnt there to understand, but maybe my Aunt and Uncle in Florida would, hurricane force winds and all. On our way down a gust of wind knocked a girl off the stairs (parts only had rope hand rails) and she screamed. Luckily, her fall was all of 2 feet into grass, but still, thats how strong it was. We hustled back to the car to warm up and continue on our way.

It was about 230pm at this point. The reality that we wouldnt be making it to Hofn today. We were discussing options of things to do when we came upon a parking lot on the right side of the road. Lauren realized this was the DC3 plane that I have wanted to see this whole trip!! WOOHOOO!! I didn’t think we would make it!! And it looked so flat to get out there, I was even able to talk Lauren into coming with me….until we got out of the car!! Then the wind WHIPPED!! And the frozen rain pelted, and she went back to the car. And I, ran to the bus that charged you $27 to take you out the 2.5 miles to the plane. And let me tell you, best $27 I have spent, because the wind was so intense. Lauren said when I came back she didn’t know if I was going to get to see the plane because the weather was so crazy. When the dropped us at the plane, we had about 2 football fields to walk to get to it. There were only about 15 of us total there, and about 40 people who were crazy enough to walk the whole way. The wind was intense enough that it almost knocked me over at one point. And when you lean into the wind so you dont get pushed over its perfect, until the wind just stops and you almost fall over in the opposite direction!The DC3 plane was eerie. And weird. No one died during the crash landing. It was a US Naval plane, all 5 members survived the crash. Rumor has it the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank and ran out of gas and they had bad weather so they crash landed. Anyway, the plane is just sitting there on a black sand beach. Nothing around for 2.5 miles (the parking lot now). I loved this place. I am so happy I got to do this!!

It was here in the parking lot once I was back that we changed our Airbnb to tomorrow and were on a mission to find a place to stay tonight. That actually wasnt the easiest thing to do. We were about 20 minutes from Vik and most of the hotels and Airbnbs were sold out for tonight. Luckily with 4 different apps we were able to find a place called The Farm House. It was 7 minutes from the plane parking lot. And let me tell you – we won!! This is a win for us. We got a great room, private bathroom (many of the places available did not have that option) and a kitchen. We checked in and the host recommended we hustle to go get food if we wanted to (it was now 4pm) because the roads would be closing soon – ya know hurricane force winds and all. So we “booked” it (at about 50kph) and got some pasta (duh), crisps, cheese, sauce, and a 7up for me. When we got back we cooked up our yummy food and enjoyed a hot meal in for the night! After dinner we played Sequence and I got killed again. But it was fun to learn a new game!

To the Batu cave Batman!!

What a sleep!! My hotel was so quiet and peaceful, temperature was perfect, I slept like a baby. I didn’t want the morning to come!! But alas I woke up before my alarm.

I showered in my awesome shower and packed up my things. I checked out and shortly after my taxi driver showed up. Loaded my things up and off we went….into traffic. I had expected traffic and I was right. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Took about 25 minutes instead of the 15 without traffic.

But I made it!! The Batu caves in front of me, along with a whole lot of stairs!!

Like a whole bunch. But I was ready. By the way, this place was free. I don’t know how they do that. They take donations, but no demanded prices. I started my climb and encountered my first monkey!! And she had a baby!! Ugh so cute!! Many people were barefoot (as some believed the whole site is sacred) and others just removed them before they entered any of the temples at the top. Lots of people were also stopping multiple times, smart people they are. I stopped once to take a picture of the monkey.

Once you arrive at the top, after a ton of stairs, you are greeted by some stairs that decend into the cave to a wide open area, followed by some more stairs up!!

The place is just a marvel. More than the beauty, the sheer energy required to build and maintain this site is incredible. And they are currently working on it. I can’t tell if they are just completely redoing the temples inside or if they are building new. But regardless, bricks, sand, tools, etc need to be lugged up all those steps.as do the snacks, gifts and beverages available at the top.

I spent some time at the top, enjoying the caves, watching the guys work on the new temple. They have to work barefoot as it’s considered sacred. That would just never fly in the states and yet, I just feel like they were probably safe and used to it. I also watched monkeys interact with each other and humans. Very demanding animal, and yet so smart. And also cute.

At 10am the Dark Cave opened for tourists. It’s about 4/5 of the way up to Batu cave. I was watching all the monkeys enjoy the litter left by tourists and any crumbs they could find inside. One monkey grabbed a sour cream and onion Pringles tin. He carried it up the light pole with him and then chucked it down to the ground. As I passed the monkeys I got a quick selfie, and headed to the Dark Cave.

The Dark Cave wasn’t on any “to do” list I saw, but it was in the side of the “mountain” so I figured why not. What I didn’t know was how educational and interesting this would be, and also a bit creepy.

I paid 35 ringgit (~$9) for a 45 minute tour of this Dark Cave. While waiting I read some of the signage around and found out There is a 4 hour tour, sounded like spelunking, and it was so intense they provide showers at the end so you can get cleaned up before you go back into public!! Sadly this wasn’t an option for me. There were 8 of us in my little group. We were given hard hats and flashlights and a guide to head into the very, very dark cave.

There was a 1 meter wide concrete path leading through the cave.

Our guide was very good, humor, learning and being social – great traits of a good guide. She told is about how the caves came to be, the history of them, the 200,000 bats that live in the (yikes!!), spiders, bugs, etc.

You couldn’t use flashes or point your flashlight on the ceiling, as not to bother the bats (fine with me!!)

It was about a 45 minute tour and after I had to race back down the gazillion steps to my taxi driver. He was right there where he dropped me off and we headed to the airport.

He had a natural gas vehicle (lots of then in KL), and since we were early he stopped at the airport gas station to fill up before he dropped me off. There was a Dunkin Donuts at the gas station – I couldn’t believe it!!

Once at the airport I took my time checking out the pre-check in area. I ventured back to Garretts popcorn (yes, The famous Chicago popcorn) and got a Chicago mix.

I checked my bag and headed through customs. Literally easiest thing ever.

Once through I got some food (chicken curry, it sucked) And realized my plane was boarding and had about a 10 minute walk to my gate. What I didn’t know was that I also had to go through security. So that aded to my time. They instructed me to take off my watch and bracelet and I was shocked. But in my normal I-dont-follow-rules-well attitude I just put them in my pocket. No alarms, as I assumed. They also let me pass with a 50% full water bottle.

I hustled to my gate, just to hear it was delayed 45 minutes. All that rushing for no reason. So I headed back to spend the last bit of money I had. They had a fresh Famous Amos cookie company, and duh, I had to get them. Yummy!!

I got the “hot seat” again, nice final Air Asia flight. Middle seat was open again !! Woohoo!! Quick 1 hour flight to Singapore. Uneventful.

When I got to Singapore, I was just in awe. Like the airport was gorgeous!! Immigration was super easy, 1 minute queue. I got my bag and just left the airport. I grabbed a Grab and headed on my way. It was about a 25 minute ride to my hotel. Once we got here I realized this ride needed cash, and I didn’t have any!! I was in such awe at the airport I didn’t even think of getting cash. My driver was a bit upset, but I had a $20 bill from the states and he accept that and gave me change. I was so lucky.

I’m staying at the Hilton Garden Inn here, its in little India. And it’s no joke, it’s like India!! Smells of curry and flowers.

I ventured out to find food. The sky looked like it was going to open any second.  I found a little food alley and in true Laura fashion managed to find an Italian place. So I had pizza again.

After dinner I headed back to my hotel. Ate some Garretts and relaxed. Gotta figure out what to do tomorrow – they have a universal studios here, it’s only $40 to get in. I may go. Not sure yet. I’m meeting Lam tomorrow for drinks, looking forward to seeing my friend in another country!!