Northern Lights

A Birthday Christmas Holiday: Day 6 – Golden Circle, Northern Lights, Horses and Shark

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I started my day by making myself some eggs with lox and salmon roe.

It was perfect…as would be the rest of my day!

I had some coffee, took a shower and was about to go outside for my 8:30 pickup for the Golden Circle Tour, when I got a call that the tour guide (Odinn) from Iceland Guided Tours had arrived early.

I ran out, already ready, and jumped on the bus.  We drove around town to pick up the others but there was a no-show and then only a family of four from Singapore.

We were a small group…all the better.

We drove off into the darkness…

…making a pit stop for a simulated earthquake, a bathroom break…

…and coffee with accompaniments…

…which I took full advantage of…

…and then we stopped at both the Faxafoss Waterfall…

…(notice the salmon ladder on the left)…

…and the Gullfoss Waterfall…

…with all its splendor.

Gullfoss was really beautiful…

…but the wind was really something…

…as you may tell here as I show a bird catching the wind and the mist after (not to mention the sound of the wind).

So before freezing completely, I was able to warm up with an all-you-can-eat lamb stew lunch, which was really delicious (I had two bowls and two rolls).

 

Our next stop was where you could see geyser that gave geysers their name – Geysir (I sort of passed that)…

…the very frequently erupting geyser, Strokkur…

…which I saw erupt a few times during my visit…

…a really small geyser…

…and plenty of geothermal activity…

…with water that looked cool enough to touch…

…but truly wasn’t.

Honestly, the steam should have given you clues.

Our next stop was a little spontaneous, as Odinn noticed a herd of wild horses along the way.

They came to us fairly quickly to both greet us (my nipping at our clothing) and lick the salt off the bus.

Notice how quickly they come when I call them.

It was cool to see the horses up close…

…even if they sometimes got a little too close.

I think it was my favorite part of the tour.

Our last stop was at Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park

…where the Icelandic Parliament was established in 930 AD and remained until 1798.

The waters here…

…were crystal clear…

…and the scenery was beautiful.

…see for yourself.

The tour ended with a beautiful sky in Reykjavik.

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After recharging both myself and my iPhone back at the hotel, I got an email that the Northern Lights tour was on for that night!

Woo hoo!

I walked around town and decided to stop at Kaffi Loki for an Icelandic specialty…

hákarl (fermented shark) with some Brennivín.

The shark was not really all that pleasant.  The first few chews were mild and fine, but then the ammonia set in and got stronger as you chewed it.

At that point, it was important to take in some unsweetened schnapps and wash it down quickly.

I did have a second bite but I stopped there.  That was enough fermented shark for me.

Fortunately, the music selection was really worth visiting Cafe Loki and the waitress there was kind enough to suggest some Icelandic bands for me to check out later.

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Once I finished the schnapps, I went out to my 7:30 reservation at 3 Frakkar (Three Coats).

I actually got there early because of the Northern Lights tour (I needed to be waiting outside by 8:30).  This turned out to be no problem, as my waitress brought food out rather quickly.

I started off with some minke whale, sashimi style, and salmon.

Absolutely delicious.

I really love how great whale tastes!

My main course, chosen because of my waitress’s suggestion…

…was Plokkfiskur, or hashed fish, with black bread.

This was probably my favorite dish of the entire trip, consisting of cooked cod that was mashed with cooked potato, cooked together in butter and milk, topped with hollandaise sauce and cheese and served with a fantastic sweet bread (there’s brown sugar and maple syrup or molasses) that’s been baked for 14 hours.

This is true Icelandic comfort food.

If you want the restaurant’s recipe, you can get it HERE.

The bread was perfect for a scarpetta (taking your bread and getting the sauce).

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I arrived back at the hotel on time, but the bus was a little late on picking me up.

At first, this scared me, because I saw a smaller bus go by without stopping and I thought they forgot about me.

But then, just a little passed the waiting period, a big bus from Time Tours pulled up, driven by Rúnar, the company owner.

Rúnar told us right away that he had a good feeling about seeing the Northern Lights that night.

There was a lot of activity going on and there were areas of clear sky.

And after only about 20 minutes of driving and explaining the the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis), we parked in a field and faced some mountains where there were two large foggy bands of light in the sky.

We waited for some time…

when suddenly a band of light got bright and twisted across the sky (photo taken by Rúnar).

Rúnar had said that the light was green, but I only saw white.

Over time, as I tried to take photos of the lights without any success, I realized that my camera was taking photos at a slower speed…

…and I was able to capture this…

…and this.

So there was green, except that I didn’t see it with my naked eyes.

My eyes saw this…

…and this…

…while the camera (Rúnar’s camera actually) captured this

…this…

…this…

…and these.

Although I couldn’t see all these magnificent colors captured by the camera (they were only white lights in my eyes), it was amazing to see them twisted, bounced and sometimes danced in the night sky.  The first time we witnessed activity, it looked like frosted glass above us and I almost felt I could reach up and touch it.

To better understand why our eyes can only see so much of the color, you can read this article here – “How We See the Aurora Borealis: Camera vs Human Eyes.”

It was a beautiful night filled with lights and shooting stars…

…both in that field…

…and out at Thingvellir National Park, where we stopped to check for more activity.

And once the lights seemed to settle, we headed back to Reykjavik and I got back to my room a little after 1 AM.

Although a long one, the day had been perfect!

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