Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Host of Little Surprises

I lost my motivation for writing this blog, and then Sam Buckstein posted some pictures on Facebook today and I got all nostalgic. SO HERE WE GO~

Day 7

Why did we get up at 7 AM? Why? PLEASE ALLAH TELL ME?!

Apparently, time became important again so we were up by 7 AM for breakfast and on the bus by 8 AM. Oddly enough, we drove out of the campsite without the super jeeps... so they were unnecessary to begin with...? Maybe it was the fact that they promised us super jeeps which made them feel like they needed to deliver? Oh, and I guess we did use a different bus to drive out since the seats were weird and it didn't say "Free as a Bird" on the outside of the new one.

Due to my lack of sleep from the night before, I attempted to take multiple naps on the bus. Sadly (or goodly...?) we kept making stops on the way to civilization. The first stop was for a hike to a hidden waterfall! OooooOOooOooOoooOo! We were following a bunch of rivers to get to it and there were big rocks all over to hop on and off of. I definitely went hard with the hummin' as I pretended to be Legolas. Not only that, people were climbing all over the super climbable hillsides. Everyone eventually climbed something since we had to wait our turn to enter the secret waterfall area; it could only fit 10 or so people at a time. There was a lot of poser parkour (and Legolas-ing) going on and I was thoroughly pleased. Here's a sequence of shots that attempts to capture the little adventure:
Why wouldn't you stop the bus, get out, and brainlessly follow this river?! PC: Paige McIlroy
One of the few times you couldn't see blue skies all around you. PC: Paige McIlroy 
CLIMB EVERYTHING... and wait. PC: Paige McIlroy
My feels... PC: ME!
So pwetty <3. PC: Justin McKay
After that little gem, we made our way back to the bus. On the bus, another marvelous thing happened: I was given a new name. For the past few days, I had been calling Ross Weber "Saucy Rossy" because. Yeah, just because (he's not saucy at all). So he finally decided to don me with the name "Yeshari Safari" which I prefer to spell "Yashari Safari"; it's prettier that way. A lot of fun was had with this new nickname, including "Would you like to go on the... Yashari Safari?" and "Look out for snakes on the... Yashari Safari!" HEYOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So now the full title of the blog should be clear (go here and search "trivia" if you're confused as to when the other part of the title was explained)! :)

NEXT STOP: a glacier! Well, a "tongue" of the glacier. Apparently, this is where lava started gushing out during one of the volcanic eruptions so a lot of the landscape in the area was recently carved out. I hope my memory serves me well on that fun fact... Here's the view:

Ain't she a beaut? PC: Justin McKay
LA PROXIMA PARADA: the waterfall that my super jeep missed because we were busy fixing a tire while everyone else got to enjoy the waterfall...! IT WAS AWESOME! Skogarfoss was the name, I believe. Here she is:

The guy on the right is actually behind the waterfall... So this thing's even taller than you think! PC: Paige McIlroy
So I wasn't satisfied with a frontal view of this masterpiece of nature, so I went behind it (all my pictures)!


Look up.

Let's step back a bit.

Let's get a lot closer.

And let the wind blow a bunch of falling water on me <3
While some of us were enjoying the waterfall we missed, others were digging in the river for coins. There are plenty of signs on most bridges which request that people not throw any kind of currency, regardless of its value, into the river. It obviously ruins the natural beauty! So several of the peepz in our group rolled up their pants (the water went right above the knees) and sleeves and stepped into pretty-much-freezing water. In total, I think the gang collected the equivalent of $78 of coins (9000 ISK)! #onlyonthegreenprogram, as they say. Actually, while they were working to clean the river, a couple of European "poopholes" started throwing coins into the river... Eh! That's just more money for environmental organizations (I think we donated the money). :)
Here's Male Alex finishing up his heroic efforts (Female Alex was in there, too). PC: John Benavides
After that, we briefly toured a single room hydroelectric facility that was located on a mink farm! We just walked around ourselves so nothing was really explained to us, but we'd seen most of it before by now. All the pictures below are MINE!

This connects to the thing on the left. 
This connects to the thing on the right (there's water in that pipe!).

I... I don't know. It's cool though!
Just a little building. Making energy. From water. On a mink farm?
After we "toured" the room, we went out back and had hot dogs! And some of us used grass to make bird calls... and annoy everyone who tried to nap. Good times <3

It was then time to head to our new living facilities: cabins! I was roomed with three bros: Drewster, A-A-Ron, and Matt. Yeah, Matt doesn't get a nickname. :(

Dindin was had, capstones were worked on, and sleeping occurred at some point. A very comfortable sleep. WITH BEDS!

Quality Picture of the Day

It was a tie between these two. I couldn't decide. :(

Thanks, A-A-Ron <3. Original photo by Laura Lano.
I think I was trying to be a mermaid... PC: Eric Lauer

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The One Hike to Rule Them All

Day 6

We got up at... Heck if I know. I was one of the people who didn't check the time, although some people did so I was rudely reminded every now and then of the time. OH WELL! Some people were actually woken up by the musings of the sultry Adam and his guitar. Well, I was told that it was Adam, but it could've been another scoundrel with a guee-tar. Breakfast was had, again, at "heck if I know."

The main attraction of the day was a mega long hike. 13-15 km in length is what I was told? Here are some pictures:

PC: Me

The right side reminded me of Half Dome. PC: Me

Lol. PC: Me

The whole view from my napping point. PC: Me

On my left from my napping point. PC: Me

On the right from my napping point. PC: Me

My napping point (and my shoes). PC: Me

On the home stretch. PC: Me

From the top of the hill. PC: Justin McKay

Slid down this bad boy. PC: Justin McKay

The line of heroes. PC: Justin McKay

The gang. PC: Rachel Gibson
The whole day was blissful, especially the nap at the top. Absolutely sublime. :)

Dinner consisted of hamburgers and EXTREMELY mediocre s'mores. I'm a man that can eat 11 s'mores on a good day, and I couldn't even handle 1 of those sad excuses for desserts. For whatever reason, Adam couldn't find graham crackers when he got the supplies, which just ruined everything. Oh, and we used Milka instead of Hershey's... and the marshmallows were oddly sweet. IT WAS HORRID. And I told him. And now he knows.

Oh, and I played a whole game of King's Cup for the first time. Quality experience. <3

That was a short entry, but it was one of the best days for sure. :)

Quality Picture of the Day

Everything was perfect... to the point where my face was unable to contort itself into an amusing fashion... on camera. :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Poof, Woosh, Zap, Oink, Snap, Neigh, and More!

Day 5

Breakfast at 8 AM. Not bad. That first day of 6:45 AM really made the other breakfast times seem manageable. Good thinking, Adam.

The first stop today was at Geysir. No, not a Geysir, just Geysir. It is from this Geysir where all other geysers got their distinction as geysers (though spelled incorrectly, it seems). There were a bunch of little hot pools around the area, but there was just one big poofy geyser. Aside from the bits of exploring I did with Matt Roveto (Physics homie and Rex Kwon Do graduate), the video below sums up my fun with the geyser. Oh, and as a note: I refer to the geyser as a "slut" at the beginning of the video, even though I am well aware that it exhibits none of the required features of a slut. Apologies to anyone who might take offense to this blunder.

Here's the link, since Blogger is a piece of garbage:

Then we went off to Gullfoss, a super huge and pretty waterfall! I believe there are ongoing debates as to whether or not the falls should be used for hydroelectric energy, and after seeing Gullfoss for ourselves, the entire bus agreed the falls should be preserved. Vedis, one of our guides, was very proud of the unanimity in the group. :) Here are just a few pictures:
PC: Justin McKay



PC: Justin McKay
After those beautiful sites, we made a stop at a different kind of beauty: the local Bonus supermarket. For whatever reason, the supermarket's mascot is a pig, but this ain't no ordinary pig. No, siree. It's drunk. Cracked out. Injected with some sort of delirium-inducing hormone that causes it to look deranged. Just look for yourself:
I break down laughing when I see the bag with this pig on it in my room. <3 PC: Internet, yo.
It is here that I made a very poor decision: I purchased a swiss roll. Now, if I was at my local Asian bakery in California, I might have received what I expected, which is a light, fluffy sponge cakey dealy. I instead received a brick disguised as a cake. It didn't give when I picked it up in the middle. Normal cake would break in half if I tried to pick it up like that... It will take me a few days to finish. The group came up with a name for this sad excuse for a dessert item: the ShiTwinkie. If that doesn't make sense, I'd prefer not to elaborate in order to keep the blog as PG as possible. Here I am attempting to consume this monstrosity on the bus:

Did I really pay 800 ISK (a little under $8) for this... thing? PC: Paige McIlroy
For lunch, we went to a little place that served us a really creamy, mushroomy soup that was made with locally grown ingredients. It was tasty, but not very filling. OH WELL~! As the super poser sticker on the back of my binder has said since middle school: Don't Let No One Get You Down (double negatives for days).

Once filled with soupy goodness, we went on to a huge hydroelectric plant where we 1) got to go through a little visitor's center and play a hydroelectric management game, as well as learn fun stuff about renewable energy; and 2) tour the facilities. The game involved controlling which of the dams in the series were opened to select how much power would be created at each power plant. Either the game was buggy, or we were all severely incompetent engineers because we could never beat the high score when we were tackling the game with 20 or so people at a time... Walking through the facilities was, to me, much more exciting for the huge plant than for the smaller plant that we saw the other day. I think the size of the operation is what caught my attention, and the "DO NOT TOUCH" warning that we were given made everything seem more important. Pictures were allowed so here are some that I took:

The view from outside! We asked about the symbols and the guide didn't know what they were...

I believe this was spinning the turbine below us. This was a "DO NOT TOUCH" thing.

There goes at least 50 cubic meters of water per second under our feet (I could be wrong, but that's what my memory banks say).
Since we were "done" for the day, we mosied on to the bus to head to a waypoint to meet with the super jeeps that would be taking us down the off-road path to the campgrounds. While driving, we lost a tire on the bus. This event was miraculously recorded by Dani Moskowitz and is presented here with his gracious permission:

Once we got the tire back on with only three of the six bolts (I think that's what the doohickies are called) since the other three were lost or fractured, we made it to the waypoint and transferred to the super jeeps. We lost another tire on the trailer that our super jeep was pulling, so another jeep came back to bring another trailer for us to pull. Here's the gang after we reloaded the new trailer:

Team Magma and [insert other super jeep's team name here] UNITE! PC: Amalia Martinez
And with that, no more disasters occurred. The strange thing is that these mishaps didn't feel disastrous at all. They were just part of the fun. In the video, you see that everyone was excited about the lost tire on the bus. Same thing for the trailer tire. That's one of the great aspects of this group: nothing gets us down. It gave us an opportunity to stretch our legs, look at some ductile fracture, and pet some horses! Here's Saucey Rossy (Ross Weber) taking full advantage of these opportunities:

When we got to the campgrounds, we were told to remove our watches and forget about keeping time for the next two days. We played a little game to decide who would get to sleep in the tents, as opposed to the cabins, since we didn't have enough for everyone. You know you've got a good group of kids when you're playing a game that rewards you with a spot outside in a tent. <3 We played lots of Frisbee and Never Have I Ever as the appropriately aged individuals had their alcoholic beverages, and a good night was had by all, especially when our guides whipped out their instruments and played the night away. Nobody knows when we went to sleep since we weren't allowed to keep time, but it didn't matter. Iceland is so great <3

Quality Picture of the Day (I think Saucey wins, but since I have to post one of myself...):

Trying to figure out how the GoPro works. PC: AJ Loudermilk... since it's his GoPro?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Þhingvellir (That's Not a P)

Weird highlighting abounds! Why? Because Blogger <3

Day 4

After doing battle with the Elves, Hidden People, and Outlaws the night before at KEX (I was a Troll, of course), we were given a well-deserved morning to sleep in: breakfast at 9:30 AM, which is better than 6:45 AM so woot woot! I actually got up on time to have a hearty breakfast this morning. Win for me!

All of today was spent at Þingvellir ("Þ" makes the "th" sound in English, like in "theory") National Park. Is that a bad thing? Heck to the no, mis amigos! Google Translate told me that "Þingvellir" means "Congress Fields." Þingvellir is where Iceland's parliament used to gather yearly to make decisions for the country so the name is fitting. After hiking a bit through the lands and finding that tourists had a weird fixation for throwing their hard earned money into the park's rivers, we were split intwo two (ha!) groups to continue on with the day. One group would go tectonic plate snorkeling first and then caving second. Can you guess what the other group did? If not, just keep reading and find out since I was in the "other" group. Yashari Safari doesn't punish those with a lack of deductive reasoning! <3

As all the n00bs went snorkeling, my group went caving in Gbakkahellir, also known as the "Little Girl" cave. The name comes from a story about a girl who got lost in the cave, reappeared several kilometers outside of the cave, and had her sandals full of dinero! Unfortunately, I did not leave the cave any richer than I already was, but I did avoid being sucked into limbo and spit out several kilometers away from the group by some ethereal being. Optimism, guys. Although this cave was very cool to go through, since it had been formed by a lava flow, it was dwarfed a bit by the caving excursion that the bros experienced on night 2. Something about the small group, independence, and sheer exhaustion made it untrumpable. Oh well!

One of the fun facts that we learned while taking a break in the cave was that Iceland was actually the ideal location to film all the Lord of the Rings films (all hail Tolkien). Our guide was telling us that Peter Jackson's children were babysat by an Icelandic woman, who told them old Icelandic tales which involved the elves, trolls, and other Icelandic beings from their fairy tales. As Jackson heard these stories, he adopted them in his painting of Middle Earth's landscapes, creatures, and languages. So the obvious choice for filming would be Iceland! There was just one itsy bitsy problem: Jackson wanted to have a variety of horses in the films as war mounts, beasts of labor, etc. Unfortunately, Icelandic law prohibits importing any breed of horse in order to guarantee the purity of Icelandic horses. So that's why the films took place mainly in New Zealand. JUST LOOK AT THEM! THEY'RE SO CUTE AND STOCKY! 

Never call them ponies. They're horses. PC: Justin McKay
To wrap up the expedition, we took a picture we thought was clever:
Here's the picture my group managed in the cave. PC: Paige McIlroy
Here's the other group's picture... #onlyonthegreenprogram. Yes, they are superior. PC: AJ Loudermilk
After that, we moved on to snorkeling! Now snorkeling is fun in its own right, but when you're snorkeling between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, it gets a bit more intense. Add on the fact that you're swimming in just above freezing water and the feels start to pour in. Actually, if you got a functioning dry suit and put it on correctly, the feels from the freezing water would have been nullified. This is one of the steps to get the suit on (facial expression required):

So if THIS isn't the Quality Picture of the Day... PC: Rachel Gibson
Unfortunately, my arms got completely soaked, but the rest of my body was so warm and cozy that I didn't mind. Actually, I think I would've been happier if my body had gotten completely soaked because then I would've been a trooper like Dani Moskowitz and jumped into the water in my underwear (after the group trip). The experience was absolutely wild and I wish I could've taken pictures to share. Also, the head instructor thinks I'll be famous one day so he asked for my autograph. Hooch is crazy!

We gathered up both groups, got on the bus, and headed back to Hotel Hlid for dindin and capstone project work time. At this point, my group knows what we're doing, but I think I'll leave out all the details until the end. Also, tonight is the last night at Hotel Hlid! We'll be moving on to grander things tomorrow!

Quality Picture of the Day:
Justin just can't keep himself away. PC: Rachel Gibson