Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Today is our last full day in Iceland and we awaken to find cold, rain and fog. We feel lucky that we had a couple of stellar weather days. I am not sure that Iceland would be as much fun if you were constantly wet and cold.
After another wonderful breakfast at Mengi Kjarnholt we must check out and move on. Before we leave Jon shows us a video of a couple of Asian tourists last winter who was driving along an icy road and filming as they drove. Out of nowhere there appears a Mercedes coming the other way and he has lost control of his vehicle. The Mercedes smashes into the tourists’ rental car. Very scary video. (Jon tells us that everyone escaped without serious injury). I don’t think I would want to drive here in the winter. Obviously, YOU may be ok driving in those conditions, but you never know about the other drivers.
Today we will be visiting Þingvellir (Thingvellir) a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavík. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates and that is precisely why we are going there. We will be there for one (stupid?) reason and one reason only – to snorkel between the Tectonic Plates in the Silfra fissure!
“The Silfra fissure, is known as one of the top dive sites in the world for two main reasons.First, the Silfra fissure is actually a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents, meaning that you dive or snorkel right where the continental plates meet and drift apart about 2cm per year.
Silfra is the only place where one can dive or snorkel directly in the crack between two continental plates.Secondly, the underwater visibility in the Silfra fissure is over 100 meters, which creates an underwater experience that will rarely, if ever, be surpassed. The reasons for this astounding water clarity are twofold: the water is cold (2°C – 4°C year round ) as it is glacial water from the nearby Langjökull and this water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years until it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake, seeping out from underground wells. The Silfra water is as pristine as water can get and you can drink it at anytime during your dive or snorkel.”
This is another of my hair-brianed ideas that sounded really good from the comforts of home. We driving into the National Park and I am following directions on Google Maps to get to P5 (parking) where Dive Iceland has instructed us to meet them. When we arrive where Google tells me, something doesn’t look right – we are at P3. Rich thinks we passed our turn-off, but I insist that this is where we are supposed to be. I suck it up and go into the Visitor’s Center to ask. Oops – Rich was right (pains me to admit). We turn around and finally find P5. Thanks a lot, Google…
We arrive to find a small area with vans from several dive companies and easily locate the Dive Iceland van “Changing Room.” It is very windy and I am cold already. Now I am supposed to snorkel??? There are 6 snorkelers in our group and we are given a brief intro from Dan, our guide. Eveyone changes into a thermal jumpsuit. We are told to keep on only a thin layer of thermals underneath.
Changing into the jumpsuits wasn’t bad. But then we need to put on our drysuits. Rich and I are both very experienced scuba divers, but we have never dove with drysuits on. They are a completely different beast than wetsuits and take a lot of maneuvering to get on. Everything (armholes, ankles, cuffs, and especially neck openings) must be sealed up completely so that no water can get into your suit. My suit is super tight and requires assistance. Rich’s is not quite as tight and he must use the extra “tight collar strap” to cinch up. Can we still breathe?
I am completely worn out by the time we are suited up! As we are given our masks/snorkels and fins we see a group of snorkelers who have just finished their tour. They are not smiling. They appear frozen. OMG What in the hell have I gotten us into. (It is worth noting that if you are 60+ years of age you must have a physician’s note to participate. I brought one from home. Rich does not need one…)
Our group of 6 plus Dan trudge (seriously, trudge is the right word because you can barely walk in these things) across the road to get to the entrance of Silfra. The water is mega-clear and about 2 degrees F. Only our faces are exposed. We are told that our gloves aren’t actually waterproof and our hands may get cold. Dan tells us not to move them around in the water too much – let’s in the cold water.
Time to go! We enter down a platform and some steps. The suit is suprisingly waterproof (what did I expect?) and I don’t feel immediately cold. Even when I put my face in, it is not too bad. Dan tells us we should take a sip of the water – some of the most pure in the world. It is great!
The remainder of the pics from Silfra are taken by Dan (our guide).
The drysuits make you completely bouyant so you just kind of float (with the current) and peek around. Absolutely gorgeous colors from the rocks and algae are all around.
After about 15 minutes my hands begin to feel numb and are stinging. I have to pee. The complete tour is supposed to be 35 minutes. I hope I can make it.
Dan briefed us that we would be making a left turn into the lagoon where we would be disembarking. I will admit, that I was really happy when we began to turn left! I am the first one out of the water (not that it is any warmer out there). Dan asks me if I am a “swimmer.” He tells me that I am very good in the water. Little does he know.
I wish we had some photos of us getting OUT of our drysuits. I feared it was going to be an ordeal. It was. When we walk back to the van we are freezing and our hands no longer function. How in the heck are you supposed to pull off this super tight suit with no fingers? Dan obliges and helps me to “disembark.”
I am sure Rich (and everyone else) got a big kick out of seeing Dan try to peel me from my suit. What goes in must come out. The hood is easy enough but then comes the “head hole” with the super, super tight neck. He encourages me to hold part of it and try to stretch it. He pulls. I stretch. He pulls more. At one point I was bent over with my head actually stuck in the neck hole. Almost couldn’t breathe. I was figuring that I would have to spend the rest of my life in this thing.
Dan gave a final tug and my head came out with me making a very loud exclamation of “God Bless America!” Wow. Free at last.
Rich’s neck strap is so tight that he needs me to help him open it. My fingefrs barely work, but I manage to undo him from his leash. Ahhhh. So basically we had 1 1/2 hours prep for a 35 minute tour…
We duck into the “Changing Room” to remove the jumpsuits and put on our regular clothes. I do it in record time and run to the bathroom. Oh man – the bathroom is the place to be. There is a HEATER in there! I manage to tear myself away and join the group for a much deserved hot chocolate and cookies.
This experience was amazing and I really can’t believe we did it. Did I love it? No. Would I do it again? Not for a second time. Am I glad we did it? YES!
There are absolutely no plans for the remainder of the day. It is rainy, windy and cold so we are not really keen on trying to see anything else. Besides that, we are wiped out. I am sure we burned thousands of calories just trying to keep warm. We drive on and head towards Keflavic and our guesthouse for the last night in Iceland.
The scenery on this part of Iceland is not nearly as spectacular as what we saw in the South. I can’t believe the contrast. Up here it is more flat “ranch-type” land with horses and sheeps. I think that many tourists land in Keflavic, go to Rekjavik and then take the “Golden Circle” tour which is the National Park, Geysir and Gulfoss. They never make it down South. Pity. We are wondering what it would be like to do the entire Ring Road – probably spectacular. We probably should take a little jaunt to Rekjavik, but we are not in the mood.
Guesthouse 1X6 is easy to find in the cute seaside area of Keflavik (that is where the airport is located, not in Rekjavik).
Andi greets us with a warm smile and shows us around. Guesthouse 1X6 gets fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor (why it was chosen for us) and I can see why. It is super cute with lots of nice details and warm touches.
Andi and Yuki invite us for a coffee and proudly shows us his awesome Italian Gaggia espresso machine. I admit this is of the best Cappuccinos of the trip for me. Rich impresses by ordering a “Cortado.”
We are told there is a hot tub out back, but everyone is required to shower before entering. There are no chemicals in the water. We follow instructions and then head out back in our bathrobes.
OMG. This has to be the best hot tub we have ever seen. It is a huge, rock-lines structure with carved Tiki men all around. The water is the perfect temperature. And to top it off we have it all to ourselves. This is just the ticket to cap off the day.
After a nice long soak we head over to the neighbor town Sandgerdi for dinner at Vitinn.
The special Crab Soup is ordered for both of us. We ordered the starter portion and should have shared. The bowls were huge! The soup is wonderful, but we don’t eat it all because we have main courses on the way. Rich chooses the Redfish and I the lamb.
We make the short drive back to 1X6, packup and set the alarm for EARLY.
We will be flying to London tomorrow to spend one night before heading home. There were no flights where we could go the entire route in one day. That’s ok. We are looking forward to a laid back afternoon in London and a nice relaxing pub dinner.