Iceland, Day 4

What happened in day four? Well, it’s been a while since I actually thought about it so here it goes. Day four was the day I went ice caving. What I didn’t mention in the previous post was the benefit of interacting around with other people who are also traveling. You can easily learn some new information. In my case, I learned that a hostel called Vagnsstaðir was actually open for business. When I looked on the website before, it was closed for the winter. This was beneficial because it meant that I didn’t have to drive back and forth between Vik and the southeastern part of Iceland (going back and forth 200kms or so). That and the option of sleeping in a car overnight…

Other than that, it was a very long drive to get to the meeting point for my ice caving tour. It was something I was looking forward to and one of the few things on this trip that wasn’t flexible. The tour started off well enough. Some of us were able to drive our cars to an area somewhat close to wear the cave was, then got into a large van for the final leg of the journey. Being that it was full of people, I found it a bit strange that no one was really talking with each other. Everyone was already with someone else, so I guess I found it strange because I’d been traveling alone for so long already and longed for some social contact. I’ll admit that. Though we were all probably thinking about the photos we’d take in the ice cave. Would I go ice caving again? Yes. With a tour group? Not so much. I would say that I’d spend the extra money to get a private guide.

Ice cave entrance

DSC05068

Being inside an ice cave was both an underwhelming and overwhelming experience. I was expecting so much more and the cave still blew me away in its own special way. If you haven’t gotten it yet, an ice cave is underneath a glacier. It is what the name suggests. A cave that is formed by the surrounding ice of a glacier. Such things are only around for so long and once that part of the glacier melts away, it’s gone. The ice cave walls were a mesmerizing blue to the eyes, forming no specific shape as small grooves littered its surface. The sounds of footsteps crunching along the snow and gravel faintly echoed as they bounced along the uniquely shaped ice walls. The small stream trickled along, following the path of the ice cave to its mouth. It was calming.

DCIM101GOPROA lower angle of some ice

DCIM101GOPROPicturesque looking I’d say

It was a place I wanted to explore more of and stay longer in. Had I fully waterproof boots, I probably would have tried to walk further in along the stream; at the utmost annoyance to my guide because safety for him comes first.

DCIM101GOPRO

DCIM101GOPRO

Oh, and I got to see some glaciers too.

Glaciers

Iceland day 3!

Background: I’m typing this as I wait in my car for the ice caving tour to start in about an hour. Just a little early.

Day three started like this: wake up early, try not to wake up the other roommates too much, take a shower, grab stuff and type out blog post for day two, go through/edit photos, and snack on chocolate and almonds until breakfast. A few hours later everyone was getting up and preparing to head out as well. It was a mixture of continued conversation, new conversation, and final smiles of goodbye and well wishes. If anything, I would describe solo travel as transient. Especially when it comes to hostels. Meet new people, converse for an evening and/or morning, go off on our separate ways. I am finding great difficulty in describing solo travel. If you just want Iceland related stuff, please skip to Part 2. Otherwise, have fun reading part 1, philosophical bullshit.

Part 1

I have read in numerous places that solo travel is a time when one can learn much about one’s self. What one is capable of, one’s fears, one’s needs vs. desires, and one’s potential. We supposedly become more aware when we are left to fend for ourselves (though not in any sort of wilderness manner). This has rung true in a few instances, but personally I feel that the past few days have been a confirmation about what sort of person I am and want to be. That being said, I have also realized what sort of things I value the most. Things I didn’t really think about before. Even just three days in, I have received answers to questions that I have about my life and life in general (I think). I have also obtained more questions. The whole: what is the purpose of life; is there any meaning; what is my purpose in life; where is our place in the universe; what is important; what’s right or wrong; how important are we, if at all; where the hell do we come from. I like to believe that everyone thinks about these sorts of things at least once in a while; some more than others. These sorts of questions are specific and broad all at once. There are those of us who feel like we know the answers (excuse me, know that they know the answers) and there are those of use who are not at all too sure. The truth is, these sorts of questions are enlightening, depressing, inspiring, important, not important, answerable, unanswerable, and self-centered. I’ll talk more on this bit in my next post.

Part 2

Anyway, Iceland adventure stuff. Many of you want to travel, or at least want the romanticized version of travel. I’ll admit I came to Iceland with a bit of a borderline cynical attitude. This attitude was born pretty much out of fear. I went to three places today: Fjelfkjaks, Dyurhousy, and Svartsibeach. Ok, that was just a bunch of bull, the real names are: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Dyrhólaey, and Reynisfjara beach. I didn’t have the spellings at the time of writing my draft and decided to keep those in. They’re actually just a result of me putting random letters together that vaguely seemed like they’d be Icelandic (no disrespect intended). They actually looked legitimate. I was surprised.

The first place I went to, was a bit of a disappointment. Probably the first one I’ve had so far. It was a disappointment mostly because I didn’t get to explore it as much as I would have liked. Cold water and ice are an annoyance when you don’t have the proper gear. I didn’t feel like getting soaked only three days in. Oh well, maybe one day I can go check it out in the summer season. All I will say about this place is that it seems like a fantastic place to be surrounded by cliffs and hike along a river. One day I’ll do just that.

Fjaðrárgljúfur, looks to be a great place for hiking

The second place was intimidating. Watching the waves hit Reynisfjara beach was the first time I had ever heard a pounding sea in person. The thunderous roar was awesome. And not using that word casually! The third place was nearby. Dyrhólaey overlooked numerous cliffs and this was the first time I had really seen waves pound cliff sides. The pounding combined with the spray reminded me how easy it would be for me to be washed out into the ocean. How small I felt then.


Anywho, that’s day three! Leaving this simple. Ish.

Iceland Day 2

Day two felt much more pleasant to put it mildly. The morning started very early, 6am local time. At this point my brain was finally used to the idea that “hey guess what brain, you’re halfway across the world. Eight hour time zone difference!” Yeah ok, so I put together a really odd breakfast and chill around in the main gathering area. You know, do a few things on the computer, write in my journal, write a few more postcards. Basically I’m waiting around for the sun to start rising. First destination was: Seljalandsfoss. I’ve seen that name so many times now that I can type it without really thinking about it. It’s the waterfall that you can walk behind and was pretty cool to stand beside. Getting to the back though, was a different story. A lot of the water collected along the back corner and freezing temperatures from previous days made it extremely icy to put it mildly. Most of the pathway to the back was covered in a long sheet of ice. So as I am slowly making my way through the ice, a tour bus pulls in. I’m thinking “Oh hey I almost beat the rush of tourists…” This will be interesting. I make it safely to the back and as I’m setting up my gear I notice a rather large gaggle of tourists standing at the beginning of the earlier mentioned ice sheet. I stand there just looking at them wondering if any one of them will attempt to cross to the back. I watch one person after another attempt it, and then head back. It gave me a chuckle. One person did join me on the other side a little while later, it felt like a secret spot or such.

SeljalandsfossSeljalandsfoss from somewhere along the back

After all that was done, I left and headed off to Skogafoss. Waterfall number two. All in all, similar bit. Take pics, hike around and take more pics. Do some more exploring. I have to say that if I were here in the summer time, I’d be doing a lot more hiking. There are so many places to just go off and explore! One thing of note here though was that the moment I pulled into the Skogafoss area, yet another tour bus came in too. This time packed with a bunch of Asian tourists. I’m thinking “Hey cool! My people!” As I was taking pictures I was watching them. It was like watching a repetition of the same thing over and over. All of them would walk up to around the same point (close enough to get the waterfall in full on their cameras/phones), take pictures of the falls and of themselves/friends. Rinse and repeat. Then everyone would head back to the bus one by one. I thought that was intriguing. I had a discussion about this particular pattern with some people in my hostel later on in the day. Maybe I’ll talk about that later.

Skogafoss TouristsSkogafoss with the tourists

After all that, I went straight to the next hostel in Vik. Good thing I did because the moment I left Skogafoss it started pouring. And I mean pouring! Ended up safe at Vik Hostel and met a lot of new friends along the way. A couple from Vancouver (of all places to meet), a group of French lads, and a group of friends travelling from Europe (but are from Asia originally). After just this little bit, I have to say that driving around in Iceland is fantastic. The landscape changes by the minute and there’s always something different to see.

Random locationThere’s always a nice place to just randomly pull over and think

Iceland! Day 1

So for those that care, I indeed made it to Iceland. The first day was…well the first day. It took me some time to get adjusted to being here. I kept feeling that the next door I walked out of would bring me back to Vancouver, like magic or something. Ok, story time.

Transfer flight from Vancouver to Seattle: nothing that special other than getting put on an earlier flight cause I arrived at the airport early. Kudos Alaska Airlines! It helped me avoid a narrow time frame for a transfer flight. I only have a carry on and a personal bag (did not want to deal with checked luggage) so when we land I’m off to the gate for the next leg of the journey. Getting on the Icelandair flight was surprisingly exciting. I still get excited by the idea of flight and I just love looking out the window. The plastic/dry air aroma of the cabin brought back pleasant emotions. I started getting excited at this point. “Holy crap I’m actually going!”

Flight over Canada! Somewhere over the prairies

By the time we land, I should have been sleeping (give or take a few hours) back in Vancouver. I didn’t get very good sleep on the plane so I knew jet lag was going to be a bit of a problem. Off the plane, through customs, and the airport is not really what I expected. It was a very fancy looking airport, but it didn’t feel like anything special. Just another airport. Ok, no big there. Having about an hour of time to kill before my rental car pick up, I ended up having breakfast (which was actually lunch, dinner, and breakfast). This consisted of a nine dollar (910 ISK) sandwich which didn’t have that much in it. Whatever, it’s an airport and a guy’s gotta eat.

Car rental pick up time. Painless and Blue Car Rental gave me a thorough explanation of what to expect. Thanks Blue Car Rental (By the way, if you wanna have your own adventure it is REALLY best that you rent a car)! I’m surprised to find out that there is a USB that I can use to play my iPod through the car’s speakers. YES! And at this point I drive off to my first destination, which frankly doesn’t have much. I never made it to my planned destination as the side road I was supposed to take…was covered in ice. That wasn’t the bad part though. I had a bit of fun slipping around on there (not at speed!). What turned me off was the steep looking downward hill I had to go down about 1km in. Nope, I do not plan on getting stuck on my first day in Iceland. No thank you. Ok, off to a grocery store and then to Selfoss, my first hostel stay. Ever.

Rental CarMy trusty steed, the Suzuki Swift

Ok, screw it gonna go grocery shopping. I make my way to a grocery store I had in mind and along the way I seem some interesting things, but nothing that made me want to give a second look. At this point I decided I would just head straight to the hostel. No point doing things reluctantly while tired.  Time to get myself adjusted as soon as possible. Ok, grocery store, wander around, find things, be confused, go around in circles, buy a few things, get out, sit in the car and look at a map. Honestly, it isn’t hard to drive around in Iceland. However, the first little while I kept going to the wrong exits, missing exits, and yet again going in circles. It doesn’t help that I can’t read the signs quickly. At this point, I’m thinking that Iceland is not what I imagined it to be. “Sweet jesus, driving around is stressful”. I’ll take that thought back in the future though. Finally going in the right direction, I just keep driving in a tired and unamused manner. Then suddenly BOOM! The landscape changes and I’m thinking: “Holy crap, this is what I was expecting!” So as with anywhere, out of a city is probably gonna look better. Anyways, there’s snow everywhere and nowhere. What do I mean by that? Well the road was mostly clear of snow and the sides of it was covered in snow. Beautiful. Such great contrast. But there was some snow on the roads and there were some butt-hole clenching moments. It was my second time driving over snow, but the previous ice encounter did help. Off I go, unsafely admiring the views while driving.

First viewMy first…view. Wasn’t all that inspiring.

I finally make it to the hostel in Selfoss, and I’m way early. Let’s just say that I was the only one there for most of the day. So I sat, watched TV, went online, sent some texts/messages over data, ate, and napped. Also started off a batch of postcard writing. It was at this point I was wishing I was in Iceland with someone else. The boredom would have been lessened (just fyi, now not so much). In the end I had some chat time with the few other people who ended up staying at the same hostel. I guess that’s what I like most about hostels so far. You get to meet random people, hotels don’t really do that. That’s it for day!

First proper viewSo the first proper view I drove up and down for

8 Days

As the title suggests, I leave for Iceland in eight days. I’ve already started packing/preparation and already, a few things have happened. A few weeks ago I handed in my letter of resignation to the part time job I’ve been working at. I expected to leave and come back with no job whatsoever. On Sunday I found out that I could indeed quit, but my employer suggested I stay on as I am classified as a student still and it would make more sense to stay on as a student until later on in the year. When that time comes, I can decide. It’s not really that big of a loss since the student position is really flexible. Can’t work because I need to “study”. A bit bummed I didn’t actually quit in the end, but on the flip-side I will still have a means of getting some cash flowing in when I get back. Not the most ideal way as I am trading time for money (and not a lot at that), but it’s one way. Plus, I was only working weekends anyway.

Moving on to something else, more personal. I think we can all relate to looking back and seeing our present selves as different from our past selves; in the sense that our values, opinions, and/or goals have changed. Usually (at least for me) it’s an instant realization that “hey I don’t enjoy this anymore”, “wow, I remember disliking this before”, or “jeez I wish I knew this when I was younger”. Ok, maybe that last one is a bit iffy. It makes me seem like an old fart (no disrespect intended old farts, I’ll be one too) and I’m still pretty young technically speaking. The past few days I’ve felt myself in the process of changing. I’m beginning to understand the direction my future self will take in terms of personality. It’s weird. I feel like I’m almost watching myself in the form of a plot/plot development. I suppose that’s what life can be described as though, a plot development.

Tangent aside, I am feeling and watching my values and goals change. Age. Mature. Grow. Die. Take shape. Begin. Stagnate. It’s bizarre. The changes are rapid and slow. Easy and hard to accept. Some of these changes were made by my own decisions. Others just happened. I’m watching my view of life change. I’m also watching my view of life solidify. A lot of questions arise as a result of this. I am able to see myself in the third person and ask questions. Why do I hold that belief? What makes that important to me? Is that even important to me? What makes that valuable to me? Is that really who I want to be?

Right now, I am really questioning my current set of necessities vs. wants. There are two aspects to this for me, possessions and ideas. Possessions are pretty straightforward. Do I need this item? Or do I just want it because of reasons XYZ? The ideas aspect is more along the lines of “Do I need to know this?” With things like Google or Wolfram Alpha at our fingertips, do I need to remember certain kinds of information? Or do I just want to know them? Do I need to keep a learning attitude? Or do I just want to because other people have said so? Or is it just because I want to keep a learning attitude? Is it necessary for me to have a more independent lifestyle? Or do I just want to? There is a bit more to it than that at the moment, but at 2am that’s all I’m going to flesh out.

Stay Frosty

Iceland, oh Iceland

This post represents some rambling about post-university life. The thoughts. Feel free to ignore.

Iceland is less than 13 days away. A few days ago I thought it was 10 days away as a result of doing some terrible math. I was both pleasantly and sadly surprised that the number ended up increasing to 14 (now 13) days. On the one hand it meant a few more days to mentally prepare myself and finish up a few things. On the other hand, LET ME GO SOONER! This will be the first time I’ll really be travelling on my own, with no guarantee that I’ll meet someone I already know at the destination. Well…other than that motorcycle trip I did on a whim the previous summer, but that’s a different story altogether. Maybe I’ll mention that sometime. This time it’ll be longer than that trip. This kind of trip is something I’ve been itching to do and the buildup has taken place over a period of years.

Each passing day of not having any classes has been an odd experience. I suppose I should have been out and about applying for jobs and such, but really I’m not in the mood for it. I keep putting that off for when I do get back. I’m quitting my part-time job so when I do get back I’ll actually be unemployed. Luckily I’m still living with the rents and I don’t mind it one bit. There is that desire to move out on my own and make it out there in the world! But now I keep questioning the point of doing that. I’m not really sure what it is I should be doing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that post-university, that is the “real world”, is chaotic and makes no sense. It is full of structure, complications, hypocrisies, and confusion. Just like this paragraph. In school, we strive towards a pre-given goal. It seems to work okay for most people. Come graduation, and it’s all about survival. No, it is not about finding your passion, life dream, or saving the world. You can’t do any of those sorts of things if you end up without food or shelter. I could be wrong and anyone could argue against the following statement.

Chances are if I were able to somehow pick you up and plop you into a situation in which you live nowhere (everything else being as they are for you now, family, friends, location, and money), you would find a way to get a place to live and find something to eat first. The ways of doing this would vary from person to person of course. Crash at a friend’s place, crash at you parents, buy/rent a place if affordable. Buy some McDonalds, go to the grocery store or coffee shop, or go through some trash. Those sorts of things take time away from you. You could have the greatest ideas, but they wouldn’t mean crap if you didn’t have the time to share them with people. Everything takes time. For most of us, making money takes time. Learning takes time. Relaxing takes time. Finding your passion takes time. Saving the world takes time. Yeah, basically everything takes time. And we don’t like to think about this, but we don’t really have a whole lot of time. Even at 22 I’m finding a lot of moments passing by faster than ever before. Most of us end up trading our time for money. That money then, in theory, lets us do the things that we want to do. Often, this isn’t the case. We’re either too tired or don’t feel like we have the time. Or “I don’t have enough” yet.

Yet, the “real world” is also full of wonder, joy, and things that make ridiculous sense when they shouldn’t. Oh yes, I forgot potential. In the past few years leading up to the present, I’ve begun to see how everything is tied together. All the problems that should be solved become more complicated. Rather than making me feel worse about those problems (i.e. environment, poverty, human rights) I’m amazed at how everything just ends up working as it is.

Preparations for Icel…no not really.

I lied, this won’t be a post about my preparations for Iceland. It’s still too early for that. I low-sided (crashed) my motorbike. More than a month ago. I wish I had a video for that, but the camera cut out ten seconds before the moment mentioned. Just my luck. Long story short, I hit a patch of ice and the rear tire slid out from under me. It all happened quite quickly and I still cannot recall events very well. It wasn’t too bad though, I got up and rode the bike off to breakfast with some friends. Mostly cosmetic damage and pride. I have most of it fixed up now. Right after that, I gave back the plate. No point spending money on something I won’t be using for the next 3 months (yes it was insured until February). Here’s most of the damage I found out later that the signal light also broke off):

IMG_3019 copy

Yesterday was the first time I went riding since that day. No, my bike isn’t fixed and back on the road just yet. Out of the garage came my brother’s Honda CBR125. A far cry from the Monster 696 I’d been riding the past year. We kept the insurance on the Honda because here in Vancouver, under 401cc bikes are pretty cheap in terms of insurance. Both excited and concerned, I bulked up on the layers and gear. Full gear. Boots, pants, jacket, gloves, helmet. Won’t be wearing jeans while riding for a while (not just cause it’s cold, the possibility of road rash is still very real to me).  The Honda CBR125 is a fun little bike, underpowered compared to the 696. Yet, still fun to ride. I didn’t find it very hard to re-adjust to it. It does feel a little narrow though. 

I took the Honda to work since it’s cheaper than taking the the Canada Line (public transit). Getting there wasn’t all that bad, felt a little bit rusty. Made it to work and felt pretty good. Going back home on the other hand…that was a different story. I get off work after it gets dark and the first thing I notice when I get to the bike is frost. Frost. That means things are cold enough for water to freeze. I was worried. I’d hate to crash again. Long story short, I made it home. Can’t say I was in a very happy frame of mind most of the way though. Yes, I was happy being on a bike. There’s just something special about having a whole lane to play with (also changing lanes is so much easier). However, most of my mind was focused on scanning any possible threats in front. Any patches of ice? I’m terrified of those now. Hard leans? Terrifying. I’ll have to see how I feel when the weather is warmer and I get more grip on the roads. For now though, the crash seems to have shaken my confidence in making turns. That or it’s the fear of ice.

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