Iceland
Friday, 26th July 2019

HverirHverirHverir

Iceland is an island sitting on the rift between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It grows as those plates move apart, it is active volcanically, much of the terrain is lava fields more or less colonised by nature with first lichen then small plant life. The crust in Iceland is only 2km thick which means hot stuff easily bubbles to the surface.

Our first excursion was from Akureyri which took us first to Hverir or Námafjall which is near Lake Myvatn. An impressive area of sulphurous fumes escaping from the ground. Our Norwegian guide told the Icelandic for river sounds like "ow", and that lupins were introduced to stop erosion but are now an infestation. This excursion also took us to Dimmuborgir where with imagination you can see petrified trolls in the curlicued lava mounds and pillars. Lunch on this excursion was diabolical and I had to buy something edible at a nearby shop.

GodafossGodafossGodafoss

The highlight of the Akureyri excursion was Godafoss, literally God Waterfall where the guy who made Christianity official in 1000AD threw his statuettes of Odin and Thor etc afterwards. Spectacular sight, dicey walking to see the falls from lower down.

On the first day in Reykjavik we wandered in to see Hallgrim's Church, which looked like a spaceship had landed. Sadly we couldn't go in as it was a Sunday and there were services. We dipped into some souvenir shops to find stuff to take back to prove we had been to Iceland, I almost got a tin of mountain air as a present.

Power StationPower StationPower Station

The second day we did the "Ring of Fire" excursion. Icelanders have harnessed geothermal energy thanks to the thinness of the crust. They generate electricity but also pipe hot water into the cities like Reykjavik. We first saw a power station at Hellisheidi from where hot water flows in pipes on the surface which go up and down and twist and turn rather oddly. Next was an early lunch at a geothermal kitchen Kjöt & Kúnst where food is cooked apparently geothermally. This part of the excursion was badly done - people queued to collect the food but there wasn't enough time for those who were last to eat before the coach left. This was a common feature of excursions, not enough time at the different stops.

Also in Hveragerði is a geothermal park where you can cook food in hot pools. Our lovely Icelandress guide said we would be walking in a park with creatures - there are steaming craters in the park but it's more of a backyard scale. Less impressive on the bubble toil and trouble front than Hverir.

CleftCleftCleft

The highlight of the Reykjavik excursion was Thingvellir where you can walk between the American and Eurasian plates. The plates are moving apart so I wasn't afraid of being crushed. A good view over the lake here. Thingvellir is þhingvellir in Icelandic using one of the characters (thorn) which English lost centuries ago.

We had a panoramic drive back where the coach struggled up steep hills, I thought we were all going to have to get out and push. We did see a lot of holiday homes in the volcanic terrain, Icelanders like to spend the winter months reading and writing books apparently. Our guide sang a lullaby well to us when we came towards the end of the excursion. She also told us about Icelandic names, Icelanders don't have surnames like we do, instead they get their father's first name followed by son or daughter added to distinguish different people. Family history must be interesting for Icelanders.