Aaaaaaand I’m back from Iceland. Part 1.

I’ve actually been back for two weeks but work happened in that way it always does (dramatically and oppressively) so I haven’t had a chance to sort through my pics. But now that Christmas break has started I got a chance to sift through my pictures of moss (get ready to see, like, twenty pictures of moss) (I am not kidding) and y’all gonna get a chance to live my trip to Iceland with me. So, Iceland. First, let me say I understand Bj√∂rk sooooooo much better now. Her weird, odd, sometimes beautiful and otherworldly music makes much more sense. When I came back I watched a documentary on her and she talks about how being Icelandic influenced her in the first five minutes.

Iceland is unique. Based on what was told to me by several locals, Iceland is most like the big island of Hawaii in that it popped up out of the ocean from volcanoes. The two islands have the same black sand beaches and a very similar pH in the earth. Because Iceland was not part of Pangaea (the giant supercontinent that splintered into our separate continents) and no rafts of leaves floated over, Iceland has no native animals. None. Some seabirds come over and nest there in the summer but until some guy from Norway (let’s call him Sven) came over in 800 A.D. with his sheep and horses and cows, there were no beasties. According to my Icelandic source (the young man who worked at the geothermal bakery), Sven had to return to Norway after some time because all his animals died and he was starving. This sounds pretty correct to me. Everything about Iceland’s landscape said, “Thank you for visiting but if you stay here you will eventually die of malnutrition and exposure.” There are no trees. I’m exaggerating. There are a few short trees. A few. But no situation where you couldn’t see something because it was blocked by trees. No forests. So you can’t build your shelter out of anything but pumice which is sharp and porous. Fissures are open in the ground and sizzling water mixed with poisonous gases come out. There’s no grass for your animals to eat. The ocean is perpetually trying to kill you so it’s hard to fish. The wind wants to rip the flesh from your bones. But, you know people, they can’t take no for an answer. People eventually settled and the hardy short hairy horses and hardy short hairy sheep did well and became indigenous. Humans also brought mice and rabbits and reindeer and they’re considered Icelandic now too even though they’ve only been on the island for 1,000 years.

We* arrived at about 8:30 in the morning and the first thing one would notice is that it was pitch-black outside. I soon found out that the sun didn’t rise until 10:51 in the morning, hung out in the sky for about four hours and then peaced out, leaving you in blackness again. Once we rented our vehicle from the car rental station (where I saw this sign):

arrival

We headed out to get some breakfast. As we were driving away from the airport, there was a sculpture that set the tone perfectly. It was a big pile of rocks with an enormous egg on top and a tail breaking out of the top. This was lit with red lights from the bottom for maximum spookiness. It said, “Hey, you didn’t know we filmed Game of Thrones here? Well, now you know! GIANT DRAGON EGG!” I was too busy going, “Whuuuuuuu…?” as we were passing it to get a picture of it, but here’s a shot I took as we were leaving. It’s during the day so it doesn’t have the same impact as it did with the red lights but you get the idea.

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Post-breakfast we started off to our first destination: the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is mostly for tourists – the natives tend to go to small hot pots in YMCA-like facilities in their towns. The four of us got to the place in pouring icy rain, changed into our bathing suits, grabbed some towels and quickly lowered ourselves into the warm, sulfur-smelling water. Important note: if you do not like the smell of sulfur maybe don’t visit Iceland. It’s a very common odor to come across. Some of the hot water pumped into the houses comes directly from the earth and it is infused with the pungent, egg-y smell. On the way to the lagoon we passed a cemetery. Much to our surprise and for reasons we couldn’t really fathom, the Icelandic people put colorful lit crosses near the graves. It’s a strange place to make so festive. Everywhere else the houses which are small and quaint have one tasteful strand of lights strung above the door, but if you come to visit the graves of Nana and PopPop, hey! A rainbow light-up cross shows you the way!

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I thought it was only that cemetery but no, I saw it several more times. Come celebrate Brazilian Carnival at the cemetery! Woot woot!

cemetery2

Back to the lagoon. It was 9:45 in the morning. It was pitch-black. There was freezing cold rain periodically falling. There was also a thick fog that prevented you from seeing ten feet in front of your face. To complete the weirdness, there’s a hotel being build off to one side of the lagoon so you can hear some construction sounds and see the lights of the crane through the fog. I felt exactly like I was a wealthy person enjoying life after the fall of society in some dystopian future. Very Mad Max: Fury Road. “I’ll just sit in this warm, eerily bright blue water filled with powdered silica in this perpetual night consumed by fog while buildings are built nearby. All is as it should be.” I didn’t take my phone out because I was concerned it would get wet but someone else took some pictures that were very similar to what I saw. Thank you, internet, for providing me with visual reference of my experience.

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We took some photos as we were leaving.

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This was taken around 11:30 in the morning. This was as bright at it got during the day. Epic gloominess.

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Next, we look at waterfalls. In the dark. Because Iceland.

*”We” is Cricket, Cricket’s sister Mishi, Mishi’s husband D and me.

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