My smallest Ramblers group ever, just 7 plus me, but what a laugh we all had, exploring Iceland. It was a fine, full programme and, in no particular order, we saw:
We started small (it’s all relative) seeing Laxfoss and Glanni on a first walk from Bifrost. We were hoping for leaping salmon, no luck, just a few tiddlers swimming around below the very impressive falls. Then is was Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. These were possible my favourites of the holiday, the waterfall that just seemed to pour out of the side of the mountain, covers in bushes and moss, and Barnafoss with the lovely stone arch but names in memory of the sad story of the children who went a wandering and fell off the stone bridge.
On the way up north we saw the lovely gorge of Kolugljufur, with it’s own splendid falls. On the way to Myvatn the was the almighty Godafoss (waterfall of the Gods) Then the daddy of waterfalls, on the road south, Gullfoss (the Golden Falls) 140 cubic meters of water per second.
Strokkur at Geysir, did not fail to impress, about 30 metres high, but Sue and Margaret found an even squirtier one in the geo park at Herdygerdy. (Sorry, Hveragerthi)
I liked the bubbling mud fumaroles the best, then there were steaming, hissing mountainsides, boiling hot pools and steamy rivers.
Then the hissing holes in the ground which turned out to be bread ovens. Just dig your hole, place your bread in and drive up to collect the next morning.
A good fistful of Craters:
Gabrok on day one, totally black and crusty, gave us splendid views around Bifrost. The crater overlooking Myvatn, was a challenge, more on the steep, loose descent than the climb, though as we neared the bottom it was as if we were walking down a huge black sand dune. We just peeked over the rim of menacing, black Viti, up in the Katla volcanic area, with it’s surreal turquoise lake. Finally, the pseudo craters, made by the water exploding out of the lava.
Lava:Moss covered lava, lava stacks, lava pillows, swirls in lava, arches and caves, lava in the lake, lava for Elaine to climb on, basically a whole lot of glorious lava.
Given that our route followed a good way down the north east/south west rift of the two tectonic plates, we were all hoping to get a good look at the rifts and indeed, saw it in three quite different locations:
Thingvellir, the biggest rift, the law stone, the heart of Iceland, rifts by Myvatn, filled with lovely hot water for bathing and the rift beneath the Herdygerdy information centre
Icelandic horses, looking at their most magnificent when cantering with purpose, manes and tails flowing. And owls and bears…
Birds aplenty, but we weren’t skilled at identifying them, though no question that some of them had real attitude. We did manage redwing, arctic tern and curlew. We saw rabbits….well just the one, near Akureyri and of course, whales and dolphins.
Churches: Akureyri church was impressive and austere, quite impressive, that is, until we saw his big brother in Reykjavik. Wow. The geo thermal power plant with the excellent presentation on how all that energy is harnessed, contributing to Iceland’s 100% renewable energy. The turf houses, the extraordinary badstoffa where people worked on their tiny beds through the dark winter months, with each person’s beautifully carved bed board.
Greenhouses, where fruit, flowers and vegetables are grown using geothermal heating, but sadly many now derelict since people could no longer afford to make the business work due to the high price of electricity (something badly wrong there, surely).
Of course, no trip is just a list of what you saw, however amazing, it’s about what you did. The walking is what takes us to those quieter spots and lets us get a proper feel for the desolation/ peace/ wildness/ bizarre that is Iceland. In Myvatn we linked up many of the sights with a grand 17km walk, in Bifrost we had a couple of magnificent walks of about 14km each, beautiful lakes, cols and the like. In Herdy Gerdy we walked around the streaming valleys, and in Akyreyri we found the somewhat elusive peak Steinmenn, worth every step.
Likewise, no trip should be without laughter, and we had plenty of that.
We struggled to identify the flavour of the spirit Brennavin – the Black Death, but Jane and Brian just didn’t care. They felt the need to continue sampling the drink, perhaps hoping the answer would come to them.
The children’s swing, aka the boot checker, where Julia and Margaret try it for size, and Elaine checks the boots.
The outdoor facilities in the botanical gardens.
My total inability to pronounce any of the Icelandic names, and Groa’s helpless frustration at my ineptitude.
Eric’s fear of getting his feet wet.
Our dinner conversations never flagged. No subject was taboo….politics, religion, the origin of children’s names (how the third one caused the most hilarity will remain a mystery to those not in the know).
Snowy having a party with Duncan and Tommy on the bus dashboard.
The group graciously blaming my navigational error on cavorting artic terns.
The delicious dried fish picnic snack so highly recommend by Groa. Everyone had thier own way of dealing with this one, including ritual burial!
Honourable mention and thank you to Groa, our lovely driver, and the amazing blue bus. Despite it’s attitude with the squeaky door, this bus did us well, charging down the rough gravel roads at great speed.