A Whole Lotta Nature (That’s Pretty Neat!)

Since we left the glorious campsite at Grindavik, we have learned that it truly was a top-of-the-line facility. The other campgrounds have been nice for the most part but not Grindavik-nice. We’ve struggled a bit to find good wifi, for one. Also, of the four campgrounds we’ve visited so far, it was the only one with a kitchen and indoor chill space.

We’ve chilled indoors at a few eateries and grocery stores, but mostly we’ve been experiencing a lot of nature. We’ve had a couple of heavy biking days (by loaded touring in Iceland standards) since we traveled over 100 miles on Monday and Tuesday. This may not seem like a lot (at least to any bike tourists reading this), but it felt like a lot. The terrain is not difficult at all. There are some hills, but nothing too serious. The roads are in good condition as well. It’s the weather (and maybe our heavy bags) that slows us down. Winds are variable and sometimes strong but haven’t been as bad as our one night of camping at Grindavik. The rain slows us though because we have to put on so many layers of clothes that we can hardly move!

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Since we’ve covered a lot of ground in the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of the great outdoors. On Monday we traveled along the southern coast, taking in some rocky coastline, some scenic lakes, and some picturesque towns.

Speaking of which, Iceland is a country of Marcus-sized towns. (For those of you who don’t know, Marcus is the small town in northwest Iowa where my parents grew up. I think its population is between 1000-2000, but maybe one of my readers can give me a more accurate number.) As I was saying, very few of the towns in Iceland have more than 1000 inhabitants. There are probably only a dozen or so that have more than 5000. Everything is so quaint. The houses are adorable, and the towns themselves are so neat and orderly. We’ve seen multiple crews of teenagers doing maintenance work along the roads or at the campsites. I don’t know if they get paid or if it’s part of their curriculum or if there is just a lot of emphasis put on communities and volunteerism, but it’s pretty cool regardless. On a similar note, we’ve noticed a conspicuous lack of any officials anywhere. There are no park rangers or guides at major attractions, only occasional campsite managers, and no police anywhere. In fact, the only police we’ve seen were on the cover of a newspaper, and they looked incredibly happy! I wish I knew what the story was about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with how the mother and daughter are partners or something. In a country with only about 150 prisoners, I guess the police don’t have much to worry about.

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In between the towns, the farms are just as photogenic. I haven’t seen much for crops (which is not too surprising since the soil looks very rocky and since there’s very little sun and lots of cold), so I guess most farms are dedicated more to animals. We’ve seen lots of Icelandic horses, which are typically small with crazy manes. There are a lot of sheep as well. Wool is definitely big here. As well it should be.

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In addition to our general biking views, we’ve seen a couple of Iceland’s biggest tourist sites: Gullfoss and Geysir. Gullfoss is Europe’s largest waterfall in terms of volume. It’s quite massive, though it tumbles in rocky stages rather than one big drop. One bizarre thing about it is how it drops into a fairly narrow canyon at a sideways angle. Apparently, Gullfoss is where Iceland’s first environmentalist earned her stripes. When an electric company tried to come in and build a dam, she staged many protests and initiated a legal battle. Though it sounds like the dam was scrapped because of a technicality, her protests are highly regarded.

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Geysir is a geyser. In fact, it’s the geyser, as in the one for which all geysers are named. Apparently it used to erupt a lot and frequently, but not so much anymore. Of course, it would be ridiculous to go see a non-functioning geyser, so it’s lucky that its next door neighbor is a more reliable spout. Strokkur is the geyser people come to see erupt, even though the area is still known as Geysir.

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We don’t know exactly where we’re headed next, so we’ll be as surprised as you to find out what’s featured in the next blog. Since we don’t know where we’re heading, we also don’t know how soon we’ll be able to update. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

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