Hot Stuff in Iceland

We confess, we didn’t take the van here, or Jigsaw but who knows, maybe one day! It is possible, from Denmark! Having seen the news about eruptions in Iceland, back in March, we knew this was something we had to try and see. When Iceland went “green” that was it, flights booked and we’d bother about the rest later. To be able to see volcano’s erupting close up (relatively) and lava flows is such a rarity in the world that we couldn’t miss it. In reality, the whole trip was really easy, Iceland tests everyone on arrival for free so it was only the passenger form to do beforehand which takes minutes. Once there and through the airport and in the rental car, we were off!

Having been to Iceland a couple of times before we’d covered most of the main tourist sights so spent the afternoon wandering around the main Reykjavik area and the harbour areas. Having virtual 24 hour daylight we lost track of time, only our bodies reminding us we’d woken at 3.45am. Reykjavik is a really attractive, clean, fresh and cool aired capital, a variety of architecture from the old corrugated iron clad buildings to the super modern. The photogenic Harpa concert venue is glorious, a coloured glass façade design based upon angled basalt columns, sits waterside close to the massive fishing boats, close to the modern sculptures, specifically the stainless steel \Viking boat known as The Sun Voyager. The ‘fella with the cella’ had lost his bow but not the pig in a tutu, yes random outdoor sculpture abound. At least the man didn’t need to wear a mask! (the pics will make more sense!) Everywhere, there are beautiful works of graffiti art, such that its had to call it graffiti. The other oddity was the place I mistakenly thought was the ‘Pathological Museum’, if you read the sign, you’ll know how wrong I was!

The often mistaken for a Cathedral, Church of Hallgrimur towers over Reykjavik and is much photographed. It’s a brutal modern expressionist design but it really is stunning and a landmark of the area. Its design is supposed to be inspired by glaciers and waterfalls (the flowing sides perhaps) and the basalt columns formed from volcanic lava cooling. Inside, its beauty is in its simplicity. Every element is considered and themed along elegant arches. The organ is 5275 pipes, what a sound it must create!

Getting to view the volcano was a trek that our cycling hadn’t particularly prepared our legs for. Layered up for the various temperatures we’d endure, with our backpacks full of either camera gear or baps made up from snaffled breakfast fodder, we set out. The area where the activity is, is not far from the airport on the south west peninsula. So much so that there’s plenty of work going on to create dams to route the flow. Its unlikely it’ll create an issue for the airport but it is expected to flow across the main road that skirts the lower edge, into the sea, in the not too distant future. This will crate long diversions for some very small communities. The bigger risk to Iceland however is their fibre optic cabling in that area being destroyed, even though they have already sunk it deeper, no one knows.

The first part of the hike was towards the front edge of one of the main lava flows and a tricky walk alongside it. The lava was steaming which made photos quite tricky but we could see the pockets of bright red lava at the edges and where we could see on top, through the small cracks where the crust cracks. The lava was taking so many forms and it creaked and groaned all the time as the hot flow moves underneath the blackened surface. Reaching the furthest point, the numbers of people dwindled to just us, we realised why, it was then a scramble up a serious scree slope (1000ft elevation gain) The diggers had actually created switch backs to aid the climb in parts. One of the pictures shows the original hike path which only a week ago was closed as the lava has now flowed over it. At the very top we were rewarded though, not just with a snack but the views across the valley to the lava flowing at such a pace down the sides of the crater and the lava spurting out of the top. It was incredible to watch the landscape change in front of our eyes, knowing that this is a permanent change. Where we sat, there was a lake only a month or so ago. Looking through the zoom on the camera or the binocs, we were taken aback at the speed of the flow, and seeing it ebb and flow and change the look of the landscape we felt privileged to be there. Its no surprise we were there until 11pm , when we decided we’d better head back. We didn’t fancy tackling the quite frightening downhill scree slope in the dark 🙂

Our other exploring day, once we were able to physically move and undertake our breakfast bar squirrelling again, we headed out north west, to an area we failed to get to on another trip, a 10ft bank of snow and a Nissan Micra would not makes friends that easily. A long drive towards the tiny fishing town of Grundarfjorour and the iconic Kirkjufells mountain we were treated to such a variety of landscapes and snow covered peaks. The formations in the rock faces, the volcanic layering looking like sheets of paper and the sweeping mountain side scree slopes were either side of the wide flat valleys we drove through. Last time, it was a snow covered abyss, equally picturesque. Melt water flowing down the sides into clear blue lakes topped by lightly cloudy skies resulted in too many photos! We were able to get behind a waterfall called ‘Sheeps Falls’ enabling us to clamber down below, probably not the sanest thing we’ve ever done but we live to tell the tale!

Back in the town later on, we had a last supper followed by gelato and talked about whether we could possibly come back in the van with the furry one for a couple of months. It’d take that long to travel around the whole ring road and the desolate parts of the country on the north and eastern sides. We can only imagine how beautiful those parts must be. Its not cheap to do and nor is Iceland a budget destination but its the kind of place that introduces experiences that it’s difficult to find elsewhere. Having said that, if we make it into the arctic circle on our next trip, we may eat our words.

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