Iceland Adventure: Day 4, Part 2

Who knew it would take so long to journal a trip, but there was just so much we saw, and then not enough……

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I feel like we just flew through and past the small town of VIK.

But we did stop to at Dyrhólaey and the basalt sea stacks at Reynisfjara beach.  The winds were pretty brutal here, and Mike was not feeling too hot, so we opted not to do the little hike to get to the lighthouse for better pictures of the arches.

It surely was beautiful though.  Here are the pics I did get.

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We then ventured to this geosite called Dyrhólaós and Loftsalahellir.   We climbed up to the cave, which used to be a meeting place for the people back in the very early 1900’s and close by is Gálgaklettur or “gallows rock”, where apparently they used to execute their criminals.  (no proof has ever been found of this)

It was such a full day, our little camper needed fuel…(gas is about $6.50 a gallon there), so we continued to head north to find an OLIS and someplace to camp for the night.

We settled in on some side road (204) near a series of streams, close to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, pulled out our table and chairs, bundled up…..had a nice little appetizer dinner, then shut ourselves up in the van.

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Even though it didn’t get dark until after 10pm, we had no problem falling asleep, after such busy days.  The wind usually howled all night long and there was this bird that made this sound like a goat.  I felt like this bird was following us where ever we were camping.  I researched it and found that it is called the “Common Snipe”.  Here is a video of what it sounds like:

 

Between that drumming noise from the snipe,  howling winds, and sometimes pouring rain, there was never a dull night.

We slept well though, even in freezing temps….WHY?

We had the perfect sleeping bags.  They made all the difference.  Kept us warm all night.  It was just a bummer if you had to pee  at 2am.

And thus ended, day #4.

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Iceland Adventure: Day 4

We woke up the next day to this view, near the small city of Hella.

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And after some coffee, a quick breakfast and filtering our water for the day….we were back on the road.   Hella Iceland

On this day we drove from Hella to Kirkjubæjarklaustur

The challenging thing for me in documenting this trip was the names of the all these places we stopped at.  Sometimes on the map, I would get confused because every word looked the same to me and God forbid, I would have to even say a word or two.  Most of the time I just made up up a “lesley-friendly” word to remember.

Now that I have the time to look back, I realized that what I marked in my book was not actually what we saw, so I have had to go back and figure out where we were and what we actually visited.  HA.

Our first off the ring road adventure this day was to see a few waterfalls on the 261 through the lush Fljótshlíð hills.  The weather was still pretty darn cold, but we seemed to catch a break for a couple hours here.

These goats were hilarious.  At first they were fine as we approached them but then all of a sudden, they took off and seemed to be running for their lives.

Running Icelandic Goats
Running Icelandic Goats or are they rams?

On the 261 we enjoyed the great views of 3 waterfalls, like Gluggafoss,  and the Markarfljót river delta .

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And the waterfall videos

The weather went south from here…..from rain to full on hail and then snow.
We got back on the Ring Road and landed at Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is the most famous, as you can see it from the (1) and you are able to walk behind it.  We waited out the hail and the wind in the car for about 10 minutes.  Once it cleared up a bit, we bundled up and ventured around the falls.  It took us about 20 minutes and just in time, because then the snow started.  Iceland weather is no joke.
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We were now cold and hungry and wanted sometime HOT.

Our next stop was at SOLHEIMAJOKULL GLACIER.  We were able to grab a $10.00 bowl of asparagus soup with bread (they ran out of bread, so I ran out to the camper because I had bread in the cooler).

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If you look really close, you can see people climbing it the glacier

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Then we were back on the road.  Two more places to stop before we finally landed for our next night in the camper.

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Iceland Adventure: Day 3 {Photo Rich}

And on day #3……what we have been waiting for all along.

To pick up our vehicle that will take us around the island and be our home for the next 6 nights.

Our KuKu Camper!!!  

Me and our ride for the week.
Me and our ride for the week.

After picking up our camper van, we bought some groceries at the nearest grocery store.  This one is the least expensive.  BONUS.

To get around Iceland, you basically follow one road.  The Ring Road. Use this road as your foundation and take your little trips onto the side roads as you are led.   Here is where we went on our first day.

Our day goal  was to get around the Golden Circle before heading Southeast to Vik.

And that leads us to our first stop…..to pet some Icelandic horses. IMG_6067.  IMG_6061

Aren’t they beautiful?  As soon as we got out of the van, they all came right up to the fence.

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The fence was electric, hence my stretching over.

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After a couple days of travel, we realized that these horses are everywhere.  When I finally saw a small field of cows, I was like, “LOOK!  Cows.”  Beef is not their number one meat choice.

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Next stop on our Golden Circle Tour was Kerid Crater.  There is an entrance fee to walk this crater but it was nominal, maybe $3 a person?

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Mike reading the guide

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Although volcanologists originally believed Kerið was formed by a huge volcanic explosion, as is the accepted norm with volcanic craters, more thorough studies of the Grímsnes region failed to find any evidence of such an explosion in Kerið. It is now believed that Kerið was a cone volcano which erupted and emptied its magma reserve. Once the magma was depleted, the weight of the cone collapsed into the empty magma chamber. The current pool of water at the bottom of the crater is at the same level as the water table and is not caused by rainfall.[1] ~ From Wikipedia
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It was at this point, I think I realized we missed a crucial turn and getting to visit Pingvellir National Park – but it was as it was…..and there is just so much to see.

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Mike’s clients from Iceland Seafood had told us about our next stop.  They couldn’t tell us exactly where it was, just that it was hidden amongst some trees, and that if we saw it, we needed to stop.

How Mike saw it on the drive, I don’t know.  But he did.  Fridheima is a green house that specializes in growing tomatoes with geothermal heat.

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To get into the greenhouse and have lunch, one must have reservations.  BUT, they were nice and accommodated us.

For about $25.00 a person, you can have all you can eat, tomato basil soup and their home baked breads.  (the olive loaf was the bomb!!)

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Mike also had a very  ‘fresh”  bloody mary. IMG_6095

The greenhouse also employs thousands of imported bumble bees for the pollination process.  They fly around freely as you are eating and do not bother because they are busy working.

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With full bellies and happy hearts…..our next stop was to:

The great geyser Strokker. 

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This is the great geyser that has been dormant since 1916.

Strokker erupting or as much as I could catch with one hand and freezing temps.

I will say that the Golden Circle is full of tourist and tour buses.  Not my favorite but ya gotta say you did it, right?

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Next stop:

GULLFOSS

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This waterfall…..literally takes your breath away.  Just the sheer amount of water and the force by which it is flowing is beyond amazing.   It is stronger than Niagara falls.

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Gullfoss is more than just a pretty waterfall, it has a story to tell. In the early 20th century foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity. In 1907 Howells, an Englishman wanted to buy Gullfoss from Tómas Tómasson, a farmer who owned Gullfoss at this time. Tómas declined Howells´ offer to buy the waterfall but later he leased it to him. The farmer´s daughter, Sigriður Tómasdóttir who grew up on his father´s sheep farm sought to have the rental contract voided. Sigriður using her own saving hired a lawyer in Reykjavik to defend her case. The trial lasted years and Sigriður went several times barefoot on traitorous terrain to Reykjavik to follow up on her case. She even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the construction would begin. Her attempts failed in court but before any damage was done to the waterfall the contract was disposed due to the lack of payments of the rent fee. The struggles of Sigriður to preserve the waterfall brought to people´s attention the importance of preserving nature and therefore she is often called Iceland´s first environmentalist. In 1940 the adopted son of Sigriður acquired the waterfall from Sigriður´s father and later sold it to the Icelandic government. Gullfoss and its environs was designated as nature reserve in 1979 to permanently protect the waterfall and allow the public to enjoy this unique area.  (taken from the Gullfoss website)

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And a Gullfoss video:

 

We were still at this point trying NOT to take naps in the middle of the day, but we were both exhausted by mid afternoon.  So we stopped at the side of the road in a secluded area and took a nap.

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In Iceland it doesn’t matter where you camp.  Just be respectful.

After about a two hour siesta, we hit the road again.

Thankful that it really doesn’t get dark there this time of year until about 10:30pm.  Sunrises at 4am, so we get lots of daylight.

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Everywhere you go in Iceland there is water.  I was so taken by the sheer amount of water on the island.

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The last thing we did, was head to a hot spring called Gamia Lagin or the Secret Lagoon in the small village of Fludir.

While most people opt for the touristy Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, we tend not to like the crowds so we found this one.   We shared the entire pool with only 6 others.

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Mike with his noodle. They provide the floating devices.

In order to use any of the public hot springs in Iceland, you have to shower before you get in to your swim suit.  BUTT NAKED.  So if you have a problem being naked in front of others….better not visit the hot springs.

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These pics were taken at 10pm.  It was freezing cold but the water was HOT and after a day of being all bundled up, it was just what we needed.  It was a magical place.  You could swim right to the vents where the boiling  water was being dispersed out of the rock.

We floated and swam around for a good two hours until we were nice and wrinkly.

Showered, dried off and hit the road to find a place to camp.

It was probably about 11:30pm when we found a remote place to spend the night.  I wanted to be near water, so that I could filter our drinking water for the next day.

We got near water….we couldn’t see much, so we didn’t exactly know  where we were……but when we woke up the next morning.

WOW!  Hella, Iceland.

Until day 4,

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Iceland Adventure: Day 2.

Our second day on the island was a FULL one.

Mike ended up getting to meet with potential clients to find out if his company could import Icelandic fish directly into Los Angeles.  Can you say…..Synchronicity?  (and tax write off?)

Gudmundur , the fresh fish sales manager of Iceland Seafood, picked us up bright and early at 8am.

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Me taking selfies in the corporate office.
Me taking selfies in the corporate office.

NOTE:  As the wife of a fresh fish importer…I really enjoy learning about Mike’s job and what he does and all of the details that go in to importing fish, etc.  

After meeting with the staff, CEO, cargo guys in the main office, we hit the road to visit a handful of fisheries that caught the fish that could potentially be brought in to the LA market.

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I was so impressed with the operations and high standards by which Iceland does their business.  Every single facility we went to, we got to dress up in these outfits before touring the plant.

CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN.

At each operation, Gudmundur picked up a sample of the fish that could potentially be imported.  He had found a chef that would prepare the  fish for us……so we ended up in the coastal city of Grindavik at a restaurant called Hja Hollu, where the {female} head chef, prepared about 7 different dishes for us.  By the time we were done, I was stuffed and didn’t know how I was going to stay awake for the rest of the afternoon.

Gundurmun and Mike and a sampling of the fish dishes we had, that included wolffish, cod and arctic char.
Gundurmun and Mike and a sampling of the fish dishes we had, that included wolffish, cod and arctic char.
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The seaport that they bring the fish in to.
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FRESH FISH!!
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Mike and Gudmundur meeting with Alda, the general manager of Einhamar Seafood.

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That was already such a full day but Gudmundur  also took us to do some initial sightseeing on our way back to our AirBnB.

We stopped at the Krysuvik-Selton hot springs.  It was pretty amazing.  These hot springs are way too hot (at 200 degrees) to get in to…and the smell……ew.  Sulphur.

I have too many pictures so put this together.

After the hot springs we drove by Kleifarvatn Lake.  

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Photos just don’t do any of this justice.

Question:  What is this?

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At first from afar, I thought it was grapes but then Gudmundur drove us closer and we soon realized it was all drying fish.    Tons of it.  I guess this fish supplies parts of Africa.  Interesting.

We got back to our apartment, took a 2 hour nap and then we were headed out to a late night dinner with Gudmundur and Tollie at a restaurant called KOL. 

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Our new Icelandic friends. Gudmundur and Tollie.
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We are still a little tired but having a wonderful time.
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Donkey : BEST DRINK EVER. It’s the Icelandic version of a Moscow Mule.

We ended our night around midnight.

Off to bed, for the next day we pick up our KuKu Camper.

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Iceland Adventure: Day 1.

Day 1.  

We spent 14 hours on planes and in airports.

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We left LAX at 8am on Wednesday.

We arrived at Keflavik airport at 5:45am on Thursday.

 

A couple things to note upon arriving in Iceland.

  1.  Buy all of your alcohol at the airport through duty free.  Otherwise you will pay 40% more at the Vinbudin which is the state owned liquor store that is not always open when you want it to be.
  2. If you need transportation to get to Reykjavik, you can buy bus tickets on the airplane.  We used Flybus.   And I think the tickets were less expensive if you bought them on the plane.

 

Iceland makes it very convenient to buy your alcohol at the airport. You can't get to baggage claim or customs without going through the Duty Free store. Good set up.
Iceland makes it very convenient to buy your alcohol at the airport. You can’t get to baggage claim or customs without going through the Duty Free store. Good set up.

We were pretty exhausted when we arrived and the only thing I wanted to do was get to our AirBnB and take a shower and a nap.   Iceland is 7 hours ahead of PST.

Our AirBnB hostess was gracious to allow early arrival, without an additional charge.  And after our initial introduction and some chit chat, we  didn’t see her for the two days we were in her flat.

I think we took a 4 hour nap, and then I forced us to get up and venture downtown.   Trying to get to their time zone was going to take a couple days.

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FREEZING WIND and COLD. 

That’s the only way I can describe our introduction to the weather.

The day we arrived, Iceland decided to revisit winter.

Our first stop in downtown was to buy Mike another beanie hat.

Then we had to dodge the wind chill of negative 100 (exaggeration)  for something HOT to drink.

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I pretty much didn’t wear makeup the entire time I was there….too cold and too much effort.

We spent some time walking through the downtown shopping area.

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and this was the first museum we came across.

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I am not kidding.  Fortunately, it was closed by the time we walked by.  But I am pretty sure, I didn’t want to go in and pay to see penises.

Nor buy my friends souvenirs from this shop.  HA.

We visited Hallgrímskirkja church and were able to go to the top for some great views of the city.

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That is a statue of Leif Erickson, the Icelandic explorer who most consider to have landed on North America long before Columbus.

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Aren’t the colors of the city just amazing?   80% of the population in Iceland live in Reykjavik and its surrounding cities.

After just a tad more sightseeing, we were freezing and exhausted, we landed at our first meal on the island.

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The nordic Gods are big here.

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Meals are expensive here. This one cost over $55.00, we had nothing to drink but water. Tips are included in prices.

Mike had the meat soup  (DELICIOUS!!!)  and tried their pickled herring (not so delicious).

I had the smash fish gratin with rye bread.

We did eat lamb  while we were there and after I had some of Mike’s meat soup, it was all I wanted wherever  we went.

SOOOOOOO  Good.  

That  pretty much ended our first day.

We went back to the apartment and went to bed by 7pm.

The bad thing is, I was up at midnight and Mike by 2am.

We had a very early day to get ready for with some of Mike’s potential clients.

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Iceland Adventure: The Intro

Iceland Adventure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am excited to recount and reflect on our recent trip to Iceland.  I think it is so important to document memories and experiences, and while I usually do it with photo books, pictures and journaling….I wanted to share this experience here on my blog for all of my friends and family to enjoy.    And to maybe offer some tips for those who are thinking about heading to this incredible island in the future. We were in Iceland for 9 days.

“WHY ICELAND?” 

That was probably the most asked question we got when we shared that we chose the “cold” vacation over the “warm” (Peru) vacation.

Since I started hiking, I have become aware of some of the most beautiful places on this earth.   Iceland was one of them.  I saw the most amazing breathtaking pictures of this island, and in the hiking and outdoor population, Iceland is considered one of the most “otherworldly” experiences and a MUST see destination.

(A cold vacation is much different than a warm vacation, so take that into consideration when deciding and Iceland weather is an experience in and of itself.  So when you read, pack layers….like seriously, pack layers because you will spend 15% of your time dressing and undressing)

Iceland is also an up and coming tourist destination and with the direct flights from LAX with WOW airlines, I wanted to go to the island before tourism literally takes over and the rawness of Iceland is replaced with guardrails, rules, and entry fees.

To put tourism into perspective:  Iceland has a population of approximately 325,000.  Tourism is triple that number in one year.  So almost 1 million people visit  the island.  The footprint being left is fragile now.  Most of the current tourist population is from Europe, Canada and China but the U.S.  is catching on.   We were able to identify the spoiled, obnoxious Americans at stops we made.   So embarrassing.  Here is something to consider when traveling abroad Americans –  You are going into their culture, so respect it and stop complaining that there are no venti sized coffee cups or snacks you like.

We started our research, and because we do not really like the crowds, we always opt for the off season.   The summer season in Iceland is when most people go – end of May – August, but it is also the most expensive.  So save your pennies because if you are an American, your dollar is only worth about .70 to their krona and Iceland is NOT cheap.

We landed going in  late April, early May right before the summer season kicks off.  We knew it would be a bit colder, and that we probably wouldn’t get to see all parts of the island because of the weather.

These were the only two resources we bought.

lonely planet

This is a “MUST” buy book.  It has so much information in it, and almost every tourist we saw had this book in their possession.

iceland map

This map was great once we got to Iceland, but it is large and you can not see the whole island at one glance.  It is printed on both sides, so I did a lot of folding and unfolding.  HOWEVER, it has a ton of detailed information that partnered well with the Lonely Planet book.    And it is durable.  Which helps a lot when you are dealing with snow, wind, mud, etc….

The next thing we needed to decide was how much of the island we wanted to see.   Iceland is divided up into these areas:

  • Southwest Iceland
  • Southeast Iceland
  • East Iceland
  • The Highlands (unless you rent a 4×4, forget this part of Iceland in the winter and spring)
  • North Iceland
  • The Westfjords
  • West Iceland.

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Each of these areas, has LOADS  of things to see and do.

Most will say to focus on 2-3 areas and do as much as you can for the time we were staying, BUT we knew we probably would never ever go back, so we wanted to see the entire island.  And 9 days ended up not being  enough time to see all of Iceland.   We did not get to drive up to the Westfjords.

We looked at accommodations.  Again, not cheap.  It is very rare to find anyplace to stay for less than $200, unless you are traveling off season.  So keep that in mind.  There are guesthouses  situated all over the island and you can choose whether you want a bathroom or not, some offer breakfasts, and others a discount if you bring your own linen (sleeping bag).  Hotels are rare….unless of course you are in Reykjavik.  We did see a lot of construction though of new hotels going up around the island.   There are also the hostels, but they too are not cheap.  You are looking at $80-$100 a night.  We stayed at one in Hofn with a private bath.  $130.00.

And there are several campgrounds around the island, and the one we stayed at in Akureyri was wonderful.  (Can you say HOT SHOWERS)  Though most camp grounds again only open in the summer.

(NOTE: Everything in Iceland is CLEAN!!  Even the gas station bathrooms are sparkling)

Again, taking into consideration how we like to travel – (no plan just go)  we opted to rent a camper van and just hit the road.    Renting and traveling in campers is a huge thing in Iceland.  We saw them every where and laughed as we recognized people as they were on the same path we were in traveling the island.   We rented from this company:  KuKu Campers.  And we highly recommend them.

(We ended up driving more than our contract allowed and would have had to pay more than $200 upon our check in, but the owner was so cool, he said if we bought two cases of beer for them at the Vinbudin, he would call it even)

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Mike had a day of business that he needed to get done in Reykjavik, so we did stay our first 2 nights at an AIRBnB.  And then we splurged on a hotel the night before we left Iceland.

So that is my intro to our travel in Iceland.  Everything else, we learned along the way.

We really did travel the island with a blank slate.

It was quite the adventure.

Chapter 1 coming up.

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Road 744 and PTSD

Whenever I travel….I like to bring back two things from my trip.  A refrigerator magnet and a coffee mug.

Mike was looking at the magnets in Reykjavik and asked if I preferred the one that just said, “Iceland” or the one that said “I Survived  Iceland.”   I chose the latter.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, this trip has been on my bucket list for like forever…..and it was as other people said it would be.

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This  trip stretched me.  Mostly good,  but on a few days, in  harrowing ways, that almost left me in tears.  In a few moments I felt such fear…that it took me back to being first diagnosed with cancer, and that bothered me.  I knew I had to confront the why?  Why, when I thought I was such an adventurer, was I experiencing this overwhelming FEAR.   Even climbing MT.  Whitney, didn’t scare me.

So I came home, and needed to reflect and take a break and crochet.

(Crafting and making art for me, slows me down and helps me put things in order, in my mind.  Its my therapy. )

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I have read and heard about other cancer survivors, thrivers, metsters, suffering from this disturbance, BUT I would never have put myself in that category.   I have always prided myself with being one that can pull up her big girl pants and move on…..one who can challenge herself to rise above every situation, who can fly in the face of adversity, one who stands above.

EGO?

YES, ego.

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In Iceland, within a matter of 15 minutes, you can experience every weather pattern imaginable.

From wind that could possibly rip your car door off (they have rental car insurance for this….not kidding), to sun, snow, sleet and hail.

And it was at one particular moment, that I found myself frozen in fear, that even my husband asked what was wrong with me.

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The north side of the island, is for the most part, considered dangerous to drive to in the fall, winter and most of spring, because of the snow and rapidly changing weather conditions. Unless of course you have a 4×4.   We were warned several times about traveling to the north side of the island, encouraged to be extra cautious, making sure to have gas and food, because there are long stretches of road where there are NO services at all.  And with only 325,000 people living in Iceland…..NO people either.

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This picture above was taken at an adorable fishing village, Djupivogur.  We stopped there to pick up a few groceries, visit the WC – (bathroom in Icelandic) and we met an adorable old man whom we talked to for awhile about the history of Iceland.  (I’ll write about that another time)

After our time there, we got back on the RING ROAD (1), and started heading towards the north island.  I was really excited because on the north island, is where you get to see the puffins and the whales….and just maybe a polar bear that has floated over from Greenland on an runaway iceberg.   (well it can happen, the polar bear thing)

And within minutes, this was the driving the conditions we encountered.  FOR HOURS!!!

And this was not even the worst of it.

There were many lengths of  “white out” conditions and I became paralyzed in fear.   I felt claustrophobic, had to catch my breath on several moments, didn’t know what was ahead, because I couldn’t see a damn thing and there was nothing else to do but keep driving because the town we were staying at, was still like 100km away, and there was nothing…….N.O.T.H.I.N.G else around but snow and mountains.

All of a sudden, I didn’t care about seeing puffins and whales.  I just wanted to stop and curl up in ball and know I was safe.

We made it the first day to the town of Akureyri, found a wonderful campground to stay at.  Met a cute young couple from Alberta Canada……but the next day, when I knew we had to get back on the road and the ranger told us the weather conditions still not the best, my only thought was…..”GET ME TO SOMEWHERE I CAN SEE THE SKY.”  I even asked the ranger this question…..at what point on this map, is the snow going to stop.

I still wanted to see some whales, so we headed to the town of Siglufjordur where we took this photo, had a bakery good,coffee  and wondered what the heck the young people did here for fun?  The town has an avalanche wall built around it for protection from yep….avalanches.  It sits right at the base of the mountain and at the foot of the ocean.

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We saw no whales.  The weather was too bad.

I took over driving and we needed to make a decision on what road to take.  I pulled to the side of the road, and asked Mike if we had enough gas to get us to our next destination.  He confidently said yes….but I was already unnerved because the route we chose would once again take us through the mountains and we had no idea what the conditions would be like.

I wanted to cry.  I know, it sounds ridiculous… I was so overcome with fear of the unknown and not feeling safe, even with my husband in the car with me, that it triggered every traumatic experience I have had in the past few years.  I sat in the car and all of those moments coursed through my veins.  Mike even asked….”WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”  I didn’t know other than, I wanted to jump out of the car and run.

I drove.

We hit another snow storm.

I drove slow.  VERY s.l.o.w.

and I wanted to cry.

My hands gripping the steering wheel so hard that I gave myself cramps in my fingers.

But I needed to get through it.  I needed to confront the fear.

And so for about 40km……I relived my most traumatic experiences that had to do with fear of the unknown…..almost losing a house, marriage infidelity, cancer diagnosis’s, hospitalizations, and sepsis.  It was the longest drive of my life, and I will never forget being paralyzed by it.

I was so relieved to reach the town of Blondous.

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I came home, knowing I needed to brave what happened on that part of the trip.  Road 744 will always be emblazoned in my mind.

So I have been honestly asking myself some tough questions about healing and forgiveness and trust and depression, about anxiety and living  positive, about relationships and social media, about advocacy, cancer,  and being authentically me.

I also came home and put myself back on my anti depressant.  I didn’t think I needed it anymore.

SIGH.

I am still reflecting on what happened on that road, and making changes in certain areas of my life.

I deleted half of my Facebook following first thing, and will probably do more in the next month.

And I am making changes on my role in cancer advocacy.  (another blog post in and of itself.)

Journey’s ebb and flow.

Mine seems to do so every year.

And sometimes I think that I am this bouncing ball that can never stay in one place…..but no, what I am is growing and understanding who I am.

I am living authentically Lesley, as I go one on one with myself to dig deeper.

As far as PTSD,  I am not sure that is the correct diagnosis, as I have only felt this way one other time…..but it is worth a conversation with my oncologist next week.

I will be posting about the rest of our trip to Iceland.

Another day.

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Two Easy Make Ahead Vegan Salads 

Recently, my husband was ripped apart for not being a militant vegan because every once in awhile we eat seafood.  Like clams, and I guess clams have feelings??  So do scallops? And shrimp?

Well whatever, he  (hubby) is in the seafood industry and we will continue to partake in yellow fin and crab.  We aren’t pescatarians because we do not eat diary or eggs.  So I don’t know what I’m called but these recipes I’m sharing are “Vegan.”

Here are two very yummy and quick to put together salads.  I always have these ingredients on hand and both recipes are great for lunches or a side at dinner.

Remember I’m not a measurement girl so I’ll try my best to give my best estimates.

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Greek Salad

1 cucumber peeled and chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 jar pitted kalamata olives (I use the Trader Joes brand) drained

1/2 red onion, chopped

3/4 tbsp oregano

Salt, pepper

Olive oil

Optional: 1/2 can garbanzo beans


Mix all ingredients except the olive oil together.

When ready to serve add olive oil.

You could probably add balsamic vinegar but the olives do the trick for me in making it taste Greek’ish without the feta cheese.

I love this salad and recently always have it in my fridge.

Edamame Salad

Another super easy salad. Buy your ingredients in the frozen section of Trader Joes or your favorite grocer. Use organic whenever you can.

1/2 bag shelled edamame, defrosted

1/2 bag sweet organic corn, defrosted

1/2 bag petite peas, defrosted

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Dressing; Fresh basil, salt, pepper,

1/4 cup olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Add all ingredients and mix together.


Two very easy Vegan salads.

Enjoy,

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Canine Healers…My Barkley Story. 

We have all read the stories about pets becoming  caregivers and companions during challenging times in our lives.

I love those stories; especially when they include a rescued canine from a shelter.  I have my own story and thought I’d share it. But before I do, I would like to invite you to grab a couple tissues and watch this video first .

Eric and Peety’s Story 

Okay, clean up your face.

My turn.

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I originally got Barkley for my son Justin after we had lost his dog in a car accident. I remember the day so clearly.  It was a bright sunny day in February right before a chemo appointment in 2013.  I was on my third round of Adriamycin/cytoxan otherwise known as the red devil and by a quick miracle felt pretty good that day; I could stand up.

Justin and I went up and down the kennel aisles of our local animal shelter.  We brought out a handful of dogs into the yard to see how they would respond to us.  Justin was taken by a rather furry beagle named Charlie.  He was very loving.  I, on the other hand, didn’t feel the connection. (Let’s not forget, we went for my son, not me)  I continued to look in the kennels and got to a row that was sectioned off.  I asked about the dogs in that row and was told they were the ones that had been there the longest and were next to be put down.   I walked slowly down the line of cages, catching the eyes of each dog and almost felt like I could identify with each of them.  Newly diagnosed with cancer I felt death knocking at my door.   My eyes welled with tears.  When I got to the last kennel in the row, I stopped. What I saw grabbed my attention.

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I watched him for a good minute or two.  He was basically unaware of my presence.  Picking up the toys in his cage, he was tossing them in the air, running around, playing. He was happy, or so he seemed to me.  I thought to myself, “Dude, you’re about to be put down and you don’t seem to give a rip.”     I caught his eye, he came up to the steel wires that separated us, licked my hand, then bounded back to his toys.

He didn’t care about his future because he was focused on his present.

I asked the attendant to get him out for me. He followed us to the yard happy to be with Justin and I, but more excited about his surroundings.   He’d jump up on our legs, then hop down exploring the play yard, then come back to us, as if he was saying; “Isn’t  this amazing? “.

I looked at Justin, and we both agreed together.

He’s the one.

We took him home, named him Barkley and he settled in quickly.

The next day, I had chemo.  And like after all my other chemo appointments, I was bed bound for a good week.

Barkley never left my side.

That was only the beginning of our relationship.

He’s been my 4-legged best friend ever since .

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He never leaves me alone, ask my husband and kids.  He follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom. I’m never out of his range of sight when I’m home.  Mike will even have to tell him sometimes, “leave your mom alone.”

When I started hiking as therapy, he naturally came with me. And now I very rarely hike without him.  He’s climbed mountains that others never will, even humans.  Sometimes, the day after hard hikes, we will both be hobbling around the house with sore legs but then I’ll get out my backpack and Barkley stands by the door…..ready to go. He loves the outdoors.

The Devil's Backbone - Mt. Baldy with my hiking buddy, Barkley. 10,000 feet.
The Devil’s Backbone – Mt. Baldy with my hiking buddy, Barkley. 10,000 feet.

He’s become like one of my kids.  And yes, sometimes he pouts.  Like when I can’t take him on a specific trail, he will look at me when I come home like, “I can’t believe you went without me,” and will ignore me for awhile but not long.

When I summited Mt. Whitney the first two things I thought were: 1. Call Michael  2. I wish Barkley were here.

When Mike and I go out, it’s very rare we are gone longer than a few hours (unless we are traveling).  I can’t bear to leave Barkley alone.

He’s my cuddle bug.  Even on days I don’t want to cuddle.

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Barkley is a terrier, daschund mix.  He has one floppy ear, and an uncanny sense of smell.  He lives to explore and I know without a doubt he loves his life.

My husband had a bond with our first dog, Snowball, a pure white Akita.  When we lost her in 2005, it was devastating for him.  We have Snowball’s ashes in a box, with her tags and a huge puff of that fur that would fill up our backyard during her molting season .   When I dust the shelf she’s on, Barkley will often come over, sniff her box, wag his tail, bow his head and take a step back, as if to honor her place in our lives.  I tell him, that he too will always hold a sacred place in my life.

I never intended for him to become my dog, but he did and he is.

The dog that almost lost his life,  now shares his love for living with me.

Barkley IS my dog.

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As for my son Justin, he now has his own dog, a huge and energetic Catahoula Leopard  hound named Lexie.  She and the Barksters are friends.

I’d love to hear about your canine friends and how they’ve made a difference in your life .

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I Don’t Want to Catch Up with You. 


Disclaimer: Before I go into today’s blog post, I want to lay the foundation that these are “my opinions, my thoughts, and my own personal truth”. They might not align with yours and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to live this life, especially with an incurable cancer diagnosis. You  live your truth. And I’ll continue to be authentic in who I am. No apologies.  So with that said, Let’s begin….

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Yesterday, I read this article on “What not to say to someone who’s dying.” 

Besides, the title of the article, (I don’t focus on the the dying apart and I’m not in denial…I’m living), I agree with all of the writers points.

You might want to stop here and read the article if you haven’t already.

I’d like to personally touch on a few points she makes and offer my experience on the matter.


Treatment Ending

This one gets me all the time. Because I am not bald,  hike, stay active and am not plugged into an IV, people always assume, I’m done with treatment and am cured.   When I started physical therapy 3 weeks ago for my shoulder (I’ll write about that next week) the physical therapist had no idea what the meaning of metastatic was.  She assumed that because I looked good, I was done with treatment. She even said that much.

Here’s the fact in the matter:  If someone tells you they have stage 4, metastatic cancer,(  it can be breast, lung, ovarian, colon, any type of cancer) they are considered incurable and will always, always be in treatment unless they decide to stop.

Treatment looks different for every cancer patient. Don’t put your ideas of what it should look like in a neat little package that only serves to make you feel better.

My current treatment consists of 2 tiny pills.  And though they might look harmless, they have their own lists of side effects that can be detrimental to my quality of life.

I also see my oncologist every 3 months, check my tumor markers frequently and get scanned every 6 months. I’m never done at the doctors or the lab.


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Everything Happens for a Reason

If you say this to me, I can almost guarantee that in my head, I’m saying “F*ck  You”.  (Gasp)

Cancer happens to no one for any damn reason other than it happens and no one knows why because if they did , there would be a damn vaccination or a cure to make sure none of us got it in the first place.

When you tell someone this, you’re implying some fault on their part. That’s BULLSHIT.  Check yourself. You’re saying it because again, it makes you feel better and gives you an answer in trying to figure it out.  You can’t and we aren’t asking you to.


Let’s Catch Up.

This one resonates the most with me. I admit, I’m pretty much an open book when sharing how I live and thrive with metastatic breast cancer, whether it’s here on my blog, my Facebook page or Instagram feed.  I want to share because I feel like I have something to contribute when it comes to embracing life, finding peace, and advocating for living your best life, cancer or no cancer.

However, what I have found is that as I have done this, people have also decided that they have a part of my life in a more intimate way.  I too, experienced a wave of old friends reappearing wanting to “catch up” and acquaintances wanting to put themselves in to my inner circle.

NO! Sorry.

I’m still a very private person. V.E.R.Y.  I spent almost a year on a life sabbatical (2013 – 2014) after my stage IV diagnosis, figuring out “my life”.  I cut out huge chapters of my book, that were not serving or bringing life to me.  I clipped some wings and cut ties.   I decided who and what were embowering and offered a well of refreshment and joy.  And I still do.

So please don’t get offended if I never take you up on your offer for lunch, coffee or a phone chat. I’m not one for small talk. I never will be and I can almost guarantee I won’t share my inner processes with you. I’d love to catch up over an email. That’s great!!  It would probably take me 5 minutes and you too. I’d love to encourage you or offer some of my advice from my own experiences but again, I can do it from my phone or email.

Also, if I haven’t seen or talked to you in 5-10+  years, I’m sorry but you don’t get to be proud of me. That’s condescending . I’m not your child or your best friend or working towards something for you.

You can be happy for me and I hope you are…because cancer really does suck.

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