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Iceland in winter Day2 Geysir and Gullfoss then weather forces reroute to Reykjavik
 
 
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
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We woke up the next morning in our deluxe farmhouse accommodation (with a sink in the room and a toilet down the hall).
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast
We walked upstairs to a lovely Icelandic farmhouse breakfast.
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast 2
With oatmeal,
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast 3
lunchmeat
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast 4
boiled eggs, bread, and
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast 5
and muesli cereal.
 
Iceland farmhouse breakfast 6
We were impressed by the variety of items at the breakfast. What we didn't realize at the time was that this exact set of choices was to be our breakfast every day for the rest of the trip.

But at least on this first morning in Iceland, we found the free breakfast impressive.
 
Efstidalur farmhouse
It was time to leave the farmhouse and see more of Iceland.
 
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So we hopped in our Suzuki,
 
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and headed away.

We decided against going down the steep driveway that we'd traveled up the night before. Instead, we took this longer driveway. The problem was that it was hard to see the edge of the road, because of all of the snow. I noticed Ilaria was drifting off the road a bit, and told her to go a little to the right to get back in the center of the road. Ilaria with no previous snow-and-ice driving experience, turned the wheel too sharply, and we started to drift to the other side of the road. "Not so much, not so much, we're going to slide off the road!", I said.
 
car in ditch Iceland
And we did.

Ilaria, nervous and not understanding the severity of the depth to which our SUV had just buried itself said, "now what do I do"? She thought I'd have some magic trick to get the SUV out. I said, "what do you mean what do? we have two buried wheels and two wheels that aren't touching the ground; and if we slide any deeper, the car is going to grind all over that wire fence. we're stuck. we have to find someone to tow our car out".

So we walked back to the farmhouse. Thankfully, this farmhouse happened to be the only real farm of the trip. The hostess told us when her husband finished working with the cows, he'd pull us out with his tractor.

Meanwhile, some Germans we met the night before were starting their day's journey. Ilaria and I told them to be careful because it was hard to see the road, and by-the-way we left a little obstacle for you about halfway down the road.
 
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The Germans tried a little too hard to avoid our obstacle and ended up in the ditch exactly across from our SUV (theirs is the little red Suzuki Jimmy on the left).

What a way to start a day. Our hosts probably thought we were some real idiots,
 
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but thankfully our farmer host showed up shortly with his tractor,
 
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drove all around the yard where normal cars would surely be stuck,
 
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and pulled us out of the ditch (that's the German guy, who we helped to get stuck).
 
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The weather and roads were a little rougher this morning and I found myself jealous of what the previous day seemed like excessively large tires. The roads were covered with what at the time we considered to be a lot of ice and snow. The poor roads combined with Ilaria's fear of sliding into a ditch again led to our very slowly driving to
 
Geysir Iceland
Geysir.

Geysir is the only Icelandic word that is used in English (though we spell it geyser), and Geysir used to be one of the most impressive geysers on the Earth. It doesn't really erupt much anymore. However,
 
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a few hundred feet away is Strokkur,
 
Strokkur Iceland
which erupts every 5-10 minutes shooting water 20 meters into the air.
 
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How does it work?

A volcanic heat source makes the underground rocks very hot. The hot rocks heat up the water around them. The cooler water on the top (there's plenty of cool water in iceland) presses down on the hotter water beneath. The water below the surface then gets superheated, pressure increases further, and boom, pressure releases.

After seeing the first geyser eruption of our lives, it was time for Ilaria and I to drive to
 
Map of Iceland day 2  1
Gullfoss.
 
Gullfoss Iceland
I'm not a huge fan of waterfalls, but Gullfoss is enormous.
 
Gullfoss Iceland 2
It's actually more of a triple-fall as the water has three big drops before it reaches the bottom.
 
Gullfoss Iceland 3
Much of the waterfall was covered in huge sheets of ice, which gave the falls a unique winter look compared to lush green plant-surrounded version in our tourist books.
 
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It was really windy and with all of the snow on the paths it felt not too difficult to fall into the falls by mistake, so we didn't hang out there too long.
 
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After a day and a half, Ilaria and I had finished all of the major tourist attractions in Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Žingvellir, Geyser, and Gullfoss. Neither of us is big on touristy sites, but being winter, there were very few people at each site. However, I was still really excited to begin our journey along the less populous parts of the country -- to see the "real" Iceland.
 
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Our journey was to take us counter-clockwise around the entire country using the "ring-road", Iceland's version of an interstate. However unlike a US interstate, there's nowhere to pull over, there's only one lane in each direction, and the road contains the occasional gravel stretch. The ring-road is by far the best maintained road in the country. It is heavily plowed, and over the trip I developed an affection for the Icelandic snowplow. They are enormous! I will show you more pictures in other albums.
 
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However, we soon learned that the ring-road is less well maintained as you move away from the more populous areas.

By this time, I'd begun to learn how to drive the manual transmission, and I became our deep-snow driving specialist.

During bad weather in Iceland, you generally stop at the gas station in each town to see if the roads are clear and open to the next gas station.
 
second car in ditch iceland
As I slipped-and-slide our Suzuki from gas station to gas station, the outlook became more and more grim. We also began to see that even Icelanders sometimes can't stay on their roads. Eventually we reached the gas station in Hvolsvöllur that told us the road to the next gas station/town was closed with little hope of being open any time soon.

We called the travel agents we'd booked the car and farmhouses through, and they suggested we abandon our trip around the country and just hang out in the south where the roads and the weather were better.

Their suggestion was not acceptable to Ilaria, who was keen to make it around the country. Ilaria and our travel agent Oddny decided if we were going to give this complete trip around Iceland a shot, we'd be more likely to have success going around clockwise.
 
Map of Iceland day 2  2
so we turned the Suzuki around, traveled back through all of the snow, and spent the nite at a really nice hotel in
 
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Reykjavik.
 
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We had a balcony in our room that looked out into
 
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the square containing the most famous church in Iceland.
 
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We were happy to be out of the Suzuki and off the snowy, icy roads. Ilaria was pretty disappointed that our chances to make it around the country looked slimmer. But while we were in the city we decided to try and enjoy ourselves, and most importantly get something to eat besides the tiresome
 
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lunchmeat sandwiches we were eating for most meals.
 
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On our walk to find a nice restaurant, we saw a giant icicle that stretched from the roof to the ground.
 
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We walked down the main road away from the church
 
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and stopped to eat at Geysir Bistro and Bar
 
viking beer
At the restaurant, I had my first icelandic beer: Viking. Beer like everything in Iceland is very cheap. This one here only cost me $8, in the US you can only get six much-better-tasting beers for that same price.
 
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I had shrimp and scallops in a buttery sauce with some of the best potatoes I've ever eaten.
 
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Ilaria had salmon.

We were very happy to eat some tasty food for once in this country.
 
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On returning to our hotel, we read the hotel's interesting fire rules. We practiced rule number two: "remain calm and selfpossessed", and we said
 
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goodnite Reykjavik.