Day 2: Iceland

Yesterday, James and I booked the Black & Blue tour through Arctic Adventures. What is the Black & Blue tour you ask? The first half of the trip includes caving through a lava tube, the second half of the trip includes snorkeling in Silfra fissure. Let’s start from the beginning.

James and I have noticed that Icelandics are on time to a T. As in, if you aren’ in the hotel lobby when they say they’ll pick you up, you’re probably going to miss them. There was a little confusion as to which hotel we were staying at, but finally after a 30 minute wait, a six foot something, blonde Icelandic man named Andre picked us up. We were loaded into a Mercedes van with four other folks (in fact, another couple from Boston also on their honeymoon!) and drove off through Thingvellir National Park. Something about these buses in Iceland make us fall asleep, but if you can manage to stay awake, the views are breathtaking.

Rainbows are plentiful and constant. This is the first time I’ve seen a beginning to end and sadly, there is no pot of gold on either side.

Our tour guide veered off the main road after about 45 minutes and drove down a bumpy path, threw the E-break on and we were suddenly there. James and I donned hiking books, rubber pants and awesome helmets with headlights. I’m not gonna lie, it was like being in the Princess and the Goblin (although in Iceland, I’m sure they’d call it the Princess and the Troll).

Our tour guide was awesome. He was funny, knowledgeable and by the end, had everyone participating.

Entrance to the lava cave.
Officially caving. Hi James!
The Icelandic word for Speleothems roughly translates to “Lava Titties.”

James emerges from the cave!
These are pretty rad helmets, am I right?

Afterwards, we piled back into our little bus/van and drove to a service station for a quick bathroom break and lunch. Then it was on to the Blue part of the tour – diving.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I like to be perfect at everything I do and try. What I am going to write next is a big dose of humble pie, but in hindsight, is pretty hilarious given my personality and love for the water. We drove up the road to Silfra fissure and were greeted by our diving instructors, Richard and Juan.  Everyone was handed a “teddy bear suit” which is essentially a giant insulated jump suit. We were then given “the golden rule.” Do not, under any circumstances, pee while on this tour. Noted. (Don’t worry, I held it in)

The dry suit was a ridiculous mix of latex and another waterproof material. Everyone was wearing yellow and blue except for me. I had a red suit. After being the first person to successfully suit up (and was even given a winner hurrah by the instructor), I made a joke about being red shirted. If you do not understand this joke, let’s move along and you will never know how dorky I really am.

Finally, we were ready to hit the water. Each person in front of me gasped when they were submerged, but I thought, of course it’s cold – it’s 2 degrees Celsius! (Note – this is about the coldest water can be without freezing). I made my way down some steps and was hit with the most uncomfortable cold feeling. I thrive in warm environments. I love bikram yoga. I love summer. I love layers and cozy things. I dislike cold feet and hands (yet I live in Boston…). I didn’t realize that I also deeply disliked a very cold face, ears, nose, mouth as well. The instructor pushed me into the water and I bobbed around for a bit. I was beginning to panic.

Everyone was in the water, and I was stuck against a rock, unable to breathe and having a full on panic attack, which caused my goggles to fog up which caused more anxiety. I’m not sure I made any sounds other than some small gasps and moans. The group was a good twenty feet in front of me when Juan realized I had not made it much further than where I was released. All my pride was gone. And… I had to be rescued. Yes, Juan the instructor had to paddle his way back to me, talk me through this panic attack, and then instead of letting me return to the dry land, proceeded to drag me through the fissure.

Thanks for the help James.

Silfra fissure is incredible. I didn’t have an underwater camera (though someone in our group brought a GoPro and promised to send the video, which we will post if we do ever receive it). The water is CRYSTAL clear. You can see everything – every detail, every rock, every piece of algae and plant. Parts are sunny and sparkling, parts are dark and deep. If water gets in your mouth piece, you can drink it.

When I saw the stairs again (I did not come out of the water for fear I would not be able to make myself go back under), I felt immense relief. This was hands down the most uncomfortable activity I have ever partaken and no, I will never do that again, but I am glad that I was convinced to stay until the end.

Once we climbed out, the feeling started to return to my face and hands. It was magical. Everyone but me chose to jump off a little cliff back into the fissure and I explained to the other instructor (Richard) that I am more of a hot yoga person.

As we walked back to the van, the instructors pointed out “The Wall” in the background. Yes, here is The Wall, guarded by Castle Black, in its unsnowed sprayed glory.

Dear Icelandic Nature, thank you for that. It was just what I needed!

When we returned to Reykjavik, we had a few hours to kill before dinner, and continued to explore the city. We enjoyed chai lattes, finally found some gluten free bread (which I no longer needed) and James took about 50 pictures of ducks. I don’t know what it is about ducks and James, but whenever we travel and he has his camera, they are his muse.

Our evening ended at Sjavargrillid – a seafood grill. This has been on my list of places to try for at least three years. It lived up to the anticipation. James ordered the Lobster Feast, which is a lot of lobster. I ordered scallops with haddock foam, salted cod with beef cheek and vanilla icecream and strawberry sorbet for dessert. Each bite was incredible and we powered through our capacity to ensure that we could enjoy every last morsel.

Thanks Iceland – you’ve done us well!

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