Friday, August 27, 2010

Iceland - Day 9

We stumble out of bed, pack our bags, check out of the hostel and head to the nearest cafe... in Myvatn there is only one, so it was easy! We try and figure out a way of getting to Akureyri without having to wait until 3:30 when the bus leaves. We also are trying to figure out how to book a hostel as no one has a phone we can use or internet we can poach... oh well!

We end up waiting around for most of the day, taking little walks and having snacks here and there to pass the time. Derek manages to find a phone and books us our hostel and then we wait... and wait, and wait. FINALLY, our bus comes and we eagerly get aboard. The landscape passes by us in a whirl of greens, browns and blacks... not moon like landscape that we have seen over the past couple days, but prairie landscape, it reminds me of home. An hour and a bit go by and we land in Akureyri, the 2nd most populated area in Iceland. We wind our way through the streets up and down hills to the hostel (which is really quite nice). We grab some food and settle into our room, making plans for the next day. We then head out to scope out the city... it is a nice small European style city, nothing too fancy or too bold about it. It is shy and quaint and lovely. We grab a beverage, a snack and then walk back to our hostel... everything is pretty well closed anyway! I can't help but feel that a day was wasted waiting for the bus in Myvatn... it is a shame when you only have a couple days to waste one waiting on a stupid bus to take you 100 km's but there was no other option other than hitchiking - and I am sure we would have done that if my foot wasn't being such a pain and Derek's back wasn't bothering him so... oh well, perhaps we will just have to come back!

We catch up on our internet addiction seeing as we have been without for the past couple days and then we settle in to watch "Conan the Barbarian" - you know the one with Arnold when he couldn't really speak english? It was awesome! Tomorrow we have a busy day of exploring and finding our way to Christmas town (who hooo!) and then we are off to Reykjavik for one last day and then home... as I said before... holidays go much too quickly!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Iceland - Day 8

We woke up early again today but with anticipation for the adventure before us! We have scheduled for today the tour to Askja (pronounced Ask-ya) which is a caldera formed by a volcanic eruption and once the magma shot out of the top of the volcano the top of the volcano fell into the empty magma chamber. This happened again on the same caldera on a much smaller scale in 1875 and formed a smaller caldera that houses a small pool of geothermally heated water. There is a lot of history stemming from the 1875 eruption, part of it being a mass emigration of the farmers in the area. The ash and volcanic matter spewed all over the landscape making it hard for the farmers to maintain their farms and there for their livelihoods. The ash and matter were emitted from the volcano at such an astounding force that some particles were found on continental Europe and even JAPAN! A lot of the farmers emigrated from Iceland to Canada and have created a community that holds their Icelandic traditions strong and close. We think that this community is close to Winnipeg, as there is a direct flight from Winnipeg to Reykjavik!

So… we get up, get ready, pack our lunch and our warm gear (toques and mittens, sweaters and long johns) and head out to the tour pick up site. It was cold and rainy but we are getting used to the Icelandic weather. We hop on the big 4x4 bus (which is interesting in itself) and head out, first stop Modrudalur – a small working farm that still has traditional Icelandic houses, the ones with the sod roofs. We stop and have a quick coffee and snap some photos before being herded back onto the bus to continue the tour. The landscape is uninspired with its lava fields and pumice scattered a top it, but the cool part about that is the NASA astronauts actually did some training near where we were before they travelled to the moon. Neil Armstrong was recorded saying once back on Earth that Iceland was a lot like the moon. There you have it folks… we have been to the moon! We stopped in the middle of nowhere to take some pictures of the moon like landscape.
After 2 hours of bumping along in the bus over giant lava rocks and through rivers (seriously, we drove through some rivers) we get to Drekagil – a small park warden’s station before Askja. Here there were places you could rent if you felt like staying on the moon. There was also a very bitchy park warden there. Perhaps that is why they call it Drekagil, which means Dragon canyon. How we found this park warden was we were instructed to go to one of the houses to have our lunch and once there, we were told that we didn’t belong there. So, we went to the next house and there was no place to sit to eat, so we followed our bus driver into the next house and as we got inside this little firecracker of a lady shooed us our saying it was her home and to get out. We said we understood that it was her home, but we were unsure as to where to go to eat. She said that we needed to get out. FINE – we got it! We got out and then she followed us to the first house, spoke to the guy that kicked us out in the first place and said that we needed to eat here. We thanked her in our polite Canadian way, but really I wanted to tell her to “Eff off”. We settled into our lunch and started talking with a lovely German couple that we met on the bus. The 30 mins for lunch flew by with all the drama and then eating… before we knew it, we were back on the bus, bumping along towards the end goal, Askja. At this point, I am totally festering about the debacle with the eating arrangements and tell myself that this crater thingy better be good! The bus parks, we get out and start the 35 minute hike. We happily walk along, Derek snapping pictures at every step and me chatting with our Icelandic tour guide Solva. She is very interesting and doing the tour guide thing to pay for university. We have a good talk comparing the two countries and cultures and before we know it, we are standing on this cliff with a breath taking view before us. To the farthest point, there is a lake that formed in the big (and original) Caldera, this is the deepest lake in Iceland and is beautiful. Straight before us was, the Viti crater which was formed in the last eruption just over 100 years ago. According to Lonely Planet, this is the 2nd best spot in the world to bathe naked… AND, they say the best way to enjoy this hot pool is to jump in the Icelandic way… so when in Iceland, do as they do right? We navigate our way down the slippery wall of the caldera and find ourselves on the edge of the intense sulfur smelling pool. I strip down and plunge into the water anticipating the relief of the hot water, only the water isn’t hot… its actually COLD! The liars!!! I sit in the water only to take a couple pictures to prove that I was there and jet out just as fast as I got in. Lonely planet can kiss my cold naked ass, one of the best places to bathe naked…. Pshaw! I will say that there were many of the people on the tour with us that went into the water and none of them were as big a baby as I was about the water… some even thought it was nice! Crazy Europeans! :o)

We finished our walk around the Viti crater, soaking in the beautiful views and then headed back to the bus – two hours is a short amount of time when you have a 35 min walk there and back and you skinny dip in a crater! Well worth it though, and a highlight of this trip so far! The geological variation of this volcanic island is astounding and breath-taking! So… we head back to Drekagil to have a final pit stop before we endure the 2. 5 hour bumpy ride back. Only about 20 mins into the trip back and most people are sleeping, could be something to do with the fresh mountain air! We finally get back to the Modrudalur farm (which, by the way sounds a lot like Mordor from the Lord of the Rings – so we called the place Mordor!) and hop into the café to have a coffee and a “love ball” which is the translation for one of the pastries specific to Iceland. Basically it was a deep fried ball of sweet batter with raisins in it… mmmmmm! :o) Back onto the bus we go and for the last hour we are entertained by stories of Elves and Trolls (which they believe exist in vast amounts in the mountains here in Iceland) as well as their Christmas traditions. We get back to the same place we started from and stop in at the Supermarket for some beverages before heading back to the hostel. Today was a great day, a beautiful day with surprises and great stories! Well worth it, even with the bitchy park warden!

We hung out at the hostel writing, reading and downloading pictures for the remainder of the afternoon. There isn’t internet here so when I get to a place with internet access I will have to transfer these posts. Tomorrow we are heading to Akureyri or A-town to hopefully get in some museums and some more sightseeing before we head back to Reykjavik… the holiday is slowly coming to a close and I am just getting into the travelling groove! Holidays always go so quickly.

Iceland - Day 7

This morning we got up early (not by choice but because the entire hostel was awake slamming doors and yelling). We packed up our stuff and finished our pizza then headed to the Skaftfell Café where we had a coffee and coke and started to plan our day. It was still raining so the kayaking was out and my foot was making it hard for me to walk so a hike was out. We were playing with a number of ideas when I asked the lady serving us what her favorite thing to do in Iceland was. She said it was taking this tour to the middle part of the island and in a crater that is in another crater she sat in a hot spring. VERY cool we thought, so we googled it and sure enough we could arrange the same tour. We booked it for Wednesday and then set to work figuring out how to get back to E-town in time to catch the bus to Myvatn – a lakeside town about 2 hour drive from E-town and located in the Northern part of Iceland. The server lady, when asked if she knew anyone going to E-town, said that she in fact was going there in about 30 mins and wouldn’t mind giving us a ride… such luck! We hopped in her car and as she navigated the winding roads her friend and her told us stuff about Iceland. Apparently on the fjord it only gets to 15 degrees below zero in the winter. With the wind and the dampness however, I am certain that this would feel more like minus 20. It was sad leaving S-town as it was such a beautiful place and we could have done so much hiking and kayaking had the weather and my foot cooperated… sigh.

Back in E-town we had about 15 mins to organize ourselves in time to catch the bus to Myvatn (pronounced Mee-va). The bus ride was basically like riding on the moon – we drove right through a lava field and more hot springs. We arrived in Myvatn… there is seriously nothing here to do. We went and got settled into the hostel and then headed to the supermarket to get some food for the night and next day (there is no place to stop for food on the tour we booked so we have to bring our own snacks and lunch). After that, we went back to the nice quiet hostel and had a shower and nap… glorious!

While we are waiting for tomorrow to come, and our very cool adventure to the moon to begin… we came up with a list of things we thought were interesting about Iceland… ok, Derek only came up with one!

10 Interesting things about Iceland
1. Their water is hot… you never run out of hot water in the shower, they have an endless supply. In fact, they like their water so hot there is a temperature dial in the shower so you can pick how steaming hot the shower gets! They also use hot water to heat their houses, and for electricity. The city of Reykjavik also has water pipes under their parking lots and some roads so that they can turn them on when it snows and it melts it… they use it for snow removal!!
2. The women for the most part are beautiful. A lot of them are blonde, tall, blue eyed and gorgeous… the men – well………
3. The cab drivers all appear to be called Jon – perhaps it is a name they just take on when they get the job… you know, like how priests become “father”.
4. It only gets to be about -15 Celsius in most parts of Iceland in winter. This is however over shadowed by the dampness in the air and the wind… with those two factors in mind, it may get very cold here! Even in the summer, when the sun is hiding behind clouds and the wind starts blowing it gets in your bones and is COLD… good thing they have so much hot water!
5. The people here are stylish! They don’t walk around in hikers and wind coats all the time. All the ladies seem to wear tights under their skirts, dresses or shorts, cute shoes and scarves. The men all wear nice shoes and great jeans. They also all seem to sport the traditional “Icelandic Sweater”
6. The Icelandic language seems to have sounds that come out of nowhere… Take the place Myvatn – it is pronounced Mee-va… where did the “t” and “n” go?
7. Everyone seems to speak English! I have yet to run into someone where I have to use pathetic hand gestures and pictures to get my question or point across (unless it was referring to one of the names of the towns and then I just point to it in my book). They all seem to have a very good command of the English language… that is until I order my hamburger plain – that just seems to boggle them!
8. Icelanders love their candy - you can get hard, soft and chocolate candies from almost everywhere in bulk - and they also love their hotdogs and ice cream… you can get these almost anywhere also!
9. The people of Iceland have to get permission from the Naming Commission – a government organization – to name their new born. All children of Icelandic descent have to follow their traditional naming convention. The first name must be of Icelandic descent and the last name has to be the father’s first name plus either “son” for a boy or “dottir” for a girl at the end. An example would be Thor Sigurdurson for a boy or Esud Sigurdurdottir for a girl. The father of either of those kids would have the first name of Sigurdur. All this in a democratic country!
10. There are Rav 4’s and Ford Escapes everywhere. Perhaps this is because they are smaller SUV’s and are 4x4’s… to get to a lot of places here you have to have a 4x4. We have seen a lot of our Timmy in the past couple days!

Iceland - Day 6

We got up bright and early in time to pack up our stuff, have breakfast and head to the Hotel Centrum to chat with some other Team D members who were taking off on their own adventures. We thought it would be a good idea to share notes with them about the things that they are going to see as that might help us decide where to go next! On the way there we stopped at the tour agency that left us at the blue lagoon the day before to see if we could get a refund for even ½ the ticket… unfortunately we got the same attitude as we had on the phone, you snooze you lose even if we didn’t really snooze!
Our chat went great and we got some great ideas on where there are interesting things to see… there is SO much to do here, I’m not sure how we will get it all in! After the chat, we check out and hop into a cab for the domestic airport in the middle of Reykjavik. Thirty minutes later we are up in the air flying over some amazing sights… then the clouds rolled in and covered our view. The flight to E-town lasted all of 1 hour – flying from the south western tip to the north eastern. Once in E-town we hired a taxi – interesting fact about Egilsstadir, there are 2 taxis that run here, both drivers are named Jon and both have grey cars… not lying! We got to the information centre and got our tickets to Stadgifijordur (or S-Town) which is said to boast some of the most beautiful fjord views around. We then stashed our back packs (or obese children as we have officially named them – short story as to why… we read an article in the Reykjavik Grapevine (a local paper published in English) and the article stated that you could tell a tourist a mile away from their hiking boots, North Face winter coat and the back packs the size of obese children on their backs… Derek and I looked at each other and laughed as we were totally busted looking like this) and ventured out to see what E-Town had for us before we boarded our bus.
This town is more of a transition town or a service town for the surrounding areas – not a lot to see here. We did manage to go to the East Iceland Museum which held some interesting displays of what life may have been like in Iceland in the 18th and 19th centuries. They also had remains from an excavation that was completed at the sight of a monetary. They had bones from graves and parts of the traditional coffins. There were some interesting observations about the bones, a lot of the people were malnourished in some way and there were a number that were thought to have down syndrome. Also, the number of girls outnumbered the boys 2 to 1 – and this was specifically with respect to the infants buried. One might venture a guess that girls were euthanized due to them not being as “useful” or they may be considered more of a burden. I know that this was the case with the Inuit culture many years ago. The girl babies were placed outside the tent or igloo when they were born if the parents didn’t want her. She would then die due to the cold and harsh climate. After the museum we ventured off to the Culture house to see some art exhibit. The art was less than inspiring and not very interesting. It reminded me of art I did in grade 3 with liquid paint of varying colours and a straw. You put the paint on the paper and then blow it around the paper with the straw. VERY fun when you’re 9 but for some reason I don’t think that the artist was 9.
Once we were on the bus it was smooth sailing – 29KM of winding roads leading us up and down until we came over a hill and our jaws dropped. The fjord was stunning. Water falls were falling from every corner, the hills were green and then dropped quickly into cliffs. This was a place that inspires people to move to different countries. Our heads were swiveling so much they ought to have popped right off our heads and no matter how many pictures we took of this waterfall paradise, they would never do it justice! Despite the rain, we trekked to the tourist place and trekked to our hostel… it was honestly here where a pain in my foot became unbearable. We got to the hostel and were able to score the last 2 bunks… whew… everything else was booked up apparently! After dropping the backpacks and putting in a load of laundry we hit the town for some grub! We ended up at Elsa café which was the proprietor’s home that he had converted the bottom portion into a sports pub. We had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a beer – yum! S-Town is actually the port where the boats come in from Europe so on Thursdays this town is bustling and this pub is probably full of Scottish folks looking for a pint and to watch the soccer match (ok, total stereotype but am I wrong here?). After the walk we thought we would head to the super market for some snacks and breakfast materials for tomorrow but it was closed… off to the second best thing here in Iceland – the gas station. We grabbed some grub there (honestly, it was a pizza) and headed to the hostel to take in the amazing view and to plan our day tomorrow.
The hostel we stayed in was 2 houses brought in from Norway that were meshed together. This made for some of the walls being VERY thin. The bunks were 2x4’s and plywood with thin mattresses on them which made them very hard and very noisy every time you moved. We shared a room with another man named Zac who interestingly enough is travelling around the world – he is from Wyoming. He is taking the ferry out to Europe because he doesn’t like flying and the flight from New York to Iceland was just barely 5 hours. Needless to say, he was interesting. Not only did the beds squeak but the doors slammed, now I am not sure that this was because of the people who were yelling throughout the night (or so it seemed) or if it was legitimately the doors, but it felt like the doors were going to slam right through the wall! Needless to say, Derek and I didn’t get the best sleep. The common area and the view, I might add, were really great though and deserve to be mentioned… if only we could have slept out there!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Iceland - Day 5

Today was the day of the blue lagoon! Since we stayed out late the night before, we thought we’d rest and sleep in a bit. By the time lunch rolled around, we had food in our stomaches and tickets in our hands for the blue lagoon. A 45 minute bus ride from Reykjavik, the blue lagoon is in the middle of nowhere. You can see it from a couple km’s away as the steam from the hot water gives it away. The landscape is almost moon like in that the lagoon is in the middle of a former lava field from a long ago erupted volcano. Going into the blue lagoon itself is a bit of a process, you have to check in, get a bracelet that is your key to your locker and also your key into the lagoon area – all automated and very cool. Then you go into the huge changing rooms, try and find a locker (good luck on a busy day) and change. Then you have to have a shower without your suit on – why I don’t know – then put your suit back on over a wet body and then you get to the lobby of the actual lagoon itself.

Once the lobby doors open though, you can see the beautiful lagoon and its milky blue water… then the FREEZING COLD wind hits you (and remember that you are wet) and you almost sprint to the water. After a marathon, I am certain I looked more like an abused penguin, but I made it, flopped semi-gracefully into the water and there we remained for the next 2.5 hours! The water wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was imagining this refreshingly hot spring water all over… but this is not the case. Throughout the vast pools, the temerpature varies. Some places (like the middle) are freezing and some places (near where they put in fresh spring water) are very hot… you’re mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find a place that Goldilocks would approve of… juuuust right! Once you’ve found that place, then it is time to go and get a silica mud facial mask on and bask in the beauty that surrounds you. The silica mask is basically as it sounds, a mud mask made of silica mud that you lather on to your face to make your skin glow. After about 15 mins of it making my face itchy I would wash it off… BUT, my skin does feel smoother!

After our relaxing time spent in the water we got out to catch our bus back to Reyjavik. We had enough time to grab a snack, look at the gift shop and take a couple pictures… or so we thought! We get to the bus pick up location and lo and behold, our bus is not there… granted we were there at 5:15 and the bus departure time was 5:15 but seriously… leaving us stranded when we had a celebratory (and free) supper to go to… UGH! I then did something very uncharacteristic of me… I didn’t freak out and panic… I sat down, sighed and waited for a solution to present itself… sure enough 2 mins later there was another couple looking as paniced and lost as I felt. They too were left behind by the early to leave bus. We managed to call the bus company to confirm the bus had left and sure enough it had and basically, you snooze you loose was their philosophy when it came to us being stranded. Our options… wait for the 6:15 bus (Supper started at 6:30) or hire a taxi to take us back… we ended up splitting a taxi with the couple (we found out they were from Sweden). Fourty five minutes and $45 later, we were at our hotel, rushing to get ready for the celebratory dinner for Team D… our last official event of the Team D experience.

Dinner began with a lovely glass of wine and some mingling… it was honestly amazing to see how many people we still did not know! The meal was good, even if they selected the food for us… we totally lucked out with chicken as the main course. We spent some time reflecting as a group on the great things that Team D has done over the past 10 years and some numbers like 26.6 million dollars have been raised for the Canadian Diabetes Association, 80 destinations have been visited, 3 million diabetics and 6 million pre-diabetics helped with our fundraising, and it went on… I lasted through the whole weekend, the whole run, and crossing the finish line, achieving a goal I set so many years ago - all without crying – quite the feat for me – but I was crying when Fred (the director of Team D) told us these stats… that’s what made this all worth it. Knowing that the money that I raised could help with important research to find a cure, or it could help a family adjust to one of their members being diagnosed with this disease… it made all the pain, the stress of fundraising, the hassle of the early morning Sunday runs, the lack of beer and wine – it made it all worth it. So, the tears were tears of joy that the small and meager sacrifices that I made in my life may impact the life of someone else, and perhaps (fingers crossed) the life of someone that I love.

So, after the inspiring supper, we said good bye to our new friends and headed to our hotel to warm up from the wind and cold, and plan our pending adventure into the wilderness of Iceland. We literally stayed up until 12:30 discussing all our options and not being able to settle on just one… so we just booked a domestic flight to the opposite end of the country and decided that this would be the place that our adventure alone begins. Tomorrow at noon we will be in Egilsstadir (or “E-Town” as we call it because you try and pronounce that name!)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iceland - Day 4 - MARATHON DAY!

I woke up early this morning, looking forward to getting the show on the road. I had a wonderful breakfast with some of the Team D members and then got ready for the run. We met as a team at the Hotel Centrum for a team picture and then off to the start line. I must admit, I was a lot calmer than I thought I would be... I thought I would be a basket case, but in reality I was as cool as a cucumber (I think I was freaking Derek out!). Suddenly, the starting gun went off - perhaps there was a count down but it would have been in Icelandic! Off we went! I managed to get on a steady pace and become buddies with another lady who was doing the 1/2 marathon. We ended up running almost the whole 1/2 marathon and to be honest, it was nice to have company for the first part to keep my mind off the daunting task before me. Derek was cheering me on just past the 10 K mark and just before the 18K mark - we have the pictures to prove it.

Cathi and I parted as she went on to finish her race and I turned on the ipod and started my solo journey. Things were going great until the 26th ish Km and then the pain started in - this is when I remembered how much my brother has to struggle daily to maintain his diabetes and that kept me motivated to keep going, working through the pain - like he does every day. At about the 30th Km I was so glad to see Derek. Not only did he have food and water, but he also managed to run with me a couple Km's and was challenging me to a race! This pissed me off (as you could imagine) and after about 2 km's I passed him and never looked back! These were the hardest km's for me because I can show weakness to Derek and he will still love me so I kind of fell apart a little. He would have none of it though and pushed me to keep on running. (Thanks babe for being you and keeping me going!)

The next hard part was at about 37km, I knew that I was almost done but the wind was blowing me literally sideways and it was getting frustrating and unbearable. I then looked up over the grassy hill to see a lighthouse and that reminded me of my Grandma - who happens to have gotten diabetes - so that made me tear up, bear down and keep on trucking.

The last 5 km's or so I just enjoyed (as sad as that sounds) and ran at my own pace. It was so awesome to come around that corner and see the finish line. There was a lady in front of me, and to be honest I gave it my all to catch her in the last 5K... I ALMOST made it, but my tired little legs just couldn't give me that little bit extra that I needed. I finished in 5:25:38 which was 25 mins past the time I was hoping, but I am not disappointed by any stretch - I finished and that was the main goal!

It is nice to know that you can do something when you put your mind to it, and I do know that I won't WIN a marathon any time soon, I can proudly say that I have done one and for a great cause!

The rest of the day included eating chips, drinking a couple beer, having a waffle with chocolate and whipping cream... all the good stuff. It also consisted of a really cold shower and a 3.5 hour nap.

After the nap, Derek and I hit the town for the Cultural night of Iceland. It is when the whole of Iceland practically comes to Reykjavik to party and indulge in the finer things. They have concerts around town, excellent food venues and fireworks. We went and cruised around until my poor feet couldn't take any more. We also went to a couple night clubs that are oh so popular with the locals. It was a great night that was topped off with good music, yummy food and the best fireworks I have ever seen - the Icelanders LOVE fireworks! Off to bed now as it is past 2am here. I wanted to make sure that this was up to date for all those who are reading!

Off to the Blue Lagoon tomorrow to soak my sore body in the healing hot springs!

Iceland - Day 3

Today was another early day, we woke up and caught our bus for the Golden Circle tour today.

First stop was a geo-thermal plant. This plant uses the hot thermal water from the ground of Iceland to provide all water to Reykjavik and surrounding area. It was fascinating that they have been providing this for most of their country (94%) for the past 20 years. They also provide electricity, so basically, they are using a very environmentally friendly way (and sustainable way) to heat and water their country... we should take note!

After that was Dingvillier which is the place of the first 'Parliment' in the world. It is all outside and a wide open space but is on a fissure that is on the American and European tectonic plates that are slowly pulling their country apart. Very interesting.

We were then off to Gullfloss which is a waterfall that was stunning and we also had lunch. The waterfall rivaled my home town's victoria fall and Louise falls!

After the falls we went to Geysir which is a Geyser. This is actually where the name of the geological phenomenon came from. The hot water that shot from the earth was originally named Geysir, and later the geologists named all phenomenon like this geyser. All of the geysers here have different names. It was awesome to see a giant spout of hot water shoot from the earth.

The final stop was a church where Catholicism was eradicated from Iceland by the Lutherans. The bishop of this church was actually beheaded at this site. The church was very simple but beautiful and had gifts of thanks to the Lutherans from all the Nordic countries.

Our tour bus dropped us off at the Pasta dinner at a beautiful place for our pre-race dinner. It was a great dinner and was once again nice to meet some of the people I would be running with.

A great day of adventure and learning the history of this country.

Iceland - Day 2

We got up early in the morning - day 2- and headed to the harbours. I was so very excited for today because we booked a PUFFIN TOUR! Puffins are the bird of Iceland and are quite frankly, adorable! We found our boat and headed out to the island Lundey just east of the Reykjavik harbour. Thirty minutes later, we were laughing at the funny puffins! The flap their wings something like 300 times a minute and look very funny as they remind me of giant butterflies. They don't have great landing skills, and we saw a bunch of them crash land into the water or land as they were bringing their young their food! It was great - and so scenic!

After we returned from the Puffin tour, we went to our Team D welcome party... it was great meeting some of the people that I would be running with. We also found out that there are 60 runners and we have all raised over $445,000 for the Canadian Diabetes. Great job Team!

Once we were filled with the free brunch, we went back to our hostel and checked out and found our new hotel. After settling in, we scooted around town checking out the sights. We went to the top of the church and got a panoramic view of the city, saw a square that the young people have picnics in the evenings, and just took in the great sights of the city.

We are having a great time!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Land of fire and Ice - Day 1

First impression of Iceland... Who knew there would be so many trees? It is green and lush and for a country that is above the 60th parallel, it sure has a lot of trees. It is also a LOT warmer during the day than we thought... it cools off at night but it was close to +20 this afternoon and just beautiful!

It is wonderful thus far. We found a lovely hostel with a huge room for tonight, and its just off the major shopping streets. We had breakfast with a bunch of fellow Team D folks and managed to get in some great sight seeing as well. Not that we can pronounce anything that we saw!! The language is hard to pronounce for our North American tongues, but is a lot less phlegm-ie than I thought it would be. The people seem really nice and willing to help you out with questions and silly tourist worries. I must look Icelandic however, as I was asked by 2 separate families for directions!

Tomorrow, the remainder of the team comes in and we have a meet and greet. There will be almost 100 Team D members (60 of those runners) in attendance! I am looking forward to the breakfast! :o) Before this breakfast however, we are going on a puffin tour - out to see these crazy birds in the early hours of the morning! Apparently, they are known for their poor flying abilities and their crash landings... I just think they are WAY too cute!

That's all for now, I will keep you all posted as the time goes on. The jet lag is starting to really get to Derek and I as he is sleeping right now and I am hardly staying awake. I guess not sleeping for over 24 hours and then having a 3 hour nap doesn't cut it. It is just past 9:30 pm here so perhaps we can get some sleep and wake up early for the puffins and be acclimatized already! :o)

Sending you warm wishes from the land of fire and ice... and a huge thank you for all of you who helped this dream come to fruition. T minus 3 days!

Heather and Derek

Friday, August 06, 2010

14 days until I'm running

It seems that I have been Forrest Gump for the past year... where ever I was going, I was running! Well, as my friend Nancy says, soon "this is where the training pays off"... in 14 days from today, I will be running a Marathon (a full 42.2km) in Reykjavik Iceland. I am nervous, excited, anxious and curious as to what it will feel like. Not just at the beginning or the end but the middle, and past the 32km mark when it all becomes new, and also when it gets so hard that I will feel like giving in... THAT is when the training comes in... the mental game of the marathon begins.

Fundraising has truly taken up so much more time that I have ever anticipated. HOWEVER, the end is near... after a calculation tonight, I have a little over $1700 to raise. With cookbooks scattered across the province, I should be able to make up most of that... but there is still a couple dollars that are not fully accounted for. (this is where helpful people who love me come in handy!) Donations to would be awesome... ok, fundraising plug done.

I have already started, in my OCD little way, to pack for this epic journey. We will be arriving in Iceland in the wee hours of the morn on August 18th and return late at night on the 28th. It will honestly be 10 full days on the island, one of them being occupied of course by the run and the next day being a trip to the healing waters of the blue lagoon to soak my sore muscles in the fantastic hot pools. (I think I am REALLY looking forward to that day!) The rest of the days we are going to "wing" in that we are going to buy a bus passport for the 'ring road' that goes all around Iceland and just fly by the seat of our pants. It worked so well in Bali, why not here!

Other items of note since I last wrote... we had our Verbisky family reunion - 100 years on the family farm and almost 100 family members to celebrate! (There are officially 83 of us soon to be 84 in 6 months - congrats Amiee!). We had great weather, TOO MUCH food, good music and a great visit. It was nice to see everyone, but because I am in the middle of training, I couldn't partake in too many desserts and bevies. Derek and I also took a wee bit of a road trip to St. Paul to see where I came from and then drove down to Drumheller to see where Derek spent some of his skydiving youth. We spent about 2 + hours in the Royal Tyrell Museum which was so incredible to see after so many years... makes you feel really small and powerless to see some of those dinosaurs!

Mom and Dad are currently in the middle of a holiday to France (hi Guys!!!) and will be in Toronto the day we leave for Iceland... One part of the family returning to the country and another part leaving. It sounds like they are having a great time and that makes me even more excited for our pending adventure... if that's possible! Even Derek's starting to get into the "excited I'm going on an amazing holiday adventure" spirit... starting I said, not packing already like me! :o) Our world could only handle one OCD partner and I have that one in the bag! hahaha! As always, I will be updating this blog as the adventure unfolds... most specifically focusing on the run and letting everyone know how it went!

Until the first post from Iceland comes... here is a song that has been a great motivator and spoke to me when I first heard it. I think it resonates with a lot of people and although it is sung by Miley Cyrus, It is an amazing song... it's called "The Climb". This really is the 'theme song' if you will of this whole journey... not just for the past 1.5 years where I have been committed to this run, but the 14 years before that when I first made the goal to run a marathon... I have had this as a goal since I was 16 and it's about to come to fruition... one heck of a climb!

The Climb ~ Miley Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa