Today started with a lively breakfast at the Guest House in Stykkishomur. We were a family from Ireland, a couple from Toronto, a couple from Spain and me. The discussion ranged from travel to Geo Politics. That is one of my favorite things on trips like this…meeting people from different countries and hearing their prospective on the world and America…One continuing question I get from everyone is why do Americans not believe in Climate Change…I explain that only some don’t believe…and that for some very odd reason it has turned into a political issue in America…I ask if that is the case in their countries…if one of their party’s denies it…unanimously, they say no…that there is broad agreement of the issue…it is hard to deny it when you live at the epi-center…and you can see the change so dramatically…and fast
Ian, the young Irishman is full of interesting opinions…much of which I agree. Later on when I return from my day, the proprietor & I also have an interesting discussion about Iceland…she tells me that crime is starting to pick up here…mainnly perpetrated by outsiders from Eastern Europe…I am not sure if her feelings are validated by fact but her passion for this is palpable. But having said that crime is on the rise is relative in a country of 300,000 people….but regardless, it is not good.
I started my day in search of any village that might have an open shop for me to pick a few things up that I had meant to do earlier…one thing about Iceland is that they go to bed late and everything opens late…and most of the villages have very sparse choices to shop even at best…which under normal circumstances I wouldn’t care about since I am not much of a shopper…but today would be my last day…I had a little luck in my first village and struck out in the 2nd…so off to drive the coast and find some good hiking…
The day started out with beautiful sunny weather but the further I drove along the Peninsula, the fog was setting in. I stopped at a lovely area called Dritvik. This is where there was a crash of a British ship called the Trawler Epine in 1948…the crew was rescued…but the remains of the boat still are on the beach in bits and pieces as a monument. The beach has the black rock that seems to pepper the Icelandic shores and gives it an eery beauty. I walked a bit and then headed out since the weather was getting a bit more foreboding…
I headed around the curve in hunt for a place called Vatnshellir where there is supposed to be a deep “water” cave under a volcano that you can take a guided tour. I figured since I missed hiking a volcano, the least I could do was go under one! I arrived and saw no one there and little information…as I was about to give up, a German came up looking for the same adventure…we waited together for the Icelandic guide, who eventually did return, informed us that the tours were on the hour…which meant hanging out for another 30 minutes…seems the German man and I have the same sensibilities of restlessness…but we both decided that a trip into the cave on such a foggy day seemed to fit the bill…Yet another wonderful discussion ensued with both my new German friend and the Icelandic guide…we learned about the fact there are over 50 caves within walking distance from where we were standing…and that Iceland is recovering well from it’s terrible 2008 banking crisis…mainly because it punished the bankers and pumped a lot of money into it’s infrastructure to help create jobs and therefore more taxes …all of which has help spurn their economy and bring in more tourists…the German spoke about the EU and Greece and the bailout…and then he and I traded Travel stories…it was a wonderful 1/2 hour. Before we knew it, 8 others pulled up and bought their tickets…the German man and I marveled on how they knew about the “on the hour” tour…since we,both, had just happened onto it. And as we were snapping pictures, those 8 others got in front of us…all that waiting and we were last! (-:
The cave was wonderful…I have visited caves in many places but this one was the first that felt like a true cave exploration…there have been many tourists who have gone down into it but unlike the other caves I have gone into, this seemed unfinished…there was no clear path once you were down there…it was very rocky and easily able to throw one off balance…they strung a few ropes but some were just to keep you away from certain areas…they had given us helmets and flashlights which you needed both…there were drops of water dripping down on us and the darkness was amazing…the temperature was in the 20’s…I brought my gloves but they created a problem for taking pictures…so off they went.. who cares about frostbitten hands when you have pictures to take! The lore of the cave revolved around a troll…and he comes to this cave once a year for his troll meetings…We saw the various areas of the lava melts…this cave is under a Volcano…so there is a lot of Lava…most of it is beautifully smooth brown lava…we descend even further and all congregate in the very deepest area…water drips in all directions and the only noise you hear is all of us tramping over the rocks and sometime tripping…not me BTW! We stopped and our guide asked us to turn all our camera s and flashlights off..the only light left on was his…at that point, he told us to find our balance and steady ourselves…then to close our eyes…at which point he shut off his light…when we opened our eyes, it was complete darkness…like no darkness I have ever seen…or not seen…he told us to wave our hands in front of our faces, which we all obliged…the murmur from all of us had to do with the fact that we could see the movement of our hands…he asked if we could see it…we all said yes…and then he told us that we were not seeing anything…but our brain was…meaning our brain knew we were moving our hand so it gave us the impression the hand was moving…he asked us to wave our hand in front of the person next to us…”could we see it” he asked…nope not a thing….then we all stood there in complete silence for about 5 minutes…the only noise was the dripping water…it’s amazing how hard it is to keep your balance when you have no sight AND the noise of water around you and it’s echo don’t allow you to get your bearings..or use your hearing to balance..Finally the lights came on and we headed back up…it was truly an amazing experience…like none other…but in typical American fashion, all I could think of when I got to the top was how they didn’t require us to sign anything and how dangerous walking around those rocks and boulders was…but in typical Icelandic fashion, there is trust…something I love about this place…things are very simple and there is no expectation that you will cheat them or sue them…or do anything nefarious
Once my eyes got acclimated to the sun, the German and I bid farewell and he headed North and I to the South…I had built up an appetite trying to not embarrass myself by tripping on some rock…and then climbing what seemed like 1000 metal stairs while gripping the metal railing without my gloves..my hands were raw with cold by the time I got up.
I found my next stop…a place called Hellnar…my German friend recommended a little cafe on the beach…this is also the beach that Ian, my Irish friend recommended I pick some rocks up…he was right..there were some lovely little lava rocks…I only chose a couple since I have a weight limit on my flight to Greenland…After a bit of rock hunting, I enjoyed some more of my favorite food here…and then went about hiking to a very small village at the foot of the Volcano called Arnarstopi…It was an easy coastal hike to and from was just about 4-41/2 miles. Along the way, I met 2 Australian women. We ended up hiking together…and as always, had an enjoyable conversation. Once we got to Artnarstopi, we parted ways…and I went in search of hiking up the volcano…turns out I was in the wrong area…It worked out for the better since I was very tired and still had to do my laundry when I returned….So I headed back on the trail and eventually found my way back to the Guest House…I couldn’t believe it, I was home by 6:30PM…this meant I may get to eat before 9:30 at night! I went off to the local Golf Course to do my laundry…yep that is where the 1 little washing machine is…no dryer…after some finagling, I finally figured it out…since it was in Icelandic…then it was back to hang dry…by now it was close to 8pm and I headed out to my little cafe on the harbor…to my surprise, they remembered my meal from the night before…I had the same thing both because I enjoyed it…and because everything else on the menu was over 60.00…did I mention, Iceland is NOT cheap. Well once back ,the proprietor and I sat and chatted for quite awhile and then I collapsed into my bed. I am so looking forward to being in the same hotel for most of my stay in Greenland…I love all this exploring but it can get tiring moving around every day….speaking of moving..I need to get going on my way back to Reykjavik…today is their Independence day so I am guessing it will be crowded…On my way back I am finally going to hike one of the volcanoes that I missed earlier…and see one last water fall…well cheers
descending into the NASA like structure to go to the center of the earth
My German friend on the left & Icelandic Guide on right
Me and my Aussie Hiking buddies
Iphone photos of the cave
Cafe on beach