Monday, May 30, 2016

Day XX: Last day abroad

Hello everyone!!
     I must say this has been quite the trip. Right now I am at the airport waiting for my flight to leave. I want to thank you all for reading and supporting me and my friends on our journeys and I hope you had as much fun reading this blog as I did writing it!

     This trip was incredible, there won't be anything that will top it for a long while. I learned so much and formed lasting friendships in a short 3 weeks. Iceland is now a part of my soul and I will definitely make my way back here one day, I know the same can be said for Becca and Scott. These last couple days I have been focusing on staying in the moment just to make sure that I didn't get swept away by preparing to go back home. I only started packing at 4am last night, so I think I was successful. Leaving is very bittersweet. I have fallen in love with this isolated little country and I am sad to go, but at the same time I really miss being at home and I am also excited about this summer with our sheep at school.

      I spent my last week in Hestur with them because all the sheep had lambed out in Vatn and there was really no use for me to be there for another week. Hestur is down to 5 remaining ewes but they aren't due until June 12, so right now its spring cleaning in the barn. Becca is excited about this because that means she can get her hands on a power washer, help us all. So as you can tell there hasn't been much to write about. Becca and I are now super into knitting an Icelandic sweater. We both bought all the wool and have started knitting the bottom rib, we both have about an inch in length and I'm super proud of Becca for taking on this monumental task with her limited knitting experience, I believe she will do fine.

     I learned so much here that I'm sure I've forgotten most of it, that is until I need to use it, like for lambing next year. I now have so many plans and ideas for our own sheep that I hope to be able to work on this summer. I have also learned limits and how hard it is to put your heart and soul into an animal and have that ripped away when they inevitably pass, whether at birth, or old age. It never gets easier but I can only get stronger emotionally because of it. On a lighter note, we learned that a sheep nose is able to face-swap on SnapChat, hilarity ensues. That was very important for us because on hard days, the little things really pull us through and something as simple and silly as a face-swap with a sheep nose really helped us move on.

Tiny the lamb was one of our favorites
     I would have never traded this experience for the world and I am so thankful that I was able to go. I also would not have picked anybody else to go with, everyone worked so hard and I feel the trip could not have gone better.

Lots of love!!
For the last time

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 22 / Day XIII: Trip Through Fantasy

Hello hello!

We had an incredible weekend in Akureyri with Þuriður. We started the weekend with some absolutely phenomenal whale watching, and we ended the weekend with more fantastic adventures in Lake Mývatn! Þuriður grew up in this small village, which was originally only three houses and grew to a two hundred person community, so she knows all of the best sights! We began our day with a breathtaking view of Goðafoss, a waterfall not far from Akureyri. At the start of Christianity in the year 1,000 the local chieftain decided Christianity would be a better suited religion for the people of Iceland, and threw the pagan god statues into the waterfall to symbolize the end of the religion.

After becoming fully awake from the mist of the waterfall, we went on a nice easy hike to see the volcanic pillars in the water, which we have started calling Pirates Hideaway. The pillars were jagged and uninviting, but powerful and strong in essence. We loved seeing the variations of the structures, which have stood for many, many years.

We found the ever elusive Scott!

From there we drove through the gorgeous country side into Lake Mývatn, where we stopped to visit some of Þuriður's relatives. They had a small farm with sheep and Icelandic horses. The horses are much smaller than the horses in the US, but they are very cute and very affectionate. We loved being able to see what set ups other farmers had and to see the variation in management techniques.

Next on the itinerary was Dimmuborgir, a lava field with vast peaks and hidden caves at every glance. These were formed by a massive eruption over 2,000 years ago, and from its rugged appearance we decided to call it the Dragons Lair. The winding pathways left us with a haunting vision of trapped knights traveling to slay the mighty dragon, but were never successful in their quest. The views were spectacular, especially when we climbed the steep steps to the well known circle where many people pose for photos.

Next up, the natural baths. These underground caves are naturally heated by the earth and are used by the inhabitants of the area as a natural bathing pool. This was very popular before 1975-84, during which time a massive eruption heated the pools to over 60 degrees Celsius, making it far too hot for even the toughest Viking to endure. Tourists are forbidden from bathing in the caves, but are allowed to take pictures and admire the beauty, as long as they respect the individuals bathing in the caves at the time. Since we were with Thurithu, we had a bit more privilege than most visiting the area, since she was part landowner of this magical place. We called this sanctuary the Mermaid Cave. The bath was warmer than a hot tub, but it was absolutely marvelous. Our skin soaked in the bountiful richness of the minerals in the water, and our tense muscles finally relaxed from the heat. We were left in a state of pure bliss and tranquility, a feeling that was hard to shake the rest of the day.

After our relaxing time at the cave, we ventured to the boiling earth mud pots. Here the earth opened up in a cloud of steam and sulfur, threatening to scald your skin with every burst steam from the mud. The mountain was stained light tan and yellow from the buildup of sulfur over the years. The earth was cracked around the marked areas, showing us what the land was capable of. The steam vents were very entertaining. When standing in the midst of the steam, it was like being suffocated with hard boiled eggs in vapor form. We named this area The Fields of Punishment. It was fascinating to see evidence of how thin the earth’s crust is, and how malleable and susceptible the earth is to its inner beast.

After some excitement, we decided to take a break and visit with some more family. Þuriður's mother and sister graciously welcomed us into their home, where we enjoyed a lovely and much needed cup of coffee and water. Þuriður's sister owns a unique restaurant where you can dine and enjoy watching the small dairy herd during milking times in the well kept parlor. The cows were very nicely groomed and were very loving. All of the food on the menu is local or produced on site. She also has a small flock of 150 sheep! The lambs raised on the farm are used for meat at the restaurant, which we really enjoyed! We shared a “farmers special”, which was a plate of samples of each starter dish. There was a selection of smoked char, smoked raw lamb, and dill cured char. We also enjoyed caprese salad, which was fresh tomato slices with house made mozzarella cheese with milk from the dairy. We were able to also sample some fresh milk, straight from the cow! Each cow has a distinct taste to her milk, some are sweet while others are very rich and creamy. The cow that provided us with her milk had a very creamy taste, and her name was also Snaedis!

As you can clearly see, we switched from sheep to cows for the day!

From there we traveled back to Akureyri where we enjoyed some ice cream and watched the horror unfold before us as the latest episode of Game of Thrones came to a close. I promise no spoilers, but for those who have not seen it yet, brace yourselves, it’s a doozy on the emotions.

Until next time!

Anastasia, Scott and Becca