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Travel

Geysir, Golden Circle, Gulfoss, Iceland, Reykjavik, Travel

The (Frozen) Golden Circle & Our Return to Reykjavik

Gulfoss at sunrise

We wake early in Selfoss, forfeit a shower in order to make sunrise, make a quick cup of coffee and get on the road. We head towards Gulfoss, which is a 72 kilometer drive, and in good conditions should take us about an hour. The winds are still high, but after being very cautious for the first part of the drive, we realize the road conditions have improved dramatically. And for this, we are thankful.

We head to Gulfoss and arrive with plenty of extra time. We’re the only ones about, and when the sun slowly begins to creep up into the sky, showing little slivers of pink, we’re still the only ones about. The winds are just as fierce as yesterday, and they’re cutting through us. Add to this the fact that the winds are blowing a steady mist off the waterfalls and onto us and our camera lenses, and it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s a white, winter wonderland all around the falls, and the surrounding pathways are closed, seeing as they’ve frozen into sheets of ice.

Geysir

Geysir

We attempt a few shots, but decide that we may have better light and angles at Geysir, so we hop into the car and drive the 10 minutes down the road. I take this opportunity to dig my long johns out of my backpack and slip them on under my jeans. The temperature is hovering around 0°C, but it’s about -4° with the windchill. Despite the cold temps, Geysir is just beautiful, and we’re blessed with a golden sunrise as a backdrop to every eruption. However, today, we’re finding it more difficult to stand outside for long periods of time. My body isn’t that cold, but my hands actually hurt from holding my camera up waiting to capture the geysir’s eruption. I tell Bill to take his time, but I need to head back to the car. He agrees it’s too cold to stay out much longer, so we head over to the visitor’s center across the road and warm up with some soup.

Gulfoss

Conditions on the drive back to Reykjavik

We decide to make one more trip back to Gulfoss to see if we have any luck with better conditions. We arrive to hoards of tour buses, but manage to get a spot to shoot overlooking the falls. The light is better, but there’s still a mist rising. However, now because we have brighter light now, a rainbow is forming and hanging over the middle of the falls. We’re not here long though, because today, it seems as if the cold has got in our bones and we just can’t shake it. We decide to call it a day and head to Reykjavik, where we will spend our last night.

 

Our Suzuki Swift

Reykjavik’s OK Hotel

It’s just over an hours drive to Reykjavik, but we take our time, seeing as the winds seem to be just a fierce as yesterday’s. And at times, the wind is whipping so much snow across the road, it’s like we’re driving through white out conditions. When we finally clear the worst of it, we’re about 30 minutes from downtown Reykjavik.
When we do arrive, we find a parking garage near the OK Hotel and make our way to check in. Instead of a normal hotel, we have rented a studio apartment for the night. It’s small and cozy, but the decor is trendy and unique, and we manage to get a sense of what it would be like to be a Reykjavik resident. I dive right under the duvet with my jacket and hat on and proceed to power nap for about 30 minutes. We have nothing on the agenda for the afternoon. Our only plans are to go out and treat ourselves to a nice dinner seeing as it’s our last night and we’ve had one sit down dinner so far this week.

Scallop App at Old Iceland Restaurant

Delicious Icelandic Lamb at Old Iceland Restaurant

We head out around 7pm and venture two doors down to the Old Iceland Restaurant. This place received awesome reviews on TripAdvisor, but what sealed the deal was how close it is to where we’re staying.

Considering alcohol is taxed at 26% in Iceland, we haven’t had a drink all week, so we decide since it’s our last night, we’ll split a bottle of wine with our meal. We indulge in scallop appetizers and Icelandic Lamb for dinner. It’s a treat from start to finish, and worth every bit of the $200 it costs us!

As I do at the end of any journey, I look back and wonder how these five days passed so quickly. This has been an epic journey, and Bill and I toast to our incredible adventures.  Despite being my second time here, I am still as awed by the natural beauty found here. It truly is unlike any other country I’ve visited. And even though we had fewer hours of daylight, some incredibly cold conditions, two near car crashes and a very very bad waterfall hiking experience, in my mind I’m already plotting as to when I can get back here for a third visit. There’s just something so special about this island country! Tak, Iceland!

 

glaciers, Iceland, Jokulsarlon, Ring Road, Skaftafell, Svartifoss, Vik, WOW Airlines

Eastern Iceland: Jokulsarlon, Skaftafell & Svartifoss

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Breakfast at Kálfafellsstadur

Despite a late night, we are up super early and get ready and packed up for the day. We head upstairs and Thora has prepared a full homemade breakfast, complete with waffles and homemade jams! We enjoy what is becoming our only sit down meal of the day, thank Thora for her hospitality and head out for Jokulsarlon.

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Jokulsarlon

At 8:30, there is already light on the horizon, and it looks like the day will dawn clear. Unfortunately, my camera is not working, but Bill has lent me his spare camera body which is compatible with my lenses. (I can’t imagine how depressing the rest of the trip would be without a camera, and I’m so thankful to be able to continue to shoot!)

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Jokulsarlon

As we drive west along the ring road back to the lagoon, the sun is rising to our left and the moon is setting to our right. It is the last few days of the “super moon” and we watch as a huge giant white ball drops behind the fjords. We park up at the lagoon but immediately walk over to the black sand beach, where chunks of icebergs are being lashed by water in the wave break. Sunrise is continuing behind, making the ice glow various shades of gold, violet, pink and blue.

 

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Sunrise at Jokulsarlon

We spend well over two hours shooting stills and video here – we just can’t get enough of this natural, unique beauty!

We head back over to the lagoon and grab a hot chocolate at the little cafe and then inquire about a boat ride for later in the afternoon. Our plan is to head to Skaftafell National park to photograph Svartifoss and then head back to Jokulsarlon for a boat tour and sunset. Unfortunately, we find out that boats aren’t operating today due to too much ice debris in the lagoon.

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Svartifoss

We make our way to Skaftafell National Park. which is about a 45-minute drive. Skaftafell, or rather Vatnajökull National Park is home to the Vatnajökull Glacier, but we have come to photograph Svartifoss, a waterfall that sits 1.8km into the park. We begin the hike up and arrive around 2:00. The waterfall is surrounded by basalt rock columns that give me the feeling we’re peering into the center of the earth. Surrounding rocks and shrubbery are covered in a layer of white, frozen mist.

We spend about 1 1/2 hours shooting here, playing with long exposure and neutral density, and we don’t realize how much time has passed. We need to hurry if we want to make it back to Jokulsarlon for sunset. On the hike back down, the light is perfect though, and I want to stop and savor it and take more pictures. Behind us Vatnajökull glacier is brilliant white against an intense blue afternoon sky. To our right are fjords in the distance and bare birch trees, and below us the land is flat and white, and little rivulets lead out to the ocean ahead.

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Jokulsarlon – just after sunset

By 3:45, we are back in the car and heading to Jokulsarlon, but we know we’ve missed the best of the light. We kick ourselves for not leaving earlier, and from the car, we watch as the sun sets to our right. At the lagoon, it’s still a pretty picture, and we decide to head on to Vik with the goal of getting there in time to have a relaxing evening, and maybe even dinner!

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Foss á Siðu

We begin the two-hour drive, making one stop at Foss á Siðu to photograph the falls at night. Tonight is the clearest we’ve seen the skies since arriving, and we’re able to catch a few shooting stars.  Temps are dropping, so we head back to the car and continue on to Vik, arriving at Carina Guesthouse around 8pm.

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Dinner at Suður-Vík

We get checked in and decide as we haven’t had a proper dinner since arriving in Iceland, we should treat ourselves. We head over to Suður-Vík Restaurant for a traditional dinner of Arctic Char and Rib Eye, accompanied with a cauliflower soup and homemade bread. After standing out in the cold all day, the food is warming us through, but making us sleepy!  We pay up and head back to the guesthouse, and as we leave the restaurant, we get a view of another almost supermoon rising above Vik’s church on the hilltop in the distance.

Backpacking, Bucket List, Chile, Patagonia, South America, The W Trek, Torres del Paine, Travel

Patagonia – How This Journey Came To Be

The desire to see this part of the world started long ago, just before my nomadic life began in 2009, but I guess you could say that despite it taking me eight years to finally make it here, Patagonia was the impetus for me setting off on my travels.

Back in my Sunnyside, Queens apartment in December of 2008, I was celebrating finishing my master’s degree and looking to plan a little get away between Christmas and New Year. Patagonia was where I wanted to go. Something about the raw beauty at the opposite end of the world intrigued me. Just the pictures alone made me want to jump on a plane.

After checking with my other broke friends in NYC and looking at the points in my Delta frequent flyer account, we quickly decided Rio was more feasible and affordable, so Patagonia took a back seat and there it sat for the next eight years.

Over these years, my travels would take me to Southeast Asia, Australia, India, Eastern Europe, Central America, Canada and even North Africa. The large continent of South America was somewhere I knew I wanted to go, but somewhere I wanted to go with the right amount of time and the right budget.

Over the years, the intrigue and desire to see Patagonia would grow… almost to the point where the thought of this trip took on a larger than life persona. I treasured the place before I visited and it became a dream trip… one I became hesitant to take, simply for the fact that I wouldn’t have it to look forward to anymore. I told everyone for years that Patagonia was the number one place on my bucket list, yet I was in no hurry to get here.

However, in January, I found myself with 4 ½ months before I had to return to work, some extra cash stashed away from my seasonal work, and the desire for a longer adventure… the time was right for South America, and the main reason for the trip was to finally visit Patagonia.

 

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Norway, Oslo

On the Road Again: First Stop Oslo

After seven months at home, I am itching to see the world again, but it’s a mad dash to get everything ready to go, especially when I’m leaving for an indefinite amount of time. I leave for the Atlanta airport feeling like I’ve forgotten something important. But at this point, all I need is my passport! I fly to Boston, grab a beer, switch off my phone service and begin the disconnection. I board the flight from Boston to Amsterdam, and when America is two hours behind me, I feel like I begin to settle in for the flight.

Less than a month ago, I was scheduled to head back to Nantucket to work a Summer season, but when everything unraveled at the eleventh hour, I took it as a sign. Here was my second chance to make the decision as to what I was going to do with the Summer. A European Summer adventure was calling my name.

Norway is a country that has been creeping up on my travel radar for quite some time now, and Summer seems to be the suitable time to visit, so the next 8 days will have me traveling through Oslo, Bergen, Alesund and Stavanger (with many small villages and fjordlands in between).

Norway’s Parliament building

First stop Oslo:
After almost 24 hours of travel, I finally arrive in Oslo. I venture to the city center by train and catch a bus to Mathallen. I need to track down Dimitri, a friend of a friend who has offered to put me up for a couple of nights while I’m in Oslo. Dimitri owns a couple of bars in the trendy area of Mathallen (Smelteverket and Dansens Hus Kafe- the first is home to the longest bar in Scandinavia). I find Dimitri, who gives me keys to his apartment and walking directions. I arrive knackered, wanting to sleep, but feeling like I should set out and see Oslo. I decide on a power nap, and after a quick shower, it’s already 6pm, but what I don’t realize is that I have almost six hours of sunlight left today- plenty of time to explore.

Oslo’s waterfront sculptures, near Aker brygge.

I venture out to see Oslo. I take a bus back to the city center and begin walking northwest towards the Royal Palace, passing Parliament, and the National Theatre. The streets are lined with tourists and locals alike, but the pace of this place makes me feel like I’m in a large village as opposed to a capital city.  I walk over to Aker Brygge a waterfront entertainment area, filled with shops, bars and restaurants, Everyone is outside enjoying an end of day beer. Time check: 8:30- and there’s no sign of a sunset anytime soon.

Holmenkollen Ski Jump

From Aker Brygge I loop back to the city center taking my time to get back to Grunnerlokka, where I’m staying. I get back to Dimitri’s apartment, and he and his wife Ingvild ask if I’m up for a drive to the Holmenkollen ski jump. It’s 10:30 p.m. but it doesn’t look, or feel like it, so we hop into Ingvild’s car. The ski jump is perched on a hill above Oslo, and I’m afforded views of the city below. In the distance are the many small harbor islands that surround Oslo and provide city residents with a Summer escape.

We drive back through the city, making a stop at Vigelandsparken sculpture park and garden. It’s 11:30pm now, but a few stragglers are left cleaning up after their evening picnics and barbecues. I can already tell that the Norwegians milk every minute of sunlight in the Summertime, and they highly value their parks and green space.

Ingvild, Dimitri and I roam around the empty sculpture park, taking in the oddly beautiful sculptures of Gustav Vigeland. I know I need to return in daylight for a better look.

We arrive back at the apartment close to midnight. Ingvild and Dimitri have to work tomorrow and I need to will myself to sleep. But I’m looking out the window at 12:30a.m. and the sun is just setting. I retrieve an eye mask from my backpack and realize that if there’s any hope of sleep in Norway over the next week, I’m going to be needing this!