Essential Iceland – a day trip.

landscape

Essential Iceland  is my short story about a one day trip I did in a very large truck from Reykjavik in Iceland generally to the heart of the country.

This was advertised as an all day trip. The Visitors bureau did not mention we needed to bring lunch and I presumed it would be supplied – anyway Valdi, our fabulous guide,  took us to a gas station to buy some sustenance. ( it is on their website but I had not been privy to that.)  Once on our way Valdi gave us lots of geological information about the mountainous region surrounding us. We headed north and then in land on sealed roads.

We passed the home of the only Icelandic Noble prize winner Halldór Laxness. Awarded in 1955. Laxness wrote poetry, newspaper articles short stories and novels.

‘Independent People’ is his most famous book set in the early twentieth century, it recalls both Iceland’s medieval epics and such classics as Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. And if Bjartur of Summerhouses, the book’s protagonist, is an ordinary sheep farmer, his flinty determination to achieve independence is genuinely heroic and, at the same time, terrifying and bleakly comic.

I wonder if the recent movie ‘Rams’ was inspired by this famous Icelandic read.?

Below: The teutonic plates. Þingvellir National Parklmc-05248 lmc-05251

Out first stop was the  Þingvellir National Park, the site of the ancient Viking parliament dating back to the 10th century. This will surprise  any Egyptians amongst you!  There   is also the ‘rift’ between the American and European teutonic plates. Please zoom in on the photo above for more info.  This was a beautiful area, great views, beautiful vegetation and amazing rocky formations. We were able to walk between the two plates.

Soon we turned onto gravel roads and the dark skies were quite angry and yet we only had ten minutes of rain all day. We drove through landscapes of lava fields, one might say there was nothing to see but the vastness of the area made me wonder if I had arrived on Mars. It was extraordinary. The other four passengers fitted with headlamps explored an underground lava cave, I opted to stay above earth!! Hallmundarhraun was the region.

Below: Driving through large puddles!lmc-05265

Our vehicle  signage suggested “don’t drive off-road, you might kill an elf” there are many stories about elves in Iceland including how they couldn’t move two very large boulders when building highway 1 so in the end they curved the road around them so as not to upset the resident elves!!elves

Soon we reached the  Langjökull Glacier the second largest in Europe evidently. Langjökull (Icelandic for “long glacier“) It is the second largest ice cap in Iceland as well,  (953 km2). Greenland is not considered Europe evidently!  Anyway the dark skies hung low over this vast view of nothing…  White ice and a few little stakes to mark the safety zone to drive alongside. Our big 4×4 beast drove up onto the glacier….no snow mobiles were going today because of conditions so I wondered why we were on the ice?

Valdi said ” a wrong move off the track and you could be there 1000 years!!”

He did a 99 point turn so as not to risk falling into a crevice…. We were allowed out to photograph as long as we stayed with in one metre of the vehicle! The beast was so high I needed to use the small step ladder to climb in and out of the vehicle😀 Yes I have short legs!!  

Below: driving on the Langjokull Glacier.

Processed with Snapseed.

lmc-05272

We continued our journey through beautiful farmland with lush green paddocks and silage wrapped in pink to support breast cancer ( it did look rather odd in this wilderness) . Most farm houses in Iceland are cream with red roofs, it’s not a legal requirement just a tradition. We stopped at a small thermal area where the water gushes out of the ground at 100 degrees..boiling! There they were building a very elegant new accommodation and pool complex. We saw several little villages, one with a golf course and many had holiday homes dotted throughout the trees. The saying is ” if you get lost in the forest in Iceland stand up” – this is because trees grow extremely slowly and don’t reach any great heights.photo-3-10-16-2-11-42-pm

Another waterfall was scheduled and I thought oh yes I’ve seen soooo many already. Well this was absolutely beautiful and with Autumn foliage framing the falls my camera went into overload! Hraunfossar and Barnafoss are the two waterfalls here. There was a sad story attached to these beautiful falls where over 100 years ago two children drowned. It has become folklore.

Processed with Snapseed.

The young Japanese couple wanted to stop and see the famous Icelandic ponies so Valdi stopped for us. The young girl was so excited she danced around in glee saying she could tick this off her bucket list. Her share joy was contagious and the ponies frolicked around before allowing her to pat a couple of horses. The breed is pure and no other horses are allowed to be imported into Iceland.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Our final leg of the journey took us though a tunnel under the sea for 5 K’s… This would be the envy of most people who live in my home city of Auckland.

The Hvalfjörður Tunnel (  Hvalfjöarðargöng) is a road tunnel  under the Hvalfjorour  fjord in Iceland and a part of Route 1. It is 5,770 meters (18,930 ft) long and reaches a depth of 165 meters (541 ft) below sea level. Opened on 11 July 1998, it shortens the distance from Reykjavik   to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 kilometers (28 mi). Passing the fjord now takes 7 minutes instead of about an hour.

Spölur was the company that constructed, and is now the owner and operator of the tunnel, while the Verkís company handled almost all of the design. This project was a milestone in Icelandic construction as it was the first private finance initiative without direct funding by the state treasury. It is also the only tunnel where tolls are charged.

Come on Auckland… we need this under our harbour!!

And then back to the hotel where I received a  big warm farewell hug from the lovely guide Valdi. He and I had sat up front and discussed many things on the journey; divorce, alcoholism, politics, teenagers( he had five) tourism etc. the four younger members of the tour party slept contentedly the last hour or so.

All in all a great day and I thought a well run day trip allowing flexibility, thanks to Essential Iceland and Valdi. Iceland is Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi). The population is 332 523. Wellington, New Zealand has 496,000  people. I thoroughly recommend adding Iceland to your bucket list. I loved it. essential-iceland

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