Archive for the 'Travel' Category
So here I am on board the Norona–ready to leave Iceland for the Faroe Islands and then Denmark. It is about a two day journey so I should have enough time write. Well here I go…
We hiked Glymur–Iceland’s highest waterfall. The surroundings were rugged, the wind strong, and the waterfall loud. It was absolutely fantastic. At the top we waded across the edge of the waterfall and hiked back down the canyon.
Due to abundance of geothermal resources, energy in Iceland is cheap and every little village has its own outdoor pool and hot bath area. We would go swimming/bathing every other day which is obviously much more fun than camp site showers.
The one negative thing about the pools is that you need to wash yourself prior to entering the pool under the watchful gaze of the local hitlady. So there you are in a group shower being scrutinized for the way you wash your armpits and bum all the while sucking in you stomach, hiding your cellulite, and perking up your boobies. The pressure is so much that you end up leaving the shower bathed in your own sweat. Note that the men decided to wash their bums so carefully that they caused their watchdog to leave promptly and probably change professions.
So that is all I wrote on the Norona…a as the moment we left the safety of the fjord we encountered category 5 waves (on a scale of 7). I blame Hollywood which makes oceanic travel look like the pinnacle of elegance where gorgeous humans dressed head-to-toe in the latest fashion chat and tan their life away. My reality instead was in form of a dark, spartan, nine-person cabin, one deck below the deck carrying trucks loaded with giant containers of the world’s smelliest fish, where I lied in a fetal position cursing Neptune in dirty hiking clothes that I had been wearing for the last week.
Why? Why? Why? Why cant I be like Grace Kelly?
Well after 51.5 hours we finally landed in Denmark and then 14 hour bus ride and 1 hour car drive home. This final stage of our adventure can be summed up as "Get me the hell out of here". At 5 am we finally got home–exhausted, dirty but totally happy.
National Park Pingvellir – the location of the oldest parliament in the world, Alping, (930 AD) and the rift valley between North American and Euroasian Tectonic Plates.
The weather in Iceland is moody to say the least. It changes from minute to minute and from valley to valley. But you can count on rain and chill and wind. This year was even colder than usual due to the explosion of Grímsvötn volcano in April. Volcanic explosions apparently lead to temperature drops. Some historians even believe that the explosion of Laki in led to the French Revolution as crops failed due to colder temperatures, and hunger ensued.
For us, it rained pretty uch every other day and the temperature hovered around freezing. As for wind, when we were in Pinvellier the wind got up to 15 m/sec wind (40 mph). We managed to built only one tent that night as my parents’ blew away. Frankly that whole afternoon and night was one of the most insane experiences of my life.
Landmannalaugar (The Rainbow Mountains)
One week down…
As far as camp sites go, I must say I enjoyed this one….
One of the hardest hikes of my life. I would equal it to day 2 and 3 of the Inka trail in one. And, of course, it was pouring rain. It was absolutely fantastic—waterfalls, lava fields, glaciers, cliffs. The final stage was an hour long ride in a all terrain bus across numberless streams.
“Gate to Iceland”
Daddy and me.
Jokulsarlon – the iceberg ride
Me and a thousand year old piece of ice
Me and my boys.
Me in front of a giant pseudocrater (created by an explosion of natural gas not lava)
I took one picture. The rest is a blur.
Total and utter exhaustion
Day 15 and 16
The Curse of Neptune on the Norona
Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round
Who am I?
It was amazing. I cant wait to go back.
We landed in Iceland at one in the morning on Friday. It was pitch black. No midnight sun like I expected.
I believed to the very last moment that the guide had been playing tricks on us and instead of midnight tent building we would be bussed to a warm and cozy hotel overlooking the ocean. I believed it until we were bussed to a huge meadow and the guide said, "Have a good night."
Crap. How did people survive before headlamps??? I thought of my Father in Law, Bill, a lot, as he is the master of midnight tent building and regretted all the times I mocked him when I should have been asking him for tips. It turns out midnight tent building is the same as normal tent building except you cant find anything until you slip on it or it hits you. In short, there seems to be much more swearing.
After four glorious hours of sleep it was time to pack up again. I admit it took me a while to come to terms with that. But oh my…we were camped right on the beach under two lighthouses which, in the exhaustion of it all, we did not notice the night before.
The coast was stunningly beautiful and so quiet and peaceful. Honey, I wanted you to be there so bad. Don’t worry though, I took pics.
The first stop of our Icelandic adventure was a short walk through a geothermal area with mud springs and hot pots–Yellowstone in miniature. We also got to see and pet a herd of Icelandic horses which are one of the oldest breeds in the world as it has been forbidden to import horses to the island since the tenth century. They look small kinda like ponies but they are very hardy, intelligent, and mellow. They are also capable of five not four types of gait. Apparently this special step they know is genetic to them and is very comfortable for the rider despite the rough terrain.
Not sure how to introduce the Blue Lagoon. Think Shangri La. Think Ben and Jerry’s on sale. Think shirtless Brad Pitt.
Think a luxurious heated outdoor pool by geothermal water that is rich in minerals and is extremely good for the skin and general physical well-being. The accumulated white mud is smeared on the face and you emerge looking 21. It has to be pitch black but take my word for it I really do.
Anyhow, a little bit of nerdiness: The water which comes out at 200c (392F) is used to power the turbines of a nearby plant. The high temperature is due to the high pressure the water is under at hundreds of feet below ground. Once cooled to 42C (108F) it is channeled to the lagoon where you float in this giant hot bath surrounded by a lava field chatting and drinking (and getting younger) while it is freezing cold outside. Again. Think Shangri La. Think Ben and Jerry’s on sale. Think shirtless Brad Pitt.
Reykjavik is really just a big, quaint village.
The city cathedral. Note it has four clocks on its tower but none are correct because the strong winds move the hands at will.
Hofdi House. Where Gorbachev and Reagan met to try to bring the cold war to a close.
Tonight we are camping in the middle of Reykjavik. Everyone in this town is in hiking pants and carries a backpack. Reykjavik, the world’s most northern capital, is granola central. Stopped shaving legs to fit in. (I like this place.)
Virginia, this one is for you…
Let´s face it–bras are sweat traps. You put on a bra, you get the Colorado River running down your Grand Canyon in 10 mins flat. Well, Houston was in its 35th straight day of over 100F temperatures when David and I went to the NASA Johnson Space Center. So, sisters, I know you will understand that I liberated myself from oppression before embarking on an austronaut training tour. My purse was full, so I rolled up the bra and shoved it in a pocket of David´s cargo shorts. Problem solved. Life was simple. Life was good.
From stage left enters the villian of this piece–a security scan…and its very loud “Beeeeep!Beeeeep!Beeeeep! ” As the whole trolley of tourists watched, David was pulled over and asked to empty his pockets. He carefully pulled out the rolled up bra as I stood behind him in utter horror. The officer then asked David to roll out the item so he could identify this threat to national security. David obliged and proudly showed off my bra to 80 very interested strangers like he was Mufasa showing off Simba.
The last thing I remember before the universe went dark was the series of hopeful looks my newly-found intimate strangers were giving David´s other pocket. Let it be a black lacy thong?
So, there we were…David, the macho man, flying high to the moon with pockets full of his conquests and me, the tomato, searching for a black hole.
Let´s never talk about this again.
Love you all.
On February 4, 2003, President George W. Bush delivered the following memorial speech at the Memorial Service in honor of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The service was held at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.
This is only part of the speech…
To leave behind Earth and air and gravity is an ancient dream of humanity. For these seven, it was a dream fulfilled. Each of these astronauts had the daring and discipline required of their calling. Each of them knew that great endeavors are inseparable from great risks. And each of them accepted those risks willingly, even joyfully, in the cause of discovery.
Our whole nation was blessed to have such men and women serving in our space program. Their loss is deeply felt, especially in this place, where so many of you called them friends. The people of NASA are being tested once again. In your grief, you are responding as your friends would have wished — with focus, professionalism, and unbroken faith in the mission of this agency.
Captain Brown was correct: America’s space program will go on. This cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart. We are that part of creation which seeks to understand all creation. We find the best among us, send them forth into unmapped darkness, and pray they will return. They go in peace for all mankind, and all mankind is in their debt.
Yet, some explorers do not return. And the loss settles unfairly on a few. The families here today shared in the courage of those they loved. But now they must face life and grief without them. The sorrow is lonely; but you are not alone. In time, you will find comfort and the grace to see you through. And in God’s own time, we can pray that the day of your reunion will come.
And to the children who miss your Mom or Dad so much today, you need to know, they love you, and that love will always be with you. They were proud of you. And you can be proud of them for the rest of your life.
The final days of their own lives were spent looking down upon this Earth. And now, on every continent, in every land they could see, the names of these astronauts are known and remembered. They will always have an honored place in the memory of this country. And today I offer the respect and gratitude of the people of the United States.
May God bless you all.
This is a video of our trip to Singapore made by our friends Callie and Dave . If you fast-forward to 4:25, you will see David and his python girlfriend at the Singapore Night Safari.