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Trip to Camp

There was a girl scout troop staying at the same hostel as us. It turned out that they too were going out to the Útilífsmiðstöð skáta Úlfljótsvatni camp for their White Nights celebration. So, when they asked if we could help them transport some of their tents and packs, of course we stepped up and offered to help.

So, we got up early the next morning and took two of our vehicles loaded with most of our gear and some of the girl scouts' gear out to the camp. The trip was only supposed to take about 45 minutes. However, on the way, we drove through amazingly breathtaking scenery and were compelled to stop and take pictures probably 8 times.

After making our way through some impressive switchbacks in the mountains, the road turned into gravel. The gravel roads eventually led to a paved road that led around a lake and past the front of the camp.

We dropped off all the gear and headed back via the more mundane route which followed on of the main highways back to Reykjavík⁩. However, we all enthusiastically agreed that we absolutely had to bring the boys to the camp via that amazing route we first took.

As we left Reykjavík⁩, Mr. Miller's vehicle blew a tire. Mr. Howell stepped up and showed the boys how to change a tire. He did a great job and we were soon back on the road.

On the way to camp, the rain swept in on a strong wind. We still took the opportunity to stop at a trail head up in the mountains and let the boys out to explore the amazing scenery along the trails. They all put on their rain gear and headed out. At the top of one of the summits there was a lookout platform where the boys felt like the 30+ MPH winds were going to lift them into the air. After about 30 minutes, we managed to round everyone up and head to the camp where everyone stowed their gear and had about an hour to explore before dinner.

After dinner, we settled in for the night and planned the whale and puffin excursions for the next day.



Puffin Adventure

After whale watching in the morning and walking around in the old seaport, we headed back out on the water to an island in the bay that has thousands of puffin birds inhabiting it.

The boat ride out was exciting. The boat was very fast and was hitting the waves just right so that the bow spray was drenching everyone out on deck. The boys mostly sheltered down in the cabin and watched with interest out the windows.

The tour guide was very knowledgable about the puffins. To me, the adorable little birds remind me of a cross between a penguin and a parrot. However, they are not related to either. They are a member of the "auk" family. They look like penguins that can fly. They flap their wings like mad when in the air. And under the water they flap their wings to swim like penguins.



The Old Seaport

After getting back from whale watching, we spent a few hours exploring the area around the old seaport in Reykjavík⁩.  It is a charming area filled with little shops, outdoor cafes, public artwork, and interesting people.

We saw a number of murals that covered an entire exterior wall of a building.  There were also public sculptures every few blocks.  The Icelandic people definitely have a distinct flavor to their art.  In addition to the public art, there were a number small galleries and museums.

This little boutic district was definitely the place where most of the guys found all their gifts to bring home to their families.

We had enough time between the whale watching and the puffin adventure to walk around and get a good feel for the town.  After returning from the puffin boat, we met at Restaurant Reykjavík⁩ for dinner.  The restaurant served a smorgasborg of local foods.  The boys got to try octopus, minke whale, and a number of local dishes which I couldn't begin to pronounce.  

After dinner, we made our way over to the Church of Hallgrimur.  It is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish.  This church is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Iceland.



Whale Watching Excursion

Thursday morning, we headed down to the old harbor in Reykjavík⁩ to board a boat for a whale watching excursion.  The port was picturesc and lined with old shops and cafes.  Seawead lined the walls of the harbor.  Chris, climbed down a ladder on one of the harbor walls and felt the temperature of the water.  He said it felt to be around 50°F.  The waters in the harbor were very still and clear.

The morning started out overcast, but soon the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful blue sky and the first sun that the locals had seen in a while.  The local joke was that it has only rained twice this summer - once for 25 days and once again for 20 days.

The boat ride out into deep waters didn't take long.  There was a northern wind and up on the deck, it was quite chilly.

The whale watcher for our tour was a nice lady who sat in a special lookout high up and towards the front of the boat.  She soon started calling out sightings using the traditional hour positions on a clock.  We saw a bunch of the fast, unpredictable minke whales.  There was at least one hump back whale that kept showing up.  People saw some dolphins and a ton of birds.  The whale watcher would guide the boat towards groupings of birds.  When the birds became very active, especially on the surface of the water, that indicated that there was a large school of fish.  That meant that they were most likely being chased to the surface by whales underneath.

Tanner caught a nice picture (on this page) of the tail of a humpback whale as it was starting a dive.  I caught the dorsal fin of a minke whale.  We mostly took a ton of pictures of empty water because we often could not bring our cameras around to focus on the spots that the whale watcher was calling out fast enough.  So, we ended up seeing a lot of whales - but catching only a few on camera.



Blue Lagoon

We visited the Blue Lagoon Wednesday night.  It is a geothermal hot spring a few miles outside of Reykjavík⁩.  The temperature of the springs felt to be around 90-110°F depending on how close you were to one of the vents where the water emerged.  The water is salty and has a lot of minerals in it - especially silica.  The silica coats the volcanic rocks leaving a smooth white layer about a 1/4 inch thick on their surface.  These minerals makes visibility almost zero under water.  And the color makes the geothermal springs appear to glow in the dark.

The facility built around the springs is very upscale.  There is a nice restaurant, giftshop, and locker room facilities.  We arrived around 9pm at night (still light out) and stayed until around 12p.  We gathered in their cafe afterwards for a snack before heading back to the hostel for some much needed sleep.