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Iceland & Greenland Adventures - Part II

Author: Linda V. (More Trip Reviews by Linda V.)
Date of Trip: July 2005

The tunnel was really cool. It shaved an hour off our drive and cost 1,000 ISK each way. The tunnel went through the mountain and maybe even under the ocean? It went deep down and was long.

We got to the Borganes area and headed to Husafell. Darn! We got stuck on a bunch of gravel roads. One section was under construction with the trucks shifting rocks around. I was cussing up a storm - it was scary to drive on. I thought we might scrape the gas tank and muffler off as we bottomed out going through it. Yeah - the gravel roads got less bumpy, and we could see the glacier off in the distance.

We turned off on 550 in search of Jaki, but we never even saw a sign for the town. We continued on and finally saw a sign for dog sledding. Yippee! We made it to the Langjökull glacier - the 2nd largest ice cap in Iceland. We turned off and found the meeting site - a couple of old buildings. It was 11:00 a.m., and we were an hour early. Cool. It was rainy and very windy up here on the glacier. We went inside the building to get warm and stay dry. James from England greeted us, and we sat around snacking and chatting. He is supposed to work here until September. They may have to shut down in August if the glacier continues melting too fast. He gets 3 days off every two weeks and has to hitchhike to and from Reykjavik to enjoy it. He hasn't been working here very long. The dogs respond to commands in Danish, so James has to fake like he's speaking Danish to them. Funny.

We paid our entrance fee (7200 ISK or $111). We waited for other sledders to arrive. They have 3 sledges and 29 dogs. There are 9 dogs per sledge (and two in training). We got suited up in giant snowsuits that zip over your clothing. We looked like giant puffy Pillsbury Dough boys. They also provided boots that go over your own shoes as well as gloves. (That way your own gloves won't smell like dog.)

Yeah! Blue sky started peaking out, and the rain stopped. What a difference an hour can make! The other sledders arrived around 12:30, and we got loaded into a giant truck. It was open aired and had benches on the back. We cruised to the top of the glacier. They have had to move the dog sledding site several times as the glacier melts.

We got off the truck and were directed to our sledge and met our guide, Christian from Denmark. He was great and really informative. The dogs were so big and muscular. Their faces had kind of squinty eyes and were very friendly. Most of the dogs were blonde colored.

The sledge holds four people, so Nina and Renee got on and got situated. I plopped down on the sledge between Renee's legs, and the dogs started to take off. Oops! Christian yelled at them and got them to stop. Darlene got on gently and Christian put on his skiis. Then we took off. Slowly at first. He held onto a rope attached to the sledge and would call out commands in Danish to the dogs. Christian tossed another rope under the front of the sledge to act as a break when we were going too fast. Rasta was the lead dog and would glance back for reassurance from Christian to make sure he was doing okay. One of his ears was scarred - probably from a little altercation with his buddies.

It was fun riding. I held onto Nina's boot to stay on and tried to take action photos. Fabulous! After 25 minutes we stopped at the turnaround point and got off and spent 15 minutes taking photos and petting the dogs. They just love attention. They would roll over and want you to scratch and try to give you kisses. So sweet. We had one girl dog (Franka) in our group, and the rest are males. This keeps the boys in line - all are trying to impress her. The dogs kind of talk to each other as they are running - nip and bark to make each other run properly. Christian shared all sorts of info on the dogs and their personalities.

On the way back Christian took an action photo of us - riding on the sledge. One of the dogs was named Rudolph. He had a reddish nose and was cross-eyed, but so cute. The really dark Greenlandic dog looked kind of scary, but he was a sweetie. Simpson ran next to Franka and was very protective. Christian said the dogs crave being pet; he can't pet them too much or they won't respect him. When the dogs get too old to run, they sometimes are used for breeding. Otherwise they have to get put down, because they don't adjust well as house pets. They work best at -20oC. The hot weather isn't good for them - they get too tired. Poor babies. We finished up our ride and came back on the big red truck - with great views of the glacier and the valley.

We changed out of our gear and got back on the road. We headed back the way we came. We stopped at a view spot where we had seen a bus on the way in (about 6 km past Husafell). I'm so glad we did! Here were two amazing waterfalls - Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. Hraunfossar were kind of gentle cascades that flow through a long lava rock ledge and empty into the river. It was so picturesque, and the water a great blue-ish color. We were surrounded by massive lave fields. Barnafoss were a little further upstream and also gorgeous. We walked around the area and went over the footbridge. Great!

We continued on the journey at 5:30 p.m. Hey, we haven't had lunch yet! We hogged down some snacks and made our way to Borgarnes to have dinner. We went to the Filipino restaurant - Matstofan - and enjoyed hearty portions. I had a fried rice dish that was pretty good. We made it back to Reykjavik at 9:00, and there were a ton of young people (18-20 years old) camped out on our sidewalk. It turns out that the Harry Potter book goes on sale tonight at midnight, and they all can't wait to get their copy. Many of them are dressed rather odd. Guess they are getting in the spirit of Harry Potter.

We had a message from Steve Leong from our cruise checking if we wanted to go out for drinks tonight. We walked down to his B&B, the Ugly Duckling, and left a note for him in the bar to meet us. We're hoping to go to the ice bar. That'll be fun.

-- later --

Steve called us and came to our place at 11:20 p.m. We all sat around and talked until 1:00 a.m. He is a wealth of knowledge on all things GAP. He got pretty friendly with Bruce Poontip (the owner) on our Antarctica trip and was pumping the rest of the employees for info. Our expedition leader, Kim, had made three previous attempts to get into Scoresbysund with no luck. Yeah we made it! I hope they were able to get there with the next cruise so the dogs could go home to Ittoqqortoormiit. Steve says it looks like GAP may be buying another expedition ship to do voyages in the Pacific. That'll be interesting to see what progresses. Brad (of Brad and Margaret) did a renovation on GAP's offices in Toronto. They've already outgrown the space in just one year. Good for them.

We headed off for the Ice Bar at 1:00 a.m. The streets were alive with people everywhere - going to the bars and partying on the streets. Lots of glass was broken on our street. The Ice Bar is in a neat yellow building. Unfortunately, it was closed, and we couldn't see what the hours are. Oh well...I had planned to bail on the group and go back to our apartment after our Ice Bar expedition, but now we had to find a new bar. Steve had a list of possibilities. I tried to get out of going by saying it was too smoky, but they decided to go to the Sircus bar with an outdoor patio. We waited and waited on line and it was sprinkling outside. The bar was really rock-n-roll noisy with 20-somethings trying to get in and lots of smoke. I made my excuses and left them on their own. I'm a party pooper. Got to bed at 2:00 a.m.

Saturday; July 16, 2005 Vacation - Day 18 On the runway - Reykjavik

It's over. We're getting ready to fly home. Darlene and I didn't manage to get an upgrade this time, but I'm in a pretty good row with plenty of leg room.

The girls got back from bar hopping around 4:30 a.m. I didn't hear a thing. They had some tales of weird music being played and everyone "gettin' down" to Dolly Parton in "9 to 5". They had a good time.

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