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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Akureyri, Iceland.........a look at the volcano from 40 km

We are at the #1 site at the top of the map:  Akureyri
Akureyri, Iceland:  A 40km view of an active volcano

The Ruby Princess left the Shetland Islands yesterday and sailed north to our next destination, Akureyri, (pronounced a-kur-ray-re), Iceland.  We sailed up the east coast crossing the Arctic Circle and turning south into the Eyjafjorbur (inlet). Akureyri is the largest city in Iceland's northern territory.

I will say that we encountered some heavy seas last night. But the ship's stabilizers take a lot of the rocking and rolling out of the heavy seas.  This morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise. The ship docked and passengers were allowed to go ashore about an hour later.

Our small tour with Taxi 17

Mary Alice (MA) had hooked up with fellow cruise passenger, Marty Reed and husband Don from San Antonio. Weeks before the cruise Marty worked via email to arrange private tours here and at our next two ports in Iceland. Today we were a party of six which is so much better than a busload of sixty!

MA and I went ashore and found our driver from a tour company called "Taxi No.17". Our driver was Benedict and we nicknamed him Ben. The other two other passengers (Mark and John) found us and then Marty and Don arrived. Ben led us to his vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD with some very big tires. I saw the reason for the big tires later.
Ben was a real hoot.  He was born in Iceland, speaks Icelandic and as a young man he learned English in where else? England!  He took us through the town, down the hill and across the bridge over the Eyhafjarbard River. What struck us about the town is how clean and modern it is and there is no graffiti! The highway crossed over a thermal spring that is piped in to heat the entire town.  Ben told us you can take a 30-minute very hot shower and it'll only cost 10 cents on your utility bill.

As we climbed up the highway I was struck by the natural beauty of the place.  The mountains that form the valleys are about 3000' high.  They are actually volcanic formations covered with plants of pastel colors: yellow, green, red, orange and brown. I'm not sure my camera can capture the beauty of the place.

Ben drove us right past the famous and largest waterfall named the Godafoss. All the tourist buses stop there first.  He said we would stop last on the way back, "not so crowded".  I knew we had a great guide!
He followed the highway and then turned south toward the river Fnjoska.  The paved road soon turned into a volcanic gravel road. We passed many large farms with cut green fields of baled hay covered with white plastic.  Most of the farms, set back in the hills, have herds of long hair sheep grazing in the field.  We also came upon a herd of Icelandic horses, which are pure bred and we saw some small herds of cattle. 

We continued on to a rough gravel road with two gates, thus the big tires! I was in the front passenger seat so I had "gate duty", opening and closing them so we could pass on through.  We got to our first stop, an isolated waterfall called, Aldeyjarfoss. The word "foss" in Icelandic means waterfall.
The water comes from melting glaciers to the south along with melting snow runoff. It is an awesome sight and sound experience because of the rushing water falling and roaring against large rocks. 

Active volcano 40km away

We visited another waterfall and then Ben took us up the highest point that we could get to in a vehicle. He pointed out the smoke and ash to the south of us and told us it was an erupting volcano. See above picture. It was 40 km from us and we could not go closer because the area is closed off.
Godafoss Waterfalls

We headed back to the large falls at Godafoss where all the tourists had already come and gone, took a few pictures and returned to the ship.  It was a great day, a great guide and great company along on the tour.  Thank you Marty for arranging all this! We have two more tours with her and Don and a few others at our next two stops in Iceland!

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