Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Into the hot pot

Our next hostel was Lambastadir, located in...Lambastadir.

It was a guesthouse made from the idea that the family that owned it had enough land and happiness to spread it to others. They also recently added a farm where visitors can feed and learn about the animals they take care of (everything from lambs, ducks, chickens, and horses).

Simple, clean and...

has a hot tub. Outside. For aurora watching.

I don't care about anything else about this place (though it was pretty awesome with its modern rainforest showers and comfy quarters for sleeping and breakfast); any place that has a hot tub outside for aurora watching is an A+ in my book.

And so it was, it really was.

After an extremely hearty dinner of shared nachos and a burger (or super burger) each at the local restaurant:

(It makes me happy just to look at pictures of nachos. They are still one of my most favorite things in the world...really.)

(Called the Selfoss Burger for the town nearby, called Selfoss. It was indeed quite tasty.)

(Kaffi Kruus, where we had our Selfoss burgers of glory and nachos...plus to-go cheesecake and date cake.)

Olive and I changed into our swim suits and tried out the hot tub (or "hot pot" as the owner hilariously calls it).

Verdict? Pretty sweet. They had built it perfectly so as you sit in the tub you'd have a view facing the sky in the direction where most auroras are spotted, while also being completely blocked from the 50km/hour winds that are common there. It was blowing so hard that as I opened the door to the guesthouse it literally flew back, taking me with it. That's no joke...I knocked over their stone gnomes trying not to eat it on their porch. :P

Soon Two and American J were anxious to get outside the front yard and see if any auroras were popping up, so we got out and joined them in warm clothes once again.

What we saw was astounding:

Notice the extremely bright stars behind the fantastically visible aurora. It was a frantic battle between wanting to stare endlessly into the stars because it'd been such a long time since I'd seen them so purely, and wanting to watch the aurora slowly change over time.

A battle where I won either way.

Eventually we did get cold again though, and the lights seemed to be dying down, so we got back inside and Two, Olive, and I jumped into the hot pot again. (This was one of the several times I was very pleased with myself for bringing two bathing suits...no need to put on a wet one again!). American J was tired and cold and decided to check out her new prized photos in the room.

After drinking single malt whiskey and eating chocolate clusters we saw the aurora pop up again...this time with a ferocity that could not be matched by anything we'd seen so far:

With the naked eye I could see each part of it twisting, swirling, speeding up, transforming. The intensity of the aurora was powerful, and I will never forget what it looked like watching that bright green glow.

After yelling for American J to get her butt out on the deck and watch the aurora from the hot pot, she relented and joined us...only to jump out again not much later to get her tripod and camera and take more photos (and whose photos I have stolen for this).

Two, Olive, and I took the lazy route and literally took photos from the hot pot by putting Two's camera on the fence and pushing its button every few minutes. They are equally incredible. And didn't require leaving the hot pot. I think I can only consider that the biggest win ever.

For those who are curious: we could see the green very clearly but a lot of the other colors in the photos were not visible to the naked eye, only so after long exposure. I've understood that the intensity we saw that night was about a 3. This is based on the Kp index, which goes from 0 to 9.

We heard no sounds from the aurora (e.g. the clapping I mentioned earlier), and again, I believe this only happens when it's directly over you and very strong.

I will never forget these moments. There really is something magical about watching the aurora.

Not to mention the stars also. Incredible stars and lots of shooting ones out that night. I saw three by the time I got out of the hotpot around 5am (we were basically in there straight from 11pm to 5am), though everyone else saw about 10. I was just not good at holding still and watching in one spot for one to cross my visual path.

This is what we traveled to Iceland for. This is what we wanted. Bucket list item, incontrovertibly checked.

Thank you Lambastadir for this incredible life experience.

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