In Iceland, you can't go far without eventually coming to water. And in the last few days, we've had the chance to experience water in its most sublime: whales, waterfalls and wicked hot springs.
Jake and I got out one evening this week to catch a sunset whale watching cruise in Husavik. The boat ride alone was worth it: an achingly serene and clear night (one of only two so far this trip), views of distant shimmering glaciers, the ocean swelling and heaving as we bob on its surface like the shorebirds around us . I absolutely love that feeling of moving with the ocean, it feeds my inner seagull. But the whales were quiet. Two humpbacks surfaced now and then, revealing a blow here, a dorsal fin there, just a tease of their enormity that lies beneath the surface. We watch, quietly delighted. They disappear for a long moment. Then, just like that, a leviathan literally dives out of the water completely, head to tail, twists a half turn in the air and crashes back into the sea fifty feet away from us. People gasp and duck. It feels just that close. It happens again, and again and again. Two whales, four jumps and then silence again. Shit, these animals are big. I love to be so humbled by the scale of this living creature. The show is done, they've tired of entertaining us and our boat turns around and slowly heads back to the tiny port of Husavik.
We also took a family day trip to visit what are probably two of the crowning jewels of northeast Iceland: Asbyrgi Canyon and Dettifoss Falls. Dettifoss is a 45m-high waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the Vatnajökull glacier. Asbyrgi canyon was formed by glacial flooding of Jökulsá á Fjöllum river now located several kilometres away. Icelandic legend has it that the horseshoe-shaped canyon is a hoofprint left by Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse. No surprise that this is the heart of the land of hidden folk who are said to reside among the 100m-high canyon walls of Asbyrgi. We hiked the mystical birch forests and pretended to float elven boats in spring ponds. If you have ever seen the Sigur Ros documentary "Tak", Asbyrgi is where they held the midnight outdoor concert. I so wish I had been there. It must have been an absolutely magical experience to hear their ethereal music in such an ancient place full of spirits.
Last night after little ones were asleep, we stole away to hike to a hot spring cryptically referred to as the "hidden fissure". The hidden fissure is aptly named: it is literally a widened and perfectly cooled spring in a deep fault in the earth that you reach by scrambling down 30 feet of cliffs into a chasm. And you definitely don't think about earthquakes while you do it. What you do think about is how glorious insane it is, how one hand is touching Europe while the other clings to North America, and how, even though you just spent an entire cold, rainy day indoors with five kids and needed two drinks to unwind from it, this is a pretty damn awesome trip you're on. That's what you think about.