Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Settling down again

The Icelandic trip was wrapped up with revisiting Albert and Ingibjörg in Hafnarfjörður, staying at an organized campsite for the first time (sponsored by Albert, who without our knowledge payed 950 ISK twice, this way giving us a little more comfort than we used to have when we camped wild) and last camping among the trees at Öskjuhlíð by Perlan. The return to the continent was fast and not disturbed by any misbehaving volcanoes. My flight was to Oslo and I got a ride there with a Polish ambassador who had no idea what brought people to Oslo. I have to agree with him - most important buildings in the city are far away from each other, there's more brand stores, restaurants and discos than historical monuments. After such a long time spent in the Alps, French countryside of Provence and almost desolate Iceland, Oslo seemed like another New York City where you feel uncomfortable because of its overwhelming size. Only green areas in the center make the city more welcoming for somebody who craves to escape from the crowds.

Quotations from Henrik Ibsen along the main street
Probably the nicest store
Getting out of Oslo was a disaster. No proper signs with directions, some construction work, no information about detours, cars going back and forth without an idea where the right way is. How sweet that I was not alone in getting and un-getting lost in this maze. With a very early start we got to the suburbs of Malmö at 10ish, in two rides, one of them all the way -around 10 km, with two Polish guys heading to Świnoujście. More thumbing and a Danish guy living in Sweden took us to the capital of Denmark.

And that's where I stayed. It's my new location for... we'll see. Meanwhile, I'm slowly immersing into Danish way of living. Here's a short list of my achievements:
* being asked in Danish about the directions to Christiania, I gave two Englishmen some directions but eventually decided to take them there. We talked in Danish until I said I was from Poland. They were in Kraków last month and loved it. We talked about our impressions from Denmark until we reached Christiania.
* I saw a couple who seemed like thay wanted to use the free bikes but didn't know how to do it, so I approached them and explained how it works. They were from Brazil.
* two German-speaking ladies asked me about directions to Amalienborg. I gave them a detailed description how to get there.
* I'm persistently speaking Danish even if people respond in English. Goddamnit, I'm in Denmark and I want to speak your language!
* apart from phone calls I never started a conversation with a Danish person in English.
* I'm managing to keep my stay in Copenhagen low-budget, just like my former travels. Can you imagine that I haven't spent a single krone on clothes and that I already have more clothes than I ever had in my life?
* I met an American girl from Couchsurfing and showed her around Christiania. She hasn't seen the part I took her to and was very happy with the walk.

I borrowed a Danish coursebook and H. Ch. Andersen's fairy tales to read. That's going to be easy. Moreover, I'm more than happy to have books other than on the computer to my use again. I also found out about free Danish classes at some Christian center. Not really my cup of tea, but I'll stay away from the religious part. Hopefully my spoken Danish gets better soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From rain to ashes

We enjoyed one sunny day at Goðafoss, getting blown away by the huge mass of flowing water that created a deafening sound.

View from the left bank of Skjálfandafljót river
Those people must have walked on these islands to have the best view of the waterfall

View from the right bank

The Mývatn area for sure has a stunning beauty. We hiked on the south bank of the lake next to some pseudocraters and on the north bank on a vast fields of ropy lava. With a little help from French tourists we got to Hverir - "the biggest cesspit of Iceland;" a geothermal area with solphatares and steaming hot muds. We also hiked a nearby mountain, following a well-marked yet very steep trail. Almost 3 hours at a swimming pool was a good postscript to the sunny and exhausting day. Nothing suggested that we wouldn't be able to catch a wink at night because of the strong wind. Stroke of luck that our tent survived that! The following day was even worse. 3 hours of trying to catch a ride to Akureyri were futile. Just local traffic and some tourist going only to a nearby attraction, Dimmuborgir. But how can you enjoy hiking when you're soaking all over! For the first time we caught a bus, 3400 ISK but it spared us getting more wet and, moreover, the value of food we got from the dumpsters was a few times higher than the price of the ticket, so there's some consolation.

Pseudocraters at Skútustadir

Ropy lava

Less jagged lava

Reykjahlíð, the village amidst lava fields


The weather never pampered us in Iceland... We ran away again, this time all the way to Reykjavík. It's always good to be back there, because of meeting our great host Marty and because of more skips to find some treasures.

More food found!

Glittering art at Hverfisgata

Sunset seen from Perlan, at midnight

Our mansion

But staying in one place for too long is not our thing! We headed south, into the mist and volcanic ash. First we saw Seljalandsfoss, a picturesque waterfall that you can walk behind and get wet. It looks totally different when seen from front and behind. At first you see a huge mass of water but when you walk behind it it seems like multitude of trickles falling into the pool and occasionally sprinkling the surrounding mosses. Moreover, the sound the falling water creates is thunderous.

Heading to Skógar meant entering the ashy zone. You can see the ash from Eyjafjallajökull eruption on the ground (we even camped on it in a forest on the "outskirts" of Skógar) and ash from Grímsvötn (still in the air, which looks like rain, but when you look at it from a hill, you see the horizon is quite blurry and the air right above it is darker. The ash is slowly settling down.

Skógar seen from Road 1

Skógafoss and a trail leading to the top

Another waterfall on the Skóga River

Skógafoss and the ash

Next to our tent. Ash from last year's eruption

Stealing some wifi in the middle of nowhere

We hitchhiked further south to Dyrhólaey and Vík í Mýrdal with two Parisians, one of whom had lived in Iceland for two years before. Because of weather (as always) we had to escape and we escaped to the capital. Direct ride, the first one that we paid for (when we reached Reykjavík the driver asked us if it's ok to share the cost of gas, and we gave her 1000 ISK), and we're back home, welcomed by Marty. We didn't have much time to share about our camping experience, since he was preparing for his trip, but even I such circumstances it was good to reunite. Moreover, sleeping in a warm and dry place was something we yearned for after 1,5 of sleeping in a tent, in the sun and sleet. Usually, we used to wake up in the middle of the night and think it was late morning. This time, in a place without even a dim light, we slept until 8 in the morning and thought we still had plenty of hours of sleep...

Intriguing lava formations at Dyrhólaey and 3 travelmates

Vík í Mýrdal

Reynisdrangar in Vík

Reynisdrangar from another perspective
Back in Reykjavík

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sharing the best of Iceland

The second leg of my trip started with some unexpected disruptions. The eruption of Grímsvötn volcano caused a 30 h delay in Alan's flight and gave me some sleepless hours at the tiny yet noisy Keflavík airport.

Because of ashes covering the south east part of Iceland the primary plan of traveling counterclockwise was open to doubt. Fortunately just before leaving Reykjavík we got to know that the road was re-opened and decided to give it a shot.

Our first stopover was Hveragerði, a small town renowned for its geothermal energy. Greenhouses, blooming flowers and hot springs are omnipresent. We took a walk in the vicinity and could almost feel how the earth was boiling. In the evening there came another chance to do some wild camping and we pitched our tent near a waterfall in a small park.

A stove where you can probably make your earth-cooed dish

Broken pipe with boiling hot water

In bloom

The view from our five star hotel

Our plans suddenly changed... not because of the volcano but because of terrible downpour. After a night in Selfoss we decided to follow the sunshine and head north. So we revisited my hosts on a farm near Borðeyri - Bjarni, Eyrún and their daughters. Just like a week ago, now the two of us received excellent hospitality, mind-enriching discussions, plenty of knowledge about their country and some trips in the vicinity.

On a cow farm

After two nights in warm and dry accommodation it was a time for a change. We got to Akureyri and slept on a campsite, not well-maintained and not open, but the conditions were still decent.

We did some hiking south from the town and were flabbergasted by the variety there. Wide river, peaks capped with snow, green fields with grazing sheep, tiny farms.

This strange letter is actually pronounced as "th" but if you don't know it, you'll probably say something that sounds like "moon cup."

The thing we'll remember mos about Akureyri is excellent dumpster diving opportunities. Just in Netto and some bakery we found enough food to last us for the entire trip, only if it could stay fresh for so long and not add much extra weigh to our backpacks. All in just one night! The dumpsters are literally heaving with anything you can think of!

Some doughnut-like pastry
More delights

You'll not have enough room in your backpack for all this food!

One night's finds

When the weather decided for us again, we hitchhiked to Blönduós and stayed with a couchsurfing host, Christina from Germany. I didn't know much about the north east of Iceland along the ring road and I was taken by surprise. The sunset that lasted over one hour (or at least that's how long I had enough patience to stare at it) was a marvel to behold. During the day I jumped on the rocks by the seaside and wrote things on the black sand right next to the place where the massive waves hit the shore.

Around 00.30

Now we are back in the capital of north. We hope to find some food in the skips for upcoming days far from civilization. Hiking paradise tomorrow!