Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 26 - Reykjavik, Iceland






Another gray morning, 50deg. A few hardy walkers on the Promenade deck. Wind 15 on the beam. We are making 18 knots on our way to Reykjavik, with an ETA 2:30pm. We had better be on time; we have a tour booked at 3pm. Mercifully, the tour is only 2-1/2 hours. We love seeing stuff, but the European busses are just enough narrower to make us very uncomfortable, and bus (and airline) seats are killers for Keith's back.

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Early Morning Power Walkers on the Promenade Deck



Our Route Around the Southern Iceland

I think we mentioned that we booked a Panama Canal cruise in October. We are both resolved that there is nothing in central or south America that we wish to see badly enough to get off the boat, so we are going to spend 28 days watching the magnificent central American seascapes, from the Crow's Nest. Sort of like that old sled dog I mentioned in a prior post.

On second thought, I might step off in San Diego, just to touch base with the Homeland.

Please do not misunderstand our comments. We are very, very happy we booked this trip, and we have been delighted to see things we have read of all of our lives. Just as we were so, so happy to visit China two years ago. But there is no question that one of is getting to be an old dog, and is loosing his capacity (not his desire) for adventure. I'm not sure I could do China again.

As much as I am trying to pretend it doesn't exist, I think that the recently diagnosed coronary artery disease is affecting my overall energy level, as well as my capacity to perform vigorous activities. That’s punch one. Punch two is spinal stenosis, which limits my mobility and makes me ache. Please understand, I'm not complaining, but it is what it is.

All the more reason to fill my bucket sooner, rather than later. The Panama Canal definitely is on my bucket list. But then, so are a bizillion places in the western United States. And Antarctica, and Australia-New Zeeland, etc., etc. The later is also on Kathy's Bucket list, as are the British Isles, Europe (particularly Greece and ancient Rome), a circumnavigation of South America, etc. Our lists intersect at Australia-New Zeeland, so that's probably where we will go next. Depending on what's on sale, of course. And right now, with the economy still in the "U" bend, the whole world seems to be on sale.

Our daily schedule lists an Icelandic entertainment at 8 (and 10), and an Indonesian cooking demonstration at 11. PM, that is. Kathy says she definitely plans to do the Icelandic show, and possibly the food thingy. Keith is betting she will attend neither, preferring to sleep. We shall see.

In the meantime we fill the morning (what's left of it) with puzzle making (Kathy) and photo editing (Keith), then lunch. There was supposed to be a BBQ poolside, but it was cancelled because the deck was moving about just enough to make it unsafe. The motion didn't seem all that bad to us, but we are all in favor of conservatism, at least where safety is concerned. Politically, ....

Moving right along, we are following with interest the track of Tropical Storm Bill, which is forecast to be off the coast of Nova Scotia by Sunday. We will be off eastern Greenland Sunday. Not close enough to be endangered, but we probably will encounter heavy swells on our passage from Greenland to Newfoundland.

Here comes the pilot boat. We must be in harbor waters. It's difficult to tell where we are going to land. Now we are approached by a tugboat, followed by two excursion boats, out to look at the big cruise boat, or whales. We're down to 6mph, so we must be on final. Oops. Back up to 14; the slow-down must have been to pick up the pilot.


Reykjavik Harbor Approach



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Approaching Reykjavik

Reykjavik seems relatively flat, surrounded by mountains. It would appear to be a large alluvial fan.

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Reykjavik, Iceland

At the last minute we realize that the captain is going to flip the ship and back in. Kathy rushes out to the rail to watch. Keith proceeds more leisurely, by way of the comfort station. The docking is very interesting. We back into the harbor, then move sideways a couple of hundred feet to the dock. A tug is standing by, but our practiced captain does not need it, in the very light breeze. Nonetheless, Keith applauds his abundance of caution.



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Approaching our Berth in Reykjavik;

Another Shoehorn Job



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We Line the Rail to Watch Docking



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Our Crow’s Nest Cocktail Waitress

Joins Us to Watch the Docking



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Alongside, With The First Line Ashore


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Bring Your Child To Work Day



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Dock Workers Place the Gangplank

2:55pm, sitting in the Rembrandt Lounge, waiting for our 2:50 Panoramic Reykjavik tour. We are told the gangway is very steep, and there is massive congestion.



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Congestion Approaching the Gangplank

3:20pm and we are on the tour bus, finally, after a very steep descent down the gangway from deck 5. Just as we were reaching the bottom, the deck 5 ramp was closed, and a perfectly level gangway was opened on deck 3. Murphy reins supreme.

The tour guide tells a bit about Icelandic history and geography. Look it up, if you are interested. We are told that 60% of Iceland is a desert. Seems strange, in such a wet climate. Could be a rain shadow effect. Keith will look this one up when he gets home.

In an thick Icelandic accent: "It has been raining the last days, and it will be raining the next few days." This is the North Atlantic. Deal with it.

We drive by a group of new apartment buildings, empty because of the financial crisis.

We are passing pseudo craters, similar to the one we saw in the north. Some of the craters were desteoyed in the war when the dirt was excavated for building construction. We stop for a photo op. Kathy gets off, leaving Keith to compose.

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Dirt Pile at the Lip of a Pseudo-crater

Our tour guide is soft spoken, with a pronounced accent, and the volume on the PA is too low. We ask her to turn up the volume; it helps, but it doesn't fix the problem.

We pass a large block of apartment buildings from the 1970's. A uniform gray color, somewhat drab. Some buildings have windows of different sizes, breaking up the monotony somewhat. Colorful roofs help also. Lack of trees creates building challenges.

We pass the pearl, named for it's funky shape. The pearl is a collection of humungous hot water tanks, heated with geothermal energy, and topped with a tourist friendly dome. We stop for 35 minutes. It has toilet facilities!



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The Pearl



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Statuary at the Pearl



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Tourist Entering the Pearl

The sun came out, and Keith ascended the building to take photographs from the viewing platform. The sun obligingly came out, so I am hopeful about the pix. Kathy & I are both have sore legs. But then, at our age, those parts that don't hurt don't work any more, so we shan't complain. The point of this building is geothermal power, and we hear virtually nothing about this subject. Further, there was little interpretive displays in the building. Disappointing.



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View From the Pearl



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Neat Sculpture In the Pearl Lobby

Our attention is directed to the rugged mountains south of town. We are told these are volcanoes, part of the mid-Atlantic ridge. I don't think we are going there, so I'm glad I took pictures from the pearl.

Gasoline is $189.9Kr/liter. No idea what this amounts to in dollars. We inquired about the exchange rate at the front desk, and were told that the Icelandic Kroner is currently worthless. Go figure.

We stop at a picturesque lighthouse that is on a high tide island. We are told that a path to the island bares at low water. We also are told that the tide range is 18 feet. Another fact I plan to check.


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Telephone Poles Line the Low Tide Path to this Lighthouse

Next we tour downtown Reykjavik. Here a house, there a house, everywhere a house, or a parliament building, or a supreme court building. Major retail therapy street. The bus driver offers to let people off here, to shop, and then to find their own way back to the ship. We stay on the bus.

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Icelandic Government Building



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Typical Reykjavik Street Scene

Our tour guide keeps promising to tell us about the Icelandic financial crisis. Now she is promises to take us through the business district, where she will tell us about the financial crisis.

But first, we stop to photograph the building where Ronald Regan met with Gorbachev. This meeting is said by some to be the beginning of the end of the cold war.



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Historic Building Where Regan Met Gorbachev

We pass through a district with empty office buildings. We are told that the three major banks in Iceland speculated in the stock market with people's savings. We are told that there are about thirty people involved in this activity. Sounds like Bernie Madhof all over again. Greed and avarice are evils that are necessary to drive growth and development, but they must be carefully regulated to prevent such excesses. End of rant.

Our guide tells us that there is a mantle plume under Iceland, in addition to the mid-Atlantic ridge. Our resident geology professor later confirms his fact.

Back to the ship at 6pm. Keith was thinking of the taco bar for supper, but it closes at 6. Kathy remained behind in the information center, to shop. She hasn't shopped in several days, and is exhibiting pronounced withdrawal symptoms. Keith promised to wait dinner for her. How bad can it be, sitting with a cup of tea, overlooking magnificent Icelandic scenery.

7:15, and Kathy has made the fateful decision, that she is too tired to attend the Icelandic entertainment tonight.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash...

P.S. The chocolate ├ęclairs tonight were to die for.

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