Iceland – Day 5

What I forgot to mention in my last post was that Day 4 also contained a fair bit of hemming and hawing over what to do on Day 5. There were no solid plans and all of us wanted to do different things. I wanted to go caving, as I’d been caving in Australia and I’d loved it with the fiery passion of a thousand headlamps. So I was looking over my caving options amongst the myriad of brochures, and I think something like this conversation happened, though the details are fuzzy:

Me: “I think I’ll do this tour – it’s a half day, just caving.”
Will: “Or you could do this one – caving AND snorkeling.”
Me: “Why would I want to go snorkeling in below-freezing waters?”
Will: “I don’t know. It sounds awesome. You should do it.”
Me: “Hell no.”
Will: “Fine. Do what you want.”
Me, five minutes later at ticket counter for some reason, I assume because Will hit me over the head with a blunt object: “CAVING AND SNORKELING, PLEASE!”

See, the draw of snorkeling in Iceland is that the diving site is that gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that I mentioned a few posts ago. You can actually see the giant trench, and you can see it really well; the water in the lake has been filtered by lava rocks – over a time period of 30 years! – and by the time it reaches the lake, it’s so clear the visibility can be up to three miles deep, for maximum terrifying-ness.

So clearly, I was no longer of sound mind. But I watched myself pay for the tour and that was that, so the next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn (which, in Iceland in the winter, is like 9:00am) and headed down to the hotel lobby for my frigid adventure of a lifetime. I was picked up by a bearded man named Gulli (oh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve uttered that sentence) and taken with the other human sacrifices participants to a creepy-looking warehouse. Gulli handed us the roughly seventy different components we’d be wearing to prevent immediate onset hypothermia, and since it all seemed very complicated and worrisome, we began to get nervous and have second thoughts. “Is this really a good idea?” we asked, as Gulli poured hot water into the gloves we’d be wearing – you know, so that our fingers wouldn’t instantly freeze upon entering the trench.

“Throw your stuff into the van!” Gulli yelled. “Off we go!”

Off we went. When we got to the site, we unloaded and got into our dry suits. This basically meant that we got to keep our clothes on underneath, plus a layer of what amounted to a human-shaped sleeping bag, then the dry suit, which is basically one of those vacuum-sealed food storage containers that makes you look like this:

If I ever go missing, this is the photo I want distributed on flyers.

So we got into the water and it…wasn’t bad! Except for the lower half of my face that was exposed to the elements, and my hands because the gloves weren’t waterproof, and my feet which are always cold, it really was quite tolerable. Of course, I floated like a cork and my flippers didn’t get the memo that they had to work that day, but other than that I think I did a decent job. The trench was very cool – it was basically like swimming through a tall, narrow hallway, with canyon walls on either side. Here is a picture I have shamelessly stolen from the interwebs, since my camera is not a strong swimmer.

Just pretend that’s me, flailing like an injured bird.

Gulli swam in front of us wearing nothing more than a dry suit and a cheeky wool cap, because he was crazy. We ended up in a very cool little lagoon with the clearest water I have ever seen. Then we got out and Gulli informed us that there was a place for us to cliff dive into the water, and while most of the people on my tour said something like “Oh, that charming bearded man has lost his mind,” I said, “I WILL FOLLOW THAT CHARMING BEARDED MAN RIGHT OFF THE CLIFF.” So I did, and it was fun.

Back in the van, I took this picture to show that I survived, and while I enjoy the fact that it makes me look all sultry and badass:

…let’s keep in mind that my true nature is way closer to this:


We had a brief lunch outside – because picnics are always best enjoyed at a balmy 30°F – and headed on to our next site. Along the way, the sun was setting (though, to be fair, the sun is always setting in Iceland) and I got some cool shots of the landscape that I would have seen three days prior, if not for that world-erasing snow.


After Gulli took a small detour to show us some racks of hanging fish:


…we headed to our next destination: this pile of rocks.

Don’t stop believin’, little buddy! One day you, too, could become a mountain!

The pile of rocks was just there to signify the entrance to the cave we would be exploring, which was actually more of a lava tube – or, to the layman, a tube that is formed by lava. *SCIENCE* We began by dropping down into this suspicious looking hole.

“Sometimes I have to bring a shovel and dig it out!” Gulli cheerfully explained.

Inside, as you may have guessed, was a cave. Though ‘tube’ really is more of an apt description; I felt like I was in a tunnel formed by a gigantic earthworm, a comforting though if there ever was one.

There was a balrog running around somewhere in there too.

Gulli took us through, and I thanked my lucky stars he’d given us helmets, because my exceedingly clumsy head gave that thing the bumping of a lifetime. We crouched our way through the cave, and Gulli stopped every few minute to point out cool things, like this stalagmite:

The cave was excited to see us.

And this VERY cool-looking skeleton of a sheep that had wandered into the cave centuries ago and suffered a bit of bad luck.

“This is so embarrassing.”

Aaand these awesome drippy lava formations, the name of which means “cow titties” in Icelandic.

“Cow titties!” Gulli told us. “Because they look like cow titties!”

We then headed for the back of the cave, where fans of slime mold signed their names in the slime mold:


And Gulli gave us some chocolate chip cookies the size of dinner plates and told us some fun Icelandic elf stories, as one normally does in a cave. When we got moving again, the ceiling got so low that we had to crouch down, then crawl on our hands and knees, then lay down flat on the ground and roll our way through, which now that I’m typing it out sounds certifiably insane, but I assure you, it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. Thus were the persuasive powers of Gulli.

After that we clambered out and Gulli took us all home, but not before passing some of the most gorgeous scenery I saw all week:

Except that those mossy rocks were so much greener than they came out on camera. They assaulted my eyes with their greenness. GREEN
Gulli: the most stunning landmark of all.

Gulli dropped me off at my hotel, where I stuttered and fumbled like an idiot as I explained I didn’t have any cash on me for a tip (having once been a tour guide myself, I HATED myself for this), which resulted in this conversation:

Gulli: “Are you going into town later tonight?”
Me: “Yes. Oh – can I drop some money off at your tour office?
Gulli: (waving that off) No, no don’t worry about that. I’m DJing a set tonight at a club at 1:00am, if you want to drop by.”
Me: *gaping in surprise*

So, Gulli: man of many talents.

While I spent my day snorkeling and caving and sticking myself in various cracks, Will and RJ decided to get their exercise by going on a brewery tour (jerks), so I met up with them afterwards and we all went to Einar Ben, purportedly one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik. There we splurged on a five-course meal and it was amazing and we died and went to heaven, all while feeling slightly guilty that it was a fancy restaurant and we were wearing jeans, hiking boots, and in the case of Will, a Ghostbusters T-shirt.

And because they had to roll us out of the restaurant, we were way too stuffed and exhausted to go out on the town that evening, so sadly I never did get to see Gulli spin some bitchin’ tunes. We did, however, annoy some geese in the town pond while waiting for the shuttle bus to arrive. They seemed to particularly hate Will, squawking and honking at him at a volume not suitable for 10:30 at night. Smart birds, those.

Tomorrow: Blue Lagoon! Flight home! Icelandic Doritos!


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