Anyone who knows me, knows that I rarely start my day before the very reasonable hour of 11AM. When you’re married to a grad student, who doesn’t go to bed until 2AM every night, you often also don’t go to bed until 2AM. So when someone tells me they start their day at 8AM or even (*holds back vomit*) 7AM, I am shookith to my core. That is literally the middle of the night, and I could never. So obviously when I’m on vacation, one of the first excursions I book for Jordan and myself is a sunrise snorkeling tour in glacier water.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Iceland has this really cool thing, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates lie right underneath (and sometimes above) the island, and have currently cracked apart enough that you can actually swim between the two plates. Pretty badass? I think so. Apparently it’s the only place in the world where you can do something like this…or at least that’s what all the advertisements on google said to me.
Unfortunately Emma couldn’t come with us because of little baby squish that’s currently inhabiting her body. And Emerson couldn’t come either, because if Emma can’t have fun, neither can he god damnit. She didn’t impregnate herself, Emerson!
Jordan and I hit the road at about 7:30 in the morning and headed back towards Þingvellir National Park. We stopped at the visitors center at the top of the hill to grab some coffee and hit the bathrooms (which are called water closets here) before our mock Titanic swim. While walking through the parking lot, a few sheep whizzed by us while baa-ing very loudly, which apparently is super common here.
They have sheep, like we have deer. Except their sheep aren’t scared of anyone or anything.
Fun fact: The sheep outnumber the people of Iceland, two to one. They’re also commonly found traveling in groups of three because the mother usually births two babies at once.
Jordan and I arrived at Silfra, the snorkeling point, and got all suited up in the most ridiculous dry suits I have ever seen. We resembled that kid from “A Christmas Story” that is layered so thickly that he can’t physically put his arms down. We looked like what I imagine Jabba the Hut would look like, if someone tried to squeeze him into a size 2 dress. But I was thankful later when every part of my body that was covered by the dry suit was nice and toasty; meanwhile my uncovered face felt like it was about to turn black from frostbite.
After we got all suited up, they handed us our flippers and snorkel masks and they guided us to the stairs that led down into the water. We learned from our guide that this is the clearest and cleanest water in the world because just one drop of water travels down from the nearby glacier, into the ground, then spends the next 30 to 100 years making its way back up to the surface. During this rather lengthy process it’s constantly being filtered, which makes it super clear and also super yummy to drink.
We stepped into the water and at first it wasn’t too bad, but then the instructor told us to put on our snorkeling masks and place our heads in the water. Unlike the rest of our bodies, our heads and hands were covered by a wetsuit material, which means water leaks in. And let me tell you, 34 degree water (2 degrees celsius) does not feel as refreshing as they advertised. Eventually the water is trapped and begins warming up by using your body heat, but in those first two minutes I’ve have never felt closer to Jack Dawson.
P.S. There was definitely enough room on that floating door for the both of them.
Because of the amount of air that just sits in your dry suit you are able to completely float on top of the water without any effort; making it a perfect scenario to just float along the tiny current in the river and observe the cracks and rock formations below.
The rocks and crevices below the surface were incredible to look at. They went down for what seemed like hundreds upon hundreds of feet. We also happened to have amazing luck with the weather, because the sun was shining through the water and lighting up the whole underwater area around us. There was plenty of algae and seaweed to look at, that was just gently flowing in the water. We came up to this one spot where the crack between the plates was so narrow, you could actually reach out and touch both sides. So I’m pretty sure this now means I can tell people I swam through and touched Europe and North America simultaneously.
My GoPro died about 10 minutes into the trip, so that was less than ideal. But it definitely allowed me to appreciate a technology-free experience for the first time since arriving here. The whole dive took about 40 minutes and to my surprise, Jordan actually ended up staying in the water for longer than I did. She was attempting to free dive in the little lagoon we were in, but failed to remember that they have to let the air out of your suit before this become possible. So for a solid five minutes I got to watch her struggle, attempting to force her air filled suit under the water only to be pushed immediately back up to the top and then bob around for the next few seconds until she could catch her balance again. Even the instructors were getting a nice little chuckle out of it.
After the swim, or should I say float, they gave us cookies and hot chocolate and we got to stand around and socialize with all of the other people in our dive group. We met a woman about our age from Germany, that just gave birth to her first child. Her, her husband and the baby were taking a month long trip around Iceland. She told me that in most European countries, they don’t take babymoons—aka, one last hoorah with your significant other before the baby comes and your life is basically ruined forever…or at least until they turn 18. She said they take vacations after the baby comes, which correct me if I’m wrong, sounds like utter torture. But to each their own. She did make it sound rather cute, until she told me they are sleeping in their car every night! Hard pass.
Most of the rest of the group was from the U.S., which was nice, because then I didn’t feel the need to lead with “Oh we’re from America and most definitely did not vote for Trump.” We always feel a little less judged by fellow Americans.
Jordan and I headed back home to meet up with the rest of the gang. We had some lunch, and then we were all supposed to head about an hour south to visit a few local hot springs. But we decided that the 40 minutes scenic walk from the car to the hot springs was too strenuous for us; so instead we stayed in our cabin and had a lazy afternoon. Apparently all of the natural hot springs in Iceland are on local people’s property. And the one we were going to visit is on an old man’s farm land. According to the interwebs, he actually goes down to the springs every morning and measures the temperature of the water, to make sure it won’t be too hot for the tourist to swim in. All he asks in return is that you don’t deficate on his land. It seems like a fair trade.
Emerson decided after an hour of being cooped up in our cabin, playing smash or pass, it was time to explore more of Reykjavik. He found us this really cool abandoned ship yard to play in. Not sure if it was legal or not for us to be climbing all over the place…but here we are.
Fun fact: We learned that Iceland only has about 150 people currently residing in their two jails in the entire country. And that the 500 people currently waiting to serve their time automatically get their charges dropped if they’ve been waiting more than 5 years to go to jail. And apparently they only average about 1 murder a year. Also, most of the police force here don’t carry guns. They have a special unit of policemen that carry guns, and get this… they are called “the viking squad.”
After the shipyard we headed to a cool little lighthouse, and then back into the heart of the city. We explored the different tourist shops and little neighborhoods. We stumbled across a rainbow painted road which made the gays of the group extremely happy. We headed back home for a spaghetti dinner and in perfect Crowe/Bostaph tradition spent the rest of the evening playing cards until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. We also got to watch the most amazing sunset from our back porch. The sun doesn’t set until about 9:30 here, and it doesn’t get dark until almost 11.
Tomorrow we head down to the southern coast to see more waterfalls and to explore the black beaches. We will be staying in some very tiny cabins with limited wifi, but there will be beds, four walls and a flushing toilet…so we’re happy!