Monday, January 20: Loki
We got up at 7:30. I found the hot water for the shower had a very sulfurous smell. There wasn’t that smell with the cold water. I wonder if there were two sources of water to the hotel--a cold clean one, and a warm geothermal one.
We probably hit breakfast around 8am. They had scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon, as well as continental faire, but the orange juice was rather watery. Overall, we liked the breakfast at the previous place better, even though it wasn’t “hot”.
We packed up, checked out, hauled our stuff out to the car, and probably left around 9:30. It was of course still dark.
After leaving Reykjavik, we drove up to a plateau maybe at an elevation of about 1000 feet. This was up in the low cloud cover, but it looked like a very thick fog to us. Driving was a pain, but fortunately after 15 minutes or so, we dropped down into the coastal plain and got below the clouds.
Down on the plain, we passed some greenhouses growing tomatoes. There were hard to miss. It was still dark out, and they were bursting with the light of grow lamps. I guess electricity is rather plentiful, and fresh vegetables are not. I wonder if they run the lights 24 hours a day?
The air temperature here seems very uniform. I don’t think the temperature has gone below 1 Celsius or above 5 the entire time we’ve been here, day or night. That is good, because I would hate to have the temp drop below freezing at the time it was drizzling, so that the road would turn to ice.
We were driving to the Seljalandsfoss Falls. I was wondering if they were going to be hard to find (like the Blue Lagoon was :-), but they were not. Driving down the road, we saw a large waterfall going over some large cliffs. We commented on it, and it turned out to be the falls we were looking for.
One feature of this fall is that you can walk behind it, but the mist made it hard to get photos from that angle. Amy saw a bunch of fulmars, although all I saw was a bunch of birds. :-)
We then drove a short distance to the other side of that arm of the mountain to an even bigger waterfall: Skogafoss.
There was a long staircase going up the side to a viewing platform that was stuck out over space above the falls. It turns out the trail continues for about 20 miles or so, reaching an altitude of about 3,000 feet or more. That (or at least part of it) would be a good day-long hike in the summer.
At the bottom, we went to the nearby restaurant and had lunch. Amy had a ham, cheese, and pineapple sandwich, Mike had a cheeseburger, and I had a chicken burger. At the gift shop, among other things, they had all things puffin: puffin hats, puffin mittens, bags, slippers, and maybe some other puffin things.
We then went “across town” to the Skogar Museum, which was vaguely similar to Sturbridge Village, but a lot smaller. There was one main building, which was a museum; i.e. filled with old things. Then behind it was a “village”, which was a number of old buildings that had been moved there. Most interesting were a number of buildings with low stone walls and turf roofs over planks.
We wandered through the museum building, with Amy taking a billion pictures. I found particularly interesting some of the mechanical things, particularly the knitting machines. Then we went out to the “village”.
By the end of our stay there, it was about 4:00, so the sun was very low on the horizon. That made almost everything look good. That is one advantage of Iceland in the winter. The sun is low on the horizon with great lighting for a relatively long time after sunrise and before sunset.
Technically, the time between sunrise and sunset is about 4 1/2 hours, but it is actually better than that. For maybe an hour before sunrise and after sunset the sun is not that far below the horizon, so while things are dim, they are still quite visible.
We left the museum village and went to N (???). The main loop road (at least around the southern side of Iceland) is Route-1. The major side roads are numbered mostly sequentially. We took 218 to the tip of a peninsula, where we found ourselves atop large black cliffs watching the surf pound and crash. We spent some time there as it gradually got darker and darker.
We left when it was fairly dim, and shortly down the road it became rather dark. On the other side of the “bay”, there was route 215, which takes you down to the black sand beach.
We then had an hour’s drive to Loki (near Kirkjubaejarklaustur), where our hotel was. This was the “boring” part of the drive. There was almost completely nothing around us. Apparently we were surrounded by fields of black lava, but all we could see was blackness around us, and dark grey above. The road was straight for long periods of time, which was almost hypnotizing. We would see the lights of an on-coming vehicle, but it wouldn’t pass us until several minutes later.
We caught occasional drizzle, and even a period or two of real rain. So far we’ve managed to luck out and only get rain when we were in the car--it hasn’t rained or drizzled while we were outside.
We had put the address of the Loki hotel into the GPS, but apparently we got the address wrong. Fortunately Amy saw a sign for the Loki Hotel, so we turned off the main road and drove up into the hills. On this road it was very dark and rather foggy. It really felt like we were driving to the middle of nowhere.
We were wondering if we were going to end up in a cabin or small farmhouse, which would be rather run down, but eventually we came to a large, empty parking lot in front of the hotel. It gave us a better appreciation for “off season”. We are the only guests in that wing of the hotel, and at dinner (at the hotel, as we were not going to drive off and look for something else) there were only two other parties present.
The hotel was a very upscale, contemporary variation of a farm house with at least two wings. It was very tastefully done and is the nicest place we’ve been in so far. It is owned and operated by a family who also happens to live here. I gather that it is rather packed during the summer, but not now.
We brought our stuff up, got settled a bit, and then went to dinner. Michael was impressed with our room. It was the first room we’ve had that had a bath tub rather than just a shower stall. It also had a balcony, but it was very dark and foggy, so we couldn’t see a thing.
At dinner, we found that the guy at the next table lived in Chelmsford, it was his first time to Iceland, and in fact he came out on the same flight that we took. Small world!
The dinner was the fanciest and best that we’ve had so far. Amy ordered salmon, Mike chicken, and I had lamb. When they were served, Mike decided that the sauce on the chicken was too spicy for him, so I swapped my lamb for his chicken. I splurged and got a glass of the house white. We also splurged and got a cake plate that we shared.
No prices were mentioned, and I’m really curious how much this set us back, but since we really didn’t have any alternative, we didn’t worry about it. (It was $133)
I would have liked to have had a decaf coffee with dessert, but they don’t seem to have decaf anywhere. Oh well...