Thursday, August 20, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 27 - Reykjavik, Iceland Second Day

6:30am - our first and only night in port seemed unnaturally quiet, without the bed rocking us to sleep.

Weather this morning is more of the same - overcast and threatening, temperature 51, barometer 29.0 and steady, wind calm. We are told that the name Reykjavik means hazy inlet. It seems to fit. This is the North Atlantic. Deal with it.


Kathy Stokes the Inner Woman

In Preparation for Another Power Tour

Today's tour holds a lot of promise. I hope HAL doesn't screw it up. Called the Golden Circle, it is a trip through the volcanic countryside outside of Reykjavik. I hope to confirm (or deny) what I heard yesterday about Iceland being the only place in the world where a hot spot exists under a mid-ocean rift. This interesting stuff! We'll see if it's 8 hours interesting.

8:20am, on another tour bus (our last!). Keith in the back seat (his preference). The good news is, this tour guide speaks very good English, and the PA system is working well.

First we hear the Icelandic view, which is that the British, then the United States invaded Iceland at the start of WW II, against the will of the Icelanders, who wished to remain neutral. In view of the islands highly strategic location, neutrality probably wasn't in the cards. It is rumored that a guy named Adolf had similar interests in Iceland, as a German naval and air base.

The tour guide points out a local empty distribution building, victim of the bad economy. I hope this tour improves.

Our tour guide has a British accent. She informs us she came to Iceland from Australia in 1994. Now I know why we can understand her.

Our guide points out a small suburb where a lot of people have lost their homes. Depressing.

We stop at a spot on the Mid-Atlantic Rift named Dingvellir. It's impressive in it's own right, but doubly so because of it's geological significance. This is what Keith came to Iceland to see, and to photograph! Please bear with me, as it is causing me a lot of anguish to avoid launching into a lecture on plate tectonics, one of my favorite subjects. We took lots of pictures, a few of which are displayed below.


Crack in the Bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

Emerges onto Dry Land in Iceland


Looking North, the Crack Widens

to Accommodate a Footpath


Kathy Joins the Hikers through the Crack


Keith Rides the Bus to the Bottom

And Pauses to Photograph the Pretty Flowers


A Pretty Babbling Brook

Descends the Into the Rift

The countryside is beautiful, but difficult to photograph through a bus window. Our driver takes us on a short cut over an unpaved, one lane road. Kinda sorta bumpy, sitting in the back of the bus. As are the numerous hairpin turns, where we get whipsawed at the rear of the overhang. The tour guide laments that the verdant green of summer is past, and the grass is already starting to show it's fall colors. Looks pretty green to us.


A Small Icelandic Village

Nestles at the Base of the Mountain


Camping is Popular in Iceland


A Small Resort Community

Provides Respite for Busy Reykjavikians

Next stop is a hot spring, with gift shop and hotel, where we are to have lunch. We hate to seem jaded, but having visited Yellowstone, the mother of all hot spots, this seems kinda plain vanilla. I hope lunch is good.


Icelandic Geyser


Viking Troll Guards the Lunchroom Entrance

1pm and lunch is history. On a scale of 1 to 4 COWS, we shall give it a 2.5. Decent cream of yesterday's vegetable soup, a nice size piece of somewhat fishy salmon, mixed veggies, and very good boiled new potatoes. A very small piece of candy for dessert.

After lunch we drive a short distance to Gulfoss Falls. If you believe the Google Earth map Keith printed and brought with him, there are at least four places with that name. Kathy hiked out the trail to photograph the falls, while Keith sat on the wall.


Gulfoss Falls

After stopping at the falls, we drive to another rest stop with opportunity for retail therapy. While Kathy shopped, Keith snapped a few pix of the quintessential Icelandic scenery.


Mt. Hekla, the most active Icelandic Volcano


Edge of the Icelandic Ice Sheet

On closer examination we discover that the balance of this tour replicates the tour we took yesterday. We inquire if we can get off at the boat, and are informed that we wren't going that way. Oh well.

Keith is anxious to return to the boat to spend some of our precious internet dollars to check up on Hurricane Bill. When I checked it this morning, it had sustained winds of 135mph, which a strong category three. The projected track places it just off of the east coast of Newfoundland Monday morning, then moving east northeast. We depart western Greenland Monday morning, headed southwest. Unless we change our route, we will brush the northern edge of Bill Monday night or Tuesday. We hope the captain is paying attention.

On our way back to town we stop to see a volcanic crater. Very deep, very steep sided, very impressive. Along the way, we see more truly impressive Icelandic scenery, and hear stories about how bad the snow is in winter.


A Volcanic Crater Near Reykjavik


Lava Field, With a Thin veneer of Greenery


Reykjavik Suburb

Then another stop for potty, ice cream, and more retail therapy.

Last stop the pearl, again, then a mercifully quick drive through town and back to the ship. We shouldn’t complain. This was a mostly very good tour. We just did not realize that the last part duplicated yesterday’s tour. Had we realized this, we would have saved our time, energy, and money yesterday.

It's 4:20pm and Keith is in the Crow's Nest, waiting for our 5:30 sail away. Kathy remained ashore to do more shopping in the terminal building. I hope she makes it aboard in time for sail away. I would miss her. The cocktail hour entertainment includes a female vocalist today. She sings mostly older songs, appropriate to the geriatric crowd. She is a pretty good singer.


Cocktail Hour Entertainment in the Crow’s Nest

Sail away tonight could be interesting. We are portside to a dock, with another cruise boat aft and a breakwater just off the bow. It's blowing about 20 off the starboard bow.

Our only option, as I see it, is to move sideways to starboard about a half a boat length, then go ahead like hexx out of the harbor. Hazzards, in additipn to those already mentioned, are an island about one boat length to starboard, and a narrow channel between rocks and an island outside the docking area. I shall be interested to see if the captain has tugs standing by for this operation.

4:50pm, and it is official. The captain has announced that he has two tugs standing by for our departure. Kathy is back aboard. She said that the local port security guy at the entrance to the dock said last week it was blowing like this, and a cruise boat was unable to depart. Apparantly our captain, or our vessel (or both) are more capable, or more daring. Whatever transpires, it is reassuring to know that the band will play on.

5:53pm, and we are under weigh. We had a tug shoving our port bow sideways to get us off the dock. He let the bow lead the stern, then sort of paused as soon as the bow cleared the green buoy marking the breakwater. Recall that the buoyage is reversed here; it's green right returning in this part of the world.

Right now we are headed for the opposite shore. I sure hope he kicks the stern to starboard, soon. We seem to be just about dead in the water just at the moment, but not pointed quite in the right direction.

It's five minutes later, we are pointed in the right direction, and starting to move at a pretty good clip. Right down the slot, with red to starboard and green to port. We are heeled about 10 deg. To port, with the wind on the starboard quarter.


We Head Out of Port,

Into a Choppy Inlet

As I've said before, it's the mark of a true professional that he makes it look easy.

7pm update. W have cleared port and the seas are kicking up a tad. Wind is on the starboard beam at 45 knots. Very little roll, a bit of bumpiness. We are not completely out of the northwestern Iceland wind shadow, so it could become a bit lumpier. The starboard deck is closed, and the barf bags are out. The best news is there is no swell running, so the boat isn't pitching or rolling appreciably.

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