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Okay, let's do it.

Day 7 (Egilstaddir, West Fjords, to Hofn):
We left our tiny cabin in the woods to travel along the West Fjords for the day. We started in a small port with a really large shipping boat plus a lot of littler boats in a small port next to it and walked around a bit. We drove by a lot of other tiny towns, each with their own names and inlets and interesting places to stop. We ended up stopping at a few very neat beaches, where I got some of my favorite pictures from the trip. (On one stop, we climbed down through a field to get to a rocky beach where we were treated to views of the mountains partially covered in fog. Beautiful.) We stopped at another beach that was not as picturesque but fun to walk around and not as rocky.

Continuing our drive to Djúpivogur, we stopped to look at the coastal village, eat lunch and see the historical buildings. After a weird cheese sandwich that was mostly mayonnaise and vegetables and an Applesin (which is orange soda), we looked at one red building that was named Langabud and had a sign saying it was from the 1700s. I took a picture of the information about it, but it hasn't stuck with me. (Something about being one of four houses in the town. I dunno.) I took a picture of a road sign that read "Mork" as well as a sign about birdlife too, so that tells you about how crazy this town was. There was a small hill above the town that I wanted to climb up, but it seemed too steep for us folks with foot injuries, so we just walked around the little campsite they had right next to town.

Then we tried to leave, and Garmin turned into a giant dick.

It started when we missed our turn. Instead of telling us to find a place to turn around like a normal GPS, our GPS told us to go down this unpaved road that I could tell by the route lead us in a big circle. Uh, okay, fine Garmin. We thought it would be okay since the unpaved roads we'd been on up to this point in Iceland were fairly well-maintained despite being gravel. Anyway, we kept driving and found several dips in the road. Then there were puddles and bigger holes filled with water. Then there were bigger holes filed with water with jagged edges and hidden sharp rocks that were nearly impossible to get around because, as previously mentioned, Icelandic roads don't have shoulders, which also made it impossible to turn around. Towards the end of this bullshit road, we forded the last puddle and came down hard on something, which we found out when it was safe to stop again had popped one of the tires and sent the hubcap flying off somewhere.

Balls.

We were outside of town, so we had to walk back into it since we couldn't figure out how to make even emergency calls work on my cell phone. We stopped at the cafe we had lunch in and see if we could use their phone to call the rental company, and we had to ask them to dial the number for us because I still don't understand how Icelandic phone numbers work. The rental company told us we had a donut and a jack in the trunk until we could get to a tire shop to have it looked at. We walked back to the car, and thank god I remembered how to change a tire from that one time my dad tried to teach me. (Mike started remembering partially after I started, so he was able to help with the stuff that needed more muscle.) We were able to change the tire and get back on our way, knowing that we had a tire to buy in the future because the tire we took off was entirely shredded and full of rocks. Oh, also because our rental agreement didn't cover tire damage. Woo.

From there, we headed straight to our next destination, since it happened to be one of the only places with a tire shop and rental shop for Hertz in the area. We hoped to get there before it closed, but we were slow driving because we didn't want to damage the donut and be even worse off. We drove into Hofn just after it had closed and worried that we wouldn't be able to check into our room for the evening either, but it turned out to be fine. When we got to the place just outside of town, it was a working family farm with lots of horses and rooms built for tourists. In the distance, we could see glaciers on the mountains and horses in the fields. Really tranquil.

After rushing to get there, we were too beat to figure out driving into town to eat. We decided to eat at the farm's restaurant in the same room we checked in at, which gave us one of the more memorable meals of the trip. We both had some sort of langostine dish (langostine being a small crustacean that is plentiful all over Iceland and like a tiny lobster but sweeter) and shared a rhubarb cake for dessert (rhubarb being very popular there as well, mm). The standout thing we ate, though, was the cured Icelandic shark. Mike had wanted to eat whale steak, but the whale museum took it out of him. This seemed like the next best thing as well as a local delicacy. Well, we should have realized it would be terrible when they forgot to bring it out not once but twice. The tiny pail of white shark cubes seemed innocuous enough and was served with a shot of Brennivin (an Icelandic drink which translates to "black death"). We both tried one, and my mouth was filled with ammonia. I forced it down with Brennivin, which wasn't much better. (Poor Mike had to do this without alcohol, poor guy.) We made it a point to finish the pail, but we both felt mildly ill afterward.

We found out later that this cured shark spends months being cured with ammonia, traditionally in the ground, to leach out the toxins because the sharks start out poisonous. Yes, this is what you want in your mouth. It's a food that both Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have sworn not to eat again. Well, that would have been nice to know before ordering, but at least we tried some local survivalist food.

Day 8 (Hofn to Vik):
We woke up and had a fairly boring morning, having breakfast then retiring to the room to shower. The shower had looked weird to us to begin with, being merely a shower curtain and a drain on the floor that didn't even seem to flow toward the drain. However, since the rest of the bathrooms in Iceland had been weird but functional to that point, I pulled the curtain around me and proceeded to shower.

When I got out, we found out pretty quickly that the drain was non-functional because the whole room was flooded with a couple inches of water.

So... getting dressed was fun. We both had several clothing casualties because we didn't want to wring out clothes that were on the floor. Poor Mike didn't get a shower because we wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, and getting the luggage out with as little damage as possible was a challenge. (I'm mostly lucky that my bag which was on the floor hadn't soaked through.) We tried our best to sop up the water with all of the towels we had, but it was no use. We let the owners know what happened (and suggested they look at it as soon as possible to try to drain out the room and save their hardwood floors). I felt bad that they apologized to us. We just wanted them to know so they weren't surprised later.

From there, we had a grand adventure to fix the tire. We first headed to the airport outside of town which had no security at all to figure out where the car rental place was (and had some trouble finding someone who understood us). They sent us to another part of town where there was a tire shop and rental shop that would be closed for the next half hour. We wandered around a local gas station to kill time until he could come back and look at the tire in his shop (which boasted several tasteful nude pictures haha). While tire dude hooked us up with a new tire, we talked with another guy who asked us about America and our trip as well as told us that the best place in Iceland was where we were headed, so that was cool. Buying a tire was not, but the experience was worth it.

Armed with a functional car, we drove to a petting zoo then a dairy farm that made its own ice cream, both with neat views of the glaciers in the distance. The petting zoo had a lot of normal farm animals and birds as well as Icelandic chickens, which look like snowballs and even have feathery claws. I had rhubarb, and Mike had dandelion ice cream, which was very rich.

The glaciers in the distance had been cool, but it was time to see some up close. We arrived at Jökulsárlón Lagoon, an impossibly blue pool filled with icebergs that have cleaved off the larger glacier cap at the far side of the lagoon. So cool! While I was taking a picture of Mike in front of the lagoon, however, a gust of wind blew Mike's Canada hat he got on our previous trip right off his head! We tried to retrieve it, but the slope we were on was too steep to walk down without getting hurt. (Mike tried and slipped. I'm glad he didn't fall further down.) Other than that, it was a pretty cool experience, with scenes that you'd never see in Nevada. That's what traveling is all about, right?

Further along our route, I had Mike stop at a nature hike to another waterfall: Skaftafell and Svartifoss. It was listed as an easy hike, which was mostly true. We got partially up the stairs carved in the trail and got a glimpse of the falls, which translated as "black falls" due to the natural basalt columns surrounding the falls. I decided to climb to the top, thinking Mike didn't want to come, but he followed a few minutes behind me. It wasn't the most impressive waterfall we saw in Iceland, but it was very beautiful in its own right.

From there, it was time to turn in for the night, partially because it started raining really hard. By the time we got to our lodgings in Vik, it was dark and pouring. We ventured out for dinner because the in-house restaurant seemed too fancy for dinner. (We ended up ordering dessert from them later: a cheese plate and a chocolate lava cake because it was close to the end of the trip.) We went out to a restaurant where I had a pizza and Mike had lamb, but I mostly remember it being seriously windy more than anything else. We went back to the hotel and wrote post-cards before we forgot and went to bed.

Day 9 (Vik to Reykjavik):
Thankfully, when we woke up, it was sunny out. We went to the in-house restaurant to have breakfast, which was one of the more well-done continental breakfasts we had on the trip. However, it was here that we formed a theory: it was very easy to pick out the American group of ladies in the room. Why? Because they were SO LOUD. A group of three women were sitting in the middle of the restaurant, and one lady was holding court while the other two listened. We got to hear about her failed relationship for quite some time while eating and mostly being bad people because we were rolling our eyes at her the whole time. I hope we weren't those people the whole time we were in Iceland because good lord, it was stark the way this lady's voice rose among the quiet that seemed pervasive everywhere else. Man, us Americans are loud.

We dropped off our post-cards and set off for the beach in Vik. What this beach is famous for is the three "stacks" or "fingers", which are rock formations jutting out of the sea. They are said to have been formed by trolls trying to drag a ship to shore but turning to stone at daybreak. The side of the beach had the requisite parking lot that seemed impossible to park in due to all the people and lack of marked parking spaces, but similar to most places we went in Iceland, it turned out to be worth it. The black sand beach flanked by basalt columns, alcoves full of sea birds and huge waves crashing into the shore was breathtaking. We could have easily watched those huge sleeper waves all day, but alas. We were able to trade a picture with a nice group of Asian tourists, who got our only couple picture from the whole trip and set out again.

Next stop was Skogarfoss, a 197 foot tall waterfall. Mike and I had different ideas for this stop. He took a walk near the waterfall (and may have even gotten behind it?) while I climbed up the rickety staircase next to the waterfall and took pictures at the top. This was slightly terrifying given my slight fear of heights coupled with the fact that the platform at the top was a see-through grate. I had to take my pictures quickly and tell myself not to look down to keep myself from being paralyzed by fear and unable to get down, and getting down was no picnic given my foot injury and general fear of walking downhill now. Not sure why I thought that was a good idea, but it was a challenge. Plus I got some good pictures out of it. When I got down, I found Mike and was able to take a picture of him, the waterfall and a rainbow before he noticed me. :)

On the way to Reykjavik, we passed by Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano famous for disrupting flights worldwide by erupting and spewing volcanic ash into the atmosphere several years ago. When we saw it, it was in the distance and covered by its usual glacial cap. We stopped by a family farm that had built a museum that talked about the before and after effects the eruption had on their business and what it took to come back from being covered in volcanic ash. Interesting enough, even for a place that seemed like a cash grab. (We found Icelandic people to be very entrepreneurial in that sense: they had their normal lives and they had their side businesses that catered to the tourists in the nicer months. Very clever really.)

We hadn't seen much of Reykjavik, so we decided to drive straight there through some of the strangest landscape I'd seen there yet: a volcanic field covered in neon green moss. I couldn't get a picture that did it justice, mostly because we didn't stop, but it was almost like being on another planet. I tried to drink it all in because I knew it would be over soon.

We got into the hotel, which was filled with quotes from a book that was in all of the rooms. (Also very Icelandic.) We took a walk around town to see if we could find lunch before we had to turn in the rental car which served us so well. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant that was about to close for the afternoon (so I'm not sure they were pleased to see us, heh), which meant fish soup for me and I think lamb for Mike.

We went back to the room, where I waited while Mike took the rental car back. He was gone for quite a while, so I started having nightmare visions about something having happened to him and freaking out about what to do if something had actually happened. Damn. I either need to be less anxious or more autonomous or maybe both. :/

Mike returned unharmed, so we went to a random Nepalese restaurant that was near the seafood restaurant we'd eaten at earlier. This was one of the best meals of our whole trip, probably because it wasn't strictly Icelandic food (sorry, Iceland). Very flavorful and interesting. After that, we set out to find the Icelandic Parliament (very small; memorable more for the amount of drunk bums hanging out in front of it shouting at passersby, lol) and take pictures of the city proper. I still feel like we didn't see much of the city, but we saw some very cool street art, which seemed to be everywhere, as well as got some fresh air. The last picture I took was of an art piece on a building which depicted Frankenstein's monster and his bride: quite a contrast from the sweeping fields and wide open spaces we'd seen throughout the country.

Day 10 (Back to Nevada):
This day started at about 11:00 p.m. Nevada time and ended 24 hours later, when we arrived home. There wasn't too much about this part of the journey that's worth writing about. I was grumpy; we stayed up almost the whole time; Mike found a souvenir hat to replace the one he lost at the lagoon; the Icelandic customs agents made fun of us because we didn't visit the West Fjords (which most tourists don't get to see because they are hard to get to); and we crashed only on the last plane to Reno. My sister was able to pick us up when we got in, and it was nice to get home, despite feeling a little bit of loss due to the adventure we'd just been on.

So, that's it. Now maybe I'll be able to update on some of the other stuff that has been happening, since that has seemed like an endless series of distractions. I'll be back soon to talk about that, I'm sure, but thanks for your patience over the last few entries while I've tried to gather my thoughts about this trip. Overall, it was an experience I won't forget. Under all, life constantly gets in the way.

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