We landed in Reykjavik on the 10th June bleary eyed at 08:30 but excited for our adventure ahead. After picking up our rental car from the airport, a huge 8 seater van, we set off on our 3-day road trip that would finish on the East coast of Iceland.
We decided to follow the ‘Golden Circle route’ for our first day. An all-tomato restaurant in Friðheimar was an essential stop to refuel after our morning travel, and we had some delicious tomato soup for lunch inside a greenhouse! Next we ventured to the geothermal area of Geysir where we saw the wonderful erupting geysers, with the largest one Strokkur able to reach up to 40m in the sky! Our last port of call for the day was the Gulfoss waterfalls which were huge and soaked us all. We settled down for the night in our tents in a campsite in the town of Hvolsvollur, which was lovely.
The team at Geysir ^
The next morning, we woke up refreshed and headed straight for the magnificent waterfall Seljalandsfoss, that had a path that let you go behind the waterfall and also inside a cave with another. After getting wet again we got back in the car and drove to Dyrhólaey, which was said to be the home of puffins and many other seabirds. Unfortunately, we saw no puffins but we did see some lovely views and had a scare driving up a one way steep cliff coming face to face with a huge bus! Our next two stops were Vík, where we saw the famous black sand beach, and Skaftafell, where we saw a huge glacier up close! We camped that night in Skaftafell campsite where we had a foggy view of the glaciers from our tents.
Seljalandsfoss waterfalls ^
Day 3 began with a drive to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon which was very cool (pun intended). We also went to the diamond beach (where we got a great picture on an iceberg) and the small towns of Höfn and Djúpivogur, where Taylor was interviewed by an American rabbi on the Arctic terns! Our last stop of this trip was in Egilsstaðir where we set up camp for the night.
The following morning, we were up bright and early to drop our rental car to the airport and take a small bus to the town of Seyðisfjörður, where our host Oli was waiting for us to drive to Skálanes.
There began our expedition, where we have been settling in for the past 2 weeks.
The staff have all been lovely and welcoming, and on our first day we were out with them planting 500 trees in the mountains. Earlham College from the U.S. were also staying at the house for the first week we arrived and they were all so friendly. They were doing a lot of research projects also and many were computer scientists who were using drones to map out the surrounding area. It was good to have such a wide range of projects going on in the house, as it meant for some interesting dinner conversations and also some collaboration between our two groups.
We spent our first week exploring and familiarizing ourselves with the area we’d call home for the next 6 weeks and carrying out some pilot studies for our own projects too. One of the days that week we all headed into Seyðisfjörður to watch the first Iceland World Cup match against Argentina. The town was buzzing and all the locals were ecstatic that Iceland drew the match and could continue on to the next round.
The second week started with dramatics as the sewage pipes failed and no one could use the bathrooms or sink drains. It was unfortunate timing as Earlham were set to leave the next morning but, as they did with everything, they handled it as a very effective team and took charge on fixing the problem, which we were very grateful for. We were definitely very sad to see them all leave that week, and the house was so much quieter and had less energy without them. Nevertheless, we began our projects for real that week and settled into a work routine, which kept us all busy.
The day after Earlham left Wellesley College from the U.S. arrived. They were 8 lovely girls and 2 staff members that were there for brief trip, but it was nice to have them there to fill the house and to talk to.
After that we finally had the house to ourselves, shared only during the day when tourists from cruises and hikes stopped by. It was very peaceful and, although we did miss the atmosphere that all the Americans brought with them, it was good to focus on our work and only have to cook for the 5 of us. Since then, with the kitchen to ourselves, we have made a few too many banana breads and have been overeating the apples and peanut butter! The weather has been great so far, thankfully for the projects, apart from one storm we recently had where the winds were so strong the Lupin was blown sideways!
One of the highlights of the last 2 weeks have been looking after the Eider ducklings too, and we have 9 at the moment (Iggy, Jezebel, Krop – after the Icelandic chocolates-, Lemon, Meme Magnusson, Nigel, Orlando, Pea and Quirrel) with 2 hatching as we speak! Our first few babies were adopted by a mother Eider duck (with names A-H) but these few will be raised by us until they can swim and fend for themselves to ensure that they will survive. Another recent highlight has been swimming in the sea at night, and seeing a seal a few meters from us, and going in the sauna afterwards, of course followed by some tea and banana bread.
We’ve seen so many different bird species and have been attacked by the Arctic terns many a time. We have fallen in love with Freyr the big chocolate lab and with the beautiful sunsets and skies. All in all, we’ve settled in nicely here at Skálanes and it feels like our home from home.
ps. we will have an update for climbing the Witches Nose soon, directions and logistics have been holding us back!