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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Whew, what a day! Photos are probably going to come later, because I have fairly limited internet tonight, and it's also 1am, which means I need to be heading to bed so as not to fall over tomorrow, unaccustomed as I am to semi-early mornings and busy days!

Anyway. We got up and out of the house around 9:30, this time through the door, thank you very much, and grabbed Subway for breakfast (after seeing KFC, Subway, Taco Bell, etc. here I'm wondering where on earth Starbucks is?! *or McDonalds, for that matter) on our way to the National Museum. Recent winner of a best museum in Europe award, it was completely refurbished in 2004 and a great way to spend the morning. It has eight main sections and covers the history of Iceland from its first settlement 1000 years ago to today. There are some amazing artefacts, including jointed snaffle bits from 800 years ago, the most gorgeous jewellery, intricate wood carvings, etc. Sadly, the hands-on exhibit, where one could supposedly try on clothing, was closed for rennovations, but with a tight schedule as it was, we were happy enough to move on. After walking towards our car rental agency for an hour in a lovely drizzle and beside a four-lane highway, we decided to get on a bus, where the very helpful bus driver took the change we had (not enough, but he didn't mind/notice) and told us how to get to the correct street.

Twenty minutes later, we were the proud temporary owners of a Ford Fiesta (named TJ for the duration). It was pretty funny as we received a free upgrade from our original booking; a Ford Ka, which is evidentally tiny and 2-door. We had been having so much fun saying 'ka, ka, KAHHH' for the past week, we were fairly disappointed to be driving a bigger, better car for free, which confused the rental agent quite a bit! (There's also the $2.40 per L (nearly 10$/GAL we're paying for gas to consider!!!)

Before we were let loose on the road, we were asked to watch a six-minute video on driving in Iceland, which showed an accident, a guy getting whipped to the back of his car thanks to not wearing a seatbelt, and all sorts of other fun things! Also included: Iceland-specific road signs, tips for driving in gravel, and some other bits and bobs.

Set free, we drove back to Tobba's to collect our stuff, bought lunch at the grocery store, and hit the road around 3pm. Our first stop was Thingvellir, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, and home to the original Althingi, or Icelandic national parliament. We walked down to the Law Rock, where people read the laws and made proclimations way back in the day, entertained ourselves by straddling fissures (Thingvellir sits between the American and Europe/Asian plates), and walked down to the little church you'll see when I get photos up. Interestingly, Tobba's family is originally from there, and her grandfather was the priest of the church. Her family lived there until her older brother turned one year old, at which point the family moved north, where she grew up.

At Thingvellir, we noticed we were only 50km from Geyser, so continued inland and completely away from where we actually needed to go, but decided it was worth it when we saw the bubbling pits of water and the impressive and regular 40-foot geyser Strokkur shooting into the sky. We had a fairly grey day, so the photos are a bit grey on light grey, but it was impressive none-the-less. We also saw lots and lots of CUTE ponies and lambs on this part of the drive, and I got some more standard driving practice in, without destroying the clutch!

Following our stop at Geyser, we headed back to the main 'one' road, which was quite a journey in and of itself, and involved some of the inland gravel roads Iceland seems to have in great abundance. The landscape here is incredible, and changes from moon-like, to tundra, to end of the earth, to middle earth, to volcanic mountains, to snowy mountains, to tussock-y grass, to amazing fjords to waterfalls to rivers and streams. It's just incredible. We are SO glad we rented a car instead of flying or taking a bus north! We keep trying to compare it to places we've been and have settled on some sort of 'if Northern Canada and Nevada and the foothills of the Rockies and Hawaii had a baby...' thing.

It's really funny how quickly we've come to think of two or three houses all together as 'civilisation' and a tiny town as a mecca--it's pretty empty out here!

After several hours of driving, we ended up at our destination for the night--Saeborg. It's a tiny settlement now used for educational camps, and shares the general area with our youth hostel, which used to be a farm house. It's basic but clean, quiet, and cheerful. We got here kind of late--around 10:30pm, and unfortunately may have woken up the caretaker when we phoned her to check in (she doesn't stay on-site). However, she was very sweet and got us into a six-person dorm we have all to ourselves, which is very nice. The hostel is perched right on a fjord, and tomorrow we'll be looking at that, dipping our sore-from-endless-walking-muscles in the geo-thermally-heated hot tub, and seeing if we have time to look for puffins before we continue north to Akyureri and meet our hosts for the next three weeks, Benni and Thordis.

OK, time to log off, download photos, and fall into bed. More and photos tomorrow, hopefully!

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