ICELAND / TRAVEL STUFF

bless bless snorri

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So I just got back to my great aunt Adda’s house from the final week of the Snorri Program – the adventure tour. We saw a lot and I must say once again that this country is a gorgeous one. Let me give you a recap on the journey. 

On Friday I woke up at Adda’s a little late in the morning, had breakfast and packed my bags to head into Reykjavik to meet up Asta Sol and help with the grocery shopping for the road trip with the rest of the Snorri’s. When I got back to the guesthouse a few of the participants had already made it back and were catching up in the kitchen. I ended up going for a little walk and grabbed some food with two of the girls (Katie and Breanna). While we were downtown we ended up running into Christin and Ashley who had just flown back together from the west fjords. Katie and Breanna decided to head back as they had some other stuff to do and I joined the girls for a drink on one of the nearby patios. It was great to hear about their experiences, which while very different from mine still sounded similar. The three of us talked about just how connected we felt with our host families, as if we had been together with them before and felt completely at home, content and pretty much perfectly happy. That night all the Snorri’s got together for dinner at cool little hostel – a true hipster hang out called Kex. After dinner we made our way back to the guesthouse and then went out for our last time together in Reykjavik.

Saturday morning meant it was time for the adventure to start. All the Snorri’s were up and ready to board our very packed and very cramped bus for 9am sharp as we had been told to be. Note for any future Snorri’s who may be reading this – 9am actually means 10 or 10:30. We eventually got on the road (close to if not after 10:30) and made our way Þingvellir National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) which is believed to be where the Althing or parliament was held back in the day with the first time being 930 AD until 1798 (continuously for 868 years). Like most if not all of Iceland it was picturesque. We walked over fault lines, sat by waterfalls, saw where people were drowned for crimes and made wishes in lucky pools. After I tossed my krona in I couldn’t help but start singing Carly Rae Jepson’s famous song… “I threw a wish in the well, don’t ask me I’ll never tell”.

We then made our way to Skálholt Cathedral which was a bishopric from 1057-1801 and for centuries was one of the main cultural, educational and political centres in the country. It also hosted many important historical events including the execution of the last catholic bishop and his three sons in 1550 at which point the church became Lutheran.

After visiting the church we made our way to Brúnaland farms, Alexandra’s host family, for lunch and to drop off our luggage. On this day I learnt that if I don’t eat I get moody, almost like a toddler, except I just get quite and shut down and throw out the occasional sassy comment. Granted we hadn’t eaten anything since 8:30 and by the time we got any food it was 3:30/4:00. So I felt justified in shutting down. Another note to future Snorri’s – pack snacks. By the end of the trip I realized that if I was an animal born in a litter and had to fight for milk I would likely end up being the runt and would likely die. Lets just say I had a really hard time with the food situation and am glad to not have to eat the left over scraps anymore.

After our lunch we made our way to the Skógarfoss waterfall – gorgeous, and the Iceland Erupts exhibition on Eyjafallajökull. After that we made our way to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which we actually were able to walk behind!

We made our way back to the house for dinner which was a tasty soup made by Ashley, but after dinner I really just needed to get away from everyone. The bus was so packed, and a little too much for me to handle having everyone around so close after having such a relaxed couple of weeks, I really just needed a walk by myself. I grabbed my camera and made my way down the road with no destination in mind just a nice peaceful walk. I’m so glad I made that decision, it was probably the best part of my day. As I walked down the road with the sun setting beside me I had a group of about 40 horses come and meet me in the middle of the road. They weren’t scared of me, and I wasn’t scared of them. I seemed to make friends with this one older looking horse, (who may have been the stallion?) every time I tried to take a picture he would move towards me and put his head up against me. It was pretty magical and I loved being around animals again. When I made my way back to the house Ashley and Christin were getting ready to head out for a walk so I decided to join them as well as it was such an amazing night. We walked and talked and then before we know it it was almost 1am and probably time to head back and call it a night!

Sunday morning we woke up, ate breakfast and made our way to board the Herjólfur Ferry on route to Vestmannaeyjar or The Westman Islands. It was spectacular. There are between 15-18 islands (depending on classification) which were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions which lay along a 30 km fissure line. The islands are associated with slavery as a couple of slaves fled to the island after killing their owner, only to be later killed. The name Vestmenn represents ‘from the west’ which is a reference to the Irish slaves.

We drove to a weather post and walked around high above the coast line before heading to walk up the Eldfell volcano. Eldfell erupted last in 1973 starting on January 23rd which was quite the event as the people of Heimaey (nearly 5000) were evacuated in the middle of he night before the lava started flowing. The eruption didn’t end until 6 months later in June. The views from up top were unreal, Amanda, Christin and I sat down to enjoy the landscape and realized that we could see and feel the heat dissipating from the old volcano.

After the climb up we made our way back down for lunch and then to the local pool for some swimming. After our BBQ’ed dinner Kelsey, Ashley, Christin and I went for a walk exploring the town and coast line until we looked at our clocks and realized it was almost 1am again. The sky was clear and the sunset over the mainland made it pretty hard to walk away and go to bed.

Monday morning we grabbed the early ferry and made or way to the original geyser, Geysir, which hasn’t erupted in years. It began to erupt a little in the early 2000 after a shift in the fault lines and before that it hadn’t been active for approximately 30 years. A neighbouring geyser named Strokkur however is still active and erupts between every 5 and 10 minutes. Instead of standing around it waiting for an eruption Ashley and I decided to take a trip up a little mountain to find a spot to sit, talk and watch. Afterwards we made our way to Gullfoss, another one of Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls. The waterfall is part of one of the glacial rivers named Hvítá. Wyatt was telling me that they used a shot of the waterfall in the movie Prometheus which was shot in Iceland.

We boarded the bus again and made our way to a little spring were we had ourselves a picnic lunch before making our way through the highlands. Halfway through the trek up north to Hofsós we stopped to bathe in the natural hot pools in Hveravellir. It was honestly just what we needed. Being cooped up in the van-bus was a little difficult but luckily during this long driving day I had been moved to the front seat which featured more leg room and better views. I can only occupy my thoughts with knitting so much so it’s good to ‘get away’ even if it was only a little. No one really wanted to be in the front seat but I ended up sitting there the rest of the trip. I decided to keep the fact that it was more comfortable then the back my little secret! It also provided me with a great view of the landscape as we drove.

We arrived at Hofsós around 7:30 and made our way to the local restaurant for dinner which was so delicious and filling (finally!). After dinner I went out for a walk with Ashley, Christin, Kelsey and Brianna. Hofsós is a town of only about 170 people so there wasn’t much of a town to walk around but the coastline was spectacular and the sunset was pretty magical that night too.

We were able to sleep in a little bit on Tuesday morning as our first visit for the day wasn’t until 10. We made our way over to the Hofsós emigration museum and explored the main exhibit as well as the silent flashes exhibit which focused on photographs taken of landed emigrants in North America after leaving Iceland. The exhibits focused on emigration between 1870 and 1920 as that was a time when there was a large emigration movement. It was a neat exhibit but I wasn’t as amazed with it as others were because my Icelandic background is more recent. Almost all of the Snorri’s family ancestry dates back to that time, I believe that there is only one other girl whose Icelandic family moved more recently (1960’s). Some of the Snorri’s even had family members featured in the exhibits like great great aunts or grandmothers which was pretty neat.

After exploring the exhibit we made our way back to the restaurant for lunch and had free time in the afternoon which almost all of us decided to utilize at the local swimming pool. I don’t know if there is a pool located in any better spot in Iceland or maybe even the world. It was spectacular, looking right over the fjord into the ocean. Before dinner Ashley and I made our way back to the museum to see if it would be possible to check our emails and I’m so glad we decided to do that! Not only were we able to get online but we were asked in for coffee and kleinur by the curator and the summer student, Una. We had a great chat before making our way to dinner.

After dinner that evening we had a Snorri ‘Kvöldvaka’ which was an Icelandic get together where we shared stories, songs and talents. Quite a few of us didn’t know what to do including myself but others were really quite talented. I joked about how I was going to knit, and how if there were hackysacks I could have juggled but I ended up doing a little tap combo that I could still remember. We sang a couple of traditional songs (or at least tried to). Ashley and I had such a fun time with one of the songs that on the way back we tried to sing it change it to fit as many different genres as we could. Heavy metal was the best.

After a little packing Ashley and I made our way out for another walk. Our idea was to go climb one of the mountains but as it turns out they appeared a lot closer then they actually were so we just walked the dirt road into farm lands and kept on walking until we got tired and made our way back.

Wednesday morning we left Hofsós and made our way to grab a boat heading to Drangey Island where we hiked up a rock pillar island reaching almost 200m. The island was filled with puffins and is used as a puffin hunting site for individuals in the community along the shorelines. The climb up was quite steep but incredible, it helped that there were ropes to hold onto. Due to the fact that I was one of the first people off of the boat that meant that I was one of the first people to the top. As I waited for others to join I found a spot of grass near the edge to eat my lunch and enjoy the pure beauty that was placed so perfectly in front of me. Once everyone arrived our guide Helgi brought us over to a great lookout area and told us the story of the Grettis Saga. Grettir and his brother Illugi had lived on Drangey as they had been outlaws and were trying to outrun their banishment. They lived on the island for three years before they were slain. We learned about the puffins, their habitation and walked around the island before making our way back down. During the trip we saw plenty of puffins, a falcon, seals and porpoises but unfortunately no whales. When we made it back to shore we we took a dip into Grettir’s pool to warm up before jumping back on the bus and making our way to Dæli campgrounds for the night… which none of us had any idea where we were but according to our itinerary was in the northwest near West Húnavatssýsla? Anyways it started raining that night and I was feeling pretty tired so instead of taking a late walk I decided to go to bed early. Good thinking Past Sacha.

We got up early on Thursday morning to have breakfast and make out way to the Gauksmýri farm for a morning horseback riding tour. We all had to state our level of experience from 1-10, and I decided to guess with the number 3. I had been on a horse at the farm and realized that I’m not afraid of Icelandic horses like I have been with the horses back in Canada so I figured 3 was a safe bet. I was placed with a fun little horse who really wanted to get to know me, wouldn’t stop smelling me and trying to grab pieces of my clothing. He seemed to be a lot more active then the others… until we got out on the path. I couldn’t get him to go any faster then a walk on my own so the guides gave me a bit of a hand. It was the first time that I rode a horse by myself and it was quite the experience. After the riding tour we hopped on the bus and made our way towards Reykjavik. At one point during the trip I felt like we were getting close to the farm and Reykholt, nothing looked similar but I just sensed it. We ended up driving by the volcano I had walked up with Valti and Lóa – so it turns out that my spidey senses work just fine. We stopped in Borgarnes for a quick lunch before making our way to pick up everyone’s luggage in Reykjavik. We then made our way towards the Northern Light Inn were we had our graduation dinner ceremony. Each of the Snorri’s handed in an assignment and spoke a little bit about what they had done. I was originally going to show photos from the farm but had repacked my bags (to make more room for others leaving Friday) and had left my laptop in Reykjavik, so instead I shared the story of stumbling upon my grandfather’s photograph with everyone. After the dinner celebration we made our way to the Blue Lagoon and enjoyed the pool almost all to ourselves. That evening everyone took it very easily, packing and hanging out very casually. I taught Brianna how to knit a little as she had bought herself some wool and was hoping to make a scarf. Ashley and I took one last late walk and on the way back I spotted Christin and Sean sitting in the lava field and joined them before heading in to bed.

This morning Ashley and I woke up early to have breakfast with Christin before she made her way back to Reykjavik to catch a ride back up to where her family is living. She is planning on making her way through Akranes while I am there with my family so hopefully I’ll be seeing her before I leave. Ashley was the next to leave as some of her family members (who she had not yet met) came by to pick her up for brunch before heading to the airport. Before not too long it was time for everyone to board the bus and head to the airport. Wyatt and I were the only ones sticking around so we waited for everyone to check in their luggage, said our goodbyes and made our way back to the city. It was a little weird to say goodbye knowing that there is a good chance I will never see some of these people again, but hey, you never know! Also, a little hard because I don’t really ‘do’ goodbyes. We had good times as a group together, shared laughs, memories and a pretty incredible experience and I’m thankful for that. I don’t think I’ll ever forget these people that’s for sure. I do have to say though that I’m quite glad that I decided to extend my trip and that I wasn’t heading back today, it was great to be able to see so much of the country, but there’s just so much to see and do! This place is just so magical!

When we ended up back at the office Adda drove into the city to pick me up. It’s crazy to think that I have only known her for a couple of days but it felt so nice to see her drive up to get me. We drove back to her house and I grabbed myself some lunch and chatted before sitting down to try and write this thing. So much happened this past week and its hard to believe that the 6 week program is done!

I’m not sure what tomorrow has in store but I’m looking forward to a good sleep tonight and finding out.

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