Southern Iceland

25 06 2016

We were now more than half way through our stay on Iceland and of the thirty one caches we had found eight of them were earthcaches. During the remaining days we were able to clock up a further twenty eight caches of which fourteen were earthcaches. The focus on earthcaches was by choice as I really enjoy them and Iceland has a fantastic geology that makes that part of geocaching really fun. The only downside of things is that it takes much longer than normal to log all the caches. I hate reading “TFTC” logs on my caches and will always write something meaningful in my logs and give as complete as possible answers to the owners of earthcaches.

Now we decided to tempt fate and visit the attractions on the Golden Circle which of course meant rubbing shoulders with bus load after bus load of muggle tourists. On that particular day we found ten earthcaches and two traditional caches . I can understand why Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfossen are major attraactions in Iceland and as they are pretty close to Reykjavik they are ideal for the masses to visit. We had to elbow our way forward on the viewing platform at Þingvellir and there wasn’t a chance that we could take any photos without hoards of people in them. The only thing that surprised me was that it was possible to find a regular cache, Thing Sites: Thingvellir Lögberg, right in the middle of the area in plain sight of many hundreds of muggles without anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. I have never seen such a concentration of selfie-sticks before. Adonis, move over.

Visiting Þingvellir with bus loads of tourists

Visiting Þingvellir with bus loads of tourists

Between Þingvellir and Geysir we made a slight detour on a pretty rough road to find Do you know Pillow Lava? and had the added bonus of seeing where a family had lived in a cave – in relatively modern times – and overheard muggle Swedish tourists at the sign explaining in Swedish that it was a near relative to them that had been born in the cave. Amazing.

The Icelanders who lived in a cave

The Icelanders who lived in a cave

The pillow lava was just as amazing but in a completely different way. Imagining that the area was under water during the eruption of the volcano was hard to fathom. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip. I have seen large waterfalls and glaciers all over the world but never pillow lava!

Close up of pillow lava.

Close up of pillow lava.

Pillow lava earthcache.

Pillow lava earthcache.

We then carried on to Geysir where we spent ages waiting for the geyser Stokkur to spout and missing it several times. In the end the batteries in my camera packed up so I had to do with the photos I got at the tail end of a spout.. Very impressive formation though.

The geyser Stukkor in action

The geyser Stukkor in action

Our next stop, of course, was Gullfossen. We were after all on the Golden Circle following the tourist hoards. It is a mighty waterfall and when the rainbows are present it is worth its name of Golden falls.

Gullfossen

Gullfossen

Our Golden Circle tour differed a little from the commercial offerings that we made a detour to the Grindavik, to look at the soon to disappear NRTF station then on to the Blue Lagoon where again there were hundreds of muggles queing to bathe in the translucent milk white stinky waters.

Cocktails at the Blue Lagoon

Cocktails at the Blue Lagoon

Lava field Illahraun at the Blue Lagoon

Lava field Illahraun at the Blue Lagoon

On our final full day in Iceland we were a little undecided as to whether we would drive north towards Hraunfossar where the water is ejected from the side of the fells or if we should visit a glacier. As we had already seen a number of waterfalls the choice fell on the Sólheimajökull glacier to the south.

We stopped by the side of the road before reaching the turnoff to the Sólheimajökull glacier and read on the sign that we were at the foot of the now infamous Eyafjallajökull. There were photographs to show the area before during and after the eruption in 2010 of the volcano under the glacier, that caused so many difficulties for air travellers over most of Europe and even further afield. My brother and fellow geocacher, zelger, with family got trapped on Madeira only to be “rescued” by a luxury cruise liner that took them back to the UK in style, all inclusive. I am stilll green with envy. 🙂

I have finally learnt how to say Eyafjallajökull!

I have finally learnt how to say Eyafjallajökull!

Don't pass this sign!

Don’t pass this sign!

The glacier Sólheimajökull.

The glacier Sólheimajökull.

We also wanted to see something that is typically Icelandic and that it the puffin. We read that there were colonies at Dyrhólaey so we continued on in that direction. There was a cache at the turn off from the main road, Li’l Dyrholaey 2 with a guardian that was very curious about what I was doing.

A curious muggle

A curious muggle

The area at Dyrhólaey has two parking spots, both with fantastic views and interesting geological formations. Well worth the visit. The road up to the upper parking was a bit rough but our rental car did a great job. I wouldn’t have taken my car up there! The only puffins we saw were in flight at long distance so we didn’t see their characteristic beaks which was a shame.

The black sands at Dyrhólaey

The black sands at Dyrhólaey

Sea arch at Dyrhólaey

Sea arch at Dyrhólaey

The lighthouse at Dyrhólaey

The lighthouse at Dyrhólaey

One thing that we couldn’t fail to notice in the country was the presence of lupins, not the ones we are used to but Lupinus nootkatensis, the Nootka lupine, which is native to North America. They have become a problem and seing the extent that they cover the ground in some areas I can understand it.

Lupins as far as the eye can see.

Lupins as far as the eye can see.

Our final stop on our southern journey was at Vik and the closeby Reynisdrangar, a rock formation that of course has a few folk stories attached to it.

The rock formation Reynisdrangar.

The rock formation Reynisdrangar.

We stopped in Selfoss on the way back to Reykjavik where we found a couple of traditional caches and the earthcache Unusual Geological Formations: Ölfusá.

A pseudocrater at Ölfusá

A pseudocrater at Ölfusá

Rather than drive back the same way to Reykjavik we made a detour and found this little pearl on the coast – Strandarkirkja. The local community had made a very interesting map over the area that they had posted in the church car park. Visit it!

The little church at Strandarkirkja

The little church at Strandarkirkja

View of the Atlantic from Strandarkirkja

View of the Atlantic from Strandarkirkja

Fom here we visited our final earthcache which was a 1,3 km long lava tube of impressive proportions – Raufarholshellir. From the photo you can see that the basalt “roof” is not that thick and has very pronounced cracks between the basalt coumns. There are, however, some very impressive ice formations in the tube so with the right equipment this is a great place to visit.

The gigantic lava tube Raufarholshellir.

The gigantic lava tube Raufarholshellir.

So that was Iceland in a one week visit summarised in three short chapters. Was it worth the €2500 we paid for the week? Yes, but not if you compare it financially with a week in Croatia or the Canary Islands. There is an fantastic nature to explore and sights that you won’t find anywhere else, all in a fairly compact area. The beer is tasty but at the prices they charge you are better to abstain. Would I go again. Yes, definitely, if I win some big money.

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