Part 5: 36 Hours in the Land of Fire and Ice

The sun was setting over Amsterdam as we took off as a final farewell to that beautiful country.

Ironically, the sun was also beginning to set when we landed three hours later in Iceland. (at midnight.)

Thanks to my time in Alaska, the midnight sun is something I’m used to. On the other hand, counting by the number of times John woke me up after I fell asleep at our Air bnb, he was not used to the sunlight peaking through the cracks in our blackout curtains.

My control freak friend, gave me power over two decisions this entire trip: spending a day at a castle in the Netherlands, and spending a night in a tent in Iceland.

Of course with my luck, these are the two things that went wrong and he got to rub it in my face. First, the castle was closed the day we decided to go, and second, the store I had rented the camping equipment from opened at noon…. and we had planned on leaving Reykjavik at 9 a.m.

As it was, we only had about 30 hours to enjoy in Iceland to begin with, and we weren’t going to waste four waiting for a tent. New plan: spend the night in our rental car.

After a quick stop at the grocery store and Dunkin Donuts, where we spent $20 on six donuts(!), we hit the road.

Iceland is the kind of place that makes you feel small, like really small. Whether you’re driving through the valleys between vast fields and mountain ranges, or walking along paths next to glacially charged rivers and waterfalls. Everything is huge.

Pingvellir was our first stop along Ring Road. This is the location where the European plate is diverging from the North American plate. The rift in the Earth is now huge and beautiful to hike. We started our hike with 25 mph winds and 55 degree temperatures, this sent us right back to the car to add more layers just to finish our hike sweating when the wind died down.

Our next stop was to check out the Strokkur Geyser. I think the thing that awed us the most about this was that this series of geysers and hot springs were located right next to the main road, so close that I saw the first burst of water as we were pulling into the parking lot.

On our drive to the next location we passed the perfect pull off o the side of the road. Right next to a pasture full of friendly Icelandic horses. I say passed, but you know we wouldn’t have actually passed up this opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.

Gulfoss was the next location on our tour of Iceland. This was the biggest waterfall I have ever seen. The wind had picked up again and I’m not sure if it had started to rain or if the wind was blowing drops of water from the waterfall towards us – maybe both.

Our next stop was Skogafoss, these were our two stops that had the greatest distance between them and the sky decided to let loose during our drive. I won’t complain because we had spent hours at different locations without it raining yet – though I wasn’t the one who had to drive through it.

Just as we were approaching a giant plateau the sky cleared up and we both were amazed at this huge waterfall falling from the rocks in front of us. The road didn’t appear to get close to it so a mental image was going to have to do. It was so windy that the smaller waterfalls next to it were blowing away and evaporating before the water could hit the ground, which shows just how big and powerful this one waterfall was in comparison.

There was a small gravel road that lead to the base of this waterfall, so we made a quick detour to Seljandsfoss. There was a path that lead us behind the waterfall and I got my kiss behind a waterfall. (The #3 most romantic thing to do in Iceland according to a book we found in a gift shop, FYI.)

And then we moved on to Skogafoss, where we didn’t hike around or behind the waterfall, instead we climbed 600 stairs to the top. If we had kept hiking we would have made it to the Eyjafjallajokull glacier – after a day or so.

Our next stop was Vik and although we felt tired and it was already after 8 p.m. it looked like noon and we had no desire to stop. The plan was to get dinner in Vik but we got there after 9 and everything was already closed so we enjoyed a cup of soup heated in the one gas station in town.

Instead of hanging around Vik where the fog was too thick to see a mile in front of you we drove back and parked our car at the the base of the glacier we saw earlier and tried to sleep to the sound of pouring rain on the roof of the car as the temperature dropped.

Around 5 a.m.we decided sleep was pointless and went to hike the glacier. Literally, past the warning signs and onto the glacier itself. I was scared for my life but couldn’t be the only one to not do it.

On our way back to Reykjavik we made a quick pitstop to check out the volcanic crater in Selfoss. Back in Reykjavik we had a couple hours to check out the Harpa Concert Hall, a history museum, and grab lunch before our flight home.

We reached the end of a fairytale, and it was time to go back to reality. Happily ever after?

 

“Not all fairytales have a happy beginning, but they always have a happy ending.” JM

Part 4 – I’m the Queen of the Castle and He’s the Dirty Rascal

Finally an early morning in Amsterdam. For me at least – I had to drag John out of bed, but I didn’t care because the one thing on top of my Amsterdam Bucket List was to go see a real life fairytale…. sorta.

I wanted to visit a castle and Kasteel de Haar was my dream come true; surrounded by a moat, flower gardens, and even a maze, it had everything.

It took us two trains and a bus to get there just to find out the castle was closed for a private event. Fortunately, the grounds were open and it still took us over an hour to see about two-thirds of it.

It was vast and amazing, with green everywhere you looked dotted with pink and purple flowers. There were swans roaming around the different bodies of waters and if we had had more time we could have wandered down to their deer pasture.

As predicted, I fell in love with the place and for the first time on this trip, took hundreds of pictures. If I had actually been let into the castle I’m not sure if I would have ever left.

Before heading back into Amsterdam we spent a couple of hours in Utrecht. The first hour was spent searching for the “perfect” pizza place – only one owned and operated by Italians would satisfy John’s taste buds at this moment.

After pizza and gelato we explored the St. Martin’s Cathedral – originally built and designed by Catholics and destroyed during the Reformation in 1580. Catholic symbols were literally chiseled off the walls, making this an interesting place to visit.

The other thing that makes this place so interesting is that the entire central hall collapsed in 1674 and was never rebuilt. There is now an open air courtyard between the tower and the main building – you can visit both sections separately.

I guess we saved the best for last because this was my favorite day spent in Holland and after arriving back in Amsterdam we only had time to grab our luggage from the hotel before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Iceland!

Thoughts

Everyone wants to feel significant in life. Like they meant something to someone or they made a difference.
Writers wants to write something significant. Artists want to paint, or to draw something significant. Teachers want to teach their students a significant lesson.
It is not until we take a step back and look at life’s big picture that we realize how insignificant we are.
And how amazingly pure it feels to be insignificant.
Nature is significant. Earth, wind and rain are significant. World peace and prosperity are significant.
Look at yourself in these situations and realize, although insignificant, you are great.
Look at the pictures of yourself where you are small and the world is big. Feel peace and comfort from this. You are protected by the world; and the world is protected by you.

 

I recently read Into the Wild. A book about a recent college grad who escaped society, backpacked across America and eventually met his fate in the deep backwoods of Alaska.

I felt I was the same as him; but I also felt different. Different because of our backgrounds but the same because of our hearts.

He wrote in one of his journals, “there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon.”

He lived in the way I would like to some day; without fear and without anyone to answer to. I want to enjoy the beauty of the Earth as he did, without limits.

If you are an explorer, traveler, gypsy, backpacker, lost, confused, or misunderstood, I urge you to read this book. Or at the very least watch the movie.

 

Swagway, Skagway, Skagweezy

I am so lost in life right now and I think a huge part of that is because I should still be in Alaska. I should be all set with work for another month, but I am not.

Do I regret leaving Alaska? A part of me says yes and a part of me says no. There were a lot of good reasons for me to leave and a lot of good reasons for me to stay.

I made a hasty decision to leave though. I received a job offer and I took it without question which shows how ready I was to leave. Looking back now it was not Skagway that I was ready to leave; it was the company I worked for.

Looking back now I wish I had searched elsewhere for employment within Skagway. I could have finished out the summer with the crazy people I grew to love and the many freedoms Alaska had to offer me.

However much I should be embracing the future rather than relishing in the past, I find myself constantly looking through the pictures I took in Skagway and reminiscing. Here are some of my favorites.

They show the people who made my time in Skagway worthwhile. They show the wondrous views I got to witness daily. They show the puppies who acted as my escape at our worksite. And I hope they show how much I actually loved the place.

Myrtle Beach Mini Vacation

Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist in your own town. Even though Myrtle beach is not my hometown, I grew up a lot while living there for almost five years, on top of the countless number of family vacations to the area when I was younger.

Each visit brought new memories and new experiences and this week I was able to go back once again to see even more.

The first thing I noticed was how much change is going on around the city. Broadway at the Beach is undergoing major construction, they’re building an all new, multi-level go kart course, and there’s a lot more CCU morale after the Chants just won the College World Series.

Being a tourist in the area meant more freedom, and more freedom meant more exploring. I was able to do things that I never got the chance to while living in Myrtle Beach such as the Myrtle Beach Safari Adventure.

The T.I.G.E.R.S Preservation Station is located at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach and is actually just a preview of their safari tour. We got to check out some of the wildlife that they care for and take some awesome photos!

Next time I will definitely do the whole safari tour which offers a look at more animals in a more natural setting and is a longer tour. This excursion is not cheap but it is so worth it.

I have friends who grew up in Myrtle Beach who still have not done this and after seeing my pictures are hopping right on the bandwagon!

I am back home in Massachusetts for now, hanging out and plotting my next adventure. I swear if traveling was free, you would never see me again.