home again…almost

1_BeachPanoSveitarfelagid Olfus Beach on the South Shore

All week we’ve lamented that we should have booked a 2-week stay. We travel south  so that we might have one last picnic on the southern shore before we return to Keflavik Airport. We rise early with suitcases packed and souvenirs stowed in bags for checked luggage, then head south to the beaches along Route 38 to Surdurstrandarvegar 427. Sun glistens across the ocean, but wind is still persistent, so we’re grateful for our Icelandic sweaters. Atop the luggage is a bag of the last of the Myvatn brown bread, raspberry jam, and salmon jerky for our picnic on the dunes at  Sveitarfélagið Olfus Beach. We pull out the selfie stick and take another best couple pic resting in the sand in our beautiful sweaters. An iconic frame of our legacy adventure.


Gulls, terns, and herons float above us and along the bay on the other side as we turn out of the parking lot and head to the airport with 2 hours to spare. The volcanic landscape along the Reykjanes Peninsula back to Keflavik is stunning, strewn with boulders, deposits of the richest orange, and black lava formations everywhere.


We make mistake #1 leaving the last gas fill-up to the end and drive around trying to find a station. Then at the rental car return we are second in line, but it takes almost 45 minutes to resolve the problem with the driver ahead of us for a painful delay. Mistake #2 was timing – if we’d arrived a minute sooner we would have been the first in line. Mistake #3 was stopping at the sales tax line and having the agent tally up all of our receipts for what amounted to a $100 return. When we turn to the check-in area, all of the counters are closed with an hour before our flight. Mistake #4 was not reading the fine print on our tickets that the Icelandic Air ticket counters close 1 hour before the flight. We are stunned. Then as we come to our senses we shift into crisis management mode. I call Icelandic Air for the flights changes – we will need to stay another 4 days for the next available flight. Greg calls to secure a rental car for another 4 days. Fearing the worst, I log onto Booking.com to find hotels – Iceland is notorious for exorbitant prices in June and very possibly no availability. I wince and then am surprised by a dialogue box that asks if I would like to use our “genius points” – oh yes indeed I would! It locates a very reasonable homestay in Rekyavik for the night, and then a return stay at the Héraðsskólinn Boutique Hostel in Laugarvatn to visit Thingvellir National Park. The last night will be a guesthouse on the Golden Circle close to Keflavik. All for about $100 per night. A miracle. Be careful what you wish for. In wishing for additional time to explore Iceland – we manifested it in a rather costly way. I now recommend to friends definitely book a 12-14 night stay to tour Iceland. Either way, the extra days are so worth it. Just do it, by choice, not accident.

geysirs & gushers finalle

1_GulfossPanoAbove Gullfoss Falls just north of Geysir

Last day on the island is such a rush. How much can we get done for the final hours of fun? Certainly the sun is on our side because it never quite sets and we have evening flights back to SF. Long before we get there along Highway 37 in the distance we see the celestial flush of the famous Geysir. Active for the last 800 years and at times reaching 80 meters, this geothermal flume (after which all other geysers are named) has diminished over the years. Fortunately the oozing orange, turquoise, and yellow landscape shrouded in hissing steam also includes the nearby Strokkur geyser that reliably blows off steam every 10 minutes in a chute of 15-30 meters. We spend an hour just watching, waiting, and clicking wildly to capture the few seconds of eruption. The mega tourist complex across the street is a pass with overpriced wares but like everyplace in Iceland the food is brilliant.


We fuel up for the drive up Route 35 to Gullfoss, the glory of gushers, a double cascade waterfall intertwined with the history of environmental activism. Its name is a mixture of fact and lore: the golden evening hue, the rainbow that is ever in its spray ,and the lore of a man who threw his gold over the falls. We can all be thankful to Sigridur Tomasdottir in Brattholt that this is a national park. Her father Tomas Tomasson refused to sell the land to an Englishman with the reply, “I will not sell my friend.” Would that we all felt this kinship with the earth? He did lease the land to foreign investors to build a proposed power plant, but his daughter Sigridur fought tirelessly in court to have the lease annulled. Fortunately during the Great Depression of 1929 the investors did not make payment on the lease so it was cancelled. Sigridur’s treks across mountains and rivers to meet with government officials made her Iceland’s first environmentalist. The falls are truly spectacular, exceeding the volume of Niagra Falls, Gullfoss, the convergence of 2 great waterfalls intersecting at right angles on the River Hvita, it is the greatest waterfall in Europe plummeting 32 meters with a total of 70 meters in height.


After the falls we head south and stop at a farm yarn shop where Greg finally finds his Icelandic sweater and we pose among the herd of horses being rounded up in the adjacent pasture. Then to the car for our last stops before leaving this geological paradise.