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Fire and Ice

semi-overcast 11 °C

Been a couple of days so sorry for poor rate of updates but I have been trying to keep photos uploaded with with meaningful titles. You may not agree that the titles are meaningful as the names are impossible to spell, pronounce or repeat, but that is what we have to deal with. So suck it up!

Our drive from Hetta to Vik was one of mainly waterfalls and passing the angry Eyjafjallajökull Volcano that erupted in 2010 causing some aircraft scheduling issues. If you have trouble pronouncing this, it is V O L C A N O. One guide told us it is called "I'd like a yoghurt". Anyway, we didn't want to piss this fella off so we drove on by very quietly. We did hear though that Hatna has erupted every 100 years on the knocker for as long as records have been kept and it is now around 130 years since it last had a bad day. Be vewy, vewy qwiet..........

As we approached Vik we dropped into the Dyrhólaey bird cliffs in the hope of seeing the Puffin bird. We were in luck and got to see quite a few. These birds are a mixture between a Toucan and a penguin. They fly better than a penguin and catch fish better than a Toucan! There are only 2 months when you can see these birds so we were quite lucky.

This place is also famous for its black sand. At first look it appears to be dirty sand that you wouldn't put a towel anywhere near, but it really is just black sand and quite fine. Not a bad spot.

I had previously been lamenting the lack of ice in Iceland. You'll be pleased to know that we have found a little of it, in fact boatloads of it. We went for a glacial walk across Svínafellsjökull glacial tongue. From a distance it looked disappointing as I was expecting blues and whites, not blacks. When we assembled to put on our crampons, pick up our ice picks and hit the ice, I was surprised that the black stuff was solid ice.

The ice still hadn't got rid of the ash from the last volcano eruption (some 2 years ago) and some of the ice still had the black ash on top. Our guide was quick to show us the dangers of glacial walks with crevices and the like. 5 minutes into our walk he showed us a small puddle of muddy water. Would have been 40 x 30cm in surface area. You could be forgiven for throwing a boot into it to splash your mate. He got a long handled shovel that lay nearby (obviously for this purpose) and shoved it into the puddle. He hung on to the end and would have lost his shovel if he hadn't. It was at least 9 feet deep!

The guide was an Italian who is studying glaciology and made the trek very enjoyable. 99% of these things are retreating but you can see the forces they exert and the amazing form the ice takes as it moves on its path taking rocks and hills with them.

Of course I must mention my daughter Jacinda who managed to be the only person who thought to put a skirt on before doing a glacial walk. No one can carry crampons as a fashion accessory quite like Jacinda. They were just another form of heels!

After the glacial walk we hit the glacial lagoons further up the south coast and were blown away by the icebergs. At the Fjallsarlön Glacial Lagoon we could see seals playing around and huge chunks of ice floating gradually out of the lagoon and out to sea. There was just so much ice around and no damn scotch! Incredibly spectacular though.

We then drove back to Vik where we were staying, some three hours drive. Louisa was doing nearly all our driving by this point as I was suffering from a cold that I had picked up 4 days earlier around Blue Lagoon. Of course Louisa turned this three hour drive into two as she is allowed to drive at any damn speed she pleases. I get barked at for going 2 kph over the limit. I was wondering how she knew this until I sat in the passenger seat and the Sat Nav reads out driving speed! Anyway, when Louisa drives it is all cool to drive as fast as you want as long as the car doesn't shake to bits. This version of events is that of the author...

One of the things you notice when driving around this place is that people love building their wonderful little bright cottages at the foot of an almighty cliff that drops boulders like a tree drops leaves in autumn. Around some of these cottages there are many big boulders that may or may not, have been there before they built the house. It is not a matter of if, but when these cliffs decide to drop their load on anything that is below them, whether it be the cliff's decision or a little persuasion from the next earthquake! They talk 4.5 earthquakes here as we would discuss the AFL Match Review Panel's findings.

Back in to Reykjavic for our last two days in an upgraded hotel. It is brand new and we have a beautiful room on the 15th floor....with a fridge. The views across the harbour and city from the 15th floor were totally uninterrupted, and sensational We were getting ready to head off on our Volcano tour and then the damn fire alarm goes off. We are ordered to evacuate immediately.

So you're not supposed to take a lot with you and the lifts are out of bounds. We think that even if it is a drill we aren't going to be able to get back into our room before we are picked up so we jump into our clothes and footwear for the trip and grab all the essentials. Now essentials to me are, passports, camera, iPads and other travel documentation. Jacinda handed me a box of biscuits to jam in my backpack with a desperate look on her face! Thanks Jacinda.

The volcano trip is apparently unique in the world as there are no other known volcanos that are so enclosed. Prihnukaglgur erupted 4500 years ago but only for two weeks and it didn't blow its top off. There is only a 1m x 4m opening that a German window cleaning platform can only just squeeze through. This was our form of transport as we are lowered 120m down into the guts of the volcano. This means that we don't only drop the height of the volcano itself but into the ground below it.

But to get to the volcano we have a 3km trek across a massive lava field, which is interesting in its own right. We saw probably the only form of native Icelandic fauna as we approached the volcano. An Arctic Fox pup. It was very playful and around 8 weeks old, most likely orphaned. The only other animals we have seen are sheep, horses and a few cows.

It is 4C in the chasm below and there are some floodlights to show off the spectacular colours of the various types of rocks and minerals. It is the size of 4 basketball courts once you are at the bottom, but it takes probably 20m or so from the top before it really starts getting any larger than the initial 1m x 4m opening.

It is possible to go down a further 100m through a very small corridor in the rock but we aren't allowed to do that. Not sure I would want to either. We have around 45 minutes to ourselves on the bottom and we clamber over large and small rocks, exploring the various highs and lows of Prihnukaglgur hoping like hell we don't wake her up.

We eventually get lifted back up into daylight and climb out of the platform into bright sunshine. It was raining when we were dropped in. It was an incredible experience and one that we won't forget in a hurry. Our bus driver whilst driving us back to the hotel, told us that Bill Gates did it a little while back but booked the entire day out so he wouldn't be interrupted. I suppose it is only money.

And talking about money, there seems to be a direct relationship between the alcoholic content of beer and its cost. They have some really big beers here too. Garcia is 11.5% but at $27 a pint you are pre-warned! Lava @ a lazy 9.4% is a slightly more respectable $23 a pint. Fair to say that if someone knocks a drop of this stuff out of your hand you are entitled to take the guy's wallet, car and any other valuables on him.

This was our last day in Iceland and we really enjoyed it. Have to say though that the eight days barely scratched the surface of an amazing island, and we only did the south and South/west. The highlands and North are begging for another trip. We did see some big 4WDs around that had been decked out for the highlands. The tyres on these vehicles were huge and had very aggressive tread patterns. I asked one guy how much the tyres cost. He said between 600,000 ISK and 700,000 for 4. That is somewhere around $1,700 AUD per tyre!!!

Anyway, next time I would love to have a little nibble at the highlands.

Posted by mljjs 02:32 Archived in Iceland

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