Author Topic: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!  (Read 6435 times)

Offline 12HRS

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #30 on: December 15, 2016, 08:21:26 PM »
Bump bump babump...

(I'm gonna skip the million five dollar joke here ;D]

and this is why i don't trip reports.

that and my lack of camera skills

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #31 on: December 16, 2016, 09:28:05 AM »
Bump bump babump...

(I'm gonna skip the million five dollar joke here ;D]
Sorry bud. Iy"h it'll come. Great line.

and this is why i don't trip reports.

that and my lack of camera skills
Have you seen my pictures? Still fun to write it even without photography skills.

Offline Joe4007

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #32 on: December 16, 2016, 01:03:25 PM »
Great stuff! Looking forward.

Offline LoLo

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #33 on: January 02, 2017, 01:16:54 PM »
(Can't decide whether to bump it or not)
Don't attribute to intelligence what can also be attributed to incompetence.  -Dan

Offline avadah

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #34 on: March 04, 2017, 05:18:53 PM »
(Can't decide whether to bump it or not)
You definitely should.

Offline lunatic

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #35 on: March 05, 2017, 12:24:27 PM »
Bump bump babump...

(I'm gonna skip the million five dollar joke here ;D]

I think it's time for the five dollar question

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #36 on: March 05, 2017, 12:27:18 PM »
Ok ok, I will get something posted tonight at 10:00PM EST iy"h. (Yes, more substantial than the last one :P)

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #37 on: March 05, 2017, 10:45:40 PM »
As the panic attack settled in from losing my phone, and I caused quite some stress to my wife, I ran back to customs where I nervously tried approaching from behind the counters to ask if perhaps I left my phone there. The agent was friendly, but said, "Nope," and so the after effects of shock kicked in. How are we going to have GPS? It was my phone that we were going to get a sim card (and my Facebook, WhatsApp, email :P), now we'll have to set things up with my wife's phone. Where even IS my phone? Is it gone forever? Uch, I hadn't backed up my pictures to Dropbox in a few weeks. Oy, the cost of a new phone. We're stranded in a foreign country without my phone! :'( I hope you can get the smallest sense of what was going on in my mind. :)

We made our way to baggage claim, where my wife waited for our bags (we only brought two carry-on sized bags, but with frozen food, we wanted to keep everything under the plane), while I went on 2 missions. First, I went into the shop to buy a sim card. Prior to the trip, I learned, courtesy of Moishebatchy, that Siminn was a reliable company and sold a 1GB data/100 minutes/100 texts sim card for $15. I thought that would be plenty and was a great deal. The shop by baggage claim had other brands, but not Siminn. I opted to press my luck and wait to find another shop. So, I went onto my second mission, which was finding the lost and found. I found baggage services, where they informed me that the police handles all lost and found (Wait, waaat?), and that the police is closed on Sundays (Wait, waaat?). Well, that settled it. By the time the police would be open in the morning, I had planned to be hours away from the airport. I took the police's business card and went back to my wife. Thankfully, our bags came through without a hitch, and we took SomethingFishy's advice of just walking out the "Nothing to Declare" line to avoid any issues with our food. I expected that line to be small and off to the side, but it was actually the main exit line, while the "Declare" line was on the side. Out by passenger pickup, we found another shop, where I went in and, behind the cashier counter, found the exact Siminn package I was looking for. Was nice to have that go as planned, although as you'll soon see, we didn't get to use 1 bit (pun intended) of the card.

Our camper rental included tickets for a FlyBus transfer from the airport to the rental office. Unsure where to catch the bus, we waited on line at the FlyBus counter where they told us to just go outside. Tip: Don't wait online; just go right outside. :) Once outside, our bags were taken below the bus, and we were directed to find seats. When we got on, there were no seats on the coach bus, so we had to get off and our bags were removed from underneath. While there was another bus already waiting, missing the first one was annoying as the buses only leave once mostly full, so we had to wait 20 minutes till we left. The bus had wifi, which enabled us to use my wife's phone for the 45 minute ride to the BSI Bus Terminal (which ironically has a bigger sign outside for “Reykjavik Excursions” than for “BSI”). At the bus station, we went inside and found the sign for CampEasy, where we waited on line and had them schedule a taxi for us to go to the rental office. The rep didn't seem overly familiar with this process, so it took some time, but soon enough, we had our voucher for a free taxi, which we just brought over to the first cab in line outside. 15 minutes later, we pulled up to the camper office. So, this form of transportation from the airport isn't the smoothest, but if you give yourself enough buffer time, it's nice to have the free ride. Additionally from my research, the only ways to get to the camper office was either: 1) this bus, 2) a taxi (expensive) or 3) have them pick you up from the airport (super expensive). However, on our return to the airport a week later, we passed by a shuttle called PrimeShuttle, so it may be worth checking out their prices. (Edit: from first glance, they aren’t too cheap.)

While we waited for the people ahead of us to be taken care of, I tried to get my wife’s phone set up. First, we struggled to find something to pop the sim card slot open with. Once my wife’s strength prevailed, we swapped in the sim card only to find that her phone wasn’t connecting. That was when I realized I never unlocked her phone for international use! Heck, I didn’t even unlock my phone! The last time we were outside the US was 2 years prior on our honeymoon, and I unlocked my phone at the time, but I had a new phone since then. Thankfully, the CampEasy office had a computer set up for use (as well as coffee and a stash of leftover items from other customers – mostly food/pots). I used the computer to get Sprint’s phone number, the staff let me use their phone to call America (!) and 15 minutes later, my wife’s phone was unlocked – phew! We put the sim card back in and then a warning popped up that to activate the sim, the phone’s data would have to be wiped. Uh oh. My wife was not ready to do that, so we opted for Plan D (E? F?) a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, it was finally our turn to get set up with a camper. We filled out paperwork and figured out the payment situation (see the end of the intro post to the trip report where I discussed what happened here). To solve our phone woes, we opted for the wifi package ($32 for 3 days) for the camper – essentially a 3G device in the camper that acts as a wifi hotspot. That would give us GPS and anything we needed while in the camper, and we would have no internet while outside, but we figured how much would we really need then? Turns out that plan was great and we could/should have just done that in the beginning. They brought out our camper, and as mentioned before, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was much nicer than the pictures online showed! We got a quick demo – how to refill the water tank for the sink, use the fridge/cooler, use the extra heater at night – and learned that there was a separate battery that powered the fridge and heater so they could work even when the car was off. Turns out the wifi was plugged into car’s battery, so it would shut off whenever we turned off the car. This was annoying when we wanted to use internet after parking the car for the night. I told them about this issue when we returned the camper, and they apologized saying they would make sure all their wifis were plugged into the extra battery moving forward.

We delayed in the airport with my lost phone. We couldn’t fit on the first bus out. We spent more time than expected at the camper office. But finally, we were off in our AMAZING camper!




In day/meal mode. The board on the floor props up to be a table.


In bed mode. We kept the camper like this for most of the trip as it was just easier to eat on the bed than keep shuffling our suitcases around while converting between table and bed.





Despite thinking I planned enough time between landing and getting to our first (and pre-paid) activity, I knew for a while at this point that we wouldn’t catch the ferry to the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) especially since we still had a 1:40 hours drive ahead of us. Before the trip, I reached out to a few Iceland-related Twitter accounts and confirmed we should be able to buy those disposable grill packages at gas stations and supermarkets. I specifically wanted disposable so we wouldn’t need to deal with Toveling issues, and I considered schlepping foil pans/racks and charcoal from home, but opted to save the luggage space because we would be able to find in Iceland. No longer in a rush, we didn’t mind that it took us 4 stores till we eventually found the grills at the Olis gas station in Selfoss.

Continuing the drive on Highway 1, SomethingFishy had mentioned that there was a nice horse pasture pretty close to the ferry. I had only planned to stop by if we were magically early (HAHA!), but now we had the time to take a look. We only had coordinates for the pasture, so when we were supposedly “there”, we didn’t see a horse in sight. It’s funny that we were slightly disappointed (particularly my animal-loving wife) because we would go on to see countless horses throughout the trip. As you drive through the country and travel miles and miles between towns, you really feel that everyone in the country is a farmer because all you see are horses, cows and sheep that have somehow made their way to the tallest and steepest peaks on the mountainside.

We continued on to the ferry station at Landeyjahafnarvegur Port in the hopes of rescheduling for another day. The ferry schedule is not so favorable for those trying to make a roundtrip in a single day as there are not too many trips and you really want a good 6 hours or so in the Westman Islands, so it’s just hard to make the timing work. I went up to the clerks who informed me that there was nothing to be done; I’d have to buy new tickets for the next day. They were quite rude and would not hear any of my pleas, so we left having burned the $70 we paid for our original tickets. We drove around the parking lot for a bit, where we noticed a black sand beach off to the side. Out in the distance we could see the Westman Islands.



The tease of the island was too much, so I drove back to the office ready for a fight. However, I walked in to what felt like a completely different office. The clerk empathized with us and offered to reschedule us for a $23 fee for later in the week. We’d have to re-plan some of our other days, but we were glad to have this booked again.

We left for the 15 minute drive to our last planned activities of the day, which would really be our first and only activities – the two neighboring waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui fronted by the Hamragardar Campsite. The falls are literally right off the highway. First up was the beautiful Seljalandsfoss with its path that leads behind the falls.









Iceland is full of waterfalls and this one made quite the first impression. From here you could walk to the next falls, but we chose to drive the 1 minute since the campsite was nearer to it. We pulled into the campsite, which was literally just “drive on the grass and stop somewhere”, and went into the office to pay the $23 cost. We then went to checkout Gljufrabui, which is hidden inside a cave. You have to get your feet wet (we were super glad to have bought these water shoes) and climb through the cave for a minute, but then – WOW! The power of the falls crashing down inside the cave, the colors of the green moss and the sunlight peeking through the roof created an awesome experience.


Cave entrance









Back outside, we noticed the grassy campsite was full of… bugs! Despite being told “Oh, there are no bugs in Iceland,” and “It’s too cold for bugs to live in Iceland,” there most definitely were gnats flying around. We moved the camper a little further away from the waterfall, but that only helped slightly. At this time, I got an email that our glacier hike and ice climbing tour the next day was cancelled due to weather. With a half-day freed up, I called up the ferry office and was able to bump up our reservations (for free this time) to tomorrow. After having done a lot of research into picking a glacier hike, it was annoying that we wouldn’t be able to go on one, but at least now our schedule was back in order and this would be the only activity we’d have to miss. We then checked out the campsite bathrooms and set up our first BBQ of Jack’s Sausages as we took in our first Icelandic sunset. They say the sun never really sets in the summer here, and I’ll admit it definitely took a long time to go down at an extremely late hour (~11PM), but it sure did get dark out.












Photo cred: DW



We pulled the curtains closed on the windows, turned on the night heater and went to sleep after an extremely long day of traveling, stress, delays, driving and waterfalls. The best was yet to come!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #38 on: March 05, 2017, 11:31:53 PM »
Wow, sounds like a series of unfortunate events no one would want at the start of their vacation. I'm glad you made the best of it and had a good time anyway. Looking forward to the rest.

Offline shulem92

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #39 on: March 06, 2017, 01:17:15 AM »
I think you're partially excused from delaying writing the TR because you lost your phone...loving it so far

Offline Denverite

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #40 on: March 15, 2017, 12:22:16 AM »
Wow, wow! Just saw this TR and these pics and info are awesome...looking forward to the rest! Btw, what were the actual temps while you were there? How cold is it even in August?

Online Something Fishy

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #41 on: March 15, 2017, 12:50:25 AM »
Wow, what a stressful day. Glad you made it to some real sights though.

Some nice shots as well, especially those IMO (although I'll skip the obvious dig, considering my coup on Purim ):






Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #42 on: March 15, 2017, 12:48:14 PM »
Wow, sounds like a series of unfortunate events no one would want at the start of their vacation. I'm glad you made the best of it and had a good time anyway. Looking forward to the rest.
I think you're partially excused from delaying writing the TR because you lost your phone...loving it so far
Wow, wow! Just saw this TR and these pics and info are awesome...looking forward to the rest! Btw, what were the actual temps while you were there? How cold is it even in August?
Wow, what a stressful day. Glad you made it to some real sights though.

Some nice shots as well, especially those IMO (although I'll skip the obvious dig, considering my coup on Purim ):
Thanks all! It was quite a first day, but life is wonderful in that I only look back with fond memories.
Weather was high 50s/low 60s. Really not bad at all with a fleece and windbreaker. But from my understanding, we got lucky with having very little rain.
Appreciate you liking some of my pics, Fishy. :P Camera discussion coming soon, as you know.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #43 on: June 15, 2017, 03:39:12 PM »
Monday, 8/22

With our morning glacier hike cancelled and our re-booked ferry not scheduled till 12:30PM, we had the freedom of a slow start to the day. After Shacharis and breakfast, we left the campsite for the 20 minute drive to the Seljavallalaug Hot Pool. Not wanting to spend 50+ EUR per person at the famous Blue Lagoon hot pool, I researched other naturally hot springs/pools throughout the country and found several blogs on the topic including, 10 Iceland Hot Springs that Aren't the Blue Lagoon. Many of these pools are FREE, while others cost less than Blue Lagoon (and some cost more). They are really spread throughout the country, so I picked 2 that were on the way for some of our drives – Seljavallaug and Secret Lagoon, which is on the Golden Circle drive. I found this blog with great instructions for how to find Seljavallaug (free entry) once you turn off the highway (turn off at Raufarfellsvegur/Road 242). To help others on this road, I would say to just ‘keep going’. Each time we thought we were there, there was a little more dirt road we could take. (As the blog warns, don’t get fooled by the first fenced-in pool you pass. We couldn’t believe the actual pool could be so far, so we got out at this pool just to double check it wasn’t the right thing. The locked fence gave it away.) We eventually parked at what we thought was as far as we could go, but after walking for a few minutes we saw cars parked even further down the road. (The big ditch in the road kept us from driving to where these cars were.) Even with where we parked, it was only a 15 minute hike to the pool – and boy was it gorgeous! You walk/hike on mostly flat ground in a valley between mountains with a stream running by you. We were hiking on rocks/boulders until we noticed a dirt path to the left – tip: take the dirt path. :P Some of the sights while hiking:





As we turned the last bend, the pool came into view. (Thankfully, there were only a handful of people there.)


The white building is the too-public-for-my-taste changing room. Note the collection of waterfalls in the background.




The water was warm and not a consistent temperature throughout. The water leaking into the pool by this green moss was actually burning hot.

Relaxing in the warm water nestled among the mountains was really just pure bliss.

As the hour got late, we changed back into dry clothes (among too many others in the changing room), hiked back to the car and headed west back the way we came. It was at this time that I noticed the check engine light was on. Seriously!? We were pressed for time, so I tried calling CampEasy’s mechanic line while we drove the 20 minutes back to the Westman Islands ferry port (put Landeyjahafnarvegur into Google Maps to find it – HAHAHAHA look at that word I just typed!! ) to catch our 12:30PM boat ride. The ferry cost $67 roundtrip for 2 people (1 adult and 1 student ticket) and the car (the smallest size car option – under 5 meters – was fine for our camper) and can be booked here, which also has plenty of other information about visiting the islands. You’ll want to give yourself about 6 hours on the island unless you plan visiting some of the smaller islands and doing the boating activities, in which case I’d assume you’ll want a full day.

We arrived 20 minutes early for checkin, parked the camper in the cargo section of the boat (really cool!) and got onboard. Departure was exactly on time. The boat had several floors including a restaurant. After about 1 minute, I got hit with nausea and was not ready for how the rest of the ride was going to go. We tried walking out onto the deck for fresh air, which helped for a few minutes, then we tried going indoors and lying down among other people whose faces said they were in the same boat as me. ;D My wife was also nauseous, but not nearly as bad as I was. As I clung onto the railing overlooking the water, I felt absolutely sick and just collapsed onto the floor praying for the ride to be over. If I’m making this sound quite dramatic, that’s because I’m relating the story to you as dramatically as I was acting. But honestly, I don’t blame myself. Yuck.

At long last (30 minutes), the Westman Islands came into view as I somehow managed to retain my insides.


Before the nausea got too bad





We departed and drove off the boat just as the camper mechanic called me back. He told me not to worry at all about the light, and he was right – eventually it just turned off. Well then, back to our schedule… less than 5 minutes away, we arrived at our first stop – and the main reason we went to Vestmannaeyjar – the Saeheimar Aquarium where they have puffins!! My wife loves animals, and this was her favorite part of the trip. Watching the puffin is quite fascinating, as I’ve never seen a bird interact with humans and play with toys like this before. We were warned not to hold her as the oils on our hands can hurt her plumage. However, the guide/owner left the group alone after a 10 minute demonstration and eventually some kids whose parents weren’t watching and weren’t around for the original warning picked her up – and even dropped her! The rest of the aquarium takes 5 minutes to walk around and doesn’t have anything of interest – just some fish, starfish, minerals/rocks and (real/fake?) taxidermy. But that didn’t matter – my 30 minutes planned at the aquarium turned into an hour and 10 before we actually left!














While seeing the puffin was the main reason we came to the Westman Islands, SomethingFishy suggested checking out a few other sights while here. Up next, we drove for about 10 minutes up to the top of the south side of the island to search for puffins out in the wild. The road became extremely steep and when we arrived at the parking lot (plug in 63.400753, -20.287034 into Google Maps to find it), we were blown away by the extremely windy conditions. Unfortunately, there wasn’t really any path or guidelines for finding the puffins’ burrows. So in the hopes that he was available, I messaged SomethingFishy, who ended up not only being available on the spot, but provided awesome help in navigating the sketchy looking fence and barn along the cliffs. However, even with his help, we were unable to find any puffins. At times we were frighteningly sliding down the sides of the mountain and decided to just call it quits on our search. Nonetheless, we saw some sheep up here and got some incredible views.














I don’t know either…

On the way back down, we saw a really cool beach/bay. Just another example of the incredible landscape of Iceland.




And then… my wife’s phone buzzed with the most incredible, amazing, exciting email ever.




Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock and thrilled! What are the odds!? Thank G-d!

We continued down the mountain and pulled over to hang out with our first horses of the trip. (As I mentioned earlier, there are horse pastures all over the place in Iceland.) Seeing we had pulled over, another car pulled over behind us and out came a bunch of Israelis. Classic. :)







Just another 10 minute drive brought us to our last activity on the island – a hike up Eldfell Volcano. The parking lot is simply where the dirt road ends. We got out and started climbing the volcano – there’s not much of a real path, but we saw a few people ahead of us. Climbing up was actually very difficult. The wind was whipping around like crazy and the crimson earth just crumbled and slipped away beneath every step. For every 3 steps we took, we fell 1 back. Thankfully there were parts that had some rope to hold onto. You definitely want sneakers for this hike.


The climb

As we got to the top, I took out my phone to take a picture only to see that it died! Ah! The view overlooking the town and ocean was really beautiful, and I was determined to get a picture. For some reason, if I left the phone off for a few minutes and then turned it back it on, it had enough battery to last about 7 seconds. On my first few tries I wasn’t quick enough, but this kept working and eventually I had just enough time to turn it on, get to the camera app and snap a photo.



We then headed back down (roundtrip hike took about 50 minutes) for the 10 minute drive (notice how everything is very close here, but you still definitely need a car to do this all this) to Herjolfur Port to catch the ferry back. We had some time, so we pulled onto the side of a street, took out the burner and tried to boil water for a late tradition soup lunch. For some reason, the water simply wouldn’t boil, so it was definitely an interesting tradition soup lunch.



That was when we noticed the town reeked of fish. We ate in the camper, then drove to the ferry, boarded and thanked G-d for a non-nauseous trip back! Back on the mainland, we began the 2.5 hour drive to the southeast side of the country (SomethingFishy will point out that where we were going was barely even halfway to the southeast corner). We made a pit stop for Mincha on the side of the road and continued on until just out of nowhere a HUGE waterfall burst into view right off the highway! After a second, I realized we had come across Skogafoss. I forgot about this most-powerful waterfall because the glacier tour we were supposed to take was going to stop by here, and once that tour was cancelled, I forgot to add the falls to our to-do list. We spun around and pulled directly into the parking lot where there were lots of people camping out for the night. You can walk extremely close to the falls, but you get wet even when standing pretty far away. There are steps to climb to the top for another vantage point, but we just snapped a few pictures on ground level, went into the gift shop for some Coke and left.





Knowing that we’d be driving to our farthest activity from Reykjavik and then turning around tomorrow, I planned a few stops to do in both directions. But as it was now after 7PM, we decided to just drive straight and try to cram in as many stops as possible on the way back. We arrived at Skaftafell Campsite well after 10PM to find the office closed and the grounds locked up. However, there were plenty of cars in the parking lot, so we just pulled into a spot and figured we’d deal with paying in the morning. Evenings in the camper were really enjoyable and as I’ve said before, the camper was so much more than a convenient way of travelling – it became a wonderful part of the trip by itself. We prepped the sleeping area, closed the curtains, Davened Maariv and put up a BBQ of hamburgers before calling it on our second amazing day in Iceland.


Offline Yehoshua

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Re: @Yehuda's Icelandic A+venture!
« Reply #44 on: June 15, 2017, 04:24:03 PM »
Nice installment! I'm glad you haven't forgotten about it. Now if only the honeymoon trip will ever get finished.... ;D